Preparing to get married
The solemnisation and registration of civil marriages, customary marriages and civil unions are managed by the Department of Home Affairs. Civil marriages are governed by the Marriage Act and regulations issued in terms of the Act. South Africa also recognizes customary marriages through the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, which became effective in November 2000. Civil unions are recognised in terms of the Civil Union Act (2006).
If you are planning on getting married, you must:
- ensure that you are legally allowed to marry
- understand the legal consequences of a marriage, particularly that marriages in South Africa are automatically in community of property, unless a valid ante-nuptial contract has been entered into before the marriage, and
- make sure that your marriage will comply with all the legal requirements for a valid marriage
Should you be unsure of any of these, legal counsel should be sought before the marriage is entered into.
Verifying your marital status
Due to the large number of fraudulent marriages reported to the Department of Home Affairs every year, a facility has been created for you to check your marital status at any time. You will need your South African ID number in order to use this facility.
You can also sms the letter M followed by your ID number (example: M 5001010050080) to 32551 A reply sms will be sent back to your cellphone to confirm your marital status and the date of your marriage. (R1 per sms and will be charged by your network service provider).
Documents required to enter into a marriage
On the day of the marriage a couple must present the following documents to the person officiating at the wedding:
- Identity documents(for each person getting married)
- If a foreign national is marrying a South African citizen, they should both present their valid passports as well as well as a completed BI-31 Form (Declaration for the Purpose of Marriage, Letter of no impediment)
- If the wedding is for a minor (a person under the age of 18 years), the written consent of both parents/ legal guardian or the Commissioner of Child Welfare or a judge should be submitted on Form DHA-32 as well. If the minors getting married are under the ages of 18 for boys or 15 for girls, the written consent from the Minister of Home Affairs will also be required
- If any of
the persons getting married are divorced, then the final decree of divorce should be furnished
- If any of the persons getting married are widowed, the deceased spouse’s death certificate must be submitted.
Conducting a marriage
Only marriage officers authorised in terms of Act No. 25 of 1961 to perform marriages may do so. Presently civil marriages are solemnised at offices of the Department of Home Affairs and at churches (by authorised marriage officers).
A marriage must be conducted in the presence of at least two witnesses in:
- a church or another building used for religious services
- in a public office or private house, with open doors
- in the case of serious illness or injuries, the marriage may take place in a hospital or any concerned facility.
Two witnesses and the marriage officer must sign the marriage register after the solemnisation of a marriage. Then the marriage officer must issue the parties with a handwritten marriage certificate (BI-27) free of charge.
The marriage officer must then submit the marriage register to the nearest office of the Department of Home Affairs, where the marriage details will be recorded in the National Population Register (NPR).
Any additional abridged copies or unabridged copies of the marriage certificate can be requested by:
- Completing Form BI-130 in black ink and submitting it to the nearest office of the Department of Home Affairs or to the nearest South African embassy, mission or consulate abroad
- Paying the prescribed fee
The first issue of an abridged marriage certificate is free, and a re-issue is R75.00
In addition to abridged or unabridged copies of a marriage certificate, you may also request the following documents after completing Form BI-130 and paying the prescribed fees:
- A vault copy of the register
- An abridged marriage certificate that is either computer printed or handwritten
The law states that certain categories of people may not marry. These include:
- Minors, unless the prescribed consent to the marriage has been given
- People who are already married. bigamy is a punishable offence in South Africa. Such marriages are also null and void under South African law
- In the columns below, a man may not marry any person mentioned in column 1; and a woman may not marry any person mentioned in column 2: