Marriage is defined as a formal union and social and legal contract between two individuals that unites their lives legally, economically, and emotionally.

Civil marriages, same-sex marriages, customary marriages and religious marriages are protected by the law. South Africa does not recognise a common law wife or husband. The formalisation and registration of civil marriages, customary marriages and same-sex marriages are  dealt with by the Department of Home Affairs. Civil marriages in South Africa are  governed and regulated by the Marriage Act 25 of 1961.

Customary marriages are recognised through the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998. The Act recognises marriages that are valid at customary law and existing before 15 November 2000 or that are customary marriages entered into after 15 November 2000 that comply with the provisions of the Act. A customary marriage must be registered within 3 months of the date of the marriage.

If one is preparing to get married under the Marriage Act, 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 antenuptial 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.

Only marriage officers authorised in terms of the Marriage Act can perform marriages. In addition to a marriage officer, the marriage must be conducted in the presence of at least two witnesses. 

In terms of the formalities which are required during the marriage ceremony, both parties must be in attendance at the solemnisation of their marriage. A marriage may be solemnised on any day of the week. A marriage can only be solemnised between the hours of 08:00 and 16:00.

Once the marriage has been solemnised, the couple, the two witnesses and the marriage officer must immediately sign the marriage register thereafter. The marriage officer will furnish the couple with a marriage certificate. The marriage officer must thereafter submit the marriage register to the Department of Home Affairs. The marriage details are then recorded in the National Population Register.

For direct answers to your specific personal questions, please contact us directly.

Author – Kate Bailey – Hill

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