Officially, in South Africa, one has to be married by a legal authority. Known as a marriage officer or civil union officer (they also call themselves wedding officiators), they can be ministers, judges or anyone who has been legally bestowed with the duty.
I’ve often wondered how one gets around this. Many of us would love to have a special family member, or friend, perform the ceremony.
And so I spoke to a friendly minister. He had an interesting take on the process, and explained it thus:
FIRST THERE IS THE MARRIAGE – it’s the legal bit of the ceremony, that aspect that needs to take place in order to be legally married in the eyes of the law.
Laid down in the Government gazette is text that is legally binding and needs to be uttered by both parties in front of a marriage officer in order for the marriage to be recognised.
THEN THERE IS THE CELEBRATION – the ceremony or festive expression of your marriage.
And these needn’t be one and the same thing.
To get a friend or family member to marry you, you have two choices:
TWO SEPARATE ENTITIES
- Keep the marriage and ceremony separate – get married the day before in court, or before a marriage officer in a simple ceremony or procedure in which you take care of the legal implications of getting married – you say the legal vows expected of you
- This involves signing a marriage register with the marriage officer and two witnesses and receiving a legal marriage certificate; another is sent to Home Affairs
- Follow this with a ceremony in which anything goes; a friend can officiate, the words of the service can be entirely written by you, it can include poetry, singing, dancing, handfasting – any ritual you want to include
- Find a minister or marriage officer who is prepared to co-officate; in other words you share the wedding procedure between the minister or marriage officer, and your friend
- The marriage officer takes care of the legal bits and makes sure that you are officially married whilst creatively making space for your friend or family member to express the words you also would like to hear
Happy Wedding Planning!