Wedding Tips & Advice

We’re Not Doing The Church Wedding, But Is Our Ceremony Legal?

The concept that one is not really married unless one does so in a church whilst commonly held, is hardly the whole picture. Millions of people are married daily, and many of these ceremonies take place in places and spaces other than a church.

In South Africa a civil wedding needs to take place in a private residence, a church, or a government building.

During the ceremony, an affidavit is signed, a marriage register is signed, certain legal questions are asked and answered, witnesses are called upon, and your marriage is declared.

That’s the official version of a marriage. If all the above is attended to, then you’re legally married.

There are also certain documents that you’ll need – a valid ID, a valid passport (if you are a visitor to the country), a photocopy of your passport or ID, a divorce or death certificate if you either divorced or widowed.

There are also a few other criteria:

  • The wedding ceremony needs to be conducted by someone legally authorised to do so in terms of the Marriage Act, 1961
  • The marriage register must be signed by both parties, two witnesses and the person authorised to register the marriage (magistrates, special justice of the peace and commissioner in the district, any minister of religion or person holding a responsible position in a religious denomination who has been designated to perform marriages by the Minister of Home Affairs)
  • The solemn declaration set out by law is rather important (when your marriage is declared) because it includes the aspect that the couple are free to marry, and is declared in front of witnesses
  • Both parties must also solemnly declare that they know of no lawful impediment to marrying, and call upon the witnesses that you take one another as lawful spouses
  • No other words need to be spoken

The easiest and simplest way to get married is in a magistrate’s court, with the doors open so that anyone may attend. It is also the cheapest way to get married as there are no fees involved.

But be warned, it is over really quickly, and can feel rather devoid of ‘magic’. There is also a lot of dry, legal talk that involves warning the couple of the solemnity and binding nature of the vows. It says nothing about the exchange of wedding rings, so if you want this to form part of the ceremony, make arrangements before hand.

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