Civil Marriages

The solemnisation and registration of civil marriages are governed by the Marriage Act, 1961 (Act No. 25 of 1961), hereinafter referred to as "the Act", and the Regulations issued in terms of the Act.

Marriage Officers

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 with authorised marriage officers.

Place of marriage, witnesses

In terms of the Act a marriage must be conducted in a church or another building used for religious services, or in a public office or private house, with open doors, and in the presence of the parties to the marriage and at least two witnesses. However, in the case of serious illness or injuries, the marriage may take place in the hospital or facility concerned.

Prospective marriage couples

Prospective parties to a marriage should ensure that they are allowed to marry; that they 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 that their marriage will comply with all the legal requirements for a valid marriage. Should they be unsure of any of these, legal counsel should be sought before the marriage is entered into.

Solemnisation: documents to be presented

On the day of the marriage, the following documentation must be presented to the marriage officer by the couple:

Marriage Register

After solemnisation of the marriage, both parties to the marriage, the two witnesses and the marriage officer must sign the marriage register, upon which the marriage officer must issue the parties with a marriage certificate (BI-27) free of charge.

Registration and certificates

After the marriage, the marriage officer must submit the marriage register to the nearest Home Affairs office for recording of the marriage particulars in the National Population Register (NPR). All subsequent issues of marriage certificates are subject to completion of an application BI-130 and payment of a prescribed fee of R10-00. A full (unabridged) certificate may also be applied for. Application form BI-130 must be completed and a prescribed fee of R50-00 is payable.

Applications for marriage certificates should be lodged at your nearest Home Affairs office if applying from within South Africa and at the nearest South African Mission or Consulate if applying from abroad (applications from abroad may take longer depending on the different diplomatic bag dispatch periods).

Consent to marriage of a minor

For purposes of the Marriage Act, 1961 (Act No. 25 of 1961) a minor is a person under 21 years who has not been married before. The following requirements apply:

Review of Marriage Act, 1961

The Department of Home Affairs requested the South African Law Commission in 1996 to conduct an in-depth investigation into the different marriage systems in South Africa and to review the Marriage Act, 1961 with a view to harmonising the different systems.

In this regard the Law Commission has already finished their investigation into customary marriages and as a result of which the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, 1998 (Act No. 120 of 1998) was passed by Parliament. The Act came into operation on 15 November 2000.

The investigation into the review of the Marriage Act, 1961 has already reached the final reporting stage and the Final Report is expected to be published soon.

The Law Commission also has a Project Team working on the issue of religious law marriages, and also one on domestic partnerships which includes the issue of same sex unions.