Legal Requirements for getting married in Cape Town, South Africa
The following information serves as a guideline to help you ensure that your union is legally binding.
We have taken much care to ensure that the information given is correct, and to make sure that your wedding day is a day of comfort, joy and fond memories.
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.
Legality of Marriage
The marriage of UK and Irish citizens conducted in South Africa is legally binding under UK and Irish law.
This is also the case for citizens from most other countries wishing to marry in South Africa. It would be advisable for you to find out in your home country whether it acknowledges South African marriages as legally binding.
The following original documents are required from any foreigner who intends getting married in the Republic of South Africa:
- Full (unabridged) Birth Certificate.
- A valid passport containing a valid residence permit for the Republic of South Africa e.g. visitor’s permit in the case of foreigners who have entered as tourists.
- If divorced, the final decree of divorce. If for any sound reason a person is unable to produce a decree of divorce or if a person was divorced in a foreign country and cannot obtain a decree of divorce an affidavit by the person concerned is required to the effect that he/she is legally divorced, and stating the name of the court which granted the divorce and the date on which it was granted. A sworn translation into English is required should the document be in any foreign language other than English.
- If widowed, the deceased spouse’s death certificate. If a death certificate is not available the person concerned is required to submit an affidavit confirming the death of the deceased spouse and stating the name of the deceased and the date of death.
- If you are under 18, written consent is required from your parents or legal guardian. Full details can be found on the website of the South African Department of Home Affairs at http://www.home-affairs.gov.za/civil_marriage.asp
In South Africa, only marriage officers authorised by law can perform marriage ceremonies.
Minimum Period of Stay
There is no requirement of a minimum period of stay in South Africa in order to get married.
Place of Marriage
In terms of the Act a marriage can take place anywhere in South Africa but the legal part of a marriage must be conducted in a church or other 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. However, in the case of serious illness or injuries, the marriage may take place in the hospital or facility concerned.
You must have at least 2 witnesses present at your marriage ceremony.
Any person who is present at the ceremony may sign the register as a witness, providing they are 16 years old or over. However, it is also necessary for your witnesses to produce either their South African Identity Document or for persons not resident in South Africa, their passport, as this information is required for the Marriage Register.
After the solemnisation of your marriage, you and your two witnesses must sign the marriage register. You will then be issued with a marriage certificate.
Registration and certificates
After your marriage, the marriage officer will submit the marriage register to the nearest Home Affairs office. Your marriage will then be recorded in South Africa’s 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 ZAR10-00. A full (unabridged) certificate may also be applied for. Application form BI-130 must be completed and a prescribed fee of ZAR50-00 is payable.
Applications for marriage certificates should be lodged at the 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).
Certain categories of persons may not marry. For the comprehensive list of prohibited marriages please refer to the website of the South African Department of Home Affairs at
Same Sex Weddings
From 2006 same sex marriages are legally recognised in South Africa and the procedures are the same as for heterosexual marriages.
A blood test is not a legal requirement for marriage in South Africa.
The above serves as a guideline only. The authors of this document do not accept any liability whatsoever for the accuracy of the content of this document.
It remains the responsibility of the bridal couple to obtain and confirm full and final details with their local South African Consulate/Mission before proceeding to South Africa for the wedding ceremony.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to get married under a roof or cover?
May I get married on a beach or on top of a mountain?
A marriage ceremony can take place almost anywhere, but the legal part of the ceremony should be conducted (or repeated) in a venue specified by South African Law, namely ' . . .in a church or other building used for religious services or in a public office (i.e. a Government office) or in a private dwelling house.' Your Marriage Officer will be able to advise you of the best way of combining the legal requirements with the particular venue you have in mind. This is usually very simply organized and non- disruptive.
Do I need special permission to marry on a Sunday/Public Holiday?
May I get married at any time of day i.e. noon, midnight or 06:00?
There is no legal restriction as to when a marriage ceremony may take place and, providing you can secure a marriage officer and a venue, you can get married any day of the year and any time of the day.
Do we need to be in South Africa for any length of time before the wedding?
Legally, no - but if possible allow yourself a couple of days in which to meet and get to know your Marriage Officer and to complete the legal requirements, as well as to visit out your proposed venue and arrangements. These basic meetings will go a long way towards making your great day everything you have dreamed of.
Can a woman keep her maiden name after the ceremony?
According to South African law, a bride; ' . . . may select to keep her maiden surname, may assume her husband’s surname, add her surname to that of her husband, or resume a surname she has legally borne at any time prior.' Simply advise your Marriage Officer of your preference and he will make the necessary arrangements.
Do we need to be in South Africa for any length of time before the wedding?
Legally, no - but if possible allow yourself a couple of days in which to meet and get to know your Marriage Officer and to complete the legal matters, as well as to visit your proposed venue and finalize your arrangements. These basic meetings will go a long way towards making your great day everything you have dreamed of.
Do I need to get a marriage licence before my wedding?
No, in South Africa there is no such thing as a marriage licence.
I am from a foreign country (i e, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, USA etc - What must I do to ensure that my marriage in South Africa is legal?
South African Marriages are legally valid in just about every country in the world, but it will be bound by the law of whichever country the husband chooses as his domicile. Please check, before you leave your home country, what the authorities will need you to supply in order to register your marriage when you get home. Some countries accept the Marriage Certificate supplied immediately after the ceremony by the Marriage Officer, but other countries such as Germany will require a full (unabridged) marriage certificate to register a marriage in Germany; this document may also be applied for through the Embassy in Berlin or Consulate-General in Munich. Ask your Marriage Officer for guidance as to how you can obtain these documents.