South Africa Traditional WeddingSouth African law recognizes three types of marriages: customary marriages, civil unions, and civil marriages with each having different requirements in order to be valid.

Customary marriages

A customary marriage is negotiated in terms of the Customary Law which refers to the laws observed by the indigenous African people. One striking difference that sets apart customary marriage from other forms of marriages is that it allows polygamy.

Among the requirements that must be met for a customary marriage to be recognized include;

  • Both parties involved must be above 18 years
  • Both parties must be aware and have consent to the marriage
  • The marriage must be carried out in terms of customary law.

In addition, when you enter into a customary marriage, you have to register it within the first three months at the Department of Home Affairs to make it legal. Failure to register it may cancel its validity. The couple is required to carry original identification card and any form of agreement if it exists.

In the cases where there is no Department of Home Affairs, then the registration can be done through a local traditional leader.

Civil Unions / Partnerships

A civil union refers to marriage done between people of the same gender. This type of marriage wasn’t legal in South Africa until 2006, when the Civil Union bill became law, allowing people of the same sex to legalize their union.

Please Note: This act can also be used by heterosexual individuals in their union.

The requirements to be fulfilled before entering into a civil union include;

  • Both parties must consent
  • Both parties involved must have attained the age of 18 years and above
  • The marriage must be authorized by a recognized marriage officer
  • The marriage has to be registered at the Department of Home Affairs.

Government officers such as magistrates and home affairs civil servants who have been appointed as marriage officers under the marriage Act are automatically appointed to unify civil partnerships.

Registration requirements for a civil union include;

  • Valid South African national ID
  • A completed declaration for the purpose of the marriage form
  • A Registration of civil union form in which the couple state the reason for entering into a civil union


Civil marriages

A civil marriage is the most common form of marriage still practiced in South Africa and many parts of the world. When you enter into a civil marriage, the marriage officer issues you with a handwritten marriage certificate free of charge during the ceremony.

A copy of the marriage certificate can also be applied at the South African Department of Home Affairs if the couples have been married and the marriage has been registered.

Requirements for a civil marriage in South Africa include;

  • Both parties must be 18 years and above
  • Both must have a valid consent
  • Marriage is unified by an authorized marriage officer
  • After the marriage ceremony, two other witnesses must sign the marriage register
  • Marriage officer then issues the couples with a handwritten marriage certificate
  • Polygamy is not allowed in this form of marriage

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