CAPE TOWN WEDDING PLANNER ANSWERS ALL YOUR WEDDING LEGALITY QUESTIONS
March 12, 2015
As wedding planners in Cape Town we receive daily enquiries from foreign couples wanting to get married in Cape Town. We do live in one of the most beautiful cities after all. One of the very first questions most of our couples ask, is about the legalities of their union. Where to obtain the official documentation and what they to bring to South Africa from their home affairs department. As wedding planners our job is not only to ensure all the aestitics and logistics are taken care of, but also all the legalities and formalities of your big day. Following will be answers to some frequently asked questions - that we are sure will be of plenty help if you are planning your beautiful destination wedding in Cape Town, South Africa.
Do we have to get married in a structure with 4 walls and a roof? Do we have to get married in a structure with 4 walls and a roof?
The law states that a marriage may be take place “in” a public office, a church or building used for religious services or a private residence. The law makes no reference to a “roof” or “walls” so it all comes down to the interpretation of the word “in”. Generally speaking it is considered okay or a wedding to take place within the boundaries of the venue. If asked, Home Affairs will state that this must take place inside with open doors.The law states that a marriage may be take place “in” a public office, a church or building used for religious services or a private residence. So you can request you wedding planner to set up the ceremony of your wishes, inside or outside.The law makes no reference to a “roof” or “walls” so it all comes down to the interpretation of the word “in”. Generally speaking it is considered okay or a wedding to take place within the boundaries of the venue. If asked, Home Affairs will state that this must take place inside with open doors.
What documentation is required to get married?
The following must be presented to the marriage officer at anytime before the wedding:
Your ID Books
If you have been married before: Divorce decree
If you are a widow or widower: Death certificate
Confirmation of a contract if you have chosen to do one
If you are not South African, certified copies of your passport picture page and visa page
How is our marriage registered?
On the day of the wedding once the ceremony has been concluded you will sign a marriage register along with the marriage officer and two witnesses. The Marriage Officer will submit this register to Home Affairs who will then enter the information onto the system and you will be classified as married. This process can take up to two months depending on the efficiency of the department.
Do we require a marriage license?
In South Africa there is no requirement to obtain a license prior to getting married.
We are planning a very small wedding, how many people need to be present?
By law both of you need to be present along with two witnesses and the marriage officer.
What documentation do we get once married?
On the day of the wedding you will be given a “manual marriage certificate” which is a blank form filled in with your details by the Marriage Officer. Once the marriage is registered you will be able to obtain either an abridged or unabridged certificate from Home Affairs. This is not done automatically and would have to be specifically applied for. I can obtain either or both of these for you, should you require it. See below for details.
One of us is South African and the other not, can we get married in South Africa?
Yes you can but there is an additional requirement. Both of you need to attend an interview with the immigration section of home affairs. The interview is fairly short but may have to be set up some weeks in advance. Your marriage officer should be able to help you arrange this and give you more information. This regulation was introduced in March 2014 and requirements appear to differ from one home affairs office to the next.
Both of us are not South African – can we still get married?
Yes, absolutely. You will need a document called a “Letter of Non-Impediment”. This is a letter from your consulate or home affairs equivalent which states you are not already married in your country of origin. The Marriage Officer will also need to have copies of your passport visa page and picture page. The marriage officer will have you fill in and sign a form required by Home Affairs in such cases.
What is the difference between an abridged and unabridged certificate and do we need either?
An abridged certificate is a certificate printed by Home Affairs which contains both your personal details such as full name and ID number as well as the date of the marriage. It is a good idea to get this as it generally more acceptable than just the manual certificate. The unabridged certificate (also known as a full marriage certificate) is also printed by Home Affairs and contains more detailed information. This is the most formal form of certificate and is required if you plan to travel extensively, emigrate or obtain a foreign passport. Additionally if one or both of you are not South African the unabridged certificate will be required to register the marriage in your home country. In short, your unabridged marriage certificate is ultimate proof of your marriage and is usable in all circumstances.
How do Civil Unions (same-sex marriages) work?
Very much the same as heterosexual marriages. The process is governed by a different Act but pretty much all the same rules apply.