Can I Legally get Married in South Africa?
You've made a great choice to get married in South Africa. It boasts some beautiful venues such as the One&Only Cape Town and the Royal Malewane in Hoedspruit. Thankfully, there is no residency requirement for foreign nationals in South Africa - which makes life a bit easier. Generally speaking, the legal requirements (not including civil or customary union, which have their own legal conditions) are pretty similar to most other Western countries. It would be easier to formally tie the knot at a registry office in the UK as you can then enjoy the wedding properly with the exchange of rings and the true celebrations at your dream destination with friends and family, without having to worry about the paperwork and stress of trying to formally marry in your chosen destination. However, if you are set on the idea of completing the legal elements in South Africa, then these are the steps you need to crack on with:
- Contact your relevant embassy or consulate in South Africa to ask them exactly what documents you will need.
- If you or your partner are not citizens of South Africa, you must complete the BI-31 form (Declaration for the Purpose of Marriage). This must be completed with a Marriage Officer present.
- Obviously, you must be legally allowed to marry in terms of not being already married or having any other legal impediments. In any non-Commonwealth country, this is usually certified through a Certificate of No Impediment. However, the UK does not issue these to Commonwealth countries so you will have to write to the British High Commission in Pretoria or the Consulate General in Cape Town (firstname.lastname@example.org) explaining your situation.
- The High Commission or Consulate General can then provide you with a formal letter stating why it isn’t possible for you to get a CNI, and this can be used as proof that you are allowed to marry if you are asked for a CNI. This letter has to be stamped and signed by a member of the consular staff in order to be authorised.
- With regards to the actual marriage, only a Marriage Officer can conduct the ceremony (priest, magistrate, special justice of the peace etc). Likewise, it has to be conducted in a church or other religious building, or in a private swelling (with open doors) or public office.
- If you intend to marry on a beach or in a garden (ie. outside), then we suggest you repeat the legal part of the service indoors in order to avoid any doubts about whether you are formally married or not. The South African courts are not particularly inclined to declare that a marriage is invalid just because it was held outside - but it is best to err on the side of caution. For this reason also, a competent Marriage Officer is absolutely essential.
- There to be at least 2 witnesses present for the marriage to be legitimised. Legally, these 2 witnesses, plus the Marriage Officer, have to sign the marriage register after the ceremony.
- Thereafter, it will take between 6-8 weeks for your marriage certificate to be issued. As always, if in doubt, consult your Marriage Officer and/or consulate to ask about any outstanding paperwork or just for more information.
- 3 colour passport photos (both you and your partner individually)
- A letter of Non-Impediment from your embassy or consulate
- Copies of 2 witnesses’ IDs or passports
- Divorce certificate (if necessary from a previous marriage)
- Death certificate (if you have been widowed)
As of 2006, same-sex marriage has been legalised so the protocol is exactly the same for gay marriages.
This information is appropriate for UK nationals getting married overseas. We always advise that you contact the relevant embassy for information before booking any trips. This information is up to date to the best of our knowledge.