You’re now engaged and have started planning for the big day on which you get to say, “I do!”. You have your guests list, venue and even photographer ready, but have you got your legal ducks in a row?

Tying the knot can be an exciting process and experience for the bridal party. Still, it can similarly be stressful and complicated if you and your future spouse do not take the time to figure out the legal aspect of marriage and what you need to enter a marriage.

Know What You’re Signing Up For!

Before addressing what documents one needs to enter a marriage, it is prudent to know what legal marriage is. Simply put, legally, a marriage can be seen, in its traditional sense, as an agreement between intended spouses to have their relationship legally recognized by solemnizing and registering that relationship.

In South Africa, the law recognizes three forms of marriages:

  • Customary Marriage: A recognized union in the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998. Like Civil Marriages, Customary Marriages are traditionally between an opposite-sex couple, but unlike the former, Customary Marriages are not limited to monogamous relationships. But if a male wishes to enter into more than one customary marriage, he must, at his own expense, approach a court for the regulation of that[1]. It is possible for a monogamous couple married under customary law to register a civil marriage too if the male has not entered another customary marriage with another woman.


  • Civil Marriage: A recognized union between a heterosexual couple governed by the Marriage Act 25 of 1961, the most common form of marriage.


  • Civil Union: A recognized union between same–sex and governed by the Civil Union Act 17 of 2006. This form of union was aimed at recognizing same–sex marriages but has been extended to include opposite–sex couples. This form of union affords the same privileges as a Civil Marriage.


What Do You Need To Register Your Customary Marriage?

You will need to present yourself at the Department of Home Affairs (“DHA”) or a Traditional Leader with at least one representative/family member of the bridal couple’s respective families (i.e., one relative or representative from the bride’s family, and one from the groom’s family).

At the DHA, you must bring your ID and complete a BI – 1700 form.

What do you need to register your Civil Marriage?

The DHA’s website has provided a list of documents required to register your marriage. Simply put, you will need the following:

  1. You will need to bring your ID’s (and a copy of each if the marriage is not officiated at the DHA). If you are previously divorced or widowed, you must submit a copy of your divorce decree and/or a copy of your deceased spouse’s death certificate.
  2. If one of the intended spouses is a foreign national, you must bring both your valid passports and complete a BI – 31 forms. You must additionally bring a letter of non-impediment from the country of origin of the foreign intended spouse and a certificate of non-impediment from your local consulate /embassy.
  3. If a minor is getting married, a written consent form from both parents of the minor child must be submitted. If the minor is younger than 15 years of age, a consent form must also be obtained from the Minister of Home Affairs.
  4. In all instances mentioned above, you must also bring two witnesses.


What Do You Need To Register Your Civil Union?

  1. You will also need to bring your ID’s (and valid passports if one of the partners is a foreign national).
  2. If you are previously divorced or widowed, you must submit a copy of your divorce decree and/or a copy of your deceased spouse’s death certificate.
  3. You will also need to complete a declaration for the purpose of marriage (DHA-1763 form) as well a separate form indicating whether the partners will be entering into either a Civil Union Marriage or Civil Union Partnership (DHA-1766 form).


In the hopes of planning your wedding to eliminate unnecessary stress, you and/or your partner should attend to the nearest branch of the DHA and go to the Marriage Office, or visit the DHA’s website to download the respective application forms. Notwithstanding the above, should you and your partner, or intended spouse, wish to know more about the marriage process, it is worthwhile to approach an attorney and discuss the marital regimes in-depth and the appropriate form of union.

Contact an attorney at SchoemanLaw for your legal needs!