Legal Requirements


Your wedding day is a happy occasion and the emphasis is on celebrating your marriage, however - there are some legal aspects that you will have to take care of before the big day.


Preparing to get married

The actual act of getting married is not as complicated as you may think. Firstly you need to make sure that you are legally allowed to marry, comply with all the legal requirements and understand the legal consequences of a marriage.

Then you need to secure the following and you are set:

  • A location
    • a church or another building used for religious services
    • in a public office or private house, with open doors
    • in the case of serious illness or injuries, the marriage may take place in a hospital or any concerned facility
  • 2 witnesses
  • A marriage officer authorised in terms of Act No. 25 of 1961 to perform marriages


Naturally there are rules and regulations regarding who you may marry and according to law there are certain categories of people you may not:

  • Minors, unless the prescribed consent to the marriage has been given (see below)
  • People who are already married.
  • In the columns below, a man may not marry any person mentioned in column 1; and a woman may not marry any person mentioned in column 2:




Father’s mother
Mother’s mother
Son’s daughter
Daughter’s daughter
Wife’s mother
Wife’s daughter
Father’s wife
Son’s wife
Father’s father’s wife
Mother’s father’s wife
Wife’s father’s mother
Wife’s mother’s mother
Wife’s son’s daughter
Wife’s daughter’s daughter
Son’s son’s wife
Daughter’s son’s wife
Father’s sister
Mother’s sister
Brother’s daughter
Brother’s daughter’s daughter
Sister’s daughter
Sister’s daughter’s daughter
Sister’s son’s daughter

Father’s father
Mother’s father
Son’s son
Daughter’s son
Husband’s father
Husband’s son
Mother’s husband
Daughter’s husband
Father’s mother’s husband
Mother’s mother’s husband
Husband’s father’s father
Husband’s mother’s father
Husband’s son’s son
Husband’s daughter’s son
Son’s daughter’s husband
Daughter’s daughter’s husband
Father’s brother
Mother’s brother
Brother’s son
Brother’s son’s son
Sister’s son
Sister’s son’s son
Sister’s daughter’s son


Note: It is important to check your marital status; you can do this on the Department of Home Affairs website. Even if you have never been married there are a large number of fraudulent marriages reported to every year and it is best to rather be prepared that find out on your wedding day.



As mentioned earlier minors may only be married with consent, so if you are and/or your partner is younger than 18 you need consent from either your respective parents, legal guardian or - if neither of these can be found to grant consent (or are legally incompetent to do so) - an application may be made to a Commissioner of Child Welfare for consent to the marriage. 

If your parents and/or a Commissioner of Child Welfare refuse to grant consent for your marriage, you may then apply to a judge of the High Court. The judge will not grant consent unless there is sufficient evidence that the marriage is in the interest of the minor and that prior consent has been unreasonably refused.

For boys under the age of 18 and girls under the age of 16 you may also be required to seek additional consent from the Minister of Home Affairs.

If a marriage is conducted without the legally required consent of the parents or guardian it can be declared null and void by the High Court at the request of the parents or guardian either before the minor turns 21 or within six weeks of the date on which the marriage first came to their knowledge.


Required Documents

On the day of the marriage a couple must present the following documents to the person officiating at the wedding:

  • Identity documents(for each person getting married)
  • If a foreign national is marrying a South African citizen, they should both present their valid passports as well as a letter of Non-Impediment from their home country which states they are free to get married.
  • If the wedding is for a minor (a person under 18 years), the written consent from the appropriate authority
  • If any of the persons getting married are divorced, then the final decree of divorce should be furnished
  • If any of the persons getting married are widowed, the deceased spouse’s death certificate must be submitted.
  • 3 ID photo’s each


Note: When a foreigner and South African citizen want to get married, they are required to attend an interview with an Immigration Officer at the Department of Home Affairs to obtain clearance for the marriage. This is just to prevent “marriages of convenience” to gain citizenship. The interview can only take place a few days before the wedding, but an appointment must be made.


 Marriage certificates

Both witnesses along with the marriage officer must sign the marriage register; the marriage officer will then issue the parties with a handwritten marriage certificate (BI-27) - free of charge - and then submit the marriage register to the nearest office of the Department of Home Affairs, where the marriage details will be recorded in the National Population Register (NPR). You should then receive your abridged certificate within 6 to 8 weeks.

Additional copies of the abridged (RAS purposes) or unabridged (overseas purposes) marriage certificate can be requested (either computer printed or handwritten) by completing form BI-130 in black ink and submitting it to the nearest office of the Department of Home Affairs or to the nearest South African embassy, mission or consulate abroad. You can additionally also request a vault copy of the register