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Marriage

Mostly we take for granted – or simply don’t think about – the legal event occurring in the starry-eyed moments of a wedding ceremony.

However, the rituals one goes through – such as producing ID books, signing the register, answering questions with that confident ‘I do’ - and the request for objections to the proposed marriage all have a purpose.

The religious leader or magistrate who officiates at a wedding is, for the purposes of the Marriage Act 19611 and the Civil Union Act 2006, a ‘marriage officer’. In following the rites and customs usually observed by his religious denomination or organisation, the marriage officer ‘solemnises’ the marriage.

Because a marriage officer is given authority (in terms of these statutes) and is indeed required to effect the solemnisation, the marriage relationship is then given legal status. This is not just recognition in the eyes of the particular religion or community, but also according to the laws of the Republic.

  1. Any person who purports to solemnise a marriage commits a criminal offence if he is not a ‘marriage officer’ as specified in the Act.2

  2. Any person who is a marriage officer, but purports to solemnise a marriage which to his knowledge is legally prohibited, commits an offence.3

  3. It is also an offence for a marriage officer to purport to solemnise a marriage for which he is not authorised by the Minister of Home Affairs.4

  4. It is an offence to solemnise a marriage if:5
    • each party has not produced their ID; or
    • each party has not produced the required affidavit; or
    • one party has not produced the required affidavit or ID.
  5. It is an offence to solemnise a marriage if, after receipt of an objection to the marriage, the marriage officer does so without enquiring into the grounds of the objection, and satisfying himself that there is no lawful impediment to the marriage.6

  6. It is an offence to solemnise a marriage where at least one of the parties is a minor – unless he or she has been furnished with the requisite parental or guardian consent, in writing.7

  7. A marriage officer may not demand or receive any gift, fee or reward for performing a marriage ceremony,8 and it is an offence to do so.9

  8. It is a crime to make any false representation or statement, for any of the purposes of the two Acts in question.10
  1. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 51 of 1992, effective 1 October 1992. 

  2. Civil Union Act – section 14(1); Marriage Act – section 11(2). 

  3. Civil Union Act – section 14(1); Marriage Act – section 11(2) and section 35. 

  4. Marriage Act – section 11(2). 

  5. Civil Union Act – section 7 read with section 14(3); Marriage Act – section 12 read with section 35. 

  6. Civil Union Act – section 9 read with section 14(3); Marriage Act – section 23(2) read with section 35. 

  7. Marriage Act – section 24(1) read with section 35. 

  8. This does not apply in the case of religious leaders and ministers, where such fees or payment were ordinarily paid to such a leader or minister at the point in time immediately prior to commencement of the Act – that is, 1 January 1962. 

  9. Civil Union Act – section 14(2); Marriage Act – section 32(1) read with section 32(2). 

  10. Civil Union Act – section 14(4); Marriage Act – section 36.