Before I say I do.

If you are planning on getting married soon but with the petrol hike, you are worried about the effect that that might have on your pocket then look no further this article is for you.

Whether you are both homosexual or heterosexual, you can now get married at Home Affairs, you can plan your wedding day to be at your nearest Home Affairs and you and your better half may say “I do” under the Marriage Act no 25 of 1961 or Civil Union Act no 17 of 2006.

You only need to do the following:

1.       Understand the legal consequences of marriage and ensure that your marriage complies with the legal requirements for a valid marriage in South Africa;

2.       head to the Home Affairs where you would like to get married and book a date for your wedding;

3.       if you are a foreigner, obtain a letter of confirmation of marital status from your country of origin;

4.       ensure that you and your partner have your identity documentation;

5.       have two witnesses and ensure that they both have their identity documents or passports if they are foreigners;

6.       if you have been married before, ensure that you have a final decree of divorce( a divorce order) or death certificate(if your spouse is deceased); and

7.       an antenuptial contract (ANC) should you wish to be married out of community of property.

This last requirement is extremely important, in South Africa marriages are automatically deemed to be in community of property unless otherwise stated. Couples must obtain the services of an attorney who will draw up a marriage contract prior to the wedding day.

People generally think that having an ANC means that you are planning for a divorce. This is untrue; having an ANC in place legally guarantees that you and your partner are seen as two separate legal entities, this ensures that each party is protected from the debts acquired by the other party. This marital system means that you are not jointly responsible for the debts each partner acquires. Should you find out at a later stage that you have married a compulsive shopper or prodigal, you are able to protect yourself from the debts which they may accumulate in their name.

Another aspect of marriage which is essential to note is there are different formalities of marriage. They are as follows:

1.       marriage under the Marriages Act, this is only for monogamous, heterosexual civil marriages. The couple must be above the age of 18 but there are provisions under the act for minors to be permitted to marry under certain circumstances. An application can be made to the High Court, this court is considered to be the upper guardian of all minors;

2.       civil union under the Civil Union Act, this is for not only homosexual couples but also heterosexual couples can marry under this form of marriage. Both parties must be above the age of 18 and unlike the Marriages Act, this act makes no provision for minors to be married; and

3.       marriage under the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998, this marriage is for both monogamous and polygamous customary marriages. They must however be concluded in accordance with the traditional customs and usages of the indigenous African people of South Africa and must be a part of that peoples culture. The marriage must be concluded in accordance with this act.

If Home Affairs is not the romantic setting you hoped for, couples can also be married by a marriage officer authorized by the Marriages Act. The marriage ceremony must take place in the presence of two witnesses and must be in a church or any other religious building or public office or private house with open doors or even in a hospital. This is in terms of section 29(2) of the Act. The case of Ex Parte Dow gave further meaning to the legislatures intentions by finding that section 29(2) was to avoid couples tying the knot in secret. In this case the husband applied to court for an annulment of his marriage on the basis that it had been solemnized in the garden of a private dwelling house and not in the house as is required by section 29(2). The court concluded that marriage is such a serious relationship and the consequences of an annulment are so far reaching that the legislator could not have intended the marriage to be void if the 2 letter word “in” was not complied with.

A marriage officer can be any magistrate, any person whom the Minister of Home Affairs has authorized to be a marriage officer or minister of religion from any denomination or religious organization with the same authority vested upon them by the Minister of Home Affairs.

It is a criminal offence to attempt to solemnize a marriage without the necessary authority to do so.

Furthermore, a couple may be married by an attorney of their choice. The attorney must apply to the senior magistrate for the right to be a marriage officer for the day. The magistrate will then issue a temporary marriage license which will only be valid for the wedding day stated in the application.

Take note that should you decide to get married at Home Affairs, besides the long line, it is over relatively quickly and might include some unwanted and unknown guests. It is, however, the cheaper option and is becoming increasingly popular amongst South Africans.