The sheer amount of times I Googled ‘How to get married at Home Affairs’ in the last few months left no doubt in my mind that there is quite a bit of confusion over how you actually get married at Home Affairs.
No one, of course, dreams of getting married at Home Affairs, but some instances necessitate it. For us, both of whom are not particularly religious, it was an unnecessary addition of a nearly R10 000 officiant to the already strained wedding budget and in the end a no-brainer.
Just a bit of history on how the South African government actually came to move these duties to the Home Affairs offices. So, back in 2002 this function was moved from the court of the Magistrate to the Department of Home Affairs.
With the addition and formalisation of same-sex marriages in 2006 came to promulgation of the Civil Union Act which gave marriage officers in the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) the right to refuse same-sex unions. This was abolished in 2018 when regulations changed to state that officers were no longer allowed to turn away same-sex couples.
Step 1: Get an appointment
So, this is probably the most difficult part. Not every DHA has a marriage officer, so you have to choose your nearest branch (click here for a comprehensive list) and go to them to see when they are able to perform the ceremony. Living in Stellenbosch, our nearest branches were either Paarl, Belville or Caledon.
It’s best to physically visit the branch to make the appointment, from what we could gather the branch we chose (Paarl) performs this function once a month. We also didn’t have time to go to the branch, so we phoned for an appointment. We phoned and phoned for nearly three days before getting through, so I would highly recommend just going to the branch.
I would highly suggest going to make an appointment at least six months in advance. They are quite busy and as I mentioned they don’t do it every day so if you perhaps want to get married as close to your ceremony as possible you need to prepare in advance.
Step 2: Preparing for the big day
The biggest job you have before getting married is finalising your pre-nuptial contract as you need to present it to the marriage officer on the day you get married. This means that you have to visit your lawyer (in person), sign the contract and have the lawyer notarise the document. They will give you a copy which you need to take with you on the day.
Furthermore, you need to take two witnesses with you on the day you are getting married. These two witnesses need to be there in person and must be able to present their green ID books or smart ID cards (a driver’s license doesn’t count) to the officer. You also need your own, as well as your partner’s, ID book or card and two ID photos. The officer will also make a copy of your pre-nuptials for their own records.
Step 3: D-Day
We are two extremely nervous people, so about a week before the date we drove all the way to Paarl to go make sure that we know where the office is situated and what it looks like. In the end, we were very glad that we did as we knew exactly where to go and what the building looks like!
It is important to arrive ten or so minutes before your appointment, and when we arrived there were already several long lines. Luckily, because we had an appointment, we could skip the lines and go ahead to the officer. The officiant then takes all the documentation to prepare for the ceremony.
I really need to take a minute here to commend the Paarl DHA branch. They are extremely professional, they married us in Afrikaans (our home language) and they even helped us get a copy of one of our witness’ IDs mailed and printed, because he had only brought his drivers’ license.
They then took us to a room that is very quaintly decorated, and the couple is seated directly in front of the officer. You are then asked to confirm your details such as name, surname, level of education and the address you choose as your primary residence. I was then asked if I would take my husband’s surname or not.
She then proceeded with a beautiful ceremony and I might be biased, but to me it was one of the most beautiful messages I’ve heard at a wedding. She had us exchange rings and she really went out of her way to make it a special occasion. We both had the opportunity to say, ‘I do’ and within 20 minutes we were married and on our way to Kikka for coffee. They give you a written marriage certificate which you need to keep safe, and just like that you are married.
*Small note: During the lockdown we are currently experiencing the President has suspended all non-essential functions such as performing marriages. We had our appointment in early February 2020 in preparation for our wedding on the last weekend of March. We’ve had to since postpone our wedding celebrations which has been absolutely heart-breaking. In hindsight, I am so extremely glad we got to do this ceremony as planned and can face this crisis as husband and wife.