More and more people are choosing to get married abroad. South Africa's fabulous scenery and weather and relatively affordable prices make it a popular option for a combined wedding and honeymoon. And family and friends may well be happy to come too. However, getting married here isn't as simple as popping down to a Vegas wedding chapel. You need to put in some serious forward planning and make sure you have all the paperwork in order. You will probably need to save up - doing it in style at the luxury safari lodges won't come cheap. And if you are looking at a popular venue, you may also need to book up to a year ahead.
What do you need in the way of paperwork?
1) Proof of ID -- You'll both need to produce your original birth certificates and a valid passport with at three free pages
2) Change of name -- If either of you has changed your name either through marriage (then reverting back to your maiden name) or by Deed Poll, you will need to provide legal proof, stamped and signed by a solicitor.
3) Previous marriages -- If either of you is divorced you'll need to produce your Decree Absolute. If widowed, you'll need to produce to your previous marriage certificate and your deceased spouse's death certificate.
4) Age -- If under the age of 18, you'll to need a notarized Affidavit to prove parental consent.
5) Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) -- You are currently asked to sign a basic Affidavit called a B1-31, declaring that you know of no impediment to your marriage (ask your marriage officers or Commissioners of Oaths can do this for you). According to advice on the British Foreign Office website, South African authorities are shortly planning to start asking for further documentation requiring any foreigner who marries a South African citizen in South Africa to provide a certificate from their country of origin stating that a search has been done of marriage records and the individual concerned is not already married. The UK has no central repository of marriage of UK citizens and is unable to comply with this demand. Citizens of other countries and those marrying non-South Africans should check before making plans.
6) Residency -- You need to be resident in South Africa for at least 24 hrs before the wedding.
7) Venue -- Under South African law, the wedding should be in a religious place, public office or private dwelling with the doors open in the presence of two witnesses. Outdoor weddings, while wonderful, may technically not be legal, so you should check or repeat the formalities, just in case.
8) Gay marriage -- The Civil Union Bill allows for same-sex partnerships in South Africa, however individual marriage officers are allowed to refuse to marry same-sex couples on the grounds of personal moral belief.
9) Community property -- Under South African law, marriage automatically makes all property communal unless a pre-nuptual agreement has been signed.
10) Certificate -- Straight after the wedding, you will be issued with an abridged marriage certificate. The celebrant will then register your marriage with High Court who will issue the unabridged marriage certificate, which is stamped 'Apostille'. This can be used to register the marriage in your home country.
11) Further information -- For more information and copies of the relevant forms, check out the Dept of Home Affairs website.
Organising Your Wedding
Now you've got the paperwork sorted, the fun stuff starts - organizing the big day. Actually, for most of you, doing it this way will mean not only organizing the wedding, but your honeymoon and a holiday for your friends and family, all at long distance and, quite possibly, in a country you don't know. So how do you go about it?
1) Venue -- Almost every hotel, attraction, restaurant and public park in South Africa offers itself as a wedding venue. You need to narrow down the options. My article on 10 Top Places to Get Married in South Africa is just a starting point - most of the places on the list are very high end, but they do represent a cross-section of the types of venues on offer.
2) Budget -- Price is obviously a huge consideration, as are the number of guests. Think also about the cost implications for your guests. It's all very well setting your heart on getting married at Singita but it will involve all your guests staying there and it will limit numbers and involve them in serious expense - unless you have deep enough pockets to treat them all! Start with a budget and stick to it.
3) Location -- Think long and hard about location. If you want a large party, you need to be within reach of enough accommodation, so heading out to a remote bush lodge isn't feasible. And remember to take basics like local weather conditions into consideration (an outdoor wedding in the Cape in June will be freezing while January in the Kruger could fall foul of the rainy season).
4) Wedding planners -- While many hotels are happy to organise things for you, also consider using a local wedding planner to help you out. There are a number of specialists who will also help you through the legalities. Look at websites such as:
Marriage in South Africa - About.com
5)Timing -- Start planning early enough. With South Africans also competing, popular venues can book up a year ahead. And if you do want your friends and family to travel over and join you for your big day, they are going to need time to plan and save for the trip.