DESTINATION WEDDINGS – LEGALITIES AND LOGISTICS!

By Ann Baker
Exotic locations, stunning landscapes and a unique wedding album – there are loads of great reasons to incorporate your wedding and your honeymoon into one big vacation. If you’re considering a destination wedding, you’ll find plenty of valuable advice in our Summer 2012 issue (see pages 164 to 168).  Here are the legal requirements for those countries most commonly chosen by South African brides and grooms. Pay attention – the last thing you want is to come home and find that your marriage isn’t recognised in South Africa.

The legal requirements when getting married outside of South Africa vary greatly from country to country. We’ve concentrated on civil unions, as the legal requirements for religious ceremonies are different and need to be investigated thoroughly for each country.

General

  • In most cases your marriage is governed by the laws of the country of the domicile of the husband.
  • In South Africa the default marriage regime is in community of property. If you do not want to be married in community of property you need to enter into a prenuptial contract before you get married. It’s a good idea to discuss your options with an attorney beforehand.
  • Some countries require a prenuptial contract to be lodged with officials before the wedding.
  • Be aware of mock weddings and mock ceremonies: they are not legally binding in any country, but most hotels and venues offer blessing ceremonies or symbolic weddings.

Mauritius

1. You need to stay on the island for at least three days prior to ceremony (most hotels require a minimum stay of seven nights).

2. The bride and groom must provide copies of:

  • The first six pages of their passports
  • Their birth certificates
  • Any legal documents pertaining to a previous divorce or the death of a spouse and of any name changes
  • A letter of consent from parents in the form of an affidavit if either party is under 18
  • A Mauritian doctor’s certificate of non-pregnancy if the bride-to-be has been divorced within the last 10 months

3. All original documentation must be produced on the day of the ceremony.

4. Documentation must be sent to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages four weeks prior to the date of your ceremony.

5. Any documentation not in English must be translated and duly stamped.

6. Wedding ceremonies can take place from Monday to Friday, but not on a public holiday, and are subject to the availability of the registrar.

7. A visit to Port Louis will be arranged before the ceremony to sign affidavits.

8. If you don’t want to be married in community of property, you must enter into a prenuptial contract before getting married.

Mozambique

Marriages in Mozambique are not legally binding or recognised in South Africa, so all you can have is a ceremony and reception. Sort out the legal requirements in South Africa either before or after your trip.

Seychelles

1. You need to stay on the island for at least two days prior to ceremony.

2. The bride and groom must provide copies of:

  • The first two pages of their passports
  • Their birth certificates or certified copies thereof
  • Any legal documents pertaining to a previous divorce or the death of a spouse and of any name changes
  • Documentation to show that there is no impediment or lawful hindrance to the intended marriage (it is possible to make a declaration and then sign an affidavit to this effect once in the Seychelles).
  • All documents must be originals or certified copies and must be in English.

3. A church wedding without a civil ceremony is not recognised as being legal.

4. If you want to arrange your own wedding, you need to apply to the Seychelles Civil Status Office in Victoria on Mahé.

5. Couples must advise the Civil Status Office of their wedding date at least 11 calendar days in advance. This period may be exempted by applying for a Special Licence, normally issued within two days from the date of application, for a fee.

6. It can take up to two months to process the required documentation.

7. Civil ceremonies may be conducted on the hotel property with permission from both the hotel and the Civil Registrar. Weddings outside the hotel property can only be performed in private venues so authorised by the Civil Registrar.

8. Weddings can also be performed in the Civil Status Office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 9am and 11am. The couple must provide two witnesses.

9. Marrying outside the Civil Status Office incurs a fee and is applicable to any ceremony held on a weekday on Mahé or one of the Inner Islands (including Anonyme, Bird, Cerf, Cousine, Denis, Frégate, La Digue, Moyenne, North, Praslin, Round, St Anne and Silhouette islands). The couple will be required to cover the transportation costs for the registrar officer to travel to these islands. There are Civil Status officers on both Praslin and La Digue. Marrying on one of the Outer Islands, including Alphonse or Desroches, incurs a different fee plus the transportation costs of the registrar officer.

10. There is a fee for ceremonies held after 5pm on a weekday or over the weekend.

11. A special stamp (apostille) is required to validate the marriage certificate. This can be obtained after the civil ceremony at the Registrar’s office located at the Supreme Court, again for a fee.

Zanzibar

1. You need to stay on the island for at least two days prior to ceremony.

2. The bride and groom must provide copies of:

  • Two copies of their passports
  • Copies of their birth certificates
  • A certificate of domicile
  • Two passport photos each
  • A letter stating the names, birth dates and birth places of their parents

3. All original documentation must be produced on the day of the ceremony.

4. Documentation should be couriered or sent by registered mail to the Regional Commissioner’s Office at least 25 days prior to the ceremony date.

5. The bride and groom must submit an application letter, in English and signed by both parties, indicating that both applicants are single, that they want to get married in Zanzibar and the intended date of the wedding. This must be certified by a public notary.

6. You will need to meet with officials to verify your documentation. This can be done on the day of the ceremony.

7. The legal requirements for a civil union on Zanzibar are different to those of mainland Tanzania, so you or your wedding venue should contact the Government of Zanzibar regarding your intended marriage.
8. You can be married at your venue by the Regional Commissioner, but if this is not possible then you will have to be married at the Regional Commissioner’s Office.

9. Weddings may take place in the morning on weekdays.

10. A notice must be placed on the Municipal Notice Board announcing the intended marriage 21 days prior to the ceremony.

 

Kenya

1. You need to stay in the country for at least four days prior to ceremony, including two working days in Nairobi.

2.  The bride and groom must provide copies of:

  • Their passports
  • Their birth certificates
  • An affidavit stating that both parties are single
  • Any legal documents pertaining to a previous divorce or the death of a spouse and of any name changes
  • A letter of consent from parents in the form of an affidavit that must be stamped by a public notary, if either party is under 21
  • A letter stating the full names, address and occupation of the bride, the groom and their parents
  • The adoption certificate if either party is adopted

3. Original passports and birth certificates must be provided on request.

4. Documentation must all be in English.

5. It should take four working days to finalise all the paperwork if the couple has applied for a special license, but processing times are apt to change without warning.

6. Wedding ceremonies can be performed at the local registrar’s office or at any venue with a special license.

 

Thailand

1. You need to stay in the country for at least two days prior to ceremony. You’ll need to spend four or five working days in Bangkok visiting your embassy and filling out paperwork. Take note of Thai public holidays as all consulates, embassies and government offices close on these days.

2. A religious ceremony alone is not recognised as being legal. A legally binding marriage must be officially registered at a district office (also known as an amphur or khet).

3. Your passport must be up to date and be valid for a minimum of six months.

4. Your embassy or consulate may not perform a marriage or carry out any translation services on your behalf.

5. You will need to provide an affirmation of freedom to marry. This is available from your country’s embassy in Bangkok and must be typed out and signed in the presence of a consular official, and then countersigned by an official. You will be charged for this and you need to provide your original passports and any legal documents pertaining to a previous divorce or the death of a spouse. This affirmation must be translated into Thai by an official translation service, also for a fee. Submit your affirmation of freedom to marry and the Thai translation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok for authentication. A fee is applicable.

6. The paperwork must be submitted to the district office. It is advisable to take someone who can speak Thai with you. You are considered legally married on the day you register at the district office.

7. The marriage certificate will be in Thai only and a sworn translation is available from a translation bureau.

8. Visitors from most Western countries who are going to be in Thailand for less than 30 days and who have a return ticket do not normally require a visa. It is always advisable to check the current situation with the Thai embassy or consulate in your home country.

Photograph by Carmen Visser

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