The legality of Zoom weddings in SA

The legality of Zoom weddings in SA

Globally, the popularity of Zoom weddings is increasing by the day. With the coronavirus pandemic essentially ensuring that no physical ceremony can take place, couples have limited options and therefore opt for online nuptials. However, the question of legality never seems to be brought up.

There are certain requirements for a legal and valid marriage in South Africa. Some of these include:

  1. You must ensure you are both legally allowed to marry, and must understand the legal consequences of marriage
  2. You have to present all the required documents (including ID documents of both partners, divorce orders from previous marriages or death certificates if applicable) to the officiant
  3. Your marriage officer must be authorised in terms of Act No. 25 of 1961
  4. Your marriage must be conducted in the presence of at least two witnesses
  5. The witnesses and the marriage officer must sign the marriage register after the solemnisation of the marriage, and you as the newly-weds should be given a handwritten marriage certificate

If we consider the last two points, we might notice that these are more difficult to fulfil while self-isolating.

When the nationwide lockdown began, Minister Aaron Motssoaledi of Home Affairs said that no marriage certificates would be issued during the lockdown. He said that those who want to get married should wait until the lockdown is over, and in fact even joked about it saying that “maybe the 21 days will also give you time to think whether you want to get married or not.”

With marriage certificates not being issued, point number 5 is pretty much impossible to fufill with a Zoom wedding. Point number 4 may be equally difficult if you don’t live with at least two additional roommates (which most couples don’t).

Point 4 talks about being in the presence of two witnesses. This does not specify that the witnesses have to be there physically, although it might make the most sense to assume that is what it means. If we stay on the safe side and assume the witnesses have be there physically, then you’re probably unable to fulfil point 4 too.

In addition, it may be difficult to find an authorised officiant willing to perform your marriage, since marriage was so clearly warned against by the government when the lockdown started.

As a result of these stumbling blocks, Zoom weddings may be a bit of a grey area in terms of legality. However, it’s safest (and most likely correct) to assume that Zoom weddings cannot be taken as legally valid in terms of the law.

Either way though, a zoom wedding may still be worth it for symbolic reasons! It can be used to celebrate what your day would have been, or to simply bring everyone together as you planned to in the first place.

Here are some zoom weddings for inspiration:

Image: Twitter / @tarekjpeg

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