If you are choosing to have your wedding in the rainbow nation you will not be disappointed. Planning a wedding in South Africa is relatively uncomplicated. The legal side is quite simple, just a few documents, a couple witnesses, a venue and a marriage officer. The hard part is the details in the planning; choosing a venue, cake and flowers.

Dealing with the in laws or bridesmaids could probably be the most difficult part. It can be as expensive or simple as you would like it to be. It’s your day! It’s all in the planning and making sure you have all the facts.

Official legalities of getting married

In South Africa there are a number of different categories of marriage. Civil marriage is the religious union of a man and a woman in accordance with Dutch-Roman law. Customary marriages since 1998 that takes into account different cultural traditions under African customary law, including polygynous marriage. In 2006 South Africa became the 5th country in the world to accept same sex marriage under Civil Union Act.

What you need to know

Ensure that you are legally allowed to marry firstly. Know that you are automatically married into community of property. You can obtain legal counsel if a pre-nuptial contract is required. All relevant documents can be found at Home Affairs. Your wedding can only be authorised by an official marriage officer. Your wedding needs to take place in a church or other building with ‘open doors’, private office of home. It can also be conducted at the home affairs office, the date just needs to be pre-booked. If you are choosing an outdoor venue for your wedding it is best to do the legal part i.e. the signing of the register, before the wedding at Home Affairs or in a building.

You will need to present the following to the marriage officer.

  • Your Identity documents
  • Two witnesses and their Identity documents
  • If a foreign national is getting married to a South African citizen then you will both need your valid passports as well as your B1-31 form, which stipulates the purpose of getting married. You will also require a letter from your embassy stating you are free to marry.
  • If a minor (under age 21) is getting married then written consent will be needed from a parent or guardian.
  • If you have been divorced before, you will need to present the final decree of divorce.
  • If you are widowed, you must have the death certificate of deceased spouse.

If you are unsure or have any questions, legal counsel can advise you. You will receive a hand written marriage certificate from the marriage officer after he has signed the register along with the two witnesses. He then takes the register to the Department of Home Affairs. You can request any additional abridged or unabridged marriage certificates as well. You do not have to be in South Africa for any required length of time before getting married and you do not need to take any blood tests. It is not a legal requirement for the banns to be read in the ceremony. It was done away with in South Africa many years ago so there is no opportunity for anyone to boulder through the church doors to stop the wedding as we see in ‘soapie’ drama. The bride can choose to keep her maiden name or change her name to that of her husband’s. Consult your marriage officer before the time to ask any questions and gather all required information. It also makes the wedding ceremony a bit more personal when the marriage officer has an idea of who you are.


Customary Marriages only cater for African customs, not Hindu, Muslim or any other. It is customary to negotiate terms. Labola(bride-price) is a common practice in South Africa where it is tradition for the bride’s family to pay a dowry of sorts.

A rainbow nation of cultures, ethnic backgrounds, different races, different religious beliefs, rich and poor will produce a wide array of different types and styles of wedding ceremonies. Clinging to past traditions and creating their own. Mixtures of two cultures coming together will bring about a fusion of traditional wedding traditions. Cohesion of old and new customs brings forth unity in the bond of marriage.

Jumping the broom is typically a tradition carried out by mixed couples. They dance or jump over a decoratively adorned broom as drums are being played. This is a tradition going back to the 18th century where validity of marriages was questioned and referred to as ‘broomstick marriages’. It is not a commonly used tradition.

Karamu is a large wedding feast. This can take place over a few days and typically African cultures have an open invite to their Karamu.

Jewish Weddings in South Africa are pretty similar to any other place in the world. Full of rich culture, vibrancy, fun and of course tradition. It entails the ketubah or marriage contract, a chuppah or wedding canopy and the breaking of glass. The bride usually circles the groom 3 to 7 times. The 7 blessings are recited. Yichud involves leaving the bride and groom alone for 10-20 minutes. There are many jovial, ceremonial dances performed at the reception.

A South African Hindu Wedding is alive with ceremony as it starts with the dancing procession of the groom’s family to the wedding venue and the bride’s family welcomes them with sweets. The bride and groom garland each other after the Mangalmantras are recited. The Kannyadaan is then performed as the bride’s mother pours water into the bride’s fathers palms , then to the groom and bride’s palms as a symbol of blessing as they give away the bride. The bride and groom then tie each other’s wrists with the Sutrabandhanam, a sacred thread. The groom gives the bride a necklace and the place kumkum and chandan on each other’s foreheads. Then the groom’s mother ties a sacred knot around the couple. Then it’s the Vivaah Homa the worship of sacred fire. The marriage vows are read and then the blessings.

Only in South Africa

The Reed Dance Festival takes place every year in Kwa Zulu Natal, where Zulu virgins are brought before the polygamist Zulu king and he chooses his next bride.

Tying the knot is a typical African custom that takes place alongside the exchanging of rings and the lifting of the veil. The wedding couple have their hands tied together by grass or cloth to symbolise the joining together.

The 12 symbols are present at a traditional African Wedding as a sign of what to expect in the coming years of marriage. They are salt, pepper, water, wheat, bitter herbs, wine, holy book, honey, a broom, spoon, pot, spear and a shield.

Libation rites are different things that have to be performed before, during and after an African wedding. They must pray to their ancestors in a chant and sprinkle a blessing. Labola is negotiated and paid. They light a candle after their vows. The wearing of bright colours is traditional and often traditional clothing too. Wedding cake to symbolise fertility and a shoe is tied to the back of the couple’s car to symbolise the passing of responsibility from the bride’s father to the groom.

In Ndebele Weddings the groom’s mother will make a jocolo, which is a goat skin apron and is worn by all the married women during the ceremony. A Xhosa woman inserts a knife into the ground as she accepts proposal of marriage. The couple stay apart during the day and during the ceremony the men sit on chairs and the women sit on the floor. A Zulu bride will wear a headdress made from her mother’s hair and can change her outfit about 3 times throughout the day in order to impress the in-laws. In the Zulu culture it is customary for the wedding party to go to the groom’s house after the ceremony to slaughter a cow and the bride to place money inside the cows stomach symbolising her joining her new family.

Muslim and Hindu marriages have a complicated past. Traditional unions were not recognised as civil marriages. A second ceremony had to be conducted in accordance with civil law to make the marriage valid. Just recently on the 30th April 2014, 100 Imams were appointed as legal marriage officers.

The cost of a wedding in South Africa

The exchange rate is very favourable for foreigners to have their weddings in South Africa. You need to decide what type of wedding you want and plan according to what sort of realistic budget you have. Weddings in South Africa cost about R80 000 for 100 people on average. This includes the rings, the wedding dress, the reception and honeymoon. The invites, cake and extras takes about 5% .The photography, wedding attire, and decor takes about 15-20% of the total cost. The reception takes about 50% of the cost. The rest of the budget should be for any unforeseen or hidden extras. It is advised that the couple should get an account specifically for the wedding to keep a clear record of expenses. Take time and do some research, getting quotes on venues etc to ensure you keep within your budget.

  • Invitations

It is becoming increasingly popular to make your own invitations and it is easy to do. The cost involved will be in purchasing the paper or card and the ink. The design is created personally by the bride and groom. Photo invites are a new craze and can give a personal touch. Of course there are companies that will do all the hard work for you. They will help create and print save the date cards, menus, table numbers, place cards as well as other miscellaneous requirements. It may cost a bit more but it allows to time to focus on other things for your big day. Laser cut invites give an elegant touch. The cost will vary according to what type of invitation you choose. There are websites where you can design and order your invitation online and have them delivered. Usually through a company the average price is R30-R50 per invitation.

  • Cake

Your wedding cake is a special memorable feature of your day and the price will vary according to the style, size and number of people. There are websites such as www.saweddings.co.za which offer you a selection of Cake decorators and cake companies in South Africa. You can choose from many cake options such as a traditional fruitcake, chocolate cake, cupcake or a koeksuster tower. Remember to order your cake at least 2 weeks before and usually cake decorators will ask for 50% upfront. The Cake Specialist in Durban KZN offers wedding cakes to order. They do whacky or traditional with just about any filling or topping. Chocolate Mousse Cake, Cheesecakes or White chocolate sponge cakes. Two, three or even four tiered cakes are available. Prices for wedding cakes can range anywhere from R600 but most caterers will design and make a cake that can fit within your budget. Cakes by Carlyn in Cape town offer a simple affordable cake selection.

  • Rings

Cubic zirconium rings are a more affordable option available from about R350-R500, then choosing between white/yellow gold and different settings, cuts and stones can be anywhere from R5000 –R40 000 depending on your budget. You can choose a ring from a catalogue or design your own. Many jewellers do offer payment plans. Tungsten men’s rings are the new fad. They are manly strong and durable mad of heavy duty tungsten carbide. Havilah Designer jewellers are a family run business in Port Elizabeth. Havilah wedding bands are made from 9ct and 18 ct white gold, yellow gold or platinum with diamonds or gemstones of your choice.

  • Photography

Choosing and booking the right photographer can feel overwhelming. Go with a reputable photographer, this is one cost that is worth it. Photos are what keep the memory of your special day alive and they tell the story for children you may have. Depending on the packages you choose your photos could be anywhere from R5000 for beginner photographers to R20 000+ for high end photographer. The high price is due to the professional quality and time; a high end photographer can make any setting work, come rain or shine. They are usually prepared for anything that may go wrong and know how a wedding works; they can do an excellent job in the amount of time they are allocated. As the saying goes you get what you pay for. A coffee table book or canvas of a wedding photo can be included in this cost.

  • Wedding dress

The wedding dress is the most important item to the bride on her special day. There are options from boutiques to hire dresses or you can purchase a readymade dress from a bridal shop. Most bridal shops in South Africa require you make a booking for an appointment to try on wedding dresses. The cost varies according to designer and fabric and can range anywhere from R4000-R20 000. Alternatively you can hire a dressmaker to make you a custom designed wedding dress. Second hand wedding gowns can be found online at www.bidorbuy.co.za for a fraction of the price. They can be from R1000-R5000. Tiara’s can be priced from about R900 –R2000 or more. Let us not forget the shoes! A bride has to have the right pair, comfy, and re wearable.

List of wedding dress stores:

Western Cape: Wedding by Design

The Wedding Box

Bridal Allure

Ekho Couture

Olivelli Cape Town

Belle Donne Bridal

Special Occasions

House of Silk

Gauteng:               Chiqwawa Wedding Dresses

De La Vida Bridal Couture

Bridal Wardrobe

Enzoani Wholesale Distributor


Bridal Manor

Crystal Brides

Bridal room

The Wedding Box

KZN:                          Bridal Mall Couture


The Bridal Shop

Pink Chilly Bridal

Function Flair

Jasmin Michele Bridle wear

Bridesmaid’s dresses are also a large expense, especially if you have a large bridal party. The infinity dress is becoming increasingly popular as they can be worn is a number of different ways, come in a variety of colours, are comfortable, can be worn again and look very flattering on any figure. They range in price from R650 to R1100.

The groom’s attire is no small cost, the suit, tie, shirt, and cuff links. It may also entail a few fittings to ensure that the suit is well tailored. Look around for specials. www.thedresssuit.co.za is currently running a special where a complete suit set is R890 till the end of December 2014.

  • The venue

The wedding venue is one of the biggest expenses unless you choose to get married at Home Affairs or at home. Search for the venue that is right for you and within your budget whether it be a function room or elegant hotel. South Africa offers a wide array of wedding venue options; wine estates in the Cape; venues overlooking the beautiful South African ocean; country venues; venues with spectacular mountain views in the Drakensberg; venues surround by lush game reserves, giving a purely south African feel. If wedding party or wedding guests have to travel to the venue the extra cost of accommodation has to be considered. Usually included in the venue cost will be decor and catering but you can cut your costs by possibly getting quotes from outside companies. You can choose to have a cash bar which will also limit the venue cost.

  • Questions to ask about the venue

Is the venue available on the required date?

Is the venue easy to find? (Ask for directions or GPS co-ordinates.)

Will there be any other weddings at the same time/day?

How much parking space does the venue have?

Number of people it can accommodate.

Do you do all the catering or can you outsource?

Does the venue include cake stand and knife?

What time must the reception end?

Is there a corkage fee if you bring your own wine?

Ask for package options for the pricing.

Is there an option for a marquee?

Is there a dressing room available?


Regions of South Africa where you can have your wedding

  • Garden Route

The Garden Route is the South Eastern Coast of south Africa mixed with oceanic scenery and climate and a fynbos, forest, wetland habitat. It is surrounded by nature reserves with a plethora of ecosystems and exotic bird life. Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and George are cities along this route that will offer exquisite wedding venues. The Garden Route Game Lodge offers a uniquely African feel set in the Serengeti valley and is situated between George and Cape Town. It can accommodate 120 -200 wedding guests. The honeymoon bush chalet is a private and tranquil African experience situated near a watering hole where wildlife comes to visit.

  • Western Cape

The Western Cape stretches across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans offering both sandy and mountainous coastlines. Diverse vegetation and climate makes it as colourful and unpredictable as marriage. Cities like Paarl and Stellenbosch are historical and home to wine routes and lavish wine estate venues. The Kaapzicht Wine Estate in Stellenbosch is an opulent and lavish yet historical and traditional South African venue. The Twelve Apostle Hotel and Spa is one of the best hotels in Cape Town. The Fynbos Garden ceremony venue under a romantic gazebo has the view of both ocean and mountains. The Atlantic Marquee Reception venue offers a breathtaking sea view as well as the on hand wedding planners and access to all linen, crockery, cutlery, outdoor umbrellas, tables and chairs.

  • Gauteng

Gauteng is a mixture of the city and highland grasslands. It may be the smallest province but there are numerous aesthetically beautiful wedding venues to choose from. Valverde is one of the best venues; capturing captivating wedding photos; includes draping and fairy lights into the cost as well as a SPA that will be available to do bridal make-up. This venue provides a money back guarantee, free food tasting and will allow you to reschedule your photo shoot in case of bad weather. It also offers a payment plan over 6 months.

  • Kwa-Zulu Natal

Kwa-Zulu Natal is a fusion of the Ocean, the midlands and mountains. All offer unique background settings for your wedding venue. The coast has a sub-tropical climate and is gets cooler the further inland you go. A wedding on the beach can be a good idea in summer and a cosy Drakensberg wedding for the winter. Giant’s Castle Resort offers an indoor and outdoor venue and is known for its mountainous silhouettes set at the foot of the Drakensberg Mountains. The Collisheen estate along the dolphin coast has two stunning venues to choose from. The Boma venue includes the chapel, reception area and gorgeous gardens. The Orchid house venue includes a gazebo wedding option and fantastic garden views.

  • Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape can have a wet subtropical climate along the coastland semi arid karoo climate more inland. It is home of both ocean and mountains. Picturesque and indigenous Aloe plants, with a burst of orange flowers, dotted through the countryside. Main Cities in the Eastern Cape ate Port Elizabeth and East London. Champagne Events and Function Venue situated in the heart of the Chelsea conservancy in Port Elizabeth offers three different venues, the Boma and Chapel, the tiered garden gazebo and the secret garden. The Morgan Bay Hotel in East London is another idyllic wedding venue with a panoramic view of the beach and the Morgan Bay cliffs as a backdrop. The elegant reception venue is air conditioned, has parquet flooring and down lights. This venue offers catering but you will have to outsource any other extra requirements.

  • Mpumalanga

Mpumalanga means ‘the place where the sun rises’. That should tell you the type of scenery that can be found here. Home to the southern part of the Kruger National Park offers high altitude grasslands and low altitude bushveld and has a predominantly sub-tropical climate. Bushfellows is a superb venue if you are looking for that African bush feel. You have two venues to choose from, Mojoba for a private bush wedding Little Eden under the Marula tree. Wedding planners are on hand to help with anything from decor and flowers to photography to make your day perfect. Lovely gardens and uniquely South African landscape make for memorable wedding photos. A honeymoon suite is available for the bridal couple to retreat to after the day is done.


Using a professional florist to help you with your wedding flowers, arrangements and bouquets is the best way to ensure they stay fresh and you have the right amount of flowers, fresh and in season. Florists have fridge storage to preserve the flowers and florists who are used to working with wedding planners know that timing and weather are important factors to consider. The Flower Warehouse in Cape Town is just one of a lift of wedding flower suppliers and has a variety of flowers to choose from. They also will give you the right advice regarding what flowers to purchase.

Flowers in Season:

  • Spring flowers

Azalea, tulip, daffodil, marigold, lilac, lily of the valley, marigold, hyacinth, jasmine, sweat pea, iris, water lily, english daisy

  • Summer flowers

Tiger lily, alstroemeria, delphinium, cornflower, hibiscus, camellia, lavender, daisy, daffodil , ,marigold, frangipani

  • Autumn flowers

daisy, daffodil, iris, dahlia, tulip , hyacinth, morning glory, gladiolus, alstroemeria, hibiscus, lavender, camellia, lily

  • Winter flowers

Tulip, hyacinth, daffodil, dahlia, iris, daisy, camellia, azalea, cornflower, gladiolus, lavender

  • All year

Rose, carnation, iris, freesia, orchid, baby’s breath


Choosing the entertainment for your day adds to the ambience. It sets the mood and tone for the day, making it fun, magical, elegant or exotic. You may want a string quartet, a jazz band, for the ceremony and either a live band or DJ for the reception. Maybe you want African drummers, fire dancing or African face painters to add to an ethnic theme. The Allegro String Ensemble based in Durban is made up of members from the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra for any high end elegant wedding. One man bands and soloists singing your favourite cover songs while guest receive their cocktails on arrival. Organic Lounge based in Cape Town offers some contemporary funk. Or choose a cover band to get the party started such as Johannesburg’s Alchemy Duo or Cape Town’s Almost Famous.

Hiring a Wedding Planner

If you choose to hire a wedding planner it will be an additional cost you must allow in your budget and they don’t come cheap. Different wedding planners charge different rates and can charge you in a number of different ways. They can charge a flat out fee, an hourly rate or a percentage of your total wedding cost. It is generally about 15% of your total budget. Choosing the right wedding planner is also a daunting task. Here is a list of reputable, professional and recognised wedding planners to choose from.

Garden Route: Celebration Emporium

Western Cape: Nicola Jane

Timeless Weddings

Piece of Cake Weddings

Talk Functions

Gauteng:               Fine Tuned Events

Deliciae Weddings and Events

Cosmopolitan Wedding and Events

African Embrace Weddings

Wedding Wonderland

KZN:                          ETC Events

Emily Lockhart

Weddings by Lee

Midlands Style Events

Delyse Wade

Timeless Weddings


Mpumalanga:    The wedding Devotee

South Africa is a destination rich in colour, culture and traditions, vast and spectacular regions reflecting the beauty of its people. It is a fusion of oceans, mountains and indigenous bush, a mix of religions and ethnicity. Historical sites, exquisite architecture, natural and untouched environments as well as bustling cities. All make for a gorgeous and memorable wedding venue. A wedding is no small feat to plan without something possibly going wrong but friendly and warm service providers and South African staff will see to your every need, each taking pride in their work and their c

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