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Religious and Legal Matters

Your wedding ceremony will be one of the most profoundly moving and utterly romantic experiences of your life; an event you will treasure in your heart and remember forever. And that’s exactly as it should be.

Depending upon whether you want your wedding to be formal, semi-formal or informal, you may choose to celebrate your marriage with a religious service, a civil ceremony, or in a registry office. However, no matter what formalities you decide upon, or whether they are to take place on a beach or in a place of worship, don’t forget that marriage is a legal state requiring certain protocols and documents to be prepared.

Firstly, when considering your options keep in mind that you must be married by an authorised celebrant, whether religious or civil.

Although you can generally marry anyone you want as long as they are not already married and you are not closely related, couples who are under the age of 18 will require court authorisation and parental permission before a ceremony can be conducted.

Marriage in South Africais governed by the Matrimonial Property Act of 1984, which introduced the system of Accrual into South African law. Parties marrying without entering into an Antenuptial Contract will automatically be married in community of property. This means that from the date of their marriage, both spouse’s estates will be combined into one estate. Both will then share equally in the property and assets in these estates. The disadvantage of this, however, is that the joint estate is liable for the debts and liabilities of both parties.

The alternative is to marry by way of an Antenuptial Contract. Where parties conclude an Antenuptial Contract, their marriage automatically excludes community of property and profit and loss, and their marriage is automatically subject to the Accrual system.

The principle underlying the Accrual system is that whilst the spouse’s estates remain separate, the parties share in the accumulated profit in each spouse’s estate since their date of marriage. The principle of sharing applies only to the profit since the date of marriage, and does not apply to any losses in either parties separate estate.

It is also possible to marry by way of Antenuptial Contract which specifically and expressly excludes the Accrual system. This means that the estate of both spouses will be completely separate and neither spouse may share in any accrual of assets or accumulated profit in the estate of the other spouse from the date of their marriage.

Although traditionally the bride takes the groom’s family name, this decision is now entirely personal. However, if you do decide to adopt your husband’s name, or hyphenate both family names, you will need to produce your Marriage Certificate at institutions where your previous family name is registered. This may include your medical aid, your bank and insurance companies.

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