Customary Marriages | Western Cape Government

Customary Marriages


A customary marriage is one that’s "negotiated, celebrated or concluded according to any of the systems of indigenous African customary law which exist in South Africa". This doesn’t include marriages concluded in Hindu, Muslim or other religious rites.



A woman gives this beaded necklace to a man when she agrees to marry him. It's a symbol of her love for him.
Requirements for a customary marriage

For a customary marriage to be recognised as a valid marriage, it must have been entered before 15 November 2000. However, if entered after 15 November 2000, it must comply with the following requirements:

  • The marriage must be negotiated, entered into or celebrated following customary law.
  • The prospective spouses must be above the age of 18 years.
  • Both prospective spouses must consent to the marriage.
  • The parents of a prospective spouse who is a minor must consent to the marriage. If they have no parents, then their legal guardian must consent
  • Although there's no restriction on the number of customary marriages that a man may enter into, no further customary marriage may be entered into unless an order of court regulating the future matrimonial property system of his marriages has been obtained.

Registering customary marriages

Customary marriages must be registered within 3 months of taking place. This can be done at any office of the Department of Home Affairs or through a designated traditional leader in areas where there are no Home Affairs offices.

The following people should present themselves at either a Home Affairs office or a traditional leader to register a customary marriage:

  • The 2 spouses (with copies of their valid identity books and a lobola agreement, if available).
  • At least 1 witness from the bride's family.
  • At least 1 witness from the groom's family.
  • And/or the representative of each of the families.

If the spouses were minors (or 1 was a minor) at the time of the customary marriage, the parents should also be present when the request to register the marriage is made.

Customary marriages are registered by completing BI-1699 and paying the required fees. An acknowledgement of receipt BI-1700 will then be issued by the Department of Home Affairs.

Registering more than one customary marriage

If a male person is already in a customary marriage and wishes to enter into another customary marriage he must, at his own cost, get a court order from a competent court that will regulate his future matrimonial property system.

It’s also possible for a male person who's already in a customary marriage to one wife to enter into a civil marriage. They should follow the normal procedure for civil marriages. Remember that neither spouses will be able to enter into customary marriages with anyone else while they're married to each other under civil law.

Additional information about customary marriages:

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Provided by:
Government Body: (The Government of South Africa)
The content on this page was last updated on 22 October 2019