The following are nine things you need to know about marriages in South Africa.
1. THE NUMBER OF MARRIAGES REGISTERED IN SOUTH AFRICA HAS DECREASED EVERY YEAR SINCE 2008.
Back in the 1950s Frank Sinatra sang about how love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. But these days, for some couples, love seems to be able to get by pretty well on its own.
There’s less social pressure on people to tie the knot. And, given the cost, people have to think carefully about whether they can afford the white dress and big wedding. It’s interesting that the number of weddings took a big dip in 2008, when the global recession started to bite. But unlike the economy, by 2013 the wedding numbers hadn’t started to recover.
Three types of marriages are recognised in South African law. Civil marriages, by far the most common, are carried out, or solemnised, by licensed marriage officers at the department of home affairs or by religious marriage officers at chapels or religious buildings.
Just over 158 000 civil marriages were registered in 2013, according to the lastest data published by Statistics South Africa.
The second type, customary marriages, which recognise polygamy, have also decreased dramatically over the past decade from 17 283 in 2003 to 3 498 in 2013. Unfortunately, StatsSA does not distinguish which of these marriages are polygamous.
Nearly 70% of the customary marriages registered in 2013 were in KwaZulu-Natal.
Civil unions are the third type of marriage.
2. CIVIL UNIONS HAVE BUCKED THE TREND AND HAVE INCREASED BY A THIRD.
Civil unions recognise same-sex marriages, but also include opposite-sex marriages. There has been a relatively steady increase in the number of civil unions since 2009, from 760 in 2009 to 993 in 2013.
Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to determine whether this means there has been a rise in same-sex marriages because StatsSA does not disclose the sex of the spouses: it simply uses the terms “spouse 1” and “spouse 2”.
Most of the civil unions in 2013 were registered in Gauteng (41%) and the Western Cape (32%).
3. MOST SOUTH AFRICAN MARRIAGES ARE PERFORMED BY OFFICIALS AT THE DEPARTMENT OF HOME AFFAIRS
4. MORE WEDDINGS ARE REGISTERED IN DECEMBER THAN ANY OTHER MONTH.
Couples clearly like to get married in the summer, so the number of weddings start to increase from around September and they peak in December. The Easter months are also relatively popular, said StatsSA.
5. MOST WOMEN GET MARRIED IN THEIR TWENTIES AND MEN IN THEIR THIRTIES.
The median age for marriage for brides is 30 years and for grooms it’s 35 years. What that means is half of the brides who married in 2013, for example, were younger than 30 and half were older, and 35 years was the mid point for the grooms.
A third of South Africa’s brides married when they were between the ages of 25 and 29 years. For grooms, 30 to 34, was the most common age: a quarter of the grooms fell in that age group.
For widowers, the median age for remarriage is 50 years, and for widows it is 30 years. For male divorcees it is 53 years and for female divorcees it’s 48 years.
6. MARRIED MINORS: 186 PEOPLE UNDER THE AGE OF 18 WED IN 2013
South African law puts restrictions on marriages involving people under 18 years old. Before they can marry they require the consent of a parent, guardian or commissioner of welfare. In addition boys under 18 years and girls under 16 years need the consent of the minister of home affairs, according to StatsSA.
Despite the bureaucratic obstacles, 14 grooms and 172 brides under the age of 18 were married in 2013.
Remarkably, one of the young grooms and two of the brides were already divorcees. Eight of the brides were widows.
An additional nine grooms and 79 brides under the age of 18 were married according to customary law.
7. MEN TEND TO MARRY YOUNGER WOMEN, BUT NOT ALWAYS.
Most men marry younger women, but there are exceptions. In fact in 2013, 24 000 men married older women, that’s 15% of all the grooms. Eight percent were the same age as the women they married.
Bachelors seem to be more likely to marry older divorced women than older spinsters. For example, 44% of bachelors who married divorcees were younger than their brides.
Adi Eyal of Code4SA took an indepth look at the ages of the people who married each other using 2012 data from StatsSA. “Every dot represents one or more marriages. As you move up the graph, the age of the bridegroom increases. As you move to the right, the age of the bride increases,” Eyal explains.
8. FEWER PEOPLE ARE GETTING DIVORCED THAN A DECADE AGO
Divorce numbers hit a low in 2011, but have started to pick up again since then. Nearly 80% of the almost 24 000 divorce cases in 2013 were from marriages solemnised by civil rites. Just under 20% were from those carried out by a religious marriage officer.
Most of the divorces (80%) ended first-marriages; around 10%, or 2 000, of the newly divorced couples had already been married once before, and about 2%, or 450, had been married at least three times.
9. ONLY A THIRD OF DIVORCES WERE INITIATED BY HUSBANDS.
It seems that wives are more likely to be the partner who wants to end a marriage. In 2013, wives initiated just over half of the divorces. Husbands initiated 34%. And for 16% of the divorces the partner who initiated the split was unspecified.
The highest number of female divorcees were in the 35 to 39 age bracket, the male divorcees were slightly older, with the highest number in the 40 to 44 age bracket. The median age for divorced women was 39 and 43 for divorced men.