StatsSA has published its marriages and divorces statistics for 2017.
The report is based on a combination of population censuses, household sample surveys, and administrative data.
Stats SA found that a total of 135,458 civil marriages, 2,588 customary marriages, and 1,357 civil unions were registered in 2017.
A comparison with the 2016 data shows that registration of civil marriages and customary marriages dropped by 2.9% and 34.9% respectively – whereas civil unions increased by 0.3%.
Generally, the warmer months (beginning from September and peaking in December) are the most popular months for solemnising marriages in South Africa.
The data shows that the solemnisation of marriages has a second peak in March or April – depending on the month of the Easter holiday for that particular year.
In 2017, the highest number of marriages (12.9%) took place in December and the lowest number of marriages, (6.6%) occurred in June.
Marriage solemnisation can only be conducted by marriage officers who are appointed in terms of the Marriage Act.
Civil marriages are generally solemnised by civil marriage officers at the offices of the DHA and by religious marriage officers at chapels or religious buildings.
While a large proportion of South Africans opted for a religious marriage (28.8%), more than twice as many South Africans solemnised their marriage at the Department of Home Affairs (58.1%).
In South Africa, minors require the consent of a parent, a guardian or a commissioner of child welfare before entering into a marriage.
In addition to the above consent, boys younger than 18 years and girls younger than 16 years of age require the consent of the Minister of Home Affairs before they can get married.
In 2017, marriages of 2 bridegrooms and 70 brides aged less than 18 years were registered, with 62 of these brides marrying for the first time.
Other notable findings include:
- The highest number of never-married men (25.7%) were aged 30–34 years whereas the highest number of spinsters (29.2%) were aged 25–29 years;
- There were more never married women compared to never-married men at younger ages (less than 35 years) and vice versa at older ages (35 years and older);
- The median age of bridegrooms has remained constant at 36 years since 2015 whereas the median age of brides has remained constant at 32 years of age over the same time period;
- For first time marriages, the median ages for never-married men and women were 34 years and 31 years respectively in 2017 – showing an age difference of three years;
- For remarriages, the median age for widowers and widows in 2017 were 55 years and 31 years respectively – resulting in a 24-year age gap;
- The median age for widowers consistently increased from 50 years in 2013 to 55 years in 2017;
- The median age of widows was fluctuating between 30 years and 32 years during 2013 and 2017.
According to Stats SA in 2017, there were 25,390 completed divorce forms processed – indicating an increase of 0.3% from the 25,326 processed in 2016.
Unsurprisingly there were more female (51.0%) than male (35.0%) initiators of divorce, with the median ages at divorce in 2017 at 44 years for men and 40 years for women.
The findings show that four in ten divorces (44.6%) of the 25,390 in 2017 came from marriages that did not reach their tenth wedding anniversary.
In 2017, there were 14,121 (55,6%) divorces with children aged less than 18 years affected.