White wedding is the term we use for a traditional, formal, or semi-formal Western wedding. The phrase actually refers to the colour of the wedding dress and yet these two words have the ability to conjure exhilaration in the bride to be, terror in the prospective groom, and grip the happy but paying parents in financial fear. Interestingly it became popular when Queen Victoria of England wore a pure white gown for her wedding with Prince Albert: after this most brides wanted to copy her choice. At the time, the colour white was worn to symbolise both lavishness and sexual purity – it became the colour of choice for all the ladies of the royal courts. Nowadays, although white no longer represents riches and chastity, the colour remains the most fashionable and preferred for first time brides in the west.
Usually, wedding ceremonies entail an exchange of wedding vows by the couple, a presentation of a gift, i.e. ring(s), symbolic items which are meaningful to the couple or their culture or tradition, flowers, money, and a public announcement of marriage by a figure of authority. The clothing is important at these events as particular wedding garments are typically worn, and the ceremony is almost always followed by a wedding reception. Music, poetry, prayers or readings from Scripture or literature, are also incorporated into the ceremony along with speeches that may be made by the Best Man, Maid of Honour, Bride, Groom and even the Parents.
In general, Christian churches give some form of blessing to a marriage. The wedding ceremony usually includes some sort of pledge by the community to support the couple's relationship. A church wedding is a ceremony presided over by a Christian priest or pastor. Ceremonies are founded on reference to God; they are often incorporated into other church ceremonies such as Mass. However, customs may vary widely between denominations and, the arrangements between the priest or pastor and the couple themselves.
Holy Matrimony is considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be one of the seven sacraments - one which the couple bestow upon each other. They do this in front of a priest and it is witnessed by members of the congregation. As with all sacraments, it is seen as having been instituted by Jesus himself - Matthew 19:1-2 refers - Catechism of the Catholic Church. For a marriage to be a sacrament, the couple must be baptised, able to marry and freely consent to the marriage.
The most common features of a Jewish wedding include a ketuba (marriage contract) signed by two witnesses, a wedding canopy, a ring owned by the groom that is presented to the bride under the canopy, and the breaking of a glass.
To be theoretically precise, the Jewish wedding process has two different steps: kiddushin (sanctification or dedication, also called erusin (betrothal in Hebrew)) and nissuin, (marriage, also called huppa), when the couple start their life together. The first stage prohibited all other men from having relations with the woman, and the final stage gave consent to the husband for those relations with his bride. Years ago, traditionally, these two events could take place as much as a year apart. Today they are usually combined into one ceremony.
Presided over by a Marriage Officer at the Office of the Department of Home Affairs, civil wedding ceremonies are the most basic and simple of ceremonies. The mention of God may be made, but generally no references are made to any religion or denomination. These services are usually short and uncomplicated. However, the wedding reception can still be a grand and lavish affair if preferred.
The act of Eloping is one of getting married, frequently unexpectedly, without inviting guests to the wedding. Sometimes a small group of family and/or friends may be present, however it often happens that the couple marry without the consent and/or knowledge of parents or others. Elopements are generally a surprise to family, friends and those who later are informed of the occurrence.
Destination weddings are those which are hosted, often in a vacation-like setting, at a location to which most of the invited guests must travel – sometimes even staying for several days. There are so many and varied venues to choose from, say, a beach ceremony in the tropics, a lavish event in a metropolitan resort, or a simple ceremony at the home of a geographically distant friend or relative. Apparently during the recession of 2009, the popularity of destination weddings grew considerably compared to traditional weddings. This was because of their generally lower costs.
With this type of wedding, and the vast range of different types of venues, it lends an exciting dimension to weddings which until modern days was not possible. The internet offers lists of Ordained Ministers who are quite prepared to travel and perform a ceremony in, say, a hot air balloon or at sea on a boat. Naturally, in these cases, the Ministers would first solemnise the marriage prior to proceeding to whatever destination the wedding couple have chosen for the public ceremony. Destination weddings are often but should not be confused with an elopement.
It goes without saying that a double wedding is a single ceremony where two couples meet for two weddings. These ceremonies can either be performed at the same time or one after the other. This type of wedding is usually popular with relatives – say brothers, sisters, cousins, twins – or best friends. A double wedding is also known as a "double ring ceremony".
Becoming the first country in Africa, the second country outside Europe, the fifth country in the world, and the first Republic to legalise same sex marriages, South Africa made same-sex marriages legal in South Africa on 30 November 2006 when the Civil Unions Bill was enacted after having been passed by the South African Parliament earlier that month. A ruling by the Constitutional Court on 1 December 2005 had imposed a deadline of 1 December 2006 to make same-sex marriage legal.
These marriages are only allowed in terms of the Civil Union Act. Couples marrying in terms of the Civil Union Act may choose whether their union is called a civil partnership or a marriage partnership. Same sex couples joined in a marriage partnership in terms of that act benefit from the same privileges as couples married in terms of the Marriage Act.
It is illegal for any organisation to treat any married persons as if they were unmarried. A marriage is considered legally valid if it can be proven that a couple is married in terms of any of these three acts, and it may not be regarded as an invalid marriage or a non-marriage by anyone or any organisation.
Provisions for Marriage Officers
Provision are made for any person who is a marriage officer in terms of the Marriage Act, and who has an objection of conscience, or religion belief, to marrying same-sex couples, to object to the government in writing, after which he or she will be granted exemption from having to perform such marriages.
However, a marriage officer in terms of the Civil Union Act, will not be exempted from performing same-sex marriages. If that person objects to performing same sex marriages, they may give up their office as marriage officer altogether and resign from that organisation to which they belong as a marriage officer. Alternatively, that organisation as a whole may request from the government that their members no longer be recognised as marriage officers by virtue of their membership to that organisation.