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Destination Weddings and the Relevant Law

Quite on trend are destination weddings – whether held locally or abroad. During the excitement leading up to the wedding day, a reminder to ensure that you and your future spouse are completely advised on whether your marriage will be valid and which law will govern the consequences of the marriage.

There is a distinction between the laws which will govern the formalities of the marriage ceremony and those which will govern the consequences of the marriage (such as in relation to property) which become relevant with marriages which have an international element.

The formalities of the marriage ceremony must accord with the law of the place where the marriage ceremony is held. The consequences of the marriage will be subject to the law of the country where the husband is domiciled at the time the marriage is concluded (an archaic aspect of law which has never developed to rid its discrimination.) Domicile is the place which a person recognises as the place they intend to settle permanently and is established through factual circumstances.

Using an example, if the betrothed are South African, presently living in South Africa, but have applied for and received visas to reside in New Zealand where they will immigrate to after their marriage ceremony, which will be held in Bali, and plan to establish citizenship in New Zealand:

  • The formalities of the marriage ceremony will be governed by Balinese law.
  • The consequences of their marriage, and therefore their marriage regime, must be selected from the options afforded in South African law if the husband is still domiciled in South Africa on the day of the marriage; alternatively, the options afforded by New Zealand law if the husband is already domiciled there.

In South Africa persons must elect whether their marriage regime will be governed by an antenuptial contract, however this position is not universal. Whether, and when, South African law is applicable and whether an antenuptial contract is necessary are important considerations leading up to marriage.

This article is not intended to provide advice but rather to express considerations which become relevant before concluding a marriage. At Rushmere Noach Incorporated there are practitioners who are able to advise in this regard and give effect to that advice whether it be with drafting and arranging the registration of an antenuptial contract and/or corresponding with the authorities at your wedding destination and/or the place of domicile to assist you in ensuring that the intention of the parties to the marriage are upheld.

For more information, contact Shelby Lubbe-Roberts at


This article is not intended to provide legal advice; it is for information purposes only and to provide a general understanding of the law.  It is advisable that advice relating to the specific circumstances of your matter be sought from an attorney before acting upon the content of this article.  This article is written at a particular point in time and accordingly may not always reflect the most current legal developments, legislation and/or judgments which may be applicable from time to time. The author and/or Rushmere Noach Incorporated are not responsible for any conduct taken contrary to that which is disclaimed herein.