A study by published by Professor Dori Posel and Dr Stephanie Rudwick of the University of KwaZulu-Natal has found that the cost of lobola is a significant factor behind the decline in the number of marriages in South Africa.
Rudwick told Talk Radio 702 that while lobola is important to couples, poorer families struggle to pay for the customary ritual.
Lobola – also refereed to as ‘bride wealth’ – is property in cash or kind, which a prospective husband or head of his family undertakes to give to the head of a prospective wife’s family in consideration of a customary marriage.
“The commercialisation of the custom and poverty contributed to people finding it difficult to get married, with most young men finding it difficult to come up with the amount that has been asked of them,” said Rudwick.
This also matches the most recent Stats SA data on customary marriages in South Africa which found that 3, 062 customary marriages were registered at the Department of Home Affairs in 2014 – a decrease of 12.5% from 3,498 customary marriages registered in 2013, and a massive decline over the past decade.

BusinessTech looked at some other marriage and divorce trends in South Africa.

Marriage trends

  • A total of 150,852 civil marriages of South African citizens and permanent residents were registered at the Department of Home Affairs in the recorded year.
  • In 2014, 3,062 customary marriages were registered at the Department of Home Affairs, indicating a decrease of 12.5% from 3,498 customary marriages registered in 2013.
  • The number of registered marriages fluctuated between 2003 and 2008, after which there has been a consistent decline.
  • Generally, the warmer months (beginning from September and peaking in December) are the most popular months for solemnising marriages. The results also show that solemnisation of marriages tend to peak in either March or April depending on the month of Easter holidays for that particular year.
  • The majority of marriages  for both bridegrooms and brides were first-time marriages. For bridegrooms, 82.6% of these were bachelors, 3.4% were divorcees and 1,659 widowers. For the brides, 86.9% were spinsters, 2.3% were divorcees and 0.9% were widows.

The cost of a wedding

According to a report released professional wedding planners Great Occasions, the average cost of wedding in South Africa in 2016 was between R70,000 – R80,000 for 80 to 100 people.
However, the group notes that these going prices per head (R700 to R800) could easily escalate to R1,500 or R2,000 per person (R200,000 for a wedding).
According to Great Occasions, a wedding budget is typically broken down into the following:
  • 50% of the budget goes to the venue – including hire costs, food and alcohol.
  • 10% of the budget goes to the Wedding gown and accessories
  • 15% of the budget goes to photography, music, flowers and decor
  • 10% of the budget goes towards invitations and table gifts
  • 15% should be budgeted for unforeseen costs, such as travelling expenses, service providers and consultations fees.

How many South Africans are getting a divorce and other trends

  • Current divorce rates in South Africa are steadily climbing with Stats SA data showing that in 2014 there were 24,689 divorces, up from the 23,885 in 2013.
  • 53% of marriages are solemnised at the Department of Home Affairs of which 75.6% end up in divorce.
  • 30% of all marriages are religious of which 20% end up in divorce.
  • 17% are considered unspecified of which 4.3% end up in divorce.
  • The most common age of divorce is 42 for men and 38 for women, with most divorces taking place between 5 and 9 years of marriage.
  • Wives (51.7%) more than husbands (34.4%) are most likely to initiate a divorce.
  • 15.2% and 22.1% of the men and women respectively were not economically active at the time of divorce.
  • Most plaintiffs (initiators) were in professional, semi-professionals and technical occupations (12,0%); managers and administrators (9.3%) and 9.2% in clerical and sales occupations.

Which areas in South Africa are you most likely to find a single partner?

In a special report released by Stats SA for Valentines day 2017, the bureau broke down which areas of Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban featured the highest concentration of single potential partners.
The data analysed the marital status data for individuals on a street-block level based on data collected from the most recent census. The blue areas are suburbs that have more unmarried males than unmarried females, aged 20–34, while the cherry-coloured areas have more unmarried females than males.


Cape Town