Everything you need to know about marriage in Zimbabwe

19 May 2023·21 min to read
Everything you need to know about marriage in Zimbabwe 01

Zimbabwe is a country in southeast Africa known for its diverse landscapes and culture. Due to the ethnic diversity of the country, marriages are celebrated in various ways, from religious to traditional and customary. There are three types of marriages that are legally binding in Zimbabwe: unregistered customary law unions, civil, and customary marriages. Civil marriages are quite popular because they are performed by both Zimbabweans and foreign couples, whereas customary marriages are common in marriages between native Zimbabwean spouses as they usually involve a lot of customs and rites that are unique to the region of the community as well as the country at large. 

Before spouses are allowed to get married in Zimbabwe, there must be a publication of banns. This serves as the declaration of intention to marry, and it must be published at the beginning of the marriage application. The authority in charge of the marriage will check and verify the information submitted by the spouses and also ensure that no one or nothing comes up to prevent the marriage from taking place. Some of the information that must be provided by the spouses during the course of the marriage include full names, marital status, a residential address, and age. For a marriage to be legal in Zimbabwe, the couple must have a marriage license and certificate. It is up to couples getting married to decide if they want to sign a prenuptial marriage agreement to determine their respective entitlements to properties and various assets. 

The minimum legal marriage age in Zimbabwe is 18 years, and there are no exceptions allowed to this rule. Only under certain circumstances can a minor be allowed to marry. Before a minor gets married in Zimbabwe, he or she must provide parental consent showing their free approval, and a judge’s authorization may be required in some cases too. Continue reading to learn more about the marriage laws and rights in Zimbabwe.

Civil marriage

A civil marriage performed in Zimbabwe is legally binding and recognized across the country and other parts of the world. To be civilly married, a ceremony must be held at the civil registry with a state-authorized registrar or notary as the officiant. The marriage registration process in Zimbabwe includes the submission of some required documents. Also, certain criteria must be met by spouses before the civil marriage registration can happen. Both spouses must be eligible for marriage both in Zimbabwe and abroad. This implies that a foreign spouse getting married in Zimbabwe must be allowed to marry in his or her home country. 

Two people who are related to each other by blood, a direct link, or affinity are now allowed to marry. This includes descendants, siblings, parents, and other relatives. Civil marriages are only conducted when both spouses give their free consent. The man and woman getting married must do so of their own free will without any form of coercion from either of them or a third party. Also, during the registration, there are fees that must be paid by the spouses that are not refundable. The documents that both spouses must provide are listed below.

Documents Required 

  • Originals and photocopies of your national ID or a valid passport
  • Copies of the birth certificate Both spouses are required to submit their birth certificates with their names as they are addressed.
  • A non-marriage certificate. This certificate is often requested from foreign spouses, and it is for the purpose of showing that the spouse was single at the time of the marriage registration.
  • Both spouses must provide copies of their colored passport photographs.
  • Divorce decree or death certificate. Either of these documents must be provided by spouses who were previously married and are widowed or separated.
  • Marriage clearance from the Zimbabwean Police (C.I.D.) and the Immigration
  • Department of Zimbabwe is required for marriages between a Zimbabwean and a foreigner.

Foreign documents must be translated into Shona or English by an accredited translator, as these are the two official languages in Zimbabwe. The non-marriage certificate must be submitted by the Zimbabwean marrying a foreigner. This paperwork is often obtained from the Registrar General’s office.

Customary marriage

Customary marriages in Zimbabwe are recognized and protected by law. These types of marriages are registered under the Customary Marriages Act and governed by the laws and principles of this act. In addition to this, a customary marriage in Zimbabwe is typically performed according to the current customs and traditions of the land where the marriage ceremony is to be held. Marriage between multiple spouses is generally permitted in traditional marriages. Unlike in a civil marriage, where a man must be married to one woman, the opposite is the case here. 

Polygamy is allowed in customary marriages, and a man is allowed to take up to three wives. When two or more spouses perform a customary marriage together, they are all entitled to enjoy the benefits of marriage in the country, and they all get to retain ownership of their assets and various properties, except as otherwise expressly stated by them. The laws guiding this type of marriage are laid out by the magistrate court. Generally, customary marriages are celebrated as a mix between the rites of typical traditional marriages and some of the formalities involved in civil marriages.

Unregistered Customary Law Union

This type of marriage is potentially polygamous. It is fairly the same as the previous type of marriage described above; however, it includes no marriage registration. In an unregistered customary law union, the main part of the ceremonial rites is the payment of lobola. This type of marriage is referred to as the Kuchaya Mapoto, and it is not fully recognized and protected under the laws of the country. 

There are certain marriage rights and benefits that may not be enjoyed by spouses who perform this marriage, such as inheritance, a claim of loss of life support, etc. Since there are no regulations in the civil code directing the act of this marriage, the resolution of issues and dissolutions are not handled by the court. These are typically performed in this manner. Although unregistered, customary law unions are not as common as they used to be, this type of marriage is still widely practiced in rural areas.

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Marriage traditions in Zimbabwe


The custom during a Zimbabwean marriage ceremony is for the families to choose a person who will act as a link between the two families during negotiations at the pre-wedding phase. The person chosen is usually an elder from the groom's family, known as a Munyai. The individual chosen is expected to have a good working knowledge of both families so as to be able to settle disputes and make favorable arrangements on both sides.


This is a ceremonial rite that is unique to the Zimbabweans. During the marriage ceremony, copper and brass rings are used to adorn the bride by wearing them on her neck, arms, and legs. The norm is for the husband to purchase these rings (idzila) for his wife as a way of signifying his wealth, and the wife is obligated to wear the rings as a representation of her faithfulness in the marriage and new life they are both starting together.


This is a marriage ritual performed by the Shona community, and it refers to the bride price or dowry. Before the wedding ceremony, both families meet together, and the groom's family is presented with a bouquet by the bride's family. Roora can be requested in different forms, from an amount of money to cattle, expensive fabric, etc.

Same-sex and polygamous marriages

Same-sex marriages are illegal in Zimbabwe. Any form of relationship, such as registered partnerships, civil unions, and same-sex marriages, is prohibited. Members of the LGBT community face various challenges and discrimination that are not faced by opposite-sex couples. In Zimbabwe, homosexuality is a punishable offense that can result in up to 15 years in prison.

Polygamous marriages are legal in Zimbabwe. There are three major types of marriages performed in the country, and the only type of marriage that is easily recognized by the government for the practice of polygamy is a customary marriage. If the community or religion of a spouse allows polygamy, then such a spouse may proceed with polygamous relationships.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties


Zimbabwean citizens and other foreigners who wish to enter into marriage in Zimbabwe must put into consideration the laws, rules, and regulations guiding the process of contracting a marriage. To this day, there are three recognized forms of marriage in Zimbabwe: civil marriage, customary marriage, and unregistered customary marriage. Couples can decide which form of marriage they wish to conduct without facing any restrictions or limitations. Civil marriages only allow the practice of monogamy, while customary marriages often tend to be potentially polygamous; the same goes for unregistered customary marriages. 

According to the law, couples who wish to contract marriage must have reached the legal age for marriage before they are allowed to get married. The legal age for marriage in Zimbabwe is set at 18 years for both men and women, and no exceptions are made under any circumstances for minors who wish to enter marriage. Polygamy is illegal for couples who are legally married, but this doesn't apply to couples who are married traditionally. According to custom, a man is allowed to marry more than one wife, provided he has the means to do so; a woman is not allowed to do so. Marriage between people who have affinal relations is not permitted.

Couples who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption are prohibited from marrying one another; they must be from different family backgrounds. The husband and wife must present two witnesses at the time of marriage, and they must be able to submit valid identity documents before they can testify to the authenticity of the relationship. Homosexual relations and marriages are illegal in Zimbabwe; such acts are punishable by law, and offenders are liable to face up to 15 years in jail. Unregistered customary marriages are also considered de facto unions unless dowry is paid; once dowry is paid, the man and woman are free to live together without registering their marriage with the civil registry, implying that cohabitation is legal in Zimbabwe.

The couples must be able to consent to marriage; the use of threats or force to contract marriage is forbidden. Couples should be able to consent to marriage without any external influence. If a marriage is contracted forcefully, that is one of the grounds on which it can be declared void. Foreigners are allowed to enter into marriage in Zimbabwe, provided they are eligible to contract marriage in their home country. Persons who are not permitted to marry cannot do so in Zimbabwe. All required documents, such as valid identity documents, must be submitted to the appropriate authorities for marriage to be legally binding. 

The husband and wife must be single at the time of marriage if they wish to contract a civil marriage. Persons who are legally married and wish to enter another marriage without any official nullification of their previous marriage cannot do so, and he or she would be accused of bigamy. If any of the couples were in a previous marriage, they are both required by the law to provide proof of the nonexistence of such a marriage before they are allowed to contract a new one.


Rights in marriage are also fundamental human rights; they are inalienable and must not be infringed upon. In previous times, couples in unregistered customary marriages could not have access to the property and inheritance of their spouses because the marriage was unregistered and no court would decide the division of property, and this often affected women. However, in recent times, the law has granted couples in unregistered customary marriages the right to inheritance and property. Both the husband and wife have the right to be the legal guardians of the children; they also have the right to exercise parental control when necessary. 

In the event of a divorce, the husband and wife have an equal right to the children's custody, and the parent that has the best interest of the children would be granted custody. The law ensures that both the husband and wife have the right to work and enjoy certain benefits that are only available to couples, such as maternity leave and pay for at least three months. The husband and wife have the right to decide if they wish to have children or not, as well as the number of children they wish to have. 

They have the right to raise the children according to their religious, customary, and moral beliefs. When it is determined that the husband and wife's relationship is no longer working, they both have the right to file for divorce, either by mutual agreement or for specific reasons such as desertion, adultery, illness, and so on. They both have the right to participate in any economic, social, or political activity without having to seek permission from one another.


Marriage in Zimbabwe is always a mix of beautiful African customs and traditions. The cost of getting married differs; the cost of a civil wedding differs from the cost of a customary marriage and an unregistered customary marriage. An average wedding in Zimbabwe costs at least $5000, and this cost is way above the average cost of living in the country. The groom's family is responsible for the payment of the dowry, also known as lobola, which includes items like groceries, livestock, and money. Many couples have to save for many years before they can afford the wedding price. 

There is no specific amount for the bride's price; it depends on how much the family of the bride asks for and how wealthy the husband and his family are. Some even have to take out loans before they can meet up with the expensive cost of getting married. Financially stable couples and wealthy families can decide to have more expensive ceremonies; some even spend as much as $20,000 on them. Many marriages in Zimbabwe are done traditionally; few couples decide to host western wedding ceremonies. The cost of getting married in Zimbabwe


Zimbabwean society sees the family as a very important part of the community structure. Therefore, not only are the couples responsible for the development of the family, but they must also work hand in hand to carry out their respective duties to ensure the proper functioning of the home. The husband is seen as the head of the home; his role is to provide for the whole family. He holds more power to make important decisions in the family than any other person. The women, on the other hand, are required to obey and respect their husband's wishes and decisions without questioning his opinions. 

The husband and wife are responsible for the total welfare and health of the family; they are obligated to provide care and support for one another as well as the children. The children's educational advancement and development in a conducive environment is one of the obligations of the couple. Couples have a duty to maintain ties with their extended family as they also play an important part in the growth and development of the children. The husband and wife have a duty to respect one another as well as show commitment to the marriage.

Final Thoughts 

Marriages are celebrated in Zimbabwe in unique ways, and the country has rich cultures that are still performed in wedding ceremonies to this day. The country is largely dominated by Christians, and thousands of Christian marriages are held every year in the country. Customary and religious marriages on their own are legally binding and recognized in Zimbabwe.

There are various popular wedding destinations in the country, such as Umwinzii and Raintree, where various spouses, both Zimbabweans and foreigners, usually hold their marriage ceremonies. There are some slight differences in the type of document to be submitted by foreign and Zimbabwean spouses, and the registry office where the marriage will be conducted is required to show spouses which documents they require for marriage. We hope this article has helped you understand everything you need to know about marriage in Zimbabwe.