Many cite the high divorce rate as the deciding factor, while others simply live by the motto "if it’s not broke, why fix it”. According to a study by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), the number of civil and customary marriages registered in the country annually decreased by almost 10%.
The study looked at the period of 2003 to 2010.
Researcher Thuthukani Ndebele said the stats were an indicator of the lifestyle changes couples adopted.
"The number of households is going up and the average household size is going down.
"This suggests that more and more people may be choosing to live on their own or with unmarried partners,” he said.
Despite a steady increase in the population, customary marriages dropped by 42% from 17 283 registered in 2003, to 9 996 in 2010.
Civil marriages decreased by 4% from 178 689 registered in 2003, to 170 826 in 2010.
Despite customary marriages being an age-old tradition, many young couples are choosing to move in together to cut down on costs. Lobola is often too steep, they say.
A Port Elizabeth man, who asked not to be named because he felt it would be disrespectful to his tradition, said he had postponed his wedding for nearly two years.
Raising money for his partner’s lobola in addition to a marriage ceremony would be costly, he said.
The couple have been dating for almost seven years and have a one-year-old child.
"Every year we make plans to marry, but another expense comes along. It’s not that we don’t love each other, but we have a child to look after and a wedding just seems like an unnecessary expense right now,” the 29-year-old said.
Religious leaders, meanwhile, have noted a steep decline in the number of marriages officiated in church.
Minister at Cape Road Church of Christ Brian Allen said the trend of living together out of wedlock had been around for some time.
"We spoke to the congregants who chose this route. They all said the divorce rate was too high and that divorces were too costly. This scared them off marriage,” Allen said.
Retired Methodist church bishop George Irvine said many of the couples he counselled felt there was no point in getting married because the likelihood of a union lasting was quite low.
Ceri Tustin, 33, of Kabega Park, has been living with her boyfriend, Quintun Reynecke, for three years.
I have never really wanted to get married. The idea of a beautiful wedding is obviously appealing but it doesn’t make a relationship any stronger.
"People enter into marriage like it’s a fairytale. People get married too easily nowadays, the divorce rate is too high.”
MOST Herald readers believe marriage is too expensive – and that divorce is even more costly.
Asked, on The Herald’s Facebook page, what their views were on the decrease in the number of marriages, most agreed that the expense, coupled with the rate of divorce, was too high a risk. This is what they had to say: Janlo van Zyl: "It’s a lot of money to get married and even more to end it.”
Desiree Kathleen Deysel Kemp: "Perhaps it could be attributed to the general decay of traditional/religious morals and values? Many people are also struggling financially so they find it more cost effective to merely live together. I also think that many people have lost faith in the institution of marriage . . .”
Unathi Majola Damse: "Heeee! They don’t want to pay lobola any more.”
Marlene Vorster: "Done that, got hurt! . . . I just think it’s pointless . . . people don’t take it seriously any more.”
Tracey Concer Leo: "Weddings are just too expensive and going to court seems so cold and emotionless.”