While many couples went on dates to celebrate Valentine's Day, 19 couples took it a step further and got married in a mass wedding on Robben Island. This year marks 20 years since the mass wedding tradition was started on the island.

Afsana Khan and Peter Hedley-Smith are among the couples who tied the knot. They weren't planning a wedding when the call for couples to register to be part of this event was announced, but they couldn't be happier that they took the opportunity.

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“I thought he was joking [when he proposed], and it took me a while, maybe a few months, to realise it was real and here we are. We finally did it. We wanted to get married at Home Affairs, we don’t like weddings at all," says the new bride.

The couples solemnised their marriages at the Robben Island Garrison Church.

Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, announced that Frankford Williams and Cindi Mullins, who are visually impaired, officially became the first couple in South Africa to receive a marriage certificate in braille.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds and their guests were treated to a celebratory meal and the day culminated with a historic visit in the Maximum Security Prison.

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“Our beautiful couples could have not chosen a more storied place to cement their love than Robben Island. Robben Island was previously a symbol of suffering, but today it is recognised as a monument of love. Indeed it is a triumph of human spirit over adversity,” says Morongoa Ramaboa, Robben Island Museum Spokesperson.  

“Each year we are overwhelmed by the support we receive from organisations that contribute to the romance and the memorable experience."

tied the knot

The 19 Couples who tied the knot at Robben Island. Image by Gabi Zietsman  

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The weddings are held in partnership with the Department of Home Affairs and the Robben Island Museum. To date 327 couples have said their 'I dos' at this world heritage site.

The annual event  was the brainchild of Martha Mgxashe who was the Regional Director at the Department of Home Affairs.

She came up with the concept as part of the millennial celebrations in the year 2000. Sadly, Martha has passed on, however her family attended the mass wedding.

The mass weddings were initially held on 31 December and later moved to Valentine's Day.

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