What if Someone Objects?
by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane
(05/01/2019) | Categories:
Ceremony | Wedding Legals |
all seen it in movie after movie - If anyone
knows any reason why these two should not be
joined in marriage, speak now ....
So it is no surprise that it is a question that I'm
often asked when meeting with couples to talk about
their marriage ceremony. Teasers about the 2019
season of Married at First Sight included
the question, and showed someone putting their hand
up to make an objection, which turned out not to be
a legal objection.
It might make interesting television, but there is
absolutely no need to worry about this if you're
being married by a civil celebrant in Australia. There
is no legal requirement to ask any such question.
And I definitely don't.
All that is legally required is that the marrying
couple makes a declaration that each is free to
marry before the marriage can take place.
This declaration has the catchy title Declaration
of No Legal Impediment to Marriage, and needs
to be made in the presence of the officiating
celebrant fairly close to the wedding date.
Unlike the very general movie version (a question to
the congregation that is included in many religious
ceremonies), in Australia the Declaration
of No Legal Impediment to Marriage is
specific. Each party has to declare that the
various circumstances that would make it
unlawful for them to marry do not exist:
- neither of them is married to any other person
- they are not closely related, by blood or adoption
(which in Australia means ancestor, descendent, or
- they are both at least 18 years old, and
- there is no other circumstance that would be a
legal impediment to the marriage (which basically
translates to no fraud, they are each entering into
the marriage of their own free will, and they both
understand what marriage means)
Why do people think the
question has to be asked?
The simple answer to that is that it is still asked in
church, as it has been since 1215! Obviously, that was
the Catholic Church - a decision of the 4th Lateran
Council - but the custom passed from the Catholic Church
to the Church of England at the Reformation, and from
there to civil marriages when registration of marriages
were centralised. In Australia, as far as I can
ascertain, it has never been a requirement in
civil marriage ceremonies.
What's the history?
It all goes back to two things - concern about
marrying close relatives and the notion of consent.
While today, in most places it is legal to marry your
first cousin, way back in mediaeval times marrying even
a 6th cousin was forbidden. As you can imagine, who your
6th, 5th, or even 4th cousin might be may not be common
knowledge. At the time, marriage by consent (two people
binding themselves to one another in marriage in secret,
without witnesses) was recognised as a valid marriage
(that is, legal), though it wasn't allowed by the
At the time, most people couldn't read or write and
there was no central register of marriages or births, so
who was related to who was a matter for personal
knowledge, not official record. Upcoming marriages were
therefore announced from the pulpit for 3 Sundays before
the wedding by calling the banns. This gave anyone
who knew a reason why the two people could not be
married, to speak up.
The question was also asked of the congregation during
the marriage ceremony, and the couple was required to
state that they knew of no legal reason why they should
not be married. That still happens in Register Office
marriages in England and Wales, but not in Australia.
What happens if the question
is asked and someone does object?
Only an objection about the legality of the
marriage is an issue. If someone objects on any other
grounds, such as the couple have only just met, as per Married
at First Sight,
it would be disruptive, would ruin
the romance of the moment, but would not require any
action to halt the ceremony.
Worst case scenario, however, is that the grounds on
which the objection is made raise questions about
whether the marriage would be legal. In such a case
the ceremony would have to be stopped and could not go
ahead until the facts of the matter were clarified.
This might require a legal opinion or a determination
by the Family Court. Thankfully, the rigorous
processes in place for establishing identity and
whether a person is free to marry virtually preclude
something like that happening, unless one party has
been deliberately dishonest.
Thanks for reading!