What if your celebrant "forgets" to register your marriage

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (10/10/2023)
Categories: | Wedding Legals  |
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                      saying Worst Case Scenario. Are we even married?You may have seen the information <div class="fb-share-button"
data- that, after a couple marries, the celebrant must submit the marriage papers and details of the marriage to Births, Deaths and Marriages in the State or Territory in which the couple had their wedding.

This is not something to panic about!  Submitting the details in a timely fashion so that the marriage can be registered is part of the celebrant's obligations under the Marriage Act, but, if the celebrant drops the ball and forgets to submit, or submits late, it does not cancel your marriage!

What makes you married


What creates your marriage is what happens before your wedding and what happens during your wedding.
  • Before the wedding the Marriage Act requires you to
    • Complete and lodge a Notice of Intended Marriage with your celebrant. It is valid for 18 months from the date of lodging
    • Show your celebrant documentary proof of who you are and, if you've ever been married before, that you are now free to marry again
    • Sign the Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage
  • During the wedding the Marriage Act requires your celebrant to recite the Monitum, and also requires you to say the legal vows.

Once you have said those vows, you are legally married.

So, signing the certificates afterwards just documents that the marriage has taken place in front of two witnesses and your celebrant.

Why must the celebrant submit your marriage details to BDM?


Births, Deaths, and Marriages adds the details of your legal marriage to the register of marriages that have taken place in your state or territory.

In order to register your marriage, BDM must know it took place. So your celebrant is required to send the information in, and we are given 14 days to do so in order that that might happen promptly.

What happens if the celebrant fails to submit?


The obvious thing is that your marriage won't be registered, and BDM will have no record that it took place. But you will have the certificate that was given to you on the day. If you flip it over and read what it says on the back it confirms that it is a legal document that is proof that the marriage has taken place. Worst case scenario you might have to use it to prove that the marriage took place so that BDM can chase up your slack celebrant.

Can you complain?


Of course you can. You can lodge a formal complaint with the Attorney-General's Department in Canberra. This department oversees marriage celebrants and will follow up complaints from a couple where the celebrant has failed in their statutory duty. Not submitting is a fail!

If you were married in a religious ceremony, you lodge your complaint with The Registry Office in your state or territory because they are the people who oversee clergy in relation to the legal aspects of marriage.

The Bottom Line


The bottom line is that the celebrant's fail doesn't cancel or invalidate your marriage. You are married. But you might have to go through some pain to prove that your marriage took place. This is where your two witnesses and your Form 15 certificate, plus any videos and photos will prove invaluable.

Related Information


Thanks for reading!

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                        Jennifer Cram
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