Booze, Pills, and your Wedding

 
by Jennifer Cram (08/07/2019)  |  Categories: | Wedding Ceremony | Wedding Legals |
Drunk groom with bottle
                    of alcohol While no-one is going to breathalyse you on the day (unless you're driving and you are stopped for a random breath test) you need to be very aware that nothing can derail your wedding faster than turning up drunk, or under the influence of other substances, including prescribed medications.

Because marriage involves a change in legal status, that affects a wide range of legal matters, including who your next of kin is, who is entitled to inherit your estate, or who you are entitled to inherit from (Succession Laws), it is viewed very seriously, as is your consent at every part of the process. Anything that might compromise your capacity to give real consent, or that might be argued to have done so, can call the legality of your marriage into question.

What is Real Consent?

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Real consent basically means that you voluntarily and freely consent to your marriage, and that you are mentally capable of doing so. So it includes, but is not limited to:
  • Each of the marrying couple giving accurate information on the Notice of Intended Marriage.
  • Each of the marrying couple understanding the implications of a marriage solemnised in Australia
  • Each of the marrying couple understanding what is going on in the ceremony and consenting to marrying each other. You must both be able to understand the ceremony itself and the explanations about the documents you are signing, including the declarations before the ceremony and the certificates afterwards

Why is being sober important?

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So that there is no question about your consent being real, you must not be affected by drugs or alcohol. If I, as your celebrant, have any reason to believe that you may be affected by either it is against the law for me to continue with the wedding.

What does that mean in practical terms for your wedding?

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Though it is not unusual for members of the wedding party, including the marrying couple, to have a few drinks while getting ready. One or two is fine. As long as you are legally good to drive, then we can assume that you will be capable of giving real consent.

But what if you're over the limit? Seriously? Being drunk, or under the influence of some legal medications, and a whole long list of illegal substances, generally means that you are too affected to be deemed to be capable of giving real consent. And here's the interesting bit. The person who makes the decision is the celebrant. No breathalyser, no blood test, just my assessment of the situation. And, don't think that just because you're there, the celebrant has to marry you. No, a celebrant is required by law to ensure that your consent is real, so if there is even a whisper of a doubt we are instructed to refuse to solemnise a legal marriage. And the Attorney-General always backs the celebrant in cases like this.

What if you are taking a heavy-duty prescribed medication?

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Sadly, there are cases where someone getting married is terminally ill and taking pain-killers. In situations like that all that is needed is a certificate from your treating doctor that makes it clear that, despite the medication, you are capable of making decisions and giving consent.

At every stage of the process

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While, the focus of most is usually on the ceremony, the requirement for consent is that it must be real at every stage of the process. So, lest anyone challenge the legality of your marriage on grounds of consent, it is also a very bad idea to:
  • consume alcohol before or while you are signing and lodging your Notice of Intended Marriage, or be under the influence of any substance, legal or otherwise, while doing so
  • consume alcohol or be under the influence of any substance, legal or otherwise while making and signing your Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage

So I will never meet you in a bar to sign either of those documents!

Let's talk soon signature of Jennifer
                      Cram, Brisbane Celebrant