| Celebrant |
Wedding Ceremony |
In Australia, there are three different ways you
can get legally married. You can be married by a
clergy person who is licensed to solemnise your
marriage according to the rites of the religious
denomination they are part of. You can be
married by an officer of the state or territory
in which the ceremony takes place. Or you can be
married by a civil marriage celebrant authorised
by the Attorney-General.
of them require couples to comply with the
requirements of the Marriage Act. All of them
will do the job of changing your legal status,
but there are significant differences in where
and when you hold the ceremony, how to many
hoops you have to jump through, how convenient
it is to make the arrangements, and how much
control you have over the ceremony. For most
people, a civil celebrant wedding delivers the
greatest variety of benefits, so here are what I
regard to be the multiple good reasons to have a
civil celebrant wedding.
The most obvious reason to
choose a celebrant wedding
The most obvious reason for choosing to have a
celebrant-led wedding is that, with some possible
exceptions, you get to choose your celebrant. For a
Registry Office or Courthouse Wedding it will be
whoever is rostered on. In a religious wedding, it
will whoever is the clergyperson for that church or
temple. So, generally speaking, you can draw up
specifications for the sort of person you are
looking for and narrow it down from a short list of
people who meet your requirements.
The possible exceptions are when the celebrant comes
bundled with other wedding services offered by a
venue or another wedding vendor, such as a
Your gender is irrelevant
Your gender is legally irrelevant to getting
married, and those marrying you in a civil ceremony
are required to respect that. This includes
both authorised civil marriage celebrants and those
who conduct marriage ceremonies in Registry Offices
or Courthouses. While some religious denominations
have no restrictions on clergy marrying same sex
couples or non-binary or trans individuals, others
prohibit such weddings.
Your conjugal status is
As long as you are not still married to someone
else, your current conjugal status is legally
irrelevant to getting married. Civil celebrants and
those who conduct marriage ceremonies in Registry
Offices or Courthouses don't care if you've been
married before, (though you do have to disclose that
and provide proof that you are free to marry). While
some religious denominations have no restrictions on
clergy marrying people who are divorced, others
prohibit such weddings.
You do not have to promise
to have children
Australian law does not require a marriage to be
consummated. And it definitely doesn't require you
to have children. So neither a civil marriage
celebrant nor personnel at a Registry Office or
Courthouse will even mention it.
You get to influence your
ceremony style and how it feels
You influence how your ceremony feels through your
choice of celebrant. So whether you want a life of
the party celebrant, or a celebrant who will keep
the spotlight on you, a celebrant who fits a certain
demographic, a celebrant who thinks outside the box,
a celebrant who will deliver a traditional ceremony
with a fresh approach, or any characteristic you can
think of, you get to choose.
You get to develop a
relationship with your chosen celebrant
When you get married in a church, the clergy person
might be someone you've known for a very long time.
It is not uncommon to be married by the person who
married your parents, or, perhaps, baptised you.
When you marry in a registry office you may well not
meet the celebrant until the day, as your Notice of
Intended Marriage may well have been taken by
When you choose a celebrant you spend time working
together on the ceremony as well as the paperwork,
so you have plenty of opportunity to get to know
your celebrant, and for your celebrant to get to
know the two of you, to develop a relationship.
You can marry 24/7/365
There are no systemic blackout days or strictly
adhered to business hours!
If you choose to marry in a Registry Office or
Courthouse, you will be restricted to business hours
on normal business days, with the possible exception
of Saturdays. You won't be able to be married on a
public holiday, and there may be a close down for a
period between Christmas and New Year, the
traditional public sector shut down period.
If you choose to marry in a church or temple, there
may be strict rules around when weddings may be
held, rules that are related to the religious
calendar and to the timing of regular worship
You can marry anywhere you
A registered marriage celebrant can marry you
anywhere you choose within Australia. So that means
any place, public, commercial, or private, in any
state or territory and in Australian waters (so up
to 12 km from the coast) and in Australian airspace.
Heads-up if you're looking for an extreme wedding
there are celebrants who specialise in those. Not
me, though! However, I have married couples in
backyards, private houses (including my own) parks,
wedding venues, coffee shops, restaurants, and once
in the middle of a turning circle in a cluster
Some clergy may be allowed to marry you in a park or
other place, others are restricted to marrying you
within a church building. Likewise, Registry Office
and Courthouse celebrants can marry you outside
government premises, but that will be within policy
guidelines established by each state.
A celebrant has greater
flexibility should your plans need to change
Whether it's flood, or fire, or other such events, a
reason personal to you, or last-minute health
directives or restrictions imposed or lifted,
because they are not tied to a particular venue, a
civil celebrant is more likely to be able to
accommodate last minute changes to your plans.
You have control over the
ceremony length and content
Churches are required by the Marriage Act to use the
liturgy approved for their denomination. You may
have a choice between two alternative forms of
service, and some minimal choice over which
reading(s) you choose from a preselected list of
scripture. You may also be allowed to include
personal promises. Registry offices and courthouses
tend to use a standard ceremony.
When you choose to have a celebrant marry you, you
can opt to have less than the Registry Office
ceremony - a legals only ceremony (mine are called Married-in-a-MinuteTM
a personalised ceremony, or a completely bespoke
You can choose to express
your own spirituality
In Australia civil marriage celebrants are not
restricted to delivering completely secular
ceremonies. But equally so, civil marriage
celebrants are not allowed to impose religious
content on you. You can choose to include
expressions of belief, or spiritual or religious
content, to the extent you wish.
Registry Offices and Courthouses, because of the
separation of Church and State, deliver only secular
ceremonies. Religious organisations deliver only
religious ceremonies that express the beliefs of
that particular denomination.
You can choose to have a
completely secular ceremony
Civil marriage celebrants are very good at
delivering totally secular ceremonies. Such a
ceremony can still be richly symbolic.
You can acknowledge your
heritage and culture
Because you have complete control over the content
of your ceremony, you can acknowledge your heritage
and culture in whatever way feels natural to you.
You can have as many or
as few guests as you wish
The number of guests you have (COVID-19
restrictions apart), can be constrained by the
venue and the number of people the ceremony space
can accommodate. When you have complete control
over where you can hold the ceremony, you have
complete control over the size of the venue,
and you therefore have control over the number of
You can involve as many
other people in the ceremony as you choose
Only a celebrant-led ceremony allows you to
involve as many people as you like in your
ceremony. In a Registry Office or Courthouse,
involvement of others will be restricted to
serving as your witnesses, or perhaps to walking
you down the aisle. In church, participation
by others is generally restricted to walking you
down the aisle, delivering a reading, standing up
with you as bridesmaids or groomsmen, and being
the legal witnesses. In a celebrant led wedding no
such restrictions apply!
You can include animals
Because you have full control over where you
marry, you can choose a venue that is
animal-friendly and/or child-friendly, and you can
include them in your ceremony in whatever ways are
appropriate to your particular pet or pets and
your particular child or children.
You can include creative
The exchange of rings is the one ritual that you
will definitely be able to include in your
ceremony, regardless of who marries you. Registry Office/Courthouse ceremonies,
with their focus on efficiency and expeditious
through-put, don't generally allow
anything else. The rituals in church ceremonies
are restricted to those deemed suitable for a
service of worship.
No such constraints apply in a civil celebrant
ceremony. You can involve your guests in rituals
such as a ring warming. You can include your
choice from a wide range of unity ceremonies.
You can include a ritual associated with your
heritage. You can work with your celebrant to
develop an original ritual.
You can say what you
like in your personal vows
In a Registry Office/Courthouse ceremony you may
be restricted to saying only the legal vows. In a
religious ceremony you will most likely be
required to use the vows approved by the
denomination. When a celebrant marries you, you
will have to say the legally required vows, but
you will also be free to write and make personal
vows that are unique to you.
You can wear what you
A certain standard of dress applies in Registry
Offices, Courthouses, and places of worship. In a
celebrant-led wedding you can wear what you like.
So if you want to be married in your pjs or a
bikini, that's fine. But we also love officiating
when you are blinged up to the nines in formal "Hey,
we're getting married
No restrictions on
Some churches restrict photos during the ceremony,
or restrict how and where your photographer can
move around or stand. I've not heard of any
civil celebrant who does the same.
No mandatory marriage
While all marrying couples must be given the
government pamphlet Happily Ever ... Before
, together with information about
relationship education and support services, only
those marrying in a religious ceremony may be
required to complete a course of relationship
education before being allowed to marry.
Thanks for reading!