couple marrying in Australia has to tick quite a few
boxes to meet the legal requirements specified in
the Marriage Act. Regardless of whether you're
having a very large formal wedding, or a very small
and informal one, you still have to meet legal
requirements before the ceremony can take place.
You have to give notice.
You have to sign declarations of no legal
impediment to the
And you have to provide documentary
of your identity and that
you are free to marry (if you've been married
So you might be wondering what those Legals Only
weddings you've seen advertised are. Simply put, Legals
is marriage celebrant speak/shorthand
for the bare minimum ceremony as required by the
Marriage Act. Which implies that there is no
ceremony to be prepared. I call these
ceremonies Married in a MinuteTM
because that's exactly how long the minimum legal
requirements for the ceremony take. You might also
see Paperwork Only
advertised. But that's misleading as no legal
marriage in Australia can happen with spoken word in
addition to the paperwork.
All that has to happen is that
- The five of us gather together (celebrant,
marrying couple, two adult witnesses)
- I recite the passage from the Marriage Act
that must be said before you say your vows
I, Jennifer Cram, am duly
authorised by law to solemnise marriages
according to law.
Before you are joined together in
marriage in my presence and in the presence of
these witnesses, I am to remind you of the
solemn and binding nature of the relationship
into which you are now about to enter.
Marriage, according to law in
Australia, is the union of two people to the
exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered
into for life.
You each, individually, than must make the statement
that creates the contract of marriage between you.
I ask everyone here
to witness that I, NAME, take
you, NAME, to be my lawful
At that point, you are legally
married. And we sign the Marriage Register, the
two certificates, I give you the certificate that
has the Australian Coat of Arms on it.
And that's it. You are legally married, and all
that remains to be done is for me to submit your
marriage details to Births, Deaths, and Marriages
so that your marriage can be registered.
Most couples who choose to have a bare minimum
ceremony actually want to include a bit more. So I
think of Legals Only
ceremonies as Married
in a MinuteTM Plus
- Would you like to exchange rings? No problem
- Would you like to add a few words to the
legal vows, or make some personal promises? No
- Would you like to add a very simple
handfasting (usually instead of rings, but can
be as well as). No problem
- Would you like to have guests in addition to
your two witnesses. Not a problem
None of these things requires a lot of
preparation, but they do add a great deal to the
feel of the ceremony.
Why choose to have a Legals
Only type ceremony?
- It may be that you are a no-fuss couple who
just want to change your legal status with the
minimum fuss and preparation.
- It might be that you are having a traditional
cultural ceremony - either in Australia or
overseas -that doesn't create a legal marriage.
- It might be that you are having a symbolic
ceremony overseas but want your marriage to be
registered in Australia.
Actually, there can be a long list of possible
reasons, all of them legitimate. You don't have to