What's a Legals Only Wedding?

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (28/01/2020)
| Wedding Legals |
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Marriage Register on table with three candles,
                    heart confetti, glass ring dish, lace tableclothLegals Only Ceremony. What does that mean? The Marriage Act lays down the minimum that has to be done by way of ceremony in order for a couple to be legally married.  And those things are exactly the same for every couple, regardless of how big, small, fancy, or simple your wedding is going to be.

So you might be wondering what those Legals Only weddings you've seen advertised, including by me, are. Simply put, Legals Only 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, but also include the option of personal vows or a simple handfasting ritual.

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 explain yourselves!

Can you just sign and go?


Put simply. No. The Marriage Act makes it clear that it is spoken words that create the legal marriage. And that signing the certificates document that the marriage has taken place. So no, you can't just sign.

You might also see Paperwork Only ceremonies advertised. But that's misleading as no legal marriage in Australia can happen without spoken word in addition to the paperwork. Which is why I also offer a Married in a MinuteTM LITE (Signing Ceremony) for couples who want nothing more than the legal bits with no fuss and no guests.

What are the minimum legal requirements for the ceremony?


The Marriage Act makes it clear that it is words that create the legal marriage. And that signing the certificates documents that the words have been said and the marriage has been created.

So , so while there are the pre-ceremony legal requirements that must be completed before you can be married (giving notice, providing documentary proof of who you are, and signing the Declarations) the minimum requirements for the ceremony are:
  • 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 wedded wife/husband/spouse/partner-in-marriage.
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.

However ...


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 with some simple additional options:
  • 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 problem
  • 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.

I'd love to talk to talk you through your options.

Thanks for reading!
                      to contact Jennifer Cram Brisbane Marriage
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