Avoid pre-wedding dramas with a Witness Lottery

by Jennifer Cram Brisbane Marriage Celebrant  © (02/10/2019)
Categories:  | Wedding Ceremony | Wedding Legals | Wedding Planning |
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Witness Lottery TicketsWhen you get married in Australia you must have two adults present to act as your legal witness. I've addressed what they are for, who they can be, and what they must do in an earlier post about witnesses at weddings.

Unfortunately,  when someone near and dear to you has expected that you will choose them as your witness, and you don't, hurt feelings can lead to ongoing drama, including broken friendships and family rifts.

How to avoid the drama


If you're having a larger wedding, you might go with tradition and have your best man/chief bridesmaid, or some variation on that, as your witnesses. That in itself can add to the angst because choosing people for those roles takes things to a whole other level when it comes to dashed expectations, hurt feelings, and so on.

But you can separate the roles, choosing witnesses who are not in your bridal party. Grandparents, parents, siblings, good friends, the people who introduced you, and so on, are all popular choices for witnesses.

Sometimes the choice is clear-cut, and acceptable to everyone. Sometimes it is not. If you're worried that whoever you choose, someone else is going to be upset, there is a neat, legal, and very Australian way round that.

The Witness Lottery


When it is clear to people that who ends up as your witnesses is completely random and the luck of the draw, no-one feels that you have rejected them. And the good news is that it is both legal and doable to pick them at the last minute because, in Australia, you do not have to notify any government authority as to who your witnesses will be and your witnesses do not have to show any official photo ID to your celebrant.   In fact the only requirement is that your witnesses are at least 18 years of age and capable of understanding the ceremony, as well as being present for the whole of the ceremony.

Before the ceremony starts. If you are walking down the aisle in a formal procession this can happen before you enter. I prefer to do it once you are up the front so you can participate in the excitement.

Multiple Ways to have a Witness Lottery


Just as there isn't just one way to have any sort of lottery,  there are multiple ways to organise a Witness Lottery
  • Lucky door tickets. Cloakroom tickets from the newsagent work well, and allow you to keep the secret of what they are for until the very last moment. Numbers go into a hat or other fun container, or  borrow one of those barrels with marbles in them people use for bingo. You draw two numbers and announce the names of who will be the witness for each of you.
  • A fancier alternative to lucky door tickets. If you want to do something a bit fancier, printed postcards with a number on them and an explanation of what you're planning, are an option. Send them with the invitations (one for each person over 18 being invited), or hand them out as guests arrive. Again, numbers are drawn out of the hat.
  • Pass the envelope, box, or parcel. As in any pass-the-parcel type game, each has multiple layers, so envelopes within envelopes, boxes within boxes, or multiple layers of wrapping paper. Start passing two of these.  One from each end works well, and have someone play music. When the music stops, the envelope is or box is opened, or one layer of wrapping removed, and what remains inside sent on its way. Eventually the one opened will reveal a card saying Congratulations, you are [NAME's} official witness. 
  • Look under the chairs. Tape two envelopes under two random chairs, ask people to look under the chairs. Those who have the envelopes are your witnesses.
  • Add something to the inside of two ceremony orders of service. It can be as simple as a sticker that doesn't give a clue as to what it is about. At the appropriate point ask who has (for example) a rose, or key, or whatever, sticker inside their program. They are your witnesses.

Don't forget the all-important explanation


When I announce a Witness Lottery, I always "blame" the Marriage Act restrictions first - only 2 witnesses, no more - and then say that the couple didn't want to choose between the many people they love who are obvious candidates for the role.

You can use a variation of this if you aren't going to keep the witness lottery secret, for example, print an explanation on each numbered card.

Witness lotteries can be great fun. I've officiated a few wedding where this was how the witnesses were chosen and loved every one. And, by all reports, so did the guests. The most important thing though, is that a Witness Lottery takes the pressure off you.  Talk to me about it!

More information about witnesses here

Thanks for reading!
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