Making your Marriage Legal

The Attorney-General's Department  states that The ceremony should enhance the dignity of the occasion, meet all legal requirements and accommodate the reasonable requests and expectations of the couple marrying. 

Your Legal Obligations as the Marrying Couple

To marry in Australia you must
  • be legally able to marry (not married to anyone else and at least 18 years of age - though one party can be 16 if consent is provided by parents and the court)
  • give a full month written notice to your chosen celebrant of your intention on the official Notice of Intended Marriage form
  • have two witnesses present who are at least 18 years of age (they do not have to be Australian citizens or Australian residents, and can be blood relatives, friends, or strangers)
  • show original proofs of birth (not photocopies) - which means a birth certificate that was issued by the relevant government authority or a passport
  • show an official photo ID such as a driver licence
  • make the declarations required by the Marriage Act
  • make vows in the form required by the Marriage Act
  • use an official interpreter if one or both of the marrying couple, or one or both of the witnesses does not speak English
  • be ready to start the ceremony on time

My Legal Role as Your Celebrant

As your authorised marriage celebrant, I am required by the Marriage Act to ensure that all legal requirements are met before solemnising your marriage.

These Legal Requirements include:
  • Making sure that the Notice of Intended Marriage is properly filled out and witnessed by an appropriate person (which includes marriage celebrants)
  • Making sure that the wedding date is at least a full month after the day that you give me the Notice of Intended Marriage, (i.e. lodge it with me) but not more than 18 months after you give it to me. A full month is that period starting at the start of any day of one of the calendar months and ending immediately before the start of the corresponding day of the next calendar month, or,  if there is no such day at the end of the next calendar month. This means if you lodge your notice with me on 31 May the first day on which you can legally be married will be the 1 July (as there is no 31 June). But if you lodge your notice on the 15 May, the first day on which you can be legally be married will be the 15 June.
  • Making sure that the proper identification documents and documents that prove how any previous marriage ended are shown to me and that they are original documents as issued by an appropriate government authority (JP certified copies are not acceptable).
  • Making sure that you give me official English translations for any documents in another language.
  • Making sure that you make vows to each other in the form required by The Marriage Act.
  • Making sure that two adult witnesses are present for the whole ceremony.
  • Making sure that both of you give real consent to the marriage both in the process leading up to the ceremony and in the ceremony itself.

Real consent includes, but is not limited to:

  • The marrying couple both giving accurate information on the Notice of Intended Marriage.
  • The marrying couple both understanding the implications of a marriage solemnised in Australia
  • The marrying couple both 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, therefore
    • You must not be affected by drugs or alcohol. If I believe that you are affected by either it is against the law for me to continue with the wedding.
    • You must be able to understand what is being said or shown to you. If I am not confident that you understand English sufficiently to fully understand what is being said and the documents you have to sign I must request that an interpreter is present.
    • If you say or do anything that suggests that your consent is not real it is against the law for me to continue with the wedding.

A word about lodgement and correction of errors

The world "lodge" probably causes more confusion/misunderstand than any other word associated with weddings. What it means is that you put the Notice into the hands of the person who is going to marry you. When you do that (and it can be done by email for the purpose of starting the clock ticking) the Notice is lodged - and it then stays in the custody of your celebrant until after the wedding at which time it is sent in to Births Deaths and Marriages along with the paperwork you sign on the day to register your marriage.

Another issue that can cause a bit of angst is errors in the Notice. Not a problem, errors can be corrected after the Notice is signed, witnessed and lodged, but ONLY in the presence of your celebrant and both you and your celebrant must initial the changes - and no whiteout allowed!  This ensures that the Marriage Certificate is correct and you won't have any problems down the track.

Boring, yes. Critical, absolutely, and while different celebrants can and will offer you differing personal style, ideas, and ceremonial inclusions, every celebrant is required to ensure that the legal service they provide complies with the Marriage Act. That is the law (though obviously experience and in depth knowledge counts too, particularly if you have unusual or difficult identity or other issues).

more information about Wedding Ceremonies