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I’ve recently heard an absolute horror story about a couple who had a near miss with a “celebrant” who wasn’t actually yet registered to perform marriages in Australia.

Referred to her by a family friend, they met with this celebrant months before their wedding, completed the Notice of Intended Marriage (which she signed as a “celebrant”) and lodged it with her, paid her a hefty fee, and expected all was good for their upcoming wedding. She told them she’d already performed five weddings and they felt comfortable with her relative inexperience as she was a referral from a friend.

The “celebrant” seemed to come to her senses three weeks before the wedding and called another (actually registered) celebrant for some help. She claimed she had submitted her application for registration as a celebrant to the Attorney General’s Department a week earlier (it takes three months for registration to be approved, so she clearly wouldn’t be ready for the wedding three weeks later). She was thinking she would talk the couple into lodging a new NOIM with the new celebrant, having a commitment (non-legal) ceremony at their wedding, and then doing the legal wedding a few weeks later when the month’s notice period was up. She said she didn’t really want the couple to have to apply for a shortening of time (which they were absolutely eligible for under both the error in giving notice and wedding arrangements clauses). She initially refused to provide the couple’s details to the new celebrant.

Luckily for the couple, 24 hours after the initial phone call between the celebrants, they were meeting with the registered celebrant to complete the application for a shortening of time, which was immediately approved by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages due to the dreadful circumstances.

All parties will make formal complaints to the Attorney General’s Department and it is highly unlikely this “celebrant” will ever actually be registered as a celebrant in Australia.

The point of me sharing this awful story with you all is to tell you how to find out if your celebrant is registered to perform marriages in Australia. No matter how professional or experienced someone may seem, if they’re not registered by the Australian Government to perform marriages it’s illegal for them to do so.

So there’s a super easy way to find out if your celebrant is legit: search for them on the publicly accessible list of celebrants who are registered to perform civil marriage ceremonies. Go to marriage.ag.gov.au, enter their name, and voila! You’ll be able to see whether they’re listed in the Register of Marriage Celebrants, where they’re based, their contact details, whether their registration is currently active, and in which year they were registered. My listing is pictured at the top of the page. All of this is useful information for you anyway, and you’ll know that they’re legally allowed to conduct your ceremony!

It’s good practice to check out all your wedding suppliers, especially if you have any niggling doubts at all – check their ABNs, ask to see their qualifications, relevant registrations, and insurance cover, and make sure you’re hiring professionals for your special day.

PS: There is provision under section 48(3) of the Marriage Act for a marriage to be deemed valid even if it was performed by a person who was not legally registered to perform marriages, under certain circumstances. However this is tricky and messy and would require court action – let’s just avoid that and choose registered celebrants from the start!