Back in March 2015 I originally posted this article on the legal stuff that needs to happen for a couple to get married in Australia. Unless you’ve been living in cave (as some of my colleagues apparently have) you would know that on 9 December 2017, the world changed and marriage equality in Australia became a thing. So I thought I’d better update this legal stuff so it’s in line with the new legislation!
I know it’s boring, but it’s super important. Marriage in Australia is actually a legal process; under the Marriage Act 1961, marriage has nothing to do with love or romance. So here’s what you need to know about the legal requirements for getting married in Australia.
There are essentially four requirements to fulfil before you can get married: you must not be married to someone else; you must be over 18 (there are some circumstances in which people under 18 can marry and we can chat about those if need be); you must not be brother and sister (or in another prohibited relationship); and you must give real consent to the marriage.
Before you get married, we need to complete some legal documentation that supports these requirements. Remember, these are legal documents and there are penalties for providing false information!
Notice of Intended Marriage
The Notice of Intended Marriage must be completed and lodged with your celebrant no less than 1 month and no more than 18 months prior to your wedding. Because I’m a control freak, I complete this form for you at one of our ceremony planning meetings a couple of months before the wedding. To complete it, I need to see ORIGINALS (certified photocopies do not suffice) of your birth certificate or passport, a form of photo ID, and ORIGINALS of the proof of dissolution of your previous marriage – i.e. a divorce or death certificate.
The Notice of Intended Marriage now provides parties to a marriage with the choice of whether they would like to be described as Groom, Bride or Partner, and it also asks us to list each party’s gender, whether that be Male, Female or X.
Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage
The Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage gets signed either at your rehearsal, or on your wedding day prior to the ceremony. Remember those requirements for getting married I listed before? This form basically asks you both to declare that you meet those requirements: that you are not married to someone else, that you’re over 18, and that you’re not brother and sister – and by signing it (with the help of an interpreter if necessary), you’re regarded as giving consent. Again, I complete this form for you, read it out to you, and point where to sign.
During the ceremony on your wedding day, there are four things that must happen: I must introduce myself by name as an authorised celebrant; I must recite the Monitum; both parties must recite the legal Form of Vows as laid out in the Marriage Act; and the couple, two witnesses and I must sign three marriage certificates.
I must recite the following lines for your marriage to be valid.
I am duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages according to law. Before you are married in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses, I must 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 both must say the following sentence for your marriage to be valid:
I call upon the people here present to witness that I, A.B., take you, C.D., to be my lawful wedded husband/wife/spouse.
You can always add lovely personalised words after the legally required ones if you wish.
Witnesses must appear to be over 18 years of age, and must be able to hear and understand the ceremony.
What this boils down to is that there are 121 legally required words that must be said during the ceremony and we need to sign some paperwork, but the rest of it is completely up to you!
Hopefully this has given you some idea of the legal framework for getting married, but remember that in practice a wedding ceremony doesn’t have to be staid and boring – there’s plenty of room for love and romance there!
PS: I’m REALLY GOOD at this legal stuff. I’m the celebrant that other celebrants come to when they’ve got a question about legal requirements. If you’ve got a tricky case, I’d love to help you out with it!