This entry is part 9 of 20 in the series Marriage Legalities
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Marriage licenses in Australia

By Published On: September 11, 2021Categories: Marriage Legalities
This entry is part 9 of 20 in the series Marriage Legalities

In American TV shows and movies it’s all too common to hear them talk about “marriage licenses”. They need to apply for one before they can get married. Because American media is so ubiquitous in Australia, many couples here believe they need a marriage license to marry. Guess what? Nope! Marriage licenses do not exist in Australia and are not required for Australian weddings.

Marriage licenses

According to Wikipedia, “a marriage license is a document issued, either by a religious organisation or state authority, authorising a couple to marry.

Unlike our Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM), which puts the onus on the authorised celebrant receiving the NOIM to ensure the couple are free to marry under Australian law, the marriage licence process means the government are confirming the couple meets the legal requirements to marry.

Marriage licenses in the US

In the US, where most of what we hear about marriage licenses comes from, requirements differ between states. A marriage license is a document issued by a public authority (usually a county clerk) that grants a couple permission to marry. To obtain one, couples usually need to present valid identification, an application, and a fee. The license is valid for a certain period of time. If the marriage has not taken place within that time, a new one must be obtained.

Generally, states require between 1 and 6 days to pass between the granting of the marriage license and the marriage ceremony. After the ceremony, the couple and the officiant (and in some places, witnesses) sign the license. It is then returned to the issuing office to have the marriage officially recorded. The couple then applies for their marriage certificate, which proves they are legally married.

Marriage licences in New Zealand (with a C because it’s a Commonwealth country)

New Zealand issues marriage licences as well. Couples hoping to marry need to arrange one at least 3 working days before they get married. Like in the US, couples in NZ have to apply to the government for their licence. However in New Zealand’s case it is the New Zealand Government issuing the licences, not a state or county authority. It takes 3 working days to process an application. The licence expires after three months.

What we do in Australia instead of issue marriage licenses

In Australia, the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) takes the place of a marriage license before the wedding. It is not issued by the government. It is completed by the couple and lodged with an authorised celebrant, who is essentially a government representative.

During the marriage ceremony, instead of signing the NOIM, we sign three marriage certificates. One of those certificates is sent to the relevant State or Territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to register the marriage.

So now you know! A marriage license is not required to marry in Australia because it doesn’t exist!

More information

Click here for a full overview of the legal requirements of marriage in Australia.

Click on this link to find all the posts in my series about marriage legalities.

If you’re a celebrant wanting help with marriage legalities, come and join us at the Celebrant Institute!

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awesome wedding readingsI Carry Your Heart With Me wedding reading
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