This entry is part 10 of 20 in the series Marriage Legalities
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Privacy and marriage documents

By Published On: October 11, 2021Categories: Marriage Legalities
This entry is part 10 of 20 in the series Marriage Legalities

When couples get married in Australia, several documents are completed:

If one is you is under 18 or if you need an interpreter there’s even more documents to complete.

These documents contain a LOT of personal information about both parties to the marriage. I’ve written before about why the information is collected. So:

  • how is this information used, and
  • how do authorised celebrants manage the privacy of their couples’ information?

How is the information on the marriage documents used?

As per the Privacy Notice on page 1 of the NOIM:

  • The Marriage Act 1961 requires that certain personal information is provided in writing. If the information is not provided, the marriage cannot go ahead.
  • The celebrant who performed the marriage must submit the documents containing the personal information to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) in the State or Territory in which the marriage took place within 14 days of the ceremony.
  • BDMs use the information to register the marriage. Each State and Territory has their own privacy laws governing how BDMs use, store, and disclose the personal information on the marriage documents.
  • BDMs provides information from the NOIM to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to generate the annual national marriage statistics. The ABS only retains non-identifying information.
  • Authorised celebrants or BDMs may provide the marriage documents to the Registrar of Marriage Celebrants within the Commonealth Attorney-General’s Department. This would only be if there are any concerns about the activities of the authorised celebrant who performed the marriage.
  • Couples have the right to contact the BDM in the State/Territory where their marriage was performed or the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department for more information on how their personal data is managed, or to access or correct the information.

How do authorised celebrants manage the privacy of their couples’ information?

All Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants (CRMCs) must comply with the Code of Practice for Marriage Celebrants as set out in Schedule 2 of the Marriage Regulations 2017. The Code has this to say about privacy:

A marriage celebrant must respect the importance of the marriage ceremony to the parties and the other persons organising the ceremony. This includes (without limitation) the following:

  • respecting the privacy and confidentiality of the parties, including by:
    • arranging for appropriate facilities to interview parties; and
    • dealing appropriately with personal documents and personal information; and
    • maintaining appropriate facilities for the secure storage of records; and
    • ensuring the return of all personal documents belonging to the parties as soon as practicable (unless it is necessary to keep the documents for the ceremony).

I think that’s pretty clear, so here’s an overview of what I personally do to manage privacy under each of the points above.

Arranging for appropriate facilities to interview parties

I hold meetings in restaurants and cafes. I feel pretty comfortable with that because I know that I’m not shouting out people’s private information. The personal information they give me is in the form of their identity documents or otherwise written down. I write it on to the NOIM during that meeting.

Dealing appropriately with personal documents and personal information

If I’m not meeting with a couple to complete their NOIM, I ask them to complete a questionnaire with the information required. I then generate a NOIM and email it to them with instructions for signing it and having it witnessed. Finally, they scan or photograph the completed NOIM and email it back to me. They also email me photos/scans of their required identity documents.

Maintaining appropriate facilities for the secure storage of records

Once I have received a NOIM I store it in my locked filing cabinet and on my password-protected computer. (I use Dropbox for my document storage across all my devices.) If I’ve received electronic copies of identity documents, I store them in my password-protected email account and any downloads in Dropbox.

Before the wedding, I:

  • use the Victorian BDM online registration system to create the DONLIM and OCMs
  • download them to Dropbox
  • email them to the couple to check for errors
  • print them in the week before the wedding and store them in my locked filing cabinet.

The celebrant copy of the Official Certificate of Marriage

CRMCs are required to keep their OCM for six years (s77(4) of the Marriage Regulations). These are to be kept either in a locked filing cabinet or on a password-protected computer. I keep mine in hard copy in my filing cabinet.

Ensuring the return of all personal documents belonging to the parties as soon as practicable (unless it is necessary to keep the documents for the ceremony)

If I’ve met the couple in person and they’ve shown me their identity documents, I give their documents straight back to them after I’ve transferred the appropriate information to the NOIM.

If they’ve emailed their identity documents to me, I keep them until after the ceremony, then delete the emails they were sent in and the documents from my Dropbox.

The reason I keep electronic documents until after the ceremony is in case I need to have another celebrant take over and perform the marriage because I’m sick. Then I can email them straight to the replacement celebrant. If I don’t have electronic copies of the documents, I email the couple in the week before and ask them to take photos of their documents and have them available on their phones at the ceremony in case a replacement celebrant turns up. Of course I would let them know a replacement is coming beforehand!

After the marriage is registered I:

  • delete my electronic copies of the marriage documents from my Dropbox
  • delete the email in which I sent them to the couple
  • destroy (shred) the hard copies of these documents, only retaining the celebrant copy of the OCM as required.

I hope most celebrants are looking after their couples’ information and documents carefully. It’s our obligation under the Code of Practice, plus it’s just the right thing to do 🙂

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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