This entry is part 1 of 22 in the series Marriage Legalities
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Marriage legalities for everyone in Australia!

By Published On: January 11, 2021Categories: Marriage Legalities
This entry is part 1 of 22 in the series Marriage Legalities

Back in March 2015 I originally posted an 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 post on marriage legalities so it’s in line with the new legislation, and I’ll be keeping it updated as and when marriage legislation continues to change!

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 an overview of what you need to know about the legal requirements for getting married in Australia.

This is the first post in a series on each of these legal requirements; click through for more information.

Requirements

There are essentially four requirements to fulfil before you can get married:

Documentation

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 Marriagenot a marriage license!

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) or electronic photos/scans of your birth certificate or passport
  • a form of photo ID, and
  • ORIGINALS or electronic photos/scans of proof of the 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 you would like to be described as Groom, Bride or Partner, and it also gives you the option to provide your gender, whether that be Male, Female or Non-binary.

When you lodge the Notice of Intended Marriage, your celebrant needs to provide you with a document that explains the obligations and consequences of marriage, i.e. the Happily Ever Before and After brochure, as well as information about the availability of relationship education in your area.

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 above? 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,
  • that you’re not too closely related, and
  • that there’s no other legal reason you shouldn’t get married (e.g. you’re not consenting).

Again, I complete this form for you, read it out to you, and point where to sign.

Ceremony

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.

The Monitum

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.

Vows

You both must say the following sentence for your marriage to be valid:

I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, A.B., take thee, 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.

Your full legal names, as they are recorded on your marriage documents, must appear in the marriage ceremony at least once. This can be before or during the legal vows. There’s no avoiding it!

Witnesses

Witnesses must appear to be over 18 years of age, and must be able to hear and understand the ceremony. That’s it. They don’t have to be Australian citizens, they can be family members, and they don’t have to have known you for a certain period of time.

Official Certificate of Marriage

There are two copies of the boring-looking Official Certificate of Marriage to sign: one for me to keep, and one for me to send to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the State or Territory in which you got married, to register your marriage.

Form 15 Certificate of Marriage

This is the pretty certificate you get to take home with you after the wedding. It is a legal document and it can’t be replaced, but it can’t be used for things like changing your name. It is evidence that you went through a marriage ceremony on the day listed, not that the marriage has been registered by the government, and not of your identity.

What this boils down to is that there are 124 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!

Interpreters

If either of the parties to the marriage or the official witnesses do not speak English, we will need an interpreter to help out at the ceremony. They’ll have to sign a statutory declaration before the ceremony stating that they can converse in both English and the other language, and a certificate of faithful performance after the ceremony, stating that they undertook their duties as interpreter faithfully. I complete this for them and point where to sign.

That’s it!

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 marriage legalities. If you’ve got a tricky case, I’d love to help you out with it!

More information

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

Find all the posts in my series about Australian wedding ceremonies here.

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

***Originally posted 18/12/2017, updated 11/01/2021 and ongoing as marriage legalities change***

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awesome wedding readingsThe Art of Marriage wedding reading
funeral readingsI Am Not Gone funeral reading
Series NavigationMarriageable age in Australia >>