Marriage Celebrants Program Review 2019
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civil marriage ceremony

What is a civil marriage ceremony?

By Published On: December 1, 2019Categories: All About Weddings

A civil marriage ceremony, in its most simple form, is a non-religious marriage ceremony. At the time of writing, over 80% of marriages in Australia are carried out in civil marriage ceremonies.

Difference between civil and religious marriage ceremonies

In Australia, there are several differences between civil and religious marriage ceremonies.

A civil marriage ceremony contains certain legal words set by the Australian Government. These words must be included in order for the marriage to be legal. They are the Monitum (s46 of the Marriage Act 1961) and the legal vows (s45 of the Marriage Act 1961).

As long as the legal words are included, a civil marriage ceremony can involve literally anything else the couple wants. There are traditional aspects of a wedding and most civil ceremonies adhere to these. But if the couple thinks of something completely outside the box, they can have it!

A civil marriage ceremony can be as short or as long as the couple wants. The shortest possible involves saying 124 legally-required words and signing three documents. My record for a Legals Only ceremony is 6 minutes, including the walk to and from my car 🙂 Or it can be as long as they want, including rituals, readings, guest participation, and other elements.

A religious ceremony contains the words set out by the religious organisation. For recognised denominations the legal words in the Marriage Act aren’t included at all. For non-recognised denominations the Monitum is included but the vows are whatever the religious organisation decides they’ll be. In some denominations the couple doesn’t speak at all!

A religious marriage ceremony generally only includes the wording set out by the religious organisation. There may be small elements that can be personalised. But generally a religious wedding follows the same structure and wording as every other wedding carried out by that religious organisation.

I’m not aware of religious marriage celebrants conducting Legals Only ceremonies. I’m pretty sure they stick to their full religious script, regardless of the wishes of the couple.

What kind of ceremony do you want?

So it’s up to you to decide what will suit you best. Is it important for you to be married within your religious organisation? Or is it more important for you to have a personalised ceremony tailored to your wants and needs? Both are perfectly valid decisions. You need to decide what’s right for you as a couple!

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Marriage Celebrants Program Review 2019
marriage celebrantWhat is a marriage celebrant?