Anyone who is eligible (i.e. free to marry) can be married in Australia. The process is the same for overseas visitors and Australian residents, but do you know what the process is?
The Marriage Act states that a Notice of Intended Marriage must be lodged with your celebrant a minimum of one month and one day before the date of your wedding.
If you were born in Australia you are required to provide your original birth certificate. People born overseas may use their foreign passports, although a birth certificate (in English) is still the preferred document. Anyone who has been married before must also produce original divorce documents or death certificates relating to previous spouses.
If you don’t want a religious service you can get married at the Registry Office however there are restrictions. Depending on the particular Registry Office you could be limited to as few as 10 guests and the wording of the ceremony is pretty much prescribed to what is legally required by the Marriage Act. The ceremony will be very short and on busy days it can be a bit like a conveyor belt. Everyone’s ceremony is basically the same with only the names changed.
Alternatively, marriages performed by authorised civil celebrants can be held any time of the day, on any day of the year and in any location that you choose. You can also have as many guests as desired and include far more within the ceremony than the basic wording allowed in a Registry Office marriage.
In 2008 approximately 65% of Australian marriages were performed by authorised civil celebrants (http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/cat/3306.0.55.001).
So, you decide that you want to have a civil marriage celebrant but think there’s plenty of time to find the best one. Don’t risk being disappointed! Experienced celebrants are often booked up to a year or more in advance, so it’s advisable to find the person you want as soon as you have locked in your date with the reception venue.
Once you’ve chosen your celebrant you complete and lodge the Notice of Intended Marriage with that person. This form is available from any marriage celebrant or can be downloaded from the Attorney-General’s website.
Apart from some legally required wording, everything else can be of your own choosing. Marriage Celebrants have many resources to offer you as suggestions for readings, personal vows, poetry and additional rituals. Good celebrants will spend time getting to know you so that they have an idea of who you are. They will then draft a unique ceremony that reflects you and your relationship and continue to work with you until you are happy that your ceremony feels just right.
If possible, it’s best to hold a rehearsal about a week in advance at the same time of day as your actual ceremony, to see where sun and shade will be. This helps you make final decisions about where everyone will stand for the best photo shots.
Before the marriage can take place you must both sign statutory declarations affirming that there is no legal impediment to your marriage. These are usually signed at the rehearsal.
After you have been pronounced husband and wife more document signing takes place. There are three documents to be signed by the couple, two adult witnesses, and the celebrant. These are:
- a certificate that the celebrant sends to the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriage to register your marriage;
- a commemorative certificate that you will take with you; and
- the celebrant’s register.
Within 14 days of the marriage the celebrant sends the original documents to the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages via Registered Post. If you are changing your name on bank accounts, car registration, passports etc. you will need a registered copy of your marriage certificate. The celebrant can submit an application for this certificate on your behalf when submitting the other paperwork.
Remember that your celebrant’s involvement with you over many weeks or months and his/her presence on the day are fundamental to ensuring that your celebrations begin with a beautiful memorable marriage ceremony, ensuring you are now – legally – Mr. & Mrs. Married Couple!