FAQ/Details Galore:

We don't want a traditional wedding! Can't we just elope?

Sure! You don't have to have a big production, and you don't have to stand up there with people looking at you if you don't want to. If you absolutely want just the bare bones, and as long as you sign the necessary legal documents with me at least one month before your wedding date, all you need is the two of you, me, two more adults as witnesses, two minutes for the legal vows and signing the official certificates, and a smile. You don't even need rings. I can meet you in your backyard, at the footy, on a train, at the airport before you fly off on your honeymoon (your marriage does not instantly change your passport)... See 'What Do You Charge?' for the Elopement Package.

On the other hand, perhaps you do want a big production, but you want to run the occasion yourselves and only want a celebrant for the legal bits. You and yours are free to create any extravaganza you like - the pretties don't all have to come from me. I can simply make a cameo appearance for the legal words and document signing. Once again, see the Elopement info below in 'What Do You Charge?'.

 

Do we have to use a celebrant for our wedding?

Well – yes. Only an authorised marriage celebrant or minister of religion can perform a legal wedding in Australia.

Usually the celebrant performs the whole ceremony (including stage managing your entrance / your cousin to share the reading / your kids to carry the rings / your minstrels to give it all that amongst the wordy bits) because I have the training and experience to deliver it just the way you want it, as well as the legal authority. I develop your ceremony with you and for you in my standard All-Inclusive Deluxe service. On the other hand, on the Big Day I can confine myself to pronouncing the necessary legal phrases; overseeing your legal vows; and completing the legal paperwork with you, and leave the rest of the ceremony to be performed by someone else if that is what you'd prefer.

Do we have to use a celebrant for our commitment ceremony?

No, you don't have to - but we're good at it, you see! Usually the celebrant performs the whole ceremony (including stage managing your entrance / your cousin to share a reading / your kids to carry the rings / your minstrels to give it all that before and after the wordy bits), because I have the training and experience to deliver it just the way you want it. Most couples choose to engage an authorised celebrant for their commitment, but there is no legal obligation to do so. It's up to you.

What do you charge?

My fee for an Unlimited All-Inclusive Whizzo Deluxe Bespoke wedding ceremony is $800.00 with all the legals, brainstorming, personalised scriptwriting, consultation and magic that it takes for you to have exactly what you want, where and when you want it with all the guests, poems, gorilla suits etc. A deposit of $300.00 is payable at our NOIM (first legal paperwork) meeting.

My fee for an Unlimited All-Inclusive Whizzo Deluxe Bespoke commitment ceremony is $750.00 with all the brainstorming, personalised scriptwriting, consultation and magic that it takes for you to have exactly what you want, where and when you want it with all the guests, poems, hula-hoops etc. A deposit of $300.00 is payable at our first brainstorm.

My fee for a sign-the-NOIM-and-I'll-see-you-at-the-wedding, 'Two Minutes Long With Two Guests', no-poetry-all-smiles, elopement-type super-quick legal express wedding, or cameo-appearance-at-the-party-for-the-legal-wedding-bits, is $300.00.

For a modest extra fee I can hold your intimate wedding ceremony (maximum of ten people) at my bush property - see my 'Funerals' page for a look at my lake.

If at first you go for the quick/elopement/cameo option, but then decide you want the Deluxe service after all, we can change the terms and I can swing into action.

Where the ceremony site is further than an 60km round trip from my home, I add extra for travel.

For other ceremonies: please get in touch and we'll discuss your needs.

 

What is the legal standing of a commitment ceremony?

The commitment ceremony itself doesn't change your legal status, but it celebrates the change you are making and the grand adventure upon which you are embarking. Sometimes couples conclude a commitment ceremony by signing papers to:

  • change their surnames together through the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages;
  • register their relationship with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages;
  • register their union on a Relationship Register ( eg City of Melbourne or Yarra City Council).
Do I have to change my name when I marry?

Getting married gives you the right to change your surname to your partner's - or your partner to change their surname to yours - no what gender you are. However, it's not an obligation.  You can both keep your surnames just the way they are now if you like. If you decide to change one of your surnames, you need to apply for a copy of your offiical marriage certificate from your state registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Then you show that certificate to your bank, Vicroads, government departments etc to formalise the change and have new ID documents issued.
If you'd both like to take a completely different surname, in honour of the brand-new married entity that you are, you can change it through (in Victoria) the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

For a wedding, what do we sign and when?

The legal requirements for marriage are the same whether you have a 2 minute ceremony or a 45 minute ceremony with 10 attendants and a choir.

I provide all government marriage documents and help you understand and complete them correctly. No less than one month before the desired wedding date, you must sign the Notice of Intended Marriage (and my - ahem - fee agreement). You will also sign the Official Declaration that there is no legal impediment to your marriage.

On the wedding day, at the end of the ceremony, the two of you, two adult witnesses and I all sign the marriage register, official certificate of marriage and couple's marriage certificate ('the pretty one').

So that's two forms to get ready for the wedding, and three on the day after the ceremony.

It is also a legal requirement that before your ceremony I simply make you aware of relationship support services and pre-marriage education services in your local area.

What documents do we need to provide?

I must see these original documents, and record details on the NOIM, before the wedding can proceed:

If you were born in Australia – original birth certificate OR original birth extract OR Australian passport. (An expired passport is suitable but not a cancelled one.)

If you are an Australian citizen now, but were born overseas – Australian passport OR original birth certificate from the country where you were born. Australian citizenship papers will not do. If the certificate or extract is not in English, an official translation must be presented as well - ask me for more information.

If you are a citizen of another country, you may show your overseas passport as proof of the date and place of your birth.

If you have been married before - an original divorce order, or original certificate of death of your previous spouse. If this is not in English, an official translation must be presented as well – ask me for more information. If you have been married more than once, I only need to see evidence of the end of the last marriage, not of all of them.

If you have officially used a name different to the one you are using now (eg a name you have changed yourself), you will need to show me the paper trail through those changes. We can talk about that.

I will also need to see some photo ID if you are not presenting a passport. A drivers licence is ideal.

You can apply for an original birth certificates through the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the state where you were born. Certified copies will not do.

Please leave plenty of time to acquire birth, divorce or death certificates, especially if something has to come from an overseas government office. No celebrant can conduct your wedding without seeing the originals of these documents.

What if we don't have time to get all these documents before the wedding?

Legally the wedding absolutely can't take place without your celebrant sighting the originals of your birth certificate/passport/evidence of the end of any previous marriages. Unfortunately 'we don't have time to get them before the wedding' doesn't..actually...count, so please leave plenty of time to rustle up birth, divorce or death certificates, especially if something has to come from an overseas government office.

We can't wait a month – can't we get married sooner?

If you have really compelling medical or travel reasons (such as a work posting overseas; very serious illness of selves or immediate family), a prescribed authority (usually the clerk of a court in certain towns) may grant you permission to marry sooner than the usual one-month waiting period. It is not up to me to shorten the time myself, but ask me where to go to find someone to apply to.

We want to perform our ceremony in Auslan.

Sure! If that is for the benefit of the couple getting married or for either of the two legal witnesses, in the ceremony I will work with an interpreter that you provide (plus I do have to check on their ability to perform this function). On the other hand, if the Auslan is for the benefit of guests rather than either party getting married or their witnesses, the interpreter doesn't have to be legally accepted.

For that legal role, beforehand I will need a statutory declaration by the interpreter stating that they understand, and are able to converse in, Auslan.

We use interpreters for all legal aspects to make sure that the couple getting married and the two official witnesses all understand the documents being signed and the nature of the ceremony.

Immediately after the ceremony the interpreter must give me a prescribed certificate of the faithful performance of his or her services as interpreter. The certificate of faithful performance by the interpreter must be in the approved form available on the Attorney-General's website about marriage in Australia. I cna point you to where to find it.

I forward the statutory declaration and certificate of faithful performance by the interpreter to the BDM registry with your NOIM and official certificate of marriage.

We want to perform our ceremony in a language other than English.

Sure! If that is for the benefit of the couple getting married or for either of the two legal witnesses, in the ceremony I will work with an interpreter that you provide (plus I do have to check on their ability to perform this function). On the other hand, if the language is for the benefit of guests rather than either party getting married or their witnesses, the interpreter doesn't have to be legally accepted.

For that legal role, beforehand I will need a statutory declaration by the interpreter stating that they understand, and are able to converse in, the language required.

We use interpreters for all legal aspects to make sure that the couple getting married and the two official witnesses all understand the documents being signed and the nature of the ceremony.

Immediately after the ceremony the interpreter must give me a prescribed certificate of the faithful performance of his or her services as interpreter. The certificate of faithful performance by the interpreter must be in the approved form available on the Attorney-General's website about marriage in Australia. I cna point you to where to find it.

I forward the statutory declaration and certificate of faithful performance by the interpreter to the BDM registry with your NOIM and official certificate of marriage.

Can we really speak Klingon in our ceremony?

HIja. We will pronounce the prescribed legal sections in English, but yes – If you so desire I will deliver the rest of your ceremony entirely in standard Klingon (my accent is pretty good) or in any other off-world or Middle Earth dialect.

My fiance/fiancee is applying for Australian residency.

I am happy to write a letter for you to the relevant authority attesting that you have engaged me to perform your marriage ceremony on a certain date and that we have signed the Notice of Intended Marriage and I have accepted the deposit on my services. I can't give advice on visa applications or on how your wedding might affect your visa application.

It is not possible to provide my birth details.

You may be from a community that has different methods of documenting a birth; you may have come to Australia as a refugee without birth documents, or records in your country of origin may have been destroyed in strife or disaster. Ask me for details of the very narrow circumstances under which you may make a statutory declaration instead of providing original documents.

Do we have to be Australian citizens to marry in Australia?

Nope! Come on in! Anyone can marry in Australia as long as they meet the very few legal requirements: you need to sign your first wedding paperwork at least one month before the ceremony (this can be done overseas if necessary); you need to be not married to anyone else at the time the wedding is performed; you need to be over 18 (unless one of you is over 18 and the other one has a court order allowing the wedding); and you can't be too closely related.

What is a 'legal impediment' to marriage in Australia?

You can't get married if:

You are still married to someone else;

You are both under 18 (special permission may be granted by a court if only one of you is under 18);

You are too closely related, even by adoption or step-relationship.

You can sign your Notice of Intended Marriage and plan your ceremony while you are waiting on your divorce, though.

One or both of us will be overseas or interstate until the wedding day – how do we sign the Notice of Intended Marriage if we can't meet you in person one full month ahead of the wedding day?

The NOIM can be 'activated' by either of you signing it in front of me one month before the desired wedding date, and then the other party can sign it and the Official Declaration, and produce all necessary documents, at any time before the ceremony, if that is the only way you can manage it.

If neither of you can meet me in person for some compelling reason, do talk to me first to help you get things started. You can arrange to have the NOIM witnessed (activated) elsewhere, in another state, or in another country, to get things rolling, but you will still need to bring all originals with you when we eventually meet. 

A NOIM signed in Australia must be signed in the presence of one of the following:

  • an authorised celebrant (i.e. me); OR
  • a Commissioner for Declarations under the Statutory Declarations Act;
  • a justice of the peace;
  • a barrister or solicitor;
  • a legally qualified medical practitioner; or
  • a member of the Australian Federal Police or the police force of a State or Territory. (Police officers are the most handy for this - you can always find one at your local police station and you don't have to book an appointment with them.)

If one or both of you are overseas, you can arrange for one of you to sign the NOIM in front of an Australian consular official or local Notary Public (both of you must sign at the same time in this scenario), and show your ID and other relevant documents at that time.  The second party can sign things with me when you arrive. You will still need to bring all those original doucments with you when we eventually meet and before the wedding can take place, even though the consular official has already seen them and witnessed the signing of the NOIM.

If you are signing your NOIM elsewhere or overseas I will ask you to email me a scanned copy of the NOIM and of the ID and supporting documents that you used, so that if there are any problems with documents I will be able to pick up on it in good time.

Weddings are all about original, original, original documents!

Can we lodge our documents with you by Skype?

'Fraid not - the official paperwork has to be done in person. We can work on your ceremony by Skype, but showing me a NOIM and ID by Skype doesn't count as 'activated'. If you need to have your NOIM witnessed elsewhere because you are too far away to get to me, I can tell you how to make that happen (see previous box).

What are the mandatory legal components of a wedding?

Overwhelmingly, your wedding is yours, yours, yours. It is mostly up to you (and me!) to create the mood you want, to bring the poetry and the symbolism and the love to this wonderful gift you are giving each other. There are just a few important things that must be included:

  • I must introduce myself by name as an authorised celebrant, and mention that this is the wedding of ___ and ___;
  • Before you say your vows I must say to you the following Monitum word-for-word with no changes permitted:
    “I am duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages according to law.
    Before you are joined in marriage in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses, I am to 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.”
  • Your full legal names must be used at least once (this usually fits well in the vows);
  • You must each say;
    I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, Hepsibah Aurelia Ogilvie, take thee, Claudia Elisheba Fang, to be my lawful wedded wife/husband/spouse”; or the slightly-less-formal 'I call everyone here to witness that I, Hepsibah, take you, Claudia, to be my wedded wife/husband/spouse'
  • At the conclusion of the ceremony you must both sign (with two witnesses) my register, the official certificate of marriage, and your keepsake couple's certificate.
What happens to the paperwork after the wedding?

I keep the marriage register (my big red book) on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia. I scan your NOIM and Official Declaration to the state Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and keep the originals securely for 7 years. You can apply for an official marriage certificate (especially to show to banks, Vicroads, utility companies etc as proof if either of you change your name). Usually that the certificate is issued in 4-8 weeks but it could be longer. You are not obliged to order one.

I don't like handing out my personal information.

I treat your wishes, dreams, anecdotes and personal information with strict confidentiality; I don't gossip about my clients; I don't keep copies of your personal ID documents themselves. Some of your details will remain on the marriage register (my Big Red Book) which I keep on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia and this is secured in my office. Everything else goes to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages for posterity.

What are your qualifications?

I am professionally trained, complete annual professional development, and am a member of Australian Civil Marriage Celebrants of Victoria. I have professional indemnity and personal liability insurance, and a Working With Children check. I have a BA in Literature and Australian Studies and most of a Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing. I was appointed by the Attorney-General's Dept in 2009.

Can I see your Code of Practice?

Sure. Just search Attorney-General's Department marriage celebrants Code of Practice.

© Tamsin Whaley, 2016 - 2020. All rights reserved.