FAQ/Details Galore:

Can't we just elope?

Certainly! I can meet you in your backyard, in a cafe, at the airport... As long as you still lodge your NOIM with me one month before your elopement (there's no such thing as an overnight 'Vegas wedding' in this country I'm afraid) and sign all the usual paperwork, all you need for a legal wedding is a bride, a groom, me, two more adults as witnesses, a few prescribed phrases that take about 60 seconds, and a smile. You don't even need rings.

Do we have to use a celebrant for our wedding?

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

Usually the celebrant performs the whole ceremony (plus you, your readers and minstrels, of course), because I have the training and experience to deliver it just the way you want it, as well as the legal authority. However, after developing your ceremony for and with you, 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?

Usually the celebrant performs the whole ceremony (plus you, your readers and minstrels, of course), 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.

What do you charge?

My fee for a wedding ceremony is $750.00 including a deposit of $100.00 payable at our NOIM (paperwork) meeting.

My fee for a commitment ceremony is $750.00 including a deposit of $100.00 payable at our first script brainstorm.

For other ceremonies: please send an enquiry 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?

The bride can change her name to the groom's surname, or the groom can change his name to the bride's surname. Marriage gives you the right to do this, but you don't have to.

For a wedding, what do we sign and when?

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. 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 bride and groom, two adult witnesses and I sign the marriage register, official certificate of marriage and couple's marriage certificate.

We will all sign my fee agreement with the NOIM at our paperwork meeting.

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

What identity documents do we need to provide?

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

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.

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 officially used a name different to the one you are using now (eg previous married name or a name you have changed yourself), you will need to show some documentation of that.

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

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?

Unfortunately 'we didn't have time to get them before the wedding' is not a legally acceptable reason for not producing them. Legally the wedding absolutely can't take place without your celebrant sighting the originals. Please leave plenty of time to acquire 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), the statutory authority may grant you permission to marry sooner than the usual one-month waiting period. I do not have discretion to shorten the time myself. Ask me for more information about how to apply to the statutory authority.

We want to perform our wedding/commitment in Auslan.

I'm happy to work with an interpreter. If you use a sign language, such as Auslan, you may say your vows (and indeed the whole ceremony) using that language. You will need to provide an interpreter of Auslan to assist me in the ceremony, and earlier at the signing of the NOIM and other documents.

We use interpreters for all legal aspects to make sure that brides, grooms and official witnesses all understand the documents being signed and the nature of the ceremony.

I can solemnise a marriage at which the services of an interpreter are to be used if I have first received a statutory declaration by the interpreter stating that he or she understands, and is able to converse in, the language/s required.

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 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 the wedding/commitment in a language other than English.

I'm happy to work with an interpeter. You must engage an interpreter for the wedding if the bride, the groom, or either of your two witnesses do not understand English. You will also need to provide an interpreter for the signing of the NOIM and other documents at our earlier meeting.

We use interpreters for all legal aspects to make sure that brides, grooms and official witnesses all understand the documents being signed and the nature of the ceremony.

I can solemnise a marriage at which the services of an interpreter are to be used if I have first received a statutory declaration by the interpreter stating that he or she understands, and is able to converse in, the language/s required.

Immediately after the ceremony the interpreter must give me a 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 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?

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 prepared 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. I cannot 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 documents.

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

No. Anyone can marry in Australia as long as they meet the very few legal requirements.

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

It is a legal impediment for the parties to be of the same gender (I can't wait to remove that bit).

The marriage cannot take place if:

You are still married to someone else;

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

Bride and groom are too closely related, even by adoption.

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 the bride or the groom 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 it can be managed. However, it is infinitely preferable to sign it all together so we all know it is done and there is no confusion about who still needs to produce what ID etc.

If neither of you can meet me in person for some compelling reason, you can arrange to have the NOIM witnessed (activated) elsewhere 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
  • 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.

Where one signature on the NOIM is provided less than one month before the marriage, then subsection 42(3) of the Marriage Act requires an authorised celebrant to witness this signature.

You can arrange to sign the NOIM in front of an Australian consular official overseas (bride and groom must sign at the same time in this scenario), and show your ID and other relevant documents there first to get things rolling, but you will still need to bring all originals with you when we eventually meet. Once again: I need to see all the same original documents and original NOIM mentioned above myself, 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 request that you email me a scanned copy of the NOIM and of the ID and supporting documents that you used. You'll still need to bring the original NOIM and documents to show me when we meet, but this way if there are any problems with the documentation 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.

What are the mandatory legal components of a wedding?

Overwhelmingly, your wedding is yours to create as you will. Amidst the elements that make the day your own, there are just a few important things that must be included:

  • The celebrant must introduce herself, say that she is an authorised celebrant, and mention that this is the wedding of ___ and ___;
  • Before you say your vows the celebrant 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 a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”
  • The bride and groom's full legal names must be used at least once (this usually fits well in the vows);
  • The bride and groom must each say;
    I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, A.B. (or C.D.), take thee, C.D. (or A.B.), to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband)”;
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 lodge the NOIM and the Official Declaration with the state Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. You can apply for an official marriage certificate 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 can pay an extra fee to BDM to expedite things.

I don't like handing out my personal information.

I treat your wishes, dreams, anecdotes and personal information with strict confidentiality. I do not keep copies of the ID documents you show me. 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 have almost completed 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 - 2017. All rights reserved.