FAQ/Details Galore:

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

Of course you can! That's why I offer two models of ceremony (and therefore two different prices for my services): there's The Whole Shebang version, with all the brainstorming and personal script-writing and built-in You that you would expect of a wedding (see my 'Weddings' page for more about that) but I also do an Elopement version, for folks who don't want a big production, or who are going to make a big event of it, but just need me to nip in for the Legal Bits.

In the Elopement version, I still take care of all the legal paperwork before, during and after the ceremony, and we still have to have your paperwork done at least a month before your wedding day (there is no 'running off to Las Vegas' in Australia), but on The Day, all you need is you two, me, two more adults as witnesses, a few minutes for our legal utterances and to sign the documents at the end, and a smile. You don't even need rings. Or shoes. I can meet you in your garden, at the park, at an AirBnB in the hills...

I don't put a limit on guests in the Elopement model - you can have 10 or 300. The 'limit' in this version, if you see what I mean, is in my creative input. I will still do the paperwork with you and for you; I will appear when you want me to appear; we'll carve out a few minutes of calm; I'll cheerfully deliver the words that must be said by an authorised celebrant and prompt you for your legal vows, and then we'll sign my after-wedding papers and I'll shimmer off and leave you to whatever festivities you are going on with. And I'll have your marriage registered, of course!

I'd be happy to email you a run-down of exactly what I include in this Cameo Appearance model. Also, see below in the FAQs for 'What Do You Charge?'


Do we have to use an authorised 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 / signalling the dove wranglers to release the birds) 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. That would be priced as one of my Elopement/Cameo Appearance ceremonies at the lower (ahem) price for my services.

Also - your authorised celebrant is responsible for generating and guiding you through your marriage documents, and having your marriage registered at the end. Once you have me on board, you have a guide for the whole business, and you'll never be left wondering what you are supposed to do next.

How long is a wedding ceremony?
I am not going to say 'How long is a piece of string?' except that I just did.

You might have detected that I have two types of ceremony: the $600 version where the couple just want The Legals done - or maybe they want to take creative control of the whole event for themselves, and it's My Bit that is short but I am still there to supervise. My input in that style of ceremony is shorter than the Bespoke version where I create a whole new personal script for you, from scratch. Most weddings are that longer type - the $1200 version.

My record for Shortest Wedding is 2 minutes: I kid you not: two minutes and they were outta there with a cheerful slam of the car doors and a cloud of dust. My Very Longest Weddings have been around an hour, with a full Welcome to Country by an Elder and some really involved creative aspects.

Look, as a rough guide: by the time you come in, and I deliver the words that are important to you. and maybe someone else says some significant things if you want them to, and perhaps we have something for the guests to do with us, and you have some nice things to say yourselves - that's around 20 minutes. And then we sign some paperwork which takes just a few minutes, and then I give you back to your guests.

Does that help? Unless you're deliberately going for the Short Version, you're looking at 15-20 minutes as a rough estimate, and believe me - that time flies. You won't have time to feel nervous about being the centre of attention.

What do you charge?

Good question. My fee for the Bespoke wedding ceremony that you're probably thinking of, which has all the legals, brainstorming, personalised scriptwriting, consultation and magic that it takes for you to have exactly what you want, with all the fun, heart, and warmth you could desire, is $1200. That fee is broken up into three stages: first stage payment of $350.00 is due when you engage my services and we complete your Notice of Intended Marriage; second stage of $400.00 is due when I deliver the first roughed-out suggested draft of your ceremony script; final stage of $450.00 is due the week before the wedding.

You can move the date of your wedding as many times as you like, and there is no extra charge for that. I will stick with you until you're hitched. If it should turn out that you need to move it to a date on which I am not available, I will direct you to a trusted colleague to deliver our script, but I will move heaven and earth to be there myself before we get to that.

I only take one wedding on any given day, so that I can stick with you come hell or high water (that latter being a reference to the time I packed a suitcase and provisions in case I was marooned at an evacuation centre after the ceremony).

I would be happy to email you a copy of my Bespoke service agreement so you can see the specifics. Yes, I am afraid I did just say 'Bespoke' again.

My fee for the No-poetry-but-all-smiles Express wedding, or Cameo-appearance-at-the-party-for-the-legal-wedding-bits, is $600.00.

I would be happy to email you my two service agreements so you can see the specifics.

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

If at first you go for the Quick/Elopement/Cameo Appearance option, and then decide you want the Deluxe service after all, if there is still time for script-writing we can change the service terms and I can swing into creative action.

Where the ceremony site is further than an 40km one-way from my home, I add a little extra for travel at the ATO-approved rate.

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


Do you use AI for your scripts?
Good heavens no! Your wedding is about connection: between you two, and between you two and the people you have gathered together. AI content generators don't care what they are saying, and indeed don't even understand what they are saying. I care. There will be no generic anonymous fluff in your wedding script, and none in my emails to you either. Machine intelligence is for medical screening and weather forecasting. Let's do the personal, creative stuff with our own human brains, eh?!
Do I have to change my name when I get married?

Getting married gives you the right to change your surname to your partner's - or your partner to change their surname to yours. However, it's not an obligation. You can leave your names just as they are if you like. Getting married does not authomatically change your name and does not automatically invalidate your passport etc. Nothing changes in your personal documentation unless you want it to. You might decide to hyphenate your names, but whether that will be 'accepted' by banks, solicitors etc, is up to each organisation you deal with.


For a wedding, what do we sign and when?

The legal requirements for marriage are the same whether you have a 2 minute ceremony with two guests or a 45 minute ceremony with 10 flowerchildren 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 - service agreement please). We can do all that by email and I will send you both into a police station at your leisure to have the final bit witnessed.

Closer to the wedding date - or indeed immediately before we commence the wedding! - you will also sign the Official Declaration that there is no legal impediment to your marriage. That has to be done with me, and only me, in person, which is why we kick off the wedding ceremony with that if you have not trekked up to Castlemaine to meet me before we all rock up to the 'altar'.

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 legal forms to get ready for the wedding, and three on the day at the end of the ceremony before I give you back to your guests.

What documents do we need to provide?

In order to get married in Australia you need to show documentation of the date and place of your birth, and you need to show photo ID. You can email me images - we don't have to meet in person if it's not convenient for you.

A passport is ideal, and satisfies all the requirements at once. (An expired passport is fine, but not a cancelled one.) You can use an Australian passport or an overseas passport.

Alternatively, you can show an original or certified copy of your birth certificate or birth extract. If it is not in English you will need to produce a translation of the document from a certiifed translation service. See https://www.naati.com.au/ for more on that. A drivers licence will satisfy the photo ID requirement, or there are some other ways.

If you have been married before, you need to show your celebrant proof of the end of your previous marriage (but not all your marriages - just the most recent one). That means I need to see documentation (paper or electronic) of divorce, or the death certificate (paper or electronic) of a previous spouse.

If you have officially used a legal name different to the one you are using now, I need to see the paper trail through those changes. Showing the evidence of a previous marriage is usually all that is needed to show how you come to be using a certain surname.

Please leave plenty of time to acquire birth, divorce or death certificates, especially if something has to come from an overseas government office. Also, everything in government offices is slower these days due to covid. You can show them to me in person, or scan them to me, when we are completing your NOIM or later, but one way or the other they need to be produced.

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 (in person or by email) 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 change that requirement, 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 and I will be ready to marry you when you've been rubber-stamped by that official.

We want to perform our ceremony in Auslan.

Sure! when it comes to the legal parts of the ceremony it is the same with Auslan as for any spoken language: If it 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. The interpreter must make a statutary declaration of their ability to perform this function and I can supply the legal form for them to sign. 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 make that legal declaration to me.

Where necessary, we use an interpreter for all the legal aspects to make sure that both people getting married, and the two official witnesses, all understand the documents being signed and the nature of the ceremony.

I forward the Certificate of Faithful Performance by the Interpreter to the BDM registry with your NOIM and official certificate of marriage.

We don't necessarily present the way a lot of other people do....
No worries. For one thing, I am very neurodiverse-friendly, so if that is you, when we are chatting, do be true to yourself in the way you use your gaze and your smile, and how you construct your conversation. You don't have to meet my eye.

I am here to guide you to your wedding day, and conduct the ceremony for you, in a way that suits you. If you have mobility issues or illness; are neurodiverse; if you bring a support friend; are deaf, Deaf or hard of hearing, I work for you - and your wish, your preference, and your way is my command.
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 more Hoshi Sato than Worf) or in any other off-world or Middle Earth dialect. I have been praised for my Quenya accent.

My betrothed 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, that we have signed the Notice of Intended Marriage, and that you have made a first stage payment for 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 its own 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 circumstances under which you may make a statutory declaration instead of providing original documents.

I'm not an Australian citizen - can I still get married in Australia?

Certainly! You don't have to be a citizen. Come on in! Anyone can marry in Australia as long as they meet the very few legal requirements (see next FAQ). below.

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

You can get married in Australia unless you are

* still married to someone else;
* both under 18;
* too closely related, even if only by adoption or step-relationship.

You can sign your Notice of Intended Marriage and we can plan your ceremony while you are waiting on your divorce, though. We just have to have that divorce documentation all sewn up before your wedding takes place.
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?

When you engage my services, I send you a link to my database to put in your details so I can generate your marriage documents. Then we will discuss how we will complete the first document, the Notice of Intended Marriage. We can do that in person in Castlemaine or I can send you to a police station where you live to have it witnessed (I give you simple, full instructions); or if you're overseas I send you to your nearest Australian consulate or to a local Notary Public or similar.

Wherever you are, that's where you can have your NOIM witnessed - whether in Sydney, Sebastopol or Sweden. I will ask you to email me an electronic or scanned copy of the witnessed NOIM and images 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.

If one of you is in Australia, I'll 'activate' the NOIM with that person, and the other can sign their parts of the NOIM on the wedding day.

Note: you don't need to remember all this - I will lead you by the hand through it all!
Can we show you our ID documents on Zoom or Skype or such?

If you live near Castlemaine we can get together at a park bench and complete the Notice of Intended Marriage in person. If you're out of reach before the wedding, I guide you through the documents by email. If that is the case then, legally, I need to see your ID documents in email form (photos or scans) instead of you holding them up to the camera on Zoom.


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 sense of occasion 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. A few superficial changes to the first two sentences are 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/partner in marriage”; or the slightly-less-formal 'I call upon everyone here to witness that I, Hepsibah, take you, Claudia, to be my wedded wife/husband/partner in marriage/spouse.' This is the point at which you marry yourselves. I am not bestowing your marriage upon you - you take that power for yourselves with those words.
  • At the conclusion of the ceremony you must both sign with me and 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 delete my copies of them when your marriage has been registered.

I don't keep copies of any ID documents that you have scanned to me to establish your identity and date and place of birth - I delete email images of them as soon as I have sighted them. Your privacy is important!

I don't like handing out my personal information.

Fair enough too. I treat your wishes, dreams, anecdotes and personal information with strict confidentiality. I don't gossip about my couples and I don't keep copies of your personal ID documents. Some of your details will remain on paper in the marriage register (my Big Red Book) which I keep on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia, and this is secured in my office.


What are your qualifications?

I am professionally trained, complete annual professional development, and am a member of Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants. I have professional indemnity and personal liability insurance, a Working With Children check and a current CPR certificate. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Australian Studies and a Certificate IV in Professional Writing & 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 - 2024. All rights reserved.