These are some answers to questions I am often asked, especially in relation to weddings. I hope you find my answers helpful. I have included links to other sources of information where it seems appropriate.
From early December 2017, marriage equality became part of Australian law, which means that the right to marry will no longer be determined by sex or gender. I have updated this FAQ section to reflect the changes to the marriage ceremony and the forms that are required.
Q: We are a same sex couple who dearly want to get married. Can you be our wedding celebrant?
As of now, I am delighted to answer “Yes, I can!”
Marriage is now redefined to be: “the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.
This means that all eligible marrying couples can use the same marriage forms and celebrant must use the updated forms. In summary, a person getting married can choose to be described as “groom”, “bride” or “partner”. You must also indicate whether you identify as “Male”, “Female” or “X” (for a person who is intersex, indeterminate or unspecified).
Q: We are a same sex couple who were married overseas. Will our marriage now be recognised in Australia?
As of now, the answer to this question is also “Yes!”
Q: We have been to weddings which have included some lovely symbolic rituals, such as hand fasting, ring warming, pouring coloured sands and lighting a marriage candle, just to name a few. We would love to have a ritual in our wedding. Could you explain the meaning behind them and how you include them in the ceremony?
A: A ritual can add another level of meaning to your ceremony, especially if its symbolism and history is explained to the guests so they understand why you have included it. I would love to help you develop a ritual that suits you and enhances the mood and meaning you want in your ceremony. I have actually written an article about various wedding rituals here.
I’m not a fan of filling out a ceremony with rituals that actually detract from the moment. Rituals can go wrong – for example, the release of butterflies to symbolise new life and new beginnings when the weather is so cold that the butterflies don’t emerge; or a symbolic lighting of a marriage candle which splutters and dies out because of the wind. I will always suggest rituals that are simple to perform, that are filled with significance, that add colour and interest to the ceremony and most importantly, that are suited to your personalities.
Q: We really want to write our own Wedding Vows, but were swamped with too many ideas after we googled this topic. Can you help us?
A: Yes, I can, but the key thing is – remember that they are your vows! No one else knows what is in your hearts as well as you do. No one else knows what is unique and fundamental in your relationship. So I always say – start with you, and start with one or two words. Imagine I said to you: what do you value most in your partnership? Is it trust; honesty; unconditional support; space to grow; family loyalty; listening to each other; respect; good humour; predictability; shared values; friendship? Once you have chosen the key words, use each other’s names, then say “this is what I promise …” Of course, I have some samples if you are stuck, but first trust yourself to speak from the heart. Your vows can also include something lighthearted and they don’t have to be the same. You don’t have to learn them by heart. I offer two ways of saying them – either repeating them after me or reading from a card that I will have ready to hand to you when the moment comes. Some couples like to keep their vows secret from each other until the wedding ceremony. This can easily be done and it’s beautiful to see the emotion it releases.
I must also remind you that there is a mandatory legal sentence which must be at the start of the vows, and after that, it’s what you want to add
Q: Do you have your own sound system and can we use it for our music?
A: Yes, I do and I’m very happy to use it for your music and also for any Readings and for your Wedding Vows, if you want. I use a hands-free headset myself. When there are lots of guests and the ceremony is held outdoors, it’s important to be heard clearly. I can provide a hand held microphone with both a long and a shorter lead if there are any Readings and I can also hand this microphone to you, so your wedding vows can be heard. At the rehearsal we work out where the PA will be situated and it is often easy to give one of the groomsmen or bridesmaids the job of handing out the microphone.
As for your music, I ask you to prepare three tracks – one for the Entry; one for the Signing; and one for the Exit. I am happy to help you with the choices of music, but I find most couples already have their favourites! At the rehearsal we also time the entry with the music so you can feel confident on the day. My wireless portable PA system has an input for a standard headphone jack (3.5mm) and many couples use their i-Pods/players/phones this way on the day.
Before the ceremony; I do a quick check and run through with the person who you have asked to play your music. I regard being at the venue early is essential for checking out everything to do with the sound system.
Q: I’m terrified of speaking in public. Do I have to say anything in the wedding ceremony?
A: I’m afraid that there are a few things that you must, by law, say aloud in your wedding ceremony. But don’t worry, I’m there to help you and I will also make sure you have a chance to practise at the rehearsal. One thing you must say is “I do” (but you can both say it together). That’s after I ask you: “Do you declare before me, and before your witnesses, that you come here voluntarily, and without reservation, and that you are free by law to be married to each other today?” The next thing you must say is one compulsory sentence for your wedding vows, which you can repeat after me, if that’s easier: “I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, your name take you, partner’s name, to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband or spouse)” I can go slowly and divide the words up into small parcels so that you feel confident. Anyway, even if you do break down, so do lots of other couples who get carried away with all the emotion of this moment. You can feel sure that all of your guests are there to support you.
Q: I get asked this question a lot. It usually starts with “We only want a short wedding, with no frills and very few guests. Can you just “do the legals” and how long will it take?” (The other part of this enquiry is often “and how much do you charge?”)
A: I suppose I don’t like the bluntness of the question, so I start by trying to find out if there is a reason behind it. However, the short answer is that there are some legally mandated steps and words in a wedding ceremony as laid out in the Marriage Act 1961 and Marriage Regulations 1963. If that is all that is done and said, the ceremony itself would be about 10 minutes long.
[Note that there are legally required steps to be taken before the wedding which I am just summarizing here. A minimum of a month before the wedding ceremony the Notice of Intended Marriage has to be correctly filled in and witnessed and supporting original documents have to be shown to your celebrant. Also prior to the wedding, a Statutory Declaration of No Legal Impediment has to be completed with your celebrant. You also have to provide 2 adult witnesses for the wedding. Another legal requirement is that a Certificate of Marriage is prepared and signed in accordance with the Act.
“The legals” in the ceremony itself include:
The authorised celebrant must say to the parties, in the presence of the witnesses, the words:
“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.”
Each of the couple must say to the other, in the presence of the authorised celebrant and the witnesses, the words of the vows:
“I call upon the persons here present to witness that I name take you name to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband) (or spouse)”
Q: I am getting married overseas. I just want a celebrant to register my marriage in Australia before I go.
A: Many couples plan to have a big wedding celebration in another country. This is fine, but you can only be legally married once. If you need to be married in Australia before you go so that you can get an Australian Certificate of Marriage, you need to be clear about the certificate you require. The ceremonial Certificate of Marriage issued by the Commonwealth of Australia will be presented to you by me at the conclusion of your wedding ceremony. However, you may need a Certificate of Marriage issued by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the state you were married in, eg Victoria. In this case you have to apply for it after you are married and after the marriage has been registered. Currently, there is a waiting period of about 40 days. I will explain the application process to you or you can download the form at: http://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/home/marriages/apply+for+a+marriage+certificate
You also need to lodge your Notice of Intended Marriage with me one month before the wedding, so it’s important to work out your timeline beforehand.
Q: I have already been legally married overseas. I would now like to get married here in Australia so I can have a wedding ceremony with my family and friends.
A: This is a commonly asked question, but the answer is always the same: you can only be legally married once. This now applies to same-sex marriages. If your overseas marriage is recognized in Australia, you cannot be married again. You can certainly have a ceremony to recommit or renew your wedding vows before your family and friends in Australia, but you have to make the nature of this celebration clear to everyone and they must know that you have already been married. I have performed this kind of celebration of a marriage many times and they have been very joyful and sincere ceremonies.
Q: I am hoping to bring my future partner to Australia so we can get married. We are working through the process of getting a Prospective Marriage Visa and have been told we need to get a letter from a marriage celebrant and complete a Notice of Intended Marriage. Is this correct and where do we start?
A: Yes, this is correct. I have provided many couples with these 2 documents and have had the joy of celebrating their weddings some time later when their visa has been granted. Celebrants are not immigration agents and must not provide immigration advice. The Department of Immigration link is: http://www.immi.gov.au/visas. The Prospective Marriage Visa is for people who want to come to Australia to marry their prospective spouse. It is a temporary visa for nine months. The person who is lodging the application must be outside Australia when lodging the application and when the visa is granted.
Q: We need to complete a Notice of Intended Marriage in time for our wedding, but my partner’s divorce hasn’t been finalised yet – even though it has been applied for. Can we proceed?
A: Yes, as long as court evidence of your partner’s divorce is provided before the wedding takes place and as long as you are able to provide the necessary documents for the Notice of Intended Marriage, namely: evidence of your date and place of birth, your identity and the end of any previous marriages.
Q: I have been talking to a celebrant who is insisting that we produce our birth certificates in order to complete a Notice of Intended Marriage. I have never had one and my partner can’t find his. We both have current passports. Aren’t they enough?
A: Yes, since 1 July 2014, an amendment to the Marriage Act has made Australian passports acceptable documents for determining date and place of birth. The birth certificate is the more useful document in that it provides information about the names and places of birth of the couples’ parents.
Q: We want our marriage venue to be in a park, but there is no shelter available. Is this a good idea?
A: Most of the weddings I do over the summer months are outdoors and there are many really beautiful parks, gardens and beach settings in and around Melbourne. You may need to book a space or pay to use an outdoor venue – so check with the local council first. The one factor that cannot be controlled or accurately predicted is the weather! It is therefore essential to have a Plan B. This can be as easy as supplying umbrellas or setting up a marquee or organizing a fallback setting in the reception venue. Sometimes however, Plan B gets more complex – especially if you are planning your wedding in a forest in the bush fire season. You cannot put people’s lives at risk and you must consider the timing and details of changing your venue or evacuating from it, if necessary.
Q: We don’t want a big wedding – just ourselves and our two witnesses. What suggestions do you have for a venue?
I am happy to offer my home as a venue for a small wedding at no extras cost. I have conducted many lovely wedding ceremonies with just the witnesses or a few close family members present.
Q: We’re expecting a baby any time in the next two weeks. We are hoping to get married before the baby arrives, but it seems we have to give one month’s notice of our intention to marry. Is this correct? Is there anything we can do to shorten the time period?
A: It’s true that you do have to give one month’s Notice of Intended Marriage. Here’s where you can get further information and the application form: http://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/home/marriages/notice+of+intended+marriage+form
However, the only way the statutory notice period can be shortened is if you apply for, and are granted a shortening of time. To do this, you have to go through the BDM (Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages) or through the Registrars at major regional Victorian courts. There are only a few exceptional circumstances that will be accepted as reasons for the shortening.
These are the steps you have to go through: You have to complete your NOIM and lodge it with your celebrant; you have to provide your original signed and completed NOIM and all the supporting documents you showed to your celebrant; you have to meet one of the exceptional circumstances; you have to complete a notice period shortening application form which includes a statutory declarations explaining your reasons; you have to provide supporting evidence for your application; you have to provide a signed letter from the celebrant agreeing to perform your marriage on the chosen date, if the application is granted; you also have to pay an application fee.
NOTE: This is an active page and I will update it with further questions in the future. Please contact me here with any queries.