Australian law defines marriage as "the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life."  Sadly, same-sex marriages entered into in other countries are not recognised as legal marriages in Australia and we look forward to the day we can update this article to reflect a more inclusive marriage law in Australia.

So as it stands in 2016 the following is what a civil wedding ceremony looks like in Australia?

1. Your marriage may take place on any day, at any time and at any place in Australia, or within Australian territorial waters.

2. At least two people, over the age of 18 years must be present at the marriage ceremony and act as witnesses.

3. You, your partner and your celebrant must sign and lodge The Notice of Intended Marriage form, one calendar month before the wedding date.  This notice can be waived in special circumstances, including :

  • Employment-related, or other travel commitments.
  • Wedding or celebration arrangements, or religious considerations.
  • Medical reasons.
  • Legal proceedings.
  • Error in giving notice.

4. You will need proof of birth and photographic ID, such as a passport Your celebrant may also ask you to complete a statutory declaration to support your evidence.

5. If you or your partner has been married before you will need evidence that that marriage has ended.  Your celebrant may also ask you to complete a statutory declaration to support your evidence.

6. You and your partner must be given a form called 14a that explains that pre Marriage education is available to you.

7. The ceremony must take place in the presence of an authorised civil celebrant. This means that the celebrant is registered with the federal Attorney General's office.During the ceremony the authorised celebrant must say to the parties, in the presence of the witnesses, the words...

"I am duly authorised by law to solemnise this, your marriage, according to the law in Australia. Before you (bride-to-be) and (groom-to-be) are joined together in marriage in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses, I am bound to remind you publicly of the solemn, and binding nature of the relationship in to which you are about to enter. According to Australian law, marriage is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life."...or words to that affect.

8. Both parties, the two witnesses and the celebrant must all sign each of the three marriage certificates.

  • Form 14: Each party to an intended marriage must make a declaration before the authorised celebrant as to their conjugal status and belief that there is no legal impediment to the marriage.
  • Form 15: Certificate of marriage given to the bride and groom.
  • Form 16: Marriage certificate for the Births, Deaths and Marriages registry.

9. During the ceremony each party must say, " I call upon the persons here present to witness that I (bride-to-be/groom-to-be) take thee (bride-to-be/groom-to-be) to be my lawful wedded husband/wife" .... or words to that effect.

10. After your wedding and within 14 days, your marriage celebrant will register the marriage with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the State or Territory where your marriage took place. 

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