There are a million things to organise between saying “Yes” and saying “I do.”
The celebrant has two main areas of responsibility: the first is to make sure that you end up legally married, the second is to create a ceremony which reflects you as a couple and the vision you have within the fairly broad legal boundaries. In this section I want to lead you through the first part – the legal requirements.
At its most basic to get married in Australia you have to be over 18 years of age, not married to any other person, not related directly to the person you hope to marry and you must be entering the marriage freely. There are always some minor variations to laws: for example, there are exceptions to the age limit but they are pretty strict and have to be approved by a court.
Once you have found the right person you must give, in most circumstances, one full month’s notice that you are going to be married. This is done through your celebrant. It is officially done on a form called the NOIM (Notice of Intented Marriage). In Victoria, this is now an on-line form completed by the celebrant through the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. On that form the celebrant needs to provide details of the wedding, both people getting married, any name changes or previous marriages those people might have had and evidence of date of birth and identity. The easiest way to get this form filled in is to collect details from your birth certificate and some form of official photo ID (usually a passport or license.)
I usually provide a couple with a form to fill in with a lot of those details so they can be entered on-line before we meet to sign the NOIM. That gives you time to get your documents together and make sure you have some basic details collected. Once the NOIM is signed in the presence of your celebrant (or another authorised person and then submitted to the celebrant) your month of waiting commences. There are times when not every document is available straight away and that’s OK as long as the NOIM is complete before the wedding. It’s the signing of your intent which has the one month limit.
On some occasions, a couple may need to get married more quickly (due to impending separation due to travel or work, or due to illness.) If that is the case the couple must apply to have their waiting time shortened.
WAIT! There’s more forms!
Not many, but still, just to be sure. The government requires every couple to declare that there is no legal reason why they cannot be married. So, in preparation for the wedding, a couple must sign a declaration of no legal impediment. It’s your oath that you know of no legal reason for you not being permitted to marry. This document is part of the legal bond of marriage.
Finally, the big day arrives and, at some stage, both people being married, two witnesses over the age of 18 and the celebrant have to sign three documents to make the whole wedding a legal marriage. Two of those documents are identical: one gets sent to Births, Deaths and Marriages and one is kept by the celebrant. The other document is a ceremonial certificate which is given to the couple on the day of the wedding.
During the ceremony there are a few parts of the ceremony which must occur from a legal point of view: the celebrant must identify themselves as a legal celebrant, the legal definition of marriage according to law in Australia must be recited and there is a line in the vows which is seen to be the legally binding vow between each person.
The final part of the legal process is the submission of documents. That is done on-line in Victoria. Births, Deaths and Marriages tend to take about a month to process the documents (NOIM, No Legal Impediment and Wedding Certificate) and register the marriage.
Most couples like to have a copy of their legal marriage certificate. That can be ordered by the celebrant at the time the original documents are submitted or can be ordered by the couple on-line once the marriage is registered. There is an additional charge by Births, Deaths and Marriages for this certificate. It is required for legal proof of marriage.
Once you are married, the way you are treated by the law changes. This can impact on taxation, immigration, inheritance, ownership of property and many other areas of life. It is not the celebrant’s role or expertise to advise you on these impacts but it is worth considering as you prepare to become a married couple.
The most simple of wedding processes would require for the NOIM to be completed, the No Legal Impediment document signed, the legal basics of the ceremony are fulfilled and the certificates are signed, submitted and registered. That can be very low key and very quick. Most couples, however, tend to want to add more to their ceremony and it’s that aspect which will be the focus of a lot of this blog. But this page, it’s just the legal basics.