Legal Bits to Getting Married for Bride’s & Grooms

So, you have finally decided to set a date for your “big day”, ……………that is,  your wedding day.  Where to from here!

If you are not getting married in a church then you will realise that you will need to find an Authorised Civil Marriage Celebrant, to marry you.   You will probably have been surfing the net for possible options in any case, but if you haven’t, that probably should be the first thing to do.  That aside, the legal requirements that you will need to be covered by a Civil Celebrant are basically the same, maybe slightly different in a church. 

Perhaps at this point, it is advisable to start looking for your original or extract birth certificates, too, if you were born here in Australia, which is the minimum requirement. Particularly and importantly, if you were born in other states of Australia, because these can take time to receive. If you were born overseas, then the minimum requirement is an overseas passport, even if it is expired, as long as it has not been cancelled by the originating country. By original we mean, your original document, ………………….certified copies are not accepted. The Attorney General’s Office, who administer the Marriage Celebrant Program, are looking at allowing the use of an Australian passport to establish marrying couples’,……… and place of birth, but the changes have yet to make its way through legislation.  So, watch this space!

And thereafter, you are required to complete, the Notice of Intended Marriage, (which we affectionately call the NOIM or NIM) and have witnessed with a signature by the relevant people authorised to witness your signature, and put in the hot little hands of your Celebrant, at the very latest,  “one month (1) before your marriage”.  If you are sitting with your Celebrant and have made your choice, then he/she can witness your signature.  That is the easy bit.  But if you decide, as some do, that you are meeting a couple of Celebrants  and just want to discuss later on at home,  before putting pen to paper, then you will have to then complete the NOIM, which also requires a relevant person to witness your signatures.  See who, by checking out page 4 which states:

  • If a party signs the NOIM in Australia – an authorized Celebrant,  a JP, 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 and anyone who is a Commissioner for Declarations under the Statutory Declarations Act, 1959…………I usually refer you to  a pharmacist because they are easy to access……….but you could also “google”,  Statutory Declarations Act, 1959, and that will give you a list of people who can witness your signatures.


  • If a party signs the notice outside of Australia – it must be witnessed and signed by an Australian Diplomatic Officer, or an Australian Consulate Officer, an employee of the Commonwealth, authorised under paragraph 3© of the Consular Fees Act 1955, an employee of the Australian Trade commission also authorized under paragraph 3 (d) of the Consular Fees Act 1955, or a notary public.

It is important to remember also is that all of the documents that your sign for your marriage are legal documents. Large fines will be incurred by anyone who is convicted of knowingly completing marriage documents illegally.

I suggest to couples’ to visit a Pharmacist, as they are the easiest people to find, generally speaking.  Trying to find a J.P., sometimes is difficult, because they may work and cannot meet you until after hours, which may not suit you.  Remember, that whoever witnesses for you, they are only witnessing your signature. They are not witnessing that your bona fides are in order, (that is up to the Celebrant) strictly speaking………..all they are doing is witnessing your signature. Sometimes, if one of your couple, cannot sign, (perhaps they cannot get away from work or doing FIFO, are sick in hospital, or are overseas), then it is sufficient for a Celebrant to accept only one signature at that point.  The other signature is required on the NOIM before a couple can marry. 

That activates the commencement of your journey through to your wedding day. If you can provide the Celebrant with firstly,  some ID, and then your birth certificates or passports, any Changes of Name, be they for your Bride or Groom or even their parents,  and any relevant original Divorce and/or Death Certificates, that is all the better.  One less thing to worry about, later on! But they must absolutely be viewed or sighted by the officiating Celebrant before the couple are married. If,  at the time of your meeting with a Celebrant, you cannot find them, then now is a very good time to follow up and if you cannot find your Birth Certificate for whatever reason, then you should apply for  a new one.  Do not leave it, because if you cannot provide it to your Celebrant before the wedding, then the Celebrant cannot marry you.

At rehearsal, although it could be done earlier in any case, I usually ask for another signature from the B & G. This is on a Statutory Declaration, which sits on the back of the document a couple sign on their wedding day, (which the Celebrant sends to the Department of Births Deaths & Marriages, along with the NOIM, within 14 days to register your marriage) and which in essence states, that,  you are who you say you are, and that there is no legal encumbent reason,  why you cannot marry each other and that you are both over 18 years of age. Again, a legal document.

Up to and including the wedding day, a woman signs everything in her maiden name, or the name that she is currently using.  Once married, she just assumes her married name if that be the case.

On the day of the wedding, in terms of the legal bits to that, a Celebrant must identify the Bride and Groom, either part by part or fully identify the couple getting married.   They must say the words to the Celebrant Authority out loud for all to hear, and the B & G are required to say their legal vow out loud, as well, which is derived from the Marriage Act 1961:

 “I call upon the persons,  here present to witness, that I,  ABC take you, EFG to be my lawful wedded wife/husband”………….. or words to that effect.

 “Words to that effect”, means that a Celebrant can change the wording as long as the context and meaning is not changed.

 For example, I mostly say:

 I call upon the people, here present to witness, that I, ABC, take you EFG, to be my lawful wife/husband in marriage”.

As you can see, I have not changed the meaning of the sentence, as a Bride & Groom, you still say lawful, and wedded as meaning marriage and you say wife or husband.

It is not allowable to say Partner.

It is very advisable not to meddle with the legal words because you do not want your marriage to ever, “be taken into question”.  It is not worth the angst over the words,  to be very honest.

Basically you are married as soon as you say your legal vow but of course there is a written requirement that must be completed too.  A signature on the Celebrant’s Marriage Register, your Decorative Marriage Certificate and the Certificate of Marriage that is sent to the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages, are required.

Thereafter, all things withstanding, you are married, in every sense of the word. And you can then get on with your reception.

Caversham House  - Connor & Brendo.1 -18122011

Perth Wedding Celebrant – Victoria Wheeler

Copyright Victoria A. Wheeler 2013

For a wedding Celebrant in Perth please contact Victoria Wheeler