I have provided the most common enquiries I receive from couples, along with answers based on requirements of the Marriage Act 1961 and advice from the Attorney General’s Office and Marriage Celebrant professional associations, along with my experience. Note: These answers are given as a guide only and are minimal, for the sake of brevity. More information is available on request.
What legal timelines are required?
In Australia, weddings require at least one full month’s notice i.e. you cannot decide on a whim to get married next week! You must complete and lodge a Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) with your Celebrant at least one calendar month prior to the wedding date. However, do not put this off; it’s far better to do it early and get it out of the way. If you are late, the wedding cannot go ahead on the planned date.
What are some priorities in planning for our wedding?
You will need to set the time/date of wedding, and venue, which you would book.
You should develop a budget and lists of everything you’ll need to book/order/buy.
You should most certainly contact a Celebrant to get a firm booking as far ahead as possible, especially during the warmer wedding months. I usually have bookings up to two years ahead.
If we are having our ceremony outdoors, what do we do if the weather in unsuitable?
Always make sure that you have contingency plans in place e.g. umbrellas, marquee, indoors options, etc. Such options may be arranged at the last minute, but may incur additional costs. Note that if you are using a public space, such as a park or reserve, sometimes it is necessary to seek a permit from the local Council, for example.
Where and when can we meet with the Celebrant?
I am always happy to meet with couples at their home, my own office, or at a mid-way place in the event of longer distances. I can usually arrange to see couples any day or any time of day, by appointment, when it best suits couples.
What legal documentation is required before we can be married?
If born in Australia, you must provide either a birth certificate or valid passport. (Both are best.) If you were born overseas, same applies, but they must be in English. In the rare case of neither being available, a Commonwealth Statutory Declaration can be prepared. If you have been divorced, proof of that is required. Note: Celebrant must view originals or certified copies of documents. A driver’s licence or identity card may also be required.
What’s involved in completing a NOIM?
You will fill in the details and when everything is correct, you sign it with the Celebrant usually witnessing that. The Celebrant will then prepare an official NOIM using programs specifically designed for this e.g. from Births, Deaths and Marriages. I will guide you through all the stages at the time.
How are the various forms and paperwork prepared?
I prepare all the forms, based on information you have provided, on computer using the official online facilities of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Once signed, they are posted to BDM the day after the wedding, and also submitted electronically.
How is a Marriage Ceremony planned and prepared?
I provide you with guiding information, samples, and templates, along with a large range of alternatives to include according to your choices. Small sections of the ceremony are obligatory as specified by law, but the majority of the ceremony will be tailored to meet your preferences, largely chosen from the many resources that I provide.
Will we need a public address system?
We are required to make sure that the ceremony is audible to all present, so the use of my professional quality PA system and wireless microphones ensures that all can hear. It is also used to play music.
Should we have music at our wedding?
Virtually everyone has music in one form or another. It might be selected songs from recordings, or live music (e.g. guitarist, vocalist, string trio, etc.) Most commonly people choose music for the bridesmaids and bride to enter, when the registry is being signed, and as the newly married couple leave the ceremony to greet their guests. Sometimes I have quiet classical or suitable background music running through the whole ceremony, and the volume is raised at appropriate times.
What if my prospective spouse is overseas, and needs a visa?
That can be supported, as once the NOIM has been completed, I write a letter of support outlining details and arrangements to the relevant Department of Immigration, so support Visa applications. It is recommended that coupled engage a migrant agent to assist them.
Must we have wedding rings?
While most couples give each other wedding rings, it is not compulsory, and is your choice.
What’s involved in preparing vows?
When couples make their vows to each other, it is a very special moment in each ceremony. These are written ahead, and I can assist you with creating wording that suits you both. They need to show depth of commitment to each other, and dignity, but they can also include some gentle humour if you wish. I have dozens of examples to help you along the way.
Should I repeat vows, read them or memorise them?
Some people like to repeat their vows after the Celebrant; others prefer to read them to each other. I wouldn’t recommend trying to do them from memory. You will have a microphone so that everyone can hear your vows.
Given that parents these days are not as involved in weddings as in previous generations, how can we acknowledge them so that they feel included in our day?
It’s entirely up the couple. Many options exist: Father or both parents could escort the bride in; one of them can do a reading or be a witness; and I often write a small section of the ceremony where the couple acknowledge their parents and how they have loved and supported them over the years.
Who else can we involve in for the ceremony, other than the celebrant?
Couples often choose to include family or friends as witnesses, to do readings, etc.
What do we have to sign during the ceremony?
Four documents are formally signed relating to the wedding. First, a Declaration of no Impediments to Marriage is signed prior to the wedding, and during the ceremony we sign the Marriage Register, Official Certificate of Marriage, and the actual Marriage Certificate that you keep. The bride and groom are usually at a table for the signing, which is a focus for the photographer, and all signatures are witnessed by two selected witnesses and the Celebrant. The bride signs her name the same as she recorded as per the NOIM i.e. even though she may be taking her husband’s name, she does not sign using her new married name.
Who can sign as witnesses our wedding?
You need to have two witnesses, who must be at least 18 years old. They may be relatives or friends, male or female. Obviously they must understand English.
How do we know where to stand and how the bridesmaids and bride enter the ceremony?
I encourage all couples to have a rehearsal for the ceremony a few days prior to the wedding, where we go through all procedures and such matters. The rehearsal is best if all members of the Bridal Party can be there, along with others taking part e.g. someone doing a reading. Parents are also always welcome. I also can provide diagrams to show where people stand and walk. I do not charge for a rehearsal.
What does “give away the bride” mean these days?
This relates to an old tradition where the father of the bride (who had always taken responsibility for her care) hands that responsibility over to the bride’s new husband. However, in today’s world, it is not common for this to occur formally. It does provide an opportunity to acknowledge the parents’ ongoing love and care of both the bride and groom in their time of growing up.
Who can walk the bride into the ceremony?
Whoever the bride wants! It’s most commonly the bride’s father, but that is not always possible. It might be some other family member, or it could be a long-standing friend of the bride, or perhaps even one of her children. Sometimes a bride likes to come in with both parents; sometimes a bride prefers to enter alone. It’s the bride’s call!
How long do most ceremonies last?
About 25-30 minutes, from the bride’s entry to the triumphant recessional of the newly married couple, allowing a few minutes for the signing of the registry documents.
Are guests allowed to take photos during the ceremony?
As the couple will have paid significantly for official photographer/s and videographer/s, there is general consensus that guests courteously refrain from taking photos during the ceremony, so that the paid people have complete freedom to take photos without guests bobbing up and possibly spoiling official photos. However, all guests who wish to are invited to take photos of the signing of the registry, once the official photographers have finished.
How much do Celebrants charge?
There are no set fees. The Attorney-General’s Department allows Celebrants to set their own fees. Celebrants would discuss their fees with couples, reflecting the many hours of preparation required for the ceremony. Refer also to the FEES tab.
Can we acknowledge any of our cultural heritages in the ceremony?
Yes. The Marriage Act is specific about the necessary content that must be included in your ceremony. Given that, all other content is open to your specific wishes, including any references to cultural and/or religious inclusions.
Can we include any religious elements into our ceremony?
Yes, it is not uncommon for couples to choose some small religious element in their ceremony e.g. an appropriate reading or prayer.
Who provides the table and chairs when we sign the registry documents?
Most venues will include those as part of your package. However, if necessary, I’m happy to provide them free of charge.