Getting Married - Your Legal Obligations


While choosing a dress, flowers and a venue are very important parts of planning a wedding, the most important task is ensuring that your marriage will be legally recognised.  Below is a summary of the legal matters I will discuss with you prior to the ceremony, but for detailed information please visit the official site of the Australian Marriage Celebrants Program.


Providing notice of your intended marriage:-

Prior to the wedding we will meet and fill out and sign a Notice of Intended Marriage Form.   This forms needs to be completed no less than one month and one day prior to your wedding and can be done up to 18 months in advance.  Both of you will also need to sign a Declaration of Marriage Form, declaring that there is no legal impediment to your marriage - this is done at our rehearsal.

Before the wedding I wil need to see the following documentation:-

  • An original Birth Certificate/or Passport for each of you (or extracts) and some photo identification e.g. driver's license or passport.
  • A Passport, if you are a citizen of a country other than Australia.
  • A Statutory Declaration if you were born overseas and have no record of your birth (or lost your documentation).
  • If you have been previously married you will need to present either a Decree Absolute if you have divorced or a death certificate if you are a widow/widower.
  • If you are under 18 years of age, you will need to provide your parents consent and an order from a Magistrate.
  • If your documents are in a language other than English you will need to have them translated and authorised by a person who is a legally recognised translator.
I will ensure all legal documentation is registered with the proper authorities, within fourteen days of your Marriage.

Participating in a marriage ceremony:-

When thinking about how you would like to design your ceremony you may ask family and friends to participate in aspects such as poems, readings etc.  However, there are several legal requirements that can only be fulfilled by an authorised marriage celebrant.

At the ceremony, the authorised marriage celebrant must:

  • consent to be present as the responsible authorised marriage celebrant 
  • take a public role in the ceremony
  • identify themselves to the assembled parties, witnesses and guests as the celebrant authorised to solemnise the marriage 
  • be responsible for ensuring the validity of the marriage, according to law
  • say the words required by section 46 in the presence of the parties, the formal witnesses and the guests before the marriage is solemnised 
  • be in close proximity (ie nearby) when the vows required by subsection 45(2) are exchanged. It is the exchange of vows that constitutes the marriage and the authorised celebrant must see and hear the vows being exchanged 
  • be available to intervene (and exercise the responsibility to intervene) if events demonstrate the need for it elsewhere in the ceremony 
  • be part of the ceremonial group or in close proximity to it; and 
  • sign the papers as required by the Act.

On the day of your marriage, you will need two witnesses to sign the Registry and Certificate Of Marriage - they will both need to be over the age of 18. They do not necessarily have to be in the bridal party.

Getting married overseas

For information on getting married overseas please contact the Embassy or other diplomatic mission of the country concerned. If that country requires you to get a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage, contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on (02) 6261 3644.

For more information, please visit the Smart Traveller website.

The Certificate of Marriage to be issued to couples (Form 15)

A marriage celebrant must issue a prescribed Form 15 marriage certificate to you after your wedding as evidence of your marriage. Your marriage celebrant prepares three certificates of marriage containing the details of your marriage and you and your witnesses will be required to sign all three. 

They are:

  • the certificate retained by the marriage celebrant for their records; 
  • the certificate that will be forwarded to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages for the registration of your marriage; and 
  • the certificate that will be given to you as a record of your marriage.

How can we be sure we have been given the official certificate?

The official certificate must be exactly as prescribed in the Marriage Regulations 1963.

You will see that it bears the Commonwealth Coat of Arms and a pattern on the front, and a number on the back that is unique to each certificate (and is traceable), but the security features of the new certificate will not be visible. These features make your marriage certificate significantly more secure as an official document because they protect it against alteration and reproduction.

While a certificate of marriage is not a proof of identity document, it is evidence of your change in marital status and in some situations (e.g. when applying for an Australian passport) you may be asked to produce a registered copy of it.


Obtaining a Registered Marriage Certificate

It should be noted that the certificate issued by your celebrant on the day of marriage is ceremonial and will not meet the identity requirements of many government agencies (e.g. Queensland Transport, Passport Office) and financial institutions.

To apply for a marriage certificate, you must:

  • meet the eligibility criteria
  • complete the Marriage certificate application form
  • provide proof of your identity (unless you are applying for a historical marriage certificate)
  • pay the relevant fees

Visit the Queensland - Births, Deaths and Marriages website for current costs and further details.


Code of Practice for marriage celebrants  - (regulation 37L)

1.  Application of this Code of Practice

This Code of Practice applies to marriage celebrants (being persons registered under Subdivision C of Division 1 of Part IV of the Marriage Act 1961).

Note: Under paragraph 39I(1)(b) of the Marriage Act 1961, if the Registrar of Marriage Celebrants is satisfied that a marriage celebrant has not complied with an obligation under section 39G of that Act, including this Code of Practice, the Registrar may take disciplinary measures against the marriage celebrant.

2.  High standard of service

A marriage celebrant must maintain a high standard of service in his or her professional conduct and practice.

3.  Recognition of significance of marriage

A marriage celebrant must recognise the social, cultural and legal significance of marriage and the marriage ceremony in the Australian community, and the importance of strong and respectful family relationships.

4.  Compliance with the Marriage Act and other laws

A marriage celebrant must:

(a) solemnize marriages according to the legal requirements of the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth); and

(b) observe the laws of the Commonwealth and of the State or Territory where the marriage is to be solemnized; and

(c) prevent and avoid unlawful discrimination in the provision of marriage celebrancy services.

5.  General requirements for marriage ceremonies

A marriage celebrant must respect the importance of the marriage ceremony to the parties and the other persons organising the ceremony. To that end, the marriage celebrant must do the following:

(a) give the parties information and guidance to enable them to choose or compose a marriage ceremony that will meet their needs and expectations;

(b) respect the privacy and confidentiality of the parties;

(c) maintain appropriate facilities to interview parties and provide office facilities, including facilities for the secure storage of records;

(d) within a reasonable time before the marriage ceremony:

(i) confirm all details with the parties; and

(ii) ensure the return of all personal documents belonging to the parties (unless it is necessary to keep the documents for the ceremony); and

(iii) sign any necessary declarations;

(e) if requested by the parties, conduct a marriage ceremony rehearsal;

(f) ensure that his or her personal presentation is of an appropriate standard for the marriage ceremony, and respect the expectations of the parties in relation to the ceremony;

(g) make efforts to ensure that the marriage ceremony is audible to all those present (using audio equipment, if required);

(h) ensure accuracy in the preparation of documents, and in the conduct of the marriage ceremony;

(i) arrive at the venue for the marriage ceremony no later than the time agreed with the parties;

(j) if the marriage celebrant has agreed to perform more than one marriage ceremony on the same day:

(i) ensure that the parties to each marriage receive a level of service that meets their separate and special requirements; and

(ii) be available at the venue for each marriage ceremony at least 20 minutes before the agreed commencement of each ceremony (unless, in the case of consecutive ceremonies, the ceremonies are to be held at the same venue);

(k) ensure that all relevant documents are completed and sent to the appropriate registering authority within 14 days after the marriage ceremony, as required by section 50 of the Marriage Act 1961;

(l) in relation to the provision of marriage services, accept evaluative comment from the parties, and use any comments to improve performance;

(m) give the parties information about how to notify the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department of any concerns or complaints they may have regarding the marriage services provided by the marriage celebrant.

6.  Knowledge and understanding of family relationships services

A marriage celebrant must:

(a) maintain an up-to-date knowledge about appropriate family relationships services in the community; and

(b) inform parties about the range of information and services available to them to enhance, and sustain them throughout, their relationship.

Making a complaint

A mechanism has been developed to deal with complaints against marriage celebrants. If a complaint is found to be justified, sanctions may include a caution, a requirement that further professional development be undertaken, up to six (6) months suspension or deregistration.

Marriage celebrants have a right to be advised of a complaint against them and to put whatever material they think appropriate to the Registrar in their defence. 


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