What you must do in order to be legally married

When you marry in Australia there are some things that you must do in order for your marriage to be legal. Your celebrant is required to ensure that you have complied with all the requirements before solemnising your marriage as severe legal penalties apply if these requirements (spelled out in the Marriage Act) are not met.
  • At the time of the ceremony you must both be at least 18 years of age, or if one of you is under 18 you must be at least 16, have a court order and written consent from your parents on the official government form.
  • You must not already be married, either to each other or to some other person.
  • you both must freely consent to the marriage
  • your gender is irrelevant!
  • you must give the celebrant at least a month's formal notice of your intention to marry on the designated official form*  (see below for more information about what that means, together with a link to the form)
  • you must show the celebrant  the original documents (as issued by a government authority) as listed below. Without them you will not be able to be married (your celebrant is legally required to sight them before performing the ceremony). Photocopies are not acceptable.
  • Official birth certificates OR passports (birth certificates are preferable)
  •  Adoption certificate (if applicable)
  •  Original divorce decree documenting that the divorce is final (if applicable)
  •  Original death certificate for a former spouse (if applicable)
  •   Documentary evidence of any change of name
  •   Photo ID (in the case of an overseas couple this must be a valid passport)
  •   Notarised official English translations of any of these documents that are in another language
  • You must comply with the requirements of the Marriage Act in relation to the ceremony (more below)

Boring, yes. Critical, absolutely, and while different celebrants can and will offer you differing personal style, ideas, and ceremonial inclusions, every celebrant is going to give you identical legal service. They have to. It is the law!

Before the ceremony
  1. Complete a Notice of Intended Marriage and lodge** it with your celebrant no less than one month before your wedding.. This notice must be signed in front of a qualified witnesses – usually your celebrant or a Justice of the Peace if signed in Australia, or a Notary Public or an official at an Australian Embassy or Consulate if you are in another country. In certain circumstances (such as the terminal illness of the bride or groom) you may be granted permission to marry sooner. You have to apply for this permission from the Registry Office or a Courthouse and pay them a fee. I can assist you with the application.
  2. Show your celebrant the required documents to prove your date of birth, your identity and how your previous marriage ended if you’ve been married before. These must be original documents issued by an appropriate government authority. They cannot be photocopies of those documents. Full details are also on page 2 of the Notice of Intended Marriage
  3. Sign the Declarations on the back of the marriage certificate in front of your celebrant close to the wedding date. These declarations are your legal statement that you are free to marry and that you freely consent to the marriage.

An issue that can cause a bit of angst is errors in the Notice. Not a problem, errors can be corrected after the Notice is signed, witnessed and lodged, but ONLY in the presence of your celebrant with both you and your celebrant initialing the changes - and no whiteout allowed!  This ensures that the Marriage Certificate is correct and you won't have any problems down the track.

During the ceremony:
  • Be in a fit state (legally you cannot get married if you are drunk or under the influence of drugs)
  • Have two adult witnesses present (they do not have to be Australian citizens)
  • Make vows to each other in the words the Marriage Act says you must use.
  • Together with your witnesses and the celebrant sign the Register and two certificates, one of which you will be given on the day.
  • Have an official interpreter present to interpret if the bride, groom, or a witness is not fluent in English
After the ceremony:
  • Apply for an official copy of your registered marriage from Births Deaths and Marriages
Your witnesses:
For your marriage to be legal there must be two witnesses to the ceremony who will also sign the Marriage Register and Certificates to affirm that the marriage did take place.
  • These witnesses must be at least 18 years of age and able to understand the ceremony
  • They can be family members
  • They do not need to be Australian citizens or permanent residents, nor do they need to be resident in Australia
  • Your professional photographer can do double duty as one of your witnesses
  • You can request strangers to act as your witnesses - this can be great fun because Queenslanders are generally amazingly supportive and inclined to enthusiastically go along with the romance of the moment.
*The Notice of Intended Marriage notice period is one clear calendar month.  That doesn't translate into 30 days or 31 days because some months are 30 days, some 31, and then there is February! If you give notice on any day up to the 28th of the month, you will always be able to get married on the same day the next month, because no month is shorter than 28 days. But what if you give notice on January 30? Because February is either 28 or 29 days long, the first day on which you could get married would be March 1. If you gave notice on May 31, because June only has 30 days, the first day on which you can legally marry would be July 1.
**The world "lodge" probably causes more confusion/misunderstanding than any other word associated with weddings. What it means is that you put the Notice into the hands of the person who is going to marry you. When you do that (and it can be done by email for the purpose of starting the clock ticking) the Notice is lodged - and it then stays in the custody of your celebrant until after the wedding at which time it is sent in to Births Deaths and Marriages along with the paperwork you sign on the day to register your marriage.
You were a great help through the whole process. You gave us detailed advice while we were still traveling through Australia and you gave us confidence through the whole process, even finding witnesses on the scene at the same day. - Melanie and Michael, who married at Wellington Point while on an extended holiday from Germany

Choosing Jenny as our celebrant was one of the best decisions we made for our wedding. Our ceremony was perfect, everything we imagined and more. It was so "us". We have already recommended Jenny to friends. Thank you for making our day so amazing. You made everyone feel included and went above and beyond in your duties. There was no stress at all - Amber and Anthony who married at the Pan Pacific Peace Gardens.

If you are looking for a wedding celebrant with a friendly face - speaks very well - honest and forthright in explaining what is required in documents and is punctual in all she does and on arrival to your venue - then look no further than Jennifer Cram. She spent countless hours and at times making phone calls to myself to ensure all is OK. Even to texting me to see how I was going and also my wife. Thank you Jennifer for making our day such a wonderful and joyous wedding. You made us feel very important and you were so patient. We only wanted a simple, old-fashioned wedding and you had no problems with that.  - Neville and Trang who married at home