How do I get married in Australia?
There are important procedures you must follow to ensure that your big day goes to plan and your marriage is legal. Whether you are an Australian or non-Australian citizen, following these steps will ensure that your wedding day is stress-free, at least in relation to the legalities.
In December 2017 the Australian Government amended the Marriage Act, making it easier for both Australians and non-Australians to marry.
In accordance with these changes, everyone now has the right to legally marry anyone of the opposite or same-sex if they:
- are not married to someone else;
- are not marrying a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister;
- at the time of marriage are at least 18 years old, unless a court has approved a marriage where one party is aged between 16 and 18 years old;
- understand what marriage means and freely consent to marry;
- use the specific words (“I, …. call upon all persons here present to witness that I take you, … to be my lawful wedded wife/husband/spouse”) during the ceremony; and
- give written notice of their intention to marry to their authorised marriage celebrant within the required time frame.
It sounds straightforward, but there is still some red tape to untangle before you can “tie the knot”.
Choose a Celebrant
Firstly, you must choose a registered marriage celebrant.
Celebrants, be they civil or religious, are the only people permitted to perform marriage ceremonies. This authorisation is granted by the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department or the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages (BDMR) in all Australian States and Territories.
Even religious ministers must be part of a recognised denomination and authorised by the relevant State or Territory BDMR to conduct marriage ceremonies.
There is a list of Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants who perform religious ceremonies for independent religious organisations and religious marriage celebrants who perform civil ceremonies. You can find the complete list of celebrants on the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department Website.
2. Notice of Intended Marriage Form
The next step is to complete a Notice of Intended Marriage form and provide it to your celebrant at least one month before the wedding.
If there is less than a month before your planned ceremony you may be granted a shorter notice period. This can only be granted in limited circumstances.
The Notice of Intended Marriage Form requires both you and your partner to give evidence of:
- your place and date of birth;
- your current photo identity; and
- documents showing the end of any previous marriages.
If you wish, you can ask your celebrant to help you complete this form. The celebrant may also ask you to complete a statutory declaration to support your evidence.
3. On your Wedding Day
Unfortunately, there’s more paperwork to get through before the confetti shower at the end of the ceremony. But the good news is that your celebrant will do most of the process for you as part of the wedding package.
Just prior to the wedding you will sign a Declaration of No Legal Impediment which declares that nothing is preventing you legally from marrying.
On the wedding day, you will sign (in the presence of two witnesses) an Official Marriage Certificate, a copy Certificate of Marriage and the Presentation Certificate which you keep as your record.
After the ceremony, the celebrant will finalise the Notice of Intended Marriage form. The celebrant must then lodge the Notice of Intended Marriage form, the Official Marriage Certificate and the Declaration of No Legal Impediment form with the BDMR in your State or Territory within two weeks of the wedding ceremony.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What if I’m not an Australian citizen?
A: You don’t have to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident to legally marry in Australia, but you do have to have the appropriate visa if you hope to live in Australia after your marriage.
Q: How do I lodge the Notice of Intended Marriage form if I’m not in Australia yet?
A: You don’t have to be in Australia to submit the Notice of Intended Marriage form. The notice can be completed and witnessed outside Australia if required, but the witness must be a public notary or Australian consular officer.
Q: Is the Certificate of Marriage an official legal document?
A: The Certificate of Marriage will be the record of your marriage. This is not a legal document for official purposes. You may purchase a standard marriage certificate from your State or Territory BDMR once your celebrant has registered your marriage within 14 days of your wedding ceremony.
Enjoy your big day
Planning a wedding in Australia doesn’t have to be stressful. Following the steps above will ensure that your legal obligations are sorted. Tick another thing off your wedding to-do list and enjoy your big day.