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  • Writer's pictureTheresa Mullan

Myth Buster: Legal requirements Versus Traditional Bits

Updated: Nov 8, 2019

Theresa Mullan Celebrant
Photo by the lovely Ainslee Burke Photography

Disclaimer: I’m gonna use a lot of asterisks throughout this post to save my bacon.

Howdy folks,

Recently I've had lots of requests for "short & sweet" ceremonies. So, in true myth-buster style, I'd like to address some common misconceptions about what's legally required during a wedding ceremony in Australia and what's not.

Here goes…

Provided you are eligible to marry* and have completed the necessary paperwork*, the actual process of getting married, as in the ceremony itself, should only take 5-10mins tops. Here's a quick rundown of what’s required in a legal ceremony - or my take on it anyway:

  1. Intro - As we start the ceremony, I make sure we all know who I am and who you are so that we’re all clear on who’s gettin’ hitched. I’ll also explain that I’m an Authorised Marriage Celebrant so that everyone in attendance knows I’m a legit celebrant, who can legit get your married.

  2. Legal Stuff (aka The Monitum) - Before you say your vows, I say a jazzy little paragraph called the "Monitum" which explains to you and your witnesses what you are about to sign up for.

  3. Vows - To make sure it’s official, you both say vows which go like this: I call upon the people here present to witness that I, A.B. (or C.D.), take you, C.D. (or A.B.), to be my lawful wedded wife (husband or spouse)*

  4. Signing Your Life Away - Finally, you, your two witnesses* and I sign your lives away three times*

Once we've done these four steps, it's all over red rover. You are so so married, and I ride away into the night and register it all with the Births, Deaths & Marriages Department.

Now, usually, once I've explained this process, the first thing I get asked is "But, what about the I do section?" and the answer to that is, it's not a legal requirement. The same goes for the rings, kissing, walking up the aisle, walking down the aisle, family members giving you away, etc. They are, what I like to call "traditional/theatrical bits".

Which brings me to my next point…

I’ll admit, most couples I marry are conscious of keeping their ceremony short, but for the most part, simply doing the legal elements feels a little too quick. So, I like to add a few traditional/theatrical bits together with some personalised bits to make the ceremony fun, meaningful and memorable.

Even by adding some traditional and personal touches, your ceremony doesn't need to go forever and a day. The majority of my personalised ceremonies only go for about 20 - 30 mins. Here's a quick outline of what a personalised ceremony structure might look like - the points in bold are the legal bits:

  1. Housekeeping - A little warm-up for your guests so they know what to expect before one or both of you arrive and the ceremony officially starts.

  2. A Grand Entrance - This bit is sometimes called “The Processional” and includes one or both of you making an entrance by walking up the aisle, feat. sweet tunes and all of the emotions.

  3. Welcomes & Thank You's - I welcome you and your guests, incorporate an acknowledgement to country and thank all who are in attendance.

  4. Introduction - Just like the legal ceremony, I explain who I am and who you are.

  5. The Love Story - This is my favourite bit. I ask you to answer some questions and write a little story about how you got together, how much you love each other and why you are excited to be married.

  6. Readings, Poems & Rituals - Some couples like to ask friends and family members to share something personal during the ceremony. I’m all about a cheeky ritual, but I love all creatures great and small so please no bird releases.

  7. The “I Do” Bit - Also known as “The Asking,” I can ask you some questions about what you are agreeing to as part of your marriage.

  8. Legal Stuff (aka The Monitum) - Just like the legal ceremony, this is that bit where I explain what you are getting yourselves into.

  9. Vows - While you must say the legal vows outlined above, some couples also like to add personal vows - you can write 'em, or pick from some I prepared earlier.

  10. Rings - If you fancy some more bling, you can exchange rings (or other gifts) as a symbol of the commitment you have made.

  11. Declaration of Marriage & THE KISS - Here's when I'd say something like "I now pronounce you married" and then you smooch and the crowd goes wild!

  12. Signing Your Life Away - Just like I mentioned in the legal ceremony above, you, your two witnesses and I sign your lives away three times.

  13. Conclusion - I tell your guests what's going to happen next (i.e. when the bar opens) and anything else that you need them to know before they depart.

  14. Presentation - I present you as newlyweds!

  15. Party Starts - You make a grand exit feat. more sweet tunes and the party starts!

The best part about getting married in Australia is that it is really flexible. You can include all or some or none of the above (with the exception of the legal parts), and you'll still walk away married.

One of my favourite things about being a Marriage Celebrant is helping couples to find the fun in planning the "ceremony" which often gets overshadowed by the importance of the reception. I appreciate the importance of the party (more than most), but, once you’ve got the food, booze and music sorted, I encourage you to think about the fact that with a little bit of imagination, some pretty words and a few tunes, your ceremony can be enjoyed by you and your guests, while still being short and sweet.

I hope this post has given you a better idea of what's legally required, versus what are some of the ways we can personalise your ceremony. Now that you are an expert, how do you wanna get hitched?!

Tree x

*There are a few factors that determine eligibility - Contact me if you want to know more.

*You need to submit a completed Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) to your celebrant no later than one month in advance of the ceremony and complete Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage with your celebrant as close to the ceremony as possible.

*We can make slight tweaks to the vows - just ask me if you want some suggestions.

*We need two witnesses to be present at the ceremony and they must be over the age of 18.

*During your ceremony you’ll sign a ceremonial certificate and two marriage certificates.

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