Mike Ockerby Registered Marriage Celebrant
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Frequently asked questions
Why do I need a celebrant?
A celebrant must take part in two key parts of a wedding, for it to be legally valid; by law, they must a) say the ‘monitum’ and b) witness the ‘vows’. (See below.)
However - how you run the rest of the ceremony and what wording you choose for the rest, is entirely up to you. And, those other parts of the ceremony don’t have to be conducted by a celebrant.

What is the 'monitum'?
For a marriage to be legal, at some stage in the wedding the celebrant must say the ‘monitum’, namely:

“I am duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages according to law. Before you are joined in marriage in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses, I am to remind you of the solemn and binding nature of the relationship into which you are now about to enter. Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”

What are the 'vows'?
The common understanding is that wedding vows comprise the section of the ceremony where the couple pledges their love for each other, and are then declared to be legally married. But - under Australian law, the definition of ‘vows’ is much more specific: they are the part of the ceremony where the two parties, in turn, say:

“I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, A.B. (or C.D.), take thee, C.D. (or A.B.), to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband, or spouse or partner in marriage).”

E.g. Joe Bloggs says ‘I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, Joe Bloggs, take thee, Jane Doe, to be my lawful wedded wife or spouse or partner in marriage’. Jane Doe then says ‘I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, Jane Doe, take thee, Joe Bloggs, to be my lawful wedded husband or spouse or partner in marriage’.

Or: Stewart Smith says, “I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, Stewart Smith, take thee, Peter Walker, to be my lawful wedded husband (or spouse or partner in marriage)”. Peter Walker then says, “I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, Peter Walker, take thee, Stewart Smith, to be my lawful wedded husband (or spouse or partner in marriage).”

Or: Sally Smith says, “I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, Sally Smith, take thee, Mary McDonald, to be my lawful wedded wife (or spouse or partner in marriage).” Mary McDonald then says, “I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, Mary McDonald, take thee, Sally Smith, to be my lawful wedded wife (or spouse or partner in marriage).”

For the marriage to be legally valid, the vows must be said in front of the celebrant and your two witnesses

Do I get a marriage certificate on my wedding day?
Yes. Your celebrant must hand you what’s known as the Form 15 Marriage Certificate. This is yours to keep. This certificate is an important document – it’s proof that you are married and that your legal status has therefore changed.

Please note: this certificate can’t be replaced if you lose it. Keep it somewhere safe!

Another thing: for some purposes you will also need to purchase what’s called an ‘official marriage certificate’. The Attorney-General’s Department explains it like this:
“…the Form 15 certificate of marriage will not replace the need to obtain an official marriage certificate from the relevant BDM [Births, Deaths & Marriages office] for some purposes, such as applying for an Australian passport, and in some States and Territories, a driver’s licence. This is stated on the back of the [Form 15] certificate…”

You can apply for an official marriage certificate online.

For more info, check out SA’s BDM website - http://www.cbs.sa.gov.au/wcm/births-deaths-marriages/

Or – ring SA’s Consumer and Business Services office on 131-882, then select Births, Deaths & Marriages from the phone menu.

How soon can I get married?
The short answer is – in as little as one month’s time. But – first you have to meet a series of legal requirements…

The key prerequisite is lodging a ‘NOIM’ – a Notice Of Intended Marriage. This has to be given to your celebrant at least one month prior to your wedding day. To complete the NOIM you’ll need to: a) prove your identity; b) prove your place and date of birth; c) prove you are legally free to marry.

If that sounds terribly official and formal - don’t worry!

- For a), a birth certificate or passport will do the job; for b) you’ll need your driver’s licence (or passport if you didn’t use this to satisfy a)). (In exceptional circumstances a statutory declaration might be acceptable.)
- For c), this just means that if you’ve been married before, you must show that this marriage has been legally terminated (e.g. by producing your divorce certificate, or, if you’ve been widowed, your previous spouse’s death certificate).
NB The NOIM expires after 18 months. If for some reason you don’t get married within 18 months of giving the NOIM to your celebrant, you’ll need to complete a new NOIM.

But what if I really need to get married sooner?
This might be possible, but you’ll have to get special permission from a prescribed authority, e.g. the courts.

There are a number of circumstances where you might be able to get this permission - e.g. where there are medical considerations (e.g. if one partner has a terminal illness), or work-related reasons (e.g. if one partner is about to start active duty overseas in the armed forces).

NB Requests are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Do I have to get married in a church?
No. You can get married wherever you want, within reason (half-time during the AFL Grand Final might be a bit tricky!). Choosing a civil celebrant means you are choosing civil (ie non-religious) wedding rites – ie you are choosing not to swear your love for each other (and be declared legally married) in front of a minister of religion (or God).

Can I still include prayers or readings from the Bible (or another holy book) in my wedding?
Yes, of course. It just means the marriage rites are civil; there is nothing to stop you mentioning God, or a number of gods, or Buddha - or whoever - or having prayer readings.

Can I write my own ceremony?
Absolutely: your ceremony can take whatever form you like, and include the wording of your choosing. The only two things you are legally obliged to include are the monitum and the vows. (Remember: the monitum must be said by a registered marriage celebrant, and the vows must be said by you and your partner in front of the celebrant and your two witnesses.)

How long will it take to organise a wedding?
Legally you have to wait at least one month, so the NOIM (Notice Of Intended Marriage) can be lodged and other paperwork and documentation sorted out. (See ‘How soon can I get married?’, above.) Beyond that, it’s up to you to decide how much time you’ll need to get your wedding organised. Bear in mind though:

- The larger the guest list, the more time you’ll probably need (e.g. so guests can arrange travel, accommodation, time off work etc). This is especially the case if some of your guests are coming from overseas, or even interstate.

You’ll also need time to organise the ‘look’ of the wedding. E.g.:

- The venue: will the wedding and reception be held at the same place? If not, you’ll need to make separate bookings. And bear in mind – some venues are booked out months or even years in advance; others have peak times when it’s hard to get a booking.
- Outside or inside? If you’re planning an outside wedding, will you need permission to use the location you’ve got in mind? Will it be appropriate? E.g. if you want to have a beach wedding, is it likely to be stinking hot or freezing cold on the date you’ve picked? (Is a surf lifesaving carnival planned for the same day?? Or a rock concert??) What if it rains? What if some of your guests are infirm – will they be able to access the venue? If it’s windy, will this mess up people’s hairdos and clothing, or make it hard to hear the ceremony?
- Catering: there are many possibilities… You could invite a small number of guests to the wedding ceremony and a larger number to the reception – or vice versa. Some couples are now choosing the ‘bring a plate’ option – ie in lieu of wedding presents, guests are asked instead to bring a plate of food for the reception. (This saves money and can also avoid you ending up with six toasters and five kettles!)
- Clothes: are you going to have special dresses or suits made for the wedding party? This will require extra time.
- How will the venue be decorated? Do you want lots of flowers? What sort? Will they be in season, or will you have to pay a premium for them if they’re out of season?
- Writing the ceremony: don’t leave it to the last minute to craft the precise wording you want.

Can it be just me and my partner at the wedding?
No – you have to have at least two witnesses. They don’t have to be people you know – they just have to be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. They’ll also have to sign the marriage certificate.

How old do I have to be to get married?
You must be at least 18 years old.

But what if I’m under 18 and I still want to get married?
If you’re under 18 years of age, you can only get married if your partner is 18 or over, and if you’ve got a court order – signed by either a judge or a magistrate – that legally clears the way for the marriage.

If both partners are under 18, the law won’t budge - you won’t be allowed to get married.

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Mike Ockerby Registered Wedding Celebrant