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Marriage ceremonies

Information about who can perform a marriage ceremony and what is required for a ceremony to be valid.

Ceremony requirements

Authorised celebrant

Marriage may be solemnised by (or in presence of) a celebrant who is authorised to solemnise marriages at a place of marriage.

Celebrants have been ordered to use particular wording in the solemnisation ceremony. For example, the celebrant must:

  • use the words husband, wife or spouse
  • include the reminder that ‘Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of 2 people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.’

See ss. 45, 46—Marriage Act 1961 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

Witnesses

Marriage must be solemnised before at least 2 witnesses aged over 18 years.

See s. 44—Marriage Act 1961 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

Notice in writing

A 'Notice of intended marriage' form must be given to the celebrant at least 1 month but no earlier than 18 months before the date of marriage. Some exceptions to notice requirements will be allowed depending on circumstances and supported by evidence.

The 'Notice of intended marriage' form can be downloaded from Attorney-General's website (see Forms). It includes explanatory notes.

Birth certificate

Each party to a marriage must produce to the celebrant either:

  • a certificate or extract of birth certificate
  • a statutory declaration where impracticable to show copy of birth certificate, or
  • a passport issued by overseas country showing their date and place of birth.

Declaration

Each party to a marriage must also provide a written 'Declaration' form (Form 14) to the celebrant as to:

  • party's marital status
  • belief of no legal impediment to marriage, and
  • any other prescribed matters.

This form must be signed by both parties, in the presence of a celebrant, justice of the peace, or other qualified witness.

If outside Australia, it must be witnessed by a diplomatic or consular officer or authorised Commonwealth employee.

Previous marriages

If either of the parties have been married before they must also produce evidence of divorce or the death of their previous spouse. They will also have to provide a copy of their divorce order.

Marriage certificate

A certificate of the marriage will be prepared and must be signed by 2 witnesses to the marriage who are over 18 years.

Who can perform a marriage ceremony?

Marriage must be solemnised by an authorised celebrant who is registered to perform marriages in Australia. This can be a Minister of religion, marriage celebrant, state and territory officer or foreign diplomatic or consular officer.

Minister of religion

Ministers of religion of a recognised denomination who are registered under the Marriage Act 1961, may solemnise marriages anywhere in Australia according to the recognised form and ceremony of that particular religion. A list of recognised denominations is available on the Attorney General's website.

Marriage celebrant

A marriage may be solemnised by or in the presence of a celebrant who is authorised to solemnise marriages at place of marriage. Where marriage is solemnised by a marriage celebrant who is not a minister of religion, it must follow the form set out in the Marriage Act 1961.

The Attorney-General's website has information about the regulations governing marriage celebrants in Australia (see Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department—Get married(opens in a new window)).

State and territory officers

A state or territory officer is a person who may solemnise marriages either at any place in Australia or only in certain parts.

Foreign diplomatic or consular officers

Marriage may be solemnised in Australia according to the law or custom of a proclaimed overseas country where at least one party's nationality is of that country.

However, marriages may no longer take place in Australian embassies.

More information

Legislation

Marriage Act 1961 (Cth)

  • Div. 2—marriages by authorised celebrants
  • s. 32—effect of registration
  • s. 39—authorisation of state and Territory officers etc
  • s. 41—marriages to be solemnised by authorised celebrant
  • s. 42—notice to be given and declaration made
  • s. 44—witnesses
  • s. 45—form of ceremony
  • s. 46—certain authorised celebrants to explain nature of marriage relationship
  • s. 50—marriage certificates
  • s. 53—application of division
  • s. 55—solemnisation of marriages in Australia by foreign diplomatic or consular officer

See Marriage Act 1961 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

Marriage Regulations 1963 (Cth)

  • r. 38—notice and other documents required for intended marriage
  • r. 38A—requirements for declaration before authorised celebrant
  • r. 39—notice of intended marriage received later than required time—circumstances in which marriage may be solemnised
  • r. 40—certificate of marriage for marriage solemnised in Australia
  • Part 3 Div. 1A—marriage celebrants
  • Schedule 1—forms
  • Schedule 1B—circumstances for authorising marriage despite late notice
  • Schedule 4—prescribed overseas countries

See Marriage Regulations 1963 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

Attorney General's Department (Cth)

Forms

The Attorney General's department also has a link to the 'Notice of intended marriage form'.

See Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department—Marriage stationery and forms(opens in a new window).

Other forms are listed in Schedule 1 of the Marriage Regulations 1963.

Updated