Thought you would never ask


Every T a cross and every I a dot before you tie the knot

Behind all the excitement of wedding preparation and planning there is also the paperwork, procedure and processes.

No matter if this is your first wedding or you’ve been here before, the legal part can seem unusual or even overwhelming. The officialdom comes in the shape of the Department of Births Deaths and Marriages – or BDM as you will quickly come to know it – that requires strict compliance.

One of the most critical services of the celebrant is to ensure all the paperwork is in order so you get it right and you can be legally married.

Several signatures before you’re hitched

Before your wedding, your celebrant will check that you have all the required registrations and certificates needed and will bring along the Notice of Intended Marriage which must be completed and witnessed one month prior to the intended wedding. Original documents need to be sighted to prove your place and date of birth and if it’s your second wedding, there is another evidence of divorce.

Also before the wedding, the celebrant will bring along the serious-sounding

Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage which needs to be signed and witnessed.

On the day of the wedding you have three pieces of paper to sign. Signing takes place just after the announcement that you are husband and wife, or partner and partner, as the case may be.

First, there are two copies of the Marriage Certificate. There’s also the ‘Presentation Certificate’, which is the ‘forever document’ you keep. Your celebrant will usually hang onto this for you during the day and give it to a responsible friend or family member for safekeeping.

Pop the Frequently Asked Questions

Your partner has popped the question and you’ve said yes, which is why you’re reading this. We celebrants get asked critical questions all the time, particularly around the rules and regulations. Here are ten recent questions people have asked: 

1.  Do I have to be an Australian citizen to marry?

No. In Australia, foreign nationals can marry, although some overseas countries may not recognise a marriage here as valid. This can have implications when returning to your country of origin after your marriage – so it’s best to get advice.

2.  Names, names, names – does it matter?

It sure does. Be sure to write your name EXACTLY as it appears on your birth certificate or passport. That means the same spelling and all your given names. If someone decides to use a nickname or something different such as an Anglicised version, this will not be recognised and may create further serious issues down the track.

3.  I’m divorced: any difference?

To be married, you will need to provide evidence of your divorce, such as the actual certificate of divorce, decree absolute or the overseas equivalent. In Australia, your marriage cannot take place until your celebrant has sighted these documents.

4.  What about declaration of sex or gender on the marriage certificate?

The Australian Government recognises that a person’s sex and gender may not be the same. Any person may choose a gender-neutral term such as partner or spouse.

5. What documents will I need to get married?

You’ll need three documents which the celebrant will help you prepare:

· A Notice of Intended Marriage  (NOIM)

· Evidence of date and place of birth, identity and termination of any previous marriage

· A declaration that there is no legal impediment to the marriage.

6.  Where do we start with the paperwork?

First, there is the all-important Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM). As a couple, you must complete this document one month before the wedding. Your signatures must be witnessed and it must be received by the celebrant at least one month before the marriage can take place.  

7.  Who can sign and witness the Notice of Intended Marriage?

Generally both parties sign this in the presence of the celebrant. Signing it in front of the celebrant means that the celebrant will be able to witness each party’s signature. The celebrant can’t witness signatures over Skype or Zoom. The key word is ‘presence’: this document must be signed in the presence of the authorised celebrant.  

Alternatively it can be signed in the presence of a Justice of the Peace or an Australian Consulate Official if overseas. There is a list of people who can witness your signatures, however the paperwork must then be sent to the celebrant at least one month prior.

8.  When does the one-month notice period commence?

It starts when the couple give the celebrant the completed and signed NOIM. The month does not begin when the couple book or pay the celebrant.

9.  Are e-signatures good enough?

Yes and no. It is not acceptable for couples, celebrants and witnesses to complete marriage documents electronically. Signatures can only be witnessed in person in front of the person signing.

Under the electronic transmission act, a celebrant can ‘receive’ a scanned copy of the Notice of Intended Marriage, the same as getting it in person.  This becomes “date notice received” for the purpose of wedding date and is especially useful where a NOIM has been signed and witnessed interstate or overseas.

It is still best practice to have the original sent to celebrant.


10.  What are celebrants’ obligations?

Celebrants must be satisfied that the marriage will be valid, including that each party has given real consent. A marriage must have the full and free consent of both parties:

Ø they must be of a legal age to give consent

Ø they must not face physical or emotional abuse if they don’t

Ø they must be mentally capable of giving consent

Forced marriage is a crime in Australia

The celebrant must also ensure that information about marriage education and counselling is made available to the parties. Celebrants have an obligations checklist that they have to complete under the law.

Leave the legwork to us

Your celebrant will lodge the paperwork for you – usually the day after the wedding – and email you a confirmation number. This number helps the Department of Births Deaths and Marriages locate your file in future.

Some couples want their authorized marriage certificate as soon as possible after the wedding whether it be for visa requirements, passport application or bank account changes.

A celebrant has the option to order the marriage certificate for you for a small fee or at a later date you apply online for your certificate. There’s a fee (currently less than $50.00) together with evidence of who you are and the certificate that your celebrant has given you.

As with any bureaucratic process, there’s no way to fast-track this, so best prepare in advance. If you are planning a honeymoon immediately or soon after your wedding, make sure you book in your current passport name.  Marriage does not invalidate a passport but carry a copy of your marriage certificate for proof if you want upgrades or honeymoon extras.

Celebrants want your day to be fun, relaxed and happy knowing you are legally married and that the paperwork is the last thing on your mind.