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Marriage vows - legal requirements

manga_bride_and_groom_unity_candle_md_clrThere are specific requirements that must be met to ensure your marriage is legal.

These are outlined in the Legal Requirements section.

As regards the actual Marriage Vows themselves, unless you are being married by a marriage celebrant from a main stream religious organisation, the following words must be used:

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 words to that effect.

You may add your own words before or after these words, but the act of saying these words is a major component of the marrying process that is conducted by federally appointed marriage celebrants who conduct civil ceremonies or non-aligned religious ceremonies, or Registry Office celebrants.

There are some slight changes that are permissible. For example:

  • One may leave out "lawful" (in case with nerves one may say "awful") or wedded, but not both.
  • One may use a First and Middle or First and Last name for A or B, but provided the couples full names are used in full, sometime before the Vows, preferably early in the ceremony
  • The first phrase may become " I ask everyone here to witness " but not " I ask family and friends here to witness" etc.
Under Australian law, the point at which you are married is when you will take each other as husband and wife, in front of two adult witnesses and a registered marriage celebrant. This comes from our historic roots where a couple declaring before their community that they were going to live together as married, was THE process for marrying.

Registering marriage for commoners is a more recent practice, historically speaking of course !

Extract re Marriage Vows from the Marriage Act 1961 as amended:


45 Form of ceremony

  1. Where a marriage is solemnized by or in the presence of an authorized celebrant, being a minister of religion, it may be solemnized according to any form and ceremony recognized as sufficient for the purpose by the religious body or organization of which he or she is a minister.
  2. Where a marriage is solemnized by or in the presence of an authorized celebrant, not being a minister of religion, it is sufficient if each of the parties says to the other, in the presence of the authorized celebrant and the witnesses, the words: “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 words to that effect.
  3. Where a marriage has been solemnized by or in the presence of an authorized celebrant, a certificate of the marriage prepared and signed in accordance with section 50 is conclusive evidence that the marriage was solemnized in accordance with this section
  4. Nothing in subsection (3) makes a certificate conclusive

(a) where the fact that the marriage ceremony took place is in issue—as to that fact; or
(b) where the identity of a party to the marriage is in issue—as to the identity of that party.

46 Certain authorised celebrants to explain nature of marriage relationship

  1. Subject to subsection (2), before a marriage is solemnized by or in the presence of an authorized celebrant, not being a minister of religion of a recognized denomination, the authorized celebrant shall say to the parties, in the presence of the witnesses, the words: “I am duly authorized by law to solemnize 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 a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”;


    or words to that effect.
  2. Where, in the case of a person authorized under subsection 39(2) to solemnize marriages, the Minister is satisfied that the form of ceremony to be used by that person sufficiently states the nature and obligations of marriage, the Minister may, either by the instrument by which that person is so authorized or by a subsequent instrument, exempt that person from compliance with subsection (1) of this section.


47 Ministers of religion not bound to solemnize marriage etc.

Nothing in this Part:
(a) imposes an obligation on an authorized celebrant, being a minister of religion, to solemnize any marriage; or
(b) prevents such an authorized celebrant from making it a condition of his or her solemnizing a marriage that:
(i) longer notice of intention to marry than that required by this Act is given; or
(ii) requirements additional to those provided by this Act are observed.