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Being a Celebrant in the Digital World
We've come a long way since filling out forms with old fashioned paper and pen. There are new rules, new technologies and a new way of doing things. Celebrant Shell Brown takes us through what we, as celebrants, can and can not do electronically.
What we can do electronically:
- Accept a digital copy of a signed/witnessed NOIM form - this means that your couple can scan the signed and witnesssed NOIM using a scanner or printer/scanner or take a photo with their phone and send it electronically - via email, text, WhatsApp or any other platform that allows you to send documents.
- Accept electronic copies of divorce certificates - nowdays divorce certificates are sent from the Family Court via email to the parties, therefore celebrants can accept a forwarded email or a scanned copy of an older divorce certicate/decree.
Note: an electronic copy in the two points above relate to scanned/emailed copies that would be able to be printed - not sighted via video conferencing ie: Skype, Zoom, Facetime.
- Accept scanned ID... in the past it used to be that we could only accept ID in their original forms in person - no photocopies and no certified copies and certainly no digital copies... NOW couples can scan or take a photo of their original piece of ID and send it electronically via email or text or through WhatsApp, etc... there is no need for celebrants to additionally witness the original documents in person.
Also... celebrants can accept ID via video conferencing - see the note below:
Note: [from the AGD website] The Marriage Act does not prescribe how a celebrant is to satisfy themselves that the parties signing the Notice are who they say they are. So, if an authorised celebrant is satisfied as to a party's identity using video conferencing media ie: Zoom, Facetime, Skype, etc..., then this is consistent with the Marriage Act.
- Sign Marriage Documents - you, your couple and their witnesses are allowed to sign the Official Certificate of Marriage and the DoNLI electronically - if you have the technology to do this - perhaps on an iPad or tablet with a digital pen... However, the Certificate of Marriage - the old form 15, the pretty one that we give to the couples - that must be signed in person with an actual pen because you are going to give that certificate to the couple there and then.
Note: you will need to check with the state's BDM as to whether they will accept electronic signatures.
- Register the marriage documents online - this is not yet available to all states - only NSW, QLD, Vic and Tassie have online registration, all other states and territories must still use paper, envelopes and stamps... you can also drop your docs off to the courts in some regional towns and they will send them to the BDM in their internal mail system.
- Retain celebrant's copies of marriage docs - the celebrant's copy of the Official Marriage Certificate can be kept electronically for a period of 6 years...
* Marriage Certificate: from the date the marriage was solemnised.
* Form 15 record of use form: from the date of the last entry on the form.
These things are still a digital no no:
- Witnessing the NOIM online from afar - the witness still must be be there in person to witness the NOIM.
- Performing a marriage ceremony online - the celebrant, the couple and the two witnesses must be in the same physical location for the marriage to be valid.
Marriage via zoom ⬇️ is simply not legal in Australia... even in a pandemic.
If you would like more information - please see the AGD's webpage
I began my time as a celebrant in the ACT in 2018, and when I posted off the documents from my first wedding, I got an email saying they would rather I emailed them! So they may not have an online system like the fancy states, they still prefer online submission over paper and stamps.
I am trying to think of a reason or benefit for signing the official Certificate of Marriage and DoNLI, electronically. We have both in our possession, when we conduct a marriage, the couple and witnesses sign the Certificate of Marriage by hand as legally determined.
Is it simply to create a facility for online registering with BDM?
Hi Judy, Some celebrants use their iPads, Kindles and Tablets to read their ceremony from and then have their couples and witnesses sign the marriage docs on there as well. I guess it means they don't have to worry about paper blowing away. They do, of course, have to sign the Form 15 in person.
It's a whole new digital world!