There are specific requirements that must be met to ensure your marriage is legal.
These are outlined in the Basic Conditions for Australian marriage article in this website.
As regards the actual Marriage Vows themselves the following words must be used in a civil marriage.
“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 words to that effect, such as " partner in marriage"
You may add your own words before or after these words, but the act of saying these words is a major component of the ceremony conducted by Commonwealth authorised marriage celebrants who conduct civil ceremonies, or Registry Office celebrants. Marriages conducted by Ministers of Recognised Religions will use the words of their approved marriage service.
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 (AB) are used, 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/spouse/ partner in marriage, 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 !
Note. If you are having a religious ceremony, this format for the Vows may not apply, unless this wording is part of the church marriage rite.
Extract re Marriage Vows from the Marriage Act 1961 as amended:
45 Form of ceremony
- 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.
- 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 spouse)”; or words to that effect.
- 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
- 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.