Legal requirements

Marriage laws in Australia are a function of the federal government.

All civil marriage celebrants must be authorised by the Commonwealth Attorney General's Department.  You can find Your Celebrant here

All marriages require the couple to give at least one month's notice to their chosen celebrant.

Notice of Intended Marriage

You must lodge a Notice of Intended Marriage form with the celebrant you choose at least one a full month before the date of your wedding - whether the celebrant is a civil celebrant or religious one, or one at a registry office or court house. 

You may lodge your documents in person, by mail or electronically.  Your celebrant will explain these requirements.

Occasionally a "shortening of time" may be granted by a magistrate or registrar in specific extenuating circumstances.  This would enable you to marry earlier, but there is no guarantee of this. 

Your celebrant can explain and assist you with this process if it applies to you.

Age and Marital Status

You must be over the age of 18 years and not legally married to any other person anywhere in the world.

In very limited circumstances a court may allow the marriage of a couple where ONE of the partners is aged between 16 and 18 years
Verification Documents:

To verify age and marital status you will need

  • Birth Certificates or Passports and satisfy the celebrant that the information you have provided is correct .e.g photo ID or other ID support.
  • Divorce or Death certificates if you have been married before

These must be Original documents - NOT photocopies. 

Note: Digital copies of your ID are now accepted 

Your celebrant is required to provide you and your partner with a copy of the Australian government's publication Happily Ever Before and After.

Words that must be included in your ceremony

There are some specific legal requirements for the wording of a civil marriage ceremony. 

Civil marriage celebrants must ensure: 

  • Your full names are used at least once during the ceremony
  • They say that they are authorised by law to marry you, and give a definition of Marriage according to Australian law
  • You, as the marrying couple, each must call upon the witnesses to witness that you take each other as husband / wife/ spouse or words to that effect.

You need two people over the age of 18 to act as your witnesses.

You will sign three certificates at the ceremony, together with your witnesses and the celebrant.  You will keep one, the celebrant will keep one and the third will go to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages to register your marriage.


Significance of Marriage:

The papers you sign on your wedding day, are among the most important and binding legal documents you will sign throughout your lives.

The marriage contract is a legal commitment to respect, care and support each other and any children of your marriage. The contract covers property rights, custody rights and impacts on inheritance rights.

Hence, requiring you to lodge the Notice Of Intended Marriage at least a full month prior to the wedding gives you both a "cooling off" period to assess the importance of the commitment you are about to enter.

Your ceremony needs to reflect the significance of this occasion.

Your ceremony:

As noted above, there are only a few specific legal requirements for the wording of a marriage ceremony.  Your celebrant will talk to you about these.

Cultural, religious and personal preferences usually determine the rest of the ceremony content. 

A professional civil marriage celebrant will assist you to design your own unique ceremony, one which will reflect the values you both hold, in an appropriate style.

You may

  • choose your style of wedding traditional, modern, casual, themed, - short or long.
  • select options from information provided by your celebrant and other wedding planning resources
  • write your own vows, or the whole ceremony if you wish.

It is advisable to listen to your celebrant's advice, as he or she is the person most likely to have experience in ceremony design and delivery.


The Celebrants Network has professional civil marriage celebrants across the country.  Look for one in your area here




Last modified on Wednesday, 27 October 2021 14:40