Legal FAQs – before the Wedding

Deciding to get married is a very important step in your life.

Any decision to marry should be very carefully thought out, and spontaneous whims avoided.

Marriage is a legal state, and the act of getting married and marriage itself have laws that apply to them as well as legal consequences.


Do we need a Marriage Licence?

Marriage Licences are not required in Australia.


What is marriage?

Australian law defines marriage as ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’ (Marriage Act 1961).

The key words here are that it must be voluntary, and that it is a full exclusive commitment to one person, and the desire, hope and firm intention is that it will last for life.

Under current Australian law it is also only possible for this union to be between a man and a woman.



In Australia, if both partners are over 18 there are no legal impediments to getting married.

If one partner is under 18 but older than 16, you can only marry with parental or guardian consent and only after an Order from a Judge or Magistrate for the marriage to take place has been obtained. Where both partners are under 18, you cannot be married in Australia.

No-one under 16 is allowed to marry in Australia.


Who needs to be at the wedding?

  • The marriage must take place in the presence of a Registered Celebrant (which includes ministers of religion).
  • At least 2 people over the age of 18yrs must be present at your marriage ceremony and act as your witnesses.


What legal requirements do we need to fulfil before we can be married?

  • The celebrant is responsible for ensuring you have fulfilled all legal requirements prior to your celebration and after your ceremony, for lodging your completed Notice of Intended Marriage and Certificate of Marriage with the appropriate Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
  • Both parties (bride and groom) and the wedding celebrant must complete and sign this Notice of Intended Marriage form at least 1 calendar month (and not more than 18 months) before the wedding date. This waiting period is to prevent ‘spur of the moment’ marriages, giving parties time to reconsider their decision. In exceptional cases, this waiting time may be waived (called a Shortening of Time) by the ‘prescribed authority’ (usually the state Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages or a local Court Registrar) for a fee. If you need a Shortening of Time, I can assist you with this.
  • You will need the following documents to complete the form and to show the celebrant:
      1. Both parties must provide an original copy of each person’s birth certificate if born in Australia
      2. Overseas passport if born overseas, Birth Certificate from country of origin (translated by an AATI translator if necessary)
      3. Original proof of divorce/death of previous spouse, if applicable (e.g. a decree absolute or death certificate)
      4. Once the Notice of Intended Marriage form has been lodged, the legal marriage process has started
      5. Normally the person with whom you lodge your Notice of Intended Marriage form will conduct your ceremony. However, this document may be transferred to another celebrant should this become necessary.


    How do we obtain original copies of birth certificates?

    Copies of your Birth Certificates can be obtained from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the Australian state or territory where you were born.

    If your birth certificate is not in English, your documentation must be a certified translation.


    How do we prove how we got “unmarried”?

    If you are divorced, you will need a Divorce Certificate obtainable from the Family Court of Australia (if divorced in Australia), OR  from whatever jurisdiction in which your divorce took place.

    If your former spouse has passed away, you will need a Death Certificate which you can obtain from the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the State in which the death took place, or from the overseas equivalent.

    As with Birth Certificates, if your Divorce or Death certificate is not in English, your documentation must be a certified AATI translation.

    Also, PLEASE NOTE . . . original documents (not photocopies) MUST be supplied.


    Pre-Nuptial Agreements

    A Pre-Nuptial Agreement is a financial agreement prepared by a lawyer made prior to the marriage, which legally specifies how your property and/or spouse maintenance would be arranged should the marriage ever break down. Pre-Nuptial Agreements have become much more acceptable for a couple to consider these days and are becoming increasingly popular.

    And for Legal FAQs that deal with things that arise AT THE WEDDING

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