The Educated Celebrant

Ongoing Professional Development

Did you know that celebrants must attend a 5-hour workshop annually to update their knowledge and continue their registration as Authorised Marriage Celebrants? Before the advances in Marriage Equality, I could call myself a “Civil Celebrant” (CMC), but now celebrants must call themselves either “Marriage Celebrant” (indicating a conviction in relation to LGBTQI marriage), or Religious Celebrants (who will conduct marriages according to their religious convictions).

Celebrant Training 2020

It was touch and go for me this year whether I could meet with a group of celebrants in the living flesh, rather than in live-streaming scenario. Although I have been conducting weddings for 25 years, with a current fervour for my LGBTQI clientele, I always learn, refresh or reconsider skills and practices which come naturally to me now.

Code of Practice for Marriage Celebrants

It should go without saying that a celebrant must respect the importance of the marriage ceremony to the marrying party and their organisers.

Choice of ceremony and Marriage Law

I will guide you in choosing or composing a ceremony which reflects your beliefs about marriage, and placing them within the context of the legal definition of marriage:

… 1. the union of two people 2. to the exclusion of all others 3. voluntarily entered into 4. for life.

Dissected, you can be married in Australia irrespective of gender, nationality, religion, language, customs or ability – as long as you consent to and comprehend the commitment you are making. You need to be over 18, not already married, and not related by means of ascendance, descendance or as siblings (even if one of you is adopted);

The relationship is exclusive – you cannot be married to more than this one person, your “significant other”;

No-one is twisting your arm; you want to do it!

As long as the marriage exists, it will last until one of you dies.

Ceremony Rehearsal

The concept of rehearsing your marriage ceremony seems strange to me as I treasure the day as the unique, happiest day of your life. You can only have this day once!

Of course, it would be illegal to rehearse your marriage vows, however, to run through your ceremony wording in my office (and feel free to bring your bridal party) is something I can understand and is part of my fee. In fact, you can have as many meetings here with me as you feel you need.

If, after you've met with me and discussed your ceremony, chosen it and feel comfortable with it, you feel you need a rehearsal at the site of your wedding, there is a fee for that, because of extra time and travel. You would also need to give me a month's notice of this.

You might still like to go on-site sometime with your bridal party to practise walking in (in heels) and knowing where to stand and timing your entrance song if you're having one. 

All of this can be relayed to me because basically, I will do what you tell me. 

Your privacy

All the personal details you share with me are private and confidential. You’ll meet with me in a designated meeting room at my residence.

You are required to show me some personal documents – your birth certificate or passport, photo ID and divorce papers. I am only to sight these; I should not keep them. If you send me scanned copies, I am to trash them once I’ve seen them and noted the details.

Your marriage documents – Notice of Intended Marriage, and later, your official Certificate of Marriage will be kept securely in my office. After your wedding, I will send them digitally to the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriage for registration and I will keep the originals in case they are needed down the track. After 7 years I will dispose of them.

Marriage Education

I’m not a relationship counsellor nor will I be intrusive about your decision to marry. However, I must give each of you a brochure from Family Services called “Happily Ever … Before and After”. I can also recommend education services if you want me to. I don’t require you to complete marriage education.

Complaints

Amongst the materials I give you is a sheet which tells you how to complain about me!

This has never happened, and I hope it never will. I would much rather you spoke to me if you’re not happy with my service so that I can fix the problem going forward.

Communication

Of course, the best way to ensure you are happy with my service is communication.

In our meetings, you will find that I use my 25 years’ experience to help you imagine your wedding ceremony. Above all, I will listen to ideas you already have, because almost anything can be incorporated into the ceremony. You can confidently and confidentially tell me background information that will enhance or just contextualise your ceremony.

I won’t pry into your relationship, but I will be open to anything you may want to share.

The Marriage Act

Remember, there are only two elements which make a marriage legal – that is the recitation by me from the Marriage Act:

My name is Susan Artup, a marriage celebrant duly authorised by law to solemnise 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 about to enter. Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

Legal Vows

I very much encourage you to write personal vows for one another, but the crux of the marriage ceremony is your legal commitment, repeated after me in the presence of your (two) witnesses:

I, ( full name), call upon the persons here present to witness that I take you, ( full name) to be my lawful/wedded husband/wife/spouse/partner in marriage.

Marriage Moment

The minute you exchange these words you are married – even if we don’t sign the documents, even if they blow over a cliff or into the ocean, even if I don’t register your wedding. Savour that moment!

Celebrant Author

In 2018, I published a book for marrying couples entitled “Love is in the Air, 100 ideas for your personal wedding story”. I love writing and can write your entire bespoke ceremony if you wish. This book, and another word-processed booklet I give at the time of booking, has lots of examples of my writing which are yours to use.

Celebrant as Speaker

I deliver ceremonies in a calm, confident and natural manner. I won’t be phased up there – 25 years a celebrant and 35 years’ classroom content delivery as a language teacher ensure that. It is my goal that I will make you feel calm, confident and natural as you stand before your favourite people with the love of your life!

What a Marriage Celebrant Must Do - Susan Artup

To protect you and make sure your celebrant knows what he or she is doing, the Commonwealth Attorney General has devised a code of conduct for its agents, so:

I would hope the celebrant can offer you much more than that – elements which can’t be prescribed in a code – it’s the personal je ne sais quoi as well as the above that will make the difference on your wedding day and confirm your happiness as a couple – this is an email comment I just received from a couple I am about to marry – rapport is everything and just happens! I will modestly share:
“You're an absolute gem and I love your energy. I am so happy you will be officiating our marriage.”

After the wedding: details… details…

marriage certificate

On the day of the wedding you will sign 3 documents, as you know by now!

You also need two witnesses over the age of 18 to sign these. By the way the bride will sign in the name she has been using, or the name on her birth certificate. The signature should be consistent on all the documents of marriage, including the NOIM.

Once your commemorative certificate, my register and the official certificate of marriage are signed, we will stand up from the signing table and I will introduce you, in words that you have chosen, for the first time as a married couple.

I present you or leave you with your  commemorative certificate of marriage and then I depart. If  I don’t have  a chance to say goodbye to you it is because you will be surrounded by family and friends and it would be inappropriate for me to catch your attention and break into this melée of goodwill and congratulating. It isn't about me any more! So I will make a quiet departure, wishing you well nonetheless.

Then I have two weeks to send your official certificate of marriage to Births, Deaths and Marriages (I do this straight away, though). That doesn't mean you are not married until the wedding is registered – you are married once you have made the legal commitment to each other.

I keep the register securely in my office. So, three pieces of evidence of your marriage will be signed by five people.

It is the official certificate that I send to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages that is evidence of your marriage AND proof of your ID. You are advised to apply for this from BDM on the form that I give you on the wedding day or which you can download form the BDM website. Then if you begin to use a different surname, or two surnames, you have proof that you are that person. When women change their name after the wedding on passports, licenses and bank accounts, this is the document they will be asked for as proof of ID.

In addition to obtaining this certificate, couples from some overseas countries will need to take it to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and have an apostille stamped on the back. They should find out what is required from their own governments before getting married in Australia in order to make the process smoother.

Announcing Your Marriage: The Transition of Exchanging Rings

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Although you are married the minute you have exchanged the legal vows (and I love that moment of transition as only we 3 know it’s happened), it is tradition to hold off announcing your marriage until after the rings are exchanged.

Once this has happened I can turn to your guests and pronounce you married, or as husband and wife. If in fact that is what you want me to announce. I need just say: “Congratulations!” but it is nice to enjoy a moment when your change in status is defined. This is the moment when you can be announced as married partners/ your commitment in marriage is declared/ your intent to live together in marriage is cemented – you can play around with the words if you want to get away from tradition.

However it is after this declaration that I say “ You may kiss (the bride)!” - a moment everyone seems to be waiting for. Again this is optional – you can leave it out or say something different.

After the applause dies down you sit quietly to complete the legal formalities – i.e. sign the documents. You and your two witnesses over the age of 18 must sign 3 documents in my presence – an elegant, commemorative certificate which you keep ( proof and souvenir of your marriage), the register ( the celebrant’s book) and an ordinary-looking form which is your official certificate of marriage that goes to Births Deaths and Marriages. A woman will sign all 3 in her existing name. At BDM your official certificate is processed along with your Notice of Intended Marriage. You can apply for a copy of the certificate ( i.e. purchase it ) from BDM. It is essential to get this copy as it is proof not only of your marriage but of your ID. You will need it anywhere you have to prove your identity – e.g. when changing a name on legal documents like licenses and passports. It is also worth mentioning that there is no obligation for a woman to change her family name after marriage. Getting a copy of your official marriage certificate keeps your options open. For men as well as women!

After the signing is complete you are introduced to your guests as “Mr and Mrs”, or “a married couple”, “married partners” – or whatever appellation you choose – and usually you will walk back down an aisle or just step forward to meet your guests who will be wanting to congratulate you.

Wedding Shortening: Legal Requirements and Process

Last time I wrote about the legal condition for getting married – i.e. giving one month’s notice to the celebrant ( as representative of the Attorney General).

Although by law you must give one month’s notice, it is possible to hold a wedding in a shorter time: this is called a “ Shortening”. A Shortening is not to be taken for granted, but can be applied for from a “ Prescribed Authority” or magistrate at a local courthouse. Circumstances which may call for a Shortening are these:

the arnolfini marriage jan van eyck1

The only reason I have ever been asked to conduct a wedding with a Shortening has been compassionate – the doubt that a party to the marriage or a family member may live long enough for the prescribed period of Notice.

If you need to be married in a short time frame you should prepare your case and take a completed Notice of Intended Marriage (the only time this form can leave the celebrant’s hands) from your celebrant so permission can be recorded on it. In addition I will give you a letter on my letterhead saying I have received your Notice and that I am willing and able to conduct your wedding pending the granting of your Shortening.  Then you should return to the celebrant with the Notice and hopefully your wedding can go ahead as you wish.

Good luck with this!

Notice of Intended Marriage: Legal Process and Timelines

edmund blair leighton signing the register

The first thing you need to do in the legal process of getting married is to complete a Notice of Intended Marriage. This must be done no less than a month before your wedding and not more than 18 months out from the date.

Usually and ideally this form is provided by me and filled out in my office and witnessed by me.
Sometimes though it may be difficult to make an appointment to see me if you live somewhere distant and time is running out – in this case you can download the form from the website of Births, Deaths and Marriages in NSW at www.bdm.nsw.gov.au
You would then need to have it witnessed by a JP or any of the other authorities listed on the back of the form. After this you can either scan it and email it to me or post the original so that I have it a month before the wedding. Then your wedding Notice is “lodged”. However, bear in mind that I MUST be given the original before I am permitted to proceed with the wedding.
At the time of filling out this form you also need to show me your original birth certificates or your passports so I can verify your ID and age. If you’ve been married before I also need to see your FINAL divorce papers ( with the words “ final”, “ absolute” or “ termination” on them). If you can’t place any of these documents in time for filling out the Notice of Intended Marriage , you can show them to me later, as long as I see them before you can be married. Again, without them, I am unable to proceed by law. To get an original copy of your birth certificate, you can go to BDM, and to get an original copy of your divorce papers, you would need to go to the Family Court in which your divorce as granted. As there is quite a variation in these documents, it is important that I see them as soon as possible in case you have to do further searches.
What can you do if you need to get married and you don’t have the luxury of giving a month’s notice? I’ll tell you next time!

Legalities of Getting Married: Notice of Intended Marriage

marriage certificate

Sometimes couples are confused about the legalities surrounding the certification of marriage. First of all, you don't have to get a Marriage License in Australia - in its place, we have the Notice of Intended Marriage which is filled in ( “lodged” ), witnessed and held by the celebrant until after the marriage. This is the first thing you have to do in the legal process of getting married. It must be done at least a month before your wedding and not more than 18 months before.

On the Notice the celebrant has to note down the number of your passport or birth certificate and the numbers of final divorce documents. All these must be originals, not even certified copies. After the wedding the Notice of Intended Marriage is sent off to Births, Deaths and Marriages with your official certificate of marriage. This is the certificate that counts when a bride wants to change her name, or use her married name - this is proof of ID. You don't have to apply to change your name after marriage. You can commence to use a different surname straightaway but to prove your ID ( that you are the same person using more than one name) you will need to apply to get a copy of this Certificate of Marriage sent to BDM for registration.

On the wedding day then you sign 3 legal documents: an elegant, commemorative certificate which you keep ( proof and souvenir of your marriage), the register ( the celebrant's copy) and an ordinary-looking form, which is your Certificate of Marriage that goes to BDM. BDM processes this and when you apply for it they send you back an official copy - proof of your marital names and ID which you can then present when changing the name on documents at the bank, RTA, passport office etc. To apply for this certificate you can download a form from the BDM website or I have one for you.