Marriage Licenses in Australia

How to get a marriage license in Australia?

This blog post will hopefully answer the numerous questions I receive about marriage licenses for Australian marriages, like: Do we need to get a license? What is the difference between a marriage license and a notice of intention to marry? How early do we need to get a license? Do marriage licenses exist in Australia?

Thanks to popular culture from America, many people think that you need to apply for a marriage license to get married in Australia. Luckily for everyone, this isn’t true! Before 1961 many people needed government or church permission to marry in Australia, but when the Marriage act of 1961 was introduced, all of that was thrown out (thank god!) and now we have a rather equal and liberal system of marriage, with the exception of gender.

Photography credit: The feature image is by Shane Shepherd, the images below are credited in the image caption.

In America

Many states in the USA require you to apply for a marriage license, and each state has it’s own requirements and laws. The usual process is that ahead of your wedding day you would apply for a license to marry from the government, and if they would allow you to marry, your marriage officiant would sign your marriage license. So all of the legalities around being allowed to marry are held by the government.

In Australia

The Australian government, the Commonwealth, legislates on marriage, but does not control it. The states of Australia, like Queensland or Western Australia, do not legislate marriage, nor do they control who can marry, but they are responsible for registering marriages that take place in their state.

How to marry in Australia

First of all you need to fall in love, and currently it has to be with a person of a different gender. but once you have decided that you wish to form a union with this amazing human, here’s how you marry:

The general conditions you need to meet are

  • that you are both 18 or over (if you aren’t then there are extra conditions)
  • you are both not married to someone else
  • you are not related to your bride or groom, cousins are ok, the law even allows uncle/aunty and nice/nephew, so that’s a thing
  • one of you is a man and one is a woman
  • you are both consenting and willing to the marriage

Before the marriage you must

On the day the government needs

  • a marriage celebrant to identify themselves and the couple, and to tell them what marriage is by quoting the monitum (monitum is a latin word for warning)
  • two or more witnesses need to witness the whole event
  • and the couple, upon heeding the monitum, need to say to one another legal vows
  • the three required marriage certificates are to be signed, one goes to the state government to register the marriage, one stays with the celebrant and one goes to the couple

 

“Lodging” your NOIM

I get many phone calls from people wanting to “lodge” their NOIM, the notice of intended marriage, and the truth is that the form is never really “lodged”. But I guess that’s up to you and how you define lodging a form.

The NOIM is filled out by the couple and addressed to the celebrant, but often your celebrant (like myself) will fill it out for you and ask you to check that it’s correct.

So at the top the form is begun by addressing it to a celebrant, and an intended marriage date and place is noted. This is subject to change, but you do need to have a date, time and place for the intended marriage ceremony.

Then it lists the two people entering into marriage, and all of their details, and on the back there are three sections.

Witnesses

One of the following people can witness your NOIM if you aren’t completing it with your celebrant. If you are doing it with your celebrant then they can just witness it themselves.

  • a Commissioner for Declarations under the Statutory Declarations Act 1959
  • a justice of the peace
  • a barrister or solicitor
  • a legally qualified medical practitioner
  • a member of the Australian Federal Police or the police force of a State or Territory.

If the NOIM is being completed outside of Australia then you need to find an Australian Diplomatic Officer, or an Australian Consular Officer, or a notary public, or an employee of the Commonwealth authorized under paragraph 3(c) of the Consular Fees Act 1955, or finally an employee of the Australian Trade Commission authorised under paragraph 3(d) of the Consular Fees Act 1955.

Identification

The marrying celebrant needs to identify you and prove your place and date of birth. There are a few ways of doing this but the most popular way is with a passport.

Completion

Finally there are a few things the celebrant needs to write on the NOIM after the marriage has taken place. Once they’ve done this they do send it in with the marriage certificate as proof of notice being given and other details on the form.

Is a NOIM a marriage license?

The NOIM isn’t lodged with the government, and you don’t have to ask the government for permission to marry. They simply state the parameters you need to meet to be married, then your celebrant tells the government afterward.

This is similar to how the American state of Indiana’s government is thinking about moving to. The move away from marriage licenses is going to be a popular trend in the future as governments and churches recognise that marriage is between two people, not two people and a government or two people and a church.

Do I need to get a marriage license in Australia?

There is no such thing as a marriage license in Australia, so that means that you do not need to apply for or receive or lodge a marriage license in Australia.

Do I need to classes to marry in Australia?

Although it is common for many churches, and even some celebrants, to offer or require that a couple attend marriage education lessons or counselling before entering in to marriage: it is not required, it is only optional.

That said, it’s a really good idea. Check out some blog posts from marriage educators I love, and even some from myself at marriedbyjosh.com/marriage

How early do I need to worry about marriage legals?

I have a lot of people ask “How early do I need to get my marriage license” which I understand them asking “How early must I give notice to my celebrant?”, am much better question to ask.

I’ll quote from the Guidelines to the Marriage Act:

The NOIM must be given to the authorised celebrant no earlier than 18 months and no later than one month before the date of the marriage

What exactly is one month according to the law?

In any Act, month means a period: (a) starting at the start of any day of one of the calendar months; and (b) ending: (i) immediately before the start of the corresponding day of the next calendar month; or (ii) if there is no such day—at the end of the next calendar month

That’s really hard to understand isn’t it, so here’s some examples:

  • a month starting on 15 December in a year ends immediately before 15 January in the next year (therefore the first day the marriage can be solemnised is 15 January)
  • a month starting on 31 August in a year ends at the end of September in that year because September is the calendar month coming after August and does not have 31 days (therefore the first day the marriage can be solemnised is 1 October)
  • a month starting on 29, 30 or 31 January ends at the end of February in that year because February is the calendar month coming after January and does not have 31 days (therefore the first day the marriage can be solemnised is 1 March). This applies regardless of whether it is a leap year.

Can I get married with less than one month’s notice?

If you wanted to get married in less than one month, there is an allowance for that.

The government allows “prescribed authorities” to grant a shortening of time if the couple’s desire to marry inside the next month if their motivation is

  • employment related or other important travel commitments
  • wedding or celebration arrangements which does not include “the venue is only available at this time” or “we just really want to”
  • religious considerations, did you know that all Jedis must marry as quickly as possible just in case she turns out to be their sister? This is not a true fact, although religious considerations are.
  • medical reasons for yourselves or direct family
  • legal proceedings, like if you had just been to court and were about to spend the next few years wearing orange
  • an error in giving notice

If your reasoning fits in there, then talk to your celebrant about how to proceed

Do I need to get a marriage license in Australia?

No.

Seriously, there is no such thing as a marriage license in Australia

You just need to have a notice of intended marriage form to your celebrant before one month before the wedding