Record keeping in an online environment

I read the latest Marriage Celebrant Matters Newsletter and it states that “Hard copies of the Notice, DNLI or any supporting documents (divorce orders, parental consents etc) do not need to be kept once lodged electronically with the registry of births, deaths and marriages (BDM). Celebrants may wish to retain these documents until the marriage is registered”

Does this include all the previous hard copies we kept and lodged electronically? Because previously we were suppose to keep the hard copies for X years from what I remember. I think it was 5 years from memory.

Children of previous marriages on the NOIM

It’s here again, the most dreaded question on the NOIM. We do know it’s being removed from the next iteration of the forms, but given they’ve been on their way for 5 years, don’t hold your breath. Liane asks: Do you include the years of birth...

Changing the planned date of the marriage on the NOIM

A couple from America have gone gung ho and booked to elope in December. They have their heart set on coming into their wedding on a camel!

I advised them that this our ‘wet’ season and there may be a chance of rain and will need a plan B. However there is no plan B option for a camel to be involved….which is their whole motivation for getting married in this destination. The cameleer has advised them that they definitely need a plan B too. He has asked them potentially plan to have the wedding on 2 consecutive dates (28th and 29th Dec) so that if it is raining on the first date, they can do it on the second date.

I advised them that this isn’t possible due to the NOIM limitations. Anyway I got to thinking, is it totally illegal to fill in 2 NOIMS – one for each date? I feel like this would be a no-no but I guess I want to satisfy my curiosity

Contingency/death planning for celebrants

Now I’ve reached the stage of life where I have a mortgage and a family I figure it’s time to put a grown up will in place.

This got me thinking about what instructions I need to leave for my surviving relatives and the obligations that they have not only to comply with the law but to also ensure a smooth transition for my couples.

I was wondering if you guys have any tips or could give a basic overview of what process you guys have in place?

Names in the ceremony

I have a Jane Brown (married name from her third marriage – the marriage I am looking after will be her fourth)

She uses the name Jane Brown in everyday use, and has Jane Brown on all her current documents. The only document she has with her maiden name (Jane Smith) is her birth certificate.

She has asked if I can use her maiden name, Jane Smith, in the ceremony on the day?

Parents’ names on the NOIM. Part 3

Party to the marriage is completing their NOIM and has advised me that:
1) her father is not listed on her birth certificate or any other official/legal documents relating to her identity
2) she knows who her father is, and they are involved in each other’s life
I’m aware we don’t have to check evidence of parents names – so just wanted to double check that I am correct in advising that she should list her father on the NOIM despite him not appearing on her birth certificate (as to write ‘unknown’ would be to knowingly make a false statement on the NOIM)?

Witnessing the NOIM via videoconferencing

With the new law, we are able to sight their identification online, so can we do the same if they sign the documents in front of us but online? So signing in America, we watch them do that over Skype, then they mail us the form, and we sign NOIM and date when we watched them sign over Skype.

2018 marriage and divorce statistics, 5.5% increase

The annual release of marriage and divorce statistics by the Australian Bureau of Statistics occurs every year around 27 November. Right on time, the statistics for the full calendar year 2018 were released today at 11.30am. If you’re interested you can find all the information on the ABS website.

Dealing with difficult couples

A celebrant asks: This has been the year of a handful of crazies, seriously. I’m thankful it hasn’t just been me, others in the region have had the exact same experience with this weird 2019 trend of difficult couples. I tried firing one of the couples...

Can’t access a birth certificate but has a passport!

Cass asks: I’m marring a couple in October and one of them can’t find his birth certificate and he’s looked everywhere. He seems to think it can’t get posted to him in time to fill out the NOIM. He only has a passport and not a drivers license or proof of age. Is there any other form of ID he can use like Medicare or like proof of residency? Sorry, I tried looking it up and can’t quite figure out how to use other IDs on the NOIM?

Getting the guests to obey you

I recently had a ceremony which was in a very sunny/hot location, I asked the guests multiple times to move over to the ceremony area but they all resisted and stayed in the shade. I walked over and specifically asked them to move over and some did but some still didn’t. What are your tips?

Evidence of divorces granted overseas

I’ve written before about how easy it is for parties to get a copy of their divorce order if they were divorced in Australia. I’ve also written about the changes in the 2018 Guidelines that allow us to accept a stat dec where evidence of a divorce granted...

Taking over a ceremony for another celebrant: legal obligations

A celebrant friend has asked me to be a standby in case she cannot officiate her nieces wedding next month. I am meeting the couple this week so we can all feel comfortable and I will also check ID’s so I am happy with that aspect. The best outcome is that I am just there on the day and she is well enough but we are both wanting to be prepared so her niece has a legal and memorable wedding with no glitches. Is this enough?

Giving the couple a copy of their NOIM

I have completed a NOIM with a bride for a ceremony next year, the groom lives in the USA and they are submitting a prospective marriage visa application. When signing the NOIM with the bride I provided a letter of support but she also wanted a copy of the NOIM for her lawyer. I said I wasn’t able to provide this and the letter should be enough (I have done a few of these now and no other couple have asked for it and visas have been processed). I double checked this with some other celebrants at the time as I was sure we were not supposed to pass on copies of the NOIM to anyone and they agreed, do not pass it on. Anyway today the lawyer called me asking for the NOIM again. I advised the same thing and she was super nice about it but said in 5 years I am the only celebrant to have ever said no…………. SO am I wrong or is she wrong? I don’t want to hinder their visa application in any way but I also want to follow our rules!

Wedding location on the marriage paperwork

I am doing a backyard wedding next week (the couple have changed their mind at the last minute) so do I need to put their street address as the location, along with the town and state? I can’t find any guidance in the Guidelines about how nailed down the location has to be but I remember in my Cert IV that I had to write location as well as town and state.

The survey about OPD and the new celebrant application process

Okay here it is, my promised analysis on the survey that the Marriage Law and Celebrants Section (MLCS) sent to all celebrants today. Before I jump in, I just want to reiterate how incredibly important it is that as many celebrants as possible respond to this survey. We don’t get many opportunities to have a say on how the celebrant program is run, and we should take them when they are offered. Please, please, please think carefully about each question, but definitely respond!

Registering Australian marriages overseas

Just wanting some advice on how you inform couples on how to register their marriages aboard? E.g  A Scottish couple marry here, and ask you how they register their marriage in Scotland. I understand they need to have the Original Marriage Certificate apostille stamped, before their government will recognize it as a true document, however where can they get this done? The Australian Embassy in their country or??

Marrying in your birth name after changing your name by marriage

I have a bride that is divorced but still goes by her previous spouse’s surname. In regards to moving forward and taking on the new spouses name – does she have to go through any special process or will she just go to her organisations and show her divorce cert, and new marriage certificate to change to her new surname? In regards to the paperwork NOIM etc – if she shows me her birth certificate, but a passport/drivers licence with her previous married surname – as long as I’m satisfied that it is the same person, and she is who she says she is, does it matter? And i fill out the documentation with her maiden name?

Sharing ceremony content

Jeff asks: I share my ceremonies with my couples using Google Docs. Every once in awhile I have a venue coordinator or wedding planner request access to the document, to which I normally deny access by kindly emailing them directly asking if I can help them out with anything specific. I kind of feel like there’s no reason for them to need to see the ceremony or have access, especially if it’s a venue I’ve been at a bunch of times. I would never request access to their day-of timeline they’ve created, that’s their business…

Victorian BDM RIO Tutorial – Updated

I’ve re-recorded the video tutorial I made on BDM RIO earlier this year, because since March the BDM team have made lots of changes to the way the system is laid out and some of the functions. You can purchase the tutorial here:...

Celebrant numbers at 10 June 2019

How many celebrants who perform civil ceremonies decided to become Religious Marriage Celebrants after marriage equality was introduced? I counted in 2018, and I’ve counted again in 2019. Enjoy the fruits of my nerdom!

Tips for a first-time funeral celebrant

I get a lot of marriage celebrants contacting me after they’ve been asked to do their first funeral, asking for advice, information and templates. I thought I’d put all my tips in one place in the hopes that some of you might benefit from them!

Change of name by marriage and the NOIM

Some of you may recall this little rant I went on after the updated Guidelines were released last year: “Change of name by marriage: A party who has changed their name by marriage, and retained their previous spouse’s surname, must record that surname on...

Taking over a wedding from another celebrant: logistics and money

“A local celebuddy and I have recently been chatting about being a primary back-up celebrant for each other. As a fairly new celebrant, it got me wondering how other people manage replacements when you have to cancel at short notice (or even on the day). Do you ask the new celebrant to use your script (even if it’s very much in ‘your’ voice)? How do you divide payment? Do you partially/fully refund the couple because you’ve not completely fulfilled the contract? What if you’re in a car accident on the way to the ceremony and you have all the paperwork on you?”

Dealing with nerves and stage fright

Cass asks: My question is more of a concern. I already have full time work in the theatre so celebrancy for me was more of a service I wanted to provide for friends and family. I think celebrating love is one of the most beautiful and important things we can do as a society and for me it has always been about the intimacy of the couple. I used to be quite a confident public speaker when I was in high school but now I’m almost 30 I feel absolute terror at the thought of performing such an important task in front of potentially hundreds of people. I know the day is obviously about the couple and not me but I don’t want my nerves to interfere with their special moment. Do you have advice (apart from practice) to combat serious stage fright?

Witnessing the NOIM: how much information is required?

Lauren asks: “I got this question from my bride and I’m second guessing myself! ‘Went up to the police station on Sunday and got this signed, but I just wanted to check before I send you the original…in the qualification section, is it fine that it just says police officer? I only realised when looking at it later that there is no section for the witness’ name or identification number or anything, so hoping this is ok!’

VIC BDM RIO: everything I know

As anyone who’s reading this will be aware, the rollout of the Victorian BDM’s new online registration system, Registry Information Online (aka RIO) has been less than smooth. As I write this I’m locked in a text conversation with our very own Josh; he’s the techiest person I know and even he’s confused. Things that work one day don’t seem to work the next; you ring the helpdesk and get a “solution” that is really just them fiddling around until it suddenly works for no good reason, etc etc etc.

Victorian BDM RIO tutorial

Let’s face it, the new BDM online registration system implementation has not had the smoothest roll-out in the history of tech roll-outs. It’s certainly not a particularly intuitive, user-friendly system, and I’m disappointed at the number of issues with it. However I also know BDM are working really hard to rectify the issues as soon as possible.

Ceremony design process

Veronica has had a pretty rough trot with a renewal couple: They were one of my first bookings after becoming a celebrant. I was really unsure of how a renewal should run…only that it would be similar to a wedding just really without the legals. Since our first meeting in September, I have met with them four times, multiple messages and numerous phone calls. They sent me their desired ceremony plan. Which essentially had me as an MC…introducing a number of speakers and readers. They had also put my name against a couple of tasks. So based on that I wrote a script (as not very good at ad lib) and went to meet with them for a “rehearsal”. They almost tore the script to shreds. They had also added and removed things from their original plan without telling me and wanted to know where I planned on putting these new ideas in the ceremony. Not liking my suggestions and especially suggesting that it was getting a bit long. Decided to sit back and let them decide. We finally came to a mutual agreement and now they want to see my amended script so they can check it all over before finalising.So, feeling a little flattened and that I have had to work exceptionally hard for my fee (which is less than what I charge for a wedding). Did I miss something? Should I have asked questions differently? Really not wanting to go anywhere near Vow Renewals any more. How should I have handled it all?

Vow and ring exchange logistics

Tori asks: I have a logistics question for you around microphones/vow cards/ring exchanges. My first ceremony is fast approaching, and my couple have written their own vows. The plan at the moment is for me to hop out of the way during the vow exchange, leaving them to hold the mic for themselves while they read from their respective vow cards. They like the idea of ending the vows with the ring exchange (e.g. the bride would hold the mic for herself, read from her vow card, and wrap her vows up by presenting her partner with the ring. Then they would swap, and he would hold the mic for himself, read from his vow card and finish it off by presenting her with the ring). My concern is this – doing it this way would leave them with a lot to juggle – holding the mic and their vow card, plus a ring which they will be slipping on the other person’s hand at the same time. I guess my question is this: what do you find works best in the situation – do you tend to always hold the mic for the couple if they are reading from vow cards, or would you just avoid combining the ring exchange in with the vows, and instead let them do the vows with you out of the way and then come back in to feed them their ring exchange wording while holding the mic for them?

What do I read my ceremony from?

Tori asks: I have my first ceremony coming up in a week and a half (for a good friend), and while I am feeling pretty on top of things overall, I am still trying to work out what I will use to read from on the day. I was hoping you could talk a little bit about your experience/thoughts on using a tablet (which I’ve noticed quite a few celebrants tend to be doing?) VS something like a nice looking binder. Any specific tips/considerations either way (e.g. if you use a tablet, do you find a cover for it that you can tuck vow cards into?), and if you do go the binder/folder route, any ideas for where to buy something appropriate? Last question! If you do tend to use a tablet, do you always have a hard copy as backup anyway?

Interpreters and translators

Sarita asks: We’re away at the moment and then the couple in question head away as we get back – so the NOIM will be getting lodged in Jan, with a day to spare. The bride is from China and all her ID is in Chinese. As long as I tell them to get the passport, (birth certificate) & drivers license/ID card interpreted by a NAATI registered interpreter – is that all ok? Just wanted to check I’m not missing anything as it’s my first time doing a marriage that will involve an interpreter. 

When to provide documentation to couples

Peter asks:

By when in the process must we have given the required documents to the couple?

I have been giving the required documents (happily ever…, code of practice, complaint info, etc.) with the engagement letter / quote, however, often I only have an email address at this stage for one party, not both. As I understand it, this doesn’t satisfy the requirements of the act (giving happily ever… effectively to only one party).

Upon booking, that’s when I get my now clients to give me their complete contact information. I’ve trialed different methods of getting complete contact info on enquiry but nothing has really been effective.

I’m trying to optimise my systems and I don’t want to send more emails in my workflow than I have to, so I was wondering can I send this info at the point of our planning meeting (circa 4 months out) as part of an email that already sits in my workflow rather than at the point of booking?

Signing two Official Certificates of Marriage electronically

Alison asks: This might be more of a Josh question because it’s about electronic paperwork – or maybe it is for Sarah because of the legal side. I’m performing my very first ceremony tomorrow (hooray!) and I’ve received permission from the ACT BDM to accept electronic signatures and to submit the paperwork by email. I’ve watched Josh’s video for how to sign the marriage paperwork on an iPad and I’m all set to go.

Lodging marriage paperwork electronically

Hey there.. a question – I’ve just registered to submit ceremonies online in NSW (I am in Vic). In reading the manual, I discovered you can scan/lodge all official documents ONLINE once the ceremony is over and that’s that. I emailed them to ask if that was for real – we don’t need to mail the official docs in? They emailed back that is correct and we just file the documents.

Now – that’s not what the Act says. Hmmmmm. I don’t want to be responsible for holding the originals. I asked a few celebrants who all say they send the docs in as well. One celebrant said he rocked up to NSW BDM to hand the documents in and they flatly refused to take them from him, saying once they are uploaded online there is no need for the BDM to have them.

So I guess they are binning / destroying all the original docs people are sending them, if those same docs have been uploaded online.

I am dying to know: what do you two do when registering a marriage in NSW then uploading the documents? Do you send/destroy/keep the originals?

Different signatures by parties

A celebrant asks: I have received a Notice of Errors in documentation email from BDM. They have requested the bride provides a stat dec indicating why her signature on the NOIM and Marriage Certificate are different. Is there wording we can provide on the stat dec to assist completion? Can we provide a scanned copy of the stat dec to BDM (or do they need to sight originals)

Starting a business

A new member asks: I have completed my cert 4 at last and am in the process of doing my AG application so now I am thinking about the set up of my business. I have no previous experience in this area and wondering where to start really. Should I be sourcing and / or starting to create a website now ( not go live of course!) do I produce business cards etc, basically when and where is a good time to start if you’re not an expert! Considering it can take up to 3 months to hear back could you suggest a timeline please?

When a party’s recorded sex is different from their gender identity

A celebrant asks: The groom was born female, and identifies as male. He is male on his passport (that’s the doc I saw for ID purposes), but he’s just asked me if it poses any problems that his birth certificate lists him as ‘female’. I said no, because the changes to the rules have allowed for him to identify as male, so no dramas at all. However, my question is do I need to write a note of explanation in the ‘Additional Information to BDM’ section online? I know they sometimes cross reference with birth certificates and I don’t want to put the groom to any trouble by having to justify his gender. (I’d prefer not to make an issue of it by raising it if I don’t have to, but I know BDM can sometimes be a bit heavy-handed and insensitive).

Cost to register a marriage?

A celebrant asks: Does each state charge different fees to submit completed marriage docs? I’ve got weddings in NSW, SA and VIC coming up and I can’t find any details on costs associated with registering the paperwork? 

Documents translated by overseas services

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Alice asks: I’m lodging a NOIM for a couple where the bride is Japanese. She has a passport (which is in English), but Japanese passports do not include place of birth, so I’ll also have to use her birth certificate (which is in...

Correcting errors on the NOIM

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Bree asks: Some of my parties have completed their NOIMs ready for our meeting and for me to witness. I have noticed as I have gone to log them into BDM that there are certain things I am concerned about as follows:- Use of blue pen for...

Insuring your PA system

Ella asks: I’ve purchased my PA systems and equipment because this isn’t covered under my home contents as it’s business use. Most home insurers will find a way not to pay if I did try to claim if something happened! (Previous industry knowledge). Who do you use for insurance on your equipment? As my other insurance is the association group on – can’t just add it on it.

New draft NOIM. Sarah’s thoughts

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Hopefully all registered celebrants received an email from the Attorney General’s Department on 27 September 2018, inviting feedback on a new version of the Notice of Intended Marriage. Only members have access to the full article – To...

Change of name and identity documents

Sean asks: Bride has officially changed her name. Has new birth certificate with new name on it. Her passport still has her old name on it. Can I accept her passport as photo ID for completion of NOIM? I’ve written before about what to do if the names differ on the...

Dissolving a registered relationship

Charis asks: My client has registered a relationship. She was never married but registered a relationship with BDM. They told her she could not get married until this is cancelled by them. Do I record this info anywhere? She has never been validly married so I feel as...

Co-delivering a marriage ceremony

Josh asks: I have a celebrant mate of mine whose registration is pending with the AG’s office. But, she has a friend’s wedding coming up towards the end of September, which is the reason why she completed the course. I initially completed the NOIM for her and kept the date in September free (just in case), but what would you recommend I do to help from here? Should I just hang tight and wait for the AG or can I take care of the legals and have the other celebrant deliver the ceremony (other than the legal elements of course)? Also how would this work if the other celebrant has spent the time getting to know the couple and I have simply helped in a legal capacity? It’s definitely possible for an authorised celebrant to manage the legalities of the ceremony while another person (whether a pending celebrant or a friend of the couple) delivers the “ceremonial” aspects of the ceremony. 

Charging for travel. Sarah’s view

Mercy asks: I’ve been asked to do a wedding two hours from Sydney and quoted an extra $50 above my usual fee each way, but they want to do a rehearsal the day before which would require me driving an extra four hours plus the time it takes to do the rehearsal. How would you recommend I charge for this?

Parents’ names on the NOIM. Part 2

I've written previously about listing parents' names on the NOIM, and I've had some follow up questions (from a celebrant who had totally read the first post, yay!): 1) Recently received a NOIM by email (interstate couple) where the Father is listed as 'Unknown' -...

Proof of divorce: what, when, how?

A celebrant asks: Divorce certificates. They just get me confused as to what I need to sight, how I need to sight it and what I definitely need to record. What I'd really like clarified once and for all is:-- Do I need to see the original certificate?-- If it's from a...

One month notice period: we won!

Some of you will have been following my post about the updated guidance received on the one month notice period. If you haven’t had a chance, feel free to review it before you read on.  I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that this morning at 11.40am I...

Getting your start in funerals

Mercy asks: Like you I want to create beautiful funeral ceremonies. Because I think funerals can be beautiful. An assignment in my celebrant course had me visit a local funeral director with a bunch of questions on how they work with celebrants. The funeral director I...

Finding a mentor. Sarah’s view

Jo asks: In an earlier podcasts (I think top tips for new celebrants) you talk about finding a celebrant mentor and see if you can go along to some ceremonies. I am super keen to make this happen but where do you suggest I start to find a mentor? I am not yet finished...

Names in the legal vows

Jac asks: I have a bride who no longer uses her birth name for anything except forms. Her invites use her preferred name. She has actually said it’s causing her anxiety that her birth name be used during the ceremony.   Am I right in saying that during mandatory...

Office facilities for civil celebrants, what’s required?

Alison asks: I’m currently studying to become a marriage celebrant, but there is one thing that worries me about setting up my practice once authorised: the home office. I currently live with flatmates in the city, so space is limited. I’m only planning on doing the celebrancy thing as a side gig (at the moment) as an antidote to my corporate day job, so renting full-time office space isn’t practical. In your interpretation of the Marriage Act and Code of Practice, would it be appropriate to maintain an “office” in my lockable bedroom, securing documents in a locked filing cabinet, while renting a separate interview space when needed or offering to meet couples in their homes? Can you recommend any other solutions?

Personal vows and their content

Veronica asks: I know according to section 45(2) of the Marriage Act, couples are required to say “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 words to that effect.” When it comes to couples personalising their vows, aside from the previous mentioned, do couples have to say certain things, or are they free to say what they see fit?

My ceremony writing timeline

Mercy asks: This relates to the questionnaire you send your couples. I've been doing the same, but as I'm fairly new, don't really have a system in place as to when couples need to get back to me.   When you send the questionnaire do you give your couples a...

My Ceremony Builder Booklet

Mercy asks: I'd like to know about your booklet. The idea of printing an expensive booklet seemed a bit outdated to me, given that there are so many resources online and such a diversity of options for couples these days. None of my couples so far have been interested...