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?

I suspect Josh would write something a response to this question that would be far more poetic than the response I’m about to give, and would refer to something about forgetting about the guests, this isn’t a performance, you’re just having a conversation with two people about creating their marriage. But I’m not poetic and I can’t forget the guests, and I totally understand the fear of public speaking because I used to have it as well.

A little history from me. When I was at high school I was one of the drama kids. I was also a dancer and a music student. In short, I was a performer, and I was on the stage in one way or another every chance I got. I never suffered from stage fright; nerves were always with me, but I strongly believe nerves are good for you. I was pretty much completely confident to get up there and do whatever needed doing in whatever medium I was working at the time. Looking back, I can now see that the main thing was that I was always comfortable with the work; I always knew my lines, I always knew the choreography, I always knew the music. I’d practised and I was confident and comfortable that I would “get it right”.

Then I got older. And way more self-conscious about the way other people perceived me, whether I was going to embarrass myself, and whether I would “get it right”. After uni I spent years working in administrative, behind the scenes roles; I ran a lot of events, and was always happy running around in my blacks, but as soon as someone suggested that maybe I might want to present at one of the conferences or workshops I was running, I froze. Again looking back, I’ve now realised it was because I was never completely confident with the content I was working around; I worked mostly in medical research and often felt out of my depth when it came to understanding the content and answering questions about it. (I also had a boss who took great pleasure in destroying my self-confidence, but that’s a story for another day.)

And then I decided I was going to be a celebrant. For someone not particularly comfortable standing in front of people and presenting, nuts, right? But here was the difference: I knew that I would telling stories I had written myself, that I would be talking about relationships I had grown to know as if they were my own, and that if all else failed, I would have a script to rely upon.

So now here I am, five and a half years in to being a celebrant, and I’m not only confident presenting in front of groups of people with a script in hand (at weddings and at funerals) but I’m also comfortable talking to groups of people for an entire day with no script when I’m training. I firmly believe this confidence and comfort comes from talking about a topic I am completely comfortable with, one that I know inside out and back to front: celebrancy and how it’s done. I’m saying my words, I’m presenting my ideas, and I’m teaching content about which I know all of the things. For me, losing the stage fright has been all about being comfortable with the content. I still get nervous about a particularly difficult funeral or when I’m teaching a new topic for the first time, but I’m no longer paralysed with fear the way I used to be.

So now to the practical suggestions I came up with for Cass. The only suggestions I have for combatting stage fright are:

  • practise, practise, practise, in the backyard, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the car, and not just ceremonies but at something like Toastmasters, which is a community organisation for public speaking education. Go along to a few of their sessions, where it doesn’t matter if you stuff up, and see if that helps (this one is all about being comfortable with your content)
  • meditation and mindfulness; see if you can find someone to teach you some relaxation techniques for using at ceremonies before you’re about to speak
  • if all else fails, low dose beta blockers; your GP can prescribe them. Many professional musicians and speakers use them before performing, and my friends who have used them rave about them!

I hope this is helpful for some of you. Feel free to share your tips and tricks for stage fright in the comments!

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!’

In short, absolutely fine! Lauren’s bride is absolutely correct; there’s nowhere on the current NOIM for a witness to a party’s signature to write their name or identification number. All it asks for is their qualification, and I simply want to see a qualification that matches one that’s in the list of authorised witnesses below the signature boxes.

I often get asked this question in relation to stamps as well, particularly with JPs and police officers; is it okay if the witness doesn’t stamp the NOIM? Again, absolutely fine. I can find no mention in the Marriage Act or the Marriage Regulations or the Guidelines of requiring a stamp to prove their authority to witness the signatures on the NOIM. All that’s required is that they sign it, date it, and write their occupation in the box 🙂

Passports: how old is too old?

Sean asks:

I know expired passports are okay, as long as they haven’t been cancelled but is there a time limit on that? This one expired in 2012

There are two ways a party can use a passport when they’re getting married: as proof of their date and place of birth, and as proof of their identity. So what are rules around expired and cancelled passports and the age of these documents?

Date and place of birth

A person’s date and place of birth will never change, so we can accept an expired passport that is 40, 60, 80 years old for this function. No problems how old it is. However…

Identity

What a person looks like changes dramatically throughout their life (as if I had to tell you that!) So for satisfying us as to their identity, the age of the passport matters very much. The current guidance (as per the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018, p52) is that:

An expired Australian passport that has not been expired for over 10 years can be used to determine the identity of a person [emphasis added].

However, the age of the passport is not the only deciding factor here. Sure, the passport might have been expired for less than 10 years, but it might also have been issued to the party when they were five years old; a child’s passport lasts for five years so it expired when they were 10, and they’re now 19 so it’s been expired for less than 10 years. But does the photo on the passport actually look like the person sitting in front of you? The Guidelines say in this regard:

An expired passport that belonged to a child may not be useful to determine the identity of an adult (even if it has been expired for less than ten years).

So yes, we can accept a passport that has been expired for up to 10 years, as long as the picture on it looks enough like the person sitting in front of us that it satisfies us as to their identity.

Clear as mud, right?

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.

I’ve sent BDM a LOT of emails, had several conversations with the staff, attended meetings where BDM staff have talked about RIO, and read everything I can find in other forums about the problems people are having. I thought I’d collate all the problems I’ve come across and what’s happening to address them (if anything) according to the many conversations I’ve had. I’ll update this post as things change, so you can feel assured that whenever you’re reading this, it’s currently everything I know.

Please note these questions are not generally about how to use the system; they’re about inadequacies or bugs in the system. For tutorial assistance please visit the following:

BDM tutorial website: https://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/service-partners/marriage-celebrants

My BDM RIO video tutorial: https://celebrant.institute/downloads/victorian-bdm-rio-tutorial/

Updated 15 March 2019 with information received from BDM by the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants (of which I’m a member).

BDM says: We are working to continually update our guidance material and, where practicable, make improvements to RIO reflecting user feedback. Please send your specific feedback to bdmimprovements@justice.vic.gov.au and include “MC – System improvements” in the subject line.

It would be really good if the language was consistent throughout the site: in some places we have "Notice of marriage", in others we have "Marriage notification".

I think it would make the most sense if it were called “Marriage notification” throughout; some celebrants are already confused, believing they can’t change the information in the database because we are taught that the NOIM must be correct at the time of signing and therefore not to make changes on it. Because the database entry is called Notice of Marriage in some places (and the user guide refers to the NOIM throughout), they are thinking they can’t make changes if a party moves house or changes occupation, changes that need to be reflect on the DONLIM and OCM.

BDM agrees with this and they’re working to change it.

If the date the Notice was received is less than one month before the date of the ceremony, the warning message says "date of marriage is less than '30' days from the NOIM received date". Please change this to "less than one month".

So here’s the thing. The new system doesn’t understand what a month is (which is kind of fair enough, given a lot of celebrants don’t understand it). Therefore it is set up to calculate 30 days (which is going to lead to some problems in February).

However, I have asked that the validation error wording be changed to read “one month” rather than “30 days” so that it is more accurate. They’re considering my request.

It would be really helpful to have a date picker for every time a date is required, rather than typing in the numbers.

BDM agrees and they’re working on it.

Written response from BDM: By clicking ‘on’ in the relevant field, the calendar will appear and dates can be picked.

I’ve just tested this, and none of my date fields have the word ‘on’ anywhere near them. Anyone else?

Both the NOIM and the OCM that are generated from the system are leaving out the street address of the wedding venue; it’s pulling the information from Venue or Location, Suburb and State.

This situation is fine when the venue has a name, but when the marriage is to take place on a private property, there is only a street address. “Address line 1” is the required field, so we have to complete it; in a perfect world Venue or Location would be the required field, and we would only put the address line in there.

The system should really pull the venue name, address line 1, suburb and state. I’ve just printed an OCM that says the marriage took place at Lemnos, Victoria; that’s not sufficient information.

BDM is aware of this matter and they are working to fix it so that the NOIM and OCM will pull the Venue or Location, Address Line 1, Suburb and State. For the time being, if the couple are getting married at a property that does not have a venue name, I’m putting the street address in both Venue or Location and Address Line 1.

Written response from BDM is that this has been rectified, but it’s not working for me. Is it working for anyone else?

Given there's only one option in the dropdown box for Rites Used, it would be great if the system defaulted to the Marriage Act 1961 for that question for civil celebrants.

This is never going to happen.

Apparently there are some celebrants who are registered both as civil celebrants and as celebrants for religious organisations. They therefore need to have a dropdown list that they can choose from when creating their paperwork for each marriage. There is no way to default to one choice when there are multiple choices allowed in this list.

Written response from BDM: The options that appear generally depend on those assigned at the time of registration. Some celebrants do need multiple options available. Also, missing marriage rites have been rectified; celebrants should now be able to select the correct marriage rites when completing a marriage notification. 

Some of the fields are not marked with an * to denote they are required fields, but the form still throws up an error message if they are not completed.

E.g. Mother’s Family Name, if not completed, an error message says “Family name is required”, even though there’s no * to denote it’s a required field. Required fields really need to be marked with an *

BDM is aware of this, and they’re working on it.

I presume we're to put any person's first given name in the Given Name field, and their middle name/s in the Other Given Name(s) field.

This is correct; apparently this should have been obvious, but it wasn’t to me!

Previously I had been told by BDM staff never to leave a surname field blank; if the person didn't have a family name, we should write "No Registered Surname", or they would think it was an error.

Now if I tick “this person does not have a family name” it leaves the surname field blank on the OCM when it is populated. It would be better if it filled in “No Registered Surname”.

The response to this is actually super interesting. 

First some background. It seems really weird to most people I’ve spoken to that this tickbox even exists – “who doesn’t have a family name?” It turns out there are actually lots of people who don’t have family names, particularly people from a certain area in India, and women from several South East Asian countries (Indonesia comes to mind in particular. I’ve also heard of people who have legally changed their name to only have a given name, for whatever reason. So it’s definitely a thing!

While creating this new system, BDM consulted with lots of different types of stakeholders, including people from backgrounds where they may not have a family name. These people told BDM that it was highly offensive to them to be expected to sign a document that said they had “No Registered Surname”; they said that was not their surname, that they don’t have a surname, and the field should simply be left blank. So now it is!

Occupations. There's now a list we have to select from for the parties' occupations, and it's not particularly comprehensive.

Unfortunately, this is staying the way it is. They will not be changing it back to a text field. The problem here is that we’re used to entering job titles rather than occupations. In the old system, BDM would change whatever we had entered from a job title to an occupation (unless of course we’d already entered an occupation). Because the occupation field is not printed on the official marriage certificate couples receive from BDM, no one ever knew this was happening.

The way the BDM staff member explained it at a meeting I attended in early March is that her job title is Deputy Director Operations, but her occupation is public servant. Therefore public servant needs to go on the marriage paperwork.

The occupation information is for statistical purposes only (although it seems that even that advice isn’t current; it appears that the Australian Bureau of Statistics isn’t using the occupation information in any of its marriage reporting anymore). So BDM has taken the occupations list from the ABS and uploaded it directly into RIO.

What does this mean for us in practice? It means we need to drill down a bit further when we ask our couples what they do for work, and we need to ensure their occupation is recorded, not their job title.

I have managed to get hold of the list of occupations through another celebrant colleague (thanks Naomi!). I’ll be taking the list with me to meetings and making sure the occupation the parties choose is on the list before we finalise the NOIM.

There’s over 1100 occupations on the list, and quite frankly it appears that no one at BDM read it before publishing it to the system. According to the list, parties can choose occupations including “sales lady/home duties” (yes, that is a single line), “statue”, “different things”, and “puppet”. I presume the way the list was developed originally was from occupations people have listed on their census. It also includes an awful lot of job titles. *sigh*

It is highly likely that the occupation field will be removed from all marriage documentation when the new documents are released, which MLCS is currently saying will be mid-2019. Fingers crossed.

Reference List Occupations

This is the official written response from BDM: RIO has been designed for consistency with ABS occupation list options. It does not provide for job titles to be listed, for example, by providing a ‘free text’ or ‘other’ option. Please find the most suitable option from the list provided.

Update 19 March: friend of the Celebrant Institute, Michael Pratt, has managed to secure a new version of the occupations list from BDM, and it appears some changes have been made. I’ve uploaded the new version to the link above. The response he’s had from BDM is: “BDM VIC are updating the occupation list with received requests to add new occupations”. So I think on a case by case basis they are adding new occupations if it seems there’s really nothing similar available. 

In MCO we could click a box under each party's usual place of residence to say the other party also lived there, and it would copy the address across. It would be useful if we could do that in RIO.

Advice from BDM is that it is highly unlikely that this will occur.

BDM’s written response: You can use ‘copy and paste’ to transfer details, however, entering separately does provide further assurance address details are correctly recorded for each party, especially if you are ordering a certificate when the address will be pre-populated for the party who will be receiving the certificate.

Please include West Germany in the list of countries of birth; East Germany is there, but not West. I have asked for this previously and was told it would be included in RIO.

BDM is aware of this and they’re working on it.

It is confusing having to enter the party's birth certificate details in two places: under Party 1/2's Birth Details and under Party 1/2's Identification.

I suggest removing it from the Birth Details section and leaving it only in the Identification section, as an answer to the Evidence of Date and Place of Birth question.

See response above re driver’s licence in the evidence of date and place of birth section. Apparently it has to be in both places.

It would be preferable if all of Party 1's information was together, followed by all of Party 2's information.

If we’re entering the data from identity documents it is annoying and time consuming to have to switch between documents rather than being able to complete all info re one party at the same time. I know you can click on the navigation links on the left of the page, but it would be cleaner if the information flowed down the page in this way.

BDM agrees, and they’re working on it.

Not only should all of Party 1's information together and all of Party 2's, but all of Party 1's parents' information should be together (names and countries of birth).

I’m sure it makes sense for some reason in the back end of the database to split this information, but it’s not very sensible or intuitive for data entry purposes.

BDM agrees and they’re working on it.

The current NOIM issued by the Attorney General's Office only asks for mother's maiden name, not mother's current surname.

Basically the response here is “we know you don’t have to collect it, but we’d love it if you did.” They’re trying to create as many opportunities to link up records as they can, so providing more information rather than less is their goal. 

They are happy if we put Unknown or the maiden name in the Mother’s family name field.

They will be adding the Family name at birth field for Fathers as well (they admit that it should have been there already), and they’re likely to be changing the titles to Parent 1 and Parent 2.

Written response from BDM: “We are looking into making this field non-mandatory. However, we would encourage celebrants to fill in this field as it will assist us to develop person-centred records over time that will assist individual customers accessing their records and those of family members, and genealogists.”

Why is father's country of birth and whether or not they're alive not a required field, but mother's is?

Excellent question, said BDM, the mother’s information should also be required. They’re working on it.

We should not need to enter the party's period of residence in Australia if they were born in Australia. In MCO, those fields only became live for parties born outside Australia.

BDM agrees and they’re working on it. For the time being, just put their age in years in the Years box, and put 0 in the Months box. 

A reminder that this period of residence is as at the time the NOIM was signed.

The Guidelines on the Marriage Act only require us to enter months of residence in Australia on the NOIM if the party has been here less than two years; over two years they only require the number of years.

However RIO states the month field is required. Again, we should not need to enter information that is not required by the NOIM or the AGD.

BDM is aware of this, and just like with mother’s current family name, they would like us to collect it if we remember; when building the system they worked off the NOIM, which simply asks for years and months, and they didn’t look at the Guidelines that add a nuance to the rule about not needing to record months if they’ve been here more than two years. So they would like us to record years and months of residence for all parties, regardless of how long they’ve been in Australia.

Driver’s licence should not be included in the dropdown list of documents that can be sighted for date and place of birth; licences are only to be used for confirming identity.

A lot of celebrants are extremely confused about this, because the system is so ridiculously laid out. It asks for the party’s birth certificate details at the same place as their date of birth and other information, and then it asks for evidence of date and place of birth again further down the database.

The inclusion of driver’s licence in the evidence of date and place of birth list has led some celebrants to erroneously believe that they should list the birth certificate only in the first place it’s requested, and the licence in the date and place of birth section. This is wrong.

  1. The system asks whether we’ve sighted a birth certificate, and for its document number, when we’re inputting the party’s name and date of birth and other identifying information. This is allegedly for verification purposes, although it’s not required and it doesn’t seem to do anything. However if you’ve sighted a birth certificate, pop the details in there.
  2. Further down the database, the system asks for evidence of date and place of birth, and provides a dropdown list of documents we could sight, including birth certificate, Australian and foreign passport, statutory declaration, and driver’s licence. What this question is actually asking for is the birth certificate details for a second time, or the passport details if that’s what you’ve sighted for evidence of date and place of birth.
  3. The next question asks us whether we have confirmed the party’s identity, and gives us Yes or No as options. It does not ask us to provide the details of the document we have seen to confirm the party’s identity (which is where a driver’s licence comes in). This is actually correct, because sighting a form of photo ID is only best practice as recommended by the Guidelines; the Act only requires that we are “satisfied as to the identity of the party”. So this question is asking us whether or not we are satisfied as to the identity of the party; we just click Yes and carry on.
  4. We should still record the details of the driver’s licence or whatever other form of ID we’ve seen to confirm identity on the paper NOIM.
  5. I believe the system is supposed to open up a series of boxes asking for the type of document we’ve sighted for confirmation of identity (because it does open those boxes when you note that you’ve seen a statutory declaration for date and place of birth) but it’s not working right now. So for the time being, just tick Yes that you’ve confirmed their identity, and carry on.

Written response from BDM when asked where do you key in a person’s driver’s licence details: You don’t need to – only key in details of the document you are using to evidence place and date of birth (as noted above, driver’s licence does not record place of birth and we are working towards removing this option).

The list of "reasons for statutory declaration" is completely bizarre; it pulls up a list of conjugal statuses, which is not relevant for the question of reason for a stat dec for date and place of birth.

If a reason field is needed here at all, the list should include something like “refugee, no documentation available”, or “documentation destroyed during war” or something. There shouldn’t really be a reason question here at all. 

BDM agrees, and they’re working on it.

When "Identity Confirmed?" is changed to Yes, if the evidence of date and place of birth is birth cert or passport, nothing else happens.

But if the evidence is Statutory Declaration, fields to capture the type and number of identity document sighted are opened. Surely these should be opened with all entries. (The fields also get out of order when a Stat Dec is selected; the identity document fields come next, then whether the celebrant has signed the stat dec etc.)

Yeah this is weird. BDM is looking into it.

The list of possible witnesses for signing the NOIM is not complete for all qualifications who can witness signatures on a NOIM.

It would be more appropriate if there was a box to choose whether the NOIM was signed in Australia or overseas, then a conditional list depending on which was chosen, listing all possible witness qualifications. 

I haven’t heard anything about whether they’re looking at changing this.

It would be really helpful if the entry was separated into "complete these bits before the marriage" and "complete these bits after the marriage".

For example, the celebrant can’t sign the NOIM until after the marriage, but the box asking if the celebrant has signed the NOIM is directly under the boxes asking if the parties have signed the NOIM, which of course they do when the NOIM is lodged.

I think BDM doesn’t really understand what I’m on about here, but the new NOIM is set out in this way, so hopefully they’ll change it when the new paperwork comes out (hopefully mid-2019).

It's confusing that when you press the Save as Draft button, it takes you back up the record to the first place where there's an error message on a field. It's not clear that the record has been saved.

Bad luck, we just have to get used to this one. But you can rest assured that in general, even if you’ve got orange validation errors in your document, the information will save! In fact, if you scroll to the top of the document, you’ll see a lovely green highlighted line saying the notification has saved.

It is EXCEPTIONALLY confusing that NOIMs and DONLIMs/OCMs can't be generated from the "Related Documents" navigation link on the left of within the record, especially when there's a Generate Document choice in that area that doesn't seem to do anything.

That Generate Document section really needs to be removed, unless there’s a use for it I haven’t yet found.

BDM agrees this was confusing; Generate Documents should have been removed from the Related Documents navigation link. It was set to be removed the first weekend in March. It’s no longer appearing in my Action List, but it did take several days for the change to take effect.

It would be useful if there was an instruction at the bottom of the record saying something like "To print the NOIM and/or DONLIM/OCM, go to your Drafts list, check the box of the record you wish to print, scroll to the bottom of the screen, and click Print"

That would be sensible. I’ve got no news on that one.

It would be great if on the Drafts page there could be a Print button at the top (next to Clear and Search) as well as at the bottom of the screen.

Advice from BDM is that this is never going to happen.

When a NOIM is generated from the system to print, it should NOT include the following details on page 4: date marriage solemnised, place marriage solemnised, rites used, celebrant number.

These details are only to be completed after the marriage has been solemnised, and including them on the generated NOIM means they will be filled in on the copy the couple signs when they lodge the NOIM before the marriage. I have mentioned this previously.

BDM is aware of this, but they’re NOT working on it. They’ve told me it’s highly unlikely those fields will not be auto-completed in the document.

However I do know that the next iteration of the NOIM (hopefully due out mid-2019) separates the information into “fill this in before the wedding” and “fill this in after the wedding”, so hopefully BDM will have to make it work when that comes out!

The DONLIM pulls the parties' names backwards. It reads "I, Surname First Name Other Name..."

BDM is aware of this and they’re working on it.

Written response from BDM: BDM is working on aspects of how data entered by marriage celebrants appears in relevant marriage documents as a priority.

Party 1's address prints out in a smaller font than Party 2's address on the OCM and DONLIM, even when they live at the same address.

BDM Is aware of this and they’re working on it.

Written response from BDM: BDM is working on aspects of how data entered by marriage celebrants appears in relevant marriage documents as a priority.

Long addresses are not printing in full on the OCM or DONLIM.

Written response from BDM: BDM is working on aspects of how data entered by marriage celebrants appears in relevant marriage documents as a priority

Many celebrants are having trouble generating the documents (NOIM, DONLIM, OCM)

Written response from BDM: 

  1. When you request to print a document in RIO, the system will open a pop-up window in your browser.
  2. If your browser has a pop-up blocker, it may be preventing this window from appearing.
  3. Please ensure your pop-up blocker is switched off for RIO.
  4. To find specific instructions on how to do this in your browser, we recommend googling ‘pop up blocker’ and the name of your browser (e.g. “pop up blocker internet explorer”). It is generally a simple process
References to Form 16 for the official certificate of marriage should be removed; the numbering system was removed for all except the Form 15 in July 2014, and newer celebrants will find it confusing,

BDM is aware of this and they’re working on it.

Please, please, please put an instruction with the "Transfer to another celebrant" option that celebrants transferring the marriage must still comply with the Marriage Act requirement to transfer the hard copy, signed NOIM to the new celebrant, as well as transferring the data within RIO.

This information hasn’t been included in any of the training material as far as I’m aware, and many celebrants will believe they’ve done all they need to do if they transfer within RIO.

BDM is aware of this and they’re considering it.

The field "Original marriage documents received" is confusing.

I presume we change this to Yes when we have uploaded the NOIM, DONLIM and OCM, but then they’re not originals, they’re scanned copies, and we can’t certify BDM has received them, only that we’ve uploaded them. So it would be better to be worded something such as “Marriage documentation uploaded”, and it would be even better if it automatically changed to Yes when we uploaded the documents.

Apparently this field is supposed to be about whether or not we, the celebrant, have the original marriage documents in hand. That’s clearly not what it says. I’m using it in the way I think it’s supposed to be used; that we tick Yes once we’ve uploaded the marriage documents to the system. BDM is aware of this and they’re considering changing the wording. 

Can we upload the marriage documents all at once, rather than individually?

Written response from BDM: We need the DoNLI and OCM provided separately to the NOIM. Celebrants may upload the DoNLIM and OCM separately, or together, depending on their preference (that is, as one or two documents).

The fees for the certificate and postage are not listed anywhere within the certificate order form.

It would be helpful particularly for the postage if the amounts were listed in the dropdown list where you can choose the type of postage.

Fees for certificates and postage can be found here: https://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/about-us/fees

BDM is aware of this and they’re considering whether to add the fees to the dropdown list where we choose the type of postage.

I have a couple who would like me to order their certificate for them. They live in the Philippines though, where the mail system is not great, so they would like me to have the certificate sent to the groom's mother's home in Berwick. How can I make this happen in RIO?

This is totally doable!

When we order a certificate for the couple, in the Delivery Details screen you can now fill in anyone’s details at all! (You used to have to choose Party 1 or Party 2 and edit the address, but that’s changed.) Yay!

You can’t do this in the Applicant Details section though, only in the Delivery Details section. 

In applying for a certificate you have to enter the phone number in a very specific format.

It has to have no hyphens, spaces or brackets.

You need +61 at the front for your country code

Then leave out the leading 0 and enter the rest of the number. 

So my phone number would be: +61458022190

The list of document types in the Add Document section is pretty confusing because the terminology is not correct and/or not consistent.

Not correct: Declaration of No Impediment to Marry is actually called the Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage

Not consistent: DONLIM line says signed at the end, the NOIM line says signed at the beginning.

It is also unclear whether we are supposed to upload the DONLIM and OCM as one file (given they’re both listed in the same line) or as separate files (given the line title has an OR in between the two document names).

I have suggested the following list, in the following order, would be more useful:

  • Notice of Intended Marriage (signed)
  • Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage (signed)
  • Official Certificate of Marriage (signed)
  • Statutory Declaration re date and place of birth (signed)
  • Certificate of Faithful Performance by Interpreter (signed)
  • Parental consent for underage marriage (signed)
  • Court order for underage marriage (signed)

I know it may be difficult to put the document types in an order other than alphabetical, but this order would make more sense as it has the most used documents at the top of the list.

My tax invoice for the certificate payment reads ABN: $abnNumber for BDM's ABN. It is also addressed to Rachael Russell (Party 2) rather than to me, and as I made the payment I need to have it addressed to me so I can claim it against my business.

There didn’t seem to be an option in the certificate order section to order as myself, the celebrant, only to order it as Party 1 or Party 2.

BDM is aware of the issues with some of the form fields not pulling their information correctly (such as the $abnNumber field in this document) and are working to fix it.

I haven’t heard anything about how to get the invoice addressed to me though. 

When trying to submit a completed marriage, I'm getting an error message saying "Application is not yet completed/Validation errors"

I’ve been on the phone with BDM for a long time this morning (18 March) trying to get to the bottom of this.

  1. I’ve completed a marriage notification, including uploading documents and selecting Yes for all “has this person signed that document” questions.
  2. I’ve ordered the marriage certificate for the couple.
  3. The marriage certificate order says “Application saved, no validation errors”
  4. The marriage notification says “Saved, no validation errors”
  5. The listing in my drafts list says “Ready to submit”
  6. When I click on the box next to the marriage in my drafts list, scroll to the bottom and press Submit, where it should say “Ready to submit” instead it says “Application is not yet completed/Validation errors”
  7. I have had this same problem with almost every marriage I’ve tried to submit.
  8. Last week when I rang BDM, Stacey logged into my account and after pressing Save a few times managed to make it work; it was magic, and magic isn’t really the solution here.
  9. If I delete the certificate request, it will say “Ready to submit”, but that’s not a solution either; we have the option to order the certificate and we should be able to do it.
  10. So this morning I’ve spoken to Dina, who tried everything Stacey tried last week, and she couldn’t get it to work either.
  11. I let her know I’m not the only person with this problem
  12. She has escalated it to the support team and will let me know what happens next.

Stay tuned, hopefully we’ll have a response to this one in time!

The draft list of marriage notifications seems to appear in no apparent order when you first open it.

It’s not alphabetical by either party’s name, it’s not in order of date of marriage, it seems to be completely random. It would be helpful if it was in the order of the date of marriage as a default when that screen is opened. 

So it’s actually in the order the marriages were entered into the system, with the most recently entered marriage on top. You can change the way the list is ordered by clicking on the column headers, but it won’t stay that way; the next time you enter the drafts list you’ll need to change the order again.

There needs to be a space where we can leave notes for the registration team like there was in MCO.

BDM wanted to know what on earth we’d want to put in such a field. I said things like if a party has moved house or changed occupation between signing the NOIM and the marriage; or if a party has a special character such as an umlaut on a letter in their name (special characters can’t be entered in the system, so it would be nice to be able to leave a note to say there should be a special character, please put it on the official certificate); or if there’s an occupation that’s not in the list provided. They accepted that this could be useful and they’re considering it.

A couple of my weddings that I entered in the first days of the system are still showing as In Progress rather than as Registered.

These were both weddings that were migrated over from MCO, and there are some issues with some of the migrated records. It just means some of them need to be looked at and some errors fixed before the marriage can be registered; the automatic registration that’s working for most of the marriages isn’t working for some that were migrated from MCO. Be patient, they will be registered within 20 working days!

The question mark prompts at the right side of each field (which should provide further information) simply repeat the name of the field.

BDM is aware of this and they’re looking into it.

Why can't I see the weddings I submitted to MCO?

Written response from BDM: Previous completed and registered marriages were not migrated for celebrants to view – only draft marriage notifications were migrated into RIO, provided the RIO stakeholder account registration was completed prior to go-live and that the drafts had a valid marriage date entered as per our earlier advice to celebrants

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.

To help those of you who are struggling with how on earth to use this new system (because the user guide and video tutorial aren’t exactly useful either), I’ve put together a step by step video that takes you through registering a new marriage from beginning to end, including how to print your documents from the system and how to upload them so you can submit the marriage.

Remember, we no longer post our marriage documentation to BDM. We just upload scanned copies of all documents, and save on postage charges!

You can purchase the video and its transcript here:

$20.00 – Purchase BDM RIO video Excluding 10% tax

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?

Part of what happens when we start a new business is we very quickly learn that some of our well thought out processes don’t work as well as we thought they would 🙂 This is a pretty awful situation for any celebrant to be in, but I think Veronica and others will learn a lot from it.

I think one of the first things to note here is that this is not about vow renewals as a whole. I see this as a process issue, and this couple could have been getting married and there would have been the same issues. So don’t throw out vow renewals altogether!

I’ve talked in the past about how incredibly process driven I am. I map out for my couples from the very beginning of our time together when and how often I’ll meet with them, how I’m going to work with them to create their ceremony, and give them plenty of resources to help with their ceremony creation.

What this all boils down to is that I am generally in control from the very beginning of the relationship, and I think it’s important to assert your authority.

I’m not sure what Veronica did to gather information to build the ceremony, but from her question it sounds like the couple just sent a ceremony plan out of the blue. Yes, some couples will try to take control like that, but if you have a strong process you could potentially avoid it.

I have no problem at all with Veronica writing a script, I write scripts for every ceremony, but I would recommend sending it to the couple before turning up to the rehearsal, so that they’ve got time to read and digest it, and send you back their comments, before you’re sitting in front of them. I always plan to have the ceremony script finalised before we get to the rehearsal stage. I can only imagine how awful it was for Veronica to have her script torn to shreds in person; it would be much easier to deal with that by email.

And yes, I’ve absolutely had clients who’ve entirely rewritten a script, and it definitely stings, but I remind myself that it’s their ceremony and the whole reason for me giving them a script beforehand is so they can make any changes they like.

So in a nutshell, if I were Veronica I would be looking again at my process. Did I tell the couple how many times I was prepared to meet with them? Did I give them suggestions of how a ceremony generally works? Did I use a questionnaire or a checklist to gather information from them about what they wanted included in their ceremony? Did I ask them how long they wanted it to be? Did I give them a timeline for when I would send a script and when I wanted it finalised by? Was I in control? Did I set boundaries?

Now it’s absolutely possible that even with the very best process in place, this couple would have been difficult. Some clients just are, and there’s nothing we can do about it other than paste the smile on our face, do the very best job we can for them, and remember that not everyone is like them. Sometimes we work harder for our fee than others. My mum always tells me I don’t have to like all my clients, as long as they pay the bill 🙂

So my advice to Veronica is do your very best job for this couple and remember you never have to see them again, go back and look at your process, make sure you explain your boundaries and the way you work to future couples, and don’t give up on vow renewals!

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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?

Excellent question Tori, and one I’ve spent a lot of ceremonies experimenting with!

When my couples write their own vows, I always print them onto a card to read from rather than have them repeat after me. The reason for this is that they don’t want to hear their partner’s beautiful words coming out of my mouth first; I did it once in my first year, he’d written a beautiful joke in his vows, and she laughed when I said it. Never again. So you’re spot on with the vow cards.

I spent a lot of ceremonies holding the microphone for them while they held their vow card, but with me standing directly behind the person speaking rather than in between the couple.

Vows read from a card with me holding the mic, but standing behind the groom

I did it this way because I always wanted the couple to be able to hold hands with their free hand. I feel sad when I see photos of couples not holding hands during their vow exchange; I feel like it’s such an intimate part of the ceremony, they should be touching.

But then at one of my OPD sessions in 2017 a couple of lovely celebrants showed me there was a way they could hold the vow card, the microphone, and be touching, and I could get out of the way altogether!

Vows read from a card with me out of the picture!

They face each other. With the hand closest to the guests they hold the vow card. With the hand furthest from the guests they hold the microphone. The partner holds the hand holding the vow card. Hopefully that makes sense!

But you’re right, adding the rings in to that equation makes for a lot of things to juggle. If they’re saying words with the rings, I just separate them out from the vows altogether, so after the vows are finished I come back behind them, I get the ring bearer to come behind them and open the ring box for one partner to take the ring out and put it halfway on the other’s finger, and then I stand behind them again to feed the ring wording while they’re putting the ring on.

Ring exchange with me feeding the words and holding the mic

My suggestion would be to separate the rings out if they’re okay with that, especially if there’s ring wording to go with the exchange. They really need both hands to put the ring on anyway – one hand to hold the other’s hand, and one to hold the ring, as in the pic above. And if there’s words to be said that go with the rings, it will be impossible for them to hold the ring, card with the words, and microphone at the same time. That sounds like a recipe for disaster! Explain the logistics to them and why you’re recommending that.

If they really want to end their vows with the ring-putting-on, and there are no words that go with the rings, I would suggest they don’t get the ring until they’ve finished saying their vows. So they hold the vow card and the mic and each other’s hand, say their vows, and then when they’ve finished speaking the ring bearer comes forward with the ring box, they take the ring out and put it on the other’s hand with no words.

I have actually scripted that I would do that before, but each time I’ve gotten so caught up in the beautiful vows that I’ve completely forgotten the rings in between the two sets of vows, and just done them in my normal place, both being exchanged at the same time after the vows are said 🙂

Also just a tip with the rings, and this is my personal preference (I know some celebrants are the exact opposite to me in this regard). I always insist the rings are in something (a bag, a box, on a pillow, whatever), because loose rings are another recipe for disaster (try saying that to a gay male couple and watch them try not to snigger). Then my rule is that neither I nor the ring bearer (or best man or whoever has the ring/s) touches the actual rings, then we can’t get in trouble if they fall on the ground. I have the ring bearer come behind the couple, open the box, and have the party take the other’s ring out, then the ring bearer goes back to the side while they put the ring on and say the words, and vice versa. I hope that makes sense!

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?

First of all Tori, congrats on your first ceremony coming up! It’s an exciting and nerve wracking time all in one, but I’m sure you’ll be great 🙂

I’m answering this one because Josh doesn’t read from a script, so he’s of no use whatsoever for this question 🙂

I have literally tried all of the things when it comes to what I read my ceremony from.

For my very first ceremony, another celebrant had told me that an A5 folder was easier to manage than an A4 folder. So I promptly went out and bought a (very ugly) A5 binder and some A5 plastic pockets, and read my ceremony from that. One fairly major problem: I found myself holding the folder against my stomach to steady it, and I couldn’t see the ceremony over my boobs. Sorry if that’s too much information, but they’re kind of big and it was a legitimate issue! So I did away with the A5 folder, which was just as well because it really was very ugly.

(As an aside, my aunt was also horrified by the ugliness of the A5 binder, so my uncle played around with some leather offcuts in his shed and made me a beautiful leather A5 folder and an A4 one, which was lovely, but by then I’d figured out A5 wasn’t going to work for me, and I’d found the A4 folder I’ll talk about below, so they didn’t get a lot of use.)

I headed back to my favourite shop of all time, Officeworks, and spent a long time in the display folder aisle. Eventually I found a black, hard cover display folder with a normal book spine, not ring bound or with that big ugly plastic thing you usually see on display folders. They don’t seem to stock them anymore, but this is the closest one I could find.

I bought a bunch of those and I still use them to display my Ceremony Builder Booklets and other info for taking along to couple meet and greets. They look nice in my hand, they’re hard cover so they don’t flap around, the plastic sheets are thicker than normal so they’re better on windy days, and overall I was pretty happy. I still had the boob problem, but I solved that by printing my scripts with an 8cm margin at the bottom of every page. Oh, and for the record, I printed my scripts in 14pt Calibri font at 1.5 spacing, with normal margins at the top and sides (2.54cm) and the 8cm margin at the bottom.

Black folder front cover
Black folder nice spine
Black folder open (and sideways, sorry about that!)

There are lots of places to buy lovely folders that aren’t Officeworks. I know several celebrants who’ve had folders custom made by a book binder, and many of the quirkier stationery shops (think Typo, Kikki K, etc) also have nice folders.

Towards the end of my first year as a celebrant I got sick of other people looking after the music at my ceremonies and ALWAYS GETTING IT WRONG. So I decided I was going to take charge of the music; I bought a Bluetooth receiver to plug into my PA system and a small iPod that I keep just for ceremonies, but I knew using my folder could be problematic – I knew I could velcro the iPod to the inside cover of the folder, but I’d then have to flip the pages back to get to it when I wanted to press Play. That was not going to work. So I decided to give my Kindle a try.

Now I’ve been a Kindle fan for years; I’m a heavy reader and the last time I went overseas I had a significant extra weight charge because of all the books I was carrying. I got my first Kindle for my birthday in 2010 and I haven’t looked back. So I knew how to work a Kindle, I felt comfortable with reading from the screen, and I was happy to give it a shot. My original Kindle had buttons at the side to press to move back and forth between pages; my current one is a touch screen, so you tap on the left side of the screen to go back and page, and the right side of the screen to go forward a page.

The big issue was figuring out what size font I needed to save my document in so that when the A4 page of my document shrank to the size of the Kindle screen, it would still be readable! After a bit of trial and error I settled on narrow margins (1.27cm) all around, and 26 point Calibri font at 1.5 spacing. So I prepare the document as usual in Word, print it to PDF, then email the PDF document to my Kindle account email address (which you can find if you go into your Kindle account information online). Lo and behold, the next time I connect my Kindle to wifi, the document downloads, ready to go!

A page of text on my Kindle (sideways, sorry!)

Because the Kindle is so small and fits cradled in one hand, I don’t need to rest it against my stomach; I tend to hold it at chest height, so my boobs don’t get in the way 🙂

Kindle fits in my hand

I have a plain black case for my Kindle (it’s a responsive one, so when I close the case the Kindle switches off). I know others have gone down the track of getting larger covers that they can fit vow cards and tissues etc in, but I stuff my tissues in my bra (sorry, TMI again!) and give the vow cards to the second groomsman to hold (the best man usually has the rings, so this gives the second groomsman something to do).

I have a Velcro strip on the back of my iPod, and Velcro dots on the left inside cover of the Kindle, and that’s my ceremony kit. I can hold it comfortably in one hand, and move the pages back and forth and control the iPod with the other hand. I wear a headset microphone so that I have both hands free for this reason. If there’s live music and I’m not needing my iPod, the Kindle comes out of its case and I just hold it and control it with the same hand.

Kindle with iPod attached (upside down, sorry)
Kindle out of its cover

I always have a paper copy of the ceremony with me as well; I like to give the couple a keepsake copy of their ceremony on pretty paper, so that’s in my bag if I need it. On the odd occasion when my Kindle threw a hissy fit though, I’ve just opened up the Dropbox app on my iPhone and read the ceremony from there – I save EVERYTHING in Dropbox, so I can access it from my phone, iPad, or any computer anywhere.

I personally don’t like to use an iPad; I’ve seen many photos of celebrants with an eerie glow on their face from their iPad screen. A Kindle isn’t backlit, which makes it easy to read in the sunlight (it’s just like reading from paper) and it doesn’t shine a light on my face. I also find my Kindle easier to hold onto than my iPad; it’s just that bit smaller and more comfortable in my hand. I’ve also heard far too many horror stories of iPads shutting down in the heat; I’ve yet to have that happen with my Kindle, although I am careful to keep it out of direct sunlight as much as i can.

(And yes, I’ve heard the arguments about being able to make edits on the go if you’re using an iPad, and about being able to control the music from the same device you’re reading your script from. I’m very bossy with my couples and don’t allow edits on the day of the ceremony; in over 280 weddings I’ve only had one wedding where they insisted I add something on the day, and it was minor enough that I could remember it. And for the same reason I didn’t want to be flipping pages in my folder, I don’t want to be switching between apps to play music and read my ceremony. That’s just me though.)

I still use my hard copy folder for funerals, because I don’t have to control the music and I always have a lectern to put my folder on, although I am considering trying my iPad at a funeral ceremony or two to see how that goes. Having said that, at burials lately I’ve been using my Kindle/iPod combo because it’s just easier at the graveside rather than dealing with the pages in my folder.

So that’s my journey through different tools for reading my ceremony! I hope it’s been useful 🙂 (And sorry that I’m so useless with images and some of them are sideways or upside down!)

Interpreters and translators

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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. 


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


When to provide documentation to couples

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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?


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


Signing two Official Certificates of Marriage electronically

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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.

My question is, since I have the electronic paperwork, do I need everyone to sign TWO official marriage certificates (plus the Form 15) after the ceremony, or just the one connected to the DONLIM since I am sending electronically and will retain the digital copy. I can’t see any reason to sign two copies of the same digital document, except for the fact the Marriage Act 50(1)(b) says: Where an authorised celebrant solemnises a marriage, the authorised celebrant shall: prepare 2 official certificates of the marriage.


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


Sighting identity documentation

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Precious asks:

I have a couple that I’ve met but they forgot to bring their ID when they signed the NOIM. One of them is available tomorrow to come round with both of their ID, but do I need to see both of them at the same time I see their ID, or can I see partner A and both partner A and Bs ID then? 


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


Lodging marriage paperwork electronically

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A celebrant asks:

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?


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


Different signatures by parties

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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)


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


Starting a business

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Linda 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?


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


Witness signatures, or the one in which Josh and Sarah disagree…

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Sometimes (often?) Josh and I disagree on the answer to a question. This was one such time…

Bree asked:

I have a grandparent as a witness this coming Saturday who has a very shaky hand and is apparently really nervous about the signing duties. The poor darling! They are adamant they want him as a witness. Any tips on how to beat / manage this? I think he is worried about people watching him… would it be ok to get him to just sign one document while everyone is watching but then the other two after? Appreciate your advice!


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


Rehearsals – to have them or not to have them?

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Sarita asks:

Normally I’d do a rehearsal or rough run through with the couple. I have a couple asking about a rehearsal with the full bridal party. 

Would I be ok to say I’d normally just do it with the couple? Or should I go with the flow & do it with everyone? 

What do we normally do?


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


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

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT

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).


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


Signing and transferring a NOIM

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT

A celebrant asks:

When I first enrolled in my course, my Dad asked if I’d solemnise his wedding in December 2018. Of course I said I’d be thrilled if I passed and got authorised. I’ve now completed my Cert IV and applied for registration.

My dad and his fiancée are adamant they want me to do the ceremony (even if it means delaying the proposed December 8 ceremony), so I’ve asked a celebrant who lives near me to accept the NOIM, so it’s easier to transfer it to once I’m registered. My friend has only been a celebrant for a year, so he’s never done a transfer or interstate NOIM. I want to make sure I have all the steps correct. 

Adding to the complication is that my dad and his fiancée are currently living in different states due to work. Can you tell me if I have all the following steps correct:

1. Party 1 fills in the NOIM and has it signed by a police officer (or other authorised witness)

2. Party 1 posts the physical NOIM to Party 2, and scans or posts photocopies of supporting documentation (in this case an Australian passport)

3. Party 2 fills in the NOIM and has it signed by a police officer (or other authorised witness)

4. Party 2 emails a copy of the NOIM along with scans of all supporting documentation (ie both passports) to Celebrant 1 (my friend) in order to make the deadline

5. Party 2 posts the physical copy of the NOIM to Celebrant 1 via registered post

6. Once Celebrant 2 (me) is registered, Celebrant 1 transfers the NOIM, and makes the appropriate marks on the NOIM

7. Celebrant 2 must bring the physical NOIM to the wedding and witness the supporting documentation (passports) before the ceremony commences

Is that right? Does Celebrant 1 have to witness the physical passports as well? I’m guessing that even though the ACT is accepting scans of documents at the moment (according to what you said on your podcast), because of the need to transfer the NOIM around there will need to be a physical copy.

Also how do you transfer a NOIM? It doesn’t seem to specify exactly what you need to do in the Guidelines. I saw you mentioned that the proposed new NOIM has a spot specifically for this, but in the meantime, could you maybe post an example on the CI? Does it need a covering letter? 

What about other changes, like a date or venue change? Or is this filled in just before the ceremony? To be honest, I’m also a little confused about when the celebrant is meant to fill in certain sections on the NOIM, because all the exercises in the Cert IV was about handing in the fully completed paperwork.


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


Cost to register a marriage?

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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? 


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


Sighting identity documents from parties living interstate or overseas

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A celebrant asks:

I have a question about sighting ID when the Celebrant and marrying couple are in different states. 

I have a number of family and friends in other states that have asked me to perform their ceremonies for them, which is super exciting. The question I have is, how do you manage the sighting of the ID in these cases? 

What do you guys do in this instance? 


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


Documents translated by overseas services

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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 Japanese). She already has a translation of her birth certificate from the American Translator’s Association from 2016. Does she need to get another from a NAATI-accredited translator or will her ATA translation suffice? 

The guidelines state that “The Marriage Regulations do not require translations to be provided by an accredited translator, except where a person consenting to a minor’s marriage gives a consent that is not in English” but they also state “When a party to a marriage produces a document in a language other than English, the celebrant (even if they can read and write in that language) should ask the couple to seek an official NAATI certified translation of the document.” 


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


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 signatures
– Using ‘JAN’ and ‘FEB’ in birthdates instead of ’01’ and ’02’
– The selection boxes that we normally mark X are not in one of the printed NOIMs, so they have circled the word instead e.g. Groom / Bride / Partner

And then one error of my own, COMPLETELY the wrong date under my witness signature – just the first number. Can I cross out and write the correct number above, or will this not be accepted?


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


Changing first (or middle) names after marriage

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT

Klara asks:

I have a couple where one of them wants to change their first name (well, actually drop their first name and take on their middle name) and wondering if this can be done using the marriage certificate or if they’ll need to apply separately to BDM for this bit?


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


Insuring your PA system

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT

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.


Only members have access to the full article – To access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


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 access all of the advice and content on the Celebrant Institute website, and to ask questions, you need to be a paid member and if you already are a member, log in here.

Membership is $10 a month, and because we can tell you’re keen to check the site out, if you join via this link only, we’ll give you a three day free trial so you can cancel if you don’t love us like our mothers do.


Evidence required for a change of name by marriage

A celebrant asks:

Groom previously married - all documents are satisfactory. Bride previously married - Has returned to her maiden name. Provides Passport in maiden name & Driver's Licence in maiden name but divorce papers are in married name. Is a stat dec required?

The simple answer to the question here is that no, a stat dec is not required. But the chain of evidence that we should see is a bit more complex than most celebrants realise.

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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 documents used for date and place of birth (e.g. birth certificate) and for proof of identity (e.g. driver’s licence). However in the previous post, the party had changed her name by usage (and therefore had a driver’s licence in her new name) but never bothered to change it formally (so didn’t have a birth certificate in her new name). This situation is the other way around. 

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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 though she write that on the NOIM and then I record the info about her registered relationship on page four?

This is an issue that gets far more attention from celebrants than it deserves, mainly because the people on the phones at BDM usually don’t know what they’re talking about. Let me explain.

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Sighting original documents

Josh asks:

What is your best understanding of original forms of ID like passports, birth certificates, and drivers licenses being "sighted by the celebrant before the marriage is solemnised"?

Can we receive a scan, or sight them over video chat, or must we the celebrant be standing in the same room as the passports for them to be "sighted"?

We must be in the same room. No ifs, no buts.

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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. 

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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?

Josh and I, along with every celebrant in the universe, have different ways of calculating travel fees, so this article is definitely just my view and the way I do it.

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Names on the NOIM: legal change of name

Veronica asks:

I have a couple that had a commitment ceremony four years ago and legally changed their names, and are now wanting to get married. What names should I use on the paperwork? What's on their birth certificate?

In a word, no. When a person changes their name legally, they forfeit the right to use the name on their original birth certificate. How this happens is a little more complex than that though...

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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' - should I be clarifying if this is actually the case (even though I don't have to see evidence), as opposed to the party just preferring not to list? OR am I able to simply rely on their statement? 

2) In the case where a person does not wish to include one of their parent's names (eg: a party who has renounced a parent and would prefer to write 'unknown' or write a step-parents name) should I be advising that they must include their biological parent's name (even though I'm not required to see evidence)? 

To be honest, this area is quite contentious at the moment (for reasons I'll outline below) so I'm going to answer these questions in two ways: what the Guidelines 2018 tell us, and what I think should be best practice. I will be following up these issues with the AGD and will let you know if/when I get some clarification.

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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 different country, what do I need to look for?

-- If my couple got divorced in a country that doesn't use English as its main language do I need to see a certified copy of the certificate?

-- If one/both of my couple got divorced in Australia and don't have a copy of the certificate, where do they apply for this?

Divorce certificates can be super confusing, not least because the way they've been issued in Australia has changed multiple times. So I'll take these questions one at a time, and hopefully things will become clearer!

Before I jump in though, the first point is to note that it's entirely up to the celebrant to decide whether or not they are satisfied that the party is free to marry. AGD won't help, BDM won't help, the onus is completely on the celebrant.

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Guidelines 2018: What’s changed? Part 7

In this series of posts (including Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6) I'll be looking at the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018: what's new, what's changed, and what's gone. I'm not going to talk about changes such as the checklist for solemnising marriages moving from page 31 to the appendix, or other page or structure changes. What I will be talking about is the changes that affect the way Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants (both Subdivision C marriage celebrants and Subdivision D religious marriage celebrants) do our work, and there are more than you might expect. Let's dive in!

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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 received the following email from the AFCC (of which I’m a member):

The Marriage Law and Celebrants Section (MLCS) of the Attorney-General’s Department hosted a teleconference in regard to the recent advice provided on giving one (1) month notice this morning, which Irene Harrington, Stacey Maguire and Ant Burke participated.

Following an approach by Associations and many celebrants, the MLCS sought further clarification from the Office of Corporate Counsel in regard to their previous legal advice.

This has now been reviewed and the MLCS have advised the recent legal advice was incorrect and the original interpretation on the one month period still stands as reflected in the current Guidelines [emphasis added]. In other words, celebrants should apply the one (1) month notice period as previously applied.

The MLCS will host further teleconferences today with the various BDMs, RTO’s and OPD training organisations to advise the above and will then forward a new draft fact sheet to Associations for review before sending it to all celebrants soon after. 

I would like to thank all AFCC members who made contact directly with the MLCS as requested to express their concern, as this ensured the outcome now achieved.

I am absolutely floored that the AGD has backed down on this, but completely delighted. People power actually works! I’m absolutely not the only person who fought this new guidance, but I’m still feeling pretty chuffed at having played a part in common sense prevailing. 

Yay!

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 met was uncharacteristically young and cool, and he said to come back when I have a business card. Which I've done. But how do I approach other funeral directors? One other I did go and visit was very friendly and I could tell he liked me but also felt my lack of experience would prevent him from booking me. It's different when it's not the clients so much who are finding you, but other professionals. Any suggestions?

Getting into the world of funeral celebrancy is so, so, so difficult. I am yet to meet a busy funeral celebrant who developed a marketing plan and made it work. For every single person I've spoken to, it's been about being in the right place at the right time. All I can do is tell you what I personally have done, and hopefully some ideas will come out of it for you 🙂

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Guidelines 2018: What’s changed? Part 6

In this series of posts (including Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5) I'll be looking at the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018: what's new, what's changed, and what's gone. I'm not going to talk about changes such as the checklist for solemnising marriages moving from page 31 to the appendix, or other page or structure changes. What I will be talking about is the changes that affect the way Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants (both Subdivision C marriage celebrants and Subdivision D religious marriage celebrants) do our work, and there are more than you might expect. Let's dive in!

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Where I stand during the ceremony. Sarah’s view

Ann asks:

Sarah, I've just had a quick look at your website. I noticed you usually stand to the side of your bride and groom, not behind them. It looks really good. I imagine when you first started you tried all spots to stand and this was the best? Any hints on this Sarah?

You're absolutely right Ann, it took me a bit of trial and error and a lot of talking to other celebrants to figure out where I was most comfortable standing during the ceremony. Let me take you through how I worked it out! But first a reminder that this is the way it works for ME; I'm not saying it's right or the only way, I'm not saying the other ways are wrong (even though I will tell you why they don't work for me), I'm simply letting you know that this is how I prefer to operate.

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Guidelines 2018: What’s changed? Part 5

In this series of posts (including Part 1Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4) I'll be looking at the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018: what's new, what's changed, and what's gone. I'm not going to talk about changes such as the checklist for solemnising marriages moving from page 31 to the appendix, or other page or structure changes. What I will be talking about is the changes that affect the way Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants (both Subdivision C marriage celebrants and Subdivision D religious marriage celebrants) do our work, and there are more than you might expect. Let's dive in!

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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 studying (hopefully the end of Aug) so haven't yet signed up to a professional association. Is it best to wait till I am done and have jumped through the AG's final hoops? If so, what do I do? Stalk a celebrant who's style I admire? Ask some friends who have had ceremonies to refer me?

Would love some advice so I can hit the ground running and learn from the wisdom of those before me.

First up, a big thanks to Jo for listening to the podcast. I'm glad you're enjoying it and getting something out of it!

I haven't checked with Josh about whether or not we have different opinions on this (he's on a mountain somewhere in New Zealand as I write this) but it's eminently possible that we do, so I'm making this post my view, and he can post his if he has a different one!

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Guidelines 2018: What’s changed? Part 4

In this series of posts (including Part 1Part 2 and Part 3) I'll be looking at the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018: what's new, what's changed, and what's gone. I'm not going to talk about changes such as the checklist for solemnising marriages moving from page 31 to the appendix, or other page or structure changes. What I will be talking about is the changes that affect the way Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants (both Subdivision C marriage celebrants and Subdivision D religious marriage celebrants) do our work, and there are more than you might expect. Let's dive in!

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Use of name changed by usage for trans parties

A celebrant asks:

I'm marrying a couple next year - Party 1 is female; Party 2 is a transgender male. What I want to clarify is that if Party 2 has neither a birth certificate or passport in his common usage name that's not a problem as long as I am satisfied he is who he says he is. For example, is it enough that I know people who know him, and that he is listed on his employer's website? My sense is that it is ridgy didge, but wanted to check that I'm right.

This celebrant's thoughts aren't quite right, and the answer is similar to the one I posted not long ago about a bride's birth certificate name not matching her identification documents name.

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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 vows we need to use birth certificate names (as they appear on the NOIM), however nicknames can be used everywhere else, unless of course she has officially changed her name (which it sounds like she hasn’t).

 

Can I also put the pressure on and say that 1. It won’t be legal and 2. I could lose my registration if we did not use her full name at least once?

Names are so tricky, but the rules outlined in the Guidelines 2018 are pretty clearcut.

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What to do when the name on a birth certificate is different from that on the photo ID…

A question came to us:

I am marrying a couple of brides this week and when I talked about the ID I'll need to witness beforehand, one piped up that her name on her Birth Cert is different to all other ID but she's never officially changed it. So her photo ID is going to be different surname to her Birth ID. She doesn't have a passport. I thought I'd need to use her original name on all marriage docs (for avoiding future issues with passports etc) but am I correct or can I use her preferred surname even though the paper-trail lacks an official name change?

I rang the celebrant about this one because she needed an answer urgently, and it turned out it was even more complicated than first thought!

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Do I need a qualified / accredited interpreter?

Candice asks:

I have a couple wanting to elope with just their parents and children present. I'm just writing because after looking at the guidelines I'm still a bit unclear and just need clarification on the use of a qualified interpreter. My couple are both deaf and they communicate via Auslan and of course their own beautiful way. Their parents are happy to sign and be there throughout our meetings and on the day. They can sign everything I say, and everything they say in return. Is this sufficient? Or do I need to advise them to organise a qualified person to come along? If the parents are okay to do this, do they still need to fill in a stat dec?

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Guidelines 2018: What’s changed? Part 3

In this series of posts (including Part 1 and Part 2) I'll be looking at the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018: what's new, what's changed, and what's gone. I'm not going to talk about changes such as the checklist for solemnising marriages moving from page 31 to the appendix, or other page or structure changes. What I will be talking about is the changes that affect the way Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants (both Subdivision C marriage celebrants and Subdivision D religious marriage celebrants) do our work, and there are more than you might expect. Let's dive in!

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Guidelines 2018: What’s changed? Part 2

In this series of posts (including Part 1) I'll be looking at the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018: what's new, what's changed, and what's gone. I'm not going to talk about changes such as the checklist for solemnising marriages moving from page 31 to the appendix, or other page or structure changes. What I will be talking about is the changes that affect the way Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants (both Subdivision C marriage celebrants and Subdivision D religious marriage celebrants) do our work, and there are more than you might expect. Let's dive in!

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New guidance on the meaning of the one month’s notice period

This is a free article from the Celebrant Institute - please share with other celebrants and check out our home page if you're interested in becoming a member

8 July 2018

Most of you probably didn't pay too much attention to the fact sheet that was released on Friday 6 July 2018, in the email advising the new Guidelines were out. I certainly didn't until someone brought an apparent typographical error to my attention. You can have a read of it here:

Fact sheet re one month notice

According to the AFCC, who spoke to MLCS after the fact sheet was released, it is not an error but NEW GUIDANCE on how we are to calculate the one month's notice period.

I wrote this email to MLCS today. I'll keep you posted on the response...

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Office facilities – 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?

This is definitely something you shouldn't be worried about at all, there's no need to overthink it!

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Guidelines 2018: What’s changed? Part 1

This is a free article from the Celebrant Institute - please freely share and check out our home page if you're interested in becoming a member

In this series of posts I'll be looking at the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018: what's new, what's changed, and what's gone. I'm not going to talk about changes such as the checklist for solemnising marriages moving from page 31 to the appendix, or other page or structure changes. What I will be talking about is the changes that affect the way Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants (both Subdivision C marriage celebrants and Subdivision D religious marriage celebrants) do our work, and there are more than you might expect. Let's dive in!

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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?

This one's almost easy: they can literally say whatever they see fit, almost...

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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 deadline, if so do they generally stick to it, and what if they don't?? And when do you tell couples you'll send a first draft, final draft etc? Or do you sometimes have to play by ear according to the couples.

 

So far I haven't had any issues but I imagine some couples dragging their feet could affect getting the ceremony written. Would love your input on this.

I definitely have a process and a timeline and deadlines and reminders and it all works! I’m much more process driven than a lot of celebrants (including Josh!) but it works for me, and my couples appreciate the fact that they don’t have to think or remember anything; I tell them exactly when everything is due and send them reminders when necessary.

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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 in readings, and I'm reluctant to pin them down as far as ceremony structure goes either, until I know more about them.

 

What does your booklet look like, how many pages etc and what quality do you recommend? Do you find that couples choose structure and content based on the booklet or do you also provide links?

 

And how do you get around the fact that you may want to update it when you find more content? I worry about the expense when I think about how often I come across new stuff and imagine wanting to change things up often.

I know not all celebrants provide a booklet of information to their couples, but I have since the beginning of my life as a celebrant, and I find it helps both me and the couple stay on track and organised, and the couples who choose to work with me love the way it helps them plan out their ceremony.

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The rules for commitment ceremonies

Jac asks:

I have a couple coming up. They got married a year ago (pretty much for their families to have a religious ceremony). None of their friends know this though. Before getting married officially for their parents, they said they would only do it their parents' way if they could have a big bash with their friends the way they want this year. The time has come! It's within a month.

 

I met with them yesterday and they were so stressed about their friends finding out etc that they were already married. I explained that we wouldn't have to focus on that and include in the scripting that "this is the day that Jack and Jill are choosing to celebrate their marriage in front of you special people blah blah blah". Instead of doing official paperwork, I offered a commemorative certificate instead (as this doesn't have any legal bearing anyway). Are there any issues with what can/cannot be written on this? Would 'wedding certificate' be safe?

 

I really don't want to say 'THIS CEREMONY IS IN NO WAY LEGAL/BINDING' so I was just going to gloss over it a little how you explained in your previous podcast. Obviously no Monitum will be said and there will be no legal vows but the couple will still write their own. Obviously I won't be doing DONLIMs or submitting anything formal to BDM, but I thought the 'pretty' certificate or a commemorative certificate would be okay. Anything else I should look out for?

The Guidelines are pretty clear on this, but let me give you my interpretation of what they say.

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Parents’ names on the NOIM

Listing the parents' names on the NOIM is often a huge headache. What if one of them changed their name? Do you put their name when they were born or when the party was born? What if there's a spelling error in their name on your birth certificate? What if they go by an anglicised name? The Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Marriage Celebrants have, until now, been silent on this matter, and it's often been a point of contention between celebrants. Some celebrants say you should put whatever is on the party's birth certificate, because the important thing is to be able to link all the records. Some celebrants say you should put whatever the father's legal name is now, regardless of what it was when the party was born. But all that has changed with the release of the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018, so I was pleased to be able to answer the following question.

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Prospective Marriage Visa: the celebrant’s role

Shamini asks:

I have my first Proposed marriage visa letter. Do I get the couple to fill out the NOIM and groom sign it (bride is overseas). Prepare a letter and then only when she gets in the country get her to sign the NOIM? Or does she need to sign the NOIM in her country before I can give a visa letter?

There are multiple different visas a person can apply for in order to emigrate to Australia. If an Australian citizen or permanent resident falls in love with a citizen from another country, applying for a Prospective Marriage Visa (PMV) is one way the overseas partner can start the process of emigrating to Australia.

Remember, celebrants are in no way, shape or form allowed to give migration advice to couples. We must be mindful of the boundaries of our role. However, a PMV requires documentation from a celebrant before it can be approved, so this post is about the celebrant's role in this process.

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Ceremony script writing skills. Sarah’s view

Liane asks:

As a reasonably new celebrant (2016) my question to you both is how can I improve my skills and knowledge on writing ceremony scripts? How do you guys keep yourselves updated and up-skilled in this area?

Can you recommend any resources, websites etc to increase my creative bank (example quotes, styles of weddings)?

What framework do you both use when creating your wedding script?

Once again, Josh and I have VERY different views on this, so we're answering this one separately 🙂

First up, it's really important to know that ceremony writing is a very personal thing, and EVERY celebrant approaches it differently. This is just the way I do it, and that's not to say it's good, bad or other. It's just the way it works for me and has evolved over my celebrant career.

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Pricing on websites; to list or not to list??? Sarah’s view

Ella asks:

Price points seem to be a hot topic everywhere... Would you recommend putting your fees on your website?

Some celebrants display their price on their website, others don't. Some also seem to provide services cheaper then a BDM wedding. Which poses that question that some people expect you to compete on price, they aren't comparing the quality of service provided. Only the number they see on the page...

You will literally get a different answer on this from every celebrant or marketing guru you speak to. So for this question, both Josh and I are going to offer our views! This article is just Sarah's thoughts.

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Running side hustles alongside your celebrant business

We've had a couple of anonymous questions on this in the last week, so I'm going to pop them both in here:

I'm looking at expanding my services other than just celebrant. At the moment I have a little side gig where it is wedding packages with hair, make up and myself this is run on a separate facebook page. But I'm wanting to possibly offer ceremony styling as well. Just wanted to check it I could advertise this on my celebrant website under a tab "Ceremony Styling" and offer DIY or we setup and dismantle the ceremony. Think simple to start with chairs, flowers and arch. Just before I go making any purchases just wanted some feedback and advice. Thanks!

And:

I am currently working for a theatre company and intend to keep working for them, but I want to be able to do weddings occasionally and for friends. However because I’m trained in fashion and costume I thought I’d be able to offer wedding dresses but from what I can understand I can’t? I understand how that can be a conflict of interest now but I was wondering where you draw the line within packages and extras. If I can’t even offer custom veils as an inclusion of a package then I feel like all my other hard earned creative making abilities are of no use?

This has all changed! We can now do (almost) anything we like!

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Ceremonies in public spaces and copyright

Jac asks:

The guidelines state that weddings are usually considered 'private in nature' and so playing music, reading poems etc is fine. The examples the guidelines list are all indoors. What if the ceremony is in a public space?

Do you have to get insurance for this through an association or does it fall under Public Liability, Personal Accident, Professional Indemnity etc if you went for insurance privately.

Would appreciate pros/cons etc of the going with an association if protection is required.

I'm going to look at all three questions here; whether or not we need copyright or other licences or insurances for weddings, and what kinds of insurance may be useful, and whether you should get your insurance through an association or privately!

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Period of residency on the NOIM

NOIM question. I know it says in the Guidelines if a person is in the country for a matter of days you leave the period of residency blank. Is that right? The only time I leave it blank is when they are born here, and I wouldn't want there to be any confusion with an overseas-born person if I left it blank and BDM thought I'd made a mistake and forgot to fill it in.

You're absolutely right, the Guidelines recommend leaving the period of residency fields blank on the NOIM.

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How does a party prove they’re divorced?

When someone gets divorced they are sent a divorce certificate (also called a divorce order). That certificate may take a different format depending on when it was issued, but since February 2010 divorce orders have been issued electronically.

Sometimes (often) by the time they come to remarry, a party has misplaced or lost their divorce order, but of course you can't marry them without seeing it.

So how do they get a new one? Read More

Can the Marriage Registry transfer a NOIM to a celebrant?

Sometimes couples think they want to get married at the Registry Office. They go along to the Registry and lodge their Notice of Intended Marriage, and then sometimes it's a few months before they can get an appointment for a marriage ceremony. In the meantime they find an awesome celebrant who convinces them they can do a much nicer ceremony at a much nicer place, and they decide to get married with the celebrant instead. Read More

Shortening of time: the celebrant’s role

It is a legal requirement that couples who want to get married in Australia give at least one month's, and no more than 18 months', notice through lodging a Notice of Intended Marriage with an Authorised Celebrant. However in some exceptional circumstances it is possible to have that notice period shortened by applying to a prescribed authority for a Shortening of Time. In capital cities prescribed authorities can generally be found at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages; for regional and rural areas the list of prescribed authorities should be consulted. Read More

Who can witness a NOIM under the title “legally qualified medical practitioner”?

Notices of Intended Marriage signed in Australia can be witnessed by people with a number of different qualifications. Most are pretty straightforward: an authorised celebrant, a justice of the peace, a barrister or solicitor, or a member of the Australian Federal Police or the police force of a State or Territory. Easy, right?

There's one qualification on the list that trips up a lot of couples and a lot of celebrants: legally qualified medical practitioner. What exactly does that mean? Read More