Author: Sarah Aird

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?

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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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Office facilities for civil celebrants, what’s required?

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

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Guidelines 2018: What’s changed?

I’m 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.

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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?

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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.

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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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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?

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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. Here is Josh’s article.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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