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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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! Read More

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! Read More

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! Read More

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! Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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! Read More

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! Read More

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! Read More

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! Read More

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... Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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! Read More

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! Read More

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. Read More

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