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.

Before I talk about the use of names in the legal vows, I wanted to mention that of course this bride would be welcome to legally change her name to her preferred name through BDM. Then she could use her preferred name on the paperwork and in the legal vows. However if she doesn’t want to do that, the Guidelines 2018 outline the rules for which names should be used in the legal vows.

The legal vows, those contained in s45(2) of the Marriage Act 1961, are:

“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 spouse)”;


or words to that effect.

The interpretation of the meaning of A.B. and C.D. outlined in the Guidelines 2018 is that these terms refer to the parties’ full legal names, as entered on the NOIM (and other marriage documentation). Where the celebrant has stated the full names earlier in the ceremony (I like to do this in my introduction), the parties can choose to use only their first or first and middle names.

However the Guidelines 2018 are clear that nicknames (or preferred names) alone should not be used in the legal vows, but can be added to the legal names in the vows:

Nicknames alone should not be used for the vows. However, shortened names or nicknames may be added to the names used in the vows. For example ‘…I, Elizabeth Jane (Liz), take you, Peter John (Buddy)…’.

Nicknames can absolutely be used everywhere else in the ceremony, as long as the full legal names are used at least once before or during the legal vows.

So this bride has two choices:

  1. she can change her name legally through BDM and use her preferred name on all her marriage documentation and during the ceremony, or
  2. she can (frankly) suck it up and accept that her full birth name will appear at least once during the ceremony (sorry, low level of sympathy for this one!).

In terms of what leverage Jac can use to convince this bride that her legal name has to be used in the ceremony at least once, she’s well within her rights to suggest that the ceremony won’t be legal or that she could lose her registration if it’s not done. Although both of these things are highly unlikely, like 99.99% unlikely, sometimes dropping a bit of legalese can help in these situations. I also suggested to Jac that she show the bride the quote above, which can be found in s5.7.8 on p71 of the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018.