Anka asks

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of celebrants on Facebook have started advertising that they can do weddings overseas?? I didn’t think we could? Im presuming they might be just completing paperwork at the airport before they depart? Or did I miss something

Hi Anka, this is a question I personally field often and I’m glad I get to address it on the Celebrant Institute today.

Under what authority?

The Attorney-General’s office has the authority to appoint marriage celebrants according to Australian law. That law and authority is only valid in Australia. So when an Australian authorised marriage celebrant leaves Australia and enters another country they no longer carry the authority they did in Australia, and they are subject to that country’s laws – marriage and otherwise. In simple terms, Australian marriage celebrants in New Zealand lose the title “marriage celebrant” whilst retaining the title “Australian”. Outside of Australia you are not a celebrant. That’s why celebrants cannot witness notices of intent overseas.

So if you see myself or others performing ceremonies overseas, we are subject to the laws in that country. In that country, if we have the authority to marry we may well be, and if we are not then in a technical sense it’s not a legal marriage ceremony.

I personally at the time of writing this article have the authority to marry people according to the law in Australia, the USA, and British Columbia, Canada.

If you see me in any other country, the couple are not getting married-married, just married, in their hearts.

Even with the opportunity to legally marry in Canada and the USA many of my couples choose to still take the Australian paperwork route just so it’s free to change names and get new passports and drivers licenses.

So how do people get married-married?

In each country around the globe the people getting married have the responsibility to seek the best route for themselves. Some people value the ease of paperwork an Australian marriage ceremony presents an Australian couple so before or after the international ceremony we’ll go through the required steps on Australian soil. Others value the date on their marriage certificate being the date they exchanged vows, so it’s up to them to figure that out.

Isn’t this weird?

I know that for many of our European it’s very common for the celebrant to have no actual legal authority so the couple will visit the marriage office in the days before their wedding, or even on the morning, and solemnise it there. (Do I get 10 points for using solemnise in a sentence?)

For many Australian couples who would like a friend to marry them I perform a similar service.

The business end of the deal

You’ll meet very few wedding vendors who have made a successful life, financially and socially, from being a destination wedding vendor. I’m lucky that Britt’s a bigger traveller than me and Luna, well Luna has no choice. So we love travelling the globe and we build our international wedding schedule around our own hopes. I’m sure most reading this would like to travel as well, so I wish you the best of luck, it’s not easy living with the word ‘destination’ in your bio, if only because everyone else has it there too. My advice would be to focus on your local market and take the destination work that suits you and your family.