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The two important factors are that I have to ensure that I am conducting the ceremony legally and, secondly, that we are organising a ceremony that suits you.

I am most happy to give you advice, and probably so are many other people, but the final decision as to how any ceremony is to run is yours. I have been a Celebrant since 31 January 1983, still enjoy conducting ceremonies and always try to give that impression even at the end of a frantic summer weekend!

Legal Requirements.

I am required by law under the Marriage Act, and as recently instructed by the Attorney-General's Department:

  1. to inform everyone that I am an authorised celebrant (using prescribed words - see below)
  2. to inform you of the law regarding marriage (using prescribed words - see below)
  3. to ask you, using your full names, if you are moving into your marriage freely (using words as suggested below)
  4. to advise you that you may add your own vows or promises but that they must include certain words (see below)
  5. We five (you two, 2 witnesses, celebrant) need to sign the three certificates.

What paper work do you need?

  1. Notice of Intended Marriage You may obtain a copy of the Notice of Intended Marriage (formerly Form 13) from me, a Registry Office, or from the official website. The Federal Attorney-General’s website for the Notice of Intended Marriage is:The N.I.M. form must be ‘lodged’ with whomever is going to conduct your ceremony at least one calendar month prior to the proposed date. For example, if you are getting married on August 9, then I must receive the signed form on July 9. It is a 4 page form, 2 pages for you to read, and 2 pages for you and me to fill in and sign. Page 2 contains very important information.The 'Happily Ever After' brochure is available below:
    Document outlining the obligations and consequences of marriage and stating the availability of marriage education and counselling [PDF 164KB]
    Click here for forms: NEW Notice of intended marriage [DOCX 70KB] and NEW Notice of intended marriage [PDF 98KB]
  2. Regarding date and place of birth If you were born in Australia you produce an ORIGINAL (not certified) official certificate, or an official extract of an entry in an official register, showing the date and place of birth. A statutory declaration may be used in the rare instance of a birth certificate being unavailable. Passports may also be used, but check that the details are correct according to what is on your birth certificate, and that you have the correct names of your parents! OR If you were born overseas, you should produce your ORIGINAL birth certificate, or you may produce a passport issued by a government of an overseas country, showing the date and place of birth. A statutory declaration is also a possibility, but it is unlikely that this provision will have to be used. Please ask your celebrant about this situation. To apply for a birth certificate in South Australia visit the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs
  3. Identification Regarding evidence of identity: photo evidence is required - this may be a Drivers License, Passport, Prof of Age Card, etc. - but separate from what was provided for proof of date and place of birth.
  4. Previous Marriage If you have been previously married you will have to produce evidence of your divorce or death of your spouse.For divorces in Australia prior to 2005 (decree nisi and decree absolute) a decree absolute is required, and for divorces in Australia from 2005-2012(simplified Certificate of Divorce) the date divorce takes effect is the key date. Recent divorces are issues as Divorce Orders and as a .pdf file and this is acceptable as a source documents because it is the original.
    For divorces in overseas countries what is required is divorce documentation from the country in which the divorce took place.
    Acceptable evidence of the death of a spouse is the official death certificate or other official documents like a coroner or police report.
    As your celebrant I will talk through the ramifications, and variations, of these basic rules.

I will

  • have the three certificates ready for signing. These are the Registry Office copy, my copy, and yours.
  • be at the location at least 20 minutes before the ceremony.
  • make a check on the table and chairs for position and stability. You don't need an odd sign in the background of all your photographs!
  • check if there are any last minutes changes need to be made.
  • tell you what to do, where to go. That is, of course, after you have told me what it is that you want. In other words, I will make sure that you are legally married, and that it is done the way you want it. You have to make sure that it is the Ceremony you want, in the style you would like.
  • bring an excellent sound system with hand-held microphone and capability of playing CDs, etc. - no charge.

Notes to help conduct your ceremony.

These are only notes, but they may help you when deciding how you would like your ceremony to be conducted.

These notes are not prescriptive, but please ensure that...

you enjoy your Marriage Ceremony, and that you have it the way that you would like!

there are two witnesses who must, as the law notes, 'appear to be over the age of 18 years of age'. These witnesses may be men or women, children or parents.

there is a table available for the signing, and two chairs, so that each of you may sit while signing. There is probably no need to have flowers on the table - particularly if it is small. The flowers tend to get knocked over, sat on, or moved when we start to sign. We also need to be able to place the three certificates on the table..

you have checked on the local rules about throwing confetti or rice. Flowers or money seem to be no problem!

regardless of what time you have told your guests, you are sure what time it is that you wish to start the Ceremony.

you arrive on time. I may have another wedding scheduled following yours, and I don't intend to arrive late for that wedding!

You might like to think about

  • Where and how would you like to stand for the occasion? I suggest that you may wish to consider an arrangement whereby your guests are able to see and hear you. Perhaps a horseshoe arrangement might be appropriate.
  • Where would be the most suitable place for the rings for the ceremony? Perhaps consider having the rings on the nearby signing table.
  • Will you need a few chairs for aged guests, parents, or those who are pregnant or on crutches?
  • Are you arriving together, separately, going to be there as your guests arrive, or something else?
  • If your children are at the Ceremony, how would you like them involved? Perhaps they could read, say something at the 'giving away' time, or collect the rings?
  • What do you want from your photographer, in regard to the Ceremony?


Please note that you may make changes wherever you like - add, subtract, cut and paste. Some people have very simple, short ceremonies, while other have quite long and complex ones. It is your prerogative to decide what content and style you would like for your ceremony - so make sure you have the ceremony that will be pleasantly memorable!


When I know that the Bride/Partner is about to arrive, I ensure that the Groom/Partner and Attendants are in position. I will have checked that the rings are appropriately placed, and that those who are doing any readings are prepared.

Where relevant, I also check with the musicians or the person playing the CD.

I advise those in the Bridal party where to stand.


[Would you like me to say anything about 'Social Media'? For example, about guests not posting until you two have had a chance to post your own photos, etc.]

I actually just stand and talk, and only read whatever particular pieces you have personally written. Because I know the basic ceremony by heart, I don't read the obvious, and try to give the impression that I find pleasure in conducting ceremonies. The points I tend to make are as follows:

I ask your guests to move closer so that they may hear and see all that they wish. I introduce myself and welcome your guests to the celebrations that mark the beginning of your married life together, and tell them that in this Civil Marriage Ceremony you have personally prepared the content yourselves, and that you hope to enjoy it, and trust that they do as well.


I suggest that if you are interested in have a reading in any part of your Ceremony, that you select the piece, and ask a friend to read. That makes it more personal for both of you. I will of course read if you would like that.


All authorised celebrants shall say to the couple getting married, in the presence of the witnesses whom I would acknowledge at this stage of the Ceremony:

My name is Dr John Holmes and I am duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages according to law. Before you are joined in marriage in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses, I am to remind you of the solemn and binding nature of the relationship you are about to enter. Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.



(full names) ... will you take ... (full names) to be your wife/husband/spouse?

With any additional comments you might like, for example:

Will you love her/him, honor her/him, comfort and keep her/him, and forsaking all others keep only unto her/him so long as you both shall live?




There are many ways of indicating support for a marriage, and you may wish for someone to say something, for parents to indicate support, or you may desire for the Bride/Groom/Partner to be 'given away'.

I tend to introduce this part of the Ceremony, to say that you have chosen to include it, and that you are pleased to have ... to represent all your family and friends in supporting you marriage. Of course, you may wish to involve all your parents, or your children.

MARRIAGE CELEBRANT: Who gives/brings ... to be married to ...?
Do you on behalf of your family and friends, support ...'s marriage to ...?

RESPONSE: e.g. I do/We do/My wife and I do.

I thank that person and ask them if they would care to join the guests.


I suggest that if you are interested in have a reading in any part of your Ceremony, that you select the piece, and ask a friend to read. That makes it more personal for both of you. I will of course read if you would like that.


I introduce the Vows mentioning that they are the formal part of the Ceremony, and that you have chosen them. Normally, you might repeat them after me, in small segments.

The vows which the Marriage Act expects people to say must begin with the following:

"I call upon these persons here present to witness that I ... take you ... to be my lawful wedded wife/husband/spouse."

[This change allows marrying couples to make a personal choice about the terms to be used in their marriage vows that best reflect their relationship. The term ‘husband’ can refer to a male marriage partner, and ‘wife’ to a female marriage partner, regardless of the sex or gender of the person saying the vows. The term ‘spouse’ can refer to a male, female, intersex, non-binary gender or transgender person. A-G Dept]

You may wish to add our own words after this - for example:

"I call upon these persons here present to witness that I ... take you ... to be my lawful wedded wife/husband/spouse, to have and to hold, from this day, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death us do part, and this is my promise to you."

Or, some other ideas from which you may wish to work:

(a): I, ..., take you, ..., as my wife/husband/spouse. I pledge to share my life openly with you, and to speak the truth to you in love. I promise to honour and tenderly care for you, and to cherish and encourage your own fulfilment as an individual for the rest of my life.
(b): ... I want to be with you always just as you are. I choose you above all others to share my life with me in marriage. I love you for yourself, and I want you to become all that you can be. I promise to honour this pledge as long as I live.


I normally say something like: As a symbol of this marriage, ... and ... wish to exchange rings. OR As a symbol of this marriage, ... wishes to present ... with a ring.

I normally ask an Attendant to collect the rings from the table and present them, in order, to you and you two will, in turn, be asked to place the ring on the other's finger.

"With this ring, a token and pledge of my love, I thee wed."

Or, some other ideas from which you may wish to work:

(a): With this ring I thee wed.
(b): With this ring I marry you.
(c): ... I give you this ring as a symbol of my love.


MARRIAGE CELEBRANT: ... and ..., as you have consented together in lawful marriage in my presence, and in the presence of your witnesses, and by the giving and receiving of these rings, I now declare you to be husband and wife OR a married couple.

I then suggest that you may wish to kiss each other!

MARRIAGE CELEBRANT: Ladies and gentlemen. It is my duty, and very great pleasure to inform you that ... and ... have freely agreed to be joined in marriage, and you have heard me pronounce them officially married. We are now going to sign the three Marriage Certificates. Once we have completed the signing I shall present ... and ... to you as a married couple.


Five of us need to sign three certificates, so this takes at least five minutes. During that time the photographers will no doubt be busy. You may also have arranged for music to be played at this stage.


After the signing I present you to your guests, with something like:

Ladies and gentlemen, we have now completed the formal part of today's celebrations, and I hope that you enjoy the remainder of your time with ... and ... and that you send them off on their married life with a great deal of support. Could I advise you that is preferable that you do not throw confetti or rice within the grounds/building, but please feel free to throw flowers (or money) as symbols of your goodwill. I now give to you all, your new friends, and for some of you now, your new relatives, ... and ... as a married couple. Congratulations.


This Ceremony normally takes about 20 minutes and afterwards I check the Certificates (for posting to the Registry Office within the next day or two), and then say goodbye to you.