Everything you need to know about Marriage in Australia

19 Feb 2023·20 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about Marriage in Australia 01

Over 100,000 marriages are held in Australia every year. Australia is a multi-cultural country, and marriage traditions are varied, unique, and glamorous. The federal government regulates all marriage laws in the country. Monogamous marriage is the only type of legal marriage between two people (both same-sex and opposite-sex) in the country. Other forms of marriage, such as polygamy, concubinage, and aboriginal marriages, are not recognized under the law. 

The legal age to marry is 18 years, but a person aged 16 or 17 may be allowed to marry under special circumstances. They must have parental consent and authorization from the court. The marriage celebrant or officiant must receive a notice of intended marriage (at least one month before the wedding day). 

Australian laws about the marriage of foreigners are not so strict as citizenship or residency is not required, and couples can get married if a domestic marriage officiant conducts it and the other domestic requirements are satisfied. Any marriage performed in a foreign country is recognized in Australia provided that the foreign laws applicable to marriages are followed. This makes it easy for couples to have destination weddings in the countries of their choice. A major reason people hold marriages in Australia is to celebrate companionship and to signify their undying love and commitment to each other.

Types of Marriage in Australia

According to Australian law, the only type of marriage that is legally binding is a monogamous marriage. A person who is still in a marriage is not allowed to enter into a new marriage without terminating the previous one. If anyone enters a marriage while being in a previous one, the law recognizes such an act as a punishable crime (bigamy), which can attract up to five years of imprisonment and a void marriage. Same-sex marriage is recognized by law. De facto relationships are also legally recognized in the country, and a marriage must be consensual for it to be legally binding. If a partner is forced to enter into a relationship through deception, coercion, or threats, the marriage is nullified and rendered void. 
Foreign marriages do not require Australian citizenship before they are allowed to take place or recognized by law. If a marriage ceremony is held between a non-Australian citizen and a citizen, the foreigner may apply for a partner visa to remain in the country.

Invalid Marriages

An Australian marriage must be solemnized by an authorized marriage celebrant before it can be legally binding. Otherwise, the marriage is rendered invalid and void. There are three types of authorized marriage celebrants, namely state and territory officers, ministers of religion, and civil marriage celebrants. These are the only people that are allowed to officiate marriages. A minister of religion must be nominated by a recognized denomination for him or her to be registered. Also, the minister must be a citizen of Australia and at least 21 years old. State and territory officers that have been authorized under the law are also allowed to solemnize marriages. Most marriages are solemnized by civil celebrants in the country. Below is a list of conditions that will render a marriage void or invalid:

The partners are already in a prohibited union or relationship. This applies to marriages between siblings or close relatives. 
Either partner is already married. This is a case where either of the couples planning to get married is already in another marriage with one or multiple people (bigamy or polygamy). 
An authorized celebrant did not solemnize the marriage 
The marriage was not performed with the free consent of both parties. This applies to coercion, threats, duress, mental incapacity, being below the legal age to marry or fraud.

Civil marriage registration

Couples aged 18 years and above are allowed to get married and have a civil marriage contract under Australian law. The conditions of a civil marriage in the country are straightforward. Either of the partners can be a foreigner, and civil marriages can even take place if both partners are non-Australian citizens. The most important document requisite during the marriage application process is a notice of intention to marry. This must be completed and submitted to the registrar’s office at least a month before the wedding is supposed to take place. 

Personal identification documents must also be submitted, such as a birth certificate or passport. Any previously married partner is required to submit a divorce certificate or a death certificate if the person they were formally married to is deceased. Couples must provide at least two witnesses of legal age during the civil ceremony. There are no strict laws guiding the type of dress worn in civil wedding ceremonies. The couples are allowed to wear anything they prefer. A lot of couples who engage in civil ceremonies wear casual outfits. 

Religious marriages are also performed by couples in Australia. However, a civil ceremony must be held first to obtain a marriage certificate. Based on the beliefs of the couples, they can come to a mutual agreement on the place of worship where they would like to hold their wedding, as well as the venue of their reception, and how long the events will take.

Foreign Marriages

Australian marriage laws are quite easy as provisions are made for citizens of foreign countries. Many Australians have been holding destination weddings in locations of their choice around different parts of the world. Another reason an Australian may be holding a marriage ceremony abroad is if the country is the family’s ancestral home country or they are prohibited from conducting a marriage in the country. Under Australian law, marriage to a citizen of Australia guarantees neither a visa nor citizenship. The due process to obtain these must be followed. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has the authority to legalize the seals and signatures that are Australian public documents. These documents include various authentications and apostilles), and the DFAT also issues a certificate of no impediment to marriage, which must be signed by the witnesses involved. 

The same laws safeguarding the marriage of citizens in Australia also apply to foreigners' marriages. There are common rules that must not be violated, as doing so will completely render the marriage void. These include if either of the parties was in a previous marriage; if there is no free consent from either or both of the partners. If either partner is less than the minimum legal marriage age in the country, it is not necessary for marriages held abroad to be registered again in Australia. However, couples are advised to obtain and retain every relevant marriage document issued by the authorities in the country where they held the marriage.

Everything you need to know about Marriage in Australia 02

Popular Marriage Traditions in Australia

Even though Australia is made up of culturally diverse people, there are still some ceremonial rites that are shared by couples who hold traditional marriages. Some of these traditions are stated below.

Smoking Ceremony

This is a tradition that was widely practiced in ancient Australia. Here, the newly married couple are fanned with burning herbs and plants, as this process is believed to ward off evil spirits. This part of the ceremony was quite symbolic and sensitive. It served as a way to educate and inspire guests, as well as friends and family, to bless the marriage.

Country’s Acknowledgment

This is a tradition where couples pay homage and add an acknowledgment of the country to their wedding ceremonies. This is performed as a way of paying tribute to the original owners of the Australian land they are marrying. This is a mark of respect, and couples who hold outdoor wedding ceremonies are more compelled to perform this ceremonial rite.

A Stone Ceremony

Some couples perform this rite during the celebration of their union, and it involves the throwing of a rock into a body of water. This is an ancient tradition that developed as a result of couples who could not afford wedding rings throwing a rock into water as a way to symbolize their continuous love and their permanent style together as life flows around them.

Proof of Marriage

Three copies of a marriage certificate must be prepared by the marriage celebrant during the course of getting the proof of marriage. These copies are to be shared as follows: one for the marriage celebrant, one for the couple, and the last one for the state or territory registry. Upon the completion of this, the state or territory registrar issues a marriage certificate to the couple. This document serves as an acceptable and secure security identification which could later be used in the change of name by either of the spouses. The Attorney-General of Document Verification Services verifies the document. 

All marriage certificate affairs are verified by the couple, especially when the marriage is held abroad. If, upon verification, the couple is found to have committed a scam where the foreign marriage is not recognized or protected by law, they are punished for the crime. It can attract up to a maximum of ten years in prison. Marriage certificates are not used for a lot of purposes in Australia. As a matter of fact, they are mostly used for change of name or proof of marital status purposes.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws and Rights

There are a number of requirements you need to know and fulfill before you can get married legally in Australia. According to the office of the attorney general, both parties have to be at least 18 years old as this is the minimum legal age required to get married in the country. 
There are special cases where minors may be allowed to get married, provided a court authorization and parental consent are made available. In Australia, marriage between people of close blood relations is forbidden in Australia, be it through adoption or direct link.

Both parties are required to be single and not have any existing relationships with other people. A certificate of divorce or death should be presented if one of the spouses was in a previous relationship. If it's found that one of the spouses is still in a legal binding relationship, he/she is liable to face a jail term as this is a punishable offence under Australian law. 
Both parties are expected to have an adequate understanding of the concept of marriage and they're expected to give consent on their own volition. As it is an offence in Australia to force someone into marriage,

As funny as this may sound, there are a specific set of words you are expected to use at the wedding ceremony, which must be conducted by an authorized wedding celebrant.

An original birth certificate, a passport, a notice of intended marriage, and a declaration signed by the celebrant are required to make a marriage legal in Australia. A notice of intended marriage form must be given to the celebrant 18–12 months before your chosen date. A marriage not formalized by an authorized celebrant is considered void. 
On the chosen date of the ceremony, s3 marriage certificates would be signed by the spouses, the authorized celebrant, and two witnesses who are 18 and above. A temporary celebratory certificate would be given.

After the ceremony, the celebrant would then submit your paperwork to the registry of marriages, births, and deaths, which would make your marriage officially legal. If you don't register your marriage, it doesn't make your marriage less legal; it just makes the process of getting a marriage certificate almost impossible.

Just like most modern countries in the world, Australia offers a number of benefits and rights to those who are married. Couples have the right to live separately without being questioned about the authenticity of their marriage.

Marriage automatically makes the couple each other's next of kin, and this affords you the right to make emergency decisions and also grants you the right to receive life insurance benefits and so on. Marriage automatically removes the option of creating a will because the law expects you to put the interests of your spouse above everyone else. But in the case of contempt of marriage, a will might not be revoked. In Australia, spouses do not necessarily have to share their finances, chores, and responsibilities. It is up to them to decide how long they want to stay married, but if they decide to share their finances, it is jointly owned and, in the event of death, it automatically belongs to the surviving spouse. 
In essence, getting married in Australia gives you a lot of benefits just by showing your marriage certificate.

Costs

An Australian wedding is not as budget-friendly as one would think. As of 2022, an average Australian wedding budget starts at around $25,677–$32,228. However, the wedding budget is largely dependent on the financial status of both parties.

The wedding venue has been proven to always take the largest part of the wedding budget, up to around 40%. The catering at the event, which is one of the most important parts of the wedding, also takes up quite a large part of the budget. Payment for the services of a wedding celebrant, hiring professional photographers and videographers, the wedding dress, wedding cars, and decorations put together also take a part of the budget but are not as expensive as the venue or catering alone.

Duties

Just like in every country in the world, spouses have duties to fulfill for themselves in Australia. Husbands and wives have a duty to protect and provide for the family. They both play very important roles in the family, and as such, one cannot be deemed subordinate to the other. They have a duty to respect, commit, and be loyal to themselves. Both parties should learn to maintain a balance in their relationship when children come into the picture. Parents have a duty to guide, provide education, financial support, medical care and protect their children at all times against abuse. They are bound by the law to provide for their children until they reach the age of 18, which is the legal age in Australia, or until they can find their feet in the world. According to Australian law, it is the duty of one of the spouses to help if the other is not financially capable of catering for their needs. Your responsibilities and duties to each other continue until death or in the event of separation.

In Summary

Australia is a very diverse country, and different people celebrate marriages according to their beliefs and community. Both civil marriages and religious or traditional marriages are performed in the country, and same-sex marriages are fully recognized under the law to enjoy most of the benefits and rights opposite-sex marriages enjoy. Marriages in Australia must be registered in the appropriate territory or state registry and performed by an authorized celebrant. A marriage certificate cannot be issued unless the due process of marriage registration has taken place. 

Couples must be present in-person for their marriage ceremony as the use of proxies is not allowed by law. Both the couple and the witnesses must sign the certificate provided by the authorized celebrant. Then there are some prescribed solemnization words that the celebrant must read, and once this is read, the couples are allowed to hold further traditional ceremonies in any way they like. We hope this article has helped you fully understand everything you need to know about marriage in Australia.

 

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