Last Updated 3 August 2016

A marriage can take place at any time and in any place.

Under pt 4 of the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) (Marriage Act), a marriage must be solemnised by or in the presence of an authorised celebrant. The marriage celebrant may be either a minister of religion or a civil (non-religious) marriage celebrant. Civil marriage celebrants charge a fee for the marriage service. Ministers of religion usually receive a donation.

Australian citizens can no longer be married in accordance with Australian law in overseas countries. However, they can be married in overseas countries in accordance with the laws of the country in which the marriage takes place. Subject to the exceptions set out above, a marriage that is valid according to the law of the country in which it took place is treated as valid in Australia.

Persons who are not Australian citizens may be married in Australia before a foreign diplomatic or consular officer of their own nationality if their country is a proclaimed overseas country (ss 52–55 Marriage Act). If such a marriage is conducted in accordance with the law of the foreign country, it will be recognised as a valid marriage in Australia provided that neither party of the couple is already married and that, under Australian law, both are of marriageable age and are not within a prohibited relationship (s 56 Marriage Act).

Notice and other formalities

Notice of intention to marry must be given to the celebrant between 18 months and one month before the marriage date. This notice requires that birth certificates be produced and statutory declarations of the parties’ existing marital status be signed (s 42 Marriage Act).

Change of names

There is no legal requirement that either party to a marriage change their name upon marriage. The parties may continue to use their own surnames, adopt the surname of their spouse or hyphenate the surnames of both spouses.

Proof of marriage

Proof of marriage is provided by a marriage certificate and is required for various purposes (e.g. obtaining passports). Proof of marriage is required when an application for divorce is filed in court.

Marriage certificates

Two certificates are prepared on the day of the marriage by the person performing the ceremony and are signed by:

  • the husband and wife
  • the person celebrating the marriage
  • two witnesses who must be 18 years of age or over.

One certificate must be forwarded to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages within 14 days of official recording of the ceremony (s 50(4)(a)(i) Marriage Act). This is done by the marriage celebrant.

Foreign certificates

Where proof is needed of marriages made outside of Australia (e.g. in divorce cases), an extract of the marriage certificate from the foreign registry will usually be sufficient. If the marriage certificate is not in English, generally a translation into English will be required.