Couples often have questions about the Monitum....


The Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Marriage Celebrant (available from the Governer General's website found here) have listed answers to some of the more commonly asked.

WHY IS USING THE WORDING IN SUBSECTION 46(1) SO IMPORTANT?


Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants and State and Territory Officers have a legal obligation to say the words in subsection 46(1).  It is the statement of their authority to solemnise the marriage.  It also explains marriage under Australian law. 

The safest course for Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants or State Officers in solemnising marriages is to always use the wording in the Marriage Act.  Doing so will leave no room for doubt that the celebrant has complied with their obligations under the Marriage Act


CAN SOMEONE ELSE PARTICIPATING IN THE CEREMONY SAY THE WORDS IN SUBSECTION 46(1)?


No.  Only Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants or State or Territory Officers can say these words.

 

CAN THE WORDING IN SUBSECTION 46(1) BE CHANGED OR VARIED IN ANY WAY?


Subsection 46(1) of the Marriage Act includes the words ‘or words to that effect’.  Provided a Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrant or State or Territory officer does not dilute the words
or substitute words that alter the meaning of the words in subsection 46(1), there is some capacity to change certain words.
Noting that the safest course of action is to always follow the wording in the Marriage Act, it is possible that couples may push for changes.  The changes set out below will not dilute or vary the
meaning of the words in subsection 46(1) and may be used. 

First Sentence


The first sentence reads:  ‘I am duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages according to law’.

Variations that keep the legal meaning are:

  • ‘I am legally registered to solemnise marriages according to the law.’
  • ‘I am the registered marriage celebrant authorised to solemnise this marriage according to the law or according to law.’

Second Sentence


The second sentence reads: ‘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 into
which you are now about to enter.’

Variations that keep the legal meaning are:

  • changing ‘solemn’ to ‘serious’ or ‘formal’
  • changing ‘binding’ to ‘permanent’
  • changing ‘nature’ to ‘promise’
  • changing ‘now about to enter’ into ‘formalising’ or ‘sealing’ or ‘binding’, or
  • changing ‘these witnesses’ to ‘everyone here’ or ‘everybody here’.

The words ‘these witnesses’ should not be changed to ‘family and friends’ because that may not include everyone present. 


Third sentence


The third sentence reads:  ‘Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.’


Given that the third sentence is the legal definition of marriage in Australia the words cannot be changed.  Reversing the order of the words ‘man’ and ‘woman’ would be acceptable, but that is all.
Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants and State and Territory Officers must not make the following changes to the words in the third sentence because ‘marriage’ is specifically defined by
law:

  • do not replace ‘man’ and ‘woman’ with ‘people’ or ‘persons’.  This could signify the marriage
  • of two people of the same sex which is specifically excluded by the definition.
  • do not change the first part of the sentence to read:  “Marriage as most of us understand it is...’, and
  • do not change ‘for life’ to ‘with the intention/hope/desire that it will last for life.


HOW SHOULD A COMMONWEALTH-REGISTERED MARRIAGE CELEBRANT RESPOND IF COUPLES EXPRESS THEIR DISAGREEMENT WITH THE  DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE AND REQUEST THAT IT BE CHANGED IN THE CEREMONY?


The definition of marriage in the Marriage Act is the law in Australia.  While everyone is entitled to their individual view about such matters, Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants and State
and Territory Officers are authorised to solemnise marriages in accordance with the law.  Such celebrants will need to explain carefully to the couple that, despite their view, they are not
authorised to change the definition and have a legal obligation to state it during the ceremony.  This means the authorised celebrant is not able to agree to such a request.