The required legal wording for vows is followed by "or words to that effect". What wording can be
used? What can be changed?
The Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Marriage Celebrants
WHY IS USING THE MINIMUM VOW WORDING SO IMPORTANT?
The minimum vows set out in the Marriage Act are very important and not complying may give rise to concerns
about the validity of a marriage. The safest course of action for authorised celebrants
solemnising marriages is to avoid any such issues by complying with the guidance on the vows set out
The existence of any concern about the vows used in any particular marriage ceremony could have significant
adverse consequences for the marrying couples involved, including worry and concern.
While a couple is entitled to rely on the certificate issued by the relevant State or Territory BDM as evidence
that the marriage was registered and that it was solemnised in accordance with the vows
in section 45, that does not mean that non-compliance with the requirements for vows may not become an issue for a
couple in individual cases.
While the married couple may gain reassurance from the BDM marriage certificate, serious consequences may follow
for an authorised celebrant who has not followed the requirements.
WHAT ARE THE WORDS IN SUBSECTION 45(2)?
Subsection 45(2) requires that each party say to the other, in the presence of
an authorised celebrant (who is not a minister of religion) and the witnesses, the words:
‘I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, A.B. (or C.D.), take thee, C.D. (or A.B.), to be my
lawful wedded wife (or husband)’; or words to that effect.
These words must be included in the ceremony. They are the minimum words which must be exchanged by the
couple to ensure that they fully understand the nature of the ceremony and that
they are marrying each other.
CAN THE COUPLE PERSONALISE THE VOWS?
Couples may wish to personalise the minimum vows. However, it is
important to be aware that legally there is limited capacity to change the vows. The safest course of action
is to use the wording in the Marriage Act.
The following wording substitutions and changes are acceptable given the inclusion of ‘words to that effect’ in
- ‘call upon’ may be changed to ‘ask’
- ‘persons’ may be changed to ‘people’
- ‘thee’ may be changed to ‘you’
- ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ may be changed to ‘spouse’
- ‘persons here present’ may be changed to
- ‘everyone here’ or ‘everybody here’ or ‘everyone
present here’ or ‘everybody present here’, or
- the couple may leave out either ‘lawful’ or ‘wedded’, but not both.
The following changes to the minimum words are not acceptable:
- ‘family and friends’ cannot replace ‘persons here present’ or ‘everyone here’, and
- ‘partner’ cannot replace ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ or ‘spouse’.
As an example, the vows could read: ‘I ask everyone here to witness that I, A.B., take you, C.D., to be my
Couples wishing to personalise their vows further are able to lengthen their vows by adding their chosen wording
after saying the minimum words (so long as any material added does not contradict
the minimum vows). In this sense, the minimum words are the starting point from which personalised vows can
If you are looking for inspiration to begin writing your own vows you could begin here: http://www.myweddingvows.com/ or http://www.weddingvowsden.com/