Ad-free news, views and advice on the local wedding scene for Canberra ACT and nearby NSW, and on getting married in Australia in general. With Michele Bolitho, registered civil marriage celebrant for well over one thousand wonderful weddings. ... Your day is my focus. That's my promise. It's my pleasure.

31 March 2012

No more 'I do' marriage vows in Australian civil weddings


Hello, and welcome
Beautiful bride Clare
married Adam on March 17
in the Senate Courtyard
of Old Parliament House
At the end of February, all civil celebrants in Australia – about 10,000 of us I think - received from the Attorney-General’s Department, the latest interpretations of the Australian Marriage Act of 1961, in ‘Guidelines for Marriage Celebrants’. We have been advised that:

      Each of the parties to the marriage must say  the vows to each other. A question and answer form of the vows is not contemplated by the Marriage Act. ...It should not be used as a substitute for stating the vows set out in the Act. For example, the authorised celebrant should not say, A.B., will you take C.D. to be your lawful wedded wife/husband, with the response from the bride or groom of ‘I do’.   

   This means that you cannot marry each other in an Australian civil marriage ceremony with the beautiful time-honoured tradition of saying: ‘I do’.
     If your heart is set on saying ‘I do’ in your marriage vows, in response to ‘Do you take...etc?’, you still have the option of getting married in church. Religious celebrants are allowed to ask the traditional questions and in church, you are allowed to marry by vowing ‘I do’.
     In an Australian civil marriage ceremony, your vows of marriage must use these words: ’I A.B. take thee C.D. to be my lawful wedded husband/wife’. (You may say ‘you’ instead of ‘thee’.) 
     Did you know, by the way, that you can say ‘spouse’ instead of ‘lawful wedded husband/wife’ if you wish? It’s not a popular choice. I had been celebrant at well over 900 weddings before a couple chose ‘spouse’. The groom liked the way that 'spouse' sounded reminiscent of the formal Spanish ‘esposo’ and ‘esposa’ used in his birth city of Bogota in South America.
     Some time ago, celebrants were notified that bride and groom cannot take each other in marriage as simply ‘wife’ and ‘husband’. It has to be ‘lawful wedded wife/husband’ or ‘wedded wife/husband’ or ‘lawful wife/husband. Now you can’t simply say ‘I do’.
     Personally, I am saddened by this new ruling. I know from my many years of experience as a celebrant that people in love do love to pledge ‘I do’ when they make a lifelong commitment to each other to lives together in marriage.

We can find a way . . .

According to the new Guidelines, you will still be allowed to say ‘I do’ in your wedding in answer to a different question from your celebrant. It’s just not allowed to be your marriage vow.  
     I have already helped four couples who married in the last few weeks to change their ceremony wording. They’d all chosen ‘I do’ vows. Together we found ways to adapt their wording to comply with this latest edict from Attorney-General’s, yet still keep ‘I do’ in the ceremony. 
    I'm a writer and I enjoyed the challenge of having the ceremony sound traditional, yet still keep to the law. A guest actually mentioned to me after the wedding of Clare and Adam that she loved it when the bride and groom said ‘I do’ to each other. When I explained that their marriage vows had actually been made in the next part of the ceremony, she told me she hadn’t noticed this. I was really pleased that we’d managed to keep to the lovely tradition that Adam and Clare had chosen, yet still comply with the Marriage Act Guidelines for 2012.
     I need to rewrite quite a few of the sample ceremonies I give to couples to help them create their own ceremony, in order to remove the 'i do' marriage vows. Please note here too that the information booklet about the full service I provide, and the downloadable PDF that’s on this blog, need to be revised.
Update May 7: PDF revision done.

A glowing testimonial from a beaming couple

All registered marriage celebrants must request evaluation of the service they provide to marrying couples, but couples are not obliged by law to provide it. 
     I realised recently that I had not created a formal process for couples to evaluate my service to them as their celebrant. I quickly added a Wedding Review Form in the Wedding Pages on the right of this post. (It emails directly to me.)
     My first review came in quite soon, and it was wonderful! K and B were married in my Heart Garden and they rated me 10/10. They also gave me their permission to publish their evaluation on my blog:

Michele made our experience so, so wonderful. From the moment we made contact, her willingness to 'go that extra mile' went hand in hand with her genuine ability to make our day perfect - as she did. We could not recommend her highly enough and would like, once again, to sincerely thank her for being our celebrant and wish her all the best for the future. Thank you Michele.
And my thanks to you, K and B for your kind words.
     
     I’d love to be your celebrant, whether your ceremony is very simple with a minimum of options, or you want a longer ceremony with lots of your own personal words - plus of course the legal words required by the Marriage Act - all coming together in your own unique mix. 
     Please feel free to email me or phone me for a chat about how I can help you both to make your wedding memorable and marvellous. There’s an email contact form here. Or phone me any day between 9am and 9pm on my mobile 0406 376 375.

Till next time

Sincerely
Michele