What Do We Have To Say?

Title image for 'What Do I Have To Say', a post about legal requirements for a wedding ceremony

If you want a short ceremony or you’re going to write your ceremony yourself, here is what you have to include.

There are a number of legal requirements for a wedding ceremony to be recognised under Australian law. You have to complete a Notice of Intended Marriage (NoIM) a month beforehand. You have to declare your eligibility. And you must say certain things.

Now that last one essentially constitutes a ceremony. I offer what I call a “ceremony without ceremony”, because fulfilling the minimum requirements in this context really doesn’t feel like a ceremony! But under Australian law if we do the following, it is considered a ceremony:

The Monitum

‘Monitum’ is a Latin word that means caution or forewarning. In the context of a wedding, it is a declaration a celebrant must make to notify both the participants and the guests to a wedding that they have the legal authority to change the participants’ marital status in law.

Australia’s Marriage Act mandates a monitum that goes like this:

I am duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages according to law. 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. Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

We are allowed to adjust it slightly, and for most of the weddings I do, I use something a little closer to plain English that goes like this:

I am legally registered to solemnise marriages according to law. 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 permanent nature of the relationship you are now formalising. Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

If the monitum is not stated by the celebrant, the marriage may be challenged at a later date. It is not possible to complete a legal wedding in Australia without saying the monitum.

Mandatory Vows

A couple getting married may write their own vows, but they must also say the vows mandated by the Marriage Act 1961, which go like this:

I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, [full name], take thee, [full name], to be my lawful wedded wife/husband/spouse.

Again, there is a little scope to bring them closer to plain English, and most of my weddings are conducted with these words:

I ask the people here present to witness that I, [full name] take you [full name] to be my lawful wedded wife/husband/spouse.

Each bride and/or groom must say the vows themselves, replacing their and their partner’s full legal names and adjective where appropriate. Any person needing to use a language other than English in the ceremony (including those using Auslan) also requires a translator.


That’s all you have to say. Whether you want to write your own wedding ceremony or you just want a ceremony without ceremony, the monitum and the mandatory vows are required. The only other thing you have to do is the sign the paperwork.

Check these posts for more information on wedding planning

Published by Trevar Alan Skillicorn-Chilver

Trevar Alan Skillicorn-Chilver is an authorised celebrant, a playwright, a teacher and quite a few other things!

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