We're debunking some common myths to find out the facts: who can be a legal witness at your marriage ceremony in Australia?
Whether you're having a big wedding or a tiny elopement, the Marriage Act legislation states that a marriage must have the couple, a celebrant, plus two persons present at the ceremony as legally-required witnesses who sign the marriage certificates.
Common Witness Myths - the following statements are NOT TRUE
Myth 1: witnesses have to have known you for a certain period of time
Myth 2: witnesses can't be related to you.
Myth 3: witnesses have to be related to you.
Myth 4: witnesses have to be in the 'wedding party'.
Myth 5: you need to have one witness each.
Myth 6: witnesses have to be Australian Citizens.
Your legal witnesses:
don't have to be Australian Citizens.
They don't have to be related to you, or even know you!
They don't have to be in the 'wedding party'
and there is no need to have 'one witness each'.
So who can witness a wedding?
The only rules are that the legal marriage witnesses need to:
- be, or appear to be, over 18 and
- be able to understand the ceremony.
What does a witness to a marriage actually do?
They have to be present at and able to understand the entire ceremony.
During or after the ceremony, they will need to sign some marriage paperwork as guided by the celebrant.
They will need to provide their full names for the marriage documentation.
Trouble choosing? Some tips
Older family members make great witnesses, as they often see it as an honour.
Asking someone important to you to be a witness can be a way of including them in your ceremony in a low-key way.
Witnesses must be present to watch the entire ceremony, so don’t ask the same person whom you’ve also tasked as your dog-wrangler or toddler-distractor!
I’m seeing a trend for many couples to have their mums as witnesses.
But we're eloping in secret?!
To help keep your elopement private, you could ask vendors like a your photographer or musicians to be your witnesses. If you're really stuck, and I'm your celebrant, talk to me - while it's not technically my role, I may be able to arrange witnesses for you who are good at keeping secrets!
Thinking an elopement might be for you? Check out The Elopement Package