Why do you need witnesses at your marriage ceremony?
A legal requirement for a marriage ceremony is that two people over the age of 18 shall be present at the ceremony and be witnesses to the marriage. They are also required, along with the bride, the groom and the celebrant, to sign each of the marriage certificates immediately after the marriage is solemnised.
The purpose of having witnesses is to be able to establish the identity of the bride and groom, and for this reason it is preferred that the witnesses know the bride and/or groom. If necessary, the witnesses are also able to confirm details about how and when the ceremony was performed.
So who can be your witnesses?
If you have a bridal party, the witnesses are often the chief bridesmaid and the best man. However, this is not mandatory, and not all marrying couples have attendants or a bridal party.
The witnesses do not have to be gender specific – you might choose to have the traditional one female and one male, or you may choose to have two females or two males as your witnesses.
You might like to have the mothers or fathers of the bride and groom as witnesses, or other family members or close friends that you would like to include in the ceremony.
Children of the marrying couple are able to be legal witnesses to the marriage, but only if they are 18 years of age or older.
Witnesses would ideally be able to attend your wedding rehearsal, so they know in advance when they will be called upon during the ceremony and what documents they will be signing.
So as part of your wedding planning, you do have another decision to make – who will be your two witnesses?
On your wedding day, and as part of your marriage ceremony, there are three official marriage certificates to be signed.
The first certificate of marriage. This is sent to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages so that your marriage can officially be registered.
The second certificate of marriage. This may be referred to as the Marriage Register and is kept by your celebrant.
The third certificate of marriage. This is given to you by your celebrant, often as part of the ceremony itself.
The bride and groom, two witnesses and your celebrant will sign each of the three certificates. Your witnesses must be 18 years of age or older.
Your celebrant must ensure all relevant paperwork is submitted to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages so that your marriage can officially be registered. The paperwork submitted includes the Notice of Intended Marriage, the Declaration of No Impediment to Marriage, and the first marriage certificate.
It should be noted that while the third certificate of marriage is an official document, it is not valid for legal purposes. You will need to apply for a copy of a certificate issued by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, which will be available once the marriage is registered. Your celebrant can give you advice on how to apply for this certificate.
This is last in a series of posts regarding legal paperwork required when getting married. The previous posts are:
Wedding Paperwork – Part 1 – The Notice of Intended Marriage
Wedding Paperwork – Part 2 – Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage
Official information is available from the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department website at: