Getting married with the Covid-19 restrictions in place

Getting married with the COVID-19 restrictions in place.
Things you need to know.

In the past few days I have had several enquiries from couples who want to “beat the lockdown” and get married as soon as possible. One call was for this coming weekend. Here’s an outline of what we can and can’t do and things you may not have known re the process of getting married in Australia.
As we know the restrictions are that there can be no more than 5 people present at the Ceremony: The marrying couple. The Celebrant. Two (2) witnesses.
One or both of those 2 witnesses could also double as photographer/videographer or consider using your professional photographer as a witness. They don't need to know you personally but do need to be over 18 and have a full understanding of what they are witnessing – which is the legally required content such as your vows, they are not only just witnessing your signatures.
We will be required to adhere to the social distancing rules but that does not mean the marrying couple cannot hold hands and kiss. Let’s be realistic - I’m sure they will be doing that and more behind closed doors!

Giving Notice of Intention to Marry. The one month notice requirement.
Every couple intending to marry need to fill in a Notice of Intended Marriage, (NIM) this has to be lodged with the Celebrant minimum one month prior to the intended date of the ceremony. So if you lodge it on the 3rd April, the earliest you can marry is the 3rd May.
You can download the NIM from the AG’s website here:

You need to provide evidence of date and place of birth as well as photo ID and have your signatures witnessed in the presence of your Celebrant or any of the authorised people outlined on page 4 of the NIM.
With social distancing laws this could be tricky but not impossible. If you know a JP or are not far from a Police Station then they can witness your signatures with a counter or desk between you taking care to keep that 1.5 metres apart. Please ask them to provide their JP number or if a Police Officer their service number with the name of the Station where they are based.
You can then email a scan of the signed and witnessed NIM to your Celebrant. The date the email arrives is officially the date of lodgement. It’s a good idea to get the original via express post or registered mail to the Celebrant asap so it is safely in their hands. You can also provide scans of your Passport, Drivers Licence (if no Passport), Birth Certificates (if no passport - but handy for Celebrant to double check info entered is absolutely correct) and evidence of the end of any previous marriages (either Certificate of Divorce or Death Certificate of late spouse).
When you meet up in person with your Celebrant you only need bring photo ID. This may be on the day of the wedding or prior if practical.

But I want to be married within that one month time frame!
With the help of your Celebrant you can apply for a shortening of time with a Prescribed Authority. Usually a Registrar at a Local Court. Here’s the link to the list of Prescribed Authorities in NSW:
Don't be afraid to ask. Your Celebrant can provide you with a letter saying you have lodged the NIM and you turn up with the original NIM and the letter and keep everything crossed.
You do however need solid and valid reasons to be granted a shortening of time. Usually the case is that couples had no idea of the one month notice and have booked and paid deposits if not the full amount to venues, service providers on top of having family members who have booked and paid for travel and accommodation. Providing receipts and evidence of these financial outlays is helpful.
Another scenario is where a close family member may have had notice they have to travel due to work or deployment at short notice and you really want them there.
Honestly, there are no guarantees that you will be granted the shortening of time as this is to the discretion of the Prescribed Authority but it is worth trying if you really can’t move the date of your ceremony.

Lastly – Will Marriage Ceremonies become virtual?
Quick answer, I doubt it very much.
It would mean changing the Marriage Act. Right now the legal requirements are as per what we are allowed to do in the COVID-19 environment. We have reached the absolute minimum people required to be present at your wedding.
Your Celebrant needs to be there in person to officiate the wedding and see that all legal requirements are adhered to, that signatures are all correct and the paperwork is lodged after the solemnisation of your Marriage.
The witnesses need to be physically present to witness the ceremony as well as witness and sign the paperwork.
And you the marrying couple need to be there or there isn’t a wedding!

I sincerely hope that helps.

Liz Taylor JP
Marriage Celebrant