Lindy Cooke Celebrant

Planning a long distance wedding

The legislation in Australia applies equally to marriages involving persons who are not Australian citizens as it does to marriages involving one or two Australians.

As an authorised marriage celebrant, I usually meet with couples three times before their wedding – at an initial meeting, then at a follow up meeting, then at the rehearsal; however, there is absolutely no reason why a rapport cannot be developed with a couple planning to marry with everything organised long distance.


Foreign Nationals Marrying in Australia

It is recommended that foreign nationals check with authorities in their own countries prior to entering into a marriage in Australia. Some overseas countries do not recognise a marriage entered into in Australia as valid unless other requirements, such as the prior granting of permission from that country’s embassy, are fulfilled. This can have implications for foreign nationals who intend to return to their country following a marriage.

In cases where a marriage involves an Australian citizen and a foreign national, parties should always obtain advice about immigration issues from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship or a registered migration agent.

One option may be for the foreign national to choose to apply for a Prospective Marriage Visa (subclass 300).  This is a temporary visa which is valid for 9 months. The applicant must be outside Australia when they lodge their application and when the visa is granted and the prospective spouse must be an Australian citizen, an Australian permanent resident or an eligible New Zealand citizen.


Legal Documents

♥  NOIM (formerly called Form 13) ~ The Notice of Intended Marriage or NOIM (see link below) must, by law, be lodged a minimum of one month and no more than 18 months before a marriage takes place (unless special dispensation has been granted by an appropriate authority – this could be due to what is considered extenuating circumstances such as medical or travel reasons). It must be signed by both parties but needs only one party’s signature (and both parties’ details), witnessed by one of the persons listed in s42(2)(c) of the Marriage Act 1961 (see below), to activate the form. Usually I would supply and complete this form with the couple but it can be downloaded and completed by the parties planning to marry and then provided to me, either in its original form or electronically.

Here’s the link to the NOIM.

If only one party is available to sign the NOIM in Australia, it must be signed in the presence of any of the following – an authorised marriage celebrant, a Commissioner for Declarations under the Statutory Declarations Act 1969, a justice of the peace, a barrister or solicitor, a legally qualified medical practitioner or a member of the Australian Federal Police or the police force of a State or Territory.

If both parties sign the NOIM outside Australia, it must be signed in the presence of any of the following – an Australian Consular Officer, an Australian Diplomatic Officer, a notary public, an employee of the Commonwealth authorised under paragraph 3(c) of the Consular Fees Act 1955, or an employee of the Australian Trade Commission  authorised under paragraph 3(d) of the Consular Fees Act 1955. (Note: For the definitions of Australian Consular Officer and Australian Diplomatic Officer, see section 2 of the Consular Fees Act 1955.)

Once the NOIM is signed and witnessed by an authorised person, it should then be sent either in person, by mail (preferably registered), fax or email to the celebrant who will be officiating at the marriage so that they can include the date the notice was received by them on the form. The minimum one month period for a marriage to occur starts when the NOIM is received by the authorised celebrant. In all cases, the signed and witnessed NOIM must be received by the authorised celebrant before the marriage can take place.

The authorised celebrant must also sight before the marriage takes place all the original documents required under s42 of The Marriage Act 1961 such as evidence of date and place of birth, evidence of identity and, in the case of a previous marriage, evidence of divorce, nullity or death. (I can give you further information on the required documents if you need it).

For a NOIM to be signed by only one party (initially), the circumstances need to be such that the other party cannot easily be present at the same time. In reality this does not mean, for example, that the second party has a busy work schedule; it means, for example, that the second party lives interstate or overseas and it is impractical for them to be present at the time the Notice is signed by the other party.

Where the NOIM is activated with the signature of only one party, the party who has not signed it must do so in the presence of the celebrant who will be officiating at the marriage or another authorised celebrant if the ceremony is transferred to them before the marriage is solemnised.

♥  Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage (formerly called Form 14) ~ While it is often convenient to sign this form, which is on the reverse of your official Certificate of Marriage (formerly called Form 16), at the wedding rehearsal, it can be signed and dated by both parties and the celebrant as close as possible before the marriage takes place. So, if you do not plan to have a rehearsal or if you’re not meeting with your celebrant until the day before or the day of your wedding, for example, it can be signed then. The purpose of this form is to confirm that there is no legal reason why the marriage should not take place e.g. the couple is not in a prohibited relationship such as brother/sister or either, both parties are not waiting for evidence of death, divorce or nullity from a prior marriage, they are both over the age of 18 (or if one is 16 or 17, they have written authority from the Court which allows them to marry) and that they both freely give “consent” to the marriage. While there is no law as to when the form should be signed and dated, it makes sense that it takes place within 1 month of the wedding itself.

♥  Apostille or Authentication Stamp ~ Some couples from overseas countries, who marry in Australia, require a special stamp to be placed on the registered copy of their official Certificate of Marriage in order for their marriage to be accepted as being legal in their country.  To find out if you require one of these stamps, further information is available via the following link:

If you do require one of these stamps, I, as your celebrant, will firstly need to register your marriage, once it has occurred, with Births, Deaths & Marriages. If your marriage occurred in NSW or Queensland, I will do this online. If your marriage occurred outside these states, I will register your marriage, once it has occurred, by mailing the relevant documents to Births, Deaths & Marriages in the capital city of the State or Territory in which your marriage occurred. In Australia, it is a legal requirement that the documents are registered within 14 days of the marriage taking place.

You can obtain a copy of your official Certificate of Marriage by completing the relevant application form and submitting it to the Registry. Alternatively, I can do this for you at the same time that I register your marriage or up to two months afterwards. I have written separately on this topic so, if you would like further information, it is available via the following link:  //

Once received, you should send or take your official Certificate of Marriage to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in the capital city of the State in which you were married or to the Canberra office in the ACT with a request to have a stamp affixed to the marriage certificate. The current fee for this is $60. DFAT will then post the certificate back to your home country unless you request that it is returned to an address in Australia. If you require further information on this process, you should contact the DFAT office in the capital city of the State or Territory in which you plan to marry. There are offices in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Darwin.

  A Translator ~ will be required where one or both parties supply supporting documents e.g. birth certificate, passport, final divorce certificate etc. which are not written in the English language.  The National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters Ltd (NAATI) is the national standards and accreditation body for translators and interpreters in Australia. It is the only agency to issue accreditations for practitioners who wish to work in this profession in Australia. The NAATI website provides a searchable online directory of translators and interpreters. Where the services of a translator are required, the Marriage Law and Celebrants Section recommends that they are found through the NAATA website.

♥  Single Status Certificate ~ While it is not necessary to provide a Single Status Certificate in order to be married in Australia, third party migration agents in other countries often ask for one as part of an application to come to Australia on a fiance visa. Many countries also require one before a foreigner can marry overseas. If requested, one can be issued, for varying fees, by the relevant state or territory office of Births Deaths & Marriages. It certifies that the person was not previously married within a particular state or territory. Although limited in its extent, this certificate usually satisfies the party requesting it.


Other Requirements

♥  An Interpreter ~ Where one or both parties has difficulty speaking or understanding English, they will need to arrange for an interpreter to be present when their marriage is solemnised in order for the person solemnising their marriage to establish whether they are giving real consent to the marriage. The interpreter will need to complete a form entitled “Certificate of Faithful Performance By Interpreter” (formerly called Form 24) which includes a Statutory Declaration in relation to the services they provided at the wedding. The Marriage Law and Celebrants Section recommends that an interpreter be found through the NAATI website. Here’s a link to the form.


When an Australian Citizen Plans to Marry Overseas

Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants are authorised to marry couples anywhere in Australia including outside the State or Territory in which they reside. Where a couple would like their marriage to be registered in Australia, they will need to have their marriage solemnised in Australia (this can be done with as few people present as the couple, the authorised marriage celebrant and two witnesses over the age of 18.) They can then follow this up with a special ceremony for family and friends at an overseas destination at a later date. The foreign marriage is prima facie evidence in Australia of the occurrence and validity of the marriage but, because it occurred overseas, it cannot be registered in Australia. Note: It is not possible for a Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrant to officiate at a marriage ceremony where one or both parties to the marriage are already married, even if it is to each other.

If you are planning an overseas marriage, it is recommended that you contact the Embassy, Consulate or local representative of the country concerned to find out their legal requirements. Some countries, for example, may require a solicitor’s declaration that you are both free to marry. In the USA, you may need a blood test. For evidence of your overseas marriage, you should make sure you obtain a Certificate of Marriage or any other supporting documentation before you leave the country. This documentation will be critical to your marriage being recognised in Australia.

Unlike Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants, a chaplain may officiate at a marriage in an overseas country when at least one of the parties is an Australian citizen or a member of the Defence Force. To have the marriage registered in Australia, the chaplain must be satisfied that the marriage has taken place in accordance with the law of the country in which it occurred and a party to the marriage must inform the chaplain, in writing, that he or she desires the marriage to be registered under s84(1) of the Marriage Act 1961. In these circumstances, the chaplain shall forward to the Registrar a “Certificate Concerning Marriage Solemnised In Overseas Country” (formerly called Form 20) and, upon receipt and subject to the regulations, the Registrar shall register the marriage in Australia.



♥  Facebook ~ Sending messages via Facebook or contact via Facebook Messenger video chat is another quick way to keep in touch. I access my business Facebook page frequently during the day so, unless I’m in a meeting, will always reply promptly to any messages.

♥  Video Calls ~ After initial contact with the bride or groom-to-be, arranging a WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Skype call is often the easiest way for everyone to connect and get to know each other. Not only will there be an opportunity to cover all the usual elements that are discussed during the early stages of planning but, when you do this with me, we are also able to do it in a way that’s still very personal.  A call can be arranged at a time to suit all parties and allows everyone to be comfortable in their own surrounds during the conversation. A video call allows everyone to behave naturally so that each party can see the other’s reactions first hand and really connect with smiles, laughter, gestures etc.

♥  Emails ~ Are another great way to connect, ask questions and receive replies as well as to forward information. Each couple I marry has access to my extensive resource folder and I am more than happy to share suggestions for poems, songs, vows, rituals, my wedding checklist etc. in this way too. I access my email account frequently during the day so will always reply promptly to any messages.

♥  Telephone Calls ~ Of course, contact via phone is quick, easy and convenient and is often preferable to an email as it is more personal and the responses are usually instant. My mobile is turned on from early morning until late at night and, of course, you are welcome to leave a message on my home phone or mobile if I happen to be unavailable when you call.

The following link will take you to the “Contact” tab on my website where you will find details on the various ways to get in touch with me:  //

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While the above may appear a little daunting, planning a long distance wedding is definitely achievable.  After all, if you have your heart set on being married on the beach at Byron Bay for example or if you have family who live in Northern NSW and you want your wedding to take place there, then it will be worth a little extra effort to ensure that all the legal boxes are ticked.

The foregoing is provided as general information only. It is recommended that you seek independent legal advice for your specific situation from the appropriate Australian or overseas government department.

009 – 30/09/201  

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