Lindy Cooke Celebrant

When to involve an interpreter in a wedding

What is required?

When consideration is being given as to when to involve an interpreter in a wedding, the following things need to be taken into account:

  • Are one or both parties, their witnesses or, indeed, the marriage celebrant unable to understand the language in which the ceremony will be conducted? Note: this also includes sign language such as Auslan. If this is the case, the celebrant should insist on the couple engaging the services of an interpreter or pass the marriage onto a celebrant who speaks that language.
  • If an interpreter is required, it is the responsibility of the marrying parties (not the celebrant) to engage their services. Where a language (such as Chinese) has multiple dialects, the couple must first ensure that the interpreter is fluent in the specific dialect that will be spoken.
  • The couple should also supply their celebrant with the details of the interpreter so they can make contact ahead of time.
  • The celebrant must ensure, prior to the marriage, that the interpreter is fluent in both languages and that each of the marrying parties give real consent to the marriage.
  • The interpreter cannot be one of the marrying parties.
  • While the Marriage Act does not prohibit an interpreter also acting as a witness to a marriage, it is recommended that this not be the case so that the professionalism of the interpreter is not compromised.
  • The celebrant must not solemnise a marriage where the services of an interpreter are to be used unless they have received, prior to the start of the ceremony, a Statutory Declaration by the interpreter stating that they understand and are able to converse in the language/s required. Here’s the link to take you to this form.
  • Immediately after the ceremony, the interpreter must give the celebrant a completed Certificate of the Faithful Performance By Interpreter so as to verify their services as interpreter. The certificate must be in the approved form (see link in the above point.)
  • When providing Births Deaths & Marriages with the required marriage documents, the Celebrant must also include the completed and signed Statutory Declaration and Certificate of the Faithful Performance By Interpreter.
  • Section 112 of the Marriage Act provides that a marriage must not be solemnised unless the requirements relating to the use of interpreters have been met.


Other information

Naturally, when involving an interpreter in a wedding, it is encumbent on the authorised marriage celebrant to ensure that everything said during the ceremony is repeated by the interpreter and vice versa. In this way, everyone present, in particular the marrying couple and the legal witnesses, can attest to there being a true and faithful exchange throughout the ceremony.

I advise sending a copy of the ceremony, as soon as it is finalised and approved by the marrying couple, to the interpreter so that they can become familiar with it.

On the day of the wedding, the celebrant will deliver the ceremony, paragraph by paragraph, with the interpreter repeating the same words, paragraph by paragraph, in the relevant foreign language. In this way, everyone present can understand what is being said during the ceremony and be part of it.

The Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 state that where the services of an interpreter are required, the Attorney-General’s Department recommends they be found through the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters Ltd (NAATI). They also recommend they be accredited at Level 3 or higher. The NAATI website provides a directory of translators and interpreters. Here’s the link to take you there.

Further information on the documents required to register your marriage can be found here.

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061 ~ 30/04/2019

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