How is marriage defined in Australia?

How is marriage defined in Australia?

By cropped Clara Suki

· Read time: 4 minutes

In Australia, marriage is legally defined as the union of two people who have voluntarily entered into a lifelong commitment to the exclusion of all others. 

Since 2017 the right to marry in Australia is no longer determined by an individual’s sex or gender. This legislative amendment was the result of the Australian Marriage Law Postal survey (2017). 

Before getting married, it is important to know that there are some legal requirements that you should consider to ensure that your marriage is a legally binding union. 

What is the legal definition of marriage in Australia? 

On the 9th December 2017, the Marriage Act 1961 was amended to include same-sex marriage. The Act now defines marriage as ‘the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’. 

Other requirements to get married in Australia did not change with the 2017 amendment. 

What are some of the minimum legal requirements to get married? 

To get married in Australia, both individuals must understand what being married means and freely give their consent to becoming married with the other party. 

Generally, an individual has to be 18 years old to get married. However, if one party is between the age of 16 to 18, a court may approve the marriage regardless. Approval will not be given if both individuals are under the age of 18. 

Before you get married you must also give your authorised marriage celebrant notice of your intent to get married. This is done through a form and is expanded upon below. You can find a marriage celebrant on the official Attorney General’s Department website. 

Restrictions on marriage

In Australia, you cannot get married if you are: 

  • Already married to someone else
  • Marrying a family member (including parents, grandparents, or adopted siblings)
  • Under 18 years old (subject to the certain conditions noted above). 

Giving notice of your intent to marry 

Before you get married you need to complete a Notice of Intended Marriage form. This is required by section 42 of the Marriage Act (1961) to solemnise the marriage. This form can be easily downloaded from the Australian Government website. Once this form is completed it must be sent to an authorised marriage celebrant at least one month (but not more than 18 months) before your wedding date. 

If, for any reason, you are unable to send your Notice of Intended Marriage form to an authorised marriage celebrant at least one month before your wedding date, you may be able to apply to a Prescribed Authority to shorten the notice period. Examples of reasons why a notice period may be shortened to less than one month include: 

  • Wedding or celebration arrangements
  • Legal proceedings
  • Medical reasons
  • Employment related commitments
  • Travel commitments
  • Error in giving notice. 

In determining whether you should be granted a shorter notice period, the Prescribed Authority will consider the evidence that you have provided in support of your application. This may involve them asking for more evidence from you. This means that you should be prepared to provide more information. 

It is important to note that there is no guarantee that any application for shortening the notice period will be successful. Hence, it is important to consider planning your wedding to ensure that you have given notice properly. 

A list of Prescribed Authorities can also be found on the Australian Government website. 

Do I have to be an Australian citizen to get married? 

You do not have to be an Australian citizen or a permanent resident of Australia to get married. If you are not an Australian citizen or a permanent resident and want to get married in Australia you can consider getting a visa. 

What happens after I get married? 

On the day of the wedding, you will need to have three marriage certificates signed by: 

  • You and your spouse
  • Your authorised marriage celebrant
  • And two witnesses, who should both be over 18 years of age. 

After this, your authorised marriage celebrant will give you a certificate of marriage on the day. Your authorised marriage celebrant is then required to send all marriage paperwork to the Registry of births, deaths and marriages of NSW within 14 days. 

If you need any assistance with any legal issues regarding your marriage, please feel free to reach us via the contact form.

Book a free 15 minute call

Contact us for an obligation-free, 100% confidential chat.







    Need help with your separation?







      Our separation packages make the process easier and more affordable.

      Learn more