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MARRIAGE CERTIFICATES: How many marriage certificates must an authorised celebrant prepare for signing?

The short answer is Three.

The detailed answer follows and an explanation can be found in section 6 THE MARRIAGE CERTIFICATES (page 82) of the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Marriage Celebrants – July 2014.

Section 50 of the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) requires the authorised celebrant to prepare and sign the following three marriage certificates for each marriage he or she solemnises:

  1. the Form 16 official certificate of marriage, which is sent to the relevant BDM for registration purposes (discussed further in Part 6.1 of these Guidelines)
  2. the second Form 16 official certificate of marriage kept by the authorised celebrant or the church (discussed further in Part 6.2 of the Guidelines), and
  3. the Form 15 certificate of marriage, which is given to the parties (discussed further in Part 6.4 of the Guidelines).

Each of these certificates is regarded as evidence of the marriage an authorised celebrant must take the utmost care in preparing them and so the couple, witness and Celebrant must all take care signing them.

Subsection 45(3) of the Marriage Act states that a certificate of marriage prepared and signed in accordance with section 50 is conclusive evidence that the marriage was solemnised in accordance with that section.

It will be necessary for authorised celebrants to prepare all three certificates before the ceremony.

No other certificates that include the words ‘marriage certificate’ or contain the Commonwealth Coat of Arms can be issued.

A replacement certificate cannot be issued in case of damage or loss.

Other souvenirs that do not purport to be a marriage certificate are acceptable, such as a framed copy of the vows, or a copy of the ceremony.

Please note that some Births, Deaths & Marriages Registries, issue commemorative certificates to couples, however these are not official certificates of marriage.

If the ceremony does not take place, the celebrant still has some work to do. The Celebrant must:

  • destroy the certificate for the parties (Form 15) and
  • record the details on the record keeping sheet.
  • destroy the registration copy (Form 16)  and
  • mark the the butt of the registration copy as ‘cancelled’, and
  • mark the entry in the register (second official certificate) as ‘cancelled’.

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