The profession of marriage celebrancy can be either a full-time career path, or a part-time vocation.
Without exception, celebrants agree that it is an exciting profession that can create some challenges, but mostly, provides the celebrant with the opportunity to be a part of the marrying couples’ most special day.
The Profession of Marriage Celebrancy
Definition of Marriage
“Marriage, according to law in Australia is the union of two people” to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” Section 46(1) of the Marriage Act 1961.
The institution of marriage
Marriage is a social institution – normally with legal sanction – that unites two people.
Upholding the institution of Marriage
The Marriage Act 1961 (The Act) Schedule 1A, Regulation 37L – Code of Practice for marriage celebrants states:
“a marriage celebrant must recognise the social, cultural and legal significance of marriage and the marriage ceremony in the Australian community, and the importance of strong and respectful relationships.”
This is supported in section 43 of the Family Law Act 1975 (Australia) as the basis of how marriage and the family are regarded in our country:
• the need to preserve and protect the institution of marriage as the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life;
• the need to give the widest possible protection and assistance to the family as the natural and fundamental group of society, particularly while it is responsible for the care and education of dependant children;
• the need to protect the rights of children and to promote their welfare;
• the need to ensure safety from family violence; and
• the means available for assisting parties to a marriage to consider reconciliation or the improvement of their relationship to each other and to their children.
Recognition of the Significance of Marriage
Celebrants under schedule 1A (3) Code of Practice for marriage celebrants Regulation 37L must recognise the social, cultural and legal significance of marriage and the marriage ceremony in the Australian community, and the importance of strong and respectful family relationships.
History of the Marriage Celebrant Program
To enable you to understand the role of the marriage celebrant, it is appropriate that you are aware of the history of the profession of marriage celebrancy.
Passed in 1961, the Marriage Act was the first unified law in the Commonwealth dealing with the institute of marriage. The Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department is responsible for the administration of the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961.
In 1973, Senator Lionel Murphy initiated the Marriage Celebrant’s Program to provide couples who did not want a religious ceremony, with a meaningful alternative to a Registry Office.
It provided wider freedom to marrying couples – much admired by many countries – and promotes the development of multiculturalism in Australia. This initial Marriage Celebrant Program allowed the Registrar to appoint suitable qualified people to perform marriages. They were termed Civil Celebrants, in order to differentiate them from religious celebrants.
In 1996, the government undertook a review of the Marriage Celebrant’s Program with the participation of celebrants, organisations and couples. Several areas were identified as requiring reform.
The major catalyst for the reforms was to ensure that marrying couples had access to thoroughly trained marriage celebrants. The tenet of the reforms is to raise the professional standards of celebrants and to use their unique position in the community to encourage clients to attend pre-marriage and relationship education services.
Instead of simply being appointed as “fit and proper persons”, as in the past, aspiring marriage celebrants must now undertake an approved, competency-based training course or have been independently assessed against these competencies in order to be eligible for authorisation. Also, authorised celebrants are required to complete regular professional training and are subject to a Code of Practice. The Registrar may take disciplinary action under Section 39 1 of the Marriage Act 1961 if the Registrar is not satisfied that the celebrant has complied with obligations as set out in section 39G of The Marriage Act 1961.
These changes commenced on September 1, 2003 and are contained in the Marriage Act 1961.
Requirements to be a Marriage Celebrant
Under the new legislation (Marriage Act 1961 with amendment), aspiring celebrants are required to have completed the approved qualification (CHC41015 Certificate IV in Celebrancy) in order to be eligible to apply for authorisation.
A new system for the authorisation of marriage celebrants became effective September 1 2003. Marriage celebrants will be appointed by a Registrar of Marriage Celebrants within the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department.
To be eligible for appointment as a marriage celebrant, applicants must have the following:
• A Certificate 1V in Celebrancy
Authorised marriage celebrants must comply with the Code of Practice, undertake annual professional development, and will be subject to a performance review within 5 years of being appointed.
On successful completion of the Marriage Celebrant Training course, students need to contact the Celebrant’s Section of the Federal Attorney-General’s Department to obtain an application package. The application form exists in the Marriage Regulations, however it is not advisable to use this format, as the application package has a thorough explanation of the application process.
Progress of your application
It is not necessary to contact the Marriage Celebrants’ Section to check on the progress of your application. You will receive an acknowledgement in writing, and then, up to 3 months later, the decision on your application will be forwarded to you.
When you become a marriage celebrant, the Registrar of Marriage Celebrants places your name and details on the official “Register of Marriage Celebrants” which can be seen at www.ag.gov.au/celebrants.
Your ongoing professionalism
As an authorised celebrant, you must fulfil a range of obligations including compliance with the Code of Practice and undertaking professional development activities annually. Within five years, you will also be subject to a Performance Review.
The Federal Attorney-General’s Department – Marriage Celebrant’s Section – issue a list of OPD providers, which is posted on the Attorney-General’s website.
Celebrants then contact the OPD provider regarding the topics and activities being offered.
The celebrant must undertake at least 5 hours of O.P.D. each year.
The celebrant must choose activities that total at least 5 hours in duration, which includes one or more compulsory activities presented by the Attorney-General’s Department – Marriage Celebrant’s Section.
This Ongoing Professional Development is one way in which celebrants collaborate with colleagues to develop, maintain and improve their skills and resources.
There is another avenue that achieves a similar outcome, which is:
Membership and attendance of an approved OPD meeting of a Marriage Celebrant Association