Seperate Meetings with Your Marriage Celebrant

Prior to Marriage

Celebrating Marriage with Celebrant Ronald Cruickshank November 2022

Changes to the Marriage Act - Seperate Meetings

As your authorised marriage celebrant I am now required under the Marriage Act 1961 (the Marriage Act) to meet with you as a party to the marriage separately and in person before you solemnise your marriage.

This requirement applies to all legal marriages and all authorised celebrants, including Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants, ministers of religion of a recognised denomination and State and Territory officials authorised to solemnise marriage.

Reasons for the meetings:

As real concent is the cornerstone of the Marriage Act, as an authorised marriage celebrant, I must be satisfied that each party to the marriage is providing real concent before the marriage is solemnised. A court may find a marriage void where the concent of either parties is not real concent.

Under the Marriage Act 1961, your consent to a marriage is not real consent if it was obtained by duress or fraud; you are mistaken as to the identity of your partner or the nature of the ceremony performed; or if either of you do not have mental capacity to understand the nature and effect of the marriage ceremony. ‘Duress’ may include coercion or threats including psychological or emotional pressure.

A separate meeting with each of you to establish real consent is not new, and has been a long-standing principle in The Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for authorised celebrants where any concerns existed about consent. A separate meeting in person with each party to the marriage before the marriage is solemnised is intended to maintain safeguards for establishing real consent.

It is an offence for me as your celebrant to cause either of you to enter into a forced marriage.

When should your seperate meeting happen?

A separate meeting with each of you must take place before your marriage is solemnised, regardless of when the NOIM was received (unless we have already met separately and individually to establish real consent).

If your MOIM has been transferred to a new celebrant, the new celebrant must also meet separately with each of you. This is necessary because the celebrant who solemnises the marriage must comply personally with all legal requirements.

The timing and duration of a separate meeting with each of you is at my discretion as your celebrant and each of you as the marrying couple, provided it takes place before the marriage is solemnised. Suggested opportunities may include a convenient time after receiving the NOIM; when signing the Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage; or on the day of the wedding. If I have any concerns about consent at any stage I should meet with each of you separately and at the earliest opportunity. Meeting in advance of the wedding day will assist me to manage any concerns about real consent appropriately.

Real consent may change over time and as your celebrants I should exercise sound judgement about whether or not to solemnise a marriage. Circumstances may arise on the day of the wedding that may impact on real consent. For example, if either of you appear intoxicated or otherwise unable to provide real consent at that time, or for any other reason including medical issues.

How and where shall we meet?

A separate meeting provides me with an opportunity to check in with each of you to establish if you are entering into the marriage voluntarily and freely, and with an understanding of the binding legal nature of marriage. There is no specific set of questions or words I need to use to satisfy myself about real consent. I will use relaxed, open-ended questions to allow you to express how you feel about your upcoming wedding.

A separate meeting needs to take place in the absence of your partner to the marriage. I will need to speak in person and separately with each of you – but this does not mean you have to meet alone with me. You may choose to bring a trusted person. For privacy and safety reasons, I will not contact third parties such as your family members, interpreters etc, without your express consent.

Separate meetings are to take place in a culturally appropriate context and in line with your preferences, including as to the location of the meeting. It can be a public setting provided the privacy of the conversation can be maintained. This could be a public space agreed to by each of you, such as a coffee shop or similar venue.

If another person attends the meeting with you, I will have regard to whether their presence appears to be coercive and take this into account in my decision whether or not to solemnise your marriage. I will not say anything that may expose you to risk. Instead, I may consider following-up with you by telephone if I have any concerns. I am aware that other people may read my emails, text messages or written communications, or may listen to my voice messages. If I need assistance about how to proceed I may contact the expert support services listed below.

I will keep a record of our meetings, who was present, the factors I considered and the conclusion I reached on the question of real consent. This means if any questions arise at a later date I have a record of my decision-making process. This is important because I may be called upon to give evidence in court as to the consent of each of you.

As has always been the case, if I have any concerns whatsoever about real consent and consequent validity of a marriage, either before or on the day, I should not solemnise your marriage. You may consider offering you both a non-binding commitment ceremony and later solemnisation, depending on circumstances.

It is important that I will always act in your best interests should I conclude that you may be at risk, by being mindful of your safety as well as my own.


If, as your authorised celebrant, I form a view that one, or both of you may be under duress or otherwise not freely and fully consenting, I will attempt to discuss the matter with you in the absence of your partner or any family members to determine whether you consent to the marriage. If you are at risk of being forced into marriage I may help you by suggesting you call Tripple Zero (000), by contacting the AFP or a specialist community organisation.  I will not attempt to set up a meeting with you and your family or community members to discuss the situation, or contact family or community members, if I do not have the express permission from you to do so.

I can provide you with information about forced marriage and services that can help you, and meet in a safe and private place. If using an interpreter to communicate with you if I suspect to be at risk of forced marriage, I will consider that the interpreter may know you, your family or your community.

For more information on forced marriage follow this button to the People Smuggling and Human Trafficing page on the Attorney-General's Department Website:

The Forced Marriage Community Pack, available on the Attorney-General’s Department website provides information and resources on forced marriage and is available in a range of languages.

My Blue Sky is an easy to use, non-government website dedicated to preventing and addressing forced marriage in Australia. The website provides people in, or at risk of, forced marriage with important information and links to support services, as well as useful resources for frontline responders, service providers and the general community.

For free, confidential legal advice about forced marriage, you can call My Blue Sky’s national forced marriage helpline on (02) 9514 8115. The My Blue Sky helpline operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm AEST, with an out of hours recorded message. You can also get help by emailing or sending an SMS to 0481 070 844.

The National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service is a free 24/7 confidential telephone and online counselling service, staffed by professional counsellors to assist any person who has experienced, or is at risk of family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

You can call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit the website:

The following specialist community organisations may also be able to provide help and advice:

Anti Slavery Australia Tel: 02 9514 9662

Australian Muslim Women's Centre for Human Rights Tel: 03 9481 3000

The Freedom Partnership - Salvation Army Tel: 02 9211 5794

You may also wish to seek advice from the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, or a family solicitor at your closest Legal Aid office.

The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) can be contacted on 131 450.