Secret and Surprise Weddings

Unlike many countries, Australia requires neither publication of your intention to marry nor pre-marriage notification to any government department, nor do your witnesses have to be aware that you are getting married until just before the ceremony. So it is possible to be married in secret with only the couple and the celebrant being aware of the arrangements until the last minute.

It is also legal to invite family and friends to a function under some pretext and then surprise them by getting married.

However, it is not legal to surprise either one of the marrying couple. To do so is an offence that potentially carries a term of six months in prison and loss of registration for the celebrant and no celebrant in Australia will agree to be party to such an arrangement.

The reason for it not being legal for one of the marrying couple to make the arrangements and spring the surprise on the other one is very simple - and it is the issue of real consent. There has to be real consent at every stage of the process including both leading up to the wedding and during the ceremony. And you cannot get round this by both signing the Notice but one keeping the date and place of the wedding secret from the other. A Notice of Intended Marriage is just that - you are giving notice of your intention to marry. It is not a binding contract. At any time one or both of you can change your mind. And that is possible right up to the point where you say your vows.

Being put in a situation where it is possible that that person feels under duress to proceed immediately casts doubt on the validity of the marriage. The celebrant has to be sure at every stage that the consent of both parties is real and freely given, and that there is no duress, and that includes during the ceremony. Where there is a question mark hanging over the full, free and willing consent to the marriage by either party if the celebrant proceeds the celebrant commits an offence and so does the person who made the arrangements for a surprise wedding.

There are many perfectly legal ways to inject an element of surprise into the wedding, allowing you to surprise one another or the guests, and I'd be happy to discuss these with you at the point of completing the Notice and making a booking.

more information about Getting Married