marriage equality in australia - lesbian couple

Getting married in Australia on a visa – for same-sex couples

Lots of same-sex couples are flocking to Australia from other countries, to get married. Couples from Singapore, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Malaysia, China and Hong Kong are heading here to get married, even though marriage equality hasn’t yet arrived in their own countries.

And there are a number of factors contributing to this influx: relatively cheap flights, compared with other countries with marriage equality; the opportunity to combine a trip to Australia to not only get married but also do some sight-seeing on their “honeymoon”; the relatively good exchange rates for their currencies.

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Compared with other countries where they might have ventured to get married; the fact that getting married in Australia is relatively easy, compared with other countries; the abundance of safe spaces where couples might choose to get married, rather than having to choose from a traditional (and expensive) wedding venue.

The ability to have a marriage ceremony in front of only two witnesses over the age of 18 years and the marriage celebrant, and not have to pay or plan for a much bigger ceremony; and the fact that getting married in a small and intimate ceremony in Australia allows them to spend their money on a much larger celebration back in their home country, if that’s what they want.

What You Will Find In This Wedding Blog

If they’re private people, and not out to others at home, they can come to Australia, have a secret marriage ceremony behind a closed door in a private space, and remain in the closet, without compromising their privacy or safety.

I have listed a few frequently asked questions below which come up very often in my discussions with overseas couples eager to get married in Australia on a visa.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Getting Married in Australia
How do we know you’re a genuine celebrant?

Each person who conducts a marriage in Australia must be authorised (or registered) by the Australian Attorney-General’s Department. If people are not on the Department’s list of authorised celebrants, they are not able to conduct a legal marriage in Australia. You can check to see if I am on that list, here.

If you type in First name = Bronte, Last name = Price, City = Pascoe Vale and Postcode = 3044, and click on ‘search’; my name will appear, confirming that I am a genuine celebrant.

Can we just register our marriage in Australia without going through a ceremony?

The short answer is no. In Australia, there must be a series of words from the Marriage Act 1961 said by the celebrant and by the parties to the marriage, in front of two witnesses, in order for the marriage to be legal. In reality, the marriage ‘ceremony’ can be as brief as saying those words in front of two witnesses. Often, my couples ask to say some personal vows to each other and to exchange wedding rings. Personal vows and rings are optional, but the legal vows and what is called The Monitum (the words I must say as the celebrant) are mandatory. Therefore, it’s not possible to just register your marriage in Australia without going through a ceremony.

Are we safe with you?

Yes, you are safe with me. I understand that some people I marry come from countries where it’s a criminal offence to be LGBTIQ+. Many others wish to remain private about their personal lives, for a range of reasons. I don’t judge. I lived as a straight man for the first 42 years of my life. I was deeply closeted. I married a woman and had four children. All that time, I spent all of my days fearing that I – or someone else – would out me. I understand what that’s like. I respect all people, no matter their cultural heritage, their sexuality or their gender.

That means, if you don’t want to show any public displays of affection (eg holding hands, kissing etc), I will never pressure you to do so. If you want to get married in a very private space that no one else can see, then I will arrange it. If you don’t want any photographs taken, then I understand – and the same goes, obviously for publishing to social media.

If you ask for no such posts, then that’s precisely what you will get – no posts will occur. I train organisations and workplaces in LGBTIQ+ inclusion. I take great pride in crafting ceremonies and in building marriage ceremony spaces that are safe.

How do we know we can trust you? I could be murdered in my country if people find out I am gay.

I have married numerous LGBTIQ+ couples from countries where to be out as an LGBTIQ+ person is to live in constant fear of the death penalty. The first question I ask when I meet a couple, whether face-to-face or by Zoom or WhatsApp, is what they are looking for, for their marriage ceremony. It’s during that time that I get to know about them, where they’re from and any risks to them. One of my strengths is respecting the couple and their wishes. If they need privacy, that’s exactly what they will get from me. I quickly build a relationship with all my couples – a relationship that is founded on trust.

What risks are there in Australia with us getting married there – can our government or our families find out that we’re married?

The risks of your families or government finding out that you got married in Australia are minimal. There are steps you can take to further minimise that risk. For example, rather than exchange wedding rings, as is a straight tradition, consider exchanging watches or jewellery, or have one of you exchange a ring and the other exchange a watch or piece of jewellery. The nice thing about that is that you retain the symbolism of exchanging something nice with your partner, and only the two of you will know that symbolism.

Can we fly you here to our country, to marry us?

I’m authorised to conduct legal marriage ceremonies only within Australia. That means I cannot conduct legal marriage ceremonies in your country, if you live outside Australia. However, if you want a commitment ceremony or a wedding without the legal vows in it, in your home country, I’m happy to have a conversation with you about how we can make that happen.

Can we marry in private, without anyone knowing?

Absolutely! I have married lots of couples who requested this. I have married people in hotel rooms, apartments, Airbnb’s, on the Melbourne Star, by the pool or a set of apartments in a reserved area and so on. All nice and private and safe. No one else needs to know you’re getting married, apart from you, me and your two legal witnesses – and I can even provide your two legal witnesses, if you wish (see below).

We don’t know anyone in Australia – can you provide our two witnesses?

Yes! I marry lots of couples from outside Australia who come to Melbourne to get married. Obviously, some of them don’t know anyone in Melbourne. That’s when I offer to provide the two legal witnesses. Often, the witnesses are my two next door neighbours. I ask couples to offer to pay them a nominal amount for their time.

Can you marry us online?

I wish I could. But currently it’s not legal for me (or anyone else in Australia) to legally marry you online. Celebrants, like me, are now able to witness the parties sign the Notice of Intended Marriage via Zoom, WhatsApp or FaceTime, as long as the parties are located in Australia. Online marriage in Australia is still a long way away, I believe.

Can you provide us with a letter of support for a visa application?

In order to travel to Australia, you need a visa. One of the things you need to meet certain conditions. Those conditions vary, according to the type of visa you are applying for. In some of the more complex visa applications, you need to provide evidence that you and your partner are in a serious, committed relationship. One of the ways you can do this is by getting a Letter of Support for your visa application from me as your celebrant. I am happy to provide such a letter of support – you can check out the conditions here under ‘Optional extras’. Prior to giving you a Letter of Support, you will need to have lodged with me a completed, witnessed Notice of Intended Marriage.

How long will it take for our marriage to be registered?

The Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages takes approximately one month to register your married. They do not offer an ‘express’ option. Typically, if you are waiting for a legal (registered) married certificate to be sent to you, it will arrive within approximately one week after it has been registered.

Can we get our legal marriage certificate mailed to us at our home address?

Yes, you can, no matter where you are from. In fact, I offer all my clients the option of having me order a legal marriage certificate mailed to them at their home address, on their behalf, whether they are from Australia or whether they have travelled to Australia to get married. You can check out my fee for doing so, here, under ‘Optional extras’.

What’s included in your Short and Sweet (or legals-only) Marriage Ceremony?

The “Short and Sweet Ceremony” package is designed for those people who want a quick but legal ceremony that takes care of the legal aspects of marriage. They are not looking for a wedding. They may have a few guests or none at all. You can check out the details of what’s included, and my fee, here.

We’re from a country that doesn’t have marriage equality. Will our marriage be recognised there?

If you’re an LGBTIQ+ couple from a country that doesn’t recognise marriage equality, then your marriage will not be recognised in your own country. But it will be recognised in the more than 30 countries where there is legal marriage equality. Some of my clients have reported to me that, although their country doesn’t recognise marriage equality, the organisations they work for have provided them with the same spousal rights and benefits that other married couples receive. That’s progress!

We don’t trust the officials at the Australian Embassy or Consulate in our country – we fear they may ‘out us’, which could have serious consequences. What other options do we have, to get our Notice of Intended Marriage witnessed by a person who is authorised to be a witness?

I have married numerous couples in this situation. Some have had their Notice of Intended Marriage witnessed by a Notary Public and have found it less threatening than getting it witnessed at the Embassy or Consulate. In some rare circumstances, I have had couples fly to Australia, to sign the Notice of Intended Marriage in front of me as their authorised witness – and they stay here for a month and have a holiday. At the end of that month, I marry them and they return home. I have also had couples fly to Australia to sign the Notice of Intended Marriage in front of me as their authorised witness, return home, and then come back to Australia sometime after the one month period has expired, to enable me to marry them. It’s not ideal but it is a safe way of getting married.

Let’s catch-up to talk about your wedding plans!

Marriage Act 1961

Steps to take to get married legally in Australia

The process to get married in Australia is relatively simple, but there are some conditions you must meet. For example, you’ve got to be able to:

      • Be able to show that you’re not married to someone else, either by stating that you’re single – the words are “never validly married” – or, if you’ve been married before, you must be able to provide evidence that that marriage ended – either by divorce or your spouse’s death or the annulment of your marriage


      • Not be seeking to get married to a close relative, such as your mother or father, one of your grandparents, your own child, one of your grandchildren, or one of your brothers or sisters


      • Be aged 18 years or over, unless you’ve got court approval for the marriage to go ahead where one of the parties is aged 16 to 18. It’s not legally ok for both parties to be under the age of 18 years


      • Comprehend what getting married means, as well as the significance of marriage, and be able to consent to get married, without fear or coercion


      • Use a set of words as part of your marriage ceremony. These are words straight from the Marriage Act 1961 – your marriage celebrant will provide these to you


      • Provide your registered marriage celebrant with notice that you both intend to marry each other. That notice must be lodged with your marriage celebrant at least one month before your planned marriage ceremony. The form used to lodge that notice is called a Notice of Intended Marriage.


Your marriage celebrant will guide you through the details of the legal requirements and answer any questions you may have.

Anyone can marry, in Australia, as long as you meet the above requirements. You don’t need to live in Australia permanently or be an Australian citizen in order to get legally married in Australia.

Important paperwork – Notice of Intended Marriage



      • You need to fill it out and lodge it with your celebrant no less than one month – and no earlier than 18 months – before your planned wedding


      • As your celebrant, I can help you fill out the Notice. If you live outside Australia, you can still fill it out, and sign it in front of a required witness (these are outlined on the Notice), and then email it to me so that I receive it at least one month before your wedding


      • As your celebrant, I will need to see proof of your birthplace and birth date (usually a passport or birth certificate and driver’s licence), as well a Certificate of Divorce or Death Certificate or legal proof of the annulment of your previous marriage for both you and your partner, if you’ve been married before.

Download the Same-Sex Wedding Checklist for Free

On your wedding day, there’s more paperwork to sign. Before the marriage ceremony takes place, I will ask you to sign a Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage and I will witness your signatures on that Declaration. Straight after your marriage ceremony, you and your two witnesses and I will sign three marriage certificates that and I will present one of these certificates as a keepsake of your marriage.

Within 2 weeks, I’ll also send in your marriage paperwork to the registry of births, deaths and marriages in the jurisdiction where I conducted your marriage. That’s a legal requirement. And, when your marriage has been registered by the relevant government department, I’ll let you know and I’ll send you a link to the website where you can order a copy of your registered marriage certificate – this is the one that has legal standing.

Let’s catch-up to talk about your wedding plans!

Getting married outside Australia

If you’re thinking of getting married outside Australia, please note that, as a registered marriage celebrant, I’m only registered to perform legal marriages within Australia.

If you’ve already been married, as a couple, outside Australia, that marriage cannot be registered in Australia but may be recognised in Australia.

If you got married overseas, typically, it’ll be automatically recognised in Australia if it:

      • Satisfied the legal requirements for marriage in the country where it took place
      • Would have been recognised as valid under Australian law if the marriage had taken place in Australia.


And it’s important to know that, in that case, you cannot get married again – that is, you can only be married to one person at any time, in Australia. The foreign marriage certificate you received when you married outside Australia will be evidence the marriage has occurred. You need to make you keep this certificate as it may not be easy to replace if you lose it and it provides the only evidence you have, of your marriage that took place outside Australia.

If you’ve already been married, as a couple, outside Australia, that marriage cannot be registered in Australia but may be recognised in Australia. 

– Bronte Price

 Is it legal to get married as a same-sex couple on a Tourist Visa?

There are no visa restrictions regarding getting married. So, it is legal for a same sex couple on a Tourist Visa to get married in Australia.

Can you get officially married on a Student Visa?

There are no visa restrictions regarding getting married. So, it is legal for a couple on a Student Visa to get married in Australia.

 Can a foreigner marry on a Working Holiday Visa or a Work and Holiday Visa in Australia?

There are no visa restrictions regarding getting married. So, it is legal for a foreigner on a Working Holiday Visa or a Work and Holiday Visa to get married in Australia.

How much notice does it take to get married in Australia?

Any couple intending to get married in Australia is required by the Marriage Act to give the celebrant at least one month’s written notice prior to the marriage taking place. The one month’s notice is given formally on a form called the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM). It needs to be lodged with the celebrant at least one month before the marriage takes place (unless there are very special circumstances).

A couple from overseas does not need to stay in Australia or be in Australia for any period of time before their marriage takes place. There is nothing that requires them to spend a certain amount of time or money in Australia in order to get legally married. It’s completely possible and legal for a couple to fly into Australia in the morning, get married at noon and then fly home the same day, married.

 How can you make sure that your celebrant is legally registered in Australia?

Every marriage celebrant who conducts weddings in Australia must be registered by the Australian Attorney General’s Department.  Registered marriage celebrants can conduct marriage ceremonies anywhere in Australia. But they must appear on this list, if they are legally registered.

If a “celebrant” who is not included on this list tries to convince you that your marriage will be legal if they conduct it, please understand that your marriage will not be legal – and they are breaking the law if they attempt to marry you. In addition, in such circumstances, your marriage will not be legally registered – that is, it will not be legally recognised in Australia or anywhere else.

What rules and regulations must you follow after the wedding is over?

There are no rules or regulations couples must follow after their wedding is over, although it makes good sense to get your ‘last will and testament’ updated, and to attend to changing personal details (for example, your relationship status) wherever it might be useful to do so.

Let’s catch-up to talk about your wedding plans!

What are the marriage visa options for Australia?

There are 3 Australian visa options for anyone looking to get married to an Australian citizen, an Australian permanent resident or an eligible New Zealand citizen.

Offshore Partner Visa (subclass 309/100)

An offshore partner visa must be applied for while the applicant is in any country other than Australia. The applicant must also be outside of Australia for the visa to be granted. The couple must be married for the visa to be granted. Evidence of the intended marriage must be presented at the time of application.

Onshore Partner Visa (subclass 820/801)

An onshore partner visa must be applied for while the applicant is in Australia. The applicant must also be in Australia for the visa to be granted. Unlike the offshore partner visa, the couple must be married prior to lodging the application.

Prospective Marriage Visa (subclass 300)

A prospective marriage visa or a ‘fiance visa’ as it is sometimes known as, allows for a couple to get married within 9 months of the grant of the visa. It’s an offshore visa that can only be applied for while the applicant is outside of Australia and it can only be granted while the applicant is outside of Australia. Once married, the couple can then apply for a partner visa.

What are the main requirements for each type of visa?

All visa applicants must complete a health assessment and also must pass the character test.

Partner visa (subclass 309/100 and subclass 820/801)

The couple must be either married or in a de facto relationship and be able to show evidence of the financial aspects of the relationship, the nature of household, the social aspects of the relationship and the nature of the commitment. Click here for more information about the different aspects of the relationship.

Prospective Marriage Visa (subclass 300)

The couple must show evidence that they have met in person at least once and evidence that they have lodged a notice of intention to marry (a letter from a marriage celebrant is normally sufficient), then get married within 15 months of the visa grant. They also have to convince the assessing case officer that they intend to live as a married couple after their marriage.

How to plan a wedding in Australia under A$1000

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