On 9th December 2017 it became law in Australia that two people could marry regardless of gender. Love and equality finally prevailed.
On Friday 15th of December something truly beautiful and poignant happened; two people fulfilled a wish of a long time. A community of strangers; family, friends, photographer, celebrant, magistrate, clerks and registrar pulled together to make this marriage happen in time. It would not be the first same sex ceremony I or others had witnessed in Australia, but possibly the first I had seen recognised by Australian law. It was an emotional moment when I read out the words of the new act; a privilege, an honour, and about time. A sacred moment on a sacred day.
Two words had changed in the Marriage Act, substituting “man a woman”, for “two people”, and for Jo and Jill that changed everything.
The first I knew of their love was a phone call on Thursday from Cittamani palliative care telling me a tale of Jo, a woman with a rare cancer, who wished to finally legally marry her beloved Jill. It was Jo’s persistence that had kept the idea alive. Jill was unsure how it could be achieved. She had read about the one month waiting period. But how could it happen in their own home at short notice? Cittamani nurses decided to ring me and pose the question. As a celebrant I am aware that under exceptional circumstances a shortening of time can be granted by the Registrar.
I met with Jill Thursday afternoon at the courthouse. She had tried to get all the paperwork sorted, signed, witnessed and lodged with the Magistrate. It just wasn’t possible that afternoon, we needed Jo’s signature, and it was 4.30pm.
I met Jo Thursday evening. Evenings are good for her. She had energy. And her bright blue eyes and delightful smile told me all I needed to know about their resolve to be married. Witnessing Jill and Jo together was a love story, quite convincingly profound. I was taken with the dozens of photos on the wall from their 2013 commitment ceremony – a day of promise, filled with family and friends. A true wedding day. I realised I had met two amazingly beautiful women, with a deep connection and strong commitment to each other.
Jill was firm in her wish that the marriage happen, but was feeling torn. Going back to the courthouse the next day was tricky. She wanted to stay and care for Jo. This marriage was important. So I offered to go instead. At 8.30 am the next day, Friday, I was outside the Nambour Courthouse at opening time. The local magistrate understood immediately and faxed the application direct to Brisbane, following it up with a phone call to convey the urgency.
On the other end, the Queensland Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages recognised the importance of this request, and sped through the process.
Within the half hour, the stamped approval came back. I could prepare the marriage papers right away: new formats, fresh from the Attorney General, and those important new words, “two people”. I was ecstatic. Jo and Jill were going to be married that afternoon! They were ecstatic.
Several more emails arrived from Births, Deaths and Marriages. They wished to offer a free registered marriage certificate and what’s more they would do it immediately. This is a process that usually takes weeks. I was so delighted by their care and understanding that I offered to hand deliver the papers to the Brisbane office first thing Monday morning, to help out the process. They made a better suggestion, and we made a plan.
I phoned a colleague and asked if she’d be willing to be photographer at this special event in a couple of hours. I knew she’d say yes. Thanks to Marion Jonkers for the professional photos of this auspicious day.
A garden lovingly created by Jo and Jill as a shared passion, provided the perfect setting for a wedding; beds of herbs, flowers, rock seats and wooden doorways. Jo’s namesake rose was in bloom. The herbs were fragrant. Everything looked divine for their wedding.
Jo’s friend cancelled all her clients, and turned up with her hair and makeup skills. “Do what you can!” said Jo, always in good humour. Jo’s Mum and husband were there. Jill’s sister too. They had come at a moment’s notice.
We sat in the cool of the garden. I read from Leunig, and spoke of ceremony, love and choosing. With profound tears in my eyes I proudly read the new marriage statement. They reiterated their vows from years ago, adding the sentence from the new marriage act. They exchanged wedding rings, held hands and gaze. Their broad smiles were all that was needed to express a deep and sincere joy at finally being married, wife and wife. “Hey Mrs”.
We embrace ceremony and ritual when something truly profound is happening in our lives. We do this because we need to make a space, in time and place, to honour the unseen world that we carry within us. Ceremony takes a moment away from the usual hum of life, to contemplate and warmly acknowledge an emotional world. Inner feelings become front and centre for the day. A marriage acknowledges this. It is always a special ceremony. This wedding was extremely special and sacred.
After the vows, I enacted the plan to deliver the certificates immediately. Births Deaths and Marriages Queensland wished to honour this special occasion by delivering the registered marriage certificate that very day. The Principal Project Officer drove north from the Brisbane office. And I drove south from the northern beaches. We met at a roadside station, sat at a truckies’ table and exchanged the precious paperwork.
I then drove back to join the reception and hand deliver their certificate. Jo and Jill had been approved, married and registered within one day!
When Jill was asked how long have you and Jo been together she responded, “a lifetime; and yet not long enough.”
Jo’s Mum told me, “Today is the happiest day of my life. On the day I married my own true love, I thought that was the happiest day of my life, and I thought I couldn’t get any happier. But actually today, I am happier, witnessing my daughter able to fulfil her wish to marry her own beloved.”
Jo’s touching speech recognised a day of love and compassion from a community made up of people she had just met, or had never met, and may never get to meet at all. The day was made possible by the goodwill of a community of all kinds of people with different roles and different commitments and different lives, wanting these two to be married in time.
Endings depend on where one leaves the story. The tale always continues. We rest here with the newly weds, Jill and Jo, for marriage according to the law of Australia is the full commitment or union of two people.
Friday 15th December 2017
(with editing assistance by Glenda and Jessi)
Photos by Marion Jonkers Photographer
Thanks to Cittamani Hospice, Nambour Courthouse, Queensland Births, Deaths and Marriages, Russell, Marion, Tracey and Emily.
Avoiding 9 common mistakes on the NOIM form
First, the NOIM form
Ready to marry? Then you’re ready to fill in the first piece of paper to start your Marriage process;
the Notice Of Intended Marriage (NOIM).
The Australian Marriage Act “requires that a marriage shall not be solemnised unless a notice in writing of the intended marriage is given to the marriage celebrant.” This is done on the prescribed form, the NOIM.
Having been a marriage celebrant on the Queensland Sunshine Coast for more than 12 years, I have assisted newly engaged couples with their marriage forms.
After many hundreds of weddings, and thus hundreds of marriage certificates, I have seen a variety of mistakes that a marriage celebrant has to deal with.
All these can be avoided by asking Kari for access to your very own personal portal that has easy boxes to fill. I will send you the link, and off we go together to get your paperwork perfect…. long before the wedding. Once the portal is filled in, you can get back to the fun part of creating your unique wedding.
If you would prefer to full in a paper form, there is a link here (NOIM):
There are 9 common mistakes which occur on a NOIM form. And they are all innocent errors. Perhaps this page can help.
9 Common Mistakes on the NOIM
The first form a couple wishing to marry must contemplate is called the Notice Of Intended Marriage (NOIM) form.
There are several common mistakes that are made on the NOIM. Let’s look at those:
1 Black – the official colour on paper forms
If you’re filling in a paper form, preferably use a black pen. Black is an official colour; easy to read. Use block letters or printing to fill in the form.
Or better still, download an interactive pdf version.
This form allows you to fill in the fields on the computer, and save it as your own form. Once saved, you can print it ready to take to your celebrant.
In the Surname section, write your current surname. Make sure it is written as per your birth certificate, or previous marriage certificate if you took a married name. Use all hyphens, accents, apostrophes or capitals and lowercase as necessary.
For example : MacDougal-Das Gupta or Mc Tavish or De Cruz or de la Cueva or O’Sullivan
Given Names section, list all your names except your surname; first and all your middle names. Make sure all the names from your birth certificate are listed on the form. Write them in full. Don’t leave any out.
For example : Patricia Martinella Jane Francesca
Hang on…. there’s one exception … don’t include any names that may have been added as a part of baptism and don’t appear on your birth certificate.
Write your occupation as a proper noun, the person doing the job, not the job or the department.
Thus use Administrator rather than administration, or Human resource manager rather than human resources
4 Conjugal status
I’m afraid “single” does not cut it in the world of government forms. You need to be more specific!
There are a few choices in this category. It is important to choose the correct one that reflects your actual legal status.
The most common one is, Never validly married. Don’t forget the little word validly. It is also an important word. I mean, that wedding you had in preschool with your little mate, may have been as real as ever when you were 4 years old, and we don’t wish to discredit the sincerity of that occasion at the time.. But the crucial point here is that it was not valid!!!
Other choices are widower or widow if your previous spouse died. Widow for a woman whose partner died, and Widower for a man whose partner died.
Divorced – is the other option, if you have legally divorced from a previous spouse. You will need to present evidence of the divorce to your celebrant. This needs to be the original divorce decree document, not a photocopy.
Annulment – if your marriage was dissolved through a legal annulment – a very rare scenario.
Check your birth certificate. You may have always believed you were born in “Sydney”, but perhaps your birth certificate lists “Darlinghurst” as your birthplace. You and I know this is kind of the same thing, because – yes Darlinghurst is in Sydney. But official departments in Cambodia, for example, may not know this. If your marriage certificates and forms, closely match your birth certificate, you are less likely to encounter difficulties in the future. Who knows what the future may bring. Let’s not create any potential room for future bureaucratic grief.
6 Parent one’s full current name
Some families have Mother and Father, other families have different scenarios. The gender non specific nature of the current marriage forms allow for a parent to be a non specific gender. This approach is inclusive of same-sex parents, parents who do not identify as male or female, and parties who only have one legal parent.
If Parent 1 is your Dad, then:
Even if the family just calls him Bill or Jazza , write your dad’s full legal name, including all his middle names;
For example : Joshua Blake William Forsham-Smythe
6b Father’s full birth name
Occasionally people have a change of name during their lifetime. What is Dad’s name on his birth certificate?
7 Parent two’s full current name
If Parent 2 is your Mum, what is her legal name today?
For example : Maria Antoinette Forsham-Smythe (This would include a married surname or current name)
7b Parent two’s full birth name
This is usually the name they were born with, a maiden/batchelor name; the FULL maiden name, which means all the names including the surname on their birth certificate, even if the name has changed since they or you were born.
For example : Maria Antoinette Lisette de Vries
To satisfy the requirement under the Marriage Act 1961 it is up to the parties to list their parents using the names as they know them by. Parties do not need to supply evidence of their parents’ names or countries of birth, but it helps if all your ID matches into the future. This is why a birth certificate can help with your marriage paperwork.
8 Divorce date
Another common error on NOIM forms is the DATE OF DIVORCE. This is the date the court decrees the divorce to come into effect – “becomes absolute”. It is not the date of application, nor the date of the court hearing.
It is the date near the end of the page.
9 signing the form
Don’t sign the form yet. Your signatures need to be witnessed by an appropriate witness. Most often it is your celebrant who will witness your signatures. But there are other options.
Here’s the list of “appropriate” witnesses as listed on the form:
There you go…. it’s all in fine print on the form itself.
Lodgement of the NOIM
This form is lodged with (or given to) the celebrant. It is from this form that most of the information for your marriage certificates is taken. So it is important to get it right. Thus your marriage certificate will also be correct. And you want it to be correct! Your marriage certificate forms part of your ongoing legal identity. So you want it to match your other forms of ID too. If it matches, you are less likely to come across issues with your ID papers in the future.
Once your NOIM form is with your celebrant, you can relax. Your celebrant should take care of all the paperwork from here on. A good celebrant will cross check all that you have filled in to make sure it is legal, and fulfils all that is required for your marriage to also be legal.
When to lodge
The NOIM must be lodged with your celebrant at least one month prior to your wedding. So if your wedding dates is 25th August, then it must be lodged before the 24th July for example. The form lasts for 18 months from the signature date. So you may loge the form any time within these parameters, between one and 18 months prior to your wedding.
A Marriage Celebrant
Choosing a good celebrant is also crucial!
Contact me if you have any questions… even if you don’t book with me. I am happy to assist where I can.
And know that once the NOIM is lodged, the hardest part is over!!!! From here on the fun can begin. Let me show you how.
Now you just need to find that perfect dress!
Thanks to my colleagues, celebrants Karen Faa and Merlin Coughlan, for their input into this article.
Another story will be about choosing your correct ID documents.