Australia - Getting Married "Down Under"
Every year, hundreds of couples from the UK travel to the other side of the world, or as many refer to it – ‘Down-Under’ to get married. Perhaps it has always been your dream to visit Australia, to see the spectacular Sydney Opera House right on Sydney Harbour, to dive through the beautiful blue waves on Bondi Beach or to travel into the red centre and visit Uluru – the true Aboriginal name for Ayres Rock and see the sun rising over its massive height, turning the rock into a huge red and golden spectacular.
Perhaps your honeymoon dream has been to cruise the Whitsunday Passage calling in at all the islands along the way or to bask in the warm tropical sunshine up at Cairns and Port Douglas in North Queensland. Perhaps the attraction for you are the famous vineyards of the Margaret River south of Perth in Western Australia or the stark white sands of Broome on the north west reaches of this vast and wonderful land.
Each year as a Civil Marriage Celebrant, I marry hundreds and hundreds of couples who travel to Sydney to get married – to escape the Winter ills and chills of the UK, and to escape the enormous costs of the large full on, family wedding.
Instead couples choose to combine their romantic wedding day with a wonderful and memorable honeymoon to follow, Down-Under.
So where can you get married?
That’s an easy one to answer - you can get married absolutely anywhere in Australia, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week there are no restrictions as to where or when you can get married. You don’t have to get married in a certain registered venue – there’s no such thing in Australia.
Two firm favourites to get married in Sydney are both on Bondi Beach with the water lapping at your feet or in the beautiful and picturesque Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens which overlook the Opera House on Sydney Harbour with the Harbour Bridge as your backdrop in the west and city skyline to the south -these are easy choices to make. The gardens are right in the city only 5-10 minutes by taxi from most hotels.
Perhaps you might like to choose getting married while sailing around Sydney Harbour on a yacht or standing on the headlands of North Head overlooking the sparkling Tasman Sea, looking out towards New Zealand.
If you have your heart set on a chapel wedding, there’s one right in the city. Alternatively weddings are performed in the Celebrants apartment or in the couple’s hotel suite or hotel function room.
There are lots of lovely spots along the foreshores of Sydney Harbour looking across at the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, or perhaps you might like to hire a small pavilion in the Chinese Gardens of Friendship at Darling Harbour then wander along afterwards to sample one of the many restaurants, cafes or trendy bars to celebrate!
Some choose to do it ‘their way’ and take a helicopter flight whilst zooming over Sydney city skyline with its Harbour and beaches down below. For the whole family I have even hired a DC3.
Sydney Harbour Bridge is another option and a great attraction, or on the steps of the Opera House. Perhaps you prefer to be up at the top of the Sydney Tower with its amazing views stretching right out across the western side of Sydney towards the Blue Mountains.
Any venue option can be organised and hired for you by the Celebrant – whatever your budget there is always something for you in Sydney to make your day a very special one indeed.
So many honeymoon options...
Do you wish to also spend most of your honeymoon time in Sydney?
A huge hint of advice here – do not hire a car in Sydney or in any large city, unless you are familiar with the usual city CBD road complex (they’re very busy places, as you find in all large cities world-wide). Public transport by bus, train or ferry are the way to go, and daily or weekly passes are easily obtainable and very economical. Just jump off any bus, train or ferry and hop on another by simply showing your pass.
And while you’re having that once in a life-time honeymoon, visit the world famous Aquarium at Darling Harbour within walking distance from the city, sample from the many trendy cafes and bars in and around the city and Darling Harbour, or visit the Taronga Park Zoo right beside Sydney Harbour – just take a ferry.
Take a train (the 8.23am from Central Station) or a guided bus tour (highly recommended) to the Blue Mountains to see the 3 Sisters, the famous rock formations at Katoomba – there is so much to see and do in and out of Sydney while visiting.
A piece of advice here - never ‘book’ a taxi in the city - just wave one down and hop in. No point in getting lost on your wedding day or when sight-seeing!
For something a little different, why not experience an outback trip to a sheep & cattle station or join a National Park tour?
So many choices!
Your wedding dream can be very easily turned into reality as it’s also a very easy process to get married in Australia.
What are the legal procedures?
Again, very easy. The Civil Marriage Celebrant will send you the ‘Notice of Intended Marriage’ which you must complete and have witnessed no less than a calendar month prior to the marriage but obviously most couples do this many months, sometimes years before they travel, generally as soon as they have decided to get married Down-Under.
You then simply get your signatures witnessed on this form, either at Australia House in The Strand, London or by a Notary which can be located through any lawyers or solicitors firm in all area of the UK.
You then send this form to the Celebrant for lodgement.
The other legal requirements are quite straight forward, you must be over the age of 18 years and either single/divorced/widowed.
(Divorce and death documents or your former spouse must be shown to the celebrant prior to marriage).
Two witnesses must attend the ceremony – the photographer can even be a witness!
After your wedding the Celebrant will register your marriage and will arrange for your Registered Marriage Certificate from the Government to be mailed to you or if time permits, you can collect it yourselves the next working day and take it home with you, as legal proof of marriage.
And in case you’re wondering - your marriage in Australia is 100% legal and is legally recognised world-wide, and you do not even have to notify the UK authorities of your marriage upon return, as you will be legally registered here in Australia, a British Commonwealth country.
What can we have for our ceremony?
Often asked questions are, ‘what can we have for our ceremony’ and ‘how long will it take?’
Most celebrants will send you a comprehensive Ceremony Guide from which to choose your own very special wording. There are selections of verses and vows – again the choice is yours.
Alternatively, you may wish to write your own vows and exchange of ring words.
You can either opt for a traditionally worded ceremony or a contemporary one - you may like to include some of your own traditions and practices and can even include spiritual or religious wording.
A Celebrant can perform any type of ceremony you want, from Rose, Candle & Sand ceremonies to either a religious or non-religious ceremony, this is entirely up to you what you choose to have.
Many couples from the UK wish to incorporate Celtic Hand Fasting into their ceremony, an age-old tradition where a binding is tied and knotted around the couples hands – this is where the words ‘tying of the knot’ comes from.
Many choose to have this and often, with the sounds of a professional bagpiper playing in the background.
Most ceremonies are not too long, around 15-25 minutes but again, this decision is yours....it can be as short or as long as you wish.
What needs to be organised in advance?
The Celebrant will book the place of marriage of your choice for you, for the date and time you wish to get married. Most couples arrive a couple of days prior to the ceremony, to recover from jet-lag, get their bearings and meet with the Celebrant to finalise any paperwork.
There is generally a fee which must be paid to local councils for getting married in a park, garden or on a beach, but there are also a few wonderful free spots which don’t cost a cent.
The Celebrant will also organise a photographer if you wish to have one. Small 1-2 hours packages are usually the idea here, shots taken throughout the ceremony and then afterwards, in and around the place of marriage.
Photos and CD’s can be delivered to the couple prior to leaving, if spending a few extra days in Sydney after the wedding.
The Celebrant can also arrange for a bouquet and button hole, make-up and hair, a bridal car, champagne, a wedding cake, a live trio, bagpipes and so on.
Of course all these are totally optional but for most and the absolutely budget conscious, you don’t need any of the trimmings whatsoever – just be here! The Celebrant, the 2 witnesses (arranged for you) and yourselves, under the Australian sun.
Of course there is no need to bring or buy a wedding gown or suit, most couples who come to Australia from the UK just get married in casual dress, something which is easy to pack and something which you can wear along the way. Some have even just worn their shorts and T. shirts – it’s your day so wear whatever you wish.
And there are no restrictions in Australia, of what time you can get married as you can marry any time day or night 24/7. And there is no waiting period – providing you have completed all the necessary paperwork with the Celebrant you can get married the minute you put foot on Australian soil.
Once I married a couple in the Arrival Lounge at Sydney’s International Airport as they were getting a connecting flight straight out west to Uluru and they wanted to arrive there ‘married’.
Another couple chose right on midnight with flickering candles under the southern stars as this signified the time of their marriage proposal.
Another favourite is under an Australian Gum tree with kookaburras – you’ll get this in the Royal Botanic Gardens even, and another favourite is sailing across Sydney Harbour.
An intimate wedding or a ‘family & friends’ occasion?
Often whole families come along - many couples from the UK bring families and their children with them. Parents often come too (they’re great baby-sitters) and sometimes even the grandparents fly in as well (also great baby-sitters). There are some good apartment style accommodation available right in the heart of the city which makes it an easy idea and base for families.
It is often a wonderful reason (or is it an excuse?) for parents and family members to fulfil their dream of travelling to Australia and to combine it with a beautiful, cost-effective family wedding.
If you have friends already living here who are attending the ceremony, they can act as the witnesses, however witnesses can be arranged for you by the Celebrant.
Some couples have even decided to immigrate after experiencing Australia – they can’t resist the friendliness, the warm sunshine and their future prospects.
One most memorable wedding I officiated in the Royal Botanic Gardens, the bride and groom from Sussex had no guests – just the 2 legal witnesses which had been arranged for them. We were about to start the ceremony when suddenly 4 people came running across the lawn. You guessed it, both parents had travelled to Australia and sprung the big surprise! There were tears and laughter, intermingled with happiness and the wedding proceeded as planned.
We popped a few champagne corks afterwards just as the sun was setting in the west behind the Opera House – what a day to remember!
The majority of couples though who come to Australia to get married just prefer an intimate wedding ceremony on their own, to escape the often huge wedding drama and generally, no-one back home knows.
After the ceremony and photo shoot, the couple go to the restaurant of their choice and spend a romantic evening wining and dining in one of the many 5 star restaurants overlooking
What’s the first step?
Convinced to travel Down-Under and get married? Well, it’s now time to organise your airline bookings and hotel accommodation. Your local travel agent will help with some great deals available or go on-line for cheaper options.
And then of course, most importantly, contact the Celebrant to book in your day and time for the ceremony and then, start packing your bags.
C’mon we’re waiting for you, Down-Under. Under the lazy, warm, blue Australian Summer skies.
This article was written by Wendy Bull JP CMC, for further information on Wendy please see our Australia weddings page