All you need to know about civil ceremonies during COVID-19

This period is an uncertain time for all of us. In the last few months, we’ve had a lot of couples ask me questions about civil ceremonies and paperwork needed to get married, especially getting married now then celebrating later, or simply just doing “fake signings”. Although weddings are a joyous occasion with lots of love and laughter, at the end of the day it is still a legal commitment, meaning there are lots of laws and rules to follow. 


To help us answer some of these frequently asked questions, we’ve spoken to some of our favourite marriage celebrants to get their advice and tips on this.


First off we reached out to some of Sydney’s best marriage celebrants who are known for their personalities, knowledge and love for weddings:

  1. We have to reschedule our wedding next year, what can you suggest for us to do to do a “practice signing” of our paperwork? Or should we do a real one and “re-enactment”?


Catherine Flavell says “The decision to marry now and celebrate later or just postpone everything is ultimately up to the couple. Of course every circumstance is not the same and every couple wants different things. However, it is law in Australia that couples cannot have a ‘second wedding’ ceremony if they are already married.” 


For couples wanting to have a small COVID-19’ wedding, they’re much better off having an intimate gathering then renewing their vows at a later date in 2021. Catherine states that the renewal can be termed as a ‘re-enactment’ because it is very much like a wedding, although the couple cannot call it a ‘wedding’ explicitly and their celebrant MUST make their guests aware the couple has already married.


This is seconded by Lillian Lyon. “I’m not sure what is meant by a ‘practice signing’ but if you mean a ‘fake signing’ the answer is no way. It’s illegal to lead people to believe you’re getting married when you’re not.” She also states that a celebrant is obligated to tell guests that couples are already married should they choose to celebrate later. “Sounds heavy I know, but a skilled and talented celebrant can do this beautifully and still have all your guests, and yourselves, crying like it was the best moment in the world.”


  1. We would still love to have our most important guests there but there’s too many! How do we pick?


A small intimate affair with those closest to you is the way to go, according to Glenn Millanta. Should you choose to marry now, it will be best to do so with those who you definitely want to be there, and then have a big wedding down the track with your larger guest list. 


Robyn Pattison also suggests using a video link for others to watch if they cannot attend. Whilst restrictions are tight, the celebrant says family only would still make the moment special. “If your family are stuck overseas and unable to attend, just the bridal party is nice and will make them feel very special.


  1. What are your thoughts on a quick ceremony and then celebration with guests at the moment during COVID19?


Catherine: “Personally, I like the idea. As a civil marriage celebrant, I thoroughly enjoy small intimate weddings.  Even though they may be short and quick, it is by no means impersonable – in fact it is more personal for the couple as their focus is on their love for each other.”


Lillian: “They work well, and I’ve seen some really touching moments! Remember it’s about the two of you. You’d be surprised how much your guests will support you. The ones who don’t just have to get over themselves because it’s not their wedding. “


Glenn: A quick ceremony now is fine but you will need to be conscious of current restrictions (which are quick to change) and keep your numbers low. It’s also important to maintain social distancing to lower the risk of attendees becoming infected should anyone be carrying COVID19 (especially those considered high risk with lower immunity).”


Robyn: Most celebrations are confined to outdoor areas at the moment due to restrictions. This is tricky, especially in winter. Take the pressure off yourselves and have a really intimate, romantic elopement style wedding. Refresh, recharge and then, go back into wedding planning when life goes a little more back to normal!”


  1. What locations can you recommend? Lots of places are either not open or booked out!


Lillian recommends beautiful outdoor locations around Sydney. Choose places that have outdoor areas, or spacious interiors so you can spread out and stay safe. Think restaurants with large areas to fit some live music like a duo inside or places with courtyards and gardens.


Another tip from Glenn is to ask around and see whether friends or family members have properties to use during this time. You can look at some local parks or gardens but will need to check what is open and also consider whether a permit is required. Their website will give you more information for booking details. 


  1. We are locked down but still want to get married; can we do a wedding via Zoom and is it legal? One of our family members, who we’d like to be our witness is also locked down, can they witness through Zoom?


According to Robyn, marriage through Zoom link or any form of video link is illegal in Australia. The couple, the celebrant and their two witnesses must be together in person for the marriage to be legal. You can, however, invite other guests to watch via Zoom.


  1. What are your thoughts about changes to the wedding industry moving forward?


Catherine has found that quite a number of couples have started to re-evaluate what is important when it comes to their wedding.  Some have seen the ‘silver lining’ with the restrictions and gone ahead with getting married – because as the saying goes ‘marriage is for life and a wedding is just for a day’.


As for the future of the wedding industry, she believes the impact of COVID19 will depend on the type of service provider. It is hard to tell for now but certainly everyone is being innovative in trying to get back up their feet.


Would you love to chat with these incredible marriage celebrants? Here’s a link to their website where you’ll find out more information and their contact details: