Congratulations on your engagement!! As you start planning your wedding, one of the first big decisions you’ll need to make is who will officiate your ceremony – will it be a civil marriage celebrant or a religious celebrant?
As a professional civil marriage celebrant here on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, I often get asked what the difference is between the two. While the role is similar—to make your marriage legally binding—there are some key distinctions.
What is a Civil Marriage Celebrant in Australia?
Celebrant and MC Explained-A civil celebrant is authorised to solemnise legal marriages in Australia under the Marriage Act 1961. I went through extensive training and an application process with the Attorney-General’s Department to become an authorised civil celebrant.
Civil celebrants can conduct weddings for couples of any (or no) religious faith or background. We specialise in creating civil, humanist, interfaith, or non-religious ceremonies.
The focus is on the couple and their values, beliefs, and vision for their marriage. I get to know each couple personally and help them craft a ceremony that truly reflects their unique relationship.
As a celebrant, I liaise with the couple to complete the legal paperwork and am responsible for lodging documents after the ceremony. I am also there on the day to officially declare the couple “married” and make it legally binding.
What is the difference between a civil marriage celebrant and a wedding celebrant?
There is no difference – civil marriage celebrant and wedding celebrant are interchangeable terms. We are all appointed by the same Attorney-General’s Department. Learn More About Civil Celebrants From the AG Department.
Some celebrants like myself use the term “civil celebrant” to distinguish them from religious celebrants. But we all have the same legal standing to perform marriages.
What is a Religious Marriage Celebrant?
A religious celebrant is someone who represents a recognised religion and is authorised to solemnise marriages for couples of that faith. For example, a Catholic priest, a Hindu pandit, a Buddhist monk.
Religious celebrants are nominated and approved by their religious organisation, not the government. They can only marry people according to the rites and rituals of their particular religion.
So, a Catholic priest could not officiate a Jewish wedding, and vice versa. Their role is to uphold the traditions and beliefs of their faith.
Why are civil ceremonies so popular?
These days around 75% of weddings in Australia are performed by a civil celebrant rather than a religious officiant. There are several reasons for this:
- Many couples live together and have kids before getting married. They don’t necessarily identify with an organised religion.
- Australia is a culturally diverse, secular society. Couples from different faiths often prefer a civil ceremony.
- Couples want to personalise their ceremony with poems, readings, music, etc., that reflect their relationship – not just standard church rites.
- Having an outdoor ceremony or venue not connected to a church. Many couples dream of a wedding on the beach, garden, or private estate.
- Flexibility in date and time. Religious celebrants can be restricted with when they can perform ceremonies.
As a civil celebrant, I specialise in creating unique, meaningful ceremonies for all couples. The ceremony can reflect your personality as a couple and what marriage means to you.
What Does a Civil Marriage Celebrant Do?
As a professional civil celebrant in Sydney, my role is multifaceted:
Legal – I ensure all the paperwork is completed correctly for lodgement after the wedding. This includes forms, certificates, and character statements.
Ceremony – I meet with couples multiple times to create a tailored ceremony script reflecting their love story from traditional to quirky, poetic to light-hearted.
Performance – As the celebrant, I preside over the ceremony on the day. Orchestrating the flow, making announcements and, of course, officially declaring the couple “married”.
Lodgement – After the wedding, I take care of lodging all the paperwork with Births, Deaths, and Marriages to register the marriage.
Supplier – I can recommend trusted suppliers like photographers, florists, and hair and makeup artists. And answer questions you have during the planning process.
What Does a Religious Marriage Celebrant Do?
A religious celebrant’s role centres around preparing a couple for marriage within their faith. Their key responsibilities include:
- Providing religious education, counselling and guidance about marriage and married life.
- Planning a ceremony adhering to their religion’s rituals, prayers and rites. There is generally little flexibility.
- Completing any faith-specific paperwork. Some religions have additional forms.
- Presiding over the ceremony on the day according to the liturgy of their church or temple.
- Registering the marriage with their religious organisation. Some may require pre-marital counselling.
I heard an interesting perspective from my neighbor, a minister at the local church. He explained that as a religious celebrant, his work is not over after the wedding, like mine is as a civil celebrant.
He still has that couple within his church community, providing ongoing pastoral care and guidance. So, his relationship with them continues long after their “I do’s”.
Can I Have a Northern Beaches Civil Wedding at Home?
A beautiful backdrop for your special day. Many couples dream of exchanging vows in the privacy and familiarity of their own home.
The answer is yes, you can have a civil home wedding with an authorised celebrant like myself. It is legal to get married in a private residence in NSW.
Some of the benefits of a Northern Beaches home wedding include:
- Ultimate convenience. Get ready in your own space, there is no need to travel on the day.
- Personalise the decor and atmosphere. Use your furniture, photos, decorations.
- Intimate and private. Share this moment with your nearest and dearest.
- Freedom to dress the venue and celebrate exactly as you wish.
- Potential to save money compared to commercial venues.
A few things to consider are noise restrictions, parking for guests and wet weather contingencies. But a home wedding can be a beautiful, meaningful option with good planning.
I’ve conducted many unforgettable ceremonies on the Northern Beaches as a local celebrant. From beachfront reserves to sprawling gardens to living rooms decorated with fairy lights.
Contact a Northern Beaches Civil Celebrant for Your Civil Wedding.
Are you ready to take the next step and book your Northern Beaches Civil Celebrant? As an experienced, passionate celebrant based in Narrabeen, I would love to hear from you.
Let’s grab a coffee and start discussing your vision for an authentic ceremony that brings your love story to life. From classic elegance to relaxed fun, we’ll create something unique together.
You can learn more about my approach and availability via my website. I can’t wait to connect and be part of this exciting next chapter for you and your partner.
Civil Marriage Celebrant NSW
Gary’s goal is for you to have the best wedding day possible! He is an enthusiastic, grounded, fun-loving and relaxed Wedding Celebrant and Professional Wedding MC based in Australia.
He was an electrician who loved his wedding so much, he quit his job and became a full-time celebrant.
He’s here to help you plan your wedding and get the party started!