Basic Elements of a Wedding

Basic Elements of a Wedding by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

So you are getting married.  Where do you start?

Here are the basic elements in a wedding and the legal requirements along with answers to some of the most asked questions.

These are the legal requirements of an Australian wedding.

These are non negotiable and required by law according to the Marriage Act 1961.

Your wedding must be conducted by a Commonwealth Registered Celebrant and you must have two witnesses who are over the age of 18.

  • At some point in the wedding ceremony we have to use your full name.  The name that is documented on your birth certificate or passport.
    • This can cause some frustration but unfortunately we need to do this to validate your marriage
    • For Example:  If you were born ‘Vasilly Dominique Hibbbert’ but are known by everyone as David.  At some point I need to say your whole name, once is enough, then for the rest of the service we can refer to you as David.  Your full legal name needs to be used on all the legal documents.
  • I need to quote the monitum before the vows.  This states the nature of Marriage in Australia and establishes my authority to officiate your wedding. The following is from section 46(1).
    • “I am duly authorised by law, to solemnise marriage according to the law.  Before you are joined in marriage in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses,  I am to remind you of the solemn and binding nature of the relationship you are now about to enter.  Marriage, according to the law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.
  • The Marriage Act 1961 also states that each person must say to the other, in the presence of the marriage celebrant and the witnesses, these words – Section 45 (2) :
    • “I call upon the persons here present to witness that I…………….. take thee ………….. to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband)”. – or words to that effect.
  • Both parties and witnesses sign the marriage documents.

Beautiful pregnant woman in wedding dress and her husband are holding pretty cheerful daughter in arms at a plank wall background. Concept of happy family.

Basic Building Blocks of a Wedding Ceremony

As mentioned above, to validate your marriage we must fit in the  legal requirements.  After that there are varied wedding rituals and elements of a wedding that people do.

Use this as a guide only.

These elements can be  moved around or omitted  according to the vision or style of your ceremony.  Other rituals or cultural ceremonies can be added into this format.

The Welcome:  

This is the opening of the ceremony and where friends and family are welcomed.

The Presentation of the Bride:

Traditionally this was where the Father would give the Bride away.

Bride and Father Arm in Arm With Groom
Bride and Father Arm in Arm With Groom
These days this is still very popular, it is also okay if it is your mother, children, or you can walk down the aisle by yourself if you like.

Marriage Journey:

This is where the values and views of marriage, love and relationship are mentioined.  It is also the place that we talk about your  relationship journey.  How you met, how you fell in love etc.


This is a good place to acknowledge the love and support of family, children or mentors, and to acknowledge loved ones who are deceased or who cannot make it to the wedding.


This is the monitum as mentioned above in the legal requirements. This must be said before the vows.

Reading (s):

A poem, reading, verse can be read by a family member, friend or the celebrant.

Parental Blessing:

This is often used instead of the traditional giving away of the bride or can be placed before the vows.  It is an opportunity for parents to pledge their support, love and commitment.  A blessing or prayer can be read or the celebrant can ask the parents to stand and ask if they pledge their love and support – they can even answer “We Do”.

The Vows:

These are the personal commitments that the couple make to each other.

Exchange of Rings:

Although this is not a legal requirement, it is a ritual that is commonly used world wide.  You do not have to use rings, you can use anything that is symbolic of your love and union.

Signing of the Marriage Documents:

This is where the bridal couple, the two witnesses and the celebrant sign the legal documents.  It is good to have a significant piece of music or reading happen at this stage.


This is the Declaration of the marriage and where the kiss comes in.  In thinking of the declaration, how do you want to be presented, as Mr and Mrs Smith, or as Mr Smith and Mrs Jones or Brad and Caroline?


This is usually where words of congratulations are given, a blessing or maybe a prayer.  This is followed by the recessional.  An upbeat funky piece of music that you walk out to and receive the congratulations of your family and friends.

Happy groom brings the bride in his arms from the registrar's office
Happy groom leaves with the bride in his arms.

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