The declaration of intent

This blog signals the final installment of the "legality or formality" series. To write about these 4 key legal elements, a certain amount of knowledge is required. But I must admit, as much as I hope that these blogs have been useful to you, they have definitely helped me learn a great deal more about the formation of a ceremony and solidify what I already knew.

So, onto the last aspect!

4. Each person agrees to take the other as their lawful husband/wife.

This section, otherwise known as the "declaration of intent", typically takes place during the speaking of the vows. The vows are the verbal exchange which expresses the couples' promises to each other in regards to their intention to be married. Couples can choose to memorize their vows or have the celebrant read them, as long as they respond with "I do" or "I will".

This legal aspect is probably the shortest and most straightforward of them all, with only 2 words required in order to satisfy the requirement. Following the exchange of the rings, the celebrant is then able to legally pronounce you husband and wife based on the fulfillment of the four aspects we have spent the last few weeks dissecting.

Taking the legal aspects into consideration, wedding ceremonies do not have to take long. In fact, they can be done and dusted in a matter of minutes! Registry offices tend to only incorporate the legal aspects and forego the other "non-compulsory" aspects that we often witness during a wedding ceremony. These might include readings, poems, songs, etc.

Remember, at the end of the day it is your day and you must make the ultimate decision as to what should be included in your ceremony. As long as your legal bases are covered, your wedding day signifies the beginning of a lifetime with the man/woman you love. Make it count!

Will you marry me, babe?

A lot of us use nicknames when we speak to or about our partner, right?

Babe, honey, sweetheart, baby, or simply shortened versions of their birth names, are all ways we may use to refer to our soul mate. Nicknames are terms of endearment. They are a sign that we feel comfortable enough around our partner to assign strange and/or unique names that they learn to associate with, and vice versa.

There may be a temptation to use these nicknames in your wedding ceremony, especially if you are opting for a more personal and intimate vibe. However, not many couples are familiar with the fact that your full birth names are legally required to be used at some stage during the ceremony. That is, your first, middle and last (maiden) name must be used in the ceremony.

This does not mean that you have to say yours or your partners full name every time you wish to address them; state your full names once to fulfill the legal requirement, then you are free to use as many nicknames as your heart desires!

Such a small requirement can be easily forgotten in the grand scheme of planning a wedding, but it is a significant part of the bigger legal picture. By stating your full names, you are confirming that the names on the marriage license reflect those actually getting married!

Further to this, stating your full names also acts as a verbal acknowledgement of your agreement to marry each other, which we will look at in the final installment of legal aspects of wedding ceremonies in the next blog post.

Choosing your witnesses

When planning a wedding, most couples begin with the guest list and discuss questions like: Who shall we invite? how many people should we ask to attend? Determining how "big" of a wedding to have or how close those attending should be are important aspects to consider. So, when it comes to deciding on witnesses to sign the Marriage License, there shouldn't be a shortage of people to ask, right? Well, that depends!

Most weddings I have attended have seen the Maid of Honour and Best Man chosen as legal witnesses. This is certainly a viable (and sometimes easier) option, considering that these two people will be stood next or near to you on the day. However, there are some aspects that you may not know when it comes to determining your legal witnesses:

1. You do not have to know them.

Yes, that's right. You can actually pull two people from the street and ask them to witness your ceremony. Crazy? Maybe. But couples who elope or would like to add some secrecy to their ceremony are able to include this legal aspect seamlessly.

2. Witnesses must be able to understand what happens at the ceremony (They should be of sound mind, and should not be intoxicated).

So, if you plan on including your Maid of Honour and Best Man as legal witnesses, watch what and how much they drink on the day. Of course this "rule" extends towards other aspects such as mental health and disability, so make sure that you account for these instances too. The celebrant needs to be sure that your witnesses understand and agree with what the ceremony represents.

3. Children can be witnesses.

That's right! But they must be old enough to understand the nature of the ceremony, and must be able to demonstrate that understanding in court if a situation should require them to.

As you can see, there is an aspect of variety when it comes to choosing your witnesses. What is important to remember is that it is your choice and as long as you have two people who have agreed to sign your license, are of sound mind, and understand the nature of the ceremony, you have made steps towards ensuring the legality of your union.

Legality or formality?

When I went to the Hamilton Courthouse to be interviewed for the position of Marriage and Civil Union Celebrant for Ngaruawahia, I learnt quite a lot about the marital process. I had always thought that a ceremony had to abide by tradition with the father giving away the bride, the ‘I dos’, the vows, the exchanging of the rings, and of course, the last minute call for any objections before the big kiss at the end. The stuff you see in the movies. It turns out that I was wrong and those things were in fact mostly ‘optional’. In particular, I was greatly intrigued by the minimal amount of legal aspects which needed to be included. You may also be surprised to learn that when you get married, you are only required to ensure that 4 things are carried out once you have acquired a lawfully appointed celebrant:

1. A marriage license is obtained, correctly filled out, signed, and returned to the registry office following the ceremony (within 10 days).
2. Two witnesses are present.
3. Yours and your partner’s full names are used at some stage during the ceremony.
4. Each person agrees to take the other as their lawful husband/wife during the speaking of their vows.

Pretty straightforward, right?

If you have been to a myriad of wedding ceremonies as I have, you will have noticed how they vary from couple to couple. Some will choose to cover the bare minimum and ensure that the legal aspects take precedence, whilst others will include readings, poems and longer speaking parts to create a longer ceremony. Whatever you choose to include is completely up to you, as long as you are sure that the ceremony will create a legally binding union. So, over the next few blog posts, I will be taking the time to explain each of these legal aspects.

First of all, the marriage license is the essential piece of documentation which proves you are married after the big day. In New Zealand, a marriage license currently costs $122.60 and is available at the local registry office. Once obtained it lasts for 3 months, so we usually advise that couples leave this as close to the wedding as possible to organise. As the celebrant, it is my job to ensure that those named on the license are those actually getting married, which will mean that I take a look at both people’s birth certificates. If either one of the couple have been married or in a civil union previous to the marriage they wish to enter in to, they will also have to provide proof of separation to both the registry office and their celebrant.

Once obtained, the license (two copies of ‘Copy of Particulars of Marriage’ or a ‘Copy of Particulars of Civil Union’ and a return addressed envelope) is handed to the celebrant who will bring it on the big day for them, the couple, and the witnesses to sign following the ceremony. One copy will then be given to the couple, and the other will be passed to the registry office via the celebrant, who has 10 days to do so.  If a couple wishes to order a marriage certificate, they can simply fill out the form on the back of the Copy of Particulars. The certificate will be posted to them once the marriage or civil union is registered.

And that, my friends, is the basic ins and outs of a marriage license. Who knew that one piece of paper would require so much consideration? But this is what your celebrant is for; ask them questions when you are not sure and they will be able to clarify the process for you. You are never alone during the planning of your ceremony when it comes to the legal logistics – your celebrant is on hand to help too! 

Affordable Wedding Invitations

A wedding doesn't have to be expensive.

I know that's a radical thought for those who truly believe the day isn't complete without gilt edged invitations and everyone marinaded in alcohol funded by the bride and groom. There are so many different types of wedding simply BECAUSE the couple saying their vows are different.

The essential thing to remember is to keep control. It's YOUR day. Not Mum's, not Gran's, not that aunt who insists you pay their bus fare from Northland or the cousin who's told everyone but you that she's offended you didn't make her a bridesmaid.

You and your partner. YOUR day from start to finish.

My parents married five months after meeting and I've grown up knowing they did it on one month's salary. Mum's dress was a hundred pounds in a sale, Dad's suit was hired, the flowers consisted of one live posy from a local florist and the rest were handmade - carnations pinned to lapels through silver foil covered in ribbon. Mum tells the story of how she buttered bread in her dressing gown for the buffet her parents funded at the local village hall and my grandfather paid for a limo as a gift. There were fifty people gathered together at a month's notice and everyone had a great time.

That was 25 years ago and Mum still has the dress in her wardrobe in the faint hope that one of her daughters fancies dressing as a pavlova one day. It's probably not going to happen but the dress looks amazing as the background of this website and in my header page.

Now I know the idea of thrift won't appeal to everyone. We're all different and that's the way it's meant to be. Some of us would love to leave all the finer details to a wedding planner who takes charge to the point where we just show up on the day and blink in surprise at the wonderland they've created from art deco fern fronds and confetti. If that's you and money's no object; go for it and good luck to you. For the rest of us, such luxury might be a little unrealistic on the smell of an oily rag and the last five year's savings. So we look for tips and tricks to lessen the pain.

The illustration is an invitation set sold on Amazon which contains 50 invitations and mailing envelopes, 50 reply cards and envelopes, 50 ribbon and pre-tied bows and all for under US $20. All you need is a mate with neat handwriting and you're home and dry. You don't have to use the above. Amazon has heaps of different ones but so do many local craft shops, art stores and online retailers.

A family friend got married when I was ten and I remember my mother sitting at the dining table with a fountain pen and a list of names and addresses, slogging through hundreds of invitations. They looked awesome when she finished and her friend bought her flowers because, let's be honest here; how often are your guests going to get their gold leaf invitation down off the mantelpiece and fondle its soft curves, just because you spent five bucks a-piece on them? You know as well as I do that it'll go in the kitchen drawer until just after the RSVP date passes and then they'll ring or text you instead of using the special reply card you included for their convenience.

Hey, I'm not knocking it; if it's your heart's desire to commission an original painter to do cameos of you and your future partner and emboss them and hand press their beautiful textures into custom made frames, just make sure I get one please. If not and you're struggling for cash, nobody will judge you a failure for some gorgeous shop bought invitations with nice writing in them. Another idea I saw was a lady who wasn't confident with her handwriting and printed names on delicate craft paper and glued them onto the invitations. There was so much fluffy detail on the invites, nobody noticed. Job done.

DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF because you know realistically that none of it will matter at that moment when you and your partner say, I DO. You won't care who's watching, who had an opinion over whether your invitation looked shabby chic or just chic; all you will care about is threading your partner's shaking finger into that ring while family members sob into supermarket tissues and tell embarrassing-naked-baby-stories.

Think of your wedding invitations like a call to arms.

Remember that bit in Lord of the Rings where Pippin lights the beacon to signal that Gondor called for aid? That's your invitation. It doesn't have to be amazing, it just has to exist. I don't recommend you light it; but just keep it in perspective.

#brides #groom #specialmoments