What happens if, after your wedding, you find out that your marriage celebrant didn’t hold a valid wedding licence?

That question recently confronted a Western Australian couple. Five days before their wedding in 2017, Ms A and Mr B were told by their pastor that there was “an issue” with his marriage licence but that, if it was not fixed by the day of the wedding, he would have someone else officiate. Then, only 2 days before the wedding, the pastor told them that his licence would be processed in time for the ceremony but that he would arrange for another pastor to officiate anyway. On the day of the wedding, the pastor himself attended and conducted the ceremony. When Ms A and Mr B later went to register their marriage, they were told that they couldn’t because he was not authorised to solemnise their marriage. Eek.

The parties sought the assistance of the Family Court to rectify the problem and the marriage was eventually declared ‘valid’ despite the lack of a marriage licence by the pastor. The Commonwealth Marriage Act says that, if at least one of the parties to the marriage believed that the person officiating was authorised to do so AND that the parties participated in the ceremony with the intention of marrying each other, then the marriage can be declared valid as if the pastor held a proper licence. Both parties told the Court that they believed the pastor held a licence AND that they certainly intended to marry on the day. A happy ending to an unusual situation!