Coalition of Celebrant Associations

Australia’s Peak Celebrant Body

31 Applicant may be refused registration in certain circumstances

(1) A Registrar to whom an application for registration under this Subdivision is made may refuse to register the applicant if, in the opinion of the Registrar:
Key Points of OPD legal requirements for marriage celebrants

A compulsory unit is not mandatory under the Regulations (Sect 37M (2).
  • This is at the Registrar of Celebrants discretion.
  • At least 2 professional development activities must be undertaken in each registration year A total of not less than 5 hours is required
From the Attorney General’s Department – Annual Marriage Celebrant Returns

Below are a set of figures on Civil Marriage Celebrant work supplied by the Attorney General’s Department over a decade ago.

These figures show that
  • civil marriage celebrancy has NOT been an occupation capable of sustaining a full-time income for the vast majority of civil celebrants for at least the last 15 years.
  • then, as now, the vast majority of civil marriage celebrants (96%) have subsidised their celebrancy work in time or money.
Today 60% of weddings conducted by commonwealth appointed celebrants, 5% BDMs and 35% recognised religious celebrants.

On these figures, that means approx 72,000 weddings for 10,300 celebrants. The Regulation Impact Statement issued by the Attorney General’s Department (AGD) verifies the numbers as 6.6 weddings per celebrant pa.

To return to the 1999 average of 35 weddings per celebrant pa would require de-registering 80% of celebrants and even then a Registration Fee would NOT be justified given the fact that marriage work cannot sustain a full-time income.

Registration Fees may be justified for professions that do offer full-time employment and / or income to sustain a full-time wage, but not for one where part-time wage equivalents for the majority of professionals is evident.

Source: A-G’s Dept. and ABS  
CIVIL Marriage Celebrants – UNDER Section 39.2.
October 2000 No. of Civil Marriage Celebrants = 1671
In 1999 No of ALL Marriages in Australia 114,300
  % Performed by Civil Marriage Celebrants 51.3%
  No. Performed by Civil Marriage Celebrants 58,636
CIVIL Marriage Celebrants – UNDER Section 39.2

Figures in Blue were supplied from the Attorney General’s Department (no of CIVIL celebrants) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. NOTE:
Number of CIVIL commonwealth Appointed Celebrants, excluded the non-aligned religious, special needs language groups, special needs disability groups = 1671

This shows in 1999 the average number of weddings per celebrant was 35

ie approx 1 wedding per fortnight averageThis compared with 1995 Ratio:
1 celebrants per 64 weddings pa

Table 1 – CIVIL MARRIAGES 1999
Number Of Weddings

Per Annum






6.78 %


1 – 10

29.53 %


11 – 25

26.20 %


26 – 50

21.70 %


51 – 100

12.08 %


101 – 150

2.53 %


151 – 200

0.95 %


200 plus

0.25 %


Figures in Blue were compiled from the Annual Returns submitted by celebrants and supplied by the Attorney General’s Department (AGD). The figures in black were extrapolated from the figures supplied by the AGD.Without Annual Returns, there is no objective data to verify the distribution of the number of weddings per celebrant.

Recommendation: collection of statistics of number of weddings per celebrant pa be collected and built into the new database / web portal.

Average No. of Weddings per WEEK


Total No. of CIVIL Celebrants


Percentage of CUMULATIVE TOTAL NOS of CM Celebrants  
1 or less 1406 84.21 % 84 %
Over 1 268 15.81 % 16%
Over 2 63 3.75 %  
However these figures caution assuming the Marriage Celebrancy can sustain a full-time income. Given the fact that civil celebrants must supply their own resources and wage, an average of two or more weddings per week would be required to make a sustainable income from wedding work alone.

Only less than 4% were able to sustain a level of work to make a sustainable wage.

that civil celebrants earn a lot from wedding
that civil celebrants subsidise their wedding work, from their own personal wealth or other employment.
Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS
This section contains information on the formation and process of the Regional Advisory Panels referred to in Section 2.0.

It is envisaged that:
  • Decisions for appointment based upon community need minimium overall average level of X weddings p.a per celebrant in each region, and, and upon the best applicant for an area by interview by an Advisory Panel.
  • 30 Regional Advisory Panels, each covering 5 electorates, would advise on level of
  • need in their areas over a 5 year review cycle (ie their level of x weddings pa per celebrant may be varied), and to deal with requests for appointments above the level set.
  • Resourced by a dedicated administrative officer in MLCS, regional information from the new data base, plus other government statistics.
  • Computerised systems, including an Annual Return of Statistics by all celebrants, and Guidelines for appointment should make this task manageable. efficient and effective as possible.
  • All applicants would need to reach an Appointment Approval level status, before being considered for interview for vacancies in an area.
Note. This model is similar to doctors applying for “Medicare” provider numbers.

It is recommended that the Regional Average Ratio of Appointment Level per independent civil marriage celebrant be set initially at a Mean Average of 24 weddings pa for that region.

Note: This does not mean * any individual civil celebrant would have to do a set number of weddings. * the region could not set a higher or a lower average number if its geographic area meant that slightly more or less celebrants were needed.

The Guidelines would include the Regional Advisory Committee’s responsibility to ensure that level of appointments were set at a level so that all marriage celebrant would maintain their celebrancy practices to cover normal costs and reasonable recompense for their time.

It is envisaged that:
  • A Regional Advisory Panel would meet once every 5 years.
  • It would be resourced and supported by a staff person in MLCS.
  • That person would do 6 panels each year.
  • The government could advertise expressions of interest from appropriate people from that region.
  • A venue could be arranged via one on the federal MPs in that area.
  • An advisory panel’s role would be to advise the AGD Appointment person.
  • A resource pack would be sent to outline the task, what to look for etc.
  • A flat fee paid for attendance.
Appropriate Persons for this role would be considered from the following professions:
  • Celebrant Association Representative
  • A Local Mayor
  • Principal of a Public High School in the Region
  • President of a Chamber of Commerce
  • A representative from Toastmasters or Rostrum
The AGD person would travel to them.

The AGD may come up with an alternate plan for interviewing prospective celebrants.

However, please note that associations and the consultation process have consistently said that the AGD makes the appointments so they should interview and select prospective celebrants.

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS
Draft submitted to the MLCS October 2010


To ensure that all applicants for the position of marriage celebrant under Section X of the Marriage Act 1961 meet an appropriate uniform standard of knowledge, skills and ‘Fit and Proper Person” criteria (values and presentation), irrespective of their mode of training for the Cert. IV In Celebrancy and registered training organisation with which their qualification was obtained.


A national ‘self-funding’ independent system of pre-appointment assessment by panel of appropriately trained personnel administered by the Marriage Celebrant Section and established and reviewed by CoCA and the Attorney General’s Department


1. Assessment Criteria

To establish minimum criteria for

2. Assessment Tools

To establish assessment tools

a. Knowledge Testing – open questionnaire, random questions approx 50% legals

b. Skills by interview in person or via distance eg Skype including verifying identity of person being assessed

3. Assessment Personnel

To ensure sufficient personnel to do assessment Panel of people who
  • provide / have provided Cert IV in Celebrancy training
  • have Cert IV in Work Place Training and Work Place Assessment
  • have conducted a minimum of 40 marriage ceremonies as a registered Marriage Celebrant
4. Assessment Fee

To ensure this system is self supporting
  • 2 hours assessment with applicant @ ongoing TAA rate eg $55 per hour ($110)
  • 2 hours writing up, making recommendations ($110)
  • travel and admin allowance max $40
  • component for MSC admin max $40
Total Cost = $ 300 per person

5. Assessment Administrative Process

To ensure independence
  • application and fee gathering processes
  • matching applicant with an independent assessor
  • time frame for assessments and reports to MCS
  • over-all reporting mechanism for AG and CoCA
6. Ongoing Review and Evaluation

To identify issues needing to be addressed and that the System is meeting its main Objective

• establishing time frames and processes

COST of Establishing the Above System:

Tender this out:
  • Part A – Items 1, 2, 3    above -    $ 4,500
  • Part B – Items 3,4,5, 6 -$ 2500
  • Travel, accommodation and out-pocket expenses etc $2000
Sub-Total: $ 9000
  • CoCA costs
  • Travel and Accommodation for reps $1000
TOTAL: $10,000


CoCA apply for a grant of $ 10,000 to make detailed recommendations on the above to the AG Department Grant SOURCE: AGs or some other suitable Government Grant Program.

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS
Note: The figures quoted in this Appendix were provided by the Marriage Celebrant Section in the early 2000’s as part of the Consultations conducted at that time, as well as from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

An annual fee will not deter people becoming celebrants even at $600. Naively people would think - ”that’s only one wedding” in the same way they will think about advertising costs when starting as a celebrant.

But an annual fee may
  • force out lots of competent celebrants, who do not have private wealth or other income at around the 5 year mark,
  • mean a constant flow of new inexperienced celebrants coming in.
High uncontrolled numbers will mean that most celebrants will never get the breadth of experience that long term celebrants (pre 1995) have of around 1000 weddings after a 20 year career.

The net effect of that on the sector is a backward one.

The government has no evidence to support the assumption that the majority of civil celebrants can earn a sustainable full-time weekly wage equivalent from wedding work alone.

National Average Rate under Needs Based system:

1995 = 64 weddings per celebrant pa;
1999 = 35 weddings per celebrant pa;

Under “open market”

2011 = 6.6 weddings per celebrant pa;

Under “Professional Celebrant Fee:

Loss of 10% of celebrants only raises no of weddings per celebrant to 8

Loss of 30% of celebrants only raises no of weddings per celebrant to 10.2

To make a full-time weekly wage equivalent from wedding work alone, a civil celebrant would need to average 100 weddings pa.

With 72,000 weddings pa nationally that means 720 celebrants in total and the consequent need for the government to remove:
  • 93% of the current 10,300 civil celebrants now appointed.
  • 50% of civil marriage celebrants every year to maintain this number as 700+ new celebrants are appointed each year.
An average of one wedding per month per celebrant = 12 pa
An average of one wedding per fortnight per celebrant = 24 pa

It takes 3 to 5 years to get established in a community. So under the current ’unlimited’ numbers approach, the chances are that many celebrants will decide at around 5 years, that the time and money they put in, cannot be justified despite their work satisfaction. This will affect especially those celebrants who do not have private wealth or who need a full-time wage for their family to survive. This has nothing to do with their competency as a celebrant.

If one has to work full-time at another job plus prepare, rehearse and deliver weddings, there is little time to think, research and practice new approaches – a negative for the continuing development of a professional. The net effect of all this is a backward step for marriage celebrancy.

The MLCS state that they are receiving 50-80 applications presently per month.  So the intake is still above retirement/de-registration rates.

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS

Summary of the effects of Recommendations on Cost Recovery

Name of Fee MLCS work  
Annual Marriage Law Education & Confirmation of Continuing Registration Fee or Annual Marriage Law & Celebrant Section Website Listing and Access Fee. Marriage Law and Policy Development Either collected as a fee directly from celebrants and paid once each year via CanprintOr by purchasing of vouchers/ stamps from Canprint per marriage
Marriage Stationery, Publications and Canprint
Data collection & analysis
Website Listing
Coordination of Resource Development and support for all marriage celebrants (BDMs and Celebrant Associations)
Reimburse BDM work
Reimburse CoCA work
Explanatory Material
Access to Marriage Law Information
Public Information about Marriage
Public Seminars on Marriage
Application Fee Inquiries Paid for by applicant
Fit & Proper Person Assessment
Appointment Assessment Fee Knowledge and Skills Assessment Paid for by applicant
Servicing Regional Advisory Committees
Compliance Fee One hour each 5 years Paid once each five years purchased from Canprint.Or a proportion added to the annual Website Fee
Fines for non-compliance


CoCA advises against duplicating a mechanism for collecting fees when there is already a system in place via Canprint for the purchase of an annual numbered Voucher.

Celebrants should not be required to bear the cost of such duplication were the MLCS to set up its own collection system.

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS
The aim of this recommendation is to allow celebrant associations to establish a planning team of local marriage celebrants to host information sessions with representatives of Relationship Education Services, Legal Services and marriage celebrant groups.

It is recommended that funding for marriage information sessions for the general public be provided to CoCA associations.

These sessions would focus on information about the different styles of marriage ceremonies, the importance of marriage and the support services available to support marriage. It would:
  • Encourage prospective marrying couples to use the services of a marriage celebrant who is a member of a celebrant association, recognised religion, or registry office.
  • Maximise the services of celebrant associations in hosting information sessions on marriage to the community.
Cost Recovery

Some of various stakeholders in this exercise already receive state or federal funding for these roles. Part of the fee proposed via all marriages or all marriage celebrants as outlined in Recommendation 13 would assist increasing community information about marriage and both civil and religious marriage celebrants.

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS

4.1 Fit and Proper Persons

The aim of this recommendation is to determine the suitability of the applicant for the profession PRIOR to commencing any course of celebrant training.

It is recommended that some parts of the current Fit and Proper Person criteria be applied to those wishing to become civil celebrants.

This would involve gaining information on:
  • The reasons the applicant wants to be a marriage celebrant,
  • What knowledge, skills and personal strengths the applicant would bring to the role,
  • Their understanding of the need for a professional attitude to the work, and;
  • Their levels of literacy and numeracy.
This process would ensure;
  • Applicants can make an informed decision about this career choice. (Not all Registered Training Organisations (RTO)’s highlight the disadvantages of being a marriage celebrant).
  • Applicants are clear about the importance of the role, including ‘Conflict of Interest’ provisions.
  • There would be a reduction of the time and money used by MLCS in approving appointees that are likely to be unsuitable, and
  • There would be a reduction of the time and money wasted by applicants being trained for a role for which they are unsuitable.
This is an important government role, the process of supervision should ensure the applicant is the one who applies and does the training, not some other person assisting them.

Cost Recovery

It is envisaged that full cost recovery would be obtained from the pre-training and appointment process. The person seeking the training and subsequent appointment would pay a fee for this determination.

4.2 Implement a Suitability Course.

It is recommended that consideration be given to develop and implement a suitability course.

CoCA has commenced discussion with Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) on this concept. It may be smilar to the suitability course provided to other professions such as the police. According to ASQA, some regulated industries, such as Security, require an applicant to pay a fee at application for a criminal check (along with other requirements.)

Given that the Certificate IV qualification when taught properly is a big investment in time and money, an applicant who was not suitable would be saved the expense and time of the training. It would also increase the chances that a successfully trained celebrant would then offer a range of ceremonies to support their civil marriage celebrant role.

Cost Recovery

It is envisaged that full cost recovery would be obtained from the applicant at various stages of the pre-training and appointment process. The person seeking the training and subsequent appointment would pay a fee to complete the suitability course.

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS

It is recommended that the Attorney General, in aiming to increase professionalism of marriage celebrants and ensure the ongoing viability of the Commonwealth Marriage Celebrant Program be guided by the following principles:

  1. A professional model of celebrancy as “professional ceremonialists” is the most appropriate model upon which to base the future development of celebrancy.

    The definition of a professional ceremonialist is a person who adheres to high ethical standards.

    They uphold themselves to, and are accepted by the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in creating appropriate dignified and meaningful ceremonies to meet the needs of individuals, couples, families and communities and use key elements of ritual and ceremony.

    In the provision of their marriage services, they exercise their knowledge and skills to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth Marriage act 1961 and its Regulations.
    • a.    Increasing professionalism requires strengthening those characteristics associated with the traditional meaning of the word '‘profession”. (refer Appendix A)
    • b.    Business skills are required of all independent professionals, but that does not define them as only businesses. Considering celebrancy as a small business only, ‘unprotected’ by government and regulated by market forces for a once in a life- time event is not appropriate because that approach has not worked. Many celebrants do not consider themselves a small business and do not operate as such.
    • c.    It is not appropriate for a government program based upon government appointment
    • d.    The original program with a set fee model remains inappropriate as the role requires, under the Marriage Celebrant’s Regulation Code of Practice (37L), the delivery of personalised ceremonies. Thus remuneration needs to be tailored to the level of work done by the celebrant, the worth of the celebrant’s skills and resources, and their costs in providing their assets and services.

  2. Acknowledging and respecting that marriage celebrancy services are part-time services for most marriage celebrants.
    • a.    Any fee needs to be based upon the capacity of marriage celebrants to make income from marriage work alone, not be subsidised by other means of income. The vast majority earn a part-time income at the most. Thus cost recovery needs to be set at a level commensurate with part-time work.

  3. A limit to the number of celebrants on a regional basis.
    a.    to ensure the Marriage Celebrant Program serves the community in providing a stable system of competent independent marriage celebrant services in an equitable manner.
    b.    to ensure the sector continues to increase in professional development of services – rather than becoming a “revolving door” of brand new inexperienced celebrants replacing older still relatively inexperienced marriage celebrants, with an annual massive loss of people’s time, financial and other resources.

  4. Utilising existing systems and services in training, education, administration, resource delivery.
    a.    to maximise the competence and professionalism of celebrants entering the Marriage Celebrancy Sector and to retain experienced competent celebrants.
    b.    to ensure that marriage services delivered by all marriage celebrants (Recognised religious, BDM staff and independent Marriage Celebrants) are of a high quality.

  5. Ensuring that the majority of the work done by the MLCS is in line with its primary national role in making law and marriage law policy decisions.
    a.    To ensure that the implemented measures will increase the professionalism of all celebrants, without causing financial hardship to existing celebrants.
    b.    MLCS will continue to provide indirect, supportive services, not direct services.
    c.    to ensure the Marriage Act and Regulations are administered by the MLCS nationally in an equitable manner across all jurisdictions, and reviewed regularly.

  6. Making the MLCS effective in quality and cost efficient in utilising state of the art computer and IT based systems.
    a. to minimise staffing and manual labour, and not duplicate knowledge and skills available in other sectors such as Registry Offices and Celebrant Associations
    b. to provide statistical information on a range of items.

  7. Fees charged to Civil Celebrants must be directly related to work that is done for the MLCS’s compliance responsibilities
    a. cost recovery for appointments of new marriage celebrants needs to be obtained from those applying for authorisation
    b. costs for all other functions of the MLCS that can be related to all marriage celebrants need to be recovered from all celebrants, not just Commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants.
Cost Recovery:

Cost recovery needs to ensure the most effective and efficient use of the overall system of delivery of marriage services to the whole Australian community, by utilising the various stakeholders according to their primary role, their expertise and practical experience in delivering marriage services.

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS
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