Legal Requirments

Things you need to know about "the BIG day" in your life

Legal Requirements

Why choose to be legally handfasted?


It astounds me the misconceptions that abound about what constitutes a 'legal' Pagan wedding. Paganism is a term that applies to all earth centered religions and belief systems that are NOT part of the big 5 ( i.e. 1.Hindu 2.Buddhist, 3.Christian 4.Islamic or 5.Judaism. This covers a vast number of people and indigenous races when all lumped together and is arguably the largest belief system group in the world) The easiest way to set the matter straight is  to explain what the advantages and disadvantages of having a legal Pagan handfasting are under Australian law and to answer a few of the common questions that are often asked as regards legalizing Pagan / Indigenous / Wiccan handfastings:


How critical is it?

Don't de factos in Australia receive equal benefits as legally married couples?

What about "Common Law" marriages?

 If common-law and de factos are recognized, then is the "legality" of the service is much less relevant?


A legal wedding is a protection. How relevant it is, is entirely up to you. However, you should make an informed decision on such a weighty matter. It is a personal decision and the implications should be seriously considered as it can have far reaching legal ramifications that will affect the rest of your life.



A legal marriage does bind you with greater legal obligations to each other, however, it is a greater protection for both parties. For instance: - Property titles, bank accounts, insurance contracts and 'Last Will and Testaments' are often still drawn up with the clause "the espoused" in them. This term in court refers 'only' to those legally wedded under Australian law. Unfortunately, if a partner dies and if other relatives contest the will, a non-legal marriage could make the surviving partner miss out on everything intended for them. Greedy relatives love to make an issue of a person holding Pagan beliefs and it is astounding that the courts tolerate it.  Judges would never tolerate anybody making a legal  issue of another's Jewish beliefs, so why do this with Pagans? Don't Pagans have the same rights? They do, but they must be legally savvy about them. The media gives us the impression that our rights are automatic and unquestioned, yet this is not the case. Our "Rights" and practical application of those rights in a court room are two different matters. Also the reality is that relationships start nicely but they don't always end that way. So you can see, that if a couple decided to separate and it is not amicable, and one of them wants to create trouble, the de facto party can find that legally, in many circumstances, they don't have a leg to stand on. This is also why you cannot get a civil celebrant to conduct a handfasting, as a disgruntle partner can claim that the couple was never validly married under Australian law, as a civil celebrant cannot, under law, perform a religious ceremony, thus being able to claim the marriage was fraudulent or the ceremony misleading.


It's points of law, but these are important points of law. You must consider all of these when making decisions about your marriage.


A slight digression. Following this legal line, as regards marriage, you can see that the legal situation as regards SAME SEX MARRIAGES is a matter that must be resolved. As it stands, same sex couples cannot be made legal and have no automatic de facato rights. This makes them very vulnerable. Essentially the law is saying that same sex couples  have no legal rights. Shambhallah Awareness Centre has been lobbying to - LEGALIZE THE MARITAL RITES OF SAME SEX COUPLES - (and de factos,) since 1990. In recent years our lobbing has resulted in a civil partnership registry in each state and territory of Australia, which does give them greater protection under law. WE are very proud of our part in making this a reality. However, registering their relationship as a civil partnership gives their relationship a business status, not the status of a loving relationship. YOU CANNOT LEGISLATE HOW A PERSON LOVES. Our Australian government needs to remember that it is in place to protect the rights of individuals and punish criminals not the other way around!



Some couple chose to have a commitment ceremony or a traditional, non-legal, religious handfasting, without legally registering it. A traditional handfasting that is not legalized is still only legally recognized as a de facto relationship under Australian law with the limited de facto rights for the couple. Being that: the parties do have rights under common-law legislation that commence 6 months from the commencement of cohabitation and increases on a pro-rata sliding scale as to the amount of time spent in the relationship . However, due to the points mentioned above and more, this can be contested. "Common-law" as applied to marriages comes from a body of pre-existing laws, that recognize many forms of marriage, that included handfastings. However much of the current legislation is written to override this pre-existing body of laws If tested you will find that the courts uphold current legislation in preference to common-law. It is also to your advantage to be aware that prenuptial and co-habitation agreements have been given greater weight under Australian law as of February 2002. Prenuptial and co-habitation agreements can be applied to all styles of Australian marriage as a demonstration of intent.


Who can legally marry you as a Pagan?

As a Pagan you obviously want someone to perform your handfasting who is spiritually capable. This could be your High Priest/ess, a relative a friend or your teacher. Whoever you feel comfortable with. Always trust your instincts. Don't be swayed by what others say. This is your special day and the final decision is yours. If you want your handfasting to be a legally binding one, a registered "Marriage Celebrant" must solemnize the signing of the documents. Which means, if you want to make it legal you have 2 choices:-


1) Search out a registered Religious Pagan celebrant to officiate and solemnize legally.

2) Have whoever you like to officiate and have a civil celebrant legally solemnize. In other words, a civil servant cannot officiate on any religious grounds...but you can have a minister of religion i.e. Pagan, attending to that and the civil servant just handling the paper work. The minister of the Pagan Church should legally give the civil celebrant a letter authorising them to work with that religious organisation in this incidence.


Also your handfasting will not be legal if you get a Christian minister to preside over a Pagan ceremony. I have heard of this happening on many, many occasions. Scary, but true! Sure they can perform the ritual you may have written for them but the Australian government will not recognize the marriages. That means, I, as a registered "Pagan" celebrant, cannot perform Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Calathumpian or weddings of any other faith. You have to declare which rites you are married under on the documents. If you are unsure please check with the "Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages" in the state of Australia in which you wish to be wedded. Shé D'Montford's license says "Pagan Church of Shambhallah" and that’s all that I can perform. A marriage celebrant when applying as a "religious" celebrant must state which denomination he/she is laboring for. As a religious celebrant, one has to submit a copy of the ceremony / rites under which you will be marring couples. The rite / ceremony is submitted when you apply for your registration. If you perform a ritual that deviates vastly, (i.e. the Spiritualist Church rites though very spiritual, are basically Christian rites and not Pagan,) the marriage is not legal under the provisions of the Australian Marriage act 1961. Some times people who have been registered as religious celebrants of other faiths become Pagan, however, they are still only licensed to perform weddings according to the rites they have registered. This is stressed to us when we get our religious celebrant's license. Any celebrant of another religion that says they can legally handfast you with Pagan rites is misleading you and themselves.


Why worry about all of this?

To have Pagan rites performed by a religious celebrant of any other religion will leave you exposed to the dangers mentioned in the previous section. It is another point of law, but important also, as some of those marriages mentioned previously may not be legal. There will be hell to pay if the couple go to divorce, or one party dies. Their legal rights may not be able to be upheld. The last thing the Pagan community needs is a scandal news story about "Illegal Pagan Weddings'. And besides if you really want to be legally handfasted, you might as well be getting what you want.


What if you are of the number who have been legally married but incorrectly?

Where do you stand? What can you do? Illegal marriages can be corrected by performing another legal ceremony. But their status may only be common law before this. If any one thinks they have a problem with this, you may contact Rev. Dr. Shé D'Montford privately,


So can I legally have our ceremony altered so that it incorporates our God/desses and means something to us personally?

A ceremony may be tailored but it must stay close to the originally registered rite / ceremony and legal clauses must be maintained. You must ask your celebrant about her / his registered ceremonies if you are about to be legally handfasted.



BOOKINGS : - Use the button too arrange a ceremony with

Rev. Dr. Shé D'Montford

as your celebrant

Tel: +61 (0)402 793 604

BOOKINGS : - Use the button too arrange a ceremony with

Rev. Dr. Shé D'Montford

as your celebrant

Tel: +61 (0)402 793 604

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