Preparing for a marriage

A Reminder of What Marriage is…

Marriage is often seen as being the final logical step for a couple who have been together for some time, or for a couple who have fallen madly in love with each other and have been swept off their feet. However marriage is much more than the “official” cementing of a relationship. It is the consummation of a process of getting to know one another and growing in love, friendship and mutual support. Whereby you commit yourself absolutely to each other through good and bad, to the exclusion of any other partners. The vital nature of marriage is stated in Australian Law, in the Family Act:

“Marriage is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life” and “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society”

A Biblical View of Marriage…

However it is in God’s Law that we discover much more about the real nature of marriage. For it was God Himself who ordained marriage. When He created the world He saw that it was not good for man to be alone, so He created woman as his companion and helpmate (Genesis 2 : 18-24). It is God’s intention that we come together in a committed relationship of marriage, that we might find love, support, comfort and happiness in sharing our lives together. It is a time when we leave our parents and form our own individual family unit (Matthew 19: 5-6).

Marriage is also God’s intended setting for raising children. In our society there are more and more children being raised in families where the parents are not married or in single parent families. By no means does the Bible infer that they are bad parents or that these families are somehow inferior.

However marriage is the act of two people committing themselves to each other through good and bad times, and providing a stable, secure environment for any children that are brought into that relationship. It is perhaps easy to make such a verbal commitment but it is only through a shared love, respect, and faithfulness towards each other that it is possible to persevere through difficult circumstances.

Yet a truly Christian marriage is not just about two people in a relationship. In the marriage ceremony vows are taken not only to each other but also to God. So God is also acknowledged as being a party in the relationship. Therefore it is vital that you are serious about your commitment to each other but also in your relationship with God. The Bible makes it quite clear that one day we shall have to stand before God and give an account for our lives and the promises that we have made (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12; Hebrews 4:13).

General Points of Advice

1) Make sure you can legally get married!!!

Marriage is a legal social contract, and as such it is governed by law. If either the bride or groom is aged between 16 and 18 years, special consent is required.  If in doubt as to whether you are eligible to get married please consult the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Contact details can be found on the last page), or alternatively consult a marriage celebrant. They should be able to advise you of any restrictions placed on marriage by Australian Law.

 2) Decide what kind of wedding you would like…

It is vitally important from the very outset to be open and honest with each other about what form you wish your wedding to take. It is too easy in all the excitement to get carried away and make plans that you will later regret. It is also natural for family members to be excited at the prospect and to make suggestions or even demands. However remember that it is your wedding and that the form of the wedding should be what you want, so that when you look back on it you do not wonder if it was your “in-laws” wedding!

  • A grand occasion, or an intimate family event?
  • A religious wedding or a civil marriage?
  • In a church, a park, a garden,  or a registrar’s office?

If you would like a religious wedding think about what kind of ceremony you would like. Consider what your beliefs are, and approach a representative of that faith. Having made your choice try not to mix and match faiths that are radically different during the ceremony. It’s not appreciated. Imagine the response you would get asking an atheist from the humanist society to conduct your wedding and to include the Lord’s Prayer,  or asking a minister not to mention God or read from the Bible! They would understandably ask you whether you wanted to go somewhere else.

Most churches do not require people to become members in order to be married (that’s just an urban myth). People should take part in churches to explore faith, and experience community not just to have the traditional, fairy-tale wedding.

If you are interested in a Christian wedding ceremony, South Toowoomba Presbyterian Church (that’s us!) would be only too happy to speak with you further and provide any information we can.

 3) Decide what kind of wedding you can afford!!!

We all know the story of the fairy-tale wedding, with lovely flowing white bridal gowns and the horse and carriage. However these types of weddings can be exorbitantly expensive affairs, costing many, many thousands of dollars. If this is what  you desire and you can afford it, then that is wonderful. However not everybody can and it is a huge mistake to take on a whole load of debt in order to have the “perfect day”. To start married life with bills that you cannot afford to pay or that you struggle to pay, places huge strains on your relationship.

However this need not be the case. You can cut down the costs of a wedding quite dramatically without spoiling your “big day”. The following are a few ideas:

  • consider whether you really need to have a reception
  • instead of having a reception at a hotel or restaurant, arrange a meal or a buffet at the home or garden of a family member, or at a local hall
  • limit the numbers you invite to the reception
  • make your own dresses, cake, invitations, Orders of Services etc, or get a friend to
  • use your own, or a friend’s, transport to get to the service
  • get a friend to take photographs and/or video
    • instead of huge floral displays choose smaller, simpler arrangements which may be just as effective, or get someone to arrange the flowers for you.
    • have realistic expectations with regards to a honeymoon. There is no need to go “tropical”. You  can have just as romantic a honeymoon at home or somewhere close by. What matters is not the location but who you are with!

Weddings are real financial investments and it is possible to take out insurance to cover any unforeseen problems, such as illness etc.

 4) Make an appointment to see celebrant ASAP!!!

Naturally you are excited and want to agree on a date for your wedding. However you are not the only ones who will be getting married that day! So you must speak to the celebrant before you start making other firm arrangements such as bookings for reception, cars, photographers etc.

 5) Obtain a “Marriage Notice” form…

Get a “Marriage Notice” form M10 from the Registrar / minister / celebrant. This form MUST be filled in and returned to whoever is conducting your marriage AT LEAST ONE MONTH before the ceremony is to take place! Both of you will have to return it personally, so that it may be signed in front of the person marrying you, and you will have to produce your

  • Birth certificates
  • Death certificate (if widowed)
  • Decree Absolute NOT Decree Nisi, to prove divorce is final (if divorced)

All documentation has to be in English or be accompanied by an official translation of the documentation into English.

 6) Decide on your Best Man and Chief Bridesmaid..

During your wedding ceremony two witnesses, aged 18 years or over, must see you sign the Marriage Schedule, and sign it themselves to attest that you have consented to your marriage. Usually these witnesses are your best man and chief bridesmaid.

 7) Visit the Ceremony Location…

If you are having a church wedding, visit the church where you would like your wedding to take place. Preferably it should be a church where you have attended or are at least known. The best way is to just go along to some of the services. This way you can look at the inside; listen to the acoustics, and meet the minister and musician(s). Arrange a meeting with the minister or priest. You will want to:

  • to set a date for the big day and the rehearsal
  • to look at the form of vows you want to use
  • to decide the music and hymns you would like
  • to discuss any personal touches you would like, such as a solo, duet, or poetry
  • to make arrangements for the church to be decorated with flowers etc

While a church wedding is easier to personalise than a civil ceremony, remember that the church building is the spiritual home of a Christian Community. Be prepared to compromise a bit.

8) Consider a pre-Marriage Course…

At South Toowoomba, we believe that it is necessary for a couple wishing to be married in our Church, to be prepared for their wedding. This is so that they might understand fully what Christian marriage is and how to address possible difficulties before they arise and cause a real crisis. Therefore we insist that a couple meet with the minister to discuss these issues. The duration of the course will be tailored to the needs of each couple.

If you decide to get married elsewhere, then we would strongly recommend that you attend a course provided by someone who is qualified.

9) Wedding Rehearsal…

It is completely natural to feel a mixture of emotions as your wedding approaches : excited; nervous; overwhelmed; panic stricken!

At South Toowoomba we believe that it is important to have a rehearsal before the ceremony, so that you know where to stand, what to say, what to expect and how to walk down the aisle without tripping up!

10) The Big Day!!!

The Day of Reckoning has arrived and you are seriously considering fleeing the country! However:

  • Take a deep breath and focus
  • If you are nervous this is perfectly normal, so do not worry
  • Allow the minister/celebrant to guide you, they are experienced at this
  • If anything does go wrong or you get mixed up with what to say, do not panic as things can usually be sorted quite easily
  • Enjoy every moment because it will be over too soon

If you do not have a good understanding of English, then a translator must be present for the wedding. This service is not provided by the Church or the Registry. To contact the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS), phone 131 450 (toll free).