50 Years of Marriage Celebrancy in Australia

One of Australia’s most noted celebrants, Dally Messenger III, writes,

“On July 19, 2023, Australia celebrated the 50th anniversary of civil celebrancy.

In her captivating book on Lionel Murphy’s life, Dr. Jennifer Hocking recounts how Murphy, almost single-handedly, persisted for several years to achieve the groundbreaking reform of no-fault divorce. It was an arduous and contentious struggle.

As a corollary to no-fault divorce Murphy was also very conscious of the indignity of secular marriage ceremonies. Persons who did not believe in religion, and divorced persons who had been rejected by the churches, only had one option -the notorious “registry office”.

Allow me to describe the scene. The space was only open from Monday to Friday, between 10 am and 4 pm. Within the room, the atmosphere was stark, austere, and disheartening. Couples who were ready to wed, along with their witnesses (only 2 allowed), were seated in an orderly manner on a long bench, waiting for their turn. A solemn official, with an expressionless face, called them up one by one from behind a desk. A dry and concise legal marriage ceremony followed. Once the ceremony was concluded, they would be dismissed, making way for the next set of couples.”

To read the rest of Dally’s interesting article on celebrancy in Australia you can click here or see below.

In 1991, I was at a registry office in Sydney when the registrar declared the couple married. The groom’s father raised his glass and made a toast, ‘Mate, you’ve got a ball and chain for the rest of your life!’ I didn’t hesitate, I raised my glass and proposed a toast. ‘Congratulations. May you be blessed with lots of love, laughter and happiness!’  As we were leaving, the registrar said, ‘Young lady, you should become a celebrant.’

I rang the department and filled out the necessary forms and application. A few years later in March 1995 I received my appointment in the post.  I have loved being a celebrant and grateful to Lionel Murphy and all those who have influenced, supported, and made possible my journey in Celebrancy!

Dally Messenger III wrote a detailed history of the Celebrant Movement. Click here for more details about: Murphy’ Law and the Pursuit of Happiness: a History of the Celebrant Movement

Dally closed the above-mentioned article stating,

“The 50th anniversary of civil celebrancy in Australia symbolises a remarkable journey of social transformation, inclusivity, and dignity. It illustrates how one individual’s vision can wield great influence on the very fabric of society.”

50 years of Civil Celebrants in Australia


And lastly, The Attorney-General, Hon Mark Dreyfus KC, recorded a video for all celebrants in celebration of the anniversary.

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10 months ago

Wow Wendy! I absolutely relished reading the modestly tucked away part about how you so beautifully and aptly responded to that Father-In-Law! I’m raising a glass to you and your civility, tact and diplomacy right now!