Sometimes couples have a low cost wedding due to financial constraints at the time, then have a more lavish wedding some years later when finances are better. It is has also become popular to have a discrete overseas wedding then when returning home to Australia, have a second wedding so family and friends can take part. If this is something you have considered, approach with caution.
If your first marriage was formalised and registered with the appropriate Births Deaths and Marriages Registry, the “second” marriage to the same partner should not also be registered.
The Marriage Act 1961 enables couples who have previously had a wedding ceremony to later hold another wedding ceremony to renew their vows.
Recently in the decision of Anouihl & Temke  FamCA 325 (18 May 2017) a couple discovered when filing for a Divorce, that their first civil ceremony was registered as was their subsequent religious ceremony a year later. As such, the couple was effectively married twice, when by law parties can only be married once at any give time. This resulted in the couple technically being in breach of the Marriage Act 1961.
The couple then had to apply to the Family Court of Australia for a declaration that their second marriage was invalid, so that they could proceed with their Divorce Application.
If you are preparing to renew your vows, here are some tips to avoid being in breach of the Marriage Act 1961 or further legal expense, should the marriage subsequently end:
1. Provide a copy of your first marriage certificate to the person performing the second wedding;
2. Tell the person performing the second wedding ceremony in writing the following:
- That you and your spouse are already married;
- Confirm that you and your spouse are the persons named in the marriage certificate; and
- Confirm that you believe you are already legally married, regardless of whether the marriage was conducted in Australia or overseas.
3. Tell the person performing the second wedding ceremony not to lodge any documents with the Births Deaths and Marriages about the second wedding.