A surprise wedding can be one of two things.
One… One were a wedding is consented by both people in the relationship, and they both wish to marry. The surprise part is for the ‘guests, family and friends’. This type of wedding is valid as the couple want to marry each other and not forced into a situation…
Valid marriage! Celebrant and AG happy
Two… Surprise weddings involve one of the parties to the marriage being ‘surprised’, either at or shortly before the ceremony. The most popular scenario involves one member of a couple wishing to ‘surprise’ the other party by organising the marriage without their knowledge and then presenting them with the complete ceremony as a romantic gesture.
It is a lovely gesture but, what if you didn’t want to get married and felt forced into it….
Not valid marriage! Celebrant and AG very unhappy!!
WOULD SUCH A MARRIAGE BE VALID?
Authorised celebrants must not participate in such ceremonies. This is because there is no guarantee that the marriage will be valid. Surprise weddings raise an important and unavoidable issue in relation to legal validity of the marriage. It is best described as there being undue pressure on the ‘surprised’ person to agree to the arrangement. Even if there is evidence that the person would previously have agreed to a marriage proposal, their consent must not be assumed. No person can be put under pressure to enter into a marriage and the pressures imposed by a ‘surprise’ wedding could place in doubt the validity of the marriage under section 23B of the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth), that is, that the person’s consent to the marriage was not a real consent because it was obtained by duress or fraud. For further information on the issue of consent please see Part 8.6 of these Guidelines.