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What does marriage mean to you? The Celebrant

By Kim Huynh - 10 October 2017 11

With the same sex marriage postal survey results imminent, Kim Huynh asks some notable Canberrans for their insights and experiences on marriage. This week, he speaks to celebrant Judy Aulich.

Q. How long have you been a celebrant for and how many weddings have you overseen?

A. Eleven years and well over a thousand. I marry a lot of people, over a hundred each year. It’s seasonal, the warmer months being busiest because people often like to get married outside. And I do a lot of ‘quickies’, which are for people who don’t want a major ceremony. It’s like getting married in a registry, a facility that we don’t have in Canberra.

Q. What’s your record number of weddings in a day?

A. Seven. I guaranteed to marry same sex couples in Canberra on the first day that it became legal in 2013. So I had back-to-back weddings from 7:30 in the morning until 7:00 at night, but it was a very exciting day. [Interviewer’s Note: The ACT same sex marriage law was successfully challenged by the federal government in the High Court. This voided the unions of the 31 couples who married under that legislation]

Q. Do you ever reject couples?

A. Only twice. One couple who said something really unpleasant about their little child during our initial meeting. And another time because I was really offended by the groom’s vows. His thought that they were funny, and of course I don’t mind funny vows, but I had to tell him that I just don’t agree with men using humour as an excuse to demean women.

Q. Is it important to you for couples to be in love before you marry them?

A. No, not at all. That sounds really strange, I know. And most couples who I marry are in love, I think. But marrying because you’re in love is an historically recent Western construct. Legally, the only requirements are that you must be at least 18, you can’t be too closely related (although you can marry your cousin), you must not be married to someone else, and you must give full consent.

Q. Are there any ceremonies that you’ve overseen that are especially memorable?

A. I’ve married a couple where the young man had only a short time to live. I had to be very strong for that one because my job was to make sure that they had a joyous wedding. When I got back to the car I had a good cry.

Q. Do you ever cry at the ceremony or is that a big no-no?

A. Never. You’ve got to keep it together. But I always tell couples, ‘Don’t hold back!’. Everybody loves a good cry at a wedding. And some of my best criers have been blokes.

Q. According to the latest ABS statistics, 36 percent of Australian marriages end in divorce. Divorce rates have fallen a little, but do you ever bemoan the fact that lots of couples who you marry don’t stay that way until death do they part?

A. It’s a bit sad, but I think people still have high expectations and that when they get married, they earnestly think that they are going to last.

Q. One of the key roles of a celebrant is to recite the monitum. What’s that?

A. It’s the part that must be said before the couple exchange their vows. The monitum goes, ‘…marriage according to the laws of Australia is the union of a man to a woman… to the exclusion of all others….’ [Interviewer’s Note: It’s quite long and Judy says she can recite it in her sleep. Also, ‘monitum’ means ‘warning’ in Latin]

Q. What happens when couples object to the fact that, according to the law, a man can only marry a woman and visa versa?

A. It’s not uncommon for me to be asked, ‘Must that be said?’ My answer is ‘yes’. But sometimes people request that I add that they are conscious that some other loving and devoted couples are not able to marry, and that the bride and groom believe that marriage should be available to all regardless of sexuality. Quite often that’s met with applause, which suggests to me that Canberra really is the capital of same sex marriage.

Q. You’re a leading figure in the association of Australian Marriage Celebrants and train celebrants, do they have a position on same sex marriage?

A. They don’t. The Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants do. They have come out strongly in favour of marriage equality. There are a broad range of views among celebrants on this, but I think it’s fair to say that celebrants are a reasonably conservative group of people.

Q. What does marriage mean to you?

A. Personally, it’s about finding someone who I want to be with for my entire life. I think for me it’s about having a family. We have three children and four grandchildren. My marriage is about sharing those people and experiences with my husband. At the end of the day it’s about companionship and knowing that there will always be someone who is there for me just as I will always be there for him.one

Kim Huynh is a RiotACT columnist, ANU lecturer and radio presenter. This interview was originally aired on ABC Radio Canberra Drive.

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11 Responses to
What does marriage mean to you? The Celebrant
dungfungus 9:32 am 13 Oct 17

No_Nose said :

dungfungus said :

There is a clear distinction still as the term “domestic violence” means “one partner on the other” but “family violence” means “one parent on the other parent and their children”.

That is the narrative used by our current ACT government as referred to in another thread which has the words “Family Violence” in the title.

Sorry, you are wrong there. It always pays to go direct to the source if you want to start quoting legal terms.

Not that it is relevant to your original argument about the Family Court as that is a Federal Court relying on Commonwealth Legislation, and the Family Violence Act 2016 (ACT) is Territory legislation but just for clarity:
Family Violence Act 2016 (ACT)
Section 9
In this Act:
family member, of a person, means—
(a) a domestic partner or former domestic partner of the person; or
(b) an intimate partner or former intimate partner of the person; or
(c) a relative of the person; or
(d) a child of a domestic partner or former domestic partner of the person; or
(e) a parent of a child of the person.

It then has an explanatory note to see Section 11 for the definition of ‘relative’

11(1) Meaning of relative In section 9:
relative, of a person—
means the person’s—
(i) father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, stepfather, stepmother, father-in-law or mother-in-law; or
(ii) son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, stepson, stepdaughter, son-in-law or daughter-in-law; or
(iii) brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother, stepsister, brother-in-law or sister-in-law; or
(iv) uncle, aunt, uncle-in-law or aunt-in-law; or
(v) nephew, niece or cousin; and

(It then goes on for several subsections listing many other different scenarios that fit within the definition of ‘relative’)

And just to clarify…the act mentions ‘persons’ only, not their sex and is definitely intended to include same sex relationships.

Violence by ANY relative (specified under the Act) against another relative, or by ANY (regardless of sex) intimate or domestic partner against another partner is Family Violence under ACT legislation.

Oh, what a can of worms it is. And to think all this has been started by advocates for change “demanded” by about 2% of our population.

No_Nose 5:50 pm 12 Oct 17

dungfungus said :

There is a clear distinction still as the term “domestic violence” means “one partner on the other” but “family violence” means “one parent on the other parent and their children”.

That is the narrative used by our current ACT government as referred to in another thread which has the words “Family Violence” in the title.

Sorry, you are wrong there. It always pays to go direct to the source if you want to start quoting legal terms.

Not that it is relevant to your original argument about the Family Court as that is a Federal Court relying on Commonwealth Legislation, and the Family Violence Act 2016 (ACT) is Territory legislation but just for clarity:
Family Violence Act 2016 (ACT)
Section 9
In this Act:
family member, of a person, means—
(a) a domestic partner or former domestic partner of the person; or
(b) an intimate partner or former intimate partner of the person; or
(c) a relative of the person; or
(d) a child of a domestic partner or former domestic partner of the person; or
(e) a parent of a child of the person.

It then has an explanatory note to see Section 11 for the definition of ‘relative’

11(1) Meaning of relative In section 9:
relative, of a person—
means the person’s—
(i) father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, stepfather, stepmother, father-in-law or mother-in-law; or
(ii) son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, stepson, stepdaughter, son-in-law or daughter-in-law; or
(iii) brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother, stepsister, brother-in-law or sister-in-law; or
(iv) uncle, aunt, uncle-in-law or aunt-in-law; or
(v) nephew, niece or cousin; and

(It then goes on for several subsections listing many other different scenarios that fit within the definition of ‘relative’)

And just to clarify…the act mentions ‘persons’ only, not their sex and is definitely intended to include same sex relationships.

Violence by ANY relative (specified under the Act) against another relative, or by ANY (regardless of sex) intimate or domestic partner against another partner is Family Violence under ACT legislation.

dungfungus 12:12 pm 12 Oct 17

No_Nose said :

dungfungus said :

My dictionary wasn’t the Oxford one and I am sure there will be plenty of variations in other dictionaries. The description of the one you quote seems to be restricted to “groups of people” which isn’t what we are looking at, at least now. You cannot deny that the current situation is about a two people only.
If you are comfortable with what you search for that’s OK by me but I fear it will not be with the High Court of Australia when it has to deal with it.

You are right of course, the High Court (if they were ever called to make a ruling) would not rely upon a dictionary definition unless there was no legal definition already in Commonwealth Law.

The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) gives the following definition:

a person (the first person) is a member of the family of another person (the second person) if:
the first person is or has been married to, or in a de facto relationship with, the second person.

(It does go on to also specifically mention Aunts, Uncles, cousins etc as well as being members of a family)

There is no mention of the sex of the persons involved making any difference.

At the time the current Family Law doctrine was enacted, the traditional meaning of “family” meant a husband, a wife and their children all living under the same roof. There is a clear distinction still as the term “domestic violence” means “one partner on the other” but “family violence” means “one parent on the other parent and their children”.

That is the narrative used by our current ACT government as referred to in another thread which has the words “Family Violence” in the title.

No_Nose 7:32 am 12 Oct 17

dungfungus said :

My dictionary wasn’t the Oxford one and I am sure there will be plenty of variations in other dictionaries. The description of the one you quote seems to be restricted to “groups of people” which isn’t what we are looking at, at least now. You cannot deny that the current situation is about a two people only.
If you are comfortable with what you search for that’s OK by me but I fear it will not be with the High Court of Australia when it has to deal with it.

You are right of course, the High Court (if they were ever called to make a ruling) would not rely upon a dictionary definition unless there was no legal definition already in Commonwealth Law.

The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) gives the following definition:

a person (the first person) is a member of the family of another person (the second person) if:
the first person is or has been married to, or in a de facto relationship with, the second person.

(It does go on to also specifically mention Aunts, Uncles, cousins etc as well as being members of a family)

There is no mention of the sex of the persons involved making any difference.

dungfungus 9:39 pm 11 Oct 17

No_Nose said :

dungfungus said :

No_Nose said :

dungfungus said :

The meaning of the the word “family” will have to be re-defined or the name of the court will have to be re-named “Divorce Court” but yes, it will be gender neutral for most.

Why? Whats wrong with the current definition of “Family’ that wouldn’t fit a same-sex marriage?

The definition for “a parent” I have from my dictionary is “a living thing which produces other similar living things; a mother or a father”

The definition for “family” from the same dictionary is “any parents and their children”.

As I said, some meanings have to re-defined.

Wow, that is a very restrictive definition.

I suppose I had better tell my sisters, cousins, aunts an uncles that we should stop referring to ourselves as family. In fact as my wife and I have no children, we are also not a family. Disappointing but handy to know.

But you know, the more I think about that does seem very restrictive. I wonder if that is the only definition of ‘Family’ in the Oxford Dictionary? Could it really be that prescribed? Maybe I should check.

Yep., you are correct, the Oxford Dictionary does have that definition. But wait..What’s this? It appears that there are several definitions of Family in the Oxford Dictionary including this one: “ A group of people related by blood or marriage.”

Well, that certainly seems to fit couple of the same sex who are married. (and also fits with a childless couple such as my wife and I)

Grammatical crisis averted. Nothing to see here.

My dictionary wasn’t the Oxford one and I am sure there will be plenty of variations in other dictionaries. The description of the one you quote seems to be restricted to “groups of people” which isn’t what we are looking at, at least now. You cannot deny that the current situation is about a two people only.
If you are comfortable with what you search for that’s OK by me but I fear it will not be with the High Court of Australia when it has to deal with it.

No_Nose 7:25 pm 11 Oct 17

dungfungus said :

No_Nose said :

dungfungus said :

The meaning of the the word “family” will have to be re-defined or the name of the court will have to be re-named “Divorce Court” but yes, it will be gender neutral for most.

Why? Whats wrong with the current definition of “Family’ that wouldn’t fit a same-sex marriage?

The definition for “a parent” I have from my dictionary is “a living thing which produces other similar living things; a mother or a father”

The definition for “family” from the same dictionary is “any parents and their children”.

As I said, some meanings have to re-defined.

Wow, that is a very restrictive definition.

I suppose I had better tell my sisters, cousins, aunts an uncles that we should stop referring to ourselves as family. In fact as my wife and I have no children, we are also not a family. Disappointing but handy to know.

But you know, the more I think about that does seem very restrictive. I wonder if that is the only definition of ‘Family’ in the Oxford Dictionary? Could it really be that prescribed? Maybe I should check.

Yep., you are correct, the Oxford Dictionary does have that definition. But wait..What’s this? It appears that there are several definitions of Family in the Oxford Dictionary including this one: “ A group of people related by blood or marriage.”

Well, that certainly seems to fit couple of the same sex who are married. (and also fits with a childless couple such as my wife and I)

Grammatical crisis averted. Nothing to see here.

dungfungus 7:55 am 11 Oct 17

No_Nose said :

dungfungus said :

Blen_Carmichael said :

I not only support SSM for the couples concerned, I envy them! Imagine the privilege of going to the Family Court knowing that you won’t be discriminated against because of your gender.

The meaning of the the word “family” will have to be re-defined or the name of the court will have to be re-named “Divorce Court” but yes, it will be gender neutral for most.

Why? Whats wrong with the current definition of “Family’ that wouldn’t fit a same-sex marriage?

The definition for “a parent” I have from my dictionary is “a living thing which produces other similar living things; a mother or a father”

The definition for “family” from the same dictionary is “any parents and their children”.

As I said, some meanings have to re-defined.

No_Nose 7:24 pm 10 Oct 17

dungfungus said :

Blen_Carmichael said :

I not only support SSM for the couples concerned, I envy them! Imagine the privilege of going to the Family Court knowing that you won’t be discriminated against because of your gender.

The meaning of the the word “family” will have to be re-defined or the name of the court will have to be re-named “Divorce Court” but yes, it will be gender neutral for most.

Why? Whats wrong with the current definition of “Family’ that wouldn’t fit a same-sex marriage?

Maya123 4:22 pm 10 Oct 17

Unnecessary. It’s the commitment, not the piece of paper that is important. Having that bit of paper does not make a commitment more real.
It is also used as an excuse for one-upmanship; having the biggest, most showy wedding you can, so everyone will remember it. (When the thousands of dollars would be better paying off the house, investing, etc.) Attended one of those recently, and I was gobstruck how much it must have cost. As a guest, I would have enjoyed it more, if it wasn’t so excessive.

(As for same sex marriage, I did vote yes, even though I think it would be better to consider doing away with marriage altogether.)

dungfungus 3:02 pm 10 Oct 17

Blen_Carmichael said :

I not only support SSM for the couples concerned, I envy them! Imagine the privilege of going to the Family Court knowing that you won’t be discriminated against because of your gender.

The meaning of the the word “family” will have to be re-defined or the name of the court will have to be re-named “Divorce Court” but yes, it will be gender neutral for most.

Blen_Carmichael 11:54 am 10 Oct 17

I not only support SSM for the couples concerned, I envy them! Imagine the privilege of going to the Family Court knowing that you won’t be discriminated against because of your gender.

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