No matter which language they say them in, the vows are the words brides and grooms most want to say on their wedding day. A gorgeous bride-to-be approached me recently to ask whether she and her partner would be able to say their wedding vows in an Eastern European language. Although their families originated in Eastern Europe, both the bride and groom were born in Australia and spoke excellent English as well as the European language used at home by their families. The witnesses, the chief bridesmaid and best man, were also bilingual. The question of vows in another language arose because two sets of grandparents would be attending the wedding and none of them spoke English.
I decided to check with the Attorney-General’s Department to see what is the official position on vows in a language other than English. Here is a summary of advice I received:
If the marriage celebrant is competent in the language, the entire ceremony can be conducted in that language if the couple want it to be, as long as the Monitum (sentences said by the celebrant defining marriage in Australia) and the minimum legal vows are translated accurately and the marrying couple and their witnesses understand what is being said.
If the celebrant does not speak the language, they can read the Monitum in English and have it repeated in the other language by a competent translator. The vows can be spoken in the other language, but then have to be translated into English by the translator for the celebrant. After the ceremony, the translator will need to sign a statutory declaration that the translation of the vows and Monitum is complete and accurate and the celebrant must submit this to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages along with the other wedding paperwork.
Now for the good news: If the celebrant does not speak the chosen language, there is no reason why the couple cannot say their vows twice, once in English for the celebrant’s benefit and again in the other language so that all the guests can understand the vows as well. Similarly, if the celebrant reads the Monitum in English, it can be repeated again in the other language.
Whether the ceremony is conducted in English, another language, or a combination of both, the celebrant will work very hard to ensure that the ceremony is both beautiful and as stress-free as possible so that everyone enjoys it and has a great time at the wedding.
Photo courtesy of Eve Wheeler, Photography2envy.