The notification, solemnisation and registration of marriages are governed by Part 6 of the Civil Registration Act 2004. Section 51(2) (c) of the Act provides that a registered solemniser “…shall not solemnise a marriage unless the solemnisation takes place in a place that is open to the public”.
Section 51(5) states that this, and certain other requirements, are declared to be substantive requirements for marriage. In other words, failure to comply with the terms of section 51(2)(c) renders the marriage void.
The requirement that the place for solemnisation of a marriage is open to the public is currently taken to mean that the place must be a building that is easily identifiable by its address, and that it is open to the public to enter at all reasonable times, but especially on the day on which an intended marriage is to be solemnised.
The intention is to prevent marriages from taking place in secret so as to avoid situations where marriages are solemnised to which there may be an impediment, to prevent forced marriages, and to provide an opportunity for members of the public to make objections to marriages.
I understand that a letter has recently issued from the Registrar General to all religious and secular bodies outlining the policy in operation in relation to marriage ceremonies currently.
The Department will keep the procedures regarding the solemnisation of marriages under review with a view to ensuring that they are in keeping with the updating of the Civil Registration Act 2004 through the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2013 which I hope to publish early next year.