I often joke that the problem with the marriage contract is that it doesn’t come with a cooling off period.

What we all forget in the romance of the moment, is that marriage did not emerge as a religious festival, it was embedded in contract law.

Whilst watching my son’s wedding last week, I suddenly realised how some of the ceremony (which we think is tradition) has considerable legal significance.

A contract is like a horse. Without out one of the legs, the horse cannot run. Therefore, to have a valid contract, the following four legs must exist. Must be

  1. Offer;
  2. Acceptance;
  3. Consideration;
  4. Intention to become legally bound.

“Do you take this woman to be your wife”! A statement we hear at all weddings. It is an offer which the man replies “I do” the acceptance. Both partners, are made the same offer and it must be accepted. Thereby, we have the two front legs.

A contract needs valuable consideration. In other words, value must pass between the parties. If you wanted to understand the rings, well here you are! Each partner gives the other a ring as a token of their love, and consideration under the contract.

After the ceremony the couple sit down and sign the marriage register which is the last leg,  “intention to become legally bound”. 

“By the powers vested in me, I now declare you husband and wife”. Only after offer, acceptance, consideration and intention to become legally bound, does the celebrant have the power to declare the marriage.

We take these steps for granted. However, at law, they are necessary.

Trust a lawyer to take the romance out of everything!!