The curious reasons why Marriage Documents are signed with black ink

by Jennifer Cram Brisbane Marriage Celebrant  © (04/08/2019)
Categories:  |Wedding Ceremony | Wedding Legals
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Fountain pen with bottle of black inkHave you ever wondered why your marriage certificate must be signed in black ink? Or, indeed, why the Notice of Intended Marriage should be filled in using black ink (if you're filling it in by hand)?

Black ink is a requirement that has carried through to Australia from the legal environment in England, where, even today, marriage registers must be signed in registrars ink, using a fountain pen (or quill or dip pen!).

Registrars ink is blue-black iron-gall ink. It is used by registrars and clergy for signing official documents because the ink does not fade over time. Blue-black, means black (not blue). Black ink can be blue-black,  purple-black, or brown-black.

In Australia, ball-point pens are acceptable to sign marriage documents. I always provide an elegant pen for this purpose, although you are welcome to use your own pen.

But there is also another reason for the requirement to use black ink, almost lost in history (except in office stationery cupboards where blue ball-point pens tend to far outnumber stocks of black, green, or red pens)

In many fields, the color of the ink was actually correlated to the seniority or authoritative nature of what was being written. Blue was the standard 'worker bee' colour, black was for managers, and green was for senior managers and auditors. That way you could immediately tell how much authority a memo had or the level of authority of any signature.

So signing in black not only fulfills legal requirements, and gives a nod to historical practices, it emphasises how important and authoritative your signatures are on your marriage certificate!

Thanks for reading!

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