Congratulations, you’re getting Married! Before you get tied up in choosing your perfect gown and pinning style and floral inspiration, don’t forget you need someone to make it legal.
So, when deciding on a celebrant, here are the most important questions to ask before you lock him/her in for the Big Day. Also bear in mind that you’ll probably need to gather your passport, birth certificate or driver’s license to take along to your meeting.
1. What are Your Fees?
Fees can vary widely depending on your venue, the celebrant’s experience and the location and timing of your Wedding. Long gone are the days when celebrants were happy to accept a small donation and a smile, so be sure to hash out the financial details from the outset. Also, don’t forget to ask when full payment is required, what those fees actually cover (for example, performance of the ceremony, rehearsals, lodgment of all paperwork etc.) and what additional costs are involved (like late fees if the Bride and Groom aren’t on time on the Wedding Day – eeek!)
2. What are Your Qualifications/Experience?
Legally, all Australian Marriage celebrants must be registered with the Attorney Generals’ Department and require the appropriate training for their role. And despite public belief, Australian celebrants cannot simply register online, so it’s best to clarify these things beforehand. Also allow your celebrant the opportunity to talk about past Weddings they’ve officiated to give you an indication of how they craft their ceremonies or handle sudden mishaps.
3. How is the Ceremony Structured?
Some celebrants give the couple full reins and let them write their own ceremony. Some might also provide a simple questionnaire for the couple to answer and use that as a basis to write the ceremony, whilst others might provide a selection of formats and structures for the couple to choose from. A common question about ceremony structure often involves how the ceremony can be personalised; a valid query, as this will probably be the most meaningful part of your whole wedding day. Your celebrant may like to keep it very formal, or maybe even tell the couple’s story before officiating. Some even like to have multiple meetings with you before the ceremony so that they can really get to know you and add more colour to your ceremony with anecdotes. Decide what you’re both comfortable with and go from there.
Image from Angelique and Joseph’s Wedding. Photography by Thomas Gallane.
4. What is Your Cancellation Policy?
Heaven forbid, but it’s good to know what your options are if you have to cancel your ceremony at short notice. What is the latest date you can cancel? Is postponement an option? Is the deposit/full payment refundable?
5. What will Actually Happen on the Wedding Day?
What time will your celebrant arrive on the day? And how many other ceremonies has your celebrant booked that day? A true professional will make sure they leave ample time to get from one ceremony to another in a timely manner.
Also, if your celebrant provides a draft of the ceremony in advance or a rehearsal takes place beforehand, it’ll be pretty obvious how the whole thing will play out. If not, it’s important to understand how involved your officiant plans on being. Some like to guide everybody throughout their ceremonial duties on the day, others may rely on the Bridal party to remember from the rehearsal. By the same token, some celebrants are totally uninvolved with the Bride and will wait patiently alongside the Groom, whilst others prefer to greet her at the car on arrival and reassure or guide her along. Again, this varies widely so be open with your celebrant and he/she should be fairly transparent about what to expect.
Also, be clear about the dress code for the Wedding day and ensure that the celebrant’s attire aligns with that.
6. What Happens with the Paperwork?
It’s the celebrant’s responsibility to lodge certain paperwork, before and after the ceremony. An intention to Marry form must be submitted within a certain timeframe prior to the Wedding. Post-ceremony, they also need to lodge the Marriage certificate. Ensure that they’re able to legally lodge your Marriage well before the Wedding date.
7. What Happens if the Celebrant Falls Ill?
In the unlikely event that your celebrant falls ill, it’s worth knowing whether they have a fill-in on standby who is legally qualified to perform the ceremony.
Main image from Jessica and Matthew’s Wedding. Photography by The White Tree.