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Nine things your celebrant wishes you knew (it's nothing personal)

Whether you are getting married for the first, second or even fifth time, there are certain things your celebrant (hopefully that's me!), wishes that you knew. So, here are nine things that your celebrant wishes you knew.

1. Celebrants love weddings, we love love and we love working with people in love on the happiest day of their lives. I guess you could say we are just romantics who have found the ideal way to get a regular dose of love in our lives.

2. Without an authorised marriage celebrant, your big day is just a party. You CAN get married without the pretty dress, flowers, hair and make-up, vintage cars and professional photographers (I’m not suggesting that you should give up all of these lovely elements!). But you cannot get married without a celebrant. Just ask my Mum. She married the love of her life in the emergency department of the Dandenong Hospital without any of the above except me, her celebrant. They didn’t have the party but they did get married.

3. Most of us have other jobs, often full-time. We also have families and other interests (I love dancing, cycling and geocaching with my husband and spending time with our grandson). Sometimes that means we can’t answer your phone call or email immediately but we do our best to get back to you as quickly as possible, especially as it gets closer to your wedding day

4. We hate it when you ask for a price before anything else. Now, this isn’t intended to offend. We know that you are on a budget but was that the first question you asked your dressmaker, cake maker or photographer or did you ask to see examples of their work? Celebrants are trained, authorised professionals who put many unseen hours into your wedding day. For me, it’s typically 12 to 15 hours by the time we have had several meetings, completed the legalities, created, revised and completed your ceremony, conducted your rehearsal, responded to your texts, emails, phone calls and Facebook messages, actually married you, and then registered your marriage. (Quick, look back at point one, I love all of this stuff, but you may not have realised how much work we put into your special day). On top of that celebrants have business expenses – PA system, signing table and chairs, maintaining a home office and reliable car, annual registration with the Attorney General’s Department plus ongoing professional development (that’s compulsory to maintain our registration), purchasing legal forms and documents, marketing, and smart clothes to wear (okay, that last one is a side benefit of being celebrant, but it’s still an expense).

5. You don’t need a license to get married in Australia. That’s just the influence of American TV. The legalities of getting married in Australia are best explained face-to-face, but in a nutshell, you must both be over 18 years old (some exemptions apply), and legally free to marry. You must lodge a Notice of Intention to Marry form with your celebrant between one and 18 months before your big day (again, some exemptions apply), you must prove your identity to the satisfaction of your celebrant, you must sign a Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage, you must make legal vows in accordance with the Marriage Act 1961 and sign three copies of your marriage certificate. Your celebrant must also make a legal statement during your ceremony. So, you may have to show me your driver’s license as a part of proving your identity, but you don’t need a marriage license in Australia.

6. We have to follow the rules set down by the Attorney General’s Department (and the Marriage Act 1961) and the consequences of doing the dodgey on a date or similar are worse for us than for you so please don’t ask. Celebrants who falsify documents such as the date on your Notice of Intention to Marry form etc can be fined and have their authorization cancelled. I will not risk my career as a celebrant (refer to point one). If you ask, I will say no, and make a report to the authorities. Oh, and I will suggest that I am probably not the celebrant for you.

7. There’s no such thing as a dumb question, except the one that you don’t ask. I mean that. Look on your celebrant as your expert resource and don’t be afraid to ask the question. More than likely, we’ve heard it before and if not, then it has probably come up in our training or ongoing professional development. And if we don’t know the answer on the spot, we can always ask the Attorney General’s Department, Births, Deaths and Marriages, or our professional colleagues.

8. It truly is your day and we can do almost anything in your ceremony. I mean that. Apart from ensuring that all of the legal requirements are met, we can help you to get married however and wherever you want to in Australia (that’s cos our authorization is only for marriages in Australia). So, if you’ve got your heart set on a midnight ceremony in a hot air balloon hovering over your childhood house, then let’s get planning cos I love hot air ballooning. A bungee jumping ceremony – I might not be the celebrant for you!

9. We love it when you tell us how we did. It’s not just that it makes us feel good. Nor is it that your testimonial helps us to win new clients. It’s because we truly care about you and your day. We get anxious and nervous, just like you, but it’s our job to be the calm in the midst of your storm, so when you or your guests give us feedback, we feel just that bit better about the next wedding on our calendar.

What else do you wish you knew about marriage celebrants (refer point seven)? Go ahead and ask me by adding your comments.

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