(Banner image: Ben Howland Photography – Newcastle & Hunter Valley)
Your celebrant will have a huge impact on your overall wedding experience. But how exactly do you find the right celebrant to meet your needs? Industry insider, Julie Muir, shares her wisdom and experience.
The standard of celebrants around Australia varies wildly, which is why you should choose your celebrant based on more than just price.
A great celebrant will keep their cool under pressure, set the vibe of the entire day, tell your love story in an engaging manner, and leave your guests feeling uplifted and ready for the P-A-R-T-Y!
Above all, you want a celebrant who’ll actually listen to what you want and who you can trust to do a good job. You’ll need to choose someone you get along with, someone you can have a laugh with, and maybe even someone you can cry with.
No idea where to begin? From my experience, here are the 7 most important things you need to consider when searching for your celebrant.
Tip #1: Start by choosing your ceremony “vibe”
First, you’ll need to think about the overall VIBE you want to create at your ceremony. Traditional or non-traditional? Formal or relaxed? Fun? Funny? Romantic? Inclusive?
It’s useful to think back to any weddings you’ve attended as a guest. What did you like (or more importantly, not like!) about the ceremony or the celebrant? Answering these questions will help you figure out exactly what you want – and once you know that, you’re one step closer to finding the right celebrant to achieve this.
Just as you want your venue to reflect the atmosphere you want to create, your celebrant needs to be on the same wavelength as you.
Tip #2: Do your research
As tempting as it might be to go with the first person recommended to you, the difference between choosing an okay celebrant and one who really gets what you want is like chalk and cheese. They really can make the difference between a day long-remembered or ‘just another wedding’.
Start by searching the internet, reading magazines, browsing through directories or asking friends for their recommendations. Then, take the time to stalk a few celebrants you like online. You should immediately get a feel for their personality, how they work, and an indication of how the ceremony will play out. Are they warm and engaging? Extroverted or introverted? Do they include wedding rituals?
If they have any video footage (many celebrants now have YouTube channels), you should be able to get an ever greater sense of their personality and mannerisms. A good celebrant should have confidence, speak clearly, understand how to create dramatic tension and be able to time a joke.
Some additional things to consider would be:
- Are they a good storyteller?
- Are they a writer – for example, do they have a blog, write good Instagram captions, and have engaging words on their website?
- Are they an entertainer (who may take all the attention off you) or a facilitator (who will subtly put the attention back on you)? The best celebrants are usually a good mix of all the above.
The celebrant industry is changing, and due to a recent influx of new celebrants, there’s never been a better time to explore your options.
There is so much diversity in the celebrant population, so don’t be ageist – not all older celebrants are boring, and not all younger celebrants are cool. You should book a celebrant based first and foremost on the connection you have with them.
Tip #3: Check Testimonials
Testimonials are an incredibly useful tool for learning more about your celebrant. Check for reviews on Google and Facebook, and look out for any key words or statements that resonate with you.
The number of reviews could be an indication of how experienced your celebrant is, or how inclined their previous couples were to write a review.
If a couple has gone to the trouble of writing a glowing testimonial after their wedding, it speaks volumes about their relationship with the celebrant and the service they received.
Tip #4: Be thoughtful when you make your initial enquiry
If your first impression comes from social media, then your second impression will probably come from how they respond to your enquiry.
To get the best response, don’t start out with the price question. The risk is the celebrant might think you’re just a price shopper and you might not get the attention you want.
Instead, tell the celebrant more about the vibe you want to achieve on the day. This will get them excited and will start your relationship off on a much better footing.
Tip #5: Book your celebrant early
The best celebrants are in demand year-round and can book out quickly, so make sure you push them to the top of your wedding priority list!
Once you’ve locked in your wedding date and venue, your celebrant and photographer should be the next vendors to secure. After working your way through the steps above, create a shortlist of celebrants and find out if they’re available on your date.
Tip # 6: Arrange a meeting
Most celebrants will offer a free ‘meet and greet’ to ensure your personalities click.
Remember, this is a two-way relationship, so it’s just as important for the celebrant to like the couple as it is for you to like them! Try to be open and get to know your celebrant beyond just the service they provide. It’s all about making a genuine connection.
When you meet your celebrant, pay attention to how they make you feel. Remember, you want someone who puts you at ease, calms your nerves and understands your vision.
You’ll also want to work with someone who really cares about doing a good job on the day.
Do they ask you questions about yourself and any ideas you have for your wedding, or do they talk about themselves the whole time? Do they explain the process so that you feel informed and supported, but not overwhelmed? Does it feel like a collaboration or a partnership?
A great celebrant should provide you with lots of ideas for the ceremony and share opinions based on their experience – but ultimately, they should be willing to facilitate whatever you want.
There’s also the legal component to consider, so your celebrant will need to be organised, confident, knowledgeable and detail-oriented when it comes to the legal requirements of getting married. One of their roles is to guide you through the legal process step by step.
With this being said, it’s also absolutely fine to book your celebrant without meeting them.
If they’re doing a killer job on social media, you’ll probably already have a good feel for their personality. Choosing to meet your celebrant in person should just confirm what your gut is already telling you, but it’s not always necessary.
And if you do meet a celebrant and decide they’re not the one for you, don’t stress! The celebrant will be happy you’ve found a better match, so long as you give them the courtesy of letting them know.
Tip #7: Learn the nitty-gritty about how they work
Finally, you’ll want to learn more about exactly how your celebrant works and what you can expect from the process.
Not all celebrants are equal, and you’ll find different celebrants offer a wider range of services than others.
Some key things to look out for include:
- Level of personalisation: A generic ceremony takes less time to write. A well-crafted ceremony written uniquely for your relationship takes time, so expect to pay more for a higher level of personalisation.
- Pre-wedding drafts: Some celebrants show their couples a copy of their ceremony script in advance, and some don’t. Neither is wrong. If you’re a “planner” and want to be sure that your celebrant has understood what you want, then seeing the script will likely help to calm your nerves. But if you’re more easy-going and happy to be surprised, then you might be fine with not seeing the script in advance. Either way, you should think about your preferences and whether it aligns with your celebrant’s way of working.
- Marriage certificate: Every state and territory is slightly different, but in most states, the celebrant can order the marriage certificate for you. Find out if they offer this or whether they will leave it up to you.
- Music: Some celebrants will download your ceremony music and play it for you, some will download it but ask you to provide a “roadie” to press play, and others will let you download your own music.
- Rehearsal: This is a celebrant hot topic, with lots of differing opinions about the pros and cons of having a rehearsal. What’s most important is if you think you need one. Will a rehearsal calm your nerves? Will it make the ceremony smoother on the day? Does your celebrant provide one?
- Vow help: Some celebrants will give vow writing resources, provide samples, give feedback and print them into vow cards for you. Others will leave you to your own devices.
- Dress code: Some celebrants dress in a corporate way, and others show more of their personality. Do you care what your celebrant wears? Or do you not give two hoots if their skirt or tie clashes with your colour palette? Will they dress according to your dress code? Check out their website gallery or social media to get a better sense of their style.
- Meeting availability: Your celebrant may or may not be doing this job full-time. Like all people, they’ll have their own family and personal commitments. It’s good to find out when and where they are available to have meetings, and whether they offer teleconferencing options like Skype or Zoom.
Most importantly, you’ll want to find someone you feel truly comfortable around and are happy to share the details of your relationship with. The better your celebrant understands you, the more likely they are to deliver the ceremony you really want.
About the Author: Julie Muir – Civil Celebrant
At EJA, we first encountered Julie through her shared commitment to the Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund (now known as Carbon Positive Australia). We knew we were on the same page when we read about her involvement with the charity and her reasons for doing so. We love her dedication to all things ethical.
And you only need to take a look at the testimonials featured on Julie’s website to confirm that she really is a cut above the rest.
While you’re there, take a look at her Blog too. Julie is an engaging writer and her articles are full of great advice for those about to wed.
Of course, you can always contact Julie the old fashioned way, by mobile on 0413 267 238 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org