How to choose the best celebrant (Part 1)

In previous days, the choice of who to perform your wedding was limited to which church and parish you belonged to.  Those outside of a church were restricted to a Government Registry office, where romance was certainly not a part of the ceremony.

This article presumes that you have decided to marry outside of a church.

Nowadays, of the 120,000 weddings arranged each year, more than 7 out of 10 are performed by Civil Celebrants.

There are about 8,000 Civil Celebrants registered in Australia, and each considers themselves the best person to perform your ceremony.

Wedding Celebrants in Australia however, do not provide a homogenous service.

They vary in areas like rapport, price, and reliability to attend and meet all of the legal requirements necessary for a marriage.  They of course vary in sex, age and outlook on life.

The ceremony they perform will vary in areas such as the level of inclusion of your individuality, inclusion of family in the ceremony, the level of romance, the amount of humour, the length of the ceremony and their writing skills.

How then, can you make an informed choice as to which celebrant to engage for your wedding?

This is a guide which will help you avoid some of the pitfalls of choosing a celebrant who is just not right for you.


How to start looking for a Celebrant

Before you start to look for a celebrant, have a broad idea as to what you might like in the ceremony by thinking of the following:

1.  How romantic do you want the ceremony to be?

Do you see every sentence spoken referring to how lovely the bride is, how handsome the groom, what a wonderful day, how wonderful the bridesmaids are, how your love is delicious, and the world is full of butterflies and robins?

These ceremonies are often best done by female celebrants, and also generally by women between the ages of 30 and 50, who can identify the need and present the stream of romance.

2.  Do you want the ceremony to include humour?

Do you think that you and your guests should celebrate with laughter during your wedding?  This is not, of course, stand-up comedy, but rather a break in the romantic parts of your day.

Here, the celebrant either has it or not.  Generally male celebrants balance humour best.  In this area, you don’t need to think of humorous things, it’s up to the celebrant’s natural instinct to get the content and timing right.

3.  Do you want your ceremony to be memorable?

Do you want the ceremony to have elements that everyone there, including you, will think back as to what a great start to your wedded life it was?

You need a special celebrant, one who balances romance, humour, music, and logistics of the ceremony and the signings of documents perfectly.

A good celebrant will meet with both of you to discuss the ceremony ensure your story is correctly included.  He will get the legal forms completed.  He will send you a draft of the ceremony for comment or change.  He will manage the changes and help write appropriate wedding vows.  He will arrange for a rehearsal.  He will make his PA system available for your music, and he will prepare the forms that need to be signed on the wedding day.  He will deliver a fabulous ceremony, and deal with the paperwork needed after the ceremony.

4.  Do you want a cheap wedding?

Celebrants charge various amounts, and some new celebrants will be very cheap.  If you want the most straightforward wedding with none of the trimmings, this could be your best bet.

But of course, in the main, you will get what you pay for.  New celebrants haven’t dealt with the many issues and options that are a part of weddings today.  A good celebrant spends between 20 and 30 hours on a wedding, so don’t be too taken aback by celebrants asking for more than $1,000.

In Perth, Western Australia, the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages charges $355 for the full legalities and ceremony.  However, the ceremonies can only be performed Monday to Friday, in business hours, not including lunch time. I understand other states of Australia charge and provide similarly.

Search Gumtree or similar classified website or newspaper for cheap celebrants.

5.  Do you want the ceremony to be about you?

Some celebrants have set ceremonies where they will cut and paste your names over the last clients.

Good celebrants will have taken the time to understand your background, where you met, who was first to say the L word, why you have decided to marry, your mutual interests, and your plans.

Of course, the law requires all celebrants to include a few same sentences in every wedding, but even here there is discretion as to where and when these legalities are included.

Unfortunately there does not appear to be an easy way to categorise these celebrants, you need to read on to identify these folk.

6.  Do you want to include your children in the ceremony?

This is becoming very popular and there are a number of ways a celebrant can include children of all ages into a wonderful ceremony.

In this case there is no substitute for experience.  You should look for a celebrant who has done a lot of ceremonies with children, and is enthusiastic about them.  And one who can smile, when children act like children, and keep the ceremony moving with fun.

7.  Do you want to honour your parents?

There are ways that the special relationship that some couples have for their parents, or grandparents, or any other family members, can be a memorable part of the ceremony.

Part 2 of this article sets out how to find that good celebrant……