Looking for a marriage celebrant and not sure what questions to ask? Check out my hints to ensure you’re asking the right questions so that you choose your celebrant to make your wedding day perfect:
How long have you been registered as a marriage celebrant?
Does it matter how long someone’s been registered as a marriage celebrant? Well that depends. If they’re newbies (and there’s nothing wrong with that – we all started somewhere), they won’t have the wealth of experience that a more experienced celebrant will have. After a while you learn to think on your feet and know the best way to handle issues that might arise. If you’re keen on a newer celebrant, you may be able to negotiate their cost down which is a bonus.
How many weddings have you performed?
This question is important because let’s say the celebrant has been registered for five years and they’re done 50 weddings, that means they’re averaging 10 weddings a year, which in turn assumes that they are a hobby celebrant rather than a professional celebrant. Does that matter? Well, that’s up to you. Hobby celebrants are usually cheaper. As a benchmark, the average celebrant does about 5 – 10 weddings per year while professional celebrants can do anywhere up to 150 per annum and this equates to a big difference in experience levels.
How much do you charge as a marriage celebrant and what does it include?
Please never choose a celebrant on price alone! Trust me, that’s fraught with danger. There are basically three price ranges for marriage celebrants (though this is generalised to the Sunshine Coast and obviously changes according to different regions):
Up to $450 : The lower end of the market – be careful how you choose your celebrant, don’t do it just based on price
$500 – $750: What most marriage celebrants charge
$800 + : The high end of the market and usually an indicator that you’re dealing with a professional marriage celebrant (as in this is their main source of income)
But there’s other things to consider beside price. For instance, you might find an absolute gem that ticks all your boxes for $450, or you might hire a dud when you’ve paid over $1000 (I’ve heard horror stories!) Paying a lot does not guarantee a fabulous celebrant. Do your homework on the celebrant’s you’re interested in and listen to your gut instinct – that’s what it’s there for. I use gut instinct too, and because of it, have knocked back couples that I got queasy tummy flips. Ain’t no-body got time fo dat!
What’s your natural style as a celebrant?
Trying to be someone you’re not will make for a very inauthentic ceremony, and no-one wants that. Be clear on what style of wedding ceremony you want: romantic, emotional, quirky, hilarious, traditional – they all require different personalities. Try to find out the true personality of your celebrant and make sure you ‘click’. You can do your homework in other ways, for example check the photographs they use to advertise. Most of my photos are of the couple, their wedding party and guests laughing because that reflects my natural style of ceremony. The other thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of people think that couples want all the gooey feely stuff which is just not true, so there’s a little bit of acting in this business!
What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you at a wedding?
This is where question 1. becomes important. “What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you at a wedding?” is a pretty common question and I’ve got a few hilarious responses which I respond with (seriously, I should right a book). Not everything always goes smoothly and it’s the way your wedding suppliers deal with what goes wrong that separates the wheat from the chaff. To be more precise, you could ask about your personal ‘worst fear’ at your wedding and ask that, eg. “What if it buckets down half-way through my ceremony?”, or “What if someone has a medical issue during my ceremony?” You’ll quickly get an idea of how your celebrant will react and whether you’d be happy with the reaction. Whatever their response is, it will help you choose your celebrant.
As a celebrant do you book more than one ceremony per day?
Some celebrants guarantee they only do one wedding a day and it really amuses me. You don’t need to be an administrative genius to work out the paperwork of more than one ceremony, but what your celebrant should do if she does more than one ceremony a day, is work out the time allowed for each wedding and the time between ceremonies that will ensure there’s plenty of time to cater to those things that can go wrong: traffic jams, accidents, etc. Let your celebrant know that if they do book another wedding on your day that you’d like to be notified so you can figure out if you’re comfortable with the timing and perhaps pre-negotiate a refund or partial refund when you originally chat to them. They might say no, but there’s no harm in trying.
Eeeek … I need help with vows!
Most couples are clueless when it comes to writing their own vows and it’s important that you feel supported by your celebrant and will be able to ask for help or be given some resources to help. I have a stop by stop process that’s almost foolproof – check that your celebrant does too.
What’s happens if I’m late?
I have a late fee so my couples are rarely late. Some celebrants don’t. It’s good to know what you’re signing up for and if you plan your day carefully, you should be okay. If you’re going to be late, please let the celebrant know as soon as you can, and they’ll advise the guests and other wedding suppliers. (Try not to be more than 10 minutes late though, it’s pretty rude).
I’d like to have a beer/champagne before the wedding, as a celebrant, are you okay with that?
The law says that you can’t be intoxicated because you’re signing a legal document. Some celebrants don’t mind you having one or two drinks before you get married, other celebrants will refuse to marry you, and will go away for a few hours until you’ve ‘sobered up’. Check each celebrant’s rules on this. Because everyone is different with their response to alcohol I tell my couples if they can legally drive a car, they can legally sign the paperwork.
What happens if the celebrant can’t make it on the day?
A professional celebrant will have a strong network of ‘locum celebrants’ so if something goes wrong, they can easily call a backup. Check that the celebrants you’re chatting to have this. Also, check the reviews of the celebrants you’re keen to talk to, there are a few who take multiple bookings on the same day and time, and then eventually ‘pick’ the one they most want to do, leaving couples scrambling and panicked. (This is across the board for wedding suppliers, eg. a venue may do this, preferring a wedding of 100 guests, rather than a booking for 40).
Lynette Maguire is a popular marriage celebrant on the Sunshine Coast, and has just about seen and heard it all when it comes to weddings in south-east Queensland.