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How to: Choosing Your Celebrant
Between your dress, the flowers, the canapés and the weather, there are so many details of a wedding that a bride needs to consider; but one of the most important is who solemnizes the wedding. He or she will set the tone for your day, and they’ll always be the person who officially made you husband and wife.
Deciding on a celebrant can be a challenging decision, which is why we’re here to help you. There are two different elements you need to consider before you select your marriage celebrant: legal and personal.
To be legally married In
- A Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrant who performs a religious ceremony, for an independent religious organisation.
- A Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrant who conducts a civil ceremony, for people who may have religious beliefs, but who choose not to get married in a religious building.
- A Minister of Religion who conducts a religious ceremony, and who belongs to a recognised denomination.
- A State official who performs a civil ceremony.
Civil marriages have outnumbered religious services since 1999, and if you’re reading this, you’re in the 72% of Australians who are choosing to use a civil marriage celebrant. In recent years, couples tend to want an increased sense of flexibility on their wedding day, from the time and venue, to the content of the service. If you choose a civil marriage celebrant, you can have your wedding virtually anywhere – a boat, a beach or a backyard.
Before the Wedding
Whether you decide on a civil or religious marriage celebrant, you must check that they are registered with the Australian Government, which gives them the authority to conduct your marriage. This includes legal advice and processing all the necessary paperwork. You’ll need to provide them with the following documentation:
- A Notice of Intended Marriage form is to be submitted at least a calendar month before your wedding day, and up to 18 months ahead. The form is evidence that you pass the requirements to get married in
- Proof of identity. For people born in Australia, a birth certificate is required. If you were born overseas, your home country's passport will suffice. From 1st July 2014 an Australian passport can be used to show the place and date of your birth if neither of the other options is available.
- If you have previously been married, you need to provide original divorce decree papers or the death certificate of your previous spouse.
During the Wedding
All celebrants must:
- Introduce themselves to the congregation, to identify themselves as the person who is legally conducting the ceremony
- Declare the bride and groom’s full names, so the congregation can identify with them
- Recite a monitum (Latin for ‘warning’) from the Marriage Act, which begins, “I am duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages”.
- The couple must say their wedding vows out aloud.
After the Wedding
Just after the ceremony the new husband and wife, two witnesses, and the celebrant all need to sign the marriage certificates. The couple get to keep one, the celebrant keeps the second, and the final certificate gets sent to the State as an official record of the marriage.
The final task of your celebrant is to have your marriage registered, within 2 weeks, in the territory or state where you had your wedding. This notification must be made with the registry of births, deaths and marriages.
This is an immensely important day for you, and the decision about who solemnizes your wedding is an essential one. You want a person who is warm and friendly, but also professional and competent. Other handy traits are: being organised, confident and calm under pressure. You need to feel comfortable with them, and be able to easily establish a relationship. Remember that not every celebrant will suit every couple, and that’s why personality is important.
Seeing them conduct someone else’s wedding is ideal, but a personal recommendation can also help you make the right decision. Thankfully, the Internet allows for unparalleled ease of access to any information about the celebrant, and this allows you to do your homework before requesting a meeting. The simplest way to narrow down your potential list is by looking at feedback.
When you have a face-to-face conversation it allows you to instantly see how you get on, and you’ll quickly be able to make your decision. You want your ceremony to run smoothly, but above all, you need it to be legally sound.
Aside from asking if they’re available on your wedding date, these are the types of questions to ask your potential celebrant:
How long have you been a celebrant for?
- If they have many years of experience, they’re more likely to listen to your thoughts and concerns, and give you the ceremony that you really want.
How many weddings have you performed?
- The more weddings they’re conducted, the more knowledge they have about designing and delivering ceremonies, and they’ll be able to tell you if your particular ideas will actually work.
What do your clients say about you?
- You want to know what their reputation is like, and how successful their previous weddings have been. If you get given references, call them.
How flexible are you?
- Of course this isn’t referring to your celebrants ability to touch his or her toes, but rather if they’re happy to let you dictate the terms of the wedding, rather than insisting on their format.
Do you belong to a celebrant association or network?
- It’s important to know if they’re keeping up to date with laws and procedures.
What equipment do you have?
- By law, your celebrant needs to ensure that everyone can hear the ceremony, particularly if it takes place outside. Modern celebrants use a range of equipment like PA systems and computers to do their job.
How far away are you from our venue?
- If your celebrant needs to travel, you’re obliged to pick up transport and potentially accommodation costs, and you need to know if you can afford that.
Once you’ve found your ideal celebrant, make sure you book them immediately to secure their service. Your chosen celebrant has a vital and undeniably special role in your wedding ceremony and, of course, a huge legal responsibility. Select someone that will support you, fill you with happiness, and perform a ceremony that reflects your personality and captures your dreams.