When it comes to the crunch, you’re not legally married without one important wedding vendor – your marriage celebrant! So today I thought I’d dive into twenty questions to ask of your wedding celebrant. (Check out my previous posts in this series – Twenty Questions – What To Ask Your Cake Designer, Twenty Questions: What To Ask Your Dress Designer & Twenty Questions: What To Ask Your Wedding Reception Venue.)
I think it’s important to start off with thinking about how you imagine your ceremony to be – funny and full of laughter? Serious and formal? The style of your wedding will determine the celebrant you choose. Beyond that, getting along with your celebrant and genuinely liking who they are as a person – as with all wedding vendors, is vital to having a wedding that reflects who you are as a couple.
So let’s kick it off!
1. What are their fees?
Celebrant fees vary widely – from $250 right up to $1500. I’ve found the average to be about $600, varying with popularity and experience of the celebrant.
2. What does the fee include?
A typical celebrant fee includes meeting with the celebrant, the writing of the ceremony, the performance of the ceremony and the lodgement of all paperwork. Some celebrants include extras like rehearsals and checklists.
4. What additional costs are involved?
Beyond the base fee, some celebrants have additional charges – like travel for instance, or extra meetings. So it’s a good idea to get all of these upfront so you’re not in for any surprises.
5. What are their qualifications?
An Australian marriage celebrant must be registered with the Attorney Generals’ Department and have carried out training (including yearly training) in order to perform their role. Australian celebrants can’t just register online, so check your celebrant has the qualifications to legally perform your ceremony.
Koren Harvey CMC
6. How long have they been performing weddings?
Always good to know! I think great celebrants can be great celebrants regardless, but as with anything great wisdom comes with time and that knowledge of how to handle situations and how to quickly to handle things going wrong, or even crafting a beautiful ceremony, can come with having done it many times before.
7. How many weddings have they performed?
As with the above question, if experience is important to you then this one is a must ask!
8. When is full payment required?
Do they require a deposit? Payment before the ceremony or on the day?
8. What is their cancellation policy?
If you need to cancel your wedding ceremony or postpone it, does the celebrant offer a refund? Do they keep the deposit?
9. How many meetings are included?
A lot of celebrants will allow as many meetings, emails and phone calls as you need to get your ceremony picture perfect. Others may only have two or three included in the package to get it right.
10. What paperwork is required and when?
Some celebrants will ask you to bring your paperwork at the first meeting (birth certificates, ID such as drivers’ licenses etc), while others may not require it yet. Ask your celebrant what you need to bring with you.
Robyn Pattison CMC Photo by Welsch Photography from Jenna and James’ Coral Orange Wedding
10. How much guidance will you be given while writing your ceremony?
Some celebrants give a simple question and answer form and after being filled out write your ceremony, others provide an example format and provide you with popular readings and structures to choose from. And then there’s celebrants who let you write the entire ceremony yourself – providing guidance along the way. Your wedding ceremony is the part of the day you probably want to put the most thought into, so understanding how your celebrant works with writing it is vital.
11. How do they personalise your ceremony?
Does the celebrant tell your story? Do they have a coffee with you and get to know you and inject what they know into your ceremony? Or do they just keep it formal?
12. Will you see a draft of the ceremony?
Most celebrants will provide you with a draft of the ceremony beforehand so you can make any changes.
13. Do they require or include a rehearsal?
Some celebrants will do a basic rehearsal with you before the actual wedding. Others will do a run through at their office. Ask your celebrant what they do in respect to this.
14. What actually happens on the wedding day?
Every celebrant has their own way of doing things. Some will guide everybody involved in the ceremony through what they have to do, others will greet the bride at the car and reassure her, instructing whoever is with her of what they need to do. Others are completely hands off and waiting. Understanding, from their arrival to the handing over of the certificate and the process in between, is important.
Celebrant Melissa Cornwell
15. How long before the ceremony will they arrive?
Most celebrants arrive half an hour or more before guests to set up their sound system, get orientated with the venue and brief anyone involved in the ceremony on the proceedings. Double check – it would be difficult if your celebrant was set to arrive only five minutes before the ceremony start time!
16. What happens if the celebrant is ill?
Does the celebrant have a stand-in available in case they fall ill on the day? What happens if they are unable to perform the ceremony?
17. How many weddings do they book in one day? How many will they be performing on your wedding day?
Some celebrants book in multiple ceremonies a day, which is completely fine – but a professional celebrant will make sure there is enough time to get between venues without rushing and missing things. So make sure this has been allowed for.
Melissa Fahey of Mine Forever Photo by Harvard Wang from Claire and Tim’s Elegant Quat Quatta Wedding
18. What attire will they wear?
You’d hate for your celebrant to turn up in a polo shirt and shorts to a black tie event, so check with your celebrant as to their usual attire and advise them of your dress code.
19. What equipment are they able to bring?
Most celebrants have a PA system (though it pays to check if it’s a good quality one). Others will be able to provide a signing table with chair. Some celebrants will even be able to play music from their PAs to assist you with your ceremony music choices.
20. What happens with the paperwork?
A celebrant has to lodge certain paperwork, including your intention to marry form within a certain time frame before your wedding day. They also have to lodge the marriage certificate after the wedding. Check with them that everything is in good order and they have everything they need to lodge your marriage legally.
What did you wish you’d asked of your celebrant or wish you’d known?