What Would They Know? Ally McCallum of Life & Times Celebrancy

by | Ceremony Wisdom, Wisdom


Polka Dot Bride

There is something to be said about a celebrant who so obviously loves what she is doing. Ally of Life & Times Celebrancy  is one of those people who exudes enthusiasm and fun (just look at that lovely smile) and it is these qualities that make her ceremonies unique. Not that the serious side of the ceremony is ignored – it’s just that she loves to tell your story and make sure that your ceremony is very personal and special. With her high level of organisational skills you just know that she has your back and will deliver a ceremony that you will remember as being the most important part of your day – the beginning of a day that will celebrate  your love. After all, without a wedding ceremony your wedding day is just a big party. We really enjoyed Ally’s story and know you will too!

Why did you become a celebrant?  

If I’m being honest, although I do luuuuuurve weddings, the main reason I became a celebrant is because over the years I went to a lot of dry, boring weddings! I remember thinking that there had to be something better out there for all the loved-up couples getting married. So I got into this game so I could bring some of the love, laughter and celebration to their big moment!

How long have been a celebrant?

Nearly 7 years.

Image by Anitra Wells Photography

How would you describe your approach to the wedding ceremony?

I believe wedding ceremonies should be a celebration – traditionally they’ve been pretty formal and stiff, but the reality is, they can be relaxed, they can be light-hearted, they can be fun – they can be whatever the couple want it to be. Once upon a time the ceremony was the boring bit everyone had to tolerate to get to the party, but really, the ceremony should be the prequel to the party! And your celebrant sets the tone for the festivities to follow!

Image by Karina Evelyn Photography

Would you describe your style? Is it traditional?

I most certainly wouldn’t describe myself as traditional. An awesome celebrant and friend of mine, Meg from Raise Your Glass Ceremonies, once wrote about me, “Having Ally as your celebrant is a little like having your favourite big sister as your celebrant – sweet, fun, makes it all about you but a little bit cheeky too!” I have always loved this, so I’m totally stealing it now and running with it! Sorry Meg!

What are the most important things to take account of when working with your celebrant?

Crafting a ceremony is a bit of a team effort between the celebrant and the couple – I’m going to ask you for lots of juicy details about your lives and each other AND I’m going to be up there, right by your sides, talking about how fabulous you are and sharing in the one of the most important days of your life. So creating a kick-ass ceremony means the couple needs to be open and share some killer details with their celebrant. They need to be honest about what it is they want from their ceremony and they need to be confident that their celebrant will be across all the legal aspects. But they also need to be aware that they have some responsibility in that area too and will need to provide certain documentation to their celebrant – as without it, there can be no wedding and then it’s just a super expensive party!

Image by Kerryn Lee Photography

How can couples personalize their wedding ceremony?  

I think that the most amazing weddings have moments of heartfelt emotion; love, smiles, tears and laughter. So couples shouldn’t be afraid to express themselves. If you have a favourite book or song – include it! If it’s meaningful to you – include it! Don’t be afraid to include your quirks! Apart from a few legal words that absolutely have to be said, the rest of the ceremony is completely flexible and entirely up to the couple!  So let’s talk about the two of you – you are the stars of the show after all! Let’s talk about your interests, your adventures, your fun and favourite moments. It’s the telling of those stories that creates the memorable moments in a ceremony. It’s what makes a ceremony truly personalised and truly about the couple!


Image by Love is Sweet Photography

What are your five best tips on choosing the perfect celebrant?

Hmmm, that’s a tough one!   I’d have to say:

  1. Research!

Most celebrants have a social media presence, whether it’s Insta, Facebook (and probably a million other things that my tech challenged brain can’t comprehend). Check out the celebrants you’re interested in and get a feel for them. Our personalities are plastered all over our socials and you’ll know immediately whether you’d like to chat further with them.

  1. Chat!

Whether it’s Facetime, Skype, phone, in person, whatever floats your boat. There is no better way to get to know someone than to chat to them. Whether it’s about weddings or the weather, you’ll know pretty quickly if this is someone you want celebrating your big day with you. And remember, just like you want to get a feel for your celebrant to see if they’re perfect for you, we celebrants also want to get a feel for our couples to make sure we think we’ll be the right fit too.

  1. Ask!

We know Google can sometimes be our friend and sometimes not, but inevitably you’ll have a pile of questions you’ll want to ask about us, how it all works etc. I’ve done this hundreds of times, but the whole marriage thing is fairly new for you. So don’t be afraid to ask your questions. And if you feel awkward, or as if you can’t ask questions — than that person is probably not the right celebrant for you!

  1. The Comfort Factor!

It’s pretty daunting standing up there in front of all those sets of eyes (even if they are your family and friends!), so make sure you choose a celebrant who is going to make you feel comfortable. Who you can look at and know, hell yeah, they’ve totally got this and we have nothing to worry about! Who you know is going to make you feel all the feels and smile and laugh and cry (in the good way)!

  1. Invest!

Because guess what?! Fabulous celebrants are totally worth investing in! They value their time, their experience and what they can bring to your celebration, and they will (and should!) price themselves accordingly. Choosing your celebrant is a big decision and it is one decision that should not be made based on price! If you find a celebrant you love, and they happen to be a little more expensive than another celebrant who you don’t love as much – just remember, you can always make more money, but you can never re-live those moments! 

Image by Matt Elliott Photography

You create each ceremony on an individual basis. You must have a natural talent for writing?

I’d love to say that all the ideas and inspiration for the storytelling come from me, but really, it comes from my couples. They are willing to share some amazing details of themselves with me and I use that to write a ceremony that’s not only all about them, but a reflection of their personalities and their relationship. When they give me awesome ammunition to work with, it makes it easy to create some magic for them.

Should couples approach you with ideas, or is deciding on the format of the ceremony a process that evolves over your meetings together?

They should absolutely approach me with ideas! It’s their day, so they shouldn’t be afraid to express themselves!

Image by Mister + Lady Photography

What do you love about hearing the couples’ stories?

In a nutshell….. Everything!

You say you ‘have a gift of the gab’. What does this mean in terms of the ceremony?

It just means that I’m not afraid to stand up in front of a crowd of people and talk. Public speaking is apparently one of the biggest fears for most people, but for me, the problem is getting me to stop talking!

Are traditional rituals or symbolism used very often today, in ceremonies?

I find “traditional” rituals being used less and less today. Exchanging wedding rings seems to be playing the long game and I don’t imagine that will be phased out anytime soon, because really, who doesn’t love a bit of bling?! But the things that could be deemed “old school” (like the ‘Giving Away’, the traditional vows, the I Do’s), I find my couples are more and more choosing to leave out altogether or instead opt to transform them into a more modern approach.

Image by Sarah Godenzi Photography

What are some examples of the most inspirational/heartfelt/joyous weddings you have created?  

I think a wedding in itself is a joy filled occasion – just think, in all the billions of people in the world, these two found each other, fell madly in love and are getting married – so I like to think that all my ceremonies are joyous. But some of the most heartfelt ones are the ones where the couple are really true to themselves, are not afraid to include all their little quirks and embrace the things that make them unique both as individuals and as a couple. Did someone say, Doctor Who wedding?! Oh, and please consider writing your own vows! Pretty please?!   This is the one chance in the whole day where the two of you will have a moment to stand face to face, look into each other’s eyes and tell each other exactly why you have chosen to spend the rest of your lives with each other. Nothing is more heartfelt than that!

Image by Stephanie Easton Photography

Can you describe a typical wedding day in your life as a celebrant?

I pride myself on being super organized, bordering on OCD. Meaning that all the paperwork and preparation for my weddings is done well in advance of the wedding day itself. That way on the day, everything can be as streamlined and stress free as possible. It’s funny the other things we celebrants need to think about. Like, what colours are the wedding party wearing – so we don’t clash horrifically with them. What is the ground like at the venue – so we don’t wear stilettos and sink into the grass. So once those all important questions are answered, I then aim to arrive at the venue at least 30 minutes before the ceremony time, so I can get all set up, test my equipment and most importantly check in on the wedding crew and other vendors to make sure everyone and everything is ready to go.   We get two people hitched (Yay!) and afterwards I say a quick goodbye and head home with my post-wedding buzz on to finalise all the legal stuff whilst the happy couple continue their celebrations.

Indoors or outside – do you have a venue that you particularly like performing marriage ceremonies at?

Aaaargh! Asking me to choose a favourite venue is like asking me to choose a favourite child! We are so lucky in Melbourne to have such an incredible array of venues to choose from. But if I absolutely had to pick one, I wouldn’t! I’d pick three! Flowerdale Estate in Strath Creek, Meadowbank Estate in Campbellfield and the Brighton Savoy. All very different venues and all incredible!


Image by Vanilla Images

Who most inspires you?

I am lucky enough to be a part of an amazing community of celebrants, and every one of them inspires me to do better. We live by the saying “community over competition” and this group bring their A game to every aspect of this job. They write killer ceremonies, have amazing processes and systems in place, are awesomely generous with their time, expertise, wisdom and creativity, not to mention the fact that they are just incredible humans. They make me appreciate how lucky we are to do what we do!

Where can we find you doing on a Sunday morning?

If I have my way…. in bed! With a super excitable almost 6 year old and a super cheeky almost 1 year old, Sunday is usually the day hubby takes over and lets me have the most delicious sleep in! He’s a keeper that one!

Thank you Ally for sharing your interesting story. The happiness that Ally exudes is infectious and who wouldn’t want a happy celebrant celebrating your wedding ceremony!! To find out more about Life & Times Celebrancy visit the website.

Headshot by Rebecca Lincoln Photography.

  • Amanda says:
    September 28, 2018 at 10:04 pm

    Ally McCullum truly made our wedding ceremony! From the second we met Ally,we fell inlove with her bubbly personality.. Ally is one of those people, who you wish was your friend. I’ll never forget meeting her to discuss our wedding,we hadn’t even left the carpark and both agreed,”she was the one”. Ally is such a lovley, caring and down to earth person and her laugh is contagious.
    Thanks again for making our day extra special Ally. You are one in a million x



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