Today’s interviewee has a heart of gold. After witnessing a lot of her friends get married, she realised that, despite the celebrants being total pros, they didn’t seem to be a good ‘fit’. So Nicola trained to be a celebrant to offer couples something different. She understands that weddings should be as unique and diverse as those getting married. And we are all about that! She describes herself as honest, friendly, creative and professional, which you will definitely agree with after reading what she has to say below. She also promises no boring bits in your ceremony. Hooray! Read on to find out how Nicola Garrard of Mrs Jones Celebrant brings her magic to every wedding she is a part of.
What attracted you to becoming a celebrant and the profession as a whole?
I was working in an office that was opposite a celebrancy training school. I remembered watching all the people going in and out, and thinking that there was nobody that looked liked me. Then after watching some of my friends get hitched, I was inspired: the celebrants were all lovely, but didn’t really seem to be a good fit, so I thought I’d have a crack.
How long have you been a celebrant?
I became registered late 2013, and started marrying people a couple of months later.
What special qualities do you bring to celebrancy?
I’m a great storyteller (I do it in my other job too) and it’s the bit I love most about writing a ceremony. And I’ve been told I’m pretty relaxed and laid back – it takes a lot to phase me.
Image: Jackson Grant
Your style is often commented on – how would you describe it?
My ceremonies are meaningful, without being overly sentimental, and I’ll never add any fluff just to fill up time. The couple is the main attraction, so you definitely don’t get “The Nicola Show” when you book me.
When a celebrant is a ‘good fit’ with a couple what does that mean to you?
I think if you could see yourself being friends with your celebrant, then they’re your kind of person. I haven’t stayed in touch with every couple I’ve married, but there are a few who really felt like we’d been friends for ages, and we still talk.
To deliver the perfect ceremony for each couple how much time do you need to get to know them – and how do you do that?
I’m a pretty good judge of character, and I get a lot from just catching up for coffee with a couple. I pick up on the little things, like how they interact and the unique idiosyncrasies that all couples have. I do ask them to answer some questions after we meet though, as I don’t like taking notes when we’re talking, and getting the details right is important.
Image: Barefoot and the Bearded
Where are you authorised to conduct weddings?
Australia, and most states of the USA (though unfortunately, no one has offered to take me on holiday with them as yet!).
What ceremony types do you officiate at?
I just do weddings. I have thought about doing funerals, but to be honest, I’m a massive sook, and I’m not sure I could handle it.
What are the most important things couples express about their ceremony when they approach you to conduct it?
I marry so many different types of people, but the one thing I think they all have in common is that ‘getting married’ is more important than ‘the wedding’. Of course, everyone has an idea of how they want their wedding day to be, but at the end of the day, it’s about the commitment they’re making.
Images: It’s Beautiful Here
How long does it take to prepare each ceremony?
Each ceremony is different, and some take longer than others – but as I’ve gotten more experienced, the easier it’s become. I usually have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to write after the first meeting. I follow up with some questions about the couple, their life together, and what’s important to them, and work from that. I’ve never been asked for a rewrite in over 100 ceremonies, so I must be doing something right!
How much input into writing the ceremony are couples choosing to have?
Most couples will answer my questions and trust me to make it in to a story. I always ask if there’s something specific they want (or don’t want) though.
If a couple doesn’t have the time (or chooses not to) are you able to craft the ceremony for them?
Of course – I’ve written plenty of ceremonies for couples who have had limited input, though I prefer it when we can do it together.
Image: Gold and Grit
How do you encourage couples to prepare for the ceremony?
I always encourage couples to write their own vows, and can help them if they get stuck. It can be really daunting, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve that can help.
Are you able to recommend some readings to us?
It’s all about the reader – they can make or break a reading. The most memorable reading I’ve had in one of my ceremonies was “I Wanna Be Yours” by John Cooper Clarke, and the woman that read it was amazing.
As you conduct more ceremonies over the years, what do you consider the most important five tips to get the most out of your wedding ceremony?
- Don’t think of the ceremony as the bit you just ‘need to get done’
- Don’t do things (or leave things out) just to please others
- If you’re nervous about standing up and being the center of attention, then focus on each other. The others will fade away
- Consider getting your photos taken before the ceremony – then you can join your party straight away
- Take a moment to yourselves after you’ve signed the paperwork to take it all in. Once you go back to your guests after the ceremony, you’re very much public property
Images: Darren France and Rina Smile Photography
Coming into spring and summer – can you offer some advice to couples?
If you’re having an outdoor wedding, chances are you’ve thought of a wet weather option. But a lot of people don’t consider an extreme heat option, but it’s a must, especially if you have old or young guests. Have water and sunscreen for your guests, and don’t be late – I’ve seen more sunburnt groomsmen than I can count!
What are the little extras the bridal party do to assist the bridal couple at the ceremony?
I think the biggest difference I see is when a wedding party (I think it’s a more inclusive term than ‘bridal party’) is 100% confident in what they’re doing, where they’re standing, where Nana is going to sit, and generally how the ceremony is going to go down. It helps the couple relax, knowing they don’t have to stress about all the details.
Coming from London, and choosing to live in Melbourne, what made you decide to live here? What contrasts do you see?
London is a great place to live, and I miss it. But it’s a big place, and can feel a bit lonely sometimes. I feel like I know Melbourne much better than I ever did London, even though I grew up there. Then of course, there’s the weather – I wouldn’t be British if I didn’t comment on the weather.
Do you have a favourite quintessentially Melbourne thing you like to do?
I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker before I got here, but now I never leave home without one of my 200 keep cups (seriously, where do they all come from?) and rarely go a day without one.
Images: Jess Middleton and Elleni Toumpas
A big thank you to Nicola for chatting with us today! If you want a celebrant that will go above and beyond to make sure your wedding ceremony reflects and celebrates you as a couple, then you can find Nicola over at the Mrs Jones Celebrant website or via the Polka Dot Directory.
Headshot courtesy of Gold and Grit