Originally posted on Polka Dot Bride on May 4, 2009
I feel really honoured today! Peter Phillips, a civil marriage celebrant based out of Sydney is today’s expert! There are so many myths and misconceptions when choosing a civil marriage celebrant, I was thrilled when Peter joined Polka Dot Bride to give advice to Australian brides to be!
What attracted you to becoming a Civil Marriage celebrant?
I have always worked in customer service, and I enjoy ‘helping people’. Getting married should be the happiest day of a couple’s life, up to that point in time. The next biggest event is the birth of their first child. If I can contribute to that first happy event, then well and good.
Was there a particular event/catalyst that inspired you to become a celebrant?
Yes, many years ago, I attended the wedding of some very close friends, which was conducted by a celebrant. I thought I’d like to do that, but it was not until many years later that I was able to realise my ambition.
How much study is involved and what do you learn about?
Quite a bit in fact. Lots of reading and research. You are required to complete many assignments, which are then ‘marked’ by the instructor. I worked out a timetable, did the work and completed within the required timeframe.
What is important for couples to know about a Civil Marriage Celebrant?
Firstly that we are non religious, and that certainly in my case I am there to help and make the day a special occasion for the bride and groom. Whatever they want, they can have, and hopefully I can guide them, towards achieving the best possible outcome for them.
How does the ceremony differ from a conventional church based ceremony?
No reference to either God or the Church. Rather than get the Church ‘boiler plate’ service which is very impersonal, the couple can tailor the service, which is all about the Bride and Groom, and include family and friends who may read a poem or do a particular reading that holds special significance for them.
What are the roles you perform for the couple?
Checking that all of the required documentation, is correct and in order, and completed within the correct time frames. Helping them choose the ceremony that is right for them. On the day, it is actually the Bride who marries the Groom, and vice versa, when they say their vows. ( It is not about me )
What do you talk to couples about prior to the ceremony?
Firstly and most importantly establish, what it is that they want. How long do they want the ceremony to last, who else do they want involved in the ceremony. Active listening and then communicating with the couple. I meet with them, as many times as they want, until they feel comfortable that they have the service that they want.
How do you personalise their ceremony for them?
Every service should be a personal service as it relates to the individual Bride and Groom. Whilst I can and do make suggestions, I never use a ‘boiler plate’ service. Use of special verses, poetry that one will say to the other, music that has special significance to them both ( ie it was the song playing on their first date ) and the involvement of their family and close friends.
What are the legalities a couple must undertake in order to get married?
As the Celebrant I have to correctly establish their bona fides. Establish who they are, by sighting original birth certificates, or overseas passports, divorce papers if either of the couple have been previously married, and that they are over the age of 18, and not related to each other either by birth or adoption.
What are 6 things for a couple to have clear in their minds before talking to a marriage celebrant?
What day they want to get married on, the time they want to get married, the type of service they want, how long they want the service to run for, and the location of the service ( park, beach, hall etc )
ALWAYS have a Plan B, when they are planning on an outdoor location for their weddings.
These days you just cannot count on any particular time as being certain that it will be fine.
What is your philosophy about your role in marrying the couple before you?
It should be the happiest day of their life, so relax, enjoy it. The mere fact that they have chosen a Celebrant, suggests that they don’t want the ‘formality’ of a Church serivce. Whatever they want, they can have. I’ll look after the legal paperwork, and as I stated before they marry each other. It is certainly not about me.
What do you love about Australian brides?
I love all brides. A bride, is a bride, is a bride. It is their day to SHINE, so they should just relax and enjoy the experience. In my experience ALL brides know the significance of what they are doing, and in the majority of the weddings that I have conducted, the Bride has been a ‘traditional’ Bride. Even from an early age, I suspect that all girls want to be a ‘Bride’.
Thank you for joining Polka Dot Bride today peter! You can learn more about Peter Phillips at his website Peter Phillips Celebrant
All photos courtesy of Peter Phillips Celebrant