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The one in a hotel room with a lawyer

After five months of fighting for wedding vendors affected by COVID-19 lockdowns, cancellations, postponements, delays, booking fees, deposits, contracts, and the wasteland that is the wedding industry in August 2020, Kathryn from Hallet Law joins the podcast

The one in a hotel room with a lawyer

After five months of fighting for wedding vendors affected by COVID-19 lockdowns, cancellations, postponements, delays, booking fees, deposits, contracts, and the wasteland that is the wedding industry in August 2020, Kathryn from Hallet Law joins the podcast to talk about it all, and about her new service contract product.

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Should I use a speaker stand, and should I use a PA for 10 guests?

Tam asks: I have my first wedding coming up next month. My question is in regards to using my PA system. I have Bose S1 with Sennheiser microphone. The wedding is only small (approximately 10 guests). Would you use a PA system? They are having a videographer so I didn't know if this would play into whether or not to use it? If you suggest not using it, at what size wedding would you? Also I have not yet brought a stand. Is this an absolute must/do you recommend any particular brand/price point to aim for to get a decent one? Complete newbie with all this stuff! All good questions, Tamika, and I’ll address them separately.

Should I use a speaker stand, and should I use a PA for 10 guests?

Tam asks: I have my first wedding coming up next month. My question is in regards to using my PA system. I have Bose S1 with Sennheiser microphone. The wedding is only small (approximately 10 guests). Would you use a PA system? They are having a videographer so I didn’t know if this would play into whether or not to use it? If you suggest not using it, at what size wedding would you? Also I have not yet brought a stand. Is this an absolute must/do you recommend any particular brand/price point to aim for to get a decent one? Complete newbie with all this stuff!

All good questions, Tamika, and I’ll address them separately.

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The one in a hotel room with a lawyer

After five months of fighting for wedding vendors affected by COVID-19 lockdowns, cancellations, postponements, delays, booking fees, deposits, contracts, and the wasteland that is the wedding industry in August 2020, Kathryn from Hallet Law joins the podcast

The one in a hotel room with a lawyer

After five months of fighting for wedding vendors affected by COVID-19 lockdowns, cancellations, postponements, delays, booking fees, deposits, contracts, and the wasteland that is the wedding industry in August 2020, Kathryn from Hallet Law joins the podcast to talk about it all, and about her new service contract product.

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PA system and microphone questions and answers with Jackson Strafford

Question and answer session on the Secret Members Only Podcast with Jackson Strafford from Factory Sound and One Heart Studios on PA speaker systems microphones for celebrants, plus what a videographer is looking for from a celebrant at a wedding.

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A marriage celebrant must call themselves a marriage celebrant, and other obligations

I’m sure that all of you have familiarised yourself with the Marriage Act of 1961, so you probably don’t have to read this, but on the off chance that Sarah Aird has schooled you, like she’s just schooled me, on some things in the Marriage Act, I thought I’d share them here. These are new changes since marriage equality was legislated. Today we’re talking about section 39G, Obligations of each marriage celebrant.

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You don’t have to do everything

A celebrant enquired today about a couple who wanted to do a live stream of their wedding to family in Europe, but the celebrant didn’t know where to start or what to do. I thought it was a good prompt for me to remind celebrants of what we do have to do, and what we don’t have to do.

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How to be your own publicist

A solid foundation of my business success as a celebrant has lay in the realm of good publicity. Good publicity can’t make a filling business profitable, or an unskilled celebrant, talented, but if you’re already rocking a good business operating system, and your ceremonies are resonating with people and getting good reviews, publicity is the cream on top that helps more couples find you, and book you. In this article I wanted to lay out a few tools that I have used in the past, and continue to use today, to “get my name out there” but in a very deliberate and meaningful way.

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Wedding rehearsals – a video

I’ve been creating some video content for my Cert IV students and thought I might share it with all of you too, in case you find it interesting!

In this video I take you through how I run a wedding rehearsal. Please note this is only how I do it; I don’t expect you or anyone else to do it this way, but hopefully it will give you some ideas. Remember my philosophy with these things is that you should collect as much information from as many celebrants as possible, pick what you like and what you don’t, and hopefully that will help to inform the way you do things!

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We’ll do it live!

My friend, and article writing accountability partner, Jeremy asks: You mentioned in a previous podcast you would put up a post about how you live stream a wedding and what tools you use to do so. You still planning to put this up, mate?

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Creating an intimate ceremony, and including kids

A reader asks: I am officiating my cousin’s wedding next month and this is a particularly special one. It is going to be very intimate and relaxed – it’s also really important as my cousin was actually diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer this year (fk cancer!) and it’s really important to me to put together a really beautiful ceremony, but also one that is relaxed and casual just like their style! I was doing some research and wanted to find some nice ideas on how to include kids in the ceremony – they’ve both been married previously and are a blended family. I’ve mentioned how they can write special vows for their step children, or have a community vow – but i am very open to other ideas too – just nothing that is too ‘traditional’. I’ve never performed such a small and intimate ceremony before so was wondering if you had any advice for me – also with these special circumstances, we want to keep this a really positive celebration of their relationship but just wondering if you both had any experience with someone going through this and if there was anything different they included – i absolutely know it really comes down to the individual couple and what they want to include but just interested to know how you would approach this.

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How to become a travelling celebrant

Alinta asks: I am going to take up the gypsy/not-yet-too-grey nomad life for a year or so and I wonder if it would be possible to be a sort of travelling celebrant? We will be travelling in a substantial caravan and aren’t intending to be too structured about our timing so that we can follow our hearts and interests… Any thoughts or suggestions on if this would work?

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Words to an aspirational celebrant

I met one of my neighbours this morning and he mentioned he was becoming a celebrant soon so he could marry two friends who are getting married soon. I gave him the spiel I give anyone and everyone becoming a new celebrant, but I thought it’d be something worth putting down in a blog post, and hopefully if you’re a hopefully future celebrant then this can be an encouragement to you too.

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How to video chat really well

Video chat, video conferencing, Skyping, Facetiming, or now, Zooming, is going to be a fairly major way we communicate through this season and into the future. The problem is, I see lots of people on Zoom calls not bringing their A-game to the call. The reason presenting yourself well on a video call matters is because in that online video chat environment we’ve already lost a few of our primary senses from the human interaction, smell, taste, and touch. That leaves our sight and hearing. In the same way that someone without hearing or sight will say that their other senses are heightened, in a video call, we’re missing the hug we might have started the interaction with. We haven’t had a chance to buy each other a drink, or shake hands, or simply see our smiles and smell our perfume, and feel at home together. So let’s make the visual and the audible sensory experience as good as our tools and technology allows us to.

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What it means when they say that weddings are coming back

There’s a lot of talk about weddings coming back as COVID-19 restrictions are eased. This is not an article about when and what restrictions are being eased, but a reminder as to how Australia works and how to know if weddings are a) allowed or legal, b) when they’re allowed, c) what will be allowed.

This article does remind you though how Australian governance works. You see, Australia as a nation is a lovely idea, but really, you live in a state. That state, be it Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, or a constant state of joy, has made a number of decisions as to how certain things are governed. Many things are a state business, and they have then handed many things on to the [Commonwealth of Australia] for their governance. This article is an oversimplification of a complex structure, so please don’t quote me anywhere.

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When a bushfire ravages a land

I drove through a recently bushfire affected region last week. The ground was still blackened, but not as much as the tree trunks. The foliage and grass that would normally cover the bush floor was slowly achingly coming back to something that resembled life, and those trees that survived, still stood tall. The stand out from the drive though were the two things flourishing today.

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When you are not different even Google is against you

A really powerful way for you to spend your time and energy whilst weddings are essentially furloughed, is to evaluate, reevaluate, and evaluate even more, your current business systems and marketing strategies. I like to view my marketing strategy as a journey, and the end of that journey is when someone “walks into my store” and makes a purchasing decision, and my “store” is my website. On a recent Google Office Hours webinar, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, made this comment on being different to a webmaster who has a ringtones website who was complaining of traffic dropping and their search engine position dropping …

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You’ve asked some great questions about the service contract

In previous posts here on the Celebrant Institute – like this one – we’ve talked about how a great service contract is a really good starting point for defining the relationship you have with your clients, so when disaster or pandemic strikes, neither of you are “wondering where we stand” because it’s in writing already and agreed upon already. We’ve had a few questions about the service contract and wanted to address them here.

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So, you’re being affected by a pandemic

If you’re a marriage celebrant, or officiant or even just a wedding vendor of some description, and your main clientele are inhabitants of planet earth, you might find yourself in a position in the coming weeks where there is a negative effect on your business and way of life due to a pandemic.

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The Coronavirus should remind you to get this one important thing

There are so many issues surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) that I’m not even going to pretend like I have the answers today. Think Splendid (one, two, and three) and the Wedding Photo Hangover cover it well. But one thing you should be thinking about in these times is as weddings move and are cancelled, what does that look like for your business? The bedrock foundation of any business transaction (between you and a couple for example) is how that relationships is defined. What is expected of you both, and are those expectations being met.

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“Ceremony writing is my least favourite part”

Jeff asks: I’m heading into my busiest year yet, I’m so happy I get to work alongside so many great humans who want to be married! The downside (if we can call it that) – my ceremony writing process is my least favourite part (is that bad?). I’ve done the work of automating as much of the process as humanly possible while creating a very fun customer journey, but when it comes down to writing the ceremony I’m just not that psyched. And then when you multiply the procrastination to start by x amount of weddings it’s easy to fall behind. Couples and guests have always said they love the ceremonies I write (phew!) but it can be exhausting and seems hard to scale.

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Changing from selling to serving

Many of us have a problem with selling. It’s understandable, most of us have been sold to before, and we’ve hated it. A “salesperson” is often the sleaziest person in the room, and none of us want to be “that guy.” But here we are, trying to pay our mortgages or rent with some cash we earn from being a celebrant. And traditionally, that requires sales. So, I, Josh-saviour-to-the-celebrants, has a solution!

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Ten reasons you should take credit card payments

If your couples don’t have an easy way to pay you with credit card, I’m of the belief that you’re not only missing out on cash flow and cash, but you’re also missing out on the goodwill you would generate by making your couples’ lives easier.

Here are ten reasons I think you should either enable credit card payments (if you already have the option) or look at extending your payment options to include credit card.

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Moving town as a celebrant

Kath asks: Hey Josh, Just wondering if you have any advice on what I should be doing in preparation to “move/expand” a celebrant biz interstate. I am moving to Hobart mid year and would like to make a start on some marketing now which will in turn affect my bookings for the end or the year and the beginning of next. Apart from reaching out to some lovely local celebs in the area to say hello and booking in to attend an expo, do you have any ideas on what I should or could be doing online (website copy, SEO, blogging, google listing, marketing, back end kind of stuff) while I am in this early transition stage.

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You don’t have to do everything

My favourite computing device is my iPad. I’m actually travelling for up to six months of this year with only my iPad – it’ll be my main computing device. There’s two or three little bug bears that really annoy me about the iPad, but the main one is how the Instagram app is still phone-only. There’s no iPad app for Instagram.

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What are your travel fees for?

Linda asks: As a regional celebrant I am struggling with travel and how to incorporate this into my fees. I have an “anything over 200km round trip” clause which may seem a lot but its realistic to where I live. My problem is more about inquiry meetings, extra meetings and rehearsals. Obviously I cant charge for an inquiry meeting but do I just have a set higher wedding fee which kind of covers longer distances overall whether the wedding is near or far? Hope you can help!

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How to make marriage paperwork PDFs, and where to send them

While I’ve talked a lot about how I sign my paperwork on an iPad, you’re welcome to choose your tablet and software of choice, I haven’t detailed exactly where the paperwork comes from.

Of course you can [download blank marriage paperwork] from the Attorney-General’s office, and if you wanted to find the shortest link between the AGD website and signing it on an iPad, you could literally treat that blank paperwork like blank physical paper. But there’s a better way and it depends which state you live in.

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Which iPad and which apps do you recommend for celebrants?

Jake asks: I’m currently taking bookings faster than I planned would happen and have decided that an iPad might be a better way to keep everything in one place , meaning my emails/ceremonies, and documents. But the main reason is I would like to be able to have my couples sign the the paperwork on the iPad (form 15 , NOIM) all that jazz. I just wanted to know what you would recommend in size and what programs/apps would make this possible.

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Comparing a Josh wedding ceremony and a Sarah ceremony

A topic we don’t cover enough here in the Celebrant Institute membership is ceremony presentation and style. It’s such a personal topic and each of us has our own style. But today we thought we’d lift the cover and show you all how Sarah and I both present a ceremony. Presented below are two videos, full recordings of a recent ceremony we have both presented recently.

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Value your interaction

A recent Seth Godin post has had me thinking about celebrancy all weekend. Interaction is a privilege. But it doesn’t often scale. The fact that people get to interact with you, taking time away from your partner, family,...

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Do not murder

It’s our first episode for 2020, and in this one we chat about: the Celebrant Institute’s new partnership with Pod Legal the pros and cons of leveraging the bushfire crisis (or any other charitable cause) for...

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When you’ve got an odd name pronunciation

I married a couple recently and the bride had one of those names where there was a few different ways it could possibly be pronounced. In that situation, when we first meet, I introduce myself with my name, and expect the same in return, I’ll then note how they pronounce their own name. But she didn’t!

I feel the same way about business.

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Receiving ID documentation securely

Sophie asks a very important and pertinent question (which I’ve slightly edited for brevity): A question regarding the safety of couples sending digital copies of their ID via email or within a system like Dubsado. A groom works in IT and raised concern when I asked him to send through copies of their ID to draft their NOIM. I replied saying that I thought uploading their docs via a form in Dubsado would be safe. He replied ’In regards to the Dubsado application or other applications with securing sensitive documents\data, I’m in IT and been involved in data breach incidents. All applications and back end data need to follow ISO 27001 standards, so hopefully Dubsado are complying. Part of the standard is that, these documents provided are extremely sensitive and should not be emailed and secured within the application. Data travelling via networks (internet) need to be encrypted, and not all email accounts or tools do this. Hence why I shared the documents\data via a shared drive for you to sight the files only, then I delete. I informally recommend, not to save these documents\data within the application, unless they are fully encrypted, or deleted 6-12 months after the ceremony. Especially not to save this data on your desktop or email account, and NEVER click on an email or link your don’t know the recipient.’ Wondering what you guys know and think of this? I should probably contact Dubsado directly too, but at times have had couples email and even text me through pics of their ID – is it way too risky and should I use Skype/FaceTime aka ‘real time’ to never run into the issue? Obviously receiving a pic is a lot more convenient most of the time!

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Partnering with charities? Watch out for the ACCC

Eyewear brand Oscar Wylee is in trouble with the ACCC for its charitable donations. In an era of such transformative social change, more and more businesses are choosing to align themselves with charitable organisations or causes. Whether that be through donations or the facilitation of programs, businesses of all kinds are stepping up to give back.

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Record keeping in an online environment

I read the latest Marriage Celebrant Matters Newsletter and it states that “Hard copies of the Notice, DNLI or any supporting documents (divorce orders, parental consents etc) do not need to be kept once lodged electronically with the registry of births, deaths and marriages (BDM). Celebrants may wish to retain these documents until the marriage is registered”

Does this include all the previous hard copies we kept and lodged electronically? Because previously we were suppose to keep the hard copies for X years from what I remember. I think it was 5 years from memory.

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40 Questions To Ask Yourself Each New Year

To bring in the new year, [Stephen Ango asks himself 40 questions]. I liked his list but thought I’d alter it for Celebrant Institute followers so we could reflect on where we’ve been and look at where we’re going. Identify trends, strengths, weaknesses, and things we should simply be proud of as individuals and as a community. Stephen’s is a personal list, and my amendments are focused on your celebrant business. Maybe you want to do both, or just one, it’s all up to you.

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Changing the planned date of the marriage on the NOIM

A couple from America have gone gung ho and booked to elope in December. They have their heart set on coming into their wedding on a camel!

I advised them that this our ‘wet’ season and there may be a chance of rain and will need a plan B. However there is no plan B option for a camel to be involved….which is their whole motivation for getting married in this destination. The cameleer has advised them that they definitely need a plan B too. He has asked them potentially plan to have the wedding on 2 consecutive dates (28th and 29th Dec) so that if it is raining on the first date, they can do it on the second date.

I advised them that this isn’t possible due to the NOIM limitations. Anyway I got to thinking, is it totally illegal to fill in 2 NOIMS – one for each date? I feel like this would be a no-no but I guess I want to satisfy my curiosity

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Contingency/death planning for celebrants

Now I’ve reached the stage of life where I have a mortgage and a family I figure it’s time to put a grown up will in place.

This got me thinking about what instructions I need to leave for my surviving relatives and the obligations that they have not only to comply with the law but to also ensure a smooth transition for my couples.

I was wondering if you guys have any tips or could give a basic overview of what process you guys have in place?

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Names in the ceremony

I have a Jane Brown (married name from her third marriage – the marriage I am looking after will be her fourth)

She uses the name Jane Brown in everyday use, and has Jane Brown on all her current documents. The only document she has with her maiden name (Jane Smith) is her birth certificate.

She has asked if I can use her maiden name, Jane Smith, in the ceremony on the day?

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When wanting to be featured or talked about, know this one thing

A favourite read of mine is the regular Susbtack email from Ariel Stalling. You might know her name from a little blog called Offbeat Bride. In this week’s mailout, Ariel tells the story of how someone a little bit like her was covered in the New York Times.

Before I actually read the words in the piece I thought Ariel was telling the story about how she was covered in the New York Times which would’ve been kind of cool, but then when you sit down and read it you realise that someone slightly similar to her with a really good publicist was covered in the Times instead.

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What are the ABIA awards? A guide for celebrants

A reader asks: “I’ve noticed the ABIA awards presentation nights have been occurring but what is the ABIA awards and how do people win the ABIA awards? What is the scoring based on? I see these marks of 99.93 etc.” I’ll answer this question on behalf of ABIA, then with my own opinion, which may or may not include the now famous, Billockery Awards, the celebrancy industry’s most favourable fictionalised awards system.

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Please put the (sales) gun down!

A quick Saturday morning flick through the social media feeds showed me six celebrants doing a bad thing on social media.

They’re not breaking the law, and in their minds they’re not doing a bad or evil thing. Many people would see the same thing I did and think it’s perfectly fine.

But my advice would be to stop.

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Parents’ names on the NOIM. Part 3

Party to the marriage is completing their NOIM and has advised me that:
1) her father is not listed on her birth certificate or any other official/legal documents relating to her identity
2) she knows who her father is, and they are involved in each other’s life
I’m aware we don’t have to check evidence of parents names – so just wanted to double check that I am correct in advising that she should list her father on the NOIM despite him not appearing on her birth certificate (as to write ‘unknown’ would be to knowingly make a false statement on the NOIM)?

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Communicating timelines with couples

Alex asks: My question is regarding communication with couples – specifically timelines. Before I became a Celebrant I remember hearing a few off-hand remarks from a family friend and also a cousin about their Celebrants. The general feedback was that they never heard from their celebrant after booking them, had no idea what to expect (for example commented “we hadn’t heard from her in 4 months”) and both had doubts about how the day would run. I was horrified! To me, managing expectations is super important but I also understand it may be different with each couple. So my question is – sorry it took me a while to get there – do you have any advice on how you communicate a “timeline of events” with the couple – or can you provide an example of one? And also advice for me on ceremony writing….how soon before the wedding do you start it and if requested or preferred by the couple when do you send a first draft for them to review, and how soon before the ceremony do you “lock everything in?”

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A review of Wedwordy, a ceremony script creator

I was email marketed by the team at Wedwordy recently, with their offering of a ceremony script builder. Wedwordy promises to create personalised wedding ceremony scripts “as easy as 1-2-3” so I reached out to them and requested a review. I’ve listened to many celebrants through the ages talk about their ceremony script writing process, some put way too much effort in, and many simply phone it in by inserting names in the right places and clicking print. Some don’t even go that far and thanks to those celebrants the profession has that reputation of saying the wrong names in a ceremony.

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Is there room at the top of the market?

Jeff asks: A general price question: when you both set your prices (to their current rates), were you/are you in line with what others charge or are you much higher? Pretty sure I’m the highest priced officiant in my region of 500,000 folks, but @ $650/ceremony I’d have to perform about 27 weddings/week to go legit. That doesn’t work. I have right around 75 weddings on the books for 2019 and it’s great since this is a side hustle, but I want to make the leap but for suuuure can’t at this rate. I’m hesitant because if I jump up to $800-$1000 I’ll literally be charging more than double the price or most others…but I guess someone has to be most expensive, I might as well be that guy…was just curious your thoughts on that.

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How to surprise a couple with a ceremony

Jeff asks: When/how did you now it was ok to not share ceremony content with the couple but just have them trust you on the day of? Couples and guests really love what I put together (I guess I’ve figured out that much ha!) and I have lots of reviews that say it’s great – removing the step of sharing content would literally make things faaaar easier, just wondering how to get couples on board with that or when it’s ok to do that.

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Why we deliver the best Cert IV in Celebrancy Australia

If you’re aspiring to be a celebrant in the near future, Sarah and I deliver the Certificate IV in Celebrancy through this very Institute.

We’re lucky enough to have experienced, and to continue to experience the full breadth of celebrancy training, students contact us every day with questions their trainers and colleges are answering incorrectly or weirdly.

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Josh’s ceremony inclusions

Jeff, a Canadian celebrant, asks: I’m wondering what sections you two include in your ceremonies? I have a very similar trajectory for each ceremony, and add or subtract (readings etc) based on what the couple are looking for, but was wondering how others on the other side of the world do it!

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What is in your terms and conditions

Theresa asks: I’ve had a couple of last-minute cancellations recently – given the circumstances, I’m happy that the weddings didn’t go ahead. Anyhow, it has forced me to take a much-needed look at my T&C’s and was wondering if either of you would be open to sharing how you deal with the following scenarios/what you have in your invoices or statement of fees: 1. Cancellations, 2. The unlikely event that you are unavailable and need to arrange someone else to step in, 3. The unlikely event that you are unavailable and cannot find anyone else to step in.

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Becoming a celebrant for a side hustle

Every week one or two potential new celebrants email or DM me about starting a celebrancy business as a side hustle, hoping to make a few dollars on the side to provide for their family’s extra needs or to put some cash in the holiday account.

It’s understandable. In the past it was a common part time career for a mum, or a school teacher, to undertake and just do a few ceremonies a year.

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Can’t access a birth certificate but has a passport!

Cass asks: I’m marring a couple in October and one of them can’t find his birth certificate and he’s looked everywhere. He seems to think it can’t get posted to him in time to fill out the NOIM. He only has a passport and not a drivers license or proof of age. Is there any other form of ID he can use like Medicare or like proof of residency? Sorry, I tried looking it up and can’t quite figure out how to use other IDs on the NOIM?

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Getting the guests to obey you

I recently had a ceremony which was in a very sunny/hot location, I asked the guests multiple times to move over to the ceremony area but they all resisted and stayed in the shade. I walked over and specifically asked them to move over and some did but some still didn’t. What are your tips?

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“Authority for marriage despite late notice – not applicable”

“I’m confused about a tick box on the NOIM with these words beside it “Authority for marriage despite late notice – not applicable”. It does not have an asterisk or dagger next to it for actioning (i.e. strike out words not required, or strike out if inapplicable). Can you advise when and what this should be actioned for please?”

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Taking over a ceremony for another celebrant: legal obligations

A celebrant friend has asked me to be a standby in case she cannot officiate her nieces wedding next month. I am meeting the couple this week so we can all feel comfortable and I will also check ID’s so I am happy with that aspect. The best outcome is that I am just there on the day and she is well enough but we are both wanting to be prepared so her niece has a legal and memorable wedding with no glitches. Is this enough?

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It’s time to wean ourselves off this teat

The most popular question I’m asked in person by my wedding industry colleagues, and here on the Celebrant Institute, is which website do I advertise on or which directory do I list in that works?

Somewhere along the way, wedding vendors have gotten really comfortable being fed off the teat of wedding blogs, directories, websites, and magazines.

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How to say the monitum with warmth

Tracey asks: I’d really love some input about how/where in the ceremony you would say the Monitum. In amongst all the beautiful ‘love’ words it can feel a bit cold and clinical. I’m yet to find a way to bring it into the ceremony without it sounding a bit like an announcement! I feel pretty ok with writing sections of a ceremony. Tying them together is the tricky part for me!

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Giving the couple a copy of their NOIM

I have completed a NOIM with a bride for a ceremony next year, the groom lives in the USA and they are submitting a prospective marriage visa application. When signing the NOIM with the bride I provided a letter of support but she also wanted a copy of the NOIM for her lawyer. I said I wasn’t able to provide this and the letter should be enough (I have done a few of these now and no other couple have asked for it and visas have been processed). I double checked this with some other celebrants at the time as I was sure we were not supposed to pass on copies of the NOIM to anyone and they agreed, do not pass it on. Anyway today the lawyer called me asking for the NOIM again. I advised the same thing and she was super nice about it but said in 5 years I am the only celebrant to have ever said no…………. SO am I wrong or is she wrong? I don’t want to hinder their visa application in any way but I also want to follow our rules!

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The survey about OPD and the new celebrant application process

Okay here it is, my promised analysis on the survey that the Marriage Law and Celebrants Section (MLCS) sent to all celebrants today. Before I jump in, I just want to reiterate how incredibly important it is that as many celebrants as possible respond to this survey. We don’t get many opportunities to have a say on how the celebrant program is run, and we should take them when they are offered. Please, please, please think carefully about each question, but definitely respond!

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High pitched squeak out of the speaker system

Thanks very much for your helpful article about PA system recommendations. I hope Bose & Sennheiser are kind to you! I upgraded to both recommended items & during testing at home & at a venue it worked perfectly, but once the ceremony started there was some audio issues; couple of those high pitches squeaks and I think a bit of cutting out. It wasn’t a disaster but also wasn’t great, and I’d like my audio to be as good as poss so just trying to figure it out before the next ceremony.

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How to use two Bose S1 speakers in a wedding ceremony

Sophie asks: “After a beach ceremony last weekend I vowed to never lug my massive speaker around again – its ridiculously heavy, I’m pregnant, plus sand = a terrible time. I loved your set-up at the conference and def did not write enough notes at that time about what was going on. Bose S1 Pro, check. If I go with 2 speakers like you had do they have to be connected with a cable? I don’t think yours did but some audio store people are telling me I’d have to? I’m not too tech savvy but have reasonable intelligence so I know I can work it all out when I get going. Ideally I’d like 2 speakers playing all audio at once – me speaking through a headset (something decent Rode or the like), couples into a handheld (Senheiser right?) and music played through Bluetooth. This is pretty much what I’ve told the few places I’ve approached so far but then it gets complicated quick when they’re talking to me about mixers and cables etc etc and I’m lost. Any quick and not too laborious help??

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Josh’s plan for posting on social media

When I post on social media, I’ve got one plan in mind. Not to sell, not to do a deal, not to whinge or complain. I want to be known. So when people that like me make a decision about a celebrant, I’m who they think of. When I saw this recent meme about the mortifying ordeal of being known and loved it resonated with me so much I had to work it into a talk for our recent conference.

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Three reasons your celebrant website should be secure

As you’re viewing this blog post you’ll note that in the URL bar, the part where you type the blah blah blah dot com bit, next to the domain name ‘celebrant.institute’ you’ll see a little padlock 🔓 icon that is a sign that this website is communicating with your web browser securely. If you share any information with this website, by logging in, making a comment, typing in a credit card number, or even just reading blog posts, that content is all secure. Running a secure website today is not only popular and a good look, but it is important for your brand identity and your search engine optimisation. As an example, here’s a screenshot of a website I visited today and I was surprised how negatively I felt about the brand knowing that they had not installed an SSL certificate on their website and made it a secure connection.

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How to be a wedding reception MC

The art of MCing a wedding reception is definitely one most celebrants could master, but it’s a little different to being a marriage celebrant, so here’s master MC, Glenn Mackay, of G&M Event Group at the 2019 conference on how to perfect the art.

If you’re looking for more from Glenn he was a guest on the Celebrant Talk Show on a totally different subject, listen here.

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Registering Australian marriages overseas

Just wanting some advice on how you inform couples on how to register their marriages aboard? E.g  A Scottish couple marry here, and ask you how they register their marriage in Scotland. I understand they need to have the Original Marriage Certificate apostille stamped, before their government will recognize it as a true document, however where can they get this done? The Australian Embassy in their country or??

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Marrying in your birth name after changing your name by marriage

I have a bride that is divorced but still goes by her previous spouse’s surname. In regards to moving forward and taking on the new spouses name – does she have to go through any special process or will she just go to her organisations and show her divorce cert, and new marriage certificate to change to her new surname? In regards to the paperwork NOIM etc – if she shows me her birth certificate, but a passport/drivers licence with her previous married surname – as long as I’m satisfied that it is the same person, and she is who she says she is, does it matter? And i fill out the documentation with her maiden name?

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Why people hire the mediocre celebrant instead of you

If you want people to appreciate that what you offer is better, that what you offer is actually good, the market needs to have more actually good businesses in it. It seems like you should be able to stand apart by being good when surrounded by a sea of mediocrity, but real life rarely works that way. If you want people to appreciate that what you offer is better, that what you offer is actually good, the market needs to have more actually good businesses in it. It seems like you should be able to stand apart by being good when surrounded by a sea of mediocrity, but real life rarely works that way.

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Five easy SEO hacks you can do that are driven by research

Everyone knows a guy who knows a guy who can get you on the front page of Google. I’d argue that you might not want to be on the front page of Google for everything, but it doesn’t hurt for the right people to be able to find you.

In this article I’m not going to add to the SEO noise, you can read a million articles about SEO practises and there are even more people willing to take your cash to make it work for you.

But if you don’t mind kicking around the shed that is your website, here’s a check list of things you can change or improve on, and they’re backed up with good research. As opposed to the standard old wives tale SEO advice that most people’s parent’s next-door neighbours are dishing out.

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What does Queensland BDM email people after their marriage is registered?

I’ve been telling couples that after their marriage ceremony the Queensland Births, Deaths, and Marriages will email them with “an opportunity to order their marriage certificate” but I had not actually seen one of those emails yet. I’m guessing you hadn’t either.

So here’s what the Qld BDM emails after you register a marriage online with them:

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Sharing ceremony content

Jeff asks: I share my ceremonies with my couples using Google Docs. Every once in awhile I have a venue coordinator or wedding planner request access to the document, to which I normally deny access by kindly emailing them directly asking if I can help them out with anything specific. I kind of feel like there’s no reason for them to need to see the ceremony or have access, especially if it’s a venue I’ve been at a bunch of times. I would never request access to their day-of timeline they’ve created, that’s their business…

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Your priorities are visible

Some emails get quick replies from me, others have to wait a week. Sometimes I’ll go a few days without posting on social media, but I haven’t missed a wedding yet. I have a simple set of priorities in my life. My family, Britt and Luna, are first. Second is a marriage ceremony, third is my friendships and wider community and family. Fourth is sales and marketing, and replying to enquiries. Fifth is the admin side of the business, and sixth is tidying up my office.

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Shut down the myths around getting married and hiring a celebrant

I’m flying to Europe soon and I’ve put in for a first class upgrade. On Qantas you can apply for an upgrade and it costs you thousands of frequent flyer points. That’s how you fly first class, either that or you pony up the cash for it. In the history of flying the smallest handful of people have been upgraded to first class on a whim.

But if you talk to most people that don’t fly that often they will share the myth that if you are dressed well, looking sharp, feeling pretty, and you are nice to the check-in staff, the boarding staff, and the cabin crew, that you will hopefully be chosen for an upgrade.

That’s the problem with the areas of life that we don’t touch on often, they’re filled with mystery and intrigue …

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Simplify your celebrancy practice

In the chaotic and wild adventure that planning and hosting a wedding is I always try to remain a calm, cool, friendly face to my couples. This sounds like a great idea, but you need systems and processes to allow yourself to be that cool and calm.

I was inspired recently by Hans Hofmann, the artist, who talked about simplicity as “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” …

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Would you follow you?

Would you follow yourself on social media? If you saw that a friend of yours commented on one of your posts so it floated up to your news feed, and you clicked through to your profile, would you follow it?

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How to leave a celebrant association

A few recent conversations with celebrants on social media have prompted me to the question: what is membership in a celebrant association for? Traditionally the associations lobbied the Attorney-General’s office, and the BDMs of each state, on our behalf – but that role has diminished seriously in recent years, with individual celebrants getting more done than an association has …

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How value is really created

Stop talking, ask questions and listen, and you’ll learn about them. In order to think like your customer, you must focus on your customer. Your customer could be a prospect, an existing client, a boss, a co-worker, a friend or family member. Your desire should be to create value for your customer, not just to communicate information about you (or just talk about yourself), your company, products and services, and therefore you need to have walked in their shoes. Before you make your value pitch (in whatever form that takes), a prerequisite is having a deep sense of what your customer values.

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Talking ‘Inside Baseball’

“Inside baseball” is one of my favourite Americanisms, it’s a figurative adjective meaning the details are appreciated by only a small group of insiders or aficionados. It usually refers to a detail-oriented approach to the minutiae of a subject, which requires such a specific knowledge about what is being discussed that the nuances are not understood or appreciated by outsiders.

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What should I do at a wedding expo?

Hi, I am a new country celebrant with three weddings booked late this year, early next year but none performed so far. I am attending a wedding expo soon ( in the country) and am not sure what to do. I have collaborated with a supplier to use an arbor, have my logo enlarged to easel size and have business cards. But wondering what else I need. I dont have photos of me officiating yet obviously. What information type material should I have with me, what questions do you usually get asked, do I just stand there and smile, “have chockies to reel them in”? Please help!!

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Can we marry people on the water or in the air in Australia?

Elle asks: I have a wedding where I am marrying the couple on a boat, we are all going to get on and cruise for 10mins until the couple get a feeling like yep lets pull up here and then I will do their ceremony, then the boat will carry on for couple of hours whilst everyone has drinks, food and watches the sunset. So in regard to Location of marriage on paperwork, NOIM and Marriage Docs as I won’t know the coordinates until we literally pull up, do I just write the coordinates in quickly before I call everyone in to kick ceremony off or can I fill when we go to sign docs? And am I just writing the coordinates, or do I need to put the boats name also?

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How to make a great ceremony without a rehearsal

Tori asks: I would really love to hear from you both (knowing that you prefer rehearsals Sarah, and you don’t tend to do them Josh), what is your approach to ensuring a ceremony runs as smoothly as possible and flows well when couples elect not to have a rehersal? As a new celebrant with just two ceremonies under my belt, I noticed a real difference between the first ceremony which had a rehearsal (with all the bridesmaids and groomsmen), and the second when the couple were quite adamant they preferred to go with the flow on the day. How do you go about still ensuring everyone involved feels comfortable and knows where to stand/where to move to during the ceremony when there is no rehearsal? I had a ‘talk through’ with my rehearsal-free couple and explained a few points to brief their bridesmaids/groomsmen with, but I don’t think this occurred as on the day I could some of the bridesmaids in particular were visibly confused/looked a little uncomfortable not knowing what they were doing. Any tips would be appreciated! Thanks 🙂 Tori

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Firing a couple

A celebrant friend has been going back and forth with a couple who want a celebrant that’s not her. Maybe they’ve been on the blogs and Pinterest and they’ve decided that this is how you deal with a celebrant, or maybe their friends and family have told them how to act this way, regardless, they are taking themselves on a different customer journey to the one my friend would normally take her couples on.

Today she asks, “should I fire them?”

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Taking over a wedding from another celebrant: logistics and money

“A local celebuddy and I have recently been chatting about being a primary back-up celebrant for each other. As a fairly new celebrant, it got me wondering how other people manage replacements when you have to cancel at short notice (or even on the day). Do you ask the new celebrant to use your script (even if it’s very much in ‘your’ voice)? How do you divide payment? Do you partially/fully refund the couple because you’ve not completely fulfilled the contract? What if you’re in a car accident on the way to the ceremony and you have all the paperwork on you?”

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Dealing with nerves and stage fright

Cass asks: My question is more of a concern. I already have full time work in the theatre so celebrancy for me was more of a service I wanted to provide for friends and family. I think celebrating love is one of the most beautiful and important things we can do as a society and for me it has always been about the intimacy of the couple. I used to be quite a confident public speaker when I was in high school but now I’m almost 30 I feel absolute terror at the thought of performing such an important task in front of potentially hundreds of people. I know the day is obviously about the couple and not me but I don’t want my nerves to interfere with their special moment. Do you have advice (apart from practice) to combat serious stage fright?

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Witnessing the NOIM: how much information is required?

Lauren asks: “I got this question from my bride and I’m second guessing myself! ‘Went up to the police station on Sunday and got this signed, but I just wanted to check before I send you the original…in the qualification section, is it fine that it just says police officer? I only realised when looking at it later that there is no section for the witness’ name or identification number or anything, so hoping this is ok!’

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You gotta know when to fold ’em

Hello everyone, and thanks for bearing with us since December! As always, we love being in your ears, and here we are again with another episode of the Celebrant Talk Show Podcast 🙂 This episode we chat about:Sarah’s Cert IV training and how it works Marriage Celebrants Matters Autumn newsletterVIC BDM RIOThe Frustrated StateHow to go full-time as a celebrant

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What do celebrants legally have to say?

Kelly asks: What do we legally have to say? Just read guidelines and act section 45/46 and I’m reading we only need to say monitum and a couple the legal vow. I read/was trained that we have to introduce ourselves as the celebrant with the lucky job of marrying the shit outta the couple before us…but do we actually have to? I’m looking at making my intro less formal and hoping I’ve read it right.

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VIC BDM RIO: everything I know

As anyone who’s reading this will be aware, the rollout of the Victorian BDM’s new online registration system, Registry Information Online (aka RIO) has been less than smooth. As I write this I’m locked in a text conversation with our very own Josh; he’s the techiest person I know and even he’s confused. Things that work one day don’t seem to work the next; you ring the helpdesk and get a “solution” that is really just them fiddling around until it suddenly works for no good reason, etc etc etc.

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Victorian BDM RIO tutorial

Let’s face it, the new BDM online registration system implementation has not had the smoothest roll-out in the history of tech roll-outs. It’s certainly not a particularly intuitive, user-friendly system, and I’m disappointed at the number of issues with it. However I also know BDM are working really hard to rectify the issues as soon as possible.

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How a real celebrant should read the Guidelines, and other thoughts on marriage celebrancy

The recent post on sighting ID included some powerful language from the Attorney-General’s office:The Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for authorised celebrants is issued to assist celebrants to comply with the Marriage Act and Regulations. Ultimately it is up to the celebrant to comply with all of the requirements of the Act. I appreciate that some of the language used in the Guidelines is of a directive nature, rather than of best practice nature.Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Marriage Celebrants Section

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A massive change to how marriage celebrants can sight ID

For the past six months I have been pursuing a line of inquiry with the Attorney-General’s office Marriage Celebrants Section over the line in the Guidelines section 4.4.2: It is not acceptable for a celebrant to accept a NOIM and/or supporting documents via videoconferencing services such as Skype. Actual documentation must be received by the celebrant.

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How to tell an enquiry “It’s not you, it’s me”

Tenielle asks: Hey guys, I’m hoping you can lend me some advice or wording to send to a couple. Met with them on Saturday and whilst they are lovely, the vibe was NOT there. Conversation was really stunted and it didn’t seem like a natural fit from my perspective. I’m really not wanting to take their booking, but I don’t know how to politely tell them, ‘Thanks but no thanks’. I’m especially aware of any legal obligations we have to marry couples and not discriminate against them.I would use the whole, ‘Sorry I’m double booked!’ route, but their date just opened for my bookings and that would be a blatantly obvious lie.

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Ceremony design process

Veronica has had a pretty rough trot with a renewal couple: They were one of my first bookings after becoming a celebrant. I was really unsure of how a renewal should run…only that it would be similar to a wedding just really without the legals. Since our first meeting in September, I have met with them four times, multiple messages and numerous phone calls. They sent me their desired ceremony plan. Which essentially had me as an MC…introducing a number of speakers and readers. They had also put my name against a couple of tasks. So based on that I wrote a script (as not very good at ad lib) and went to meet with them for a “rehearsal”. They almost tore the script to shreds. They had also added and removed things from their original plan without telling me and wanted to know where I planned on putting these new ideas in the ceremony. Not liking my suggestions and especially suggesting that it was getting a bit long. Decided to sit back and let them decide. We finally came to a mutual agreement and now they want to see my amended script so they can check it all over before finalising.So, feeling a little flattened and that I have had to work exceptionally hard for my fee (which is less than what I charge for a wedding). Did I miss something? Should I have asked questions differently? Really not wanting to go anywhere near Vow Renewals any more. How should I have handled it all?

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Vow and ring exchange logistics

Tori asks: I have a logistics question for you around microphones/vow cards/ring exchanges. My first ceremony is fast approaching, and my couple have written their own vows. The plan at the moment is for me to hop out of the way during the vow exchange, leaving them to hold the mic for themselves while they read from their respective vow cards. They like the idea of ending the vows with the ring exchange (e.g. the bride would hold the mic for herself, read from her vow card, and wrap her vows up by presenting her partner with the ring. Then they would swap, and he would hold the mic for himself, read from his vow card and finish it off by presenting her with the ring). My concern is this – doing it this way would leave them with a lot to juggle – holding the mic and their vow card, plus a ring which they will be slipping on the other person’s hand at the same time. I guess my question is this: what do you find works best in the situation – do you tend to always hold the mic for the couple if they are reading from vow cards, or would you just avoid combining the ring exchange in with the vows, and instead let them do the vows with you out of the way and then come back in to feed them their ring exchange wording while holding the mic for them?

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What do I read my ceremony from?

Tori asks: I have my first ceremony coming up in a week and a half (for a good friend), and while I am feeling pretty on top of things overall, I am still trying to work out what I will use to read from on the day. I was hoping you could talk a little bit about your experience/thoughts on using a tablet (which I’ve noticed quite a few celebrants tend to be doing?) VS something like a nice looking binder. Any specific tips/considerations either way (e.g. if you use a tablet, do you find a cover for it that you can tuck vow cards into?), and if you do go the binder/folder route, any ideas for where to buy something appropriate? Last question! If you do tend to use a tablet, do you always have a hard copy as backup anyway?

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Interpreters and translators

Sarita asks: We’re away at the moment and then the couple in question head away as we get back – so the NOIM will be getting lodged in Jan, with a day to spare. The bride is from China and all her ID is in Chinese. As long as I tell them to get the passport, (birth certificate) & drivers license/ID card interpreted by a NAATI registered interpreter – is that all ok? Just wanted to check I’m not missing anything as it’s my first time doing a marriage that will involve an interpreter. 

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How do I do marriage certificates?

Julia asks “I was just wondering how you all prepare your pretty Form 15s. Does anyone use traditional calligraphy? Hand write? Use a template on a printer?” I’ll answer Julia’s question along with a wider explanation of how I prepare all of my paperwork, including the Form 15.

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When to provide documentation to couples

Peter asks:

By when in the process must we have given the required documents to the couple?

I have been giving the required documents (happily ever…, code of practice, complaint info, etc.) with the engagement letter / quote, however, often I only have an email address at this stage for one party, not both. As I understand it, this doesn’t satisfy the requirements of the act (giving happily ever… effectively to only one party).

Upon booking, that’s when I get my now clients to give me their complete contact information. I’ve trialed different methods of getting complete contact info on enquiry but nothing has really been effective.

I’m trying to optimise my systems and I don’t want to send more emails in my workflow than I have to, so I was wondering can I send this info at the point of our planning meeting (circa 4 months out) as part of an email that already sits in my workflow rather than at the point of booking?

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Signing two Official Certificates of Marriage electronically

Alison asks: This might be more of a Josh question because it’s about electronic paperwork – or maybe it is for Sarah because of the legal side. I’m performing my very first ceremony tomorrow (hooray!) and I’ve received permission from the ACT BDM to accept electronic signatures and to submit the paperwork by email. I’ve watched Josh’s video for how to sign the marriage paperwork on an iPad and I’m all set to go.

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Lodging marriage paperwork electronically

Hey there.. a question – I’ve just registered to submit ceremonies online in NSW (I am in Vic). In reading the manual, I discovered you can scan/lodge all official documents ONLINE once the ceremony is over and that’s that. I emailed them to ask if that was for real – we don’t need to mail the official docs in? They emailed back that is correct and we just file the documents.

Now – that’s not what the Act says. Hmmmmm. I don’t want to be responsible for holding the originals. I asked a few celebrants who all say they send the docs in as well. One celebrant said he rocked up to NSW BDM to hand the documents in and they flatly refused to take them from him, saying once they are uploaded online there is no need for the BDM to have them.

So I guess they are binning / destroying all the original docs people are sending them, if those same docs have been uploaded online.

I am dying to know: what do you two do when registering a marriage in NSW then uploading the documents? Do you send/destroy/keep the originals?

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Different signatures by parties

A celebrant asks: I have received a Notice of Errors in documentation email from BDM. They have requested the bride provides a stat dec indicating why her signature on the NOIM and Marriage Certificate are different. Is there wording we can provide on the stat dec to assist completion? Can we provide a scanned copy of the stat dec to BDM (or do they need to sight originals)

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Starting a business

A new member asks: I have completed my cert 4 at last and am in the process of doing my AG application so now I am thinking about the set up of my business. I have no previous experience in this area and wondering where to start really. Should I be sourcing and / or starting to create a website now ( not go live of course!) do I produce business cards etc, basically when and where is a good time to start if you’re not an expert! Considering it can take up to 3 months to hear back could you suggest a timeline please?

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When a party’s recorded sex is different from their gender identity

A celebrant asks: The groom was born female, and identifies as male. He is male on his passport (that’s the doc I saw for ID purposes), but he’s just asked me if it poses any problems that his birth certificate lists him as ‘female’. I said no, because the changes to the rules have allowed for him to identify as male, so no dramas at all. However, my question is do I need to write a note of explanation in the ‘Additional Information to BDM’ section online? I know they sometimes cross reference with birth certificates and I don’t want to put the groom to any trouble by having to justify his gender. (I’d prefer not to make an issue of it by raising it if I don’t have to, but I know BDM can sometimes be a bit heavy-handed and insensitive).

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Insuring your PA system

Ella asks: I’ve purchased my PA systems and equipment because this isn’t covered under my home contents as it’s business use. Most home insurers will find a way not to pay if I did try to claim if something happened! (Previous industry knowledge). Who do you use for insurance on your equipment? As my other insurance is the association group on – can’t just add it on it.

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My disappointment every car service

Every time my car gets serviced, at 10,000km a service that’s about four to five times a year, I have this sinking feeling as I drive away from the mechanic’s workshop. After spending six odd hours away from me, and an average of $500 to $700 invoice, the car I drive away in feels pretty much the same as I brought to the workshop that morning at 8am…

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Beginners guide to not getting hacked

Reading the news today I realised that after Kristy Merlino’s email and Mailchimp accounts were hacked, that Kanye West’s iPhone passcode is 00000 and that Facebook doesn’t care about your privacy – it might be possible that other people aren’t 1) as passionate about Internet privacy and security as I am, 2) and even if they were, they might not know how to protect themselves…

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Old marketing versus new marketing, example 503,000,091

Old marketing would put the right message in the right place so the right people would find it. The celebrant would advertise in the wedding magazine because people having weddings bought wedding magazines. The tools were at the tool shop so people who needed tools would know where to buy them. The cheap services were advertised where cheap people shopped, and expensive services were advertised where people with too much money shopped…

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Calculating your fee

Liene over at Think Splendid has published a super insightful blog post about how she prices herself for her speaking gigs.

I wonder if we as celebrants have considered not only our costs of doing business expenses, living wage, the average celebrant fee, the market’s response to fees, and everything else we can talk about when it comes to pricing yourself, but have we considered this important point.

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Co-delivering a marriage ceremony

Josh asks: I have a celebrant mate of mine whose registration is pending with the AG’s office. But, she has a friend’s wedding coming up towards the end of September, which is the reason why she completed the course. I initially completed the NOIM for her and kept the date in September free (just in case), but what would you recommend I do to help from here? Should I just hang tight and wait for the AG or can I take care of the legals and have the other celebrant deliver the ceremony (other than the legal elements of course)? Also how would this work if the other celebrant has spent the time getting to know the couple and I have simply helped in a legal capacity? It’s definitely possible for an authorised celebrant to manage the legalities of the ceremony while another person (whether a pending celebrant or a friend of the couple) delivers the “ceremonial” aspects of the ceremony. 

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Charging for travel. Sarah’s view

Mercy asks: I’ve been asked to do a wedding two hours from Sydney and quoted an extra $50 above my usual fee each way, but they want to do a rehearsal the day before which would require me driving an extra four hours plus the time it takes to do the rehearsal. How would you recommend I charge for this?

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Which directories should we advertise in?

Sarita asks: I’m a relatively new celebrant and just after some advice on the world of wedding directories. There seem to be loads. Apart from the obvious ones like easyweddings, ABIA, there’s lots of smaller ones like polka dot bride, wedding guide, celebrant society, etc etc & a huge variation on how much it costs to list with them. Have you any tips, recommendations on where to go and where not to go. I feel like I should be listing somewhere (shouldn’t I?) but where to go!

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Celebrancy: The price

Self-employed creatives can talk about price and fee until the end of time. I’ve had celebrants privately, publicly, to my face, and behind my back, make all of the comments about why I charge too much, or not enough, and how that’s a problem, or an opportunity.

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What to do about crying

“Here’s a fun one for you guys. How do you deal with crying? I’m currently studying and in my performance assignment, my “bride” burst into tears and I realised I was totally unprepared for what I imagine is a very common occurrence. Do I just hand her a tissue and keep going? Do I wait until she regains composure? Do I try cracking a joke? Do I devise a “safe” word with the couple before the ceremony? I don’t want to embarrass anyone by drawing attention to it or making them feel bad about their reactions, but I also want to make sure they have a wonderful ceremony and can be present in the moment. How do long-time pros handle the floods of emotions from the couples – crying, uncontrollable giggling, nervous twitches? I’d love to know your techniques and any other thoughts from celebrants in the comments section.”

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Getting your financials in order

“I just did my tax and I’m very frustrated!!! I need advice on what software or system to use to make it easier. Most I see are not designed for a sole owner operator that has not registered for GST (I earn less than 75k); they seem too complicated. I know what I earn and spend this shouldn’t be so frustrating. But I never know what category to put things in. I don’t know. What do you use? I have a subscription to 17hats I thought that might help but its basically designed for America.”

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How to publish Facebook ads that work

I don’t know.

If there’s anything you can expect from me today and into the future is that I’m not going to talk BS. The good news is that I know as much about Facebook advertising as most marketers and advertisers do, and they don’t know either, because there is no one perfect ad that will close all the deals and make all the bookings. So as much as I don’t know how to publish Facebook ads that work, I do know how to publish Facebook ads that work for me, so I’ll take you through that process and also weave in some professional best practises and see if we can’t help you.

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What should we do on social media? Part 3

A member asks: When chatting with celebrants recently I heard again and again that most celebrants aren’t really that interested in following the general Instagram “best practice” advice that you see on social media blogs/podcasts. Most people a) don’t want to invest the time and energy to go down the Pinterest-style heavily-curated aesthetically-pleasing path, and b) think it’s bullshit anyway. They don’t want to follow a posting schedule, they may not even post very regularly. I think most celebrants just want to post photos that they like, when they have them – but want to maximize the appeal/reach of those posts and spend the least amount of time on them. Can you share any practical little hacks to shave a few minutes and a few headaches off your posting/planning time.

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What to do when the name on a birth certificate is different from that on the photo ID…

A question came to us: I am marrying a couple of brides this week and when I talked about the ID I’ll need to witness beforehand, one piped up that her name on her Birth Cert is different to all other ID but she’s never officially changed it. So her photo ID is going to be different surname to her Birth ID. She doesn’t have a passport. I thought I’d need to use her original name on all marriage docs (for avoiding future issues with passports etc) but am I correct or can I use her preferred surname even though the paper-trail lacks an official name change?

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Do I need a qualified / accredited interpreter?

Candice asks: I have a couple wanting to elope with just their parents and children present. I’m just writing because after looking at the guidelines I’m still a bit unclear and just need clarification on the use of a qualified interpreter. My couple are both deaf and they communicate via Auslan and of course their own beautiful way. Their parents are happy to sign and be there throughout our meetings and on the day. They can sign everything I say, and everything they say in return. Is this sufficient? Or do I need to advise them to organise a qualified person to come along? If the parents are okay to do this, do they still need to fill in a stat dec?

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What should we do on social media? Part 2

A member asks: When chatting with celebrants recently I heard again and again that most celebrants aren’t really that interested in following the general Instagram “best practice” advice that you see on social media blogs/podcasts. Most people a) don’t want to invest the time and energy to go down the Pinterest-style heavily-curated aesthetically-pleasing path, and b) think it’s bullshit anyway. They don’t want to follow a posting schedule, they may not even post very regularly. I think most celebrants just want to post photos that they like, when they have them – but want to maximize the appeal/reach of those posts and spend the least amount of time on them. Can you share any practical little hacks to shave a few minutes and a few headaches off your posting/planning time. There’s a reason Facebook and Instagram have personal and business accounts. There’s a place for you to post what you like, and a place for you to post content that has a positive on your business.

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What should we do on social media? Part 1

A member asks: When chatting with celebrants recently I heard again and again that most celebrants aren’t really that interested in following the general Instagram “best practice” advice that you see on social media blogs/podcasts. Most people a) don’t want to invest the time and energy to go down the Pinterest-style heavily-curated aesthetically-pleasing path, and b) think it’s bullshit anyway. They don’t want to follow a posting schedule, they may not even post very regularly. I think most celebrants just want to post photos that they like, when they have them – but want to maximize the appeal/reach of those posts and spend the least amount of time on them. Can you share any practical little hacks to shave a few minutes and a few headaches off your posting/planning time.

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The do’s and don’ts of email marketing

A pertinent question about building and maintain an email list today: For anyone looking to follow your example of maintaining “an email list of all couples I meet at expos, fairs, open days, along with all who enquire with me” and sending them a weekly newsletter – are there any legal considerations or permission issues (opt in/opt out) we need to consider? Is it fine to just add any email address to a newsletter database or is there particular wording we need to use in sourcing those addresses for that purpose? Cheers.

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Increasing your enquiry conversion rate

A question today about enquiries and how to increase our conversion: I have a question about converting enquiries as I am finding that I get a good amount of enquiries but feel my conversion rate could be way better. Wondering what I could be doing better or is there something I am not doing? Is it the language I am using in my initial contact too passive or boring? Or maybe I am giving them too much information? I currently do not have my price on my website so I am guessing some of the enquiries I am not converting are due to that and for follow up I send out a very short follow up email to them a about a month after not hearing anything. How do I better communicate to my leads in the initial enquiry stage to “seel the deal” with me or at least book an initial catch up meeting. Would love some constructive feedback on my “first email” and “welcome letter” attachment that I send as my first contact.

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Office facilities for civil celebrants, what’s required?

Alison asks: I’m currently studying to become a marriage celebrant, but there is one thing that worries me about setting up my practice once authorised: the home office. I currently live with flatmates in the city, so space is limited. I’m only planning on doing the celebrancy thing as a side gig (at the moment) as an antidote to my corporate day job, so renting full-time office space isn’t practical. In your interpretation of the Marriage Act and Code of Practice, would it be appropriate to maintain an “office” in my lockable bedroom, securing documents in a locked filing cabinet, while renting a separate interview space when needed or offering to meet couples in their homes? Can you recommend any other solutions?

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Guidelines 2018: What’s changed?

I’m looking at the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018: what’s new, what’s changed, and what’s gone. I’m not going to talk about changes such as the checklist for solemnising marriages moving from page 31 to the appendix, or other page or structure changes. What I will be talking about is the changes that affect the way Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants (both Subdivision C marriage celebrants and Subdivision D religious marriage celebrants) do our work, and there are more than you might expect.

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Five ways to make your ceremonies better

A recent Seth Godin post about presentations of the corporate/Microsoft Powerpoint kind, spurred me on to thinking about our presentation style as celebrants. My ceremony presentation style has it’s roots in a) what I’m good at and b) what I like. Yours should too, so don’t read this and feel judged or ashamed. If your style is you at your best, and in a style that you would like to receive, then be proud. Hopefully these five points might inspire you to expand your presentation style and take you out of your comfort zone, which can only make you better.

Read Seth Godin’s post first, and then I’ve got a translation for celebrants below.

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Personal vows and their content

Veronica asks: I know according to section 45(2) of the Marriage Act, couples are required to say “I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, A.B. (or C.D.), take thee, C.D. (or A.B.), to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband); or words to that effect.” When it comes to couples personalising their vows, aside from the previous mentioned, do couples have to say certain things, or are they free to say what they see fit?

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Pricing on websites; to list or not to list??? Josh’s view

Ella asks: “Price points seem to be a hot topic everywhere… Would you recommend putting your fees on your website? Some celebrants display their price on their website, others don’t. Some also seem to provide services cheaper then a BDM wedding. Which poses that question that some people expect you to compete on price, they aren’t comparing the quality of service provided. Only the number they see on the page.” As Sarah noted, everyone has a different answer on this, and here is mine. Don’t count this post as the final word, it’s just a brain dump on a Wednesday afternoon. I’m sure this is a topic we’ll return to over and over, and I’d invite you to list your thoughts in the comments.

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My ceremony writing timeline

Mercy asks: This relates to the questionnaire you send your couples. I’ve been doing the same, but as I’m fairly new, don’t really have a system in place as to when couples need to get back to me. When you send the questionnaire do you give your couples a deadline, if so do they generally stick to it, and what if they don’t?? And when do you tell couples you’ll send a first draft, final draft etc? Or do you sometimes have to play by ear according to the couples. So far I haven’t had any issues but I imagine some couples dragging their feet could affect getting the ceremony written. Would love your input on this.

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My Ceremony Builder Booklet

Mercy asks: I’d like to know about your booklet. The idea of printing an expensive booklet seemed a bit outdated to me, given that there are so many resources online and such a diversity of options for couples these days. None of my couples so far have been interested in readings, and I’m reluctant to pin them down as far as ceremony structure goes either, until I know more about them. What does your booklet look like, how many pages etc and what quality do you recommend? Do you find that couples choose structure and content based on the booklet or do you also provide links? And how do you get around the fact that you may want to update it when you find more content? I worry about the expense when I think about how often I come across new stuff and imagine wanting to change things up often. I know not all celebrants provide a booklet of information to their couples, but I have since the beginning of my life as a celebrant, and I find it helps both me and the couple stay on track and organised, and the couples who choose to work with me love the way it helps them plan out their ceremony.

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The rules for commitment ceremonies

Jac asks: I have a couple coming up. They got married a year ago (pretty much for their families to have a religious ceremony). None of their friends know this though. Before getting married officially for their parents, they said they would only do it their parents’ way if they could have a big bash with their friends the way they want this year. The time has come! It’s within a month.

I met with them yesterday and they were so stressed about their friends finding out etc that they were already married. I explained that we wouldn’t have to focus on that and include in the scripting that “this is the day that Jack and Jill are choosing to celebrate their marriage in front of you special people blah blah blah”. Instead of doing official paperwork, I offered a commemorative certificate instead (as this doesn’t have any legal bearing anyway). Are there any issues with what can/cannot be written on this? Would ‘wedding certificate’ be safe?

I really don’t want to say ‘THIS CEREMONY IS IN NO WAY LEGAL/BINDING’ so I was just going to gloss over it a little how you explained in your previous podcast. Obviously no Monitum will be said and there will be no legal vows but the couple will still write their own. Obviously I won’t be doing DONLIMs or submitting anything formal to BDM, but I thought the ‘pretty’ certificate or a commemorative certificate would be okay. Anything else I should look out for? The Guidelines are pretty clear on this, but let me give you my interpretation of what they say.

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Parents’ names on the NOIM

Listing the parents’ names on the NOIM is often a huge headache. What if one of them changed their name? Do you put their name when they were born or when the party was born? What if there’s a spelling error in their name on your birth certificate? What if they go by an anglicised name? The Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Marriage Celebrants have, until now, been silent on this matter, and it’s often been a point of contention between celebrants. Some celebrants say you should put whatever is on the party’s birth certificate, because the important thing is to be able to link all the records. Some celebrants say you should put whatever the father’s legal name is now, regardless of what it was when the party was born. But all that has changed with the release of the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018, so I was pleased to be able to answer the following question.

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Ceremony script writing skills. Sarah’s view

Liane asks: As a reasonably new celebrant (2016) my question to you both is how can I improve my skills and knowledge on writing ceremony scripts? How do you guys keep yourselves updated and up-skilled in this area? Can you recommend any resources, websites etc to increase my creative bank (example quotes, styles of weddings)? What framework do you both use when creating your wedding script?

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Pricing on websites; to list or not to list??? Sarah’s view

Ella asks: “Price points seem to be a hot topic everywhere… Would you recommend putting your fees on your website? Some celebrants display their price on their website, others don’t. Some also seem to provide services cheaper then a BDM wedding. Which poses that question that some people expect you to compete on price, they aren’t comparing the quality of service provided. Only the number they see on the page.” You will literally get a different answer on this from every celebrant or marketing guru you speak to. So for this question, both Josh and I are going to offer our views! This article is just Sarah’s thoughts. Here is Josh’s article.

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Running side hustles alongside your celebrant business

We’ve had a couple of anonymous questions on this in the last week, so I’m going to pop them both in here: I’m looking at expanding my services other than just celebrant. At the moment I have a little side gig where it is wedding packages with hair, make up and myself this is run on a separate facebook page. But I’m wanting to possibly offer ceremony styling as well. Just wanted to check it I could advertise this on my celebrant website under a tab “Ceremony Styling” and offer DIY or we setup and dismantle the ceremony. Think simple to start with chairs, flowers and arch. Just before I go making any purchases just wanted some feedback and advice. Thanks!

And: I am currently working for a theatre company and intend to keep working for them, but I want to be able to do weddings occasionally and for friends. However because I’m trained in fashion and costume I thought I’d be able to offer wedding dresses but from what I can understand I can’t? I understand how that can be a conflict of interest now but I was wondering where you draw the line within packages and extras. If I can’t even offer custom veils as an inclusion of a package then I feel like all my other hard earned creative making abilities are of no use?

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In praise of the not-young celebrant

I’ll never forget my very first wedding expo, where I arrived to the convention centre so green that I didn’t realise there was an expectation that I would design a booth. So we painted a board with blackboard paint and brought it to the expo, along with the required chalk, and with minutes to go until the expo doors opened I had to think of something to write.

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How to protect the copyright of your ceremony scripts

Tenielle asks: Just a quick question about intellectual property of ceremony drafts. Hasn’t happened to me, but have heard of stories of celebrants issuing a draft ceremony for the clients to look over, and then that ceremony being taken by the couple to a cheaper celebrant. Don’t know how true it is, but it did get me thinking about my own Ts and Cs and about how I could best protect myself at the end of the day. Look, I know how easy it is to forward on a PDF or a Word Document and there’s stuff all we can do about it at the end of the day, but it’s just another aspect of this job that’s been on my mind a bit lately.

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Get testimonies that matter

Celebrants offer such a personal service, your service is very different to mine, to every other member of this website, and the thousands of other celebrants available. We can communicate our differences in text and photos on our website, through blog and social content, and by meeting people but meeting every single enquirer can become tiresome.

So, let me introduce you to a secret warrior in my sales toolkit: testimonies.

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Tax deduction ideas for celebrants

It’s every business owner’s favourite time of the year: EOFYmas! As the End Of Financial Year celebrations takeover our lives I wanted to highlight the deductions I think we celebrants should be thinking of, and if you don’t have the record of these deductions from the past financial year, maybe try and keep them for this financial year.

I hope this goes without saying, but I’m not your accountant, I’m not the Australian Tax Office, and I’m not your mum, so make sure you run these things past those guys before taking my accounting advice as gospel. If you need an accountant, I can recommend mine but I’m sure there’s 100 within cat-swinging distance of your place.

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Period of residency on the NOIM

NOIM question: I know it says in the Guidelines if a person is in the country for a matter of days you leave the period of residency blank. Is that right? The only time I leave it blank is when they are born here, and I wouldn’t want there to be any confusion with an overseas-born person if I left it blank and BDM thought I’d made a mistake and forgot to fill it in.

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The only thing you can rely on in the wedding business

This afternoon a couple got engaged and they have never heard of you, they’ve not made any decisions about their wedding, and it’s highly likely they don’t know anything about the wedding industry, how it works, what things cost, and who does what.

The only thing you can rely on in the wedding industry is that today a couple got engaged and all of your previous branding, marketing, advertising, and godowill in the market means nothing.

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Maybe I’m incompetent?

The Celebrant Institute, this website, exists for celebrants who struggle with their competence. It’s ok, you’re not alone in thinking “maybe I could do better.” Marriage celebrancy is my full time job, it’s all I do, and more often than not I question how competent I am at running a business, providing for my family, performing marriage ceremonies. My encouragement to you today is that it’s ok, this is human, our brains hate us.

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Who can witness a NOIM under the title “legally qualified medical practitioner”?

Notices of Intended Marriage signed in Australia can be witnessed by people with a number of different qualifications. Most are pretty straightforward: an authorised celebrant, a justice of the peace, a barrister or solicitor, or a member of the Australian Federal Police or the police force of a State or Territory. Easy, right?

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