MLCS & celebrant associations/networks meeting 6 December 2023

MLCS & celebrant associations/networks meeting 6 December 2023

Josh and I spent Wednesday in Canberra at the biannual meeting between the Marriage Law & Celebrants Section (MLCS) of the Attorney-General’s Department and repesentatives of the celebrant associations and networks. I’m delighted to report it was actually productive!

Honestly, the current MLCS team are a dream to work with. They are interested and engaged, they listen, they seem to genuinely want to help make things better, and they actually follow up when they say they’re going to do something! For years I shied away from joining this group, having read all the available minutes of meetings and seeing they really just talked about the same things every meeting and nothing ever got done. Those days seem to be long gone, and it’s extremely refreshing.

This week’s meeting involved a wide range of conversation topics, and there was enough space and time for us to examine many of them deeply. Here’s an overview of what we talked about.

Miscellaneous Measures Bill

There was some info on the Miscellaneous Measures Bill that I’ve previously reported on, noting that it’s now been referred to a Senate Committee that is due to report on 1 February 2024. The Celebrant Institute has been invited to make a submission to this inquiry, which we will do in the next few weeks, but an inquiry like this means passing of the Bill is likely to be slower than anticipated; there may be amendments that come out of the inquiry, and getting those written and consulted on takes time. So after 31 December 2023 we won’t be remote witnessing signatures on NOIMs again for a few months.

Commonwealth statutory declarations

There are some changes to the Commonwealth statutory declaration form and signing process that will come into effect on 1 January 2024: there have been some slight changes to the form, and there will now be three ways to sign a Comm stat dec (paper, electronic, and digital), and communication about these changes will be coming from MLCS (and on the webpage linked above) in the new year. This impacts us mostly for stat decs re date and place of birth where getting a birth certificate is impracticable, and the stat dec signed before a ceremony by interpreters. This is not a massive change but it needs a bit more work from MLCS (particularly re the interpreter documentation) so watch this space for more info to come.

Happily ever before … and after

MLCS has drafted a great new version of the HEBA document, based on some work The Celebrant Society had done. It’s simplifying and neutralising the language, and it also includes some new information that I requested stating that once the couple has said their legal vows, they’re married, and that the celebrant is legally obligated to submit their documents to BDM for registration. This is on the back of many instances this year (including one of my own) where a celebrant has been asked not to submit documents to BDM because the couple has broken up or whatever. Even if they don’t read it when we give it to them, it will great to have something to show the couple to say look, you’re already married, and I have to send the documents in.

Guidelines review

The Guidelines review is essentially finished, but MLCS has decided to sit on it until the Miscellaneous Measures Bill passes (or doesn’t); there’s not much point putting a document out for consultation now if it’s only going to have to be updated in a few months. Once it has been updated when the Bill passes (or doesn’t), it will go to the associations/networks again for review, and out for public consultation. We asked how public that consultation will be; will it literally be available to absolutely anyone? I can only see that leading to disaster where people who have no understanding of the Marriage Act or the role of the celebrant are given the chance to comment on the document. MLCS is looking into how targeted they can make it, but it’s hopeful that the consultation will only be sent to stakeholders such as celebrants, BDMs, and maybe family lawyers.

Ongoing Professional Development

As at 4 December, more than 3000 celebrants haven’t done their OPD. MLCS acknowledges the issues with the portal, but because of that they’ve made paper tasks available. Apparently anyone who hadn’t completed OPD was sent an email on 20 October with links to download the activities that they could complete and send back to MLCS. They’re about to start sending those emails again once a week for the rest of the year. If you haven’t done your OPD, get it done ASAP! You don’t want to get stuck doing double OPD next year or even getting suspended for a few months!

They’re hoping to have OPD available earlier in 2024 than it was this year.

They acknowledged that many celebrants are asking for face to face OPD to return; they’re working with the legislated framework they inherited (1-2 hours a year delivered online by MLCS free of charge) and will need time to change the legislation to return to the old system if they decide to go down that path. There are no immediate plans to do so, but if this is something you feel passionate about, feel free to email MLCS.

Updating the Marriage Act

I presented the paper I have written about updating the Marriage Act to the other associations/networks. My hope is that we can get to a point where we agree on the contents so that we can all co-sign a document to send to the Attorney-General – strength in numbers! Once the associations/networks have agreed on it, we’ll also upload it to the website we created for this earlier in the year so all celebrants have the opportunity to send it to their local Federal MPs. I’m not sharing it more widely yet because I want to get the feedback from the other associations/networks first, and I think it’s important that this is a united, concerted effort at the same time rather than bits of it being sent to various places in dribs and drabs 🙂

Mark from the Alliance of Celebrants Queensland reported on his project to have the prohibited relationships definition broadened to take into account more genetics between relations: right now you can’t marry an ascendant, descendant or sibling, because you might end up with babies with birth defects from genetically similar people procreating together. However, you can marry an aunt, uncle, or cousin, which means a person could feasibly marry their parent’s identical twin, who for all intents and purposes is genetically identical to their parent. Cousins whose parents are identical twins are also as close genetically as half-siblings. This is certainly something I’d never thought about, and now I can’t get it out of my mind! We’ve added his work to my paper about updates to the Act.

Out of hours shortenings of time

This has been an issue discussed at these meetings as long as they’ve been happening: at the moment it is next to impossible to access a prescribed authority about a shortening of time application out of hours, especially on weekends and public holidays. This is really only relevant for medical reasons shortenings. I’ve heard of at least 10 situations in the last two years (including one I dealt with myself) where a party to a marriage or a close family member’s health deteriorated quickly over a weekend, but no prescribed authority was available to authorise a shortening of time, and they died before a marriage could take place. My situation happened on Grand Final weekend in Melbourne; the groom’s father was expected to last another week or so when I met the couple on the Thursday. I submitted the shortening application that afternoon, but the next day was the Grand Final Friday public holiday. The father went downhill far quicker than expected, and by the time BDM even opened the email on the Monday morning, he was dead.

Every Registrar before now has said this isn’t their issue, that only BDMs and state courts (where prescribed authorities are based) can make changes to their rosters to enable prescribed authorities to be available out of hours. For the first time, our current Registrar said she was interested, she didn’t know if she’d be able to do anything to help, but she was prepared to look into it, see if she could figure out the scope of the issue, and examine whether there was anything at all the could do.


We all agreed to collect stories from our members about instances of a medical shortening really being needed and not being available out of hours. If you’ve got such a story, please email it to us at [email protected].

And that was it! It was a full and productive meeting, and I’m feeling pretty hopeful about the future 🙂 Let me know if you have any questions!

Meet a Certificate IV in Celebrancy graduate, Lachie Grisold

Meet a Certificate IV in Celebrancy graduate, Lachie Grisold

In this exciting episode of the Celebrant Institute’s Celebrant Talk Show podcast, join your host, Josh Withers, as he continues his series of insightful interviews with recent graduates and new celebrants. This episode features a conversation with Lachlan “Lachie” Grisold, the dynamic Melbourne-based marriage celebrant behind “Weddings by the Beard.” Lachie shares his fresh perspectives on the celebrancy world, discussing his journey from completing his Certificate IV in Celebrancy to creating unique and memorable wedding experiences. Tune in for an episode full of inspiration, practical advice, and Lachie’s unique approach to celebrating love.

Transcript: Welcome to another episode of the Celebrant Talk Show. My name is Josh Withers, I’m your host today. And we’ve got a special episode. Earlier this year, I sat down with a few new Certificate 4 in Celebrancy graduates that have become celebrants recently, and I want to share their story with you. If you’re thinking about becoming a celebrant, if you’re a new celebrant, hopefully their path will encourage you and show you a path that might make a way forward for you. And if you’ve been a celebrant for some time, hopefully just mixing with new blood might be an encouragement for you as you continue on your journey of being an awesome celebrant. I hope you enjoy this episode.

My name is Lachie. I have been a celebrant for a year under the brand name, Weddings by the Beard. It grew itself out and it’s here to stay, apparently. I do most of my work out of Melbourne, but have been tempted to go interstate a few times, and we’ll see how much more often that happens. It’s pretty always exciting to do. – Yeah, it’s a pretty good gig the old doing weddings around the world, hey. – Oh, around the world is the next step. That is, that would be tremendous, of course. – Well, they keep on trying, you get me. I’m in Hawaii at the moment and off to Paris on Friday. So, you know, I hope it’s well- – So it can be done. It can be done. – Tremendous. – Tell us, mate, why on earth are you a celebrant? What happened? What happened to you, childhood, that you thought you should go and speak in front of crowds for a living? – What went wrong? (both laughing) Well, that’s it. I’m one of those real weirdos, has a screw loose, and really enjoys public speaking, would you believe? – I know it, that’s me. (both laughing) – Yeah, we’re in good company. So, a life on stage, musical theater, drama degree, couple of years, traveling around Europe being a tour guide. And then I got home and it was just when the virus that shall not be named landed. And I went, what can I do that I will find fulfilling and will put my hard earned skills to work? And it just happened, I went to a friend’s wedding, Damon Hughes, huge shout out, absolute legend. And Damon was up there having a great time. And I went, ah, that and ran at it. – It’s always interesting. Most celebrants have got one of two stories. One is that they saw a wedding and it was really bad. And they thought, oh, I could do that better. Or the other one is you see someone like Damon, who’s a legend, and you see that and think, oh, that guy does a really good job. I reckon I could do a really good job too, which is cool. – And it’s probably only binary. There would be no in between. – No one sees just like an average Sarah celebrant and goes, oh yeah, that could be a job. Something like that, maybe. Yeah, that’s a job that people do. – And you did the Cert 4. I’m gonna stage a guess that a personality like yours is a little bit like mine, where academic study like a Cert 4 seems like a really cool idea until you get the first module open. – Yeah, yeah. And you’re sitting there going, ah, yes. They say it takes a year for a reason, right? – Yeah, yeah, not for me. Well, not for a smart guy like me. It’s probably. – Oh, no, yeah, no, easily. I know that all the time in the world to manage that as well. – Yeah, yeah. So how did you find the Cert 4? – Look, it was monstrous. I was given all the warnings in the world. And as you said, we just blithely ignore it, saying this will take time, make sure you’ve got energy. And I went, oh yeah, yeah, I can do that in spare time and what have you. COVID made it pretty hard. There’s a number of assignments in there that, you know, you got to sit down with five or 30 friends. And when it’s hard enough to get two people in a room at that period of time, it really dragged out. I think the course itself, when I took it really seriously, prepared me really well. There were large aspects of it that weren’t directly related to weddings that I found maybe difficult to keep up the motivation with. Anything wedding related, really motivated, saw the immediate payback with it. But when it seems like practice filling in for someone’s 80th birthday or whatever, I thought, am I enjoying this? Or is this just a real box tick? So that was a difficult part of it. – Yeah, I understand that. You know, what’s funny is as the certificate for is prepared, there’s just things you get a tick off from like a, I’m not to get too deep down in the nerdery, but there’s government frameworks and for someone to get a search for in celebration, they got to have tick, tick, tick, they got to have all these ticks. And so in designing the search for like, how can we do this and not make it terrible? – Yeah, that would be a task for sure. Hopefully we’ve done the best job we can. – Look, I reckon you have as far as the best job you can do. ‘Cause there was a number of things in there. And you look at the whole, I don’t know if it’s called a syllabus, but I’m gonna call it a syllabus. When you have to just hit a pass on 100, it felt like heaps of markers across over a dozen assignments. I went, yeah, they really need to tick every box. So you’ll walk away going, I can do this. Because the last thing you want to do, especially when you study something like along the lines of being a celebrant and then going into the world and just like, hey, start your own business, go. There’s a whole bunch you need to be prepared or at least aware of. So by the end, there were moments that I was bashing my head against the wall thinking either this is tedious or am I gonna use it? But I tell you, I reckon I’ve used most of it. So huge props to you. (laughs) – Yeah, I’ve got to be honest, zero props to me, 100 props to Sarah. I’m just the guy that turns the light in the fridge off and on. – Absolutely, and Sarah is a legend of the game and having her number on speed dial is very handy and reaching out and having a chat when things, when you have questions and that sort of stuff or having all the materials that have been put together as well. – It’s funny you mentioned that. We’ve obviously got the celebrant. There’s the Celebrant Institute RTO, which is what you’ve studied through. And then there’s the Celebrant Institute membership, which is kind of post study for your practice as a celebrant. And the premise of it literally is just basically to have Sarah on speed dial. And I’m just grateful to have her on speed dial as a friend and a learner as a business planner. (laughs) She’s an asset. – In a huge way. And, but like, you know, I think that whole website I found such use out of in terms of seeing the camaraderie and having blog posts on like, hey, let’s talk PA systems, or let’s talk charging people money and like having a pre, like having a dialogue from a year ago or two years ago, or five days ago to go through and go, hey, I’m not alone in this. People are thinking the same way I’m thinking, have the same concerns that I have and have, if I can, you know, blow a bit of wind up your trousers skirt there, saying you are legends of the game, having answers for these questions that we have. – I’ll humbly accept that, thank you. (laughs) – I feel the bell, yeah. (laughs) – Look, you mentioned money. That’s, I love talking to people about money, just on a general sense, just between friends because I feel it’s the big, it’s the big no-no, like we can talk about religion and politics these days, but for the love of God, don’t talk about money. – Don’t ask how much someone owns, yeah. – Yeah, yeah. And I’m not gonna ask you how much you own, but there’s this aspect of celebrancy that you do the search for, you do the application, you get the letter in the mail saying you’re all G, and there’s a moment where you’ve gotta take it to market. Roll out your, kind of your go-to market, call it a plan, or even just your thoughts on how they’ve evolved since you saw Damon to now. (laughs) – Yeah, right? – Yeah, like how has it evolved about taking yourself to market, getting that booking, charging a buck, that kind of thing. – That’s it, what a journey it’s been in terms of my first ceremony I did was on the 22nd of May last year. So we’re basically coming up on this year in review, being that I think I got the email saying, all right, go for it in late April. I had this ceremony, friend of mine, I found out I was doing the studies and went, you’re gonna be free on this date. And I said, yeah, probably. Let’s see how much of this assignments I can get through. And by the time I sent off the cert for, it’s gotta go off to the Attorney General’s office and stuff, we were pulling it real fine. Of course, it’s the Noim, the month in advance, and we had to have backup plans ’cause I was either getting this email and we could run off and sign the Noim and get started, or we had to get someone else to sign it and transfer it over to my name in the three week period before their ceremony. So that was pretty stressful, but a real fun sort of jumping off point to get certified, get a wedding under your belt, and then go, okay, I can do this in a legal and ceremonial sense. ‘Cause I think the first one is really important. And it’s hopefully for everyone out there, doing the studies, have a friend or colleague or someone kind of lined up because I wouldn’t know what to do. The first one, friend. Second one, friend of a friend. Third one, a mate’s cousin. It was about my fourth or fifth wedding that I did that was someone found me organically, and they were the most wonderful and organized person. They found me off the Attorney General’s registry of all celebrants in Australia. 100%. I went, what is, I’ve never, amazing. – You were just clicking through all 10,000 celebrants. – Right, and somehow landed on this bloke. – Yeah. – And they land on my rudimentary website that I just slapped together off GoDaddy. Yes, that was it. So that was kind of the thing. The benefit of doing the studies was it did, it is kind of well sorted out being like, cool, do legals, think about planning ceremonies, think about formal words and all that stuff. And then it goes, all right, now start thinking about businesses, have you got an ABN? Have you got a website? So you kind of get a lot of that going. Of course, you’re gonna advertise as a practicing celebrant until you are, but a lot of it is like a real watch this space type thing. So the second that my website went up, they were right on it. And so then I went, okay, now how do I get people to find me? And that was a hit and miss or just kind of a real shotgun shot in the dark type thing. I started just putting money into places, trying to get it out there. And if I got immediate responses back, which largely I did, I kept it going. If I didn’t for like two or three months, I scrapped it. Basically, for the large part, if I put money into it, I saw money come out of it, which was really positive. So every dollar I put into Google ads, someone said, Hey, I just saw you out on Google. Every dollar I saw of going into Instagram and Facebook ads, someone, you’d get X followers and then a DM. I’ve joined a few celebrant registries, god me, the name escapes me now for like websites and stuff. Directories. They’re the ones, yeah. And I’ve seen some work come out of that or the very least enough work that I go, cool, I’ve got money out of putting my name on these websites. You can’t go all over them ’cause there’s probably a certain Venn diagram ism to it where someone’s gonna see your face in a number of places, but combination of being a bit reserved, but also sort of going out there, you know? And here we are with the year ahead is looking big for me. So this year just been has been, oh goodness, I probably should have got my number down, but I’ve done a fistful, a dozen, or maybe a little over that sort of weddings. And the next 12 months, you know, we’ve got about 30 coming up, which is really exciting. So to see that sort of growth there, and I don’t know what the 12 months after that’s gonna look like, but you put the effort in and you go up and up and up from there, hopefully. – Money is a good lead in and share as much or as little as you want, I’m not really, I’m not here to getcha. But the money side of it, as much as money is a marketing story, it’s also a product story. You know, there’s a, we were in Baja, California, so Carbo San Lucas a few weeks ago, and there’s a hotel there that has a $500 US, $500 US taco, and I did not buy it, just to clear everything up. And just ’cause I couldn’t imagine, like as much as the $500 taco, very much as a marketing story, in the end, I’m gonna drop down 500 or close to 700 Australian. And I’m just putting a bloody taco in my mouth. So money, yeah, yeah, okay, I don’t know what kind of meal I could spend $500 on, I just, I’d probably be pretty hard to pony a $500 for a meal for myself. – Yeah, oh yeah. – Yeah, talking about money and leading to the product side of things. ‘Cause the marketing story is important, and that narrative is really important. But for you, the obvious answer is, you’re selling yourself as a celebrant, but how does your product differentiate from others in a broad sense? – Yeah, well– – And obviously the money comes into that as well. – Of course, yeah, so when you start off, you’re just a very green celebrant that has to market themselves as, basically, I had to go in with, “Cheap, give me work please.” I’ll say, “Yes, say do you wear anything you need me to do “to do your wedding?” And from there, that energy kind of rolled over into the idea behind, like writing ceremonies that people want, rather than the ceremony that everyone thinks of when they think of wedding, this non-traditionalism route that I think a lot of people sort of wanting more of these days. For every to-have-and-to-hold-for-death-do-you-part, there’s a stand-up comic quasi-routine coming out there. And as much as I’m not that far onto the bombastic side of things, a little bit of sitting down and talking with couples and individuals and say, “Well, what do you want? “What actually do you want to get out of this?” As a celebrant, we have a surprising amount of insight in terms of knowing what has to legally go into a wedding. And apart from that, “Well, what do you want out of this half-hour, 40-minute, “whole evening that people are planning and building?” So when I started, it was very much commercially competitive. Hire me just because you’ve got to hire someone. And a lot of that had quite quick turnarounds. People going, “Hey, we want to get married in three months, “four months, two months, “and we just look at for a celebrant.” And I was free, a lot of celebrants get booked out, right? And I was also cost-effective. But from there, as I developed that, developed my processes, got way better at writing ceremonies and having insight into what makes a good ceremony and the little things that you build, playlists for song recommendations and all the things that are out there. But if you make them your own, then it’s an addition to the product that you can give to them. How to write vow packs, there’s dozens of websites out there. But if you have your own, you can then give that to them and say, “This is also something you don’t have to go looking. “You’ve got it all there as an attachment or an email “that I can send you.” As that’s grown, as I’ve really pushed the narrative of not copy and pasting anything, I suppose, as much as a lot of things are commonly used, we all, not all, but most ceremonies have an asking moment, the I do moment, they have a ring ceremony at some point, usually. So there’s only so many, what’s the sentence, ’cause I was my skinner cat or something like that. Yeah, there’s only so many ways you can say, a ring is a circle and that means I love you, I suppose. But you play around with it and you say, the customizability, I suppose, is one thing that I can play with. ‘Cause at the moment, I’ve got time to sit there and pour hours into a ceremony. We’ll see how that goes in the next 12, 24 X years down the track, maybe I’ll continue to get better at it and have a bank of styles and things to use. So yeah, as that’s grown, as I’ve become more confident and delivering a better product, my price has reflected that. So it started a hyper competitive foot in the door, that was noteworthy to, well, hang on, if I’m gonna put a number of hours into this, if I’m gonna take Fridays and Saturdays of my time and social thing, you start to have that confidence and go, no, I wanna be fairly enumerated. And then you wanna be, you wanna step in and you actually have a dollar value, sort of represent you and what you think you’re worth. As much as a $500 taco is gonna be a very particular person buying it. But there’s that sort of middle ground where you go, if there was, I don’t know what the dollar amount is, but if there was an expensive taco out there, sometimes you look at it and go, hey, that might be a really good taco. It’s within the natural, the economic value of a taco. But you go, how good can a taco be for 20 bucks, 40 bucks? Where do you sit? What taco are you providing these people? We’re right into the metaphor now. I’m ankle deep, I’m waiting through it. – As someone who’s lived in Mexico for the last six months, I’m here for the taco metaphor. (laughing) – Yeah. But that’s it, it’s the same. I would often talk to people about it, talking about like whiskey or wine has like a similar thing there being like, you’ve got whiskey that is strictly like whiskey and Coke whiskey. You’ve gotta, I’ll just alter it, you’re gonna change it. It’s gonna be what you know, and there’s no expectation there. And then as you sort of move through different types of whiskeys, there’s a certain point where you need to have a really discerning palate or whatever, if you wanna like, you know, wave your hands around while you do it. And then there’s this upper end whiskey that I think anyone would look at and go, you’re not buying that for whiskey. You’re buying that to sit on a shelf. And I don’t know where that takes the metaphor, but (laughing) that’s a valuable way to finish that sentence, yeah. – As someone who appreciates a whiskey, I can tell you that there’s no easy way to finish this sentence about whiskey, you should just keep on going. (laughing) But I will wrap up the podcast on this note. I am, there’s people listening to this that have been a celebrant for 20 years, and I hope that they’re revitalized by your energy. But if you could wrap up with the encouragement to the person who’s thinking about becoming a celebrant, because I’ll give mine that I would tell anyone, anyone that asks me about whether they should become a celebrant or not. My first thought is actually to do what Robin Williams did. Robin Williams famously, when people would ask whether they should become a comedian, he would say no. And his bit was that if Robin Williams saying no is the thing that stops you becoming a comedian, you were never gonna make it in the first place. – Heck yeah. – Yeah, which I love. – That’s got such a great, yeah, absolutely. – But I don’t do that ’cause apparently that can sound like you’re an asshole. (laughing) So my actual encouragement is a little bit more encouraging that there’s enough average celebrants. There’s enough cheap celebrants, there’s enough, people that just don’t really care or aren’t passionate. And I’m not really calling anyone, I’m just saying there’s enough of those people. That market is looked after. The market that isn’t a full year, the market that is still aching for more talent is that upper end of the market of people that really care, that are really passionate and is desperately in need of great celebrants. So that’s what it says to you or anyone else. That’s the void waiting to be filled. But I’ll let you end on this. What’s your encouragement to someone thinking about becoming a celebrant today? – That’s great advice. My two cents is, yeah, find something that you’re going to get fulfillment from. It is an incredible thing to do for two people. Weddings are a highlight of some people’s lives and you get to be a part of that. Everyone you meet is at an absolute high point in their life. Two people that are in love or looking to start a dynasty or something like that. So you will only work with wonderful people that tend to be incredibly passionate in love that are looking to make something really wonderful. So if that sounds good to you, I’d dive into it. – Lucky, that’s such a good ending. Thank you. Give us a shout out. What’s your social and website and that kind of thing. – Weddings by the Beard. It is everywhere you’re going to find it, including on the bathroom sink after I shave, Instagram, Facebook, online. Thank you so much for having me.

Marriage statistics 2022

Marriage statistics 2022

It’s marriage statistics release day, which as many of you know is my favourite nerdy day of the year! So here’s my annual rundown of the marriage statistics for 2022.

You know how in Victoria in particular we were all run off our feet catching up with all the COVID postponements last year? It’s delightful to see that play out in the numbers: 2022 saw the highest number of marriages on record, 127,161 (for comparison’s sake, 2020 had 78,987 marriages, 2021 had 89,167 marriages, and the previous highest year was 2012 with 123,243 marriages). 2019, the last “normal” year before COVID, had 113,8715 marriages. So yes, we really were as busy as we thought we were last year! It’s worth noting that this doesn’t mean that marriage is more popular or that the numbers will stay this high; it’s utterly impossible to make any real statements about marriage in Australia based on the last three years, and we don’t think it will be until we see the 2024 stats in late 2025 that we’ll really know whether the marriage rate is going up or down in actuality.

Just because graphs are fun, look at this awesome one with that incredible COVID dip and extraordinary recovery:

Marriages of same-sex people were of course higher than the last two years like all the other marriages, but for the first time we have stats on marriages including at least one non-binary person. This is because the new NOIM introduced in September 2021 asks for gender, either male, female, or non-binary (although this question is not compulsory so there’s highly likely to be some marriages out there in which we can’t make any calls on gender). Anyway, in 2022 there were 159 marriages including at least one non-binary person.

The age people get married at continues to climb ever so slightly: 32.5 was the median age for men to marry (as opposed to 32.1 years in 2021), and 30.9 was the median age for women to marry (against 30.5 years in 2021). Again, it’s worth noting that COVID played havoc with these stats as well; the median age at marriage for men actually dropped each year between 2018 and 2021 and stayed pretty stable for women, but 2022’s median ages are the highest on record.

There were more marriages in every state and territory in 2022, not just those affected by COVID lockdowns, and in fact there were more marriages than in the last “normal” year of 2019 in every state and territory except Western Australia. I think that’s pretty interesting, because it suggests maybe catching up on COVID postponements wasn’t the only thing driving higher numbers last year. I have absolutely no idea what else could be responsible, and we’ll really have to wait for a couple more years to see what happens in more “normal” times (although I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticing a distinct decrease in bookings for 2024, and certainly an increase in lower-cost package bookings with the cost of living crisis, so who knows what impact that will have).

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Marriages and Divorces, Australia 2022

There was an absolutely standout date for marriages in 2022 being Saturday 22/10/2022 with 2,202 marriages (I love that even the number of marriages was filled with 2s), a whopping 454 more marriages than the next most popular date (8/10/2022).

We were back to more usual numbers of divorces with 49,241 finalised in 2022 after the huge number of 56,244 in 2021 due to administrative changes in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. In 2020 there were 49,510 divorces finalised, in 2019 there were 48,582 divorces, and in 2018 there were 49,674 divorces, so 2022 is a much more typical year. I find it interesting that it’s really gone back to normal given how many divorces we expected to see coming out of COVID lockdowns; I think we should keep an eye on the next few years’ divorce numbers before we make any final analysis about that.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has decided to decrease the stats they release this year, so we don’t have numbers on the split between civil and religious ceremonies. I’m going to email them and see if I can find out this information because I think it’s pretty important. I’ll update if/when I hear more!

So that’s my overview of the 2022 marriage and divorce statistics. Let me know if you have any other questions you’d like me to look into!

Exciting news regarding remote witnessing of NOIMs!

Exciting news regarding remote witnessing of NOIMs!

Yesterday, 15 November 2023, an omnibus bill was presented to Parliament that included a number of proposed amendments to the Marriage Act 1961.

Important: this bill has not yet been passed by either house, so the amendments are not yet law. They are still proposals at this point, although they’re pretty non-controversial and should go through. We just don’t know when! 

Also important: at this stage, remote witnessing of NOIMs still ends on 31 December 2023. Depending on when the bill is passed (currently expected to be Feb-Mar next year), there will likely be a small gap when we can’t witness NOIMs remotely. We’ll keep you posted 🙂

Okay so now that I’ve got the disclaimers out of the way, let’s have a look at the amendments proposed by this bill. Some of this info comes from the explanatory memorandum to the bill, and some of it comes from a confidential meeting MLCS held with the celebrant associations and networks in October to let us know this was coming (which was very much appreciated!).

Remote witnessing to be made permanent

Remote witnessing of NOIMs (i.e. witnessing signatures on NOIMs over Zoom etc) to be made permanent. This one is pretty self-explanatory, we’ve been doing it for two years, we’ve been campaigning to have it made permanent for two years, thank goodness it’s finally (hopefully) happening! Thanks to all celebrants who wrote to their local MPs about this matter; we like to think everyone’s efforts helped get this over the line.

NB: the location of the couple and the witness has not changed. So there is still a list of witnesses for NOIMs signed in Australia, and a separate list for NOIMs signed overseas. All couples can take advantage of remote witnessing, but they still have to abide by the appropriate location-specific witness list. In plain terms, celebrants in Australia CANNOT witness signatures on NOIMs for couples who are overseas at the time of signing.

Required to physically meet before the marriage ceremony

Celebrants will be required to physically meet separately with each party to the marriage before the marriage is solemnised. This is to ensure there are no issues with consent or duress. The meeting can occur any time up to and including on the day of the marriage. Yes, this is a new obligation that we’ll have to figure out how to fit into our processes, and we’ll need to await further advice from MLCS on whether there are any specific requirements for the conduct of those meetings, but honestly if it means there are less issues with people saying they didn’t understand or felt coerced into getting married, it seems like a good thing to me.

Transferring NOIMs

NOIMs will officially be able to be transferred to another celebrant by request of the marrying couple. Currently the Act restricts the reasons for transfer to death, absence, or illness of the celebrant, or where “for any other reason it is otherwise impracticable for that person to solemnise the marriage.”

Now this one is pretty interesting. In the compulsory OPD topic in 2017, it said that “AGD considers that ‘other reasons’ could … cover situations where the couple have changed their mind and wish to use a different celebrant, as it would be impracticable for the first celebrant to solemnise the marriage if the couple did not want them to.” I brought this up in the meeting last month and asked if the AGD no longer viewed “any other reason” as including change of mind by the couple, and MLCS said no, but they wanted to clarify that change of mind by the couple was an appropriate reason for transfer. Nothing wrong with having these things clarified, this is excellent!

“Presence” clarified to “physical presence”

Marriages must be solemnised “in the physical presence” of the authorised celebrant and two official witnesses. The Act currently says that marriages must be solemnised “in the presence of” the authorised celebrant and two official witnesses. There’s been a LOT of argy-bargy since COVID about what “in the presence of” actually means; Mum tells me there’s lots of case law supporting the interpretation that it means in the physical presence of, but this bill will amend the Act to clarify that: the Act will now say that marriages must be solemnised “in the physical presence of” the authorised celebrant and two official witnesses. Again, great to have the clarity so there’s no arguments from couples.

One subdivision at a time

Celebrants will only be able to be registered under one subdivision at a time, i.e. they’ll only be able to be Ministers of Religion of Recognised Denominations (Subdivision A), State and Territory Officers (Subdivision B), or Commonwealth-Registered Civil or Religious Marriage Celebrants (Subdivisions C and D). I’ve always been of the impression that’s how it’s supposed to work anyway, but there is a handful of people who are currently registered under more than one subdivision, so that won’t be able to happen anymore. Any current celebrants who are registered under more than one subdivision won’t be affected, it’s only going forward.

Evidence of date and place of birth

The requirements for evidence of date and place of birth will be clarified. At the moment, the way s42(1)(b) is written essentially says parties have to produce a birth certificate, if they can’t produce a birth certificate they can produce a statutory declaration, or they can produce a passport. It really says that statutory declarations are only relevant where a party is unable to produce a birth certificate; passports are sort of left out on their own. So this subsection will be reordered to clarify that stat decs are for when a party does not have a passport and it is impracticable (i.e. practically impossible) for them to obtain a birth certificate.

I’m pretty sure we can take credit for this one; I’ve been bringing it up with MLCS since Alison Pickel brought it up with me after she saw a question about it in a Facebook group :). We do still need them to clarify whether only a birth certificate is sufficient; currently s42(1)(b)(i) says we can accept “an official certificate, or an official extract of an entry in an official register, showing the date and place of birth of the party”. A change of name certificate from BDM actually meets that definition, so I’ve asked they look into tidying it up to simply ask for a birth certificate (again this was an issue brought to me Alison after seeing it in a Facebook group). I don’t suggest you start accepting name change certificates as evidence of date and place of birth; I’m pretty sure BDMs around the country would lose their shit if we started doing that!

Deputy Registrars

The Registrar of Marriage Celebrants will be able to appoint Deputy Registrars to take on some of the statutory powers of the Registrar, freeing up the Registrar for the meaty stuff like dealing with complaints. At the moment just one person is responsible for a LOT of stuff under the Act, and this would enable more decisions to be made. There is a list of powers that would NOT be able to be delegated to a Deputy Registrar, to ensure an appropriate level of oversight of the program.

The timeframe for considering applications to become a celebrant will be extended

Currently when an application is made to become a Commonwealth-Registered Marriage Celebrant, MLCS is required by the Act and the Regulations to make a decision within three months, otherwise the application is automatically rejected. This timeframe will be extended to six months, not because they think they’ll need it in the majority of cases or because they want to take longer to review applications, but because sometimes applications need further information and the people or organisations providing that information take their sweet time. The application then ticks over the three-month line and is rejected, often through no fault of the applicant. They then have to start their applcation again, including paying a new registration fee. This extended timeframe will allow those few cases the time they need to be fully reviewed without penalising the applicant.

Refunding application fee

Finally, MLCS will be able to refund an application fee where someone has applied to become a celebrant but does not hold the appropriate qualification (either a Cert IV in Celebrancy or Indigenous celebrancy skills). Apparently this only happens about half a dozen times a year, but it is usually a person who really can’t afford to not have the $400 or whatever the current registration fee is, and MLCS always feels bad that they can’t refund the money. After this bill passes, they’ll be able to, only in this very specific circumstance.

So that’s it! That’s an overview of the proposed amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 that are now before Parliament for consideration. Again, a reminder that this has not happened yet; we still have to wait for the bill to be passed by both houses of Parliament (hopefully in Feb-Mar next year).

Let me know any questions in the comments.

Portable PA speaker system purchasing advice for celebrants in 2024

Portable PA speaker system purchasing advice for celebrants in 2024

Jo asks:

Hey Josh, it’s one of your favourite subjects – P.A. systems. I am saving up for my first one, not even sure where to start but think my budget might stretch to $2k. Is that too little? Can you provide some options and good suppliers? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Jo, you are so correct, this is one of my favourite subjects. Well before I was a celebrant with opinions on PA systems I was a guest at weddings and even regular events where I struggled to hear the person speaking. Nothing frustrates my brain more than being able to see the lips moving but the sound isn’t in my ears. In fact, good stage designers and performance creators base their decisions on the audience’s five senses being in line with what they are trying to deliver. Can the audience member at the front, middle, and rear, see, hear, feel, smell, and taste exactly what we want them to. read more…

Embracing DMARC: A Must-Do for Celebrants

Embracing DMARC: A Must-Do for Celebrants

With the digital sphere becoming more integral to our work, it’s crucial we stay abreast of changes that impact how we connect with our couples and our industry. Today, I want to demystify a term that’s been floating around and is about to become even more significant: DMARC.

Starting February 2024, the email authentication protocols – DMARC, along with SPF and DKIM, will shift from best practice to a requirement, especially for those sending hefty email volumes. But before you dismiss this as “techy stuff” not applicable to you, let me tell you, this is just the start. Even if you’re not sending 5,000 emails daily, Google and Yahoo’s revised guidelines are a heads-up for all of us with a domain name to get our ducks in a row.


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Digital drivers licenses as ID, a guide for celebrants

Digital drivers licenses as ID, a guide for celebrants

Australian states are introducing digital drivers licenses and in November 2019 the Marriage Law and Celebrants Section of the AG office issued this statement on the new digital licenses in NSW, which would apply to other states as they progress into the future like Queensland has today and South Australia before it:

As a marriage celebrant you are able to use a digital driver’s licence as evidence of identity in the same way as you currently use a driver’s licence issued as a plastic card. The NSW Digital Driver Licence is legal for use across NSW and is accepted by NSW police, however, they are optional and not considered a replacement for the plastic card at this time.



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How to get featured in the media

How to get featured in the media

If you’ve ever heard my story of going full-time as a wedding celebrant you can skip the next three paragraphs. I’d already been plugging away at celebrancy, not getting quite as much traction as one would like, for four years. One year earlier I’d done my first wedding expo to some success, and I’d been blogging about weddings for a while which caught the eye of a local journalist writing for one of the free Brisbane Quest newspapers. We had a coffee and she took notes and I heard nothing for months.

Then on the morning of December 3rd the story went live on the Quest website which was a subsection of the Courier Mail website. So technically speaking it was a Courier Mail story but the lowest of the low Courier Mail stories. Nothing in there about politics or how Canberra hates us, so it didn’t really cross the threshold for the big boy paper.

But it was a slower news week, the first week of December. Politics had taken a breather that week, there were no disasters, no new conflicts or pandemics, the world was in a good place. So this good news piece about a celebrant that only does “cool” weddings slipped up the totem pole that is News Corporation’s content management system and ended up on the early morning Courier Mail email newsletter.

That national email out resulted in a phone call from the producers of The Today Show on Channel Nine, and Seven Sunrise, and whatever was on Channel Ten that week, and within 24 hours I was standing in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens with a camera crew and my small legion of fans (Britt and two friends) and this segment went to air.

Still to this day people tell me they saw me on The Today Show. While Karl is still hosting I’ll still put it on my website, it’s good for business. From December 4th 2013 until sometime in March 2020, my brand and my business experienced exponential growth, through continued media exposure, hard work, and producing an exceptional product.

It might sound easy to just get in the media, but my break as a talent on air and in print came from a decade of producing news and entertainment radio shows before it. It’s in my blood what makes a good story and what doesn’t and how to work a story to get it in the right places. If you’ve read this far it means I’m doing a pretty good job of telling a story, you’re invested in my story, and you’d like to try and replicate that success for yourself. If so, then you want to do this course by In The Media DIY and we have a sweet discount available for you.

The course is well-detailed at and for Celebrant Institute members we have a half-price offer at $499 and for newsletter readers we have a $298 discount which reduces the price to $699.

The steps are:

  1. Go through the payment process at
  2. Click on: Coupon
  3. Enter your discount code from below.
  4. The price will change.
  5. Sign up by entering your details.
  6. You will automatically be sent to the course so you can start.

Discount code for paid members is: Click through for discount code for members (you’ll need to be logged in)

Discount code for non-paid members but readers of the newsletter is: celebrantnewsletter but I’m not going to lie, if you become a member it’s a better deal to pay for an annual membership and then get the members-only discount!

Both codes are valid for use through to 31 January 2024.

Collecting email addresses at a wedding fair with a QR code and ChatGPT

Collecting email addresses at a wedding fair with a QR code and ChatGPT

Luke emailed me yesterday as I was about to solve for myself the problem he identified:

What software would you recommend to use for a marketing list? Again are their any zaps or workflows in setting up the marketing list?



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So You Want to Marry Your Friends or Family: The Real Costs and Alternatives to Becoming a Celebrant

So You Want to Marry Your Friends or Family: The Real Costs and Alternatives to Becoming a Celebrant

Are you thinking about becoming a marriage celebrant just to officiate at your friends’ or family members’ weddings? That’s a beautiful sentiment, but there’s a lot you need to know and consider before taking this route.

The Real Financial and Time Commitment

Becoming an authorised marriage celebrant in Australia isn’t something you can do overnight or for free. If you’re planning on being an excellent celebrant, we heavily encourage you to study the Certificate IV in Celebrancy.

Here’s what you’re looking at:

  1. Course Costs: A Certificate IV in Celebrancy can cost around $2,500 to $5,000, depending on where you study; we offer the course and you can find more information here.
  2. Time Investment: The course usually takes around 12 to 18 months to complete.
  3. Application Fees: After successfully finishing your course, you must apply to the Attorney-General’s Department, which incurs another fee and approximately three months’ wait time.
  4. Annual Fees: To maintain your authority to officiate weddings, there are yearly registration costs.

If you’re not planning on making this a business, these become sunk costs, and it all of a sudden becomes a lot more cost and time effective to hire a professional celebrant.

Business Costs to Consider

If you do decide to make a celebrancy business out of it, there are other costs to budget for:

  • Marketing: Website, social media advertising, expos/fairs, and networking.
  • Equipment: A good quality PA system, microphone, and tablet computer.
  • Transport: Travel costs for destination weddings and even just driving around your own city.
  • Time: Preparing for ceremonies, meetings with couples, and the wedding day itself takes considerable time.

Alternatives to Becoming a Celebrant

Before you commit to this pathway, let me offer you some alternatives. Instead of going through the financial and time commitment of becoming an authorised celebrant, you could consider involving a professional.

You can find a celebrant who aligns with your style and values via Here are some ways you could work with an authorised celebrant:

  1. Pre or Post-Ceremony Legalities: The authorised celebrant can take care of all the legal elements before or after the actual ceremony day.
  2. Morning Legalities: On the day of the wedding, perhaps in the morning while everyone’s getting ready, the authorised celebrant can handle the legal words and paperwork.
  3. First Look Legalities: Minutes before the public ceremony, after a first look if there is one, the couple and the authorised celebrant can complete the legal obligations.
  4. Address the Crowd: Though this is my (Josh’s) personal least favorite because it interrupts the ceremony flow, the celebrant can handle the legals publicly during the ceremony.

As an example, when I marry couples overseas, I usually handle the paperwork either ahead of or after the international trip since I have no legal authority to marry them in foreign nations like Italy or Iceland. But in Australia, I can handle the legalities, usually before the ceremony in the morning or perhaps during the first look.


I’m all for more amazing celebrants joining the industry, and if you think you can bring something special to the role, then by all means, pursue it. But if you’re considering it solely to marry your friends, weigh the costs and commitments carefully. There are alternative ways to be part of your friends’ big day without becoming a celebrant.

Feel free to reach out if you have more questions about the journey to becoming a celebrant or finding alternatives.

Authenticity and honesty as a celebrant

Authenticity and honesty as a celebrant

A member asked:

I would like you to do an article on how honest should you be with clients? For instance should newly appointed celebrants make the fact they are not experienced known? Or should we fake it till we make it? If a client asks if we have ever done a certain ritual like hand fasting should we be honest and say I have never done one or should we say no problem (and then quickly research it and then wing it on the day)?

In my view (and I’m pretty sure Josh would agree with me), honesty and authenticity are EVERYTHING in this business. Ultimately we are selling ourselves, our point of difference from other celebrants is our unique personality and traits we bring to the work, so being who we are completely and openly is key to both attracting clients it will be awesome to work with, and making our lives easier. We work pretty closely with our clients, and our work can create fairly intimate relationships, and honestly, it’s exhausting to pretend to be someone or something that you’re not all the time.

I see no issue at all with being upfront with clients about your level of experience. It can even be a selling point: “look, I’m new, so I’m charging you less to make up for my lack of experience, but being new also means I’m available a lot more than busier celebrants may be, and I’m super enthusiastic to try out all my new skills!” (Josh may have some things to say about this – I’m not the marketing guru, he is!)

I was absolutely honest with my couples when I started out, and I know of at least one couple who booked me BECAUSE I was honest. I did my first wedding expo when I’d only done one wedding, and that one wedding had been literally two days before the expo! That meant I didn’t have any photos of me in action on display, so it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t highly experienced. One bride came to my stall three times, the third time with her mum; her mum asked me, “how many weddings have you done?” I was honest and said just one. She said, “thank you so much for being honest; I could tell you were new, but I wanted to know if you would lie about it.” They booked me on the spot.

I remember having this discussion with a well-known celebrant when she had just performed her 50th wedding. She was asking me whether or not she should make a big splash about this milestone on her socials, because while she wanted to celebrate, she also didn’t want people to think she wasn’t very experienced. I told her that she should be honest and authentic, that people would likely be deeply impressed at how quickly she’d managed to rack up so many weddings, and that in my experience numbers on the board don’t really make that much of a difference to the average couple; they just want someone they can have a great time with while trusting them to marry them! I also pointed out that anyone who scrolled back through her socials would quickly be able to tell when she’d started posting and therefore how new she was 🙂

In terms of our member’s second question, about rituals or other ceremony components, this for me depends on whether the couple asks outright. I will never actively lie. If they asked me outright if I’d done something I hadn’t, I’d be honest and tell them no, I haven’t done, but I have lots of resources and lots of people I can ask for advice, I’m eager to learn, and I promise to work with you to make it awesome. If they didn’t specifically ask the question, I probably wouldn’t volunteer the information! I’ve gone back and forth on whether that stance goes against my notion of “authenticity and openness at all costs”, and I’ve decided it doesn’t, for me at least 🙂

Considering authenticity in celebrancy also goes towards helping me know what kinds of couples I’d prefer to work with, what kinds of weddings I’d prefer to work on (e.g. I don’t take bookings before 10am because mornings are not my friend), what I’m prepared to do at a wedding (e.g. I’ll never do a wedding in the surf or in a hot air balloon, and I’ll never be nude at a wedding), and even what kinds of language I’m prepared to use during a ceremony (e.g. I’ll occasionally swear if it’s relevant to the story I’m telling and only if the couple have asked for it). I might look at other celebrants on Instagram and think, “I wish I was more like them for X, Y, Z reasons,” but ultimately I need to work in a way that is authentic to what I believe in and how I live my life, otherwise it’s going to be difficult and I’m likely to end up resenting the clients and the job, and that’s no fun for anyone.

I hope this is somewhat useful. Always remember the iconic words attributed to Oscar Wilde: Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.



Why the World Looks to Australia for Wedding Industry Inspiration: 50 years of Celebrancy

Why the World Looks to Australia for Wedding Industry Inspiration: 50 years of Celebrancy

My friend Jeff is a celebrant in Canada, where they actually call you an officiant, and we were talking about the wedding industry as we often do, and he says “I’ve looked into a lot of other markets, and haven’t seen one that comes anywhere near the Australian market for creativity, and branding.”

Something powerful happened 50 years ago this coming week, on the 19th of July 1973 actually. The Commonwealth Attorney-General at the time, Lionel Murphy, enacted an opportunity in section 39 of the relatively new Marriage Act of 1961 introduced by Sir Garfield Barwick, which was 12 years old at the time – introduced as part of the federalisation that started 60 years earlier, the federal government had been slowly going down the checklist of things it had to take responsibility for, and they’d finally gotten to marriage – the ability for the AG to appoint a civil, a not religious, marriage celebrant.

Up until that point in time in Australia anyone getting married was being married by a minister of religion, or if you were a First Nations Australian your community had its ceremonial rituals, arguably better and more enjoyable than anything that came over on the First Fleet.

But, fifty years ago the Attorney General appointed Lois D’Arcy. Slowly the numbers built from one to what is now 10,126 celebrants around Australia, appointed to solemnise marriages according to the law, not church doctrine. This year over 80% of weddings occurring in Australia will be officiated by a celebrant like Lois D’Arcy. A person from the community, operating a small solo trader business, putting their best selves forward to couples getting married.

All of the “things that should happen at a wedding” that people know from the movies or from church weddings are thrown out the window.

The celebrant must merely tell the couple what marriage is – the Attorney-General Department’s calls it the monitum, Latin for warning – and the couple must exchange vows, a single line whereby they take each other as husband, wife, or spouse. There’s paperwork to sign and I’ve glossed over some of the more technical details, like the celebrant needing to make sure both parties to the marriage are consenting but that’s all inside baseball talk.

For a country plagued by racism, sexism, and a legacy of poor political decisions – cough robodebt cough – to think that Australia has not only had some of the most progressive and liberal marriage laws in the entire world, but for 50 years now you could have been married by someone who is likeminded to you, it’s really encouraging. People from around the world, regardless of birthplace, nationality, skin colour, religion, and now gender, could marry another person as long as you were 18 or over, not already married, and consenting to marriage with that other person.

Those kinds of free market ideals not only enable that free market but also create opportunities for people to be free to be who they are, free to excel at their particular set of skills and talents. This is true for couples getting married, but also for celebrants. I don’t think I would have been any good at being the kind of celebrant other than what I am. People often comment on how I present my ceremonies without a script or reading off a page, and the truth is that I’m no good at doing it any other way. Thank Lionel I am allowed and encouraged to operate my celebrancy practice within my strengths.

It used to be that the venn diagram that decided who would marry you was a pretty simple circle: the church you went to and the minister’s availability.

Now, you get to separate those circles until there’s barely a sliver of intersecting space left, allowing you to find just the right person to officiate your marriage. The perfect celebrant isn’t a universal truth, but an individual one.

These unique market conditions created in 1973 encourage creativity in product, creativity in marketing, and creativity in service.

That leadership in creativity started with the celebrants in 1973 but it’s spread like a virus to all facets of the Australian wedding industry since. From wedding planners to photographers, all of the suppliers to a wedding are branches on a tree that grew from the ceremony. Who creates the best wedding ceremonies? Australian wedding celebrants with their freedom of expression, freedom of creativity, and freedom from thousands of years of wedding tradition and status quo.

Australian wedding creatives lead the global industry today, not only in their service delivery to clients in Australia and abroad, but in education and professional development, with Australians like Jai Long, James Day, Glenn Mackay, Jonas Peterson, Grace Cardona and Andrew Fenaughty, Samm Blake, and so many others that I’m lucky to not only call friend but colleague.

It’s amusing to consider that a country’s entire wedding industry being a world leader in creativity and business aptitude can all be traced back to the federal member of parliament who introduced no-fault divorces to Australia.

Lionel giveth marriage, and he taketh away.

Find out about our campaign to update the Marriage Act so it serves us well in the future at

How to use ChatGPT to sent instant replies to wedding enquiries

How to use ChatGPT to sent instant replies to wedding enquiries

If you’ve seen people using AI in their business and you’re wondering how you could use it in yours, here’s a demonstration on how I’m using ChatGPT to reply to wedding enquiries with emails like this. Before you do steps like this you want to map out a succinct and customer-focused, value-adding. customer journey.

The goal with my customer journey is to provide value to my potential clients the whole way, to build trust and reputation, and obviously, one day secure their booking.


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Six AI chat prompts celebrants can use to make fresh content today

Six AI chat prompts celebrants can use to make fresh content today

Want to start playing with AI chat in a way that will make sense to your celebrancy practice and business? Here are five prompts you can ask to get a unique insight into your business today.

I’m using Microsoft Bing today because it has internet access. (ChatGPT kind-of has internet access, it’s complicated but we’ll just use Bing today).


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Start playing with generative AI

Start playing with generative AI

I’m the guy who’s always trying to be at the cutting edge, not to be cool or strange, but just because I have years of experience that have told me that the cutting edge eventually makes its way down to the rest of the population quickly enough and when it does I’d like to be prepared. That’s my whole stance on AI. If you were to peer through Sarah and my iMessage history it’s mostly me demoing generative AI stuff to her and in response, Sarah wows and compliments me on sharing. I’m a tad over-excited about it but I truly do think that the current phase of computing that the media dubs “AI” is going to change everything.

The best way to understand computers forever is that they work on a GIGO system. Garbage in, garbage out. Whatever you put in gets computed and is spat back out at you. If it’s garbage in, you get garbage out.


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Get AI-generated summaries of your video calls

Get AI-generated summaries of your video calls

2020 brought us many gifts, but for so many the lasting gift is video calls. We had them before 2020 but they’re very normal to have today. So when I found this new tool that records, transcribes, and then summarises your video calls I was coloured curious.

TL;DV is the name of the app, a play on the TL;DR meme of writing. TL;DR means “too long, didn’t read”.


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Open up the old internet and just toss some stuff in there

Open up the old internet and just toss some stuff in there

Josh wrote an article here on the Celebrant Institute website and received lots of feedback on it, and Sarah had some thoughts on it. Here’s the link to the edited article, and the archived version from before this podcast episode.

Link to listen in new page or in your podcast app


Josh Withers
Welcome to another episode of Australia’s 48th favourite celebrant podcast. So I’ve interviewed 49 people, Sarah, and they said that this is definitely, definitely their favourite except for one person.

Sarah Aird
Okay dude, you need to stop making up statistics. I think that we learned that yesterday.

Josh Withers
Oh, yeah, true.

Sarah Aird
So no more making up statistics. Correct.

Josh Withers
No more. Welcome to the Celebrant Talk Show then in that case.

Sarah Aird
There you go.

Josh Withers
No stats backing out. My name is Josh Withers and the other voice you’re hearing is Sarah Aird. We are not just the co-host of the Celebrant Talk Show podcast, we’re also the co-founders of the Celebrant Institute. And in case you need one more data point to know who we are, Sarah is also, I really like I want to call you the principal, like school principal, because that’s kind of how I understand you’re also identifying a CEO of the celebrant Institute, RTO.

Sarah Aird
Yes. That is the term that they use for us.

Josh Withers
But school principal is how I view you.

Sarah Aird
Sure. I think I’m also called the executive officer and also something, some other like hire something, something anyway. Yeah. I’m called many, I have many hats. They all just mean the same thing. Um, and we’ll go with school principal. I quite like that.

Josh Withers
I like it. Yeah. Uh, I’m recording this podcast in Hawaii, because that’s where we are this week. Uh, Sarah, I believe you’re still in inner city, Melbourne.

Sarah Aird
Yes. I’m in Melbourne where it is 3.30 PM on Monday, the 1st of May, which is not, it’s still April in Hawaii, isn’t it?

Josh Withers
Actually the most confusing thing for me this year doing this travel around the world is, um, I want to produce the monthly email that goes out for the Celebrate Institute subscribers, um, on the first day of each month. And I, I really have to do this. There’s this whole brain fart that goes on. I’m like, what day is the first day of the month? And it turns out that it’s today, the 30th of April, um, in Hawaii. So it’s 7.30 PM here and, uh, glad to be here.

Sarah Aird
You’re not the only person who does that. So fashion critical is an amazing Facebook page that I follow. And she comments on people’s red carpet outfits and she’s hilarious. And yesterday she put a post going, hold the horses. everybody tomorrow is the Met Ball Gala thing. I will be posting. It’s very exciting. And today she posted and went, actually I forgot that it’s America. So the first of May in America is like tomorrow our time. So sorry, I won’t get be getting a post today. I promise it’s not just you.

Josh Withers
Well, uh, look, talk about posting. I did post something. Open up the old internet and just toss some stuff in there. People love it.

Sarah Aird
Okay. So the entire reason that we are recording this podcast today is because I wanted to talk to you about the article that you posted on Saturday. I wanted to provide some more context and I wanted to provide a response from me as well because I haven’t done that yet. So let’s just wind back the clock a few days, shall we? So this all started, Josh, when you sent me a screenshot of a post that a friend of yours, a photographer friend of yours had made on their personal Facebook page, a bit of a rant about a celebrant that he had worked with at a wedding recently. And that celebrant was really trying to do his job as the photographer for him. And it wasn’t going down very well. Yeah, it wasn’t a lot of fun for him. wasn’t a lot of fun for him and it was way outside the bounds of anything I have ever heard of a seller and doing before. So in response to that, so you sent me that, we had a bit of a, “Oh my God, here we go again,” because this is not an isolated incident. I reckon several times a year, you send me messages that photographers have sent you or you’ve seen in a photography group about something that a celebrant has done at a wedding. Often it’s things that we’re aware of that, you know, something like, for example, this is something that I learned in my first year. Like the celebrant has said, “Do we need another kiss to make sure the photographer gets it?” Now, I used to say that in my first year until a photographer told me that was really offensive because it suggested they weren’t doing their job. And I went, “Shit, good point. I hadn’t thought about that. Thanks for the feedback. Now I still like to have a second kiss because I think there should be lots of kissing at a wedding, but I don’t phrase it in terms of putting down another vendor. I phrase it as family and friends. Do we need more kissing so that we always get another kiss? Because they’re getting married. Let’s have all the kissing. But that was a really valuable thing for me. And that is something that might be one of the things that you have sent me over the years or a celebrant being in the kiss shot. And that’s been uploaded to a photographer group. Things that we, again, things that we see happen all the time. A lot of them are because the celebrant in question doesn’t know. They haven’t learned yet. That’s okay. We have to learn these things. But this one was way outside the bounds of that. And there were things that were not, not even, not normal and not okay. And then a couple of days later, I think it was Saturday, you said to me in response to that post, “I’ve written this list for the Celebrant Institute. Can you have a look and see if there’s anything that you would add to the list?” I, in my usual fashion, when you ask me to review a list, I only reviewed the list. I didn’t read the introduction to the article. I just read the list. And I thought the list was pretty good. I sent you back a couple of things that I would add to it, which you did, which was really good. But I thought the list, just the list, I thought was pretty much okay. Yes, some of your style in the way you write is not the way I would have written it. But that’s one of the things that makes us a good partnership is that we have very different styles. We do things differently and we’ve never been afraid to challenge each other. This is your article not mine so I wasn’t about to correct your style. And so I went, “Yep, great, no problem.” It went out. It got some fairly positive reaction on Facebook

but not so much on Instagram. And I sat watching it unfold on Instagram yesterday Um, as a lot of celebrants got really upset about the way it was presented,

not about the message, but about the messaging, if you like.

So the tone, um,

and I sat there yesterday,

watching it unfold and thinking to myself, I don’t know what to do here.

Do I weigh in? I’m worried about looking different.

like I’m being defensive.

On the other hand, Josh is my business partner

at the Celebrity Institute is a partnership between us.

This impacts on me as well, potentially.

I didn’t want to stir the pot anymore.

I didn’t want to give any more kind of ammunition,

I guess, or oxygen.

I also didn’t want to shut it down.

I didn’t want people to stop being able

to air their responses,

because I think it’s really important

that if you’ve had a response, a visceral response like that,

you should have the opportunity to air it.

So for example, I know that some brands

will just turn off comments.

I didn’t think that was gonna be a useful strategy.

I thought about making a post saying something like that,

I thought the points were good,

but I thought maybe the delivery could have some changes,

but I didn’t want to sound like I was being paternalistic

to you, which means, you know, being parental and this is the way you should do things.

Like people were accusing you of being towards them.

So I’ve just been sitting with it for, you know, it’s now kind of 48 hours since the

original post went out and I’ve thought of lots of different ways.

I’ve thought about rewriting the article and so posting them side by side about, you know,

because I do believe that in the message, maybe this is a better way of putting it.

I’ve thought about this doing exactly what we’re doing now, this podcast episode.

I thought about making my own video in response.

None of the options I came up with were perfect.

Part of me wants to go and hide in a corner and not respond to this all

because I don’t like confrontation and this is terrifying.

And I’m not trying to be confrontational to anybody.

Not our not the people who have raised their concerns.

or to you. What I’m trying to say is we got this wrong.

We got this wrong.

Josh got it wrong in the way he wrote it.

I got it wrong because I missed it.

So I want to talk a little bit about me missing it.

The first thing is, as I said, I didn’t read the introduction,

and I think the introduction to the article is where most of the issues are.

And I’m going to talk you through Josh,

where I think the specific issues are in the specific wording,

because I know that a lot of the feedback we’ve been getting

has been very much about your tone, but without giving you specific examples of where that might

be problematic or how it could be done differently to have a different impact. So yeah, I didn’t read

the introduction, which is my mistake, but I don’t read everything Josh writes because I don’t have

time. And yesterday was my Saturday was I was with my family when he sent it to me and blah, blah,

Anyway, the second reason I think I missed it is because I have been reading your stuff

for so long that I am just used to this is the way you write.

Let’s be fair, you’ve been pissing celebrants off for 15 years

in the way that you write because often, and it has put a target on your back and you and I have

talked about that before because often your writing can come across as you know all the things and

other people don’t and it can come across a bit as you telling them they have to do it this way.

Now I think you’ve softened a lot in the last, well certainly in the 10 years that I’ve known you,

I think that you’ve gone very much from I know that you were taught to do it this way but that

way is wrong and this is the way I do it and that’s the only good way because that’s how you used

to be. I don’t think you’re really quite that anymore. You’ve definitely softened and you’ve

definitely moved more into sharing your knowledge and experience and saying this is how I do it,

this is something for you to think about. I think there’s some specific ways that we can change

this specific article. But because I’ve been reading your writing for so long, I’m just used

to it. So it was just like, oh yeah, let’s just Josh being Josh. Sometimes he’s a bit,

we have a bit of a hyperbole with, you know, all celebrants do this or 99% of celebrants

don’t engage with professional development or whatever it is. Because that is the way you write.

your writing is very usually heightened and escalated and that’s the way you get your point

across by being over the top. And that’s, you know, when you are talking to your couples,

it’s generally been okay because a lot of them love that shit. The ones who don’t,

they just don’t hire you and that’s easy. But in this circumstance, you are, we’re trying to

teach and to mentor and to, and there are, what is that terrible saying?

You attract more bees with honey. Is that what it is?

So there’s softer ways of doing that.

And yeah, so that’s why I think I missed it,

because I’ve been reading your stuff for so long and I’m just used to it.

So having said all of that,

now that I’ve looked at it again with some fresh eyes,

I’ve got a few very specific examples of where I think the problems have arisen.

And if it’s okay, I’m just, I just thought I’d take that, take you through them.

Please, please.

So if we start at the top of the original article, um,

I think the first paragraph is amazing.

We talk about the wedding industry being weirdly unique because two people who’ve

never arranged an event before are arranging this massive event.

They’re bringing 15 to 20 vendors together who might never have worked

together before and they expect it all to go off without a huge yes.

Correct. We need to work together to make that happen.

This is the next bit is where I think we get into a bit of trouble is that we

talk about celebrants.

It’s time we sat down and we’re pissing off other vendors.

Instead of saying some celebrants are pissing off other vendors,

there’s been an instant, all of you are doing the wrong thing,

whether that is how you intended it or not, because I’m pretty sure it’s not.

Your intentions are never, I know that your intentions never malicious.

I know that your intentions are to raise all of us up,

but that is how people will have taken it.

Every single one of you is doing the wrong thing. Um,

because it says we, and it says celebrants,

it doesn’t qualify that at any point to say some celebrants are pissing off

other vendors.

Some celebrants are not making this as easy as it could to be a

team that’s working together. So I think that’s the first thing.

And when people have read that and gone, “Jeez,

he’s having a go at me because he’s included me and everyone,”

they’re now in a negative mind frame to read the rest of the article.

I think we also didn’t need, I’m making the grand assumption that you’re already aware

of the legal aspects of being a marriage celebrant and I’m not going to tell you how to make

a ceremony.

It’s a bit condescending.

We didn’t need it.

It’s not relevant to this, to this article.

Can I, can I add some explanatory notes to the, to that?


Because I suppose reading this and getting the feedback on it, like my, well, anyone’s

writing, just I’m sure it’s not personal to me.

writing is just a textual representation of the existing mental models and workflows and

just how they think that’s, if you’ve never written before, that’s kind of what it is.

It’s just, you’ve already got this shit in your brain and it kind of hits a keyboard

and you know, it goes out like that. And so something I think about a lot with the entire

Celebrant Institute, not the RTO, but just our, the membership and their writing is that there’s,

there’s these, sometimes I visualize it as silos and sometimes I visualize it as kind of layers,

foundational layers of being a celebrant and talking to them. And I separate them because,

so the very base layer, the foundational kind of on the ground is the, there’s legal stuff.

They’re just the legals.

You know, we’ve got professional development courses on refreshing the legals.

You’ve got a whole search for, well, it’s not just about the legals, but obviously deeply

covers the legals.

And that stuff is just not even like, there’s like 1% room for creativity.

Like you can have a bit of fun with the vows kind of, no, but yeah, words to that effect.



But like 99.99% of the legal stuff.

That’s not the face.


these, these just are the little laws and the rules and et cetera.

And it’s not, it’s not kind of convertible.

And then, um, and then there’s this next level of like, just base kind of operating as a

celebrant, like the practice of being a celebrant.

And then there’s, yeah, this was the latest thing kind of falls apart from here.

Cause there’s obviously like, uh, this kind of celebrant, that kind of celebrant and obviously

different kinds of ceremonies.

And, but there’s, um, yeah, I suppose in my mind, if we’re gonna talk about legal stuff,

then let’s talk about legal stuff.

And it’s in this frame of mind. This is like, this is just what the words in the act say. So,

you know, sorry. And then, um, and then it says above what this article about is like,

there’s levels of creativity and there’s, yeah, any easy example of script, no script, you know,

um, and, and neither one’s right or wrong. And I’m so excited to talk about them in so many levels.

Um, but it’s, it’s very, um, subjective to everyone. Um, and so I suppose in like, cause

I’ve been thinking about this article for years and, uh, and, and I thought, well, this,

this is sits beneath those creative levels of like, I’m script or no script or whatever.

I, you know, on the, on the bearded, so I’m the diving, so whatever, whatever, wherever you sit

sit in that world, it’s beneath that, but it’s above legals.

And that sentence was me kind of classifying that I read back and I say,

I can see how it can sound kind of sending. Um,

and obviously the addressing celebrant as opposed to some celebrants. Uh,

I suppose in my mind, I, a little bit,

a little bit like the hashtag not all men,

like when people talk about sexual abusers or, uh,

or men are sexual abusers, that I don’t feel offended at that.

Cause I’m like, oh cool.

I’m well aware of my position in that.

I am not one of those people.

So what they’re talking about isn’t me,

even though they’re talking about men,

they’re not talking about me.

But then also I know men who they hear,

they’re like, ah, I’m so angry.

And so I do understand how the addressing

of an audience matters.

And so I see how I miss the mark there.

  • And I think that’s one of the things

that’s been picked up a few times in some of the comments has been this article addresses

us as a homogeneous bunch, as if all celebrants are the same. We know that not all celebrants

are the same. And I think that if we try to address our articles more to some celebrants,

I think that that’s reasonable because we know,

you know, that every celebrant does it differently. We know that, um,

that, and we know that not everything on this list is going to

apply to every single celebrant.

We also know that there are some things on this list that, I mean,

some celebrants probably can, um,

a lot of celebrants probably can relate to some of the things on this list,

but not others. And that’s okay too.

So I think maybe if we, you and I, are more careful about the way we address our articles

to admit that, to acknowledge that there are nuances within the celebrant community

and that there are lots of different types of people out there.

So I guess that’s what I wanted to say about that.

And I think that, as I say, when you start to read something and you’re immediately on the

defensive because you think he’s having a go at me, then he,

then you’re not going to read the rest of the list with a,

with an maybe open or positive mindset that you might’ve read if the introduction

had been phrased differently, even if the, um,

title had been different. You know what?

I’m actually okay with the title of the article because it’s clickbait.

This is what we have to do to get shit read these days.

Like I’ve got a website stats open on an average day we get between 150, so not 150, 100, 250

views on our website.

No one reads, sorry, no one.

I shouldn’t say no one.

But you know, on the first…

Not heaps of people.

Not heaps of people.

You know, and I see our membership numbers, like 96% of the celebrants aren’t a member

of the celebrants.

So I guess I’m also writing, I’m like, well, you know what?

I think this is important.

I’d like people to see it.

Because the reason why people see it

is not for the reason that someone can come and say,

gosh, I can take all the money.

$10 a month isn’t going to–


It’s not a deal breaker.

But I deeply am interested in raising

the standard of celebrancy so that when someone says,

I’m a celebrant, um, the reaction is like, Oh my gosh,

like your craft, your profession is, is, is excellent and profound and amazing.

And we get that to an extent, but also, uh, when I said that,

I hear so many stories like just a few days ago, I heard a story.

Yeah. So I went over to him last week at the celebrant.

Couldn’t remember the name. I cool. Cool. That’s so I’m sorry.

I don’t do that, but, uh, I don’t know how to react to that. You know,

Maybe like if you’re a surgeon, you’re a surgical,

my mate was killed by a surgeon last week when he was doing his transplant.


So in terms of how I would present this because,

you know, a few people have said to me today, you don’t write like that. Well,

no, I don’t. That’s what I’ve said before. Josh and I are different.

We have different styles. I might have presented this as, um,

we have had feedback.

Both Josh and I have had feedback from other wedding professionals over the years

that some of the celebrants they work with are doing some of these things or

many of these things, um, they might,

it might be useful for you to consider if you’re doing any of them in your own

practice, they’re good for you to think about. Um,

and maybe think about different ways of doing things.

If any of these things do resonate with you,

or if something in here is something that you’re doing that you’ve had good

feedback on, maybe ask, you know,

the photographer at your next wedding. Hey, I’ve been doing this. Is this helpful?

Because they’ll tell you.

And also remember that the photographers are different.

Some photographers love the celebrants to help with the group photo.

Some photographers fucking hate it.

So ask the photographer.

That’s I think that’s the biggest point here is to open the lines of communication.

So if some of the things on this list, if you go, well, I do that,

but I know that the photographer likes it.

make sure every photographer likes it because some of them won’t.

And so it’s just about asking the question.

And I know there’s a lot of things that I have learned over my years

through receiving feedback.

I don’t always get feedback because as we canvassed in that

in the Instagram post, some of the photographers are like,

yeah, I’ve tried to feedback to celebrants and it’s not worth it

because they don’t listen.

That when I have received feedback, it’s generally been because I’ve asked for it.

And it’s, and asking for it only makes me a better celebrant.

So I think if there’s something on this list that you’re doing that you think is helping,

please ask and make sure it is helping and that it’s not just that you think it’s helping.

I hope that doesn’t sound awful.

Anyway, I do want to go through the list because I do think that a lot of it is again really useful,

but I think there’s, there’s probably some wording things.

Actually, there’s just one more thing I wanted to say.

The other thing is that I think it’s possible that the people who read the

Instagram post and then moved to, moved on and read the,

the article we’re possibly preaching to the converted.

We’re possibly talking to the people who are already all over this stuff.

And they’re, you know, they’re professional, they really great,

great team players and they’re doing all the right things. Or, you know,

they’re working well together and checking in and communicating and all those sorts of


It’s possible that the people who really need to read this are not the ones who are following

us on Instagram and who are reading our articles.

So that’s another possibility.

And then of course, when you, you are already doing all of these things and it’s presented

to you as a you, because all of us are doing the wrong thing.

Sometimes that can lead to feelings of defensiveness as well.

So it’s possible we’re already preaching to the converted, but anyway.

Yeah. Yeah. Not very fair.

Yeah. So the first one here is that they don’t need us to set up shots.

I think that that’s really fair.

I am checking in with the photographer all the way through.

And by checking in, I mean, I’m making eye contact with them all the way through the


I actually had a ceremony many years ago where I was about to present, I was about to declare

them husband and wife and asked them to kiss.

And I happened to make eye contact with the photographer who started

desperately shaking his head at me because his SD card had run out in his camera.

And he needed to change it before the kiss to make sure he got the kiss shot.

And because I am always checking in and I happened to look at him at that moment,

I could go, okay, I’m just going to wait a minute before they say the next bit.

just while the photographer changes his card over.

So it’s that kind of that communication,

which is eye contact and gestures.

It’s not necessarily a,

hey mate, are you ready for the kiss?

Like, can I go?

It’s only ever happened once in my, you know,

nearly 500 weddings,

but I’m really glad that I’ve got that practice

of always kind of checking in through eye contact.

And yet the signing the same as Josh has said,

closest I would suggest is during the signing you respectfully and politely ask them if they’ve

got everything they need spot on. Um, and I will, I definitely do that also because I’ve had

photographers miss the entire signing because I’m really quick and they got distracted doing

something else. Oops, I was a little bit too quick that day. We just mocked up the signing

during the song. It was fine. It’s no problem. Um, this second one is a really big one and it’s

something that I’m a little bit horrified that we even had to list, but it’s in here.

When you’re on that, like when you’re celebrant, put your phone away. Don’t, don’t be filming

stuff for your TikTok or your, your Instagram. Absolutely the rule can be accepted if an alien

spacecraft arrives. But to be honest, I don’t have my phone anywhere near me. So I would still have

to run to get my phone to capture the alien spacecraft landing. That would be tricky.

Yeah, people. There’s plenty of people with phones and cameras and all the things. I know it’s really

hard to get stuff for social media. I know that it’s really difficult to get stuff from photographers

or even from families, from couples. But yeah, it’s not a good look to be filming stuff on your phone,

especially when you get in the way of the professionals who’ve been hired to be there

to specifically capture those moments. So I think that we can probably all agree that that one’s

not okay. And I think that that one’s written really well. Get out of the way of everyone else

doing their work. Yeah, make sure that people have the space and the time if that means that you

you know need to get there a bit earlier so that you’re set up and ready to go when the photographer

or videographer run in because they’ve been with the bride till the very last minute and now they

they run in and they’re trying to get themselves sorted, you know, maybe that’s okay. But,

yeah, stay out of their way. But I would add here, and I think that we talk about this

later is, is make sure that you check in with them while everyone is setting up. We’ll get

to that. You’re spot on about being in charge of the

vibe at the ceremony and being in control of how it feels. That’s our job. We’ve been

hired to create a feeling and that can then be captured by the photographer and

the videographer and also in the hearts and the minds of all the people who were

there. That was terrible. But that’s,

that’s why we’ve been hired. So we should concentrate on doing that.

You know, be like,

be really careful about making the ceremony as good as possible. Like,

as Josh says in the article, if we need to suggest that chairs could possibly be moved

or, you know, like I know I’ve turned up and the chairs have been not in a straight line

and like the aisle is not in a straight line.

I’m going to ask why that is.

Now, I’ve been to a venue where the venue is like it can’t be in a straight line

because there’s this kink in the way the hill goes and OK, fine.

But at least I’ve asked the question and now I’m satisfied that there’s a reason for it.

So, um, you know, so be it. We, but it’s about communication.

Here’s just a little tweaking with the wording for this one.

There’s a lot of don’ts in this paragraph. And I, um,

like literally the word don’t is in this paragraph quite often.

And I wonder if we can just soften the language a little bit to be things like,

Um, try not to be overbearing and be,

try not to be a drill sergeant. I can really be overbearing.

And I will tell people, I will own up to it. I’ll say, yeah,

I know I’m really bossy. Um, sorry about that.

I just want it to be perfect. So for me,

it’s not necessarily not being, so don’t be overbearing.

It’s sometimes being overbearing,

but then acknowledging it and apologizing for it. So, um,

I wonder if like softening that language a little bit as well would be,

would be softer and, um, less

telling off.

Yep. I think that’s what I’m looking for.

We talk about pay system spot on and we talk about getting the fuck out of the

way for the kiss shot. It’s so interesting to me that, um,

This is, this is a really, and this is something that came up in, I think in the Facebook comments

of somebody saying, “Hey, why don’t you tell the photographers that they don’t need to

tell us to get out of the kiss shot?”

Sorry, I think it was Kelly, I love you, but they do because a lot of celebrants don’t

get out of the kiss shot.

To be honest, it’s mainly religious celebrants who don’t get out of the kiss shot, to be


That’s fair.

see photos of them all the time. And so it’s,

I’m really happy for, um,

for vendors to come and check in with me to make sure that I’m already doing

something that they need me to do. Uh, and that is an often it’s a,

yeah, I’m all over it. Um, so for example,

I was working with a live, um,

duo one day and he came to me beforehand,

somebody I’ve worked with a lot and he said, so just confirming,

you’ll give me a nod when you need me to start playing. Right. And I’m like, yeah,

mate, of course. And he goes, okay, good.

Just checking because the celebrating yesterday didn’t and it just was messy.

So, um, if I’m okay with them checking to make sure

I’m giving them what they need. And so for the photographer,

checking to make sure I’m giving them what they need, getting a kiss shot.

I’m okay with that because then we’re going to make it better. And I, yeah,

I’ve seen too many photos of celebrants peering,

like weirdly, lascivious at the kiss.

It’s very weird.

Can I tell you, this is just a Josh thing that I just love to do because it’s,

I just like to watch the world burn like that. Um,

but if a photographer or someone will come and ask whether I’ll move,

I’ll look him dead in the eye with a really serious face and just say, no, I stand there.

I’ll leave, I’ll leave it for like three or four or five seconds.

I, of course I will.

And look, often when I’m briefing the photographer before the ceremony starts,

because it’s something that is part of my practice, I will go and say to them,

Hey, it’s a pretty standard ceremony.

It’s going to take about 20 minutes.

They’ve got their own vows.

Um, I’ve, they’ve got vow cards.

There’s going to be one reading.

the person will stand over here, whatever it is. And, and I always say,

and I promise I’ll get out of the way for the kiss shot.

So I kind of preempt it. They don’t have to ask cause I’ve already told them again,

some softening language in this one. Don’t be weird about it.

Don’t run or be awkward. A way of softening that could be,

you don’t need to run or be awkward. You know,

like just to be softening rather than starting lots of sentences with the word


Maybe, um, learn to use your PA system spot on.

Um, yeah,

I probably would take out the whole sentence about, um,

don’t blame them to the guests as if someone has screwed you over.

Oh, no, that’s a thing.

I know it’s a thing, but I think it’s a bit harsh. Um, I think,

I think saying just saying a blanket statement about don’t blame other vendors

either publicly or privately,

I think would have just softened that a little bit because I know that they’re

doing it. Um, but I think that that would just soften the message a bit because

it’s still, it’s, it’s really important. We do.

And we do see, we do hear this from lots of celebrants still who,

who do have trouble with the PA system is fine until all the guests arrive and the videographer

plugs in. Those two things often happen at the same time. Often it’s not the videographer

plugging in that is the problem, but it’s some interference maybe with a phone or something

else the guest is standing in between the receiver and the transmitter, those sorts

of things. But because those things happen at the same time, it’s very easy to go, well,

it must be because the videographer plugged in.

I think just a, yeah, just a blanket,

don’t blame other vendors either publicly or privately would just be softer.

Again, I’m trying to, I think the message is important,

but delivering it in a softer way. And look,

you people who are listening, if you disagree,

I would love to hear about it because we both need to make sure that our

language is, is not going to upset people.

Um, and because we don’t, that’s the last thing we want is to,

is to make people upset, um, share it if they want,

tell them how they can get it all good. Before you start the ceremony,

let them know that you’re about to start. That’s really, it’s really important.

Like have that chat. Hey, we’re about to get started. Is that okay? Uh, and,

you know, everyone kind of needs to, to be ready together.

if they’re still setting up their camera or they haven’t put the microphone on the groomsman yet

or whatever it is, they might just need another minute or two. So it’s the checking in. Again,

it’s this constant communication. This is what is super important. I didn’t have any kind of issues

with the language there though. Yes, spot on about their being, if there’s any rituals or things that

aren’t run of the mill, let them know just before the ceremony. This could include if the ceremony

is a bit longer or shorter than normal. The reason I suggested that you add this was actually a story

that a photographer told me many years ago, that there was going to be a candle lighting ritual

during the ceremony and she didn’t know about it and she was therefore in the wrong position

to capture the moment the candles were lit because of where it was in the space and where the bodies

would be between her and the candle. If she’d known about it ahead of time, she would have made

her way around to that side of the room and been there ready to go. So that’s always stuck in my

mind to remember to go, “Hey, there’s going to be a hand fasting and Gran’s going to come up and get

the ties and she’s, I can see her sitting in the front row or whatever it is, whoever’s got the

the rings, you know, just those little things that aren’t, that aren’t normal run of the

mill. And I, it was the same photographer who commented on Instagram and said that she’d

had a situation recently where the celebrant didn’t tell them they weren’t doing the signing

in the middle of the ceremony. They were pulling it out till after the ceremony. And so she

didn’t have chance to get people to hand out the confetti during the signing because that’s

when she usually organizes the handing out of the confetti.

So again, just that comms breakdown. Again, part of that is the breakdown between the

photographer and the couple not having that discussion. But also the photographer and

the celebrant having that discussion beforehand would have been useful. Because even though

that pulling out the signing and putting at the end of the ceremony is becoming a thing

that a lot of celebrants are starting to do in terms of other vendors, they don’t necessarily

know that that’s a thing. So because it’s not normal yet, we just need to tell them

that something different from what they’re expecting is going to happen.

It’s okay, this is a really big one. It’s possible that they want some help with the family and group

photos afterwards, but don’t assume it and don’t announce it unless you’ve spoken to them first.

So this is a really interesting one. I know some photographers who have a very structured way of

doing family photos and they don’t want any assistance with them at all. I know some

photographers who are like, “Oh, celebrant, here’s the list that the family gave me. Can you hang on

to this list and can you call out on your microphone for each group of people to come forward?”

Again, different photographers have different styles just like different celebrants have

have different styles.

So it’s really important that we chat to each other about how that’s going to

work before time, before it happens.

I always chat to my photographers during the signing and I say to them,

I just check in with them. Are you doing a group photo?

Even if the couple have already told me they’re doing one, I check with them.

Are you doing a group photo? Yes. And I say, where would you like to do it?

Because I’m going to send a couple there straight after the processional.

I’m going to say walk down the aisle and they go straight over to that tree

there because that’s where we’re going to do the group photo.

And I’ll explain that.

Which to comment on that,

that’s actually a really good method of moving that energy.

Um, cause trying to get everyone, everyone around is as hard for a group photo.

And so when they go over there, you wouldn’t believe it.

Everyone’s going to follow. And in fact, I put it in my instructions.

I will always say, you know, my housekeeping at the end.

So what’s going to happen now is the couple are going to walk down the aisle.

They’re going to go over to that tree over there.

You’re all going to follow them.

and then there’s going to be a group photo over there.

So please listen out for the photographer’s instructions for that group photo.

I can, I’m not going to do that unless I’ve had the discussion with the photographer though.

If they say I’m not doing a group photo, I go, great, shut my lips.

No comment about a group photo because that’s not what’s going to happen.

And the, what photos are going to happen is not my domain.

That’s the photographer and the couple’s domain.

So I’m not going to make, I’m also not going to make any other comments about who else is going

to be in photos. I sometimes on instruction by the couple, like I’ve had last week, I had,

or a couple of weeks ago, I had the couple say, can you please tell everyone except immediate

family to go to the stable for canapes and drinks and for immediate family to stay here for photos.

Like that was the instruction they wanted me to give in the housekeeping.

I then double checked that with the photographer during the signing

to make sure they were happy with it as well.

And yes, they were.

So for me, again, it’s that communication thing.

Yeah, don’t force them into taking photos that you should take.

I don’t have any issues with the way that is written

because we just shouldn’t do that.

It’s not about us.

It’s about them.

So I’m totally okay with that.

And yeah, this last one, it’s really hard.

they don’t always photos and it’s really nice when they’re good enough to let us have some photos or

video. But yes, send them an email later. Also don’t send them an email like the day of the wedding

or the day after the wedding. My timeline is at the moment is I send it six weeks after the wedding,

even that’s a bit early I think at the moment because a lot of photographers even come back

I can say I’m not quite up to it yet.

So, um, send them an email, you know, eight, 10 weeks later to say,

I’d love to pay you for some photos, um, of the ceremony.

If that’s okay for me to use on my social media and be okay with paying.

I think that’s okay too. Um, Josh, I,

I am like, um, yes.

So your last sentence in there is if you’re like me, a budding photographer,

there’s usually no issue with you taking some photos surrounding the wedding for your social blog

and outside of anything the actual photographer is doing, but I’d run it past the couple when

meeting with them ahead of the wedding. I would also probably run it past the photographer

in my pre-ceremony chat. I would go, “By the way, after the ceremony or like around the ceremony,

I’m just letting you know that I’m taking some photos.” I think that that’s a professional

courtesy to let them know that you’re doing that too. So I think to me, to me it’s a good list.

It’s just there’s some softening in the way that it’s written. I think is what we,

and I think that’s what we’ve been hearing from the feedback of people feeling upset that we’ve

put everybody into the same camp, that everyone’s doing the same thing and that everyone’s doing a

a bad job. We don’t think that. And we’re really sorry that it’s come across that way,

because that’s certainly not the way that it was intended.

And can I echo that, that for the for that I am sorry as well. Mine, as I’ve already

kind of mentioned, but I wasn’t addressing all 10,000 odd celebrants or whatever the

the numbers today. Um, uh,

each and every one of you is terrible.

I purposely didn’t mention names. If you want to mention names,

I’ll be on the list. Didn’t mention names. And, um,

and I suppose if I was presented with that list, I would say, Oh, um,

these points apply to me. These points don’t cool,

but I do now understand how,

how it can be received in a way that has created the response that I’ve received.

And I think that it’s also important.

We are not, we’re not saying we’re sorry that you read it wrong.

We’re not saying that.

We’re not saying that at all.

We’re legitimately putting our hand on our hearts and saying,

we’re really sorry that it came, that it was written in a way

that could be received, not in the way it was intended.

So we’re both going to work on doing that better and, um,

and presenting things as not all some, um,

and the, you know, these are some things that you might want to think about.

So that’s kind of where I am at.

That’s good. I am. I appreciate your, uh, okay.

So as a precursor to this podcast, we had a weird chance and hello,

cause we catch up with friends, but I sort of like leave the, um,

leave the good stuff for the podcast. Cause I, I like, we’re not behind the scenes. Um,

you know, colluding against you if, if, if you’re a person that has responded negatively

because we, yeah, like I’ve already said a couple of times, yeah, my, my heart isn’t

to, to knock you down or to punch down. Um, a few people mentioned like, uh, so me painting

salivants like this does us no help. I’m like, oh, all those other people aren’t reading

this darling, like the couples aren’t reading it and yes, it’s publicly available.

But my heart really was to talk to sell up and say, Hey, I want us to be

appreciated, valued, revered, you know, kind of reminds me a little bit of that.

Um, the women talk about increasing our price and people outrage and like, Oh no,

I want you to have more money.

But that’s another, another podcast for another day.

So, um, Sarah, thank you.

You are welcome.

I hope for everybody out there that’s given some more context and some understanding that we

want to do better and we hope that this goes some way towards providing some of that reflection and

thinking about how we can do better. If any of you have specific comments on any of the specific

wording, whether it be wording that’s in the article or wording that I’ve come up with that might be

softer or different, we’re really keen to hear them because, you know, that’s, to me, that’s the

way we get better is by, you know, constructive feedback. And sometimes the feedback needs to be

specific because sometimes it’s difficult, especially when this is the way Josh always writes,

it can be difficult for him to go, “Okay, but exactly what was the problem?

And why is it a problem this time and it hasn’t been a problem before?”

So, yeah, really, really happy to receive specific feedback if anybody had any.

Yeah, that would be really cool too. Thank you also to everyone who has commented,

to everyone who’s reached out to me privately, and I’m sure there’s been some people who’s

reach out to Josh privately as well. Thank you as well to the people who did find the article

useful. That’s cool. All the celebrants are different and everyone’s going to take different

writing in different ways as well. So that’s another point too. But honestly, we just want

to get better. So any way that we can get better by receiving your comments and your feedback,

waiting for it.

How to become a wedding celebrant in Australia

How to become a wedding celebrant in Australia

How to become a celebrant? It’s easy. You just need to want the best job in the universe, you need to believe that getting and being married is important and awesome, and some public speaking skills wouldn’t go astray.

Here’s our complete guide on how to become a celebrant in Australia.


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Celebrant, help wedding vendors not hate you

Celebrant, help wedding vendors not hate you

After publishing this article and sharing it on social media, quite a lot of feedback was received. So an introduction has been added to add some context and explanation, and the original article has been edited. The original has been archived here. In addition to these efforts, a podcast episode about this post, including an apology, has been posted.


My – Josh’s – heart is to change the world through marriage. I believe with all of my heart that good marriages make good families which make good communities, which are the foundations of good cities, which makes a great world. I boldly believe that if we just married well, we could change the entire world for the better. I also believe that how you start something affects the whole thing, so how you start your marriage matters. This brings us to marriage celebrancy. We, celebrants, do the starting bit.


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Marry From Home – is it legal for Australian couples?

Marry From Home – is it legal for Australian couples?

Stephanie celebrant asks:

I think many of us have seen and have been contacted by “Marry From Home”, who are Advertising “Legal” online Weddings from anywhere in the world!? As Zoom weddings are not permitted in Australia and the company is based in the USA, would couples based in Australia still be considered married if they married over Zoom on a USA website?



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It’s time to update and modernise the Marriage Act of 1961

It’s time to update and modernise the Marriage Act of 1961

Over sixty years ago the Australian people were gifted one of the most progressive and liberating pieces of marriage legislation the world had seen. Anyone could marry, regardless of skin colour, place of birth, legal status, as long as you were 18 or over, not already married, not directly related, and could give one month’s notice – the law at the time assumed only one of you were a boy and the other was a girl. You had to say a handful of words in front of a celebrant – a regular member of the public deemed fit and proper to conduct marriage ceremonies, or a religious minister – and you were married.

Unlike other jurisdictions around the world where the laws and regulations changed from county to county, or even if they were federalised you needed to meet certain standards.

Even in Australia before 1961 different states had racist, sexist, and bigoted laws prohibiting marriage without permission for different members of Australian society.

But it’s been sixty years.

Apart from when the Howard government clarified that people of the same gender couldn’t marry in 2004, in 2013 the Australian Capital Territory same-sex marriage legislation was fought in court and solidified that marriage was not an issue for the states (or territories) and it also wasn’t a constitutional thing, and in 2017 when marriage equality came to be, the Marriage Act of 1961 hasn’t changed a whole lot. Of course there’s the 2002 proper recognition of celebrants, but the marriage legislation isn’t about us, it’s about people wanting to marry inside the boundaries of the greatest nation on earth, the great land down under, Australia.

So what do we think should change?

  • the length of the notice period (personally, I like three days like New Zealand)
  • simplification of the paperwork required (what is back of a PDF?)
  • modernisation of the definition of prohibited relationships, taking into account what we know today about procreation with relatives (you know you can marry your dad’s twin brother right?)
  • civil vows to meet the standard of religious vows
  • handing the Form 15 to the couple after the ceremony
  • remote witnessing of the notice of intended marriage (as is currently allowed due to special COVID-19 laws)
  • modernising of the signing of paperwork (you can buy a house mortgage with a Docusign)

The act isn’t bad, it’s just a bit crusty and a bit dusty, in need of some attention and love.

In a world facing significant change, from artificial intelligence to global boundaries shifting and changing, and relationships today being different from the sixties, how can we modernise the Marriage Act to prepare for the future, not react to it?

What else should be on the list? Get into the comments below and post, what should be updated, modernised, and changed in Australia’s marriage law to set it on a good path for generations to come.

We’ll take your comments, and those of the other celebrant associations and networks and put a submission together that we can all send to our local members of parliament with a unified voice.

We’ve created a shareable website for all celebrants to use as a resource and to share around the wedding industry. Please visit and share:

I didn’t have a backup! Happy World Backup Day

I didn’t have a backup! Happy World Backup Day

As a wedding celebrant, you know better than anyone else how important it is to be prepared for the unexpected. From weather conditions to late vendors, to a family member showing up late, there’s always something that can throw a wrench into even the most carefully planned wedding day. And just like you prepare for these potential issues, it’s also important to prepare for the worst-case scenario when it comes to your digital assets.

Recently, as you would have heard in the podcast episode, I fried my laptop – and the worse thing is that I didn’t have a backup for 10 days! Luckily for me, I store most things in the cloud, but all of my current “working files” on my desktop and downloads folder were gone.


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Chat and AI is going to change your entire business

Chat and AI is going to change your entire business

My family was never intellectually positioned enough, or wealthy enough, to subscribe to a newspaper for regular delivery to the home. So, visiting my mate Andrew’s house was a joy because his dad subscribed to the Daily Mercury. I loved the idea of this bundle of paper being dropped on your doorstep every day with stories, classifieds, and information. Here in 2023 we now know that newspapers were disrupted, which is sad, but also the disrupters have brought innovation and efficiency. Ever since we’ve had ideas on how to do things there has always been a new idea on the way, a fresh way of solving the problem always coming down the river stream.

So over the past few years, you’ve probably gotten pretty used to ranking well on Google, making good social media content, and all those things we’ve gotten used to in order to run a sustainable and awesome celebrancy practice. Those ways of doing things are being disrupted.


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Love is patient, as should you business be

Love is patient, as should you business be

I was thinking about 1 Corinthians 13:4 to me recently. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” If you’re a wedding celebrant you’ve probably heard it a thousand times before. A speaker I know once said, “Love is patient, lust is not.” Think about this concept not in regards to a marriage or relationships, but business.

We build our businesses on a love of the craft, the product, the thing we do. It’s near impossible to start a wedding business today without a spark of fire in your heart, without that deep love for the art in your soul. And that love is patient. Business lust however is not patient. Lust is impatient, rushed, and without thought or wisdom.


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My couple are breaking up, can I just not register their marriage?

My couple are breaking up, can I just not register their marriage?

Marie asks:

I married a couple last night and when I got home registered the marriage and ordered their marriage certificate. This morning I woke up to a string of texts from the bride to not register the marriage and that she no longer wants to be married to him. What do I do? Or what do they do?



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Email is the worst

Email is the worst

A terribly poor recording of the Celebrant Talk Show with Josh and Sarah this week, Josh’s laptop got drunk.

Topics on this episode include:

  • Does ageism exist in celebrancy?
  • Being a celebrant with a disability
  • Email systems and we’re changing them and email is hell
  • Changing the Marriage Act of 1961, Josh’s 2023 project.

Five phrases you should use in your sales pitch

Five phrases you should use in your sales pitch

I read an article on CNBC about five phrases you should use when you’re interviewing for a new job, and it led me down the path that every time we meet with a new couple we’re literally interviewing for the job. Here’s my take on CNBC’s five job-winning phrases with five phrases you can use in wedding sales meetings to win that wedding booking.

1. “In the past, I’ve couples/guests/vendors have noted that [X thing] was better at the wedding, thanks to my [Y skill].”

You’re showing that your skill level is so high, the people you work with or work for also benefit from it.


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I got scammed, and it’ll happen to you!

I got scammed, and it’ll happen to you!

Me, Josh Withers, the guy telling everyone to get better computer security, to change their passwords, and basically instilling the fear of god into celebrants that they will probably get hacked one day soon, that guy fell victim to a scam.

It was about 4pm in the afternoon here in Mexico and I had just emptied my inbox, a noble task in 2023, and the email came in. The email that scares me the most: my main domain name’s renewal had failed due a credit card issue. The last thing I want is for our business’s website and email to fail because the domain name renewal failed.


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The difference between religious ministers and civil celebrants

The difference between religious ministers and civil celebrants

Karen asks:

What are the differences/similarities, restrictions and allowances between a celebrant-led wedding and a church wedding, that is, by an ordained minister. I have noticed a lot of confusion and even ignorance about what can and can’t be done when the question of faith is raised. Can a celebrant read a biblical text, what constitutes a church and why can’t all ministers perform weddings? I am a civil celebrant who came from a faith background and I know, there are many others as well.



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Creating a marriage ceremony versus re-creating a marriage ceremony

Creating a marriage ceremony versus re-creating a marriage ceremony

I recently read Will Anderson’s “written during covid” book I Am Not Fine, Thanks, and his thoughts on creating versus re-creating really captured my mind and has occupied it for the past few weeks (emphasis mine):

I once asked the former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh what it was like to face the West Indian bowlers. How did you make the decision what shot to play when a ball was coming at your face at 160 kilometres per hour? He told me that you didn’t have time to decide. You just needed to train as well as you could, and then, when you were out there, trust your instincts that you will play the right shot. Try to get out of your own head and out of your own way. That is the approach I like to take with my stand-up. Part of the reason I normally like to keep my show a bit loose is that I have a theory that there are two distinct states of stand-up comedy: creation and re-creation.


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Change your passwords

Change your passwords

Depending on who you talk to, International Change Your Password Day is January 20 or February 1. Either way, in Australia we’ve missed both those dates, and because I’m writing this in Mexico I just saw the tweet from Fastmail reminding me.

Regardless of the “national date” consider this your reminder to change all of the important passwords in your world. In my humble opinion, all of the important passwords in your life should be changed annually. Because


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16 Ways a celebrant can end up in jail for six months

16 Ways a celebrant can end up in jail for six months

Sarah and I have been reviewing the Guidelines to the Marriage Act and one chapter caught my eye and I thought maybe you didn’t know how many things you could do that would end you up in jail for at least six months, or with “five penalty units” whatever they are.

You can find it all detailed heavily in the actual Marriage Act of 1961, but here’s the list of things a celebrant can do that could end them up in jail:


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Marry From Home – is it legal for Australian couples?

Remote witnessing of NOIMs in 2023

In early December the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s department’s Marriage Law and Celebrants Section let us know that the remote witnessing of NOIMs has been extended to 31 December 2023.

Here’s the email sent to all celebrants:


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I’m challenging you to learn Markdown

I’m challenging you to learn Markdown

Everyone has their little “thing” where they think if everyone else on the planet just did things this way then the world would be a better place, and honestly, I’m all for your and my weird little opinions. One that I really believe in is that everyone should write their writings, their articles, essays, notes, ceremonies, books, short stories, manuscripts and bodies of writing in Markdown.

And I’m willing to guess that most of you don’t even know what Markdown is so let’s start at the start.


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Can AI write an original marriage ceremony?

Can AI write an original marriage ceremony?

Yes, unfortunately yes artificial intelligence can write a marriage ceremony, but can it present one well?

You’ve probably read the news about OpenAI’s new GPT-3 chatbot, ChatGPT, so I won’t mansplain AI to you, but I simply wanted to share what AI thought should happen in a marriage ceremony.


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Cyberattack on AGD’s MarCel portal

Cyberattack on AGD’s MarCel portal

Some of you may have heard a radio report yesterday about the MarCel marriage celebrants portal being hacked. When I heard about it this morning I immediately found the Hansard record of the Senate Estimates Committee meeting where it was discussed on Monday (for those who don’t know, Hansard is the transcript of proceedings of the Australian Parliament and its committees).

The Hansard record was slightly alarming in that it didn’t provide many details. You can read it here; the relevant discussion is about halfway down (use the Find function in your browser and search for the keyword “marriage”).

Honestly, in the current environment with the Optus and Medibank hacks, I was pretty unimpressed that we hadn’t been alerted to this as people with details in that database. So I sent an email to MLCS:

I was pretty disappointed to read that the MarCel database was subject to a cyberattack three weeks ago but that we haven’t been informed. Although this Hansard record says no data was downloaded, I think in the current climate with the Optus and Medibank hacks, it would be prudent for the Department to be completely transparent with us about such matters.

Can you please contact all celebrants with details of the attack and what has and is being done to protect our information?

Lo and behold, an hour later my phone rang, and it was the lovely Kerrin from the Marriage Law & Celebrants Section on the phone! She wanted to assure me that what had been accessed was an old version of the database that actually holds no data but is used to point people towards the new version (something something – neither she nor I am particularly tech-savvy in that area!), and that therefore no personal details of celebrants had been accessed and nothing had been downloaded. They fixed the gap and we’re good to go.

I noted that given it hit the national media yesterday, celebrants were likely to start asking questions if they weren’t already, and MLCS might need to communicate ASAP with all celebrants to assure them there is no problem. She understood and noted we will discuss it at the MLCS/Associations meeting on 24 November. She will also be taking us through the stringent cybersecurity protections they have in place (such as us needing to change our password almost every time we log on to the portal!)

So that’s the info we have: no drama, more info to come 🙂

Your nerd chimes in

Hey, Josh here on the end of Sarah’s news because I wanted to chime in with a plea to all celebrants: one day soon, and maybe even sooner after this news, one of us is going to be on the news because we got hacked and we need to know how to lessen the risk of it happening.

The hypothetical news report will detail how all of the data on our local computers, in our emails, and our text messages were taken by a hacker. The celebrant’s clients’ passports, birth certificates, parents’ details (like the mother’s maiden name – that old security question), and our notes on the couples, like children’s and pets’ names, addresses, and love story details. Celebrants are hot fodder for identity thieves.

There was a time when locks and deadbolts were new technology and we had to learn how to use them to secure our offices, filing cabinets and homes. You now need to learn how to secure your computers, phones, and data stores. If you can’t put a hand on your heart and promise to your clients that their data in your NOIMs, marriage certificates, BDMs online, and emails are secure, then you need to figure out how.

The featured image for this story was generated by DALL-E AI with the prompt “photo of a computer hacker’s wedding” so that’s why it’s so creepy.

Marriage statistics 2021

Marriage statistics 2021

I was about to give myself a long lunch break when my daily statistics release email came through from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (yes, we all know I’m a nerd) and top of the list was the marriage stats release for 2021! This is two whole weeks earlier than usual! Here’s my thoughts, stream-of-consciousness style, as I review the stats for the first time.

Overall marriage numbers were below pre-pandemic levels again, which is unsurprising given the Delta-wave lockdowns in Victoria and New South Wales. 89,164 couples married in 2021, compared with the record low of 78,989 in 2020 (2021 numbers 12.9% higher than 2020) and the last pre-pandemic count of 113,815 in 2019 (2021 numbers 21.7% lower than 2019).

Low numbers were particularly seen in New South Wales (27,311 marriages: 31.0% lower than 2019, 2.1% lower than 2020) and Victoria (18,738 marriages: 34.6% lower than 2019, 12.7% higher than 2020), which is entirely unsurprising. New South Wales was the only state that actually had less weddings in 2021 than in 2020. Marriage numbers in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Northern Territory almost returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Monthly numbers are also interesting: usually we see strong seasonal peaks in autumn and spring. In 2021 the first half of the year saw numbers almost back to normal, then they fell off a cliff (although not as dramatic a cliff as April 2020) with the June lockdowns in New South Wales and Victoria. August was a particularly quiet month for marriages last year, with 2,981 marriages compared to 4,636 in 2021 and an average of 6050 in the years 2015-2019. While New South Wales was in lockdown, only 327 marriages occurred in July and 153 in August. While Victoria was in lockdown, the worst month was September, with only 174 marriages occurring, 91% lower than pre-pandemic levels!

Although numbers were lower than pre-pandemic, characteristics of marrying people remain stable: median age for men to marry was 32.1 years, median age for women to marry was 30.5 years, and 80.7% of all marriages were officiated by civil celebrants (remember that includes the State and Territory Registry Offices).

Same-sex marriages represented 3.2% of all marriages occurring in Australia in 2021, with more female couples marrying than male couples. The median age for same-sex couples marrying remained higher than the general population, but lower than same-sex couples in previous years. Note: although I usually call these couples “marriage equality couples” because there may be, e.g., a woman marrying a non-binary person, therefore not being same-sex, the ABS doesn’t include marriages where one or both parties ticked the X or Non-binary box on their marriage paperwork. They say this is for “confidentiality reasons”. I have always found this weird and would love an explanation as to what exactly is being kept confidential in a list of statistics… if we have any statistics-savvy celebrants out there, I’d love to talk to you about this!

Divorce numbers rose in 2021: 56,244 divorces were granted, up 13.6% from 49,510 in 2020. Apparently this is partly due to administrative changes at the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia to increase finalisations and reduce timeframes, which meant more applications could be finalised than previous years and allowed the Courts to reduce a backlog. So we can’t really compare those numbers with any confidence; we’ll need to wait until next year to see what the 2022 divorce data looks like to see if the numbers are really changing. There’s also a reminder in the analysis that divorces can only occur after at least 12 months’ separation in Australia, so only a small proportion of the 2021 divorces granted relate to separations that occurred after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And that’s my initial thoughts! Let me know if you have any specific questions you’d like me to dig around and see if I can answer!



Are meetings at cafes a business expense?

Are meetings at cafes a business expense?

A member asks:

Can you claim a tax deduction for the cost of holding a couple meeting at a cafe? Paying for their coffee? I hear different answers to this.


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Celebrant legal obligations online

Celebrant legal obligations online

Hopefully everyone has caught up on this major change to the way we do our work, but I know that some people missed it. So here’s a super basic update.

Until June 2019, celebrants had to sight original hard copy versions of all identity documents (think passports, birth certificates, driver’s licences), etc. We now have permission to sight evidence of date and place of birth documents electronically (as a scan or photo of the original document), and to sight evidence of identity documents electronically (via Skype or Facetime in conjunction with seeing the party’s face). We can also accept electronic copies of death certificates. Divorce certificates have only been issued electronically since 2011, so this is less of an issue with those, but if a party was divorced before that year, we can now sight an electronic copy of their hard copy original divorce order.


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Top ten tips for new marriage celebrants

On this special episode, Josh dials in from California to chat with Sarah about their Top Ten Tips for new Celebrants, as requested by Emily. But there are some tips in here for all celebrants, new or not!

  1. Network, network, network –  with anyone in the marriage industry
  2. Find a buddy/mentor
  3. Read the Guidelines to the Marriage Act cover to cover, and look at them regularly when you have a question
  4. Watch lots of ceremonies to find out different ways of doing things
  5. Learn how to business
  6. Figure out your differentiator, your point of difference
  7. Earn your fee … aka don’t just google other fees, but figure out how to charge what it costs you etc, and there’s the sliding scale of learner to expert
  8. Learn from other industries – business-wise – and ceremony wise
  9. Attend OPD in person! [We acknowledge this information is old now, for the most up to date information on OPD please visit]
  10. PA system/tech gear
  11. A bonus 11th tip is an ad, for Freshbooks – because honestly, the biggest tip you could get is to get on top of your money. Get on top of invoicing, getting paid, tracking expenses.

Times and topics

01.46 Tip 1 – Network, network, network. Sarah’s all about going to every wedding-related event she can. Josh agrees – it’s about building relationships, not only with other celebrants but with people and suppliers from all across the industry. It’s not just about getting work, but about making our work lives more fun
08.24 Tip 2 – Find a buddy/mentor that you can bounce things off, and ask for help
09.48 Tip 3 – Read the (current) Guidelines to the Marriage Act cover to cover, and look at them regularly when you have a question. The Guidelines will answer 95% of any questions you may have. Even Sarah, who knows the Guidelines really really well, still goes back and checks the Guidelines
12.47 Tip 4 – Watch lots of ceremonies to find out different ways of doing things
16.45 Tip 5 – Learn ‘how to business’. Understand your business accounts, how people want to pay for things, contracts. Know where & how to get advice and specialist help when you need it
20.00 Tip 6 – Figure out your differentiator, your point of difference. What are you good at/not good at? Your brand should reflect this, and explain how this matters to people getting married
27.10 Tip 7 – Earn your fee, aka don’t just google other fees, but figure out how to charge what it costs you etc, and there’s the sliding scale of learner to expert
34.59 Tip 8 – Learn from other industries – business-wise and ceremony-wise. Learn voice tips from other public speakers and even podcast hosts
39.44 Tip 9 – Attend OPD in person! (not distance) Josh has done both and it’s way easier to attend in person; also it’s good to meet other celebrants and learn from them
41.02 Tip 10 – PA System / tech gear. Know your gear and learn how to use it properly. Make sure everyone can hear you!
46.07 Bonus Tip 11 – Get on top of your accounts. Freshbooks accounting software can help with invoices and clients can pay directly from the invoice you send them

Being found is the new advertising

Being found is the new advertising

There are a few different kinds of marketing and advertising, but they can be mostly wrapped up under two headings: passive and active.

Passive marketing is my favourite because it actively respects the nature of the wedding industry. People getting married are normal people, who can’t easily be targeted using Facebook and Google ads because Meta and Google don’t know when the wedding is or even if they are having one. The “Engaged” status is nice, but the context is lacking. Weddings are a luxury spend, they are not necessary: people can get married without a wedding. Weddings are very personal in taste, and taste is hard to account for in an algorithm.


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Market your celebrant services like Apple markets the iPhone

Market your celebrant services like Apple markets the iPhone


Jano le Roux, a copywriter, has done a deep dive on the marketing surrounding the new iPhone 14. Words matter, and they’ve pulled the Apple copywriting apart to show how it matters to the average Joe like you and me who will pony up for a new phone:


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Be a little more like Robbie Williams as a celebrant

Be a little more like Robbie Williams as a celebrant

I’ll get the disappointment out of the way for everyone, I’m no AFL fan. Can you blame me? I’m a Queenslander born and bred, we worship NRL gods up here.

Regardless, I heard people comment on Robbie Williams’ performance to open the match was amazing, so I fired up my Youtubes and watched the clip. I have a few thoughts and they’re mostly related to how you and I, celebrants, do our job.


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Tips for completing the compulsory OPD

Tips for completing the compulsory OPD

We’ve had a lot of requests about whether we’re going to run a session providing info about the compulsory OPD that is offered this year through the Marriage Celebrants Portal. In a word: no. The reason is that there are a bank of multiple choice questions and every celebrant gets a different 25 questions. It would be REALLY difficult for me to run a session covering all the content that is dealt with in the entirety of the bank of questions; we’d have to go through the Act, Regulations and Guidelines in minute detail, and we’d probably be there for a week.

Instead, here are some tips for how to attack your Knowledge of the Law OPD topic (all the answers for the Real Consent topic are included in the PDF booklet within that topic).


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Where should the celebrant stand in a wedding ceremony? Josh’s view

Where should the celebrant stand in a wedding ceremony? Josh’s view

Where should the celebrant stand in a marriage ceremony? There’s no rule, law, or correct answer, but I’ll lay out the fundamentals on how I make my decision on where to stand, because it’s not always the same decision being made.

If you make different decisions, like Sarah does, your view and decision is valid and fine. Like, I might think you’re wrong, but I’m not your mum or the police, so you’ll be ok.


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Utilise the power of the “Zero Price Effect”

Utilise the power of the “Zero Price Effect”

Communicating value, selling your services, and convincing couples you’re worth your fee, is all hard work. Sometimes we discover psychological tricks to lubricate that process, things that can make it easier.

Today’s introduction to that list of sales tricks is the Zero Price Effect.


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Ted Gioia’s 10 rules for public speaking

Ted Gioia’s 10 rules for public speaking

Every celebrant should read this post from Ted Gioia on his 10 rules for public speaking, and my challenge to you is to integrate at least one, if not all of them, into your next ceremony.

Bangers like this on how everyone listening wants you to win:


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You must call yourself a marriage celebrant

You must call yourself a marriage celebrant

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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Remote witnessing of NOIMS – help make it permanent!

Remote witnessing of NOIMS – help make it permanent!

As everyone knows, we’re currently able to witness signatures on NOIMs remotely, via a platform such as Zoom or FaceTime. This has been an absolute saviour for a lot of celebrants, not only allowing them to continue working while being infected with COVID, but also simply saving them and their couples the time of travelling to meet each other for a simple signature.

This modification to the Marriage Act 1961 is due to end on 31 December 2022, at which time we’ll go back to the couples having to sign the NOIM “in the presence of” an authorised witness. That, quite frankly, would suck.


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Happy Podcast New Year!

Happy Podcast New Year!

We know, we know, we’ve been away for a whole year, but we’re back! In this episode we talk about where we’re both at in July 2022, and the major things that have happened in celebrancy and at the Celebrant Institute in the last 12 months:
  • new forms released 1 September 2021
  • changes to compulsory OPD
  • new Cert IV in Celebrancy released
  • new PD options released
  • amazing meeting with the Marriage Law and Celebrants Section – email [email protected] with your examples of why being able to witness signatures on NOIMs over Zoom should be made permanent
We’re hoping to release more regular episodes in the coming months – let us know if there’s anything you think we should talk about!
A lesson from Kobe Bryant for celebrants

A lesson from Kobe Bryant for celebrants

Starting from zero is hard. I’ve found that creating from scratch, staring at a blank Word document, or an empty notepad, is the hardest work, like pushing a boulder uphill it requires you to muster everything inside of you.

It’s a question new celebrants pose to us here at the Celebrant Institute every week: how to get started.


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This is your permission to raise your fees in 2022

This is your permission to raise your fees in 2022

Sarah and my accounting software of choice – Xero – just emailed us that our Xero plan (the standard) is increasing in price by $5 a month to $59. Fuel costs a lot more. Lettuce costs a lot more. Housing, rent, and mortgages are costing more than they did one and even two years ago. The value of my home has almost doubled since we bought it four years ago.

This is the inflationary nature of the economy of the society we choose to live in. Things generally increase in price every year, and you should too.


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How did I do 27 weddings in one month?

How did I do 27 weddings in one month?

A few responses to my May 2022 email (check your spam if you don’t get my monthly emails or join here) about having done 27 marriage ceremonies this month prompted questions from celebrants across our Australian membership base and even internationally.

Donna asked “how do you juggle that many” and others asked how I got that many bookings and other questions around the zone.


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The law of social proof and celebrancy

The law of social proof and celebrancy

When unsure how to act, people copy others, outsourcing their own decisions to others. Not only is this true when choosing a shop, or a cafe, but in weddings as well.

When Sylvan Goldman invented shopping trolleys, people didn’t want to use them because they seemed silly. So Goldman paid actors to use trolleys in his stores, and everyone quickly followed the trend. Can you imagine a shopping centre without trolleys today!? All it took was a few paid actors and it took off.


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Do I need more than one domain name for my website?

Do I need more than one domain name for my website?

Elaine asks:

When I obtained my Domain Name of from Melbourne IT when I first started back in 2014, I was ‘advised’ to secure and too, to prevent ‘others’ from setting up a similar website.


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A ceremony as a series of ‘riffs’, that’s how I’m unscripted

A ceremony as a series of ‘riffs’, that’s how I’m unscripted

When you mention my name to another celebrant, apparently the most common thing people talk about is how I’m unscripted. Some people call it ad lib. I would never describe my method of creating and delivering a ceremony as ad lib or unscripted.

It’s a series of riffs.


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Computer and internet security for a modern marriage celebrant

Computer and internet security for a modern marriage celebrant

Every day I wake up and check the technology news – as is my habit – and scroll through the headlines I’m expecting to find a marriage celebrant in there. Why?

When a couple books with us they hand over a wide amount of personal data. Then when they sign a notice of intent with us, even more.


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There’s Gold In Them Thar Questions

There’s Gold In Them Thar Questions

There’s gold in the questions you get asked by other celebrants, people in the wedding industry, our clients, friends, and social media followers. The questions you’re asked reveal the knowledge, experience, empathy, or assets you have – that others value. As they propose a question to you, they’re signalling that you are a person who knows the answer.

This is such a position of strength.


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How to spy on other people’s Facebook Ads

How to spy on other people’s Facebook Ads

If you’ve been wanting a way to spy on what other people in the wedding industry are doing with their Facebook Ads, here’s a very easy, open, and regulated way to do so.

Building an advert that works well is hard work, and honestly, the world doesn’t need more ads, it needs helpful content. But you can pay to boost that content and in Meta/Facebook we call that an ad.


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Rounded prices are better than unrounded for weddings

Rounded prices are better than unrounded for weddings

When it comes to pricing, and pricing yourself, there are so many contributing factors. The first is that you need to cover costs, the second that you need to make a profit – a wage, and the third that you make a surplus so you have buffer for the future, savings, and the ability to invest in your business.

Coming in from the side of that equation is a number of psychological pricing trains of thought. These include Charm Pricing, where you “reduce the left most number by one” or in other words you make a $3.00 product a $2.99 product; Prestige Pricing, where you round up to a simpler number like taking an $8.96 product to $10; Comparative Pricing or Anchor Pricing, where you environmentally surround a price with other prices to make it look good – like creating a $100 option and a $10 option either side of a $50 option you actually want them to take – anchoring that main product well and truly in a position of value.


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A story for celebrants finding their tribe like Yeti coolers did

A story for celebrants finding their tribe like Yeti coolers did

Before Yeti created a $5 million cooler and adventure brand, the icebox/cooler market (aka the “esky” market, despite Esky being a brand) was a a low-cost and cheap product market.

Chris Hladczuk documents their story in a recent release of his email newsletter which I recommend subscribing to.


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Other avenues for networking and referrals

Other avenues for networking and referrals

In his book Perennial Seller, Ryan Holiday says:

I’ve always found that a critical part of attracting influencers is to look for people who aren’t besieged by requests. Authors are inundated with requests for blurbs from other authors; meanwhile, generals academics, and CEOs are asked much more rarely.


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When the celebrant gets sick mid-ceremony…

When the celebrant gets sick mid-ceremony…

As celebrants, we talk and worry and plan a lot about what we’ll do if a guest or a member of the wedding party or one of the couple gets sick mid-ceremony. Many of us have first aid qualifications so we’ll have some basic idea of what to do. I’ve run OPD sessions on this topic, and I cover it in my Cert IV training.

What we don’t ever talk about is what happens when the celebrant gets sick mid-ceremony. We might joke about it being our worst nightmare, we feel dreadful for the few of us who will admit that it happened to them, but I would argue we don’t seriously talk about it enough, and we certainly don’t make plans.


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Preparing for the inevitable re COVID

Preparing for the inevitable re COVID

I think it’s becoming pretty clear that we’re all either going to catch COVID-19 or (at the very least) be subject to isolation due to being a close contact of a positive case. For the type of work we do, even having to isolate for the 24 hours it should take to get your test result back (and it’s way longer in most parts of Australia at the moment) can mean not being able to perform a wedding or a funeral or other event. So how should we prepare for the inevitable to make the process of transferring an event to another celebrant as seamless as possible?

While I can’t tell you what YOU should do, I can tell you what I’m doing and have done. Here’s my steps to COVID preparation.


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Not-as-ongoing professional development

Not-as-ongoing professional development

For the most recent information regarding ongoing professional development and OPD for Australian authorised civil celebrants visit

As 2021 draws to a close, so does an era of celebrant-industry-driven professional development. Here at the Celebrant Institute our 2021 ongoing professional development program wrapped up on the weekend and we’re grateful for the thousands of celebrants who chose us for their own betterment – and for the fulfilment of their obligation to the Attorney-General’s department in 2021 to complete four hours of OPD with an authorised registered training organisation and then one hour with the department’s Marriage Celebrant Portal.

In 2022 that obligation remains, but is minimised to a department-only delivered “one to two” hours which you will complete through the infamous portal.

That means three things for Sarah and I in 2022.

  1. In 2022 and beyond we need not worry about applying for, and delivering, a government-blessed professional development program. They’re doing it themselves in “one to two hours”.
  2. In 2022 we can – and will – deliver an epic professional development program that will position you stronger and better to tackle the business goals and the art of celebrancy and give you an edge in the marketplace.
  3. From 2022 we can work with people who want to develop, instead of celebrants who begrudgingly appear at the workshop because mum and dad told them to. So many stories. So little need to publish them publicly, but if you shout Sarah an orange juice, or me a whisky, we can share too many stories. Like the ones about the multiple celebrants who wanted to send an assistant along to do OPD for them.

Today we’re proud to have delivered a really good OPD program. We’re taking a break over the Christmas and New Year period, we’ll be back into normal Celebrant Institute business mid-January, well before winter kicks in we’re excited to show off, and launch, our new Certificate IV in Celebrancy that will really be a game changer, and once we have that locked and loaded we’ll share with you our 2022 professional development program.

Of course here at the Celebrant Institute every day is a professional development day, and every day we’re answering your questions that you send through at

Celebrants can witness NOIMs over the internet!

Celebrants can witness NOIMs over the internet!

Breaking marriage law news – for the second time since 1961: Celebrants can witness NOIMs over the internet. You can start witnessing notices of intended marriage from the beach tomorrow.

In short

From 22 December 2021 you can witness the parties sign the Notice of Intended Marriage over an audio/video call, e.g. Zoom or FaceTime. Simples. You can send a couple their NOIM as a PDF, hopefully pre-filled with their correct information, call them on FaceTime or your video call app of choice, and watch them sign the form. Then they will scan the NOIM (using a scanner or a phone scanning app like Notes or Dropbox on your iPhone) and send it back to you, and you can then sign it with an ink or digital pen, and consider the NOIM received. The one month notice period begins on the day you receive their signed electronic Notice, and none of you had to leave the house and stick your tongues in each other’s ears or however it is you catch the spicy cough.

In depth

The Attorney-General, Michaelia Cash, and the former Attorney-General had received recommendations for legislative changes in response to the Coronavirus pandemic – which only started more than 650 days ago – and the main one relevant to celebrants was the witnessing of signatures on Notices of Intended Marriage over a video call, like a FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or WhatsApp call.


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Marriage statistics 2020

Marriage statistics 2020

It’s one of your favourite nerd’s favourite days: marriage statistics day! The statistics on marriages and divorces that occurred in 2020 have been released by the Australian Burearu of Statistics today, and I’m here with my annual summary.

The first thing to note is that for the first time the impacts of COVID on our industry are absolutely laid bare, and to be honest, the details are gut wrenching. It’s nothing we didn’t already know, and I guess in a way it’s nice to have our trauma borne out by the numbers, but it’s still pretty hideous reading. If you’re triggered by talk of COVID and weddings, it’s time for you to look away now.


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Why I hate wedding awards: “I am in competition with no-one”

Why I hate wedding awards: “I am in competition with no-one”

For over five years now I’ve crusaded against wedding industry awards. I don’t like them, I don’t enter them, and I try to convince my friends and colleagues to avoid them as well.

I understand how nice it feels to be awarded number one. If you sent me an email right now that said “Josh, you are my number one celebrant” I’d probably print it out and put it on the fridge next to one of Luna’s paintings, but the truth is, I believe that wedding industry awards are unhealthy and unhelpful for the wedding industry.


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My secret to business success: email

My secret to business success: email

Any successful endeavour requires a number of ingredients. An award winning cake recipe will have more than one ingredient, and an Olympic gold medal swimmer didn’t just swim their first lap that race.

There’s a process, there’s time, goal setting, and multiple resources being in the right place at the right time.


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How to start taking better photos at your weddings

How to start taking better photos at your weddings

An element of my social media content strategy I’m quite proud of is that I’ve really worked hard at making better photos, photos that I have made – and therefore own – so that I have photos and video for my own social media channels and blog. If you’re interested in pursuing that art as well, Josh Rose has written a really good guide that I think would help you. It’s aimed at taking better holiday photos, but the advice translates directly to weddings as well.

Here’s a few examples of my social media posts I’ve shared that have used his methods.


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Vaccine mandates and weddings

Vaccine mandates and weddings

As I’m sure will be surprising to absolutely nobody reading this, we’re already receiving a LOT of questions about COVID-19 vaccine mandates: how will they affect weddings? Can unvaccinated people attend a wedding at all? What about people with exemptions? Whose responsibility will it be to ensure couples/guests/vendors are vaccinated? How will we check vaccination status? Is it discriminatory to not allow an unvaccinated person to attend a wedding? Are we allowed / do we have the right to ask about clients’ (and their guests’) vaccination status?

The short answer, as at 22 September 2021, is that we don’t know yet.


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How to record the location of a marriage ceremony on the water or in the air

How to record the location of a marriage ceremony on the water or in the air

Lizzie asks:

My couple is getting married on a boat in The Pittwater located on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Please advise how I best record the “at” on the docs for a wedding adrift.



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The secret to having people share your social media posts

The secret to having people share your social media posts

When you hear of social media posts going viral, it simply means people are sharing it. They’re tagging their friends in the comments, sharing the post by direct message, and adding to the algorithm that decides who sees what on the internet.

There’s books worth of wisdom on how to go viral, and I’d argue most of us don’t want to, or if we do, it’s not for a healthy reason. Virality – in a business sense – isn’t sustainable, nor is it as fun as you think. Trust me, I’ve been there.


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How to get your couples to reply to your emails

How to get your couples to reply to your emails

If you’ve ever played the iconic Australian schoolyard game of handball, you’ll remember that the aim of the game is to intercept the ball on your quadrant/half, then to get it back out as soon as possible.

Here’s a demonstrative video from a former Australian Prime Minister.


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Build my own website or pay a pro? Build a business brand or a personal brand?

Build my own website or pay a pro? Build a business brand or a personal brand?

Suzanne asks:

Looking for advice on professional web design v. self design. Objective to attract biz, be good return on investment and not rubber-stamp like. Also some good advice on logo vs personal service brand.



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Writing prompts for social media and blogging

Writing prompts for social media and blogging

The Copywriting Course’s subject line generator might be just the gold mine you need to start writring that next blog posts, social media post, or recording that vlog or podcast.

Go to and enter a topic in the box, like weddings and you’ll get a list like this. Edit and change to your needs and start creating content!


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Questions to ask your couples for your review or testimony

Questions to ask your couples for your review or testimony

Jason Fried has posted a list of questions he asks referees he calls for new employees. I read through the list and thought that it would be equally impressive to see our clients answer some or all of these questions in their reviews.

Shape the questions so they serve you, but instead of asking for a plain old review, try asking your couples a question and ask them to share it as a Google, Facebook, or other form of review:


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Be vulnerable about your growth intentions to actually grow

Be vulnerable about your growth intentions to actually grow

A study has found that adding copy to a new app’s website around the lines of “we expect 1000 users to join this year” increased signups for the app by 20%. People respond to the developer’s expectations and intentions of the app’s growth because those intentions were expressed, documented, published.

The same study found that for an app that already had its 1000 users, adding a link that said so, with the actual numbers published, proved to be equally effective.


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Say, do you remember? Dancing (with new forms) in September?

Say, do you remember? Dancing (with new forms) in September?

September 2021 is bringing us new marriage forms, and to be sure that we don’t confuse things, let me quote from the Attorney-General office email sent today. If you haven’t received it, check your spam folder and then tell your email client it isn’t spam, it’s the boss.

The three new marriage forms: the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM), the Official Certificate of Marriage (OCM), and Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage (DNLI) forms, will be available for download from the department’s website on 31 August 2021.

We provide the following guidance material on the changes to marriage forms commencing on 1 September 2021:

1. Fact sheet on Changes to marriage forms and certificates 2021

2. Mocked-up new Notice of Intended Marriage

From 1 September 2021, all authorised celebrants MUST use the new NOIM, OCM and DNLI forms.

NOIM forms signed and submitted to an authorised celebrant before 1 September 2021 will remain valid for a period of 18 months from their date of receipt by the authorised celebrant. All NOIM forms submitted to an authorised celebrant after 1 September 2021, must be in the new form.

There are no changes to the Form 15 Certificates of Marriage (that is given by the celebrant to the couple immediately following the wedding). Authorised celebrants can continue to use their existing stock of Form 15 certificates. The Form 15 certificates continue to be available for purchase from CanPrint Communications.

We note that the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for authorised celebrants will be updated on 31 August 2021, to reflect the new forms commencing on 1 September 2021.

Please take the time to familiarise yourself with the information provided about the new forms ahead of 1 September 2021.

So on August 31 2021, you will find out how you get to do your work on the 1st of September. Heaps of time.

Also, if you have any questions, or need help from the AGD while Canberra is in lockdown:

During this period all communications with our office must be via email, subject to the below. If you do not have email access you may leave a telephone message by calling 1800 550 343. Please note – we are unable to answer telephone calls during the lockdown period. If you need to contact us via our telephone line because you do not have email access, it is very important that you leave a detailed message setting out your enquiry, and provide us with your full contact details including your ‘A Number’.

Hopefully this isn’t news to any of you, and luckily, if you’re a Celebrant Institute member, Sarah and myself (Josh) are at your beck and call, ask us a question at

One thing I will note, if you’re planning on signing a Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage (DNLI) form for a September 1 onwards wedding, I’d leave it until September 1 onwards.

Finally, if you’re wondering what the title means:

Should we charge more or differently for public holidays?

Should we charge more or differently for public holidays?

Continuing a long running series on this website starting with how your price is part of your marketing story, whether or not you should list your prices on your website with answers from Sarah and myself, how to respond when someone asks “how much?”, how to be something other than the cheap celebrant, a different method to calculate your fee, about how celebrants are not paid per hour, on cheap breakfasts, whether there is room at the top of the market, on valuing how you interact, what travel fees are for, that you should raise your price after 2020, and most recently how to raise your price, today we wonder how and why people charge different prices for public holidays.

Kim asks:


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JPs witnessing the NOIM via audio visual link – NOT ALLOWED

JPs witnessing the NOIM via audio visual link – NOT ALLOWED

As you all know, the Marriage Act 1961 requires that the Notice of Intended Marriage is signed in the presence of one of the authorised witnesses. In the presence of means physical presence: the person signing and the witness need to be physically in the same room.

While there have been some attempts to have this requirement changed since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, they have been unsuccessful to date. NOIMs must still be signed in the presence of an authorised witness.


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What does your profile photo say about you?

What does your profile photo say about you?

If you’ve taken our branding advice before, you’re using the same headshot profile photo for your social media accounts and your website, and anywhere else you can upload an identifying photo, avatar, logo. But do you know how it’s performing for your brand and marketing?

Your face is your logo when you’re a wedding celebrant and if you don’t have one already, I recommend reaching out to a local wedding photographer and paying them to make some headshot photos of you that really scream “You!” The best thing about getting a wedding photographer to do it is because they know what wedding clients are looking for photographically, plus you get to either a) meet a new friend in the wedding industry, or b) support an existing friend. It’s a great opportunity to work with someone you’ve been wanting to work with.


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Three practical ways to increase your price

Three practical ways to increase your price

I’m not backwards in coming forwards about celebrants raising their price. I’ve given a number of good reasons in the past, but as lockdowns and travel bans continue to fuel the bonfire that is the state of the wedding industry today I was inspired by the idea that we, the wedding industry need not bare the burden that is wedding postponements, we are not wedding insurers, we are professional creatives.

We are not wedding insurance.


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Legalities for parties who are vision impaired

Legalities for parties who are vision impaired

Tania asks:

I have an enquiry from a couple, one party is Visually Impaired. They would have the some of my ‘Welcome Kit’ translated to Braille, including the NOIM, DONLIM, OCM and Form 15. Therefore, I am comfortable that the party would be aware of what they will sign. But … How would the signing and witnessing actually work? Would having a Braille interpreter at the Signing who could tell the party where to sign be a legal solution?



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7 Insurances celebrants should have

7 Insurances celebrants should have

A member has asked about whether the Celebrant Institute membership includes insurance. It doesn’t, and we’ll be honest with you, that’s because we reached out to a bunch of insurance brokers and insuring you lot in such a general way turned out to be so expensive and hard, that it wouldn’t be worth it for you, or for us, to offer such a broad stroke of insurance, when each of your businesses are so unique and personal.

So here’s the seven insurances I think every wedding celebrant should at least consider, and of course you need to do your own research and consider your own circumstances.


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Questions to ask your couples for your review or testimony

Wise words about reviews, for Billy Joel and wedding celebrants

I’ve got a confession to make: I can recall every single bad review I’ve had, and I barely remember the good ones.

There’s one I received while I was in Washington DC in 2015, a few days before I was about to speak at the International Association of Wedding Officiants conference. The couple had a bunch of comments that were mean and terrible, but they also shape a lot of how I work today. I should let go, but my brain says no.


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How and why you should position your speaker at a wedding

How and why you should position your speaker at a wedding

Many celebrants don’t know the science and method behind choosing where to position their speaker in a ceremony. This video will take you through the basic elements of choosing where and why and how to position your speaker, and one thing I didn’t note in the recording is that you want it up on a speaker stand at standing head height, you need those audio waves to be able to reach everyone’s ears and if the speaker is on the ground, people past the first row will be struggling.


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I’ve gone to court for cancelled covid weddings, and lived to tell the story

I’ve gone to court for cancelled covid weddings, and lived to tell the story

At the time of writing I personally have attended four court mediation sessions, and two court hearings. Theses are my stories. Dum dum. Ok, enough of the Law and Order jokes, but I am in the middle of a bunch of law suits and I figured that you, my fellow celebrants, would like to hear the stories, and hopefully you can learn from them.

What follows is in no way to be considered legal advice, I am not a lawyer, and the advice given to me by my lawyer is confidential. The stories shared are personal anecdotes that would hopefully encourage you to engage with a lawyer.


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Be vulnerable about your growth intentions to actually grow

7 days of content prompts for your social media

If you’re feeling a bit stuck on what to post on your blog, or social media, or both, here’s seven content ideas you can easily write right now. Then schedule them up to drop every day, and watch your online personal brand grow!

1. Recycle an old piece of content that went well

Do you remember that post, or photo, article, or infographic you posted last month, or last year (maybe the year before that), and it really resonated with the masses?


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Are you ready if someone tries to hack you and steal your client’s personal data

Are you ready if someone tries to hack you and steal your client’s personal data

Reading the news today about the meat manufacturer that paid up $11 million in ransom to cybercriminals after having its business shutdown over a hack recently, my mind turned to celebrants.

I hold grave fears that any day now there’s going to be an Australian marriage celebrant breached by a hacker, and all of their clients’ NOIM, Marriage Certificate, Passport, Divorce, Drivers License, details will be leaked, stolen, sold.


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“The truth is most of your followers won’t see what you share” on Instagram

“The truth is most of your followers won’t see what you share” on Instagram

Instagram has shared a post today about how and why people see what they see on Instagram. I’m not going to speculate on how much of this is smoke and mirrors, or politics, or conspiracy theories. Instead, lets take them at their word and believe what they say.

You can read the whole report here, and I’ll share some excerpts and thoughts on it below.


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You should charge more, and here’s 10 reasons why

You should charge more, and here’s 10 reasons why

Mel is struggling with mapping out her pricing as a celebrant, and when she mentioned it to me I went straight to a conversation I had with my brother earlier today. He’s looking at starting a new business based on professional skills he holds, and he was looking for some guidance walking into the project. So I’ll tell you what I told him, then give you ten good reasons why you should charge more.

How to enter a marketplace

Honestly, here’s a secret about business: the two most vacant segments of any marketplace are the top of the market and the bottom of the market.


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How to be “out there” and trust the process

How to be “out there” and trust the process

Krystal asks:

“I seek perhaps some advice on how I continue to be “out there” without sailing into the boring seas or moving into sharing content on social media that isn’t relevant. Maybe I need to be patient with the process, once my first wedding is over and I’ll feed my future marketing off that.”



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Advanced OPD topic on how to skin a rabbit

Advanced OPD topic on how to skin a rabbit

After a six month break from podcasting because our world’s got crazy and busy, we talk about what was keeping us busy. Namely, reschedules and postponements and cancellations of weddings, and how that’s affecting the whole industry.

Plus we go over our 2021 OPD – ongoing professional development – program in great depth. You’re going to love it! Go to to see the whole offering.

It’s time to change the one month notice period to one week

It’s time to change the one month notice period to one week

To my fellow celebrants, I have a proposal regarding the one month notice period, and I’d like to run it up your flagpole, so to speak, and then take it to the Australian parliament: that the one month notice period required by the Marriage Act, be reduce to one week. Or even better, abolish the notice all together.

Here’s my thoughts on the matter, and I’d like to hear yours in the comments below:

  • In most Western countries no notice, or short notice of 24 or 48 hours is required. Australia’s one month notice is unique and the longest in the world that I can find through my research. The UK is the closest at 28 days notice required.
  • What is the spirit of the one month notice and is that spirit not adhered in other ways by celebrants ensuring that the couple are consenting? If a couple is of age and of consent, what difference is it if they want to marry today or in a month?
  • The administrative burden the notice of intended marriage brings celebrants, the Attorney-General’s Marriage Law and Celebrants Section, and the state BDMs, seems to heavily outweigh the benefit the one month notice could bring.
  • The one month notice seems to be in conflict with the current government’s and the AGD’s reduction of red tape and encouragement of a free market.
  • The one month notice period is the most misunderstood element of the Australian marriage law, and yet it brings low value to marriages or the country.
  • If a shortening of time is required, this is almost always a painful process. Eliminating or reducing the notice would liberate this process.

I am taking this proposal to the AGD’s MLCS in our next meeting in May, and will also table the proposal, and your comments, with my local Member of Parliament.

Managing marriage documentation after death of a celebrant

Managing marriage documentation after death of a celebrant

A celebrant asks:

Just had a call from the local FD asking me if I knew what the family of a celebrant who died on the weekend needs to do re their wedding paperwork and records. No upcoming ceremonies, but several years of archived files, including recent weddings.


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12 months defending wedding industry disputes due to covid

12 months defending wedding industry disputes due to covid

I thought I would spend this fine morning outlining some of the things that I have learned over the course of the last 12 months when it comes to disputes in the wedding industry due to the Coronavirus and COVID-19.

Here they are:


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Facebook’s a bit salty at us

Facebook’s a bit salty at us

After posting a guide on making sure you and your business is prepared if and when the Facebook ban hammer falls on you, the Facebook ban hammer fell on us.

Celebrant Institute banned from Facebook

When we saw that Facebook had (in my own personal opinion, correctly) responded to the Australian Prime Minister’s pandering to Rupert Murdoch but banning news from Facebook in Australia, I checked our page to see if it had been swept up in the mess, and on Friday morning it had not.

In response to Facebook’s actions I wrote a piece on the Celebrant Institute website about preparing your business for a time that maybe your Facebook page, or other online sites, would not be available to you. Members can read that here.

On Saturday morning, though I noticed that our engagement had dropped from the regular few hundred people who would organically see our posts, to zero.

Celebrant banned from Facebook

We’ve lodged an appeal to Facebook on a few fronts, unsure if any of them are the correct course of action. If you know the best way to convince Facebook that we aren’t Rupert Murdoch’s playboy bunnies, please get in touch.


When Facebook shuts you down, are you ready?

When Facebook shuts you down, are you ready?

Today, being the 18th day of February 2021, thousands of Australians woke up to find that their livelihoods were decided by a CEO in California. Australian news organisations had their Facebook pages basically shut down because Facebook doesn’t want to play ball with the Australian government.

There’s a lot to be said about that entire action, but this isn’t a membership website for news organisations, it’s for celebrants.


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Quick way to complete the Certificate IV in Celebrancy

Quick way to complete the Certificate IV in Celebrancy

A friend asks me today what the quickest way is to complete the Cert IV in Celebrancy, the qualification needed to become a celebrant in Australia. Friends of my friend reckon she’d be a great celebrant and they’d like her to marry them. So although I already had some idea of what was required, I like feeling out the bounds of our society and seeing what money, time, goodwill, and effort can get you. Not that I want to game the system, but I wondered, if someone sat down with our own Oracle, Sarah Aird, for a week, could they gun through the Certificate IV?

So I sent her a text.

It turns out the Certificate IV in Celebrancy as it stands in 2021 is a far more intense course than even I bargained for.

So the quickest way to complete the Cert 4 in Celebrancy, if you invested 40 hours a week, would be to complete in six months, and even then you have to apply to become a celebrant at the AGD!

Sarah’s current advice is that if you can invest 20 hours a week, maybe that’s four hours a night for five nights a week after work, or that’s investing 10 hours a day across your weekend, you could qualify in a year.

So if you’re still up for the task, apply now.

Or just find a qualified celebrant already in the business and ready to rumble.

Where to focus on your celebrancy in 2021

Where to focus on your celebrancy in 2021

It’s been a weird year behind us as a wedding industry. I don’t want to dwell on it for fear of crying, but I’m of the belief that sometime soon we need to focus our energies forward, and I wanted to encourage you to do the same, with a framework that answers a big question: where should we focus?

If you’re a beginner celebrant, if you’re not full time yet, if you’re still finding your feet: execution.


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How to accept crypto currencies for your work

How to accept crypto currencies for your work

A celebrant has written in to the Celebrant Institute asking the question: “How can I, and should I, accept crypto currency for celebrancy?”

There are three questions worth answering here: Can I? Should I? How?


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Ultimate Guide to Creating Automation For Your Customer Journey

Ultimate Guide to Creating Automation For Your Customer Journey

I recently spoke via video at the Wedding Business CEO Summit (which you can still attend by buying an All Access Pass) and spoke on the process of creating a customer journey. My talk was called There’s A Fraction Too Much Friction: Automation For Your Customer Journey. It’s about automating the things that you can automate, that you should automate, so you can really sow your efforts into the important parts of your business – the things a robot or a computer or a PA could never replace. The things that make you, you!

I believe this is an important and valuable topic for all wedding business people to get in their life, and I’m so glad I get to share it with Celebrant Institute members.


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Acknowledgement of Country in our weddings

Acknowledgement of Country in our weddings

First Australians have been marrying for thousands of years on the land we now call Australia. Terra Australis, the southern land, was home to people well before the Dutch or the British “discovered” it, so as much as Australian law requires us to identify that we the celebrants are authorised to marry people according to Australian law, common decency would see us acknowledge the truth of the land we stand on to create ceremony.

Australia may call itself a sovereign state, but the Australia’s first people never ceded sovereignty. Those same First Nations people also acknowledge the power and the value of marriage. Celebrants, as the custodians of more than 80% of Australia’s marriage ceremonies each year, have a role to play in respecting the First Nations people’s place in our society, and acknowledging the country our ceremonies take place on.


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How to get couples to book you as their celebrant

How to get couples to book you as their celebrant

A Celebrant Institute member asks:

Hi Josh and Sarah, I’ve a question about that first meeting – I’ve met a few couples, tried coming from different angles ie. Asking what they have in mind for their ceremony, how they met, build rapport, let them talk or I do most of the talking – introducing myself and how I help them with my process and system. Have not sealed the deal. What do you recommend as discussion points for the first meeting, for high chances of booking soon after? Thank you!



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What if Google didn’t exist?

What if Google didn’t exist?

Google, in light of legislation being introduced in Australia, has threatened to pull out of the Australian market. I’m sure they won’t, if only because they won’t walk away and leave $59 billion of income on the table and destroy the trust in their brand over a couple of dollars being paid to news organisations.

But it’s an interesting thought process I’d put to you.


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Be the CEO your wedding celebrant business needs you to be

Be the CEO your wedding celebrant business needs you to be

It’s time to life up our heads from managing, or surviving, in our wedding celebrancy business, and to actually lead our businesses to a place where they bring us joy and happiness again.

This episode of the podcast is with someone who helps people like us do things like that, Heidi Thompson from Evolve Your Wedding Business. Heidi is hosting the Wedding Business CEO Summit later this month and Josh is speaking at the summit on automating your customer journey.

Celebrant Institute members and Celebrant Talk Show listeners get a free ticket to the summit by clicking here!

This event is specifically crafted for the wedding industry because we have different needs than other industries. Our goal isn’t to throw a pile of new strategies and tasks at you, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and like there’s no way you can do enough. Instead, we’re here to show you how to go from overwhelmed and overworked (like most wedding professionals) to how to make your wedding business more simple, efficient, profitable, and stress-free.

For 5 days, January 25th-29th, Heidi is bringing you presentations from 25 industry experts who have found ways to ditch the overwhelm & stop overworking all while streamlining things and becoming more profitable than ever. You’ll learn about everything from the steps to create new and passive revenue streams, how to create a profit-focused schedule, creating boundaries that will give you your time back, and so much more.

Register for your free ticket to the summit! And there is also an All Access Pass available which gives you access to the summit forever and comes with thousands of dollars of value plus free access to the Celebrant Institute.

026 Social Media Challenge: It’s not about you today

026 Social Media Challenge: It’s not about you today

Social media, and humanity in general, can become a little bit self-indulgent at times. It’s our tribal, animalistic nature, to look after one’s self first. But something beautiful happens when you turn the camera away from yourself, when you shift the spotlight onto someone else.

Today’s challenge is to do just that, to make a post not at all about you, but about someone you think your audience would be blessed to know about. We’re not talking about a simple shout out, or a “hey go follow this person” but produce a piece of content that would inspire people, in a relevant manner to your brand and the other person’s brand, to become a fan of them and their work.


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025 Social Media Challenge: Meme me baby

025 Social Media Challenge: Meme me baby

Your challenge today is to create an entertaining meme. Not an educational meme, or an instructional meme, or a demonstratable meme.

Today we meme for fun.


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024 Social Media Challenge: Can I answer you a question?

024 Social Media Challenge: Can I answer you a question?

Today’s challenge is a little more casual after some intense training days.

Quora is a social network built on the simple premise of asking questions and answering them.


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022 Social Media Challenge: You can ASCII me anything

022 Social Media Challenge: You can ASCII me anything

In the beginning there was the text, and the text was good. It was all we knew. We called it ASCII, ASCII codes represent text in computers. When I first used a personal computer in 1991 “computer graphics” were mostly just text in the shape of graphics, like this was a shrug:



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The best tablet computer for celebrants, is it the reMarkable?

The best tablet computer for celebrants, is it the reMarkable?

For almost the past three years an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil has been my computer that left the home. I’d always loved a Mac but I predominantly left that at my desk and if I left the office for a marriage ceremony, a meeting, a photoshoot or for travel, I would take my iPad Pro.

I’ve written the story of how that’s no longer the case on my personal blog. It’s a two parter, the first part is introducing a new Apple Silicon Macbook Air which replaces my previous MacBook in speed and power, along with replacing my iPad Pro’s portability, responsiveness, and ability to run iOS apps.


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How to name your celebrant business

How to name your celebrant business

David Placek is the branding genius behind some of the biggest names in the technology world. The words Sonos, Intel Pentium, Apple PowerBook, Blackberry, Gimlet podcasts (home of Reply All), and the Impossible burger, all came from David’s branding company, Lexicon Branding. In 2014 Placek released a book which I’d love to read – but can’t find for purchase. Luckily for me, and for you, Om Malik recapped the book in his blog recently.

I’ll let you click through to Om’s fantastic post, but the points Om and David bring for naming a startup today are equally translatable to celebrants.


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019 Social Media Challenge: Combine the five

019 Social Media Challenge: Combine the five

We’re on the home stretch in this social media challenge, and you guys are absolutely nailing the challenge to the wall, good work!

Today is the last in the simple foundational steps we’ve been covering over the last five challenges. Today you’re combining as many types of content at once. We’re going to put them all in the same mixing bowl and see what we can bake.


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How to collect wedding guest information for your own COVIDSafe requirements

How to collect wedding guest information for your own COVIDSafe requirements

Many governments are requiring people running events to collect data about who attends the event. Your legal responsibilities regarding COVID and COVIDSafe plans are your responsibility and this article in no way communicates what you must do regarding COVID and any safety plans. But if you need to collect data about people attending a wedding or funeral you are attending, this is a quick and easy way of doing it safely and responsibly.

I’m not a fan of the data collection companies that have popped up offering to help with this responsibility this year. Data about who is at an event, when and where, and what their phone number, email address, name, and home address is – is powerful data.


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018 Social Media Challenge: Create demonstrating content

018 Social Media Challenge: Create demonstrating content

I started this little streak of content prompts highlighting the fact that there five different kinds of good content. This is the fifth: demonstrating content.

Content that is demonstrating the practical, simple, elements of what you do and how you do it.


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017 Social Media Challenge: Let me, entertain you!

Today’s challenge, once more without stipulation of network or medium, is to entertain us.

Get on whatever social network you feel comfortable with and put a smile on our face. Create a post that will help your audience feel joy and cheer.


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016 Social Media Challenge: Inspire us

016 Social Media Challenge: Inspire us

Today’s challenge is to mentally stimulate us, to make us feel something, something creative, beautiful, and hearty.

Today’s challenge, as is the theme in this current swing of content, can go on any network/s of your choosing, in any medium/s.


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014 Social Media Challenge: Be relevant

014 Social Media Challenge: Be relevant

There are five different kinds of good content. Before you click post on anything, ever, forever, it should be at least one. If it’s two, you might get a like, three and you’re having a party, four and you just put a hashtag in front of the word winning.


Today your challenge is to post something relevant to your audience. The audience you want to attract, the people you hope would engage with you.


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013 Social Media Challenge: Who do you love?

013 Social Media Challenge: Who do you love?

Today’s challenge is 98% in your hands, 1% in the calendar’s hands, and 1% from me.

Do something, anything, with your content, anywhere, about: love.


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012 Social Media Challenge: Something beautiful

012 Social Media Challenge: Something beautiful

Ansel Adams said that we don’t take a photograph, we make it.

Your challenge today is to make a photo, a beautiful photo, a photo you’re proud of, that you’d be happy to see hanging in my lounge room.


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011 Social Media Challenge: A day in the life of …

011 Social Media Challenge: A day in the life of …

One of my favourite uses of Instagram’s Story feature is to document the behind the scenes of what I’m doing. I see a number of benefits to the occasional behind the scenes personal documentary:

  • A curated view into the behind the scenes adds to your general brand value, as people find out more about what you do and how you do it and how maybe there is more involved than they imagine
  • The stories format disappears in 24 hours, so if it’s not that well edited or created then it lasts for a day
  • You get to do spontaneous and subtle shoutouts to other people you’re working with
  • You have an opportunity to show some personality and spirit

But I’ve got a couple of rules:


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Was the tinsel an acknowlegement?

Was the tinsel an acknowlegement?

After meeting with the Marriage Law and Celebrants Section of the Attorney-General’s Department, Josh and Sarah bring you all the updates to marriage forms, OPD in the years ahead, signing NOIMs online, plus we’ve got some helpful tips on social media content and live streaming wedding ceremonies.

010 Social Media Challenge: Let’s take the conversation to 11

010 Social Media Challenge: Let’s take the conversation to 11

Today we’re taking that controversial thought in your mind, and we’re turning it all the way up to eleven, Spinal Tap style.

That’s one louder than ten! Which is probably where your most recent posts have been at.


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009 Social Media Challenge: Your genesis story

009 Social Media Challenge: Your genesis story

Today’s challenge is an easy one, you already know everything about it, the key to the challenge though is

  1. Articulating it,
  2. Telling it, and
  3. Sharing it to as many mediums as possible

Today we’re telling your genesis story, the story of how you started, why you started, and how you felt you could do something important and different.


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Are you a workaholic?

Are you a workaholic?

It’s a weird world in 2020, one where our workload has significantly decreased, yet in other less familiar ways, our workload has increased dramatically with postponements, court dates, cancellations, emails, sending many of us into a spiral of lots more work that isn’t really earning us any more money or love. I’ve seen a few of my colleagues fall pray to this, and even I am finding myself identify as the “W word”, that word that some hold as a proud title, and some fear becoming.

Workaholic. Are you on?


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008 Social Media Challenge: Beat your own drum and testify

008 Social Media Challenge: Beat your own drum and testify

If someone speaks well of you, you’ve got to remember that, embed it deep into your soul, and know that you’re good at this.

And once you’ve done that you need to share that testimony


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007 Social Media Challenge: Blog a common reply

007 Social Media Challenge: Blog a common reply

In computer programming there’s a method of program called Object Oriented Programming, which recognises that some parts of the program are reused a lot. The programmers write the code once, then reuse it every time they need it.

Today we’re going to find that common reply you type into your email client. That question you always get asked, then we’ll ask it once and for all, in a blog post.


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006 Social Media Challenge: Nutella Day

006 Social Media Challenge: Nutella Day

Who would ever think that there would be a need for an International Day for Nutella to raise awareness of the delicious nutty goodness?

Sara Rosso did.


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005 Social Media Challenge: Let’s get podcasting

005 Social Media Challenge: Let’s get podcasting

Podcasts are so much more powerful than most people imagine. My little podcast, The Rebel’s Guide to Getting Married, has maybe 100-300 listeners depending on how passionately I share it, but the simple act of recording helpful podcast episodes has booked me weddings in Europe, the USA, around Australia, and last week a couple booked me for their wedding in Orlando. I am travelling to Florida because someone heard me on a podcast.

If you want that kind of influence, let’s dive into today’s challenge.


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004 Social Media Challenge: Reuse and recycle

004 Social Media Challenge: Reuse and recycle

I’m willing to bet that you have received a question about what you do before today, and you’ve hit reply with a really good answer.

Let’s find that email, or that instant message, or that reply to a post.


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OPD in 2021 is changing

For the most up to date information on Ongoing Professional Development/OPD for Australian Marriage Celebrants, please view

For your ongoing professional development as a Commonwealth authorised marriage celebrant in 2021, only four hours will be provided by your OPD trainer. One hour of your five hour commitment will be delivered by the Marriage Law and Celebrants Section of the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department.

In simple terms this means that a one hour compulsory topic will be provided at no extra cost by the AGD online, and the remaining four hours of your commitment will be fulfilled by either:

  • attending OPD face to face if it is safe and allowable
  • attending OPD in a live webinar online
  • attending an approved conference
  • completing the distance education units and submitting them to the OPD provider

The department says of the one hour topic being provided by the AGD:

Every celebrant will need to complete the activity as part of their five hour OPD obligation.

So keep an eye on your inboxes in early 2021 for information on how to do that.

The news is fresh but our early prediction is that OPD is changing for the better. Even though it’s only one hour difference, a four session is a remarkably different event to a five hour session, online or in person. This will reduce hours needed for renting rooms, trainers, and even catering. A four session can be done after lunch with a coffee break in the middle, whereas a five hour session with lunch needs a break in the middle. Freeing up the schedule and the financial resources allows you to choose better OPD subjects and actually professionally develop yourself.

This is a win for celebrants and RTOs.

And in case you were wondering, or for many of you, as you might expect, we highly recommend completing OPD with us!

Moving a wedding from Queensland to New South Wales

Moving a wedding from Queensland to New South Wales

Luke asks:

One of my couples that had a Qld wedding booked, now want to change the ceremony location to NSW since the new border easing. What do I need to know and how do I go about doing a wedding in NSW? Is there a set criteria that determines the couples eligibility for getting married over the border into NSW?


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004 Social Media Challenge: Reuse and recycle

003 Social Media Challenge: Carrot Cake

Today’s challenge is to find something boring (like a carrot) yet necessary (like vegetables are for your diet) in your business that people really ought to know about, and to serve it up as informative, relevant, educational, possibly demonstrable, and maybe even entertaining content to your social media channels, like carrot cake.

Find the carrot, and then make a carrot cake out of it.


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002 Social Media Challenge: Introduce Yourself

002 Social Media Challenge: Introduce Yourself

Every month you should re-introduce yourself to your social media audience. I think you’d be surprised how many don’t really know you for the real “you”, and those that do, could probably do with a brand re-alignment.

Today’s challenge is simple: we’re travelling right across the social media spectrum, reintroducing ourselves to everyone.


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Creating elopement packages

Creating elopement packages

A reader asks:

I have a handful of elopement related questions, and I think they will be more relevant than ever given how our world has changed in 2020 and how weddings have changed/will change in the coming year(s). Last year I started doing these helicopter elopements, they’ve been 1. awesome 2. a fun new way for couples to get married and 3. given me lots of credibility as a pro in my area since literally no one in the area is doing this kind of elopement but it has a big-time cool factor. Oh ya, and it makes money on days I’m typically not doing a wedding (Monday-Thursday exclusively). I’m working at packaging a few more experiences for couples but I’ve been thinking through the entire process and want to figure out how to make it A+. The helicopter to a private island is an easy one – we’re on a helicopter, and we land on an island. That’s plenty cool. But these other elopements are more like hikes to great lookout points – how do you make that, from start to finish, awesome? How long is the experience typically? Do you have any +1 type things you might recommend adding to the experience or things to avoid? For the chopper, I’ve been bringing some random food (like specialty donuts and a bottle of champagne) to increase the fun and photo ops. I also don’t reeeally know about permits and things like that for some of these public spaces – better to just go on with it and hope for the best? Regarding back up-dates – do you normally have 1-2 other dates in the calendar for them? Lastly – pricing. The helicopter one right now is $6999, which is, I think, still a bit of a steal for couples, it includes basically 2 hours photo, a 2-3 minute video + me (and I’m worth at least $47.28). Choppers are crazy expensive. But the elopement without the chopper I just made up a price and sold it this morning – $3500, gets photos + me. Is that reasonable? I feel like I could go higher but really don’t have a frame of reference for pricing since no one is really doing these around here…


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What if you’re not available for re-scheduled wedding?

What if you’re not available for re-scheduled wedding?

Michael asks:

Just listened to the podcast episode (with Kathryn Adams), absolutely loved it. I have one common question/scenario that I’m pretty sure wasn’t asked/answered though. A couple postpones their wedding, but one of the suppliers isn’t available on the new date that the couple chooses. Where does that supplier stand in regard to retaining the booking fee? Or anything that needs to be discussed in this situation?



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001 Social Media Challenge: Lemonade

001 Social Media Challenge: Lemonade

Making lemonade out of lemons is a popular story, obviously backed by Big Lemonade, but it encourages us to make our proverbial lemonade out of the lemons we’re presented with in life.

For day one of the 2020 social media challenge, your job today is to find a story in your celebrancy life where you have made lemonade from lemons, where you’ve turned something not-so-good, into something good.


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

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!


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Correcting marriage paperwork

Correcting marriage paperwork

There’s a new fact sheet on the Attorny-General’s department website on correcting marriage paperwork, and it’s an important read. Luckily for us, our own Sarah Aird heavily impacted the final draft. We’re copying and pasting the fact sheet here, but find the original on the AGD website.

This fact sheet is designed to assist celebrants when a need arises to amend information or correct errors made on marriage certificates and other marriage documentation. The fact sheet covers scenarios both before and after the marriage is solemnised.


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Do our social media challenge

Do our social media challenge

Social media is a powerful, simple, and accessible way to market your business, but so many of us don’t know what to do there. Kind of like working out, many of us don’t know the best exercises for us, or how to do them. So I’m writing a social media challenge for Celebrant Institute members.

Every four days from Monday a social media challenge will be posted, and of course it’s all voluntary (I’m not your mum), but it’s a prompt for you to create content aimed to brand you, sell you, and keep you top of mind for your community.


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