How Sharon and Adam chose Tim Maddren to be their celebrant and MC

How Sharon and Adam chose Tim Maddren to be their celebrant and MC

Come dive into Sharon and Adam’s wedding in the picturesque Douglas Vale Historic Vineyard and Homestead in Port Macquarie, New South Wales.

Sharon’s wedding was not just a lovely occasion but also a masterclass in thoughtful planning and celebrant selection in Tam Maddren. Her choice of venue—a volunteer-run historic site—ensured that their wedding expenditure supported the local community.

Insights Level members of the Celebrant Institute only
Insights from the SBS Insights episode on weddings and the Wedding Grinch

Insights from the SBS Insights episode on weddings and the Wedding Grinch

The wedding industry in Australia is vibrant and evolving, despite the shifting societal views on marriage.

As a celebrant deeply embedded in this industry through both personal and industry-wide lenses, I’ve distilled some insights from recent discussions on SBS Insight [watch the episode + story on the couple who spent $200k + story on Phoebe almost calling off her wedding]  to help you navigate and thrive in the 2024 wedding market.

The cohort of people getting married by a civil celebrant today is far more diverse than when I started as a celebrant back in Jesus’ day.

  • Continued Popularity of Weddings: Despite reduced societal pressures to marry, the increasing cost of living, and modern views on marriage, weddings remain popular. Couples are spending more on their weddings, although they are inviting fewer guests compared to previous years.
  • Diverse Wedding Preferences: From extravagant celebrations costing upwards of $200,000 to intimate micro weddings and DIY approaches, couples are choosing wedding styles that deeply reflect their personal beliefs and financial situations. This diversity requires celebrants to be adaptable and responsive to varying needs and expectations.
  • Cultural and Personal Expressions: Weddings are increasingly seen as expressions of personal identity and cultural heritage. This is particularly evident in ceremonies like those of LGBTQ+ couples who celebrate their love while honouring their unique identities.

If you put food in the pantry by being a celebrant, that is to say that celebrant provides for your family, then you’ll be interested in what kinds of insights we can glean from these interviews with real people planning real weddings:

  • Emphasise your personalisation skills: Market your services by highlighting your ability to tailor ceremonies to the unique stories and identities of couples. Showcase past weddings where you’ve embraced diverse cultural, personal, and thematic elements.
  • Use Authentic Testimonials: Share stories and testimonials from past clients that reflect the depth and breadth of your offerings. Real stories resonate more deeply and can illustrate your versatility and sensitivity to clients’ needs.
  • Engage Through Social Media: Utilise the social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Pinterest where visual inspirations for weddings thrive. Regular posts featuring your weddings and how you served those clients can tap into the aspirations of potential clients.
  • Diversify Offerings: Consider offering packages that cater to different types of weddings—from lavish affairs to simple elopements. This diversification can help stabilise income streams but also help potential couples find a package that suits their unique wedding plans.
  • Invest in Professional Development: Keep abreast of trends, such as the growing preference for non-traditional venues and secular ceremonies. Training in cultural competencies and inclusive practices can also enhance your appeal. May we suggest a Celebrant Institute membership, and/or our professional development courses.
  • Focus on Relationships: Building strong relationships with wedding venues and other wedding vendors (e.g., photographers, planners) can lead to referrals. Equally, maintaining good relationships with past clients can lead to word-of-mouth recommendations, crucial for sustainable business growth.
  • Understand market segmentation: In this program there are a couple who spent one thousand dollars on their wedding, forty thousand, and two hundred thousand. Those three couples were looking for three very different celebrants and packages. Understand these market segments, what products you are putting forward, and how they would choose a celebrant.

The Australian wedding market, while diverse and evolving, presents significant opportunities for dedicated celebrants giving the market their all.

There always has been and always will be the greatest opportunities in one of three areas in any business market:

  1. First: You might not be the first celebrant, but you can be the first to offer something unique or a different type of service or ceremony.
  2. Cheapest: Cheapest isn’t about being the lowest dollar for a similar service, but it’s about creating efficiencies and systems so that you can offer a product at a cheap price point whilst still making a good profit. Think more Jetstar, less Bonza.
  3. Best: This is the empty end of the market. It’s hard work being the best, and not just being the best, but communicating it, marketing it, being there sustainably for a long time. But it’s the most rewarding and I encourage all of you to aim to be here.

I’d encourage all of you to watch the episode on SBS On-Demand but I’ll leave you with this moment of zen, where a celebrant for Samantha and John stands there for the first kiss.

How do all celebrants worldwide not know to move for the first kiss today?

Are you prepared to lose your Facebook, Meta, Google, access?

Are you prepared to lose your Facebook, Meta, Google, access?

This week saw the 28th user of Instagram – that’s right, he’s been using Instagram for longer than everyone except for 27 other people – get locked out of his Instagram because an automatic content checker deemed that he had shared one of the worst and most criminal things you could share not just on social media but in the world. M.G. Siegler shares his story on his blog and email, Spyglass, and just as well he actually operates his own website, blog, and email list, so he actually had a chance of ever telling the story.

M.G. Siegler's banned account screenshot

You might see my online presence and call me prolifically online, and you might not be wrong (booking weddings puts food in my kids mouths), but I also hold a deep distrust of companies like Meta and Google, companies that give so much away for free, companies that we invest so much of our brand capital into, but there are close to zero incentives for them to honour the bargain.

Apple is better but only barely – they’re a big corporation that can turn their cheek on a whim, but at least I have a financial relationship with Apple. I could take legal action, or even just walk into an Apple Store, to deal with an issue like accidental account deletion.

Companies like UniSuper aren’t even immune to accidental deletion curse, but luckily they have a Google Cloud account manager because I’m sure they spend thousands of dollars a year with Google. The incentives to help and serve change when you charge a fee. They also change when you’re not a “big corporate”.

That’s the reason I moved all of my email from Google to Fastmail a few years ago. From a big corporation in California who has a history of accidentally deleting accounts – it happened to a photographer friend of mine a few years ago and he never got it back, even with my help – to a medium sized business in Melbourne that also happens to be a world-renowned email host.

[If you’re interested in Fastmail, my referral link gives you 10% off]

It’s also the reason I started the Rebels Guide email a few years ago, to gather couples off Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even away from Google. I’ve written about this twice before on the Celebrant Institute, once about how Google considered leaving Australia, and Facebook actually did it in a small way.

The old joke to an influencer was that if Instagram stopped existing tomorrow would you still be a model. My question for you is, if Google, Instagram, Facebook, Threads, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok, or X left Australia or stopped existing tomorrow, would you still be a celebrant?

That’s why I so actively work towards email deliverability – making sure our emails stay out of spam – and convincing all of you to sign up for the free monthly email letter.

[We use Buttondown for our emails, love it, and this link gifts you a $9 credit on your account]

For the sakes of feeding our kids and booking weddings we can’t leave these networks today (you can leave Gmail though, just saying) but you can start to build a world where you’re not reliant on them.

History of the one month’s notice period

History of the one month’s notice period

I have a problem. I often get sucked down online rabbit holes and before I realise it, it’s 8pm and I haven’t left my desk since lunchtime. Last week I got sucked down one such rabbit hole and hoo boy, it’s a good one.

The Happily Ever… Before and After brochure

It all started when I went looking for the purpose behind the requirement for us to give the Happily Ever… Before and After brochure to our couples. Because that requirement is within section 42(5A) of the Marriage Act 1961, I knew it had been added after the Act was originally written. The capital letter at the end of a section or subsection number gives it away. If it was in there at the time of original publication, it would have its own section number. The capital letter means it was shoved in between two other sections at some later point.

I discovered this requirement had been added to the Act as part of the Marriage Amendment Bill 1976. I was hoping that reading the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill as well as the Hansard records from the time would give me the purpose of the requirement to hand out this brochure. It did, sort of, good enough at least for what I was looking for.

The notice period

But then. Then I read the rest of the Explanatory Memorandum. And it was one of the other amendments in that Bill that really interested me:

Clause 13 – Notice to be given and declaration made: Paragraphs (a) and (b) of this clause provide for the extension of the minimum period for giving notice of intended marriage from 7 days to 1 month before the intended marriage [emphasis added].

What? The notice period used to be 7 days???? Whenever we have mentioned even the possiblity of considering decreasing the notice period, we have been utterly howled down by many celebrants, for reasons such as:

  • celebrants need at least a month to craft a personalised and meaningful ceremony
  • couples need plenty of time to make sure they’re not making a mistake
  • but the divorce rate!!!
  • anyone who needs to get married quicker can just apply for a shortening (it’s really not that easy!).

I immediately texted Josh (because that’s who I text about most of my marriage law discoveries).

Texts between Josh and Sarah

And hence, the rabbit hole. Josh took out a 24-hour subscription to the Sydney Morning Herald archives, I found the transcripts from the House of Representatives debates about the proposed amendments on Historic Hansard, and we were on the case. As well as we can figure out from the media coverage, the Bill, the Explanatory Memorandum, the debate in the House of Reps, and other historical research, here’s a brief history of the notice period and what happened to bring it up to one month.


The Marriage Act 1961, the one that governs how couples marry in Australia today, came into force on 1 September 1963. Before that, marriage was managed by the individual States (the Territories were governed by the Commonwealth until 1978). They all had their own marriage laws with completely different rules around literally everything. One day I’ll write about all those differences (they’re utterly fascinating), but for this post I’m concentrating on the notice period.

Across the country, weddings in some Christian churches may have required the banns of marriage to be read for three consecutive Sundays. This was to ensure anyone who knew of any reason why the couple should not be married could make their knowledge known ahead of time. Reasons could include one of the couple being married to someone else, or the couple being too closely related by blood.

Otherwise, according to Antony Whitlam, Member for Grayndler (ALP), in his address during the debate on the Marriage Act Amendment Bill 1976 on 19 August 1976, (backed up by my fact checking) the notice periods for marriages across the country were as follows:

Queenslandno notice required

New South Walesno notice required

Victoria3 days

Tasmania: 7 days

South Australia: 10 days

Western Australia: 7 days

Yes, you read that right. In New South Wales and Queensland, you could literally rock up to the District Registrar’s office, sign some declarations, and get married straight away.

Marriage Act 1961

When the Marriage Act 1961 was created, there was a LOT of debate about how long the notice period should be, but they eventually settled on 7 days. And that was all well and good for more than 10 years. Then came the Whitlam Government’s changes to divorce laws. We’re going on a bit of a tangent here, but it’s absolutely required.

Divorce pre-1976

Before the Family Law Act 1975, divorce was governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959. Under that Act, you could only get divorced if you had already been married for three years, AND if you could prove that your spouse was at fault, and you had evidence of such. There were a whole bunch of different grounds for divorce:

  • adultery
  • desertion for at least two years
  • refusal to consummate the marriage
  • habitual cruelty for at least one year
  • the spouse has committed rape, sodomy, or bestiality
  • habitual drunkenness for at least two years (or parts thereof)
  • habitual intoxication from drugs for at least two years (or parts thereof)
  • the husband has had frequent convictions for crime, been sentenced to prison for at least three years, and left the wife without reasonable means of support (yes, the Act specifically says that the hsuband has committed the crimes and left the wife without support – none of the other reasons are specific as to which spouse is the guilty party!)
  • being in prison for at least three years for a crime punishable by death or imprisonment for life for more than five years
  • being convicted of having attempted to murder or inflict grievous bodily harm on their spouse within the last year
  • habitual refusal to pay maintenance for at least two years
  • failure to comply with a decree of restitution of conjugal rights for at least one year (basically a legal requirement for them to live together and “perform marital services” – feel free to interpret that however you like)
  • being of unsound mind and unlikely to recover
  • being confined to an institution for at least five years for being of unsound mind
  • absence for long enough and under such circumstances as to presume death
  • separation for at least five years.

Collecting evidence of any of these grounds for divorce was time-consuming and expensive. Plus there was the expense of appointing a solicitor and a barrister, and don’t forget the humiliation involved in proving one of these grounds. All in all it was a mess.

Family Law Act 1975

The Family Law Act 1975 changed all of that by introducing no-fault divorce. The person applying for the divorce simply had to declare that the marriage had broken down irretrievably, which was proven by the fact that the couple had been separated for at least 12 months. That was (and is) it. Divorce under the Family Law Act 1975 was far more accessible than it had been under the Matrimonial Causes Act – it was cheaper, less time consuming, and far simpler.

The Family Law Act was created by the Whitlam Labor Government. It passed through Parliament and was enacted on 12 June 1975, just a few months before Whitlam was dismissed and Parliament was dissolved on 11 November 1975. That’s relevant to this story because at the ensuing election, the Coalition won power with the largest majority in Australia’s history: 91 House of Representatives seats to Labor’s 36.

The Family Law Act and therefore no-fault divorce came into force on 5 January 1976. In the first quarter of 1975, there had been 6261 divorces. In comparison, Following the introduction of no-fault divorce, the first quarter of 1976 saw 21,846 divorces. What happened? The new Coalition government FREAKED THE FUCK OUT. Honestly, I don’t know what they were expecting: a divorce was now way easier and cheaper to get, of course there were going to be more of them!

Marriage Amendment Bill 1976

And now we finally come to the point. Horrified by the massive “flood” of divorces (as described by the Sydney Morning Herald on 9 May 1976), the Coalition created the Marriage Amendment Bill, which was designed to “discourage the formation of hasty or ill-advised marriages” (Bob Ellicott, Attorney-General, 3 June 1976).

Thus entered more funding for pre-marriage education, the requirement that we tell couples about pre-marriage education by giving them the Happily Ever… Before and After brochure, and the change to the notice period from 7 days to 1 month. After passing through Parliament unimpeded, the new laws came into force on 20 June 1977.

And that’s why we have the 1 month’s notice period for marriage in Australia.

Has it worked?

These amendments were designed to “take positive steps to underpin marriage and the family as part of society”. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 9 May 1976, they were “to offset the rising levels of divorce.”

At the time these amendments were being drafted, 1 in 6 marriages ended in divorce. Now, it’s somewhere between 1 in 2 and 1 in 3 marriages end in divorce (this article suggests 44%).

Clearly, these amendments did NOT work to slow down the divorce rate. It therefore begs the question, is the one month notice period of any use in today’s Australia? Increasing the notice period didn’t have the proposed impact, so is there any point maintaining it? Why not consider bringing it back to 7 days, or even 3 days like our friends across the pond in New Zealand? No, I’m not saying I think the notice period should definitely be 3 days. I’m saying I think we should look at it and seriously consider whether a month is the most appropriate notice period for Australia in the 21st century.


Quotes from various stakeholders in 1976

If you’re interested, here’s some quotes from various stakeholders in 1976.

Bob Ellicott, Attorney-General (Coalition)

A widely made suggestion for promoting marriage stability is that persons should be made to wait longer before being able to marry. I have received suggestions that persons should have to wait up to 12 months before being able to marry. Although the opinion of marriage counselling experts is somewhat divided on the value of long engagements, the Government saw merit in the proposal to extend the minimum period for giving notice of intended marriage beyond the existing period of 7 days. Proposals for substantial expansion of this period had to be weighed against the consideration that, in principle, arbitrary restrictions on a fundamental right such as the right to marry should not be lightly imposed. The Government decided that the best compromise would be to increase the minimum period of notice of intended marriage to 1 month, which is the period proposed in many of the suggestions received [emphasis added].

I said earlier that I did not believe for one moment- I do not think I ever suggested it- that by increasing the time for giving notice of intention to marry from 7 days to one month we would suddenly solve all problems. However, this proposal emphasises the fact that those entering marriage ought to think more carefully about it and about the obligations of marriage. If they do they are more likely to have a more lasting marriage. That is the theory behind it.

Jack Birney, Member for Phillip (Coalition)

The whole purpose of the Marriage Amendment Bill is without doubt to uphold the institution of marriage by instilling in persons desiring to enter into the marriage state a perceptiveness of the obligations and responsibilities of the marriage vows. This is most laudable at a time when the institution of marriage in many quarters is being held up to ridicule and indeed in contempt.

Maurice Neil, Member for St George (Coalition)

This clause has received the most favourable public reaction. There have been numerous Press reports. I understand telegrams have been received by the Government stating that the extension of the period is an admirable idea as it signifies to the nation the importance of thinking about marriage and of arranging it in a sober fashion and in a sober time space

Antony Whitlam, Member for Grayndler (ALP)

The proposal is that the minimum period of notice which intending partners to a marriage should give will be extended from 7 days to 30 days. That is a gross invasion of civil liberties.

From the kind of information I put before the House, it appears that not significantly more people in Queensland before 1961 who were married and who had to give no notice of their intention to marry have had their marriages come unstuck than persons in South Australia where, before this Parliament legislated, 10 days notice had to be given.

There is no logic whatsoever in extending the period of notice to 30 days.

Albert James, Member for Hunter (ALP)

I am opposing the provision in this legislation for the extension of notice from 7 days to one month. This would prolong the agony that a young couple have to suffer when they are in love, they are going to have a child and they want to get married as soon as possible.

Gordon Scholes, Member for Corio (ALP)

We delude ourselves if we think that will make any significant difference in the degree of breakdown of marriage. Marriage breaks down for a variety of reasons. I do not think delaying the decision to marry by an additional 3 weeks will make a great deal of difference to that breakdown.

Lionel Bowen, Member for Kingsford Smith (ALP)

This legislation when introduced in 1961 was based on what we might call a non-party philosophy. The basis for the provision that we are now considering is that 7 days would be a sufficient period for the purpose involved. In my view, that provision was related more to giving adequate notice to enable a celebrant to organise the necessary details than to suggesting that this would be the minimum period required for the parties to get to know each other [emphasis added].

Vic Parsons, civil celebrant (quoted in The happy making of a marriage, the civil way, The Age, 11 May 1976)

This will be a general imposition on the community that is not going to be beneficial.

In Victoria, before the Commonwealth took over marriage in 1961, people wanting to wed were required to give only three days’ notice, and still the divorce rate increased.

Time has nothing to do with divorce. What it is really is a sign of the times.

This is to placate a certain conservative section of the community concerned about the divorce rate.

Decrypted Australian PDF Marriage Forms

Decrypted Australian PDF Marriage Forms

We understand that accessibility is key in providing seamless services as a marriage celebrant, and we also understand that the Notice of Intended Marriage and Official Certificate of Marriage being provided from the AGD as protected PDFs is not just annoying but an impediment to a digital and modern paperwork workflow.

That’s why we’ve taken the initiative to make your life a little easier by decrypting the PDFs provided by the Marriage Law and Celebrants Section of the Attorney-General’s Department and making them available to members use. Here, you’ll find all the essential documents you need, free from the cumbersome password protections that can slow you down – or in my case recently, stop a marriage being registered by the BDM.

Sarah-Louise’s trip to the wedding trail and her Maleny wedding

Sarah-Louise’s trip to the wedding trail and her Maleny wedding

This Insights podcast episode is with Josh and Sarah-Louise Anderson, who is planning her wedding on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland for the 1st of October. They discuss the process of choosing a wedding date around her partner’s FIFO work schedule, her brother’s availability, ensuring her preferred photographer – Luke Middlemiss – was available, and then booking Jay Flood as her celebrant.

Sarah emphasises the importance of selecting a venue that fits her micro wedding size and budget. She shares her experience with venue costs, noting that a venue she liked was too expensive at $18,000 for 30 guests, leading her to choose a different venue for $3,000. She also talks about her experience at the Hinterland Wedding Trail, where she was able to shortlist vendors and see venues set up for a wedding.

Insights Level members of the Celebrant Institute only
Kim & Zac’s Cronulla wedding

Kim & Zac’s Cronulla wedding

Kim and Zac married in Cronulla and they always knew that Tania Marsh was going to be their celebrant.

The couple got married in Cronulla and flew Tania down to Sydney for their wedding.

Insights Level members of the Celebrant Institute only
Basic accounting and financial management for celebrants

Basic accounting and financial management for celebrants

A celebrant reached out recently with a query that sparked me thinking about how well we’re all managing our finances. They emailed me asking if they were still a paying member of the Celebrant Institute.

Ironically, the simplest way to find this out would have been for them to log in and check their account status on the website themselves –, and if not that, they should know what they’re spending money on each month.

Just a bunch of gibberish + legislation + quiet wedding industry times

Just a bunch of gibberish + legislation + quiet wedding industry times

In this episode of The Celebrant Talk Show, hosts Josh Withers and Sarah Aird discuss the current state of the wedding industry and the impact of COVID-19, inflation, and the “engagement gap” on wedding businesses. They also provide an update on the Attorney-General’s Portfolio Miscellaneous Measures Bill 2023, which includes amendments that would allow for remote witnessing of notices of intended marriage. However, the bill has been delayed in the Senate due to controversy over unrelated amendments to the Native Title Act.

Josh and Sarah share their personal experiences with the downturn in the wedding industry, with Josh noting a significant decrease in inquiries and bookings and Sarah discussing her efforts to improve her website’s SEO through blogging. They encourage fellow celebrants to create content that reflects their unique processes and personalities, highlighting the importance of being true to oneself and avoiding negative marketing.

In this episode we chat about the Attorney-General’s Portfolio Miscellaneous Measures Bill and how long it’s taking to get through Parliament. You can read Sarah’s articles about it here, here, and here.

We also chat about the state of the wedding industry worldwide and what we’re doing about it for our own businesses. You might want to read Josh’s article about the engagement gap.

Let us know how you’re keeping afloat in these difficult times.

Public speaking skills you can learn from Steve Jobs and John Mulaney

Public speaking skills you can learn from Steve Jobs and John Mulaney

As a wedding celebrant, our role is pivotal in creating a memorable experience for couples on their special day. Public speaking is an integral part of this role, and there’s much to learn from seasoned speakers across different fields. Let’s delve into the insights that comedians like John Mulaney and visionaries like Steve Jobs can offer to help you refine your public speaking skills.

Embrace Your Unique Style

John Mulaney’s success as a comedian stems from his distinctive voice and delivery. He doesn’t just tell jokes; he weaves stories that resonate with his audience. As a wedding celebrant, finding your unique style is crucial. Whether it’s through humour, heartfelt stories, or a combination of both, your personal touch will make ceremonies unforgettable.

Connect with Your Audience

Steve Jobs was known for his ability to captivate audiences. He didn’t just present products; he created experiences that connected with people on an emotional level. Similarly, as a celebrant, your goal is to connect with the couple and their guests. Understand the couple’s story and share it in a way that engages everyone present, making them feel like they’re part of the journey.

Preparation is Key

Both Mulaney and Jobs meticulously prepared for their performances. While Jobs rehearsed his keynotes to perfection, Mulaney polished his routines through repetition and feedback. As a celebrant, preparation is just as important. Rehearse your speech, know the flow of the ceremony, and be ready to handle any unexpected moments with grace.

Timing and Pacing

A comedian’s timing is critical to landing a joke, and Mulaney is a master of this. In the world of tech presentations, Jobs knew when to reveal key information to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. For wedding celebrants, timing and pacing are equally important. Know when to pause for effect, when to speed up to maintain energy, and when to slow down to allow moments to sink in.

Simplicity and Clarity

Jobs was a proponent of simplicity, both in design and communication. He made complex ideas easy to understand. As a celebrant, aim for simplicity and clarity in your speech. Avoid jargon and speak from the heart. Your message should be easy for all guests to follow and appreciate.


Both Mulaney and Jobs could read the room and adjust their approach accordingly. As a celebrant, be adaptable. If the audience responds well to humor, lean into it. If the moment calls for solemnity, provide it. Being attuned to the atmosphere will help you deliver the right tone at the right time.

By incorporating these lessons from John Mulaney and Steve Jobs, you can elevate your public speaking skills and become a more effective wedding celebrant. Remember, your role is to enhance the celebration with your words and presence. With practice and dedication, you can create a lasting impact on the couple’s special day and ensure that their wedding ceremony is as beautiful and engaging as they dreamed it would be.

This post was inspired by McGuire Brannon’s video on the topic for tech industry leaders, which is a great watch.

2024’s Ongoing Professional Development topics are now available

2024’s Ongoing Professional Development topics are now available

Our friends in Canberra emailed all Aussie celebrants with the good news that our OPD – our ongoing professional development obligation – is now online on the Marcel Portal.

The department is delivering the two (2) activities free of charge and they are set out in the statement Marriage (Celebrant Professional Development) Statement 2024 (

The compulsory activities are:

  • Real Consent (Including Capacity) — Compulsory, 60-minute duration
  • Knowledge of the Law No 1 — Compulsory, 60-minute duration.

And if you were unsure if OPD was for you …

Your obligations

You must complete all your compulsory activities by 11.59PM on 31 December 2024 (Canberra local time).

Under s39G(1)(b) of the Marriage Act 1961 it is a legal obligation for registered marriage celebrants to undertake all professional development activities required by the Registrar of Marriage Celebrants. Failure to do so (subject to any exemption granted) may result in disciplinary measures being taken, which may include a caution, additional professional development activities, suspension or deregistration.

Exemption applications

If you have an exceptional circumstance that will prevent you from undertaking this important obligation for a significant period of the professional development year, you may apply for an exemption: Guidelines for exemption from ongoing professional development requirements | Attorney-General’s Department (

And who per-chance would you call or pay or ask to do your OPD in 2024?

Marriage Celebrants Portal

Information on accessing the marriage celebrants portal is available at: Marcel Portal (

Haven’t logged into Marcel in sometime?

Please note that celebrants accessing the portal for the first time since 30 June 2023 will need to set up multifactor authentication using their registered email address.

Some celebrant have reported logging in issues to me and my best advice is to click the “forgot password” link or if that doesn’t work, then to contact the AGD’s MLCS section on [email protected].

What is OPD about in 2024?

There are two topics being taught and assessed in 2024’s ongoing professional development program:

  • Real consent
  • Knowledge of the law

If you know your Marriage Act, Guidelines, and Marriage Regulations Act, then you’ll be set to go.

Our best advice is to stop, breath, and read the topics and questions; download the workbooks linked in the questions; and ahead of time, download the PDFs or Word documents of the:

Pour a coffee, schedule up to two hours of solitude, and head on over to now to get started.

How do I know I’ve met my obligation?

Your portal will reflect your completion, and as an added advantage, there will be some emails in your inbox.

Card Buddy, your new ceremony writing app

Card Buddy, your new ceremony writing app

I’ve described my ceremony preparation and writing style before as a series of “bits”, much like how a comedian will assemble a show from their jokes and bits, I’ll assemble a ceremony together much the same.

So when I saw Card Buddy being reviewed in issue 110 of Hulry I thought I’d see if it would work for a celebrant assembling their ceremony.

Engagement ring sales in 2023 explain the 2024 dip in enquiries

Engagement ring sales in 2023 explain the 2024 dip in enquiries

Listening to the really good WedCo Podcast episode with my old mate Shane Shepherd enlightened me beyond expectations for that podcast episode. I now understand why enquiries and bookings are so quiet in 2024.

Explaining the 2024 dip in wedding enquiries and bookings, or the shortening of planning time, Shane references a New York Times article which references the investors letter from the world’s largest retailer of diamond jewellery, Signet.

Science proves: quick reply means a positive impression

Science proves: quick reply means a positive impression

A new study finds that the later we meet someone in a sequence, the more negatively we describe them. The research finds that unconscious bias could disadvantage people who happen to be evaluated later in a sequence, whether it’s job applicants, contestants on a reality show, Tinder dates, or wedding vendors couples are enquiring with.

The study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Koch A, Bromley A, Woitzel J, Alves H called Differentiation in social perception aimed to study why later-encountered individuals are described more negatively.

The state of the wedding industry, according to the 2024 Easy Weddings survey

The state of the wedding industry, according to the 2024 Easy Weddings survey

The Easy Weddings 2024 Australian Wedding Industry Report provides an overview of the state of the wedding industry from the point of view of Easy Weddings and its 4,200 engaged and newlywed couples that completed the survey, input from nearly 600 wedding businesses, and perspectives of 49,000 Instagram followers.

It offers valuable insights into the planning, spending behaviours, and preferences of couples, as well as the challenges and opportunities faced by wedding businesses.

Learn from WeddingWire’s annual report WeddingPro report

Learn from WeddingWire’s annual report WeddingPro report

The 2023 WeddingPro Benchmarking Report offers a comprehensive look into the current state of the American wedding industry, focusing on the challenges and strategies wedding professionals use to grow their businesses.

It’s important to note that this report is designed to reaffirm and encourage advertising and listing with Wedding Wire, but regardless, there’s always something to learn.

On Sanebox, and how I learned to love my inbox again

On Sanebox, and how I learned to love my inbox again

I love my email inbox. That’s not something many people can say today. But I really do. I do my business there which provides for my family, plus I subscribe to so many interesting and important email letters there, so it’s a source of income, entertainment, and joy for me.

I am a certified weirdo.

Charissa and Scott got up real high in their wedding

Charissa and Scott got up real high in their wedding

In this episode of the Insights podcast episode – Insights level members can listen here – Josh interviews Charissa and Scott, who celebrated their marriage on August 1st, 2023, soaring above the Gold Coast in a hot air balloon, with Hampton Estate Wines as their plan B in case the hot air balloon couldn’t fly that day.

They share their journey from planning to the big day, emphasising the personal touch and genuine connection they felt with their celebrant, Graham Snow. The couple highlights the importance of trust, creativity, and the celebrant’s role in personalising the experience, making their day unforgettable. They also booked A Thousand Miles Photography for their wedding.

Insights Level members of the Celebrant Institute only
Take payments directly on your phone – no card reader!

Take payments directly on your phone – no card reader!

A Celebrant Institute member was asking a question of us this week and mentioned taking payment in person. Sarah offered the correct advice that she might want to consider getting a Square card reader that you connect to your phone over Bluetooth so you can take credit card or debit card payments in person.

Which was great advice before May 2023, and I’d neglected to tell Celebrant Institute readers only because no-one asked and I do all my payments online using Stripe/Xero.

Madelin and Jeremy’s Frogmore Creek wedding

Madelin and Jeremy’s Frogmore Creek wedding

Madelin and Jeremy had no idea how much Sue would cost but they were prepared to pay whatever Sue would cost because they were set on her without even knowing her fee.

In this Insights podcast interview, Madelin shares her journey towards marriage with Jeremy, from their engagement amidst the tumultuous times of 2021 to setting a wedding date for March 2025. We delve into the intricacies of their wedding planning, from venue selection to vendor choices, and how they chose Sue as their celebrant.

Insights Level members of the Celebrant Institute only
What return did I see from a $20k advertising investment last year?

What return did I see from a $20k advertising investment last year?

Last year I had to start again after taking a year off. After 15 years of making weddings I took a break. Covid’s affects on our businesses had ripped my heart out, parenting never takes a day off, being a husband is my most important work, and no-one was getting the best of me. I was dropping the ball in all areas of life, so I refunded a bunch of weddings, asked many of you to cover for me for others, and Britt and I packed up the family and went to Mexico, then the USA, hopped-skipped-jumped through Austria, France, Liechtenstein, England, Italy, and Singapore to eventually come home to the Gold Coast, and now Hobart.

I think its important to evaluate, and re-evaluate, all elements of life on a regular basis so basically putting my entire celebrancy practice on ice was a pretty harsh way of finding out I still loved the art of celebrancy, I just had a really rough 2020-2022 and my therapist is impressed I’m still smiling – he does think I have a self-deprecating sense of humour though.

The Photographer, The Dress, and The Celebrant

The Photographer, The Dress, and The Celebrant

One of our members sent in this incredible story today. With their permission I’m sharing it with you all (a) because they’re an incredible story teller and I think you’ll all enjoy it, and (b) because there’s learnings in there for all of us. First the story, then my response.

I performed my first wedding on Saturday.  The venue was a small historic chapel that’s now a wedding venue. Very beautiful. Everything went well and I was told afterwards that I was amazing and flawless, so that was good. But the experience gave me a huge “takeaway” that I now refer to as “The Photographer, The Dress, And Me”.

Interstate online BDM systems

Interstate online BDM systems

Sutha asks:

I am registered in NSW, but will be getting a close friend married in Melbourne. Can I get access to BDM RIO? or is it limited to Victorian celebrants? A blog post about all the different electronic lodgement systems and who can have access to it will be very helpful to newbies like me.


On paying for a NSW Official Certificate of Marriage

On paying for a NSW Official Certificate of Marriage

Sutha asks:

I used the electronic system LifeLink to complete all the forms and lodge the marriage. I received an email with the registration number. Is there anything else I need to do? Are there any payments that need to be made for the lodgement of the ceremony? I am not sure how useful this would be as a post idea, but I tried to look this up and couldn’t find any information about it. Even with my course, it had detailed everything up until lodging the marriage, but no information about the email receipt etc.


When can a celebrant marry a couple overseas and without a NOIM?

When can a celebrant marry a couple overseas and without a NOIM?

Did you know that in a very specific circumstance a certain kind of celebrant can marry a certain kind of couple in a country that isn’t Australia – and it’s all allowed by Australian law, plus it’s a valid Australian marriage?

Out of the current (2021) Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for authorised celebrants you’ll find the answer on page 100:

New “stuff” to include in your wedding ceremonies

New “stuff” to include in your wedding ceremonies

Karen asks:

I would like “new stuff” to include in my ceremonies. I am constantly trying to energise/refresh my writing and always focusing on making them better/different; I don’t want to be a Celebrant that just regurgitates the same old stuff and changes the couples names. That’s not my style from the moment I became a Celebrant. I do find watching videographers social media and capturing snippets from ceremonies kicks my brain along, plus I’m always focusing on being a strong wordsmith in my ceremonies to capture the essence of my couples stories. Anything you can do to provide growth in new ways/things to include/new rituals/creative ceremonies would be great. Maybe something along the lines of questions for couples that we may not have thought about to enhance what we do.


Be exceptional

Be exceptional

If your celebrant offering, your service, the thing you’re selling, is the same as everyone else’s, or appears the same, or you portray it as the same, then potential clients will look for the lowest price.

Raise your rates. Create demand. Separate yourself from the masses. Create your own unique identity and persona. Offer them a customised service, a unique service, a service no-one else can buy.

Report of the Senate Inquiry into the AG Portfolio Miscellaneous Measure Bill 2023

Report of the Senate Inquiry into the AG Portfolio Miscellaneous Measure Bill 2023

As mentioned in previous posts, the Bill containing amendments to the Marriage Act was referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for review before being passed. The Celebrant Institute was pleased to make a submission to this Inquiry.

The Senate Inquiry released their report on 1 February 2024, right on time, and they are supportive of the passing of the Bill with no changes to the suggested amendments to the Marriage Act:

What is every other Australian celebrant charging in 2024?

What is every other Australian celebrant charging in 2024?

Today we answer the question we always wonder: how much is everyone else? When I did my first wedding expo in 2012 after having been a celebrant for three years already, the average price was $550 for a ceremony. Today, some people are still charging this, but luckily the average has almost doubled.

I remember hearing Dally Messenger years ago say that “you can’t make a living as a celebrant” but the good news is that today, you can.

Tori Brown’s Path to Passion and Purpose

Tori Brown’s Path to Passion and Purpose

In this enlightening episode of the Celebrant Talk Show, host Josh Withers delves into the captivating world of new celebrants with guest Tori Brown from Grace and Soul Celebrancy. A recent graduate of the Certificate IV in Celebrancy at the Celebrant Institute, Tori shares her unique and inspiring journey towards becoming a celebrant.

Throughout the conversation, Tori opens up about her personal experiences that shaped her path, including a life-altering tragedy and her unexpected venture into public speaking. Her story is a powerful reminder of the profound impact of life events on our career choices and the importance of embracing life’s precious moments.

Josh and Tori explore the transformation from fear to confidence in public speaking, the significance of creating lasting memories for couples, and the challenges of establishing oneself in a competitive market. This episode not only offers an intimate look into the life of a new celebrant but also serves as a valuable resource for anyone considering a career in celebrancy.

Tune in to this episode of the Celebrant Talk Show to discover how Tori Brown transformed adversity into a passion for helping others celebrate their most cherished moments. Whether you’re a budding celebrant or simply interested in the intricacies of this unique profession, this episode is a must-listen!



– Welcome to another episode of the Celebrant Talk Show. My name is Josh Withers, I’m your host today. And I’ve got a really exciting episode as part of our series talking to new Celebrants, Celebrants that have graduated from the Certificate IV in Celebrancy at the Celebrant Institute. And today’s is another rip-off. If you wanna listen to more episodes, is the website to go to to find links to subscribe to your podcast app. And of course also to listen to episodes just on the web. And if you’re interested in the Cert IV, if you’re interested in studying to become a Celebrant, plus also if you actually are a Celebrant today and you’d like more help and guidance and mentoring in your business, then we have a membership program for you at

My name is Tori Brown. I own Grace and Soul Celebrancy, based on, of course, the study that I did with the Celebrant Institute. I am located at the moment in the northern Gold Coast, which is obviously a very beautiful part of Australia. When I became a Celebrant, I’m only a very new Celebrant. I’m a little baby Celebrant. I completed my study in May 2022. I finally got registered 11 weeks and five days from submission of my documents. And that was in August last year, in 2022. And so now I have been a Celebrant for around eight to nine months. So yeah, very much in the baby stages, very much still in the realm of figuring out business, understanding what this Celebrant life looks like, and yes, thinking about the future and what that might look like for me.

– When I went to school, there was absolutely zero little kids who wanted to be a Celebrant. I think the hot topics were pilot, a lot of firefighters. There were a couple of service people, kind of army whatnot. Couple of mechanics, we’re talking grade four, grade five here. Zero Celebrants. So it’s not really one of those careers that someone’s dreamt about being from, when I was a little kid. So why? Why did you become a Celebrant? What’s your Genesis story?

I suppose my genesis story is probably too pronged,

(upbeat music)

and this is going to get pretty deep pretty quickly, so I apologize. When I was 16, I was in a car accident, which also took the life of my younger sister, who was 13 at the time. That was obviously a very life-defining time in my life, but it also gave me an incredible key to understand that life is so incredibly precious and very short, and it can be taken away from you in the blink of an eye. I suppose from that respect, I then had, at a very young age, an insight into life that most people don’t get until they’re a little bit older. And so from then on, I made a pact to myself, if not with her, then for her. And so it’s pretty much been go from there. So I finished school, went to university, I bought a house, I’ve moved up here, and everything that I do, I’m just full speed ahead. I’m sure you can ask all of my friends, and they’ll say the same thing. The actual reason why I became a celebrant is that I was asked a significant amount of times to be MC for my friend’s weddings. And truth be told, I absolutely hate public speaking. It makes me paralyzingly nervous. I don’t even know if that’s a word, but it feels like it is. It makes me so incredibly nervous. I get dry in the mouth. I get this red rash all over my chest that then develops up my neck and over my face. And so to be honest, I absolutely– of course, I couldn’t say no. I felt like I couldn’t say no to my friends. And I do have an aura, I would say, when I walk into a room that everyone gravitates towards me. So I do have the personality for it, but my public speaking was just not up to scratch. And I felt that. I felt it in every part of my being. And I’m also what I would probably class as a perfectionist, so I wanted to make sure I did a good job. Ultimately, the only thing that really could make me do better is to put myself in the firing line and continue to practice public speaking. So I was looking at Toastmaster classes or other ways that I could do it. I started to put my hand up at my full-time job to do workshops and stuff to really put myself in the cauldron of fire. And then I was attending a friend’s wedding. And to be honest, I was sitting there, and the celebrant was– I would say the standard of the celebrant was very low, very, very low. And I thought to myself, surely I could do this. Surely this could be something that I could do. Number one, fix my fear of public speaking. Well, not fix it, but help me expose myself more to this. And number two, you obviously capture people in the most incredible time in their life. They’re so excited. They’re excited for the future. They’re in a big old love bubble. Their families are so excited. And for me, that’s really what the essence of all that is. And I suppose that links back to the original part of the story, which if I’m not sure if you’ve been in this situation, but when you lose someone that’s very close to you, you realize the– what is the word? I suppose you realize how important creating memories with those closest to you is. And for me to be a part of creating a seamless memory for someone on their special day, surrounded by their family and all their closest friends, that’s the greatest gift that I can ever give. And yeah, if that’s my piece of what I do for the world is to create a little bit of sunshine and allow people to have beautiful memories with their nearest and dearest, then that’s all I could ever hope for.

– Yeah, I do understand that.


I haven’t lost someone to the same circumstance that you have and I’m deeply sorry for your loss, but it’s also definitely worth noting as you have that, that I feel like any situation in life, whether it’s just something really mediocre, like being handed a coffee or something much deeper and more important, that there’s always two ways you can kind of rebound from that. And I look at my own childhood and my brother and we’ve both kind of rebounded separately. Like when you throw a tennis ball to the ground, it’s not guaranteed to go left or right every time. And so that’s a phenomenal path that you’ve taken. And what a Genesis story, ’cause I feel like you talked to most celibates, I don’t know if you’ve talked to many, but most of us saw a wedding


and thought one or two things, that was terrible, I can do way better. Or that was awesome, I can do that. Which are both valid and awesome ways of becoming a celibate, but for yours to be emboldened


with something much more, I was gonna say important, but I don’t wanna take away from other people’s stories, but just something that’s more valuable is really beautiful. So congratulations, good on you. The question I’ve got now though, is a little bit more practical. There’s a difference between wanting something and getting it. All of us can drive past a Maserati and think that’d be cool. But to have your own is a completely different task. So what do you do? Do you ask Siri, how do I become a celibate? What are those steps you took to become, well obviously you studied with the Celibate Institute and then applied, but yeah, how did you figure out what to do? (upbeat music) – The rest is history, that’s beautiful. Yeah, and much love to all those other celibates. We call a word of mouth what it really was or into the house held a gun to the head. So come on, mate, someone asks you, no. That’s cool, I love it. The search for isn’t what a lot of people think it is ’cause I suppose when people think about becoming a celibate or an officiant for the Americans, they think about Joey from Friends or just, you know, the numerous people in pop culture that have just applied for a license online. What was your expectation of the search for versus actually doing it? (upbeat music) – Yeah, we do find that most people are kind of surprised, not just at the study, ’cause the study is the study, and you’ve been to university, so you’re aware of what study is. Me, not so much. Every time I approach something like that, like, “Oh, wow, you guys really need me “to know a lot of stuff here.” But the other surprise is just with what is contained within the role of being a celebrant. What was, was there something strange for you in regards to the role of a celebrant, like the common one is, “Oh my gosh, “you can marry your uncle.” Any other weird ones for you? (upbeat music) I like that. Becoming a celebrant, you said it took almost exactly three months, well, you missed out on a few days there, but the three month limit. How did it feel that second that you get that notice that you are a celebrant? (upbeat music) What’s your go to market plan? You obviously thought about it through doing a study and waiting for the application to be approved. But what’s your thing that you’re bringing to the market that makes you different and unique from other people? And then how does it kind of, how does that roll out over the next one, five, 10,000 years? (upbeat music) – Yeah, 100%. That’s obviously the biggest differentiator between Celebrants is we are selling ourselves. It’s funny, I talk to a lot of Celebrants in Europe through mentoring and coaching sessions over there and they get really big on all the trinkets and the stuff and I’m like, man, there’s enough people offering trinkets and stuff, but it’s like a one in three trillion chance you exist. That between your parents meeting and falling in love and then to all of a sudden to have a child and then once they decide to have a child, that all of that stuff works out. If you don’t know what that means, kids get on Google. And then for the fact that you were born and that you survived birth and you go through those first few years, like that’s a one in three trillion chance. Like you are a unique individual. You’re like no other. Even like if you or someone else sat at my feet and you kind of don’t sit like that’s a metaphor. No one actually has to sit at my feet. (laughs) But if you kind of attended all my weddings with me and we sat in the office for 40 hours a week and just kind of me sharing all of me, you still aren’t gonna be me. You might be heavily Josh influenced and some of my see you at a wedding, you go, hey, they’ve studied under Josh, but you’re still gonna be you. And so that’s not only your biggest strength, but it’s literally all you’re selling. And that’s kind of beautiful to be liberated from that point that you don’t have to have, I don’t know, the cool things that cool people have. Just you being you was great. And yes, there’s accessories, get a good PA system, maybe have a car that is a kind of you’re respectable to turn up in. (laughs) Yeah, maybe get a haircut. I don’t know, things like that. But at the core, you’re just you. And so I’m glad you recognize that. How are you going now? What’s your current status? Anything I can help or talk to? (upbeat music) – Where I’m at, so that’s, sorry. Yeah, so that’s, I’m still sort of understanding, still trying to figure out, as you would probably know coming from the Gold Coast, the Southeast Queensland market is desperately oversaturated and also that means that the pricing is pretty low in comparison to other parts of the country. But as I said, I’m not willing to, I’m not willing to bargain on my pricing and I know the value that I bring to my couples. So I’m standing pretty staunch with that. And yeah, the celebrant community here is incredible as well. I feel really lucky. – I will say that in an oversaturated market like that, there’s still opportunities, particularly when, and I can say this ’cause you’re not doing it, and so I apologize to anyone that hears this and is doing it ’cause you might be offended, but looking at a market like that and going, “Well, I’ll just go cheaper,” is the laziest method of trying to conquer that market. Only, there’s room for low-cost things. Jetstar is a thing. Solly’s or Crazy Clark’s or whatever $2 store, they are things. There’s a market for that. But if you notice those operations, particularly if you look at Jetstar, it’s a highly systemized, there is a big corporate structure behind being that cheap. There’s a whole system there. And so people take the lazy route and actually it’s more work. It’s harder, it’s worse for them, it’s yuck. So the easier route in the long run, which is the harder route in that first step, is to actually say, “I’m actually going to be a highly valued member “of this society that provides high value.” And high value doesn’t just mean dollars. It means all the other things it’s going to provide. But it also means dollars. Because everyone else is entering the market and going, “Well, I guess I’ll just go cheaper.” So everyone’s going cheaper and the market, not everyone in the market wants cheap. I like to fly Qantas. And that’s not some kind of status symbol. It’s just like, “I’m aware of the value I get “for the particular purchase, “and particularly for traveling with the family. “I’ve got status and you get bags and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” There’s a reason for not choosing the cheap option there. And so if you are providing value and if you can communicate that value well, then there’s room at the other end of the market, as opposed to everyone racing to the bottom of the market. Because in the end, if you win that race, guess what? You’re earning the least amount of money. Congratulations. Yeah, that’s… [silence] Yeah, no, it’s much better to be operating the higher value end of the market. It’s just better for your soul, better for your joy, better for everything, better for everyone, because your couples are getting better product because you don’t have to do 400 weddings a year because, yeah, the match is just better. And all it takes is that one simple decision to say, “Hey, I’m going to do better. I’m going to charge more,” etc. And everything just kind of ricochets from there. So good work. All right, well, look, I just want to congratulate you on becoming a Sullivan. It’s the best job in the world, and I’m so eager and excited to see people join the profession, and particularly the fact that you’ve entered it with a goal to be better and to be high value because I’m known, renowned for saying that there’s enough average Sullivans, or below average Sullivans as well. What we need are more excellent, awesome, passionate Sullivans. And so thank you for bringing that to the job.

Thank you so much, Josh. I really appreciate it.


Musician-Turned-Celebrant: Ryan’s Story

Musician-Turned-Celebrant: Ryan’s Story

Welcome to another engaging episode of the Celebrant Talk Show, where we explore the diverse journeys of newly authorised celebrants in Australia. Today, I, Josh Withers, have the pleasure of hosting Ryan Enright from Paper Hearts, a Melbourne-based wedding musician who has recently embarked on a new journey as a celebrant.

In this episode, Ryan shares his unique transition from being a musician to becoming a celebrant – a decision influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the desire to up-skill during challenging times. We delve into the realities of the Cert IV in Celebrancy program, discussing its intensity and thoroughness, which drew Ryan to choose the Celebrant Institute for his studies.

Throughout our conversation, Ryan opens up about the challenges and triumphs of his journey – balancing his studies with significant life events like welcoming a child and buying a house. He reflects on his first wedding ceremony as a celebrant and offers insights into how his extensive experience as a musician attending numerous ceremonies has influenced his celebrant style.

We also venture into the technicalities and logistics of combining music and celebrancy in ceremonies, discussing sound systems and how Ryan plans to integrate his skills as a musician into his celebrant services. This episode is not just about Ryan’s story but also a deep dive into the nuances of celebrancy and the additional roles celebrants play in Australian weddings, compared to other countries.

Whether you’re an aspiring celebrant, a seasoned professional, or simply interested in the world of weddings, this episode offers valuable insights, laughs, and a real-life perspective on the evolving role of a celebrant in today’s world. Join us for this inspiring and informative session on the Celebrant Talk Show, your go-to podcast for all things celebrancy.



– My name is Josh Withers. I’m the host for today’s episode of the Celebrant Talk Show. Welcome to it. We’re in the middle of a series where we’re talking to, interviewing new celebrants. Celebrants that have done the Certiform Celebrancy and they’ve become celebrants in Australia. They are authorised and ready to party and Ryan is one of those and I think his story will be a blessing to you. If you wanna hear other episodes of this podcast, has all the links and also you can listen to other episodes there and find them on to your favourite podcast player. And if you wanna know more about the Cert4 and our membership program for celebrants, the website is

(upbeat music) – My name’s Ryan. I’m in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and I became a celebrant at the start of this year officially. And yes, I’ve done one wedding so far.

– In 2023.

– Yes, it’s my time to shine.

(laughing) – It’s funny, just a really weird tangent to start on. Obviously you just start when you start. There’s all these great inspirational quotes about the best time to start was yesterday, the second best time to start was today. And that’s all very, very, very true. But I’ve got this weird thing where I just, I like nice dates. And so I became a celebrant in 2009 and I look back like, I wish it was 2010. 2010 is like, it’s just a nice, it’s a round year.

– You can get the number.

– Yeah, like my wife was born in 1990. And so it’s really like, how old are you? Like, oh, well, she’s just the year at 10. (laughing) And so I feel about like odd numbers, like 23, 21, 25, let’s see, 25 is a good year to start. 23 and my year 2009. I don’t like the years, you know? So maybe you should have waited a year, but you know, maybe you should have. (laughing)

– Too much maths involved.

– Too much maths. That’s my problem. Always mathematising things. Like talking about maths, what maths did you do in your brain to figure that you should be a celebrant? Everyone’s got a different story. What’s yours?

– Excellent segue. Well, my story is COVID. So I’m primarily a musician and obviously during COVID times, there wasn’t a whole lot of work for us, especially in Melbourne. So I thought it would be a great idea to, you know, upskill during that time and study to become a celebrant, which was something that was kind of always, you know, on the radar in the back of my mind, just floating around as an idea. And I kind of just saw that time as, yeah, a good opportunity to do that.

– And how did that work out for you? Was the, did it bear fruit as you had hoped?

– Well, yes and no. So it took me longer than I anticipated. And this is probably eating into some of your next few questions, but you know, it is, yeah, it’s quite an intense and long undertaking. It’s very thorough, which, you know, when I was assessing the various providers that offered the course is part of the reason I chose to study with you guys was because I wanted it to be thorough and I wanted to come out of it, you know, being a decent celebrant, hopefully, or at least, you know, having the tools I need to start that journey. But yeah, I also had another child during that time and, you know, bouncing in and out of lockdown. Yeah, bought a house, like did just lots of, you know, things that it just, when it rains, it pours, you know? So yeah, when I started the course, I had all this free time and then as the course progressed, I suddenly had, you know, very little free time and it took me a little bit longer than I had originally intended. But yeah, I persevered and got there in the end, which I’m, yeah, really happy about.

– Great. It is more than many people expect. I feel like the biggest disservice to the entire celebrancy/officiant/people that marry people business is Joey from “Friends” ’cause on TV in the ’90s, he just did a thing and became a minister and married people. And it’s just, it kind of is the case like that in America, but it very much isn’t that the case in Australia. It’s, you know, I’m lucky to speak to celebrants and officiants from around the world and they’re always amazed by what the Australian celebrant has on their plate. ‘Cause many of them find it overwhelming and have to, yeah, like their whole business is based on just doing the speaking bit, like obviously, and preparing for the speaking bit and the speaking bit. But the Australian celebrant has a lot more on their plate, you know?

– Yes.

– As we can spend the next five hours talking about. The legal things can sink a whole bit. But yeah, so I’m glad you pushed through. That’s really awesome.

– Yeah, yeah. And it was, you know, I guess one of the good things about the course is you can have a few attempts at the assignments as well. So I definitely used those. I just did the best I could with my first attempt, send it through, get some feedback and then go from there. That was kind of my approach to it.

– And honestly, that’s really smart. I’ve studied a little bit and I’m not that smart. I still kind of have that high school mentality of you gotta do it right. And then because, not that the high school mentality is you gotta do it right, but you gotta do it right. And then if you don’t do it right enough, then you fail and you suck and you should burn in hell. Whereas, you know, I guess the VET system or just the certificate four system is that you’re not yet competent, not yet competent, not yet competent, boom, you’re competent. Cool, yeah, we got there. Which is far more, I don’t know, just human and nice. (laughs)

– Yeah, totally. Yeah, no, I appreciated that. (laughs)

– You obviously did the thing, you did the course and you took that through the application process. You get that letter saying that you’re legit, you’re ready to go. Did you feel more game ready than maybe the average person? Because you already were operating in the space, you already knew what a wedding booking looked like. You know, you kind of had a step ahead of everyone else there.

– Yes, absolutely. I am lucky enough to have seen a lot of ceremonies. So I’ve seen a lot of, yeah, really good celebrants.

– Oh yeah, okay. No, but before we move on, I’m gonna tell you, so I hadn’t even considered that. You’ve seen a lot of ceremonies. That’s a game changer. I’m not even joking, me personally as a celebrant of, actually I just entered my 15th year as a celebrant a few days ago. I’ve probably seen, I’m trying to count, five or six weddings that I haven’t done in my life. Maybe, like max 10. I might’ve missed a few, but I haven’t seen many. You’ve seen more than 10.

– I’ve seen hundreds.

– Yeah. Which is a really, it’s just a really interesting prospect. So like I mentor different wedding professionals and I love talking to wedding photographers ’cause I said there’s a really easy way for you to get this kind of business workflow in your head, try and figure out what’s good for you because you can book another photographer tomorrow. Like whether it’s, if you’re a single person, sure you can just get single person shots, but many people are in relationships, whether you’re married or family, go book a photographer tomorrow. You know, just book one. Like one you like, one you’ve never heard of, whatever. Go book them, pay them some money, do the thing. And hopefully that is good ’cause you get good photos. But obviously at the end, you can kind of reflect and say, oh, I booked Josh as my photographer and he did this and he did that, I did like this, I didn’t like that. And you can have a real opinion on running a photography business. But you, as a musician, you’ve seen, I know obviously you haven’t done the business of being a celebrant, but you’ve seen ceremony. So how did that, how did like, you don’t have to throw anyone under the bus, particularly if it’s me, but, (laughs) as like what kind of things fed into your education and then of course becoming a celebrant, like the things you’d seen, things you’d witnessed, like, yeah, give us the grocery list. Like what’s awesome, what’s not.

– Yeah, definitely. I got to see a lot of different sound systems for one. And obviously hear a lot of different styles of delivery and kind of, yeah, I guess as I was moving through the course I started to pay more attention to what they were saying and just took a few notes here and there of things that I liked and ideas. And yeah, I just kind of, well, took more of a keen interest in the ceremonies and just kind of, yeah, tried to figure out what I personally liked and didn’t like in terms of my style. Obviously you’ve got to take into the consideration of the couple, of course, but yeah, certainly you want to show people what your style is and hopefully you align with the couple.

– Yeah, absolutely. So what’s, yeah, we’re kind of jumping all over the place here, but like, what’s your thing that you bring to market? How do you describe-

– How do I see myself as a delivery?

– Yeah.

– I guess, you know, I like to be fairly casual and relaxed but also keep it professional and lighthearted, upbeat and fun.

– This is how would you validate that as a product? Like how do you say, yeah, this is how I do that?

– Good question. Well, I’ve only done one ceremony, so maybe there’s not a whole lot of track record there, but I mean, you know, I guess in my personality, in my dealings and meetings with clients, they will hopefully pick up on my personality and my vibe.

– Yeah, cool. I like that. Like, what’s your plan moving forward? You obviously, the music is what you’re known for and you’re popular for and you kind of, you’ve got a business there.

– Yep.

– Do you, without, you have to reveal company secrets, but like, what’s the plan? Are you doing the packaging? Are you doing it to be two separate things? Like kind of like church and state that don’t meet?

– Good question. At this stage, I don’t know the answer to that question. My first wedding where I was the celebrant was a family friend. And to be honest, that’s kind of the main reason why I moved forward with my registration at that time was so that I could marry them. And yeah, with the whole whiplash of coming out of COVID, you know, obviously there were a lot of weddings and things to catch up on. So the music side of my life has been very busy also with two young children as well. So there’s been, yeah, quite a bit happening. So it’s been, I guess, hard to fully flesh out that plan and how that looks. But as we’re coming into winter this year in the off season, yeah, I plan to kind of strategically sort of sit down and think about that a bit more. But I think ultimately, you know, a mix of the two would be great.

– Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, yeah, you’re in a really good place because you know the business and now you’ve just got an extra avenue, you know? Like it’s funny, I talked to a lot of celebrants that have kind of been doing it for a while and they talk about diversifying education, that kind of thing. And they talk about wanting to do maybe less weddings, which I understand. And if you’re a person that we’ve had that conversation about like no judgment. But I actually really love doing ceremonies. I love doing weddings. Like it’s fun. I’m good at it. It feels good. But what I’m interested in is pro diversifying so that, you know, if you were to liken it to say drinking, maybe don’t have a beer every night, but have a beer some nights, you know? And have water other nights or have wine or have soft drink, whatever. Like diversify what you’re doing. That’s on health advice. I’m just merely using it as an analogy if you’re not listening. But yeah, like, and so maybe just the simple, the fact that you can chew gum and you can walk and maybe you can do them together and maybe do them separately. And that’s cool.

– Yes, absolutely. Yeah, I’m sure there’s a balance there. Yeah, I’ve just got to figure out what that looks like. Bit of trial and error.

– There’s a celebrant in Byron Bay who, I’m not too sure how much he does it today, but he’s a musician and he would kind of sing couples down the aisle, like from a celebrant position. And I always thought that was kind of cool. Logistically, it kind of pains me because I just think about the logistics of it.

– I haven’t thought about that. Yes, it does sound challenging. Obviously wireless technology, but yeah, you have a lot to think about, particularly when you’re in the early days, I suppose.

– Like I’m guessing you probably don’t take many guitar texts to your weddings.

– No. (both laughing)

– Can’t just throw your guitar to someone. (both laughing)

– Well, my wife is my duo partner, so she might catch the guitar, but she’s not a great catch.

– Okay, final question before I go, just ’cause I don’t know, I just, it’s funny. Look, I obviously knew that you were a musician and I just hadn’t really considered what that means, but I want to talk PA system, ’cause you mentioned it before. And obviously as a musician, PA system is important to you. I’m gonna make a grand assumption that you have the same opinion than me that your PA system is important because it lets everyone experience what you’re selling. Like you guys could just stand there singing acoustically, I guess, singing acoustically, how you describe it, that a PA system? I don’t know.

– Yeah.

– Yeah, you know, and just playing acoustic guitar and that would be great and lovely, but very few people would hear you. The PA system,

– Yes.

– A public amplification system, yeah, it lets other people hear you. So first of all, what’s your ceremony kit as a muso? And how, if you didn’t have a PA system, but knowing everything you know, what would you go with as a celebrant today?

– Celebrant. Yes, so we’ve been running the Bose S1 Pros and we’ve had, – Oh yeah.

– We’ve had two of those for a while as a duo, acoustic duo, and we recently purchased a JBL EON1 Mark II. – Oh, is there a Mark II?

– Yeah, the column array system with a subwoofer, just for a little extra bass.

– How do you rate the Mark II? ‘Cause I rented a Mark I and it was good, but it wasn’t great.

– Right, yes. I like it, it sounds good. I think that it reaches a point where it can start to distort, whereas the Bose does, I’ve never heard it distort.

– Yeah, yeah, yeah.

– That’s my take.

– I had a wedding in Mexico in Cabo and the DJ had, I just can’t, I felt really embarrassed. I never thought of this. I saw it, I thought that sounds so good. I feel embarrassed, I haven’t thought of this. He had two S1s, Bose S1s on stands, and then he had a sub. I’m like, why did I never think to have a sub? Like it’s just, and so he had the, I guess it must be the Bose L2 sub, whichever one has the separate sub these days. I think it’s, is it L2?

– Yeah, I know what you’re talking about.

– Yeah, yeah.

– Yeah, I like that.

– ‘Cause the L1 has a sub, but it’s part of the kind of array, kind of like the JBL, whereas he had just the standalone Bose sub. And it sounded phenomenal. I’m like, oh, I know that. Like if someone was to question me, like how do I make the sound better? I would know, I’d say, hey, get a sub. I just had never considered it for myself. And I felt really embarrassed. And it just, those Bose S1s, particularly two S1s and the sub, yeah, it was perfect. ‘Cause it also, this is a problem that happens a lot with weddings. I’m guessing Melbourne has the same problems as Southeast Queensland does, and Northern New South Wales with sound restrictions. You’re working at a wedding venue and it’s near homes. And you’ve got to respect those things. That is just what it is. If someone’s stupid enough to open a wedding venue next to a old person’s home, then that’s their cross the bay. But this setup, because the sub could deliver a lot of the feeling, it wasn’t loud, but it was present across the whole wedding. It just sounded so good. It was, yeah. So I walked away feeling really embarrassed. I’d never considered that for myself. So it’s also good to hear you’re on the Bose bandwagon. ‘Cause I keep on talking to people. Do you know Jackson at Factory Sound?

– Yes, I do.

– Yeah, good guy. And I message him every now and then. I’m like, “Hey, is there something better yet?” He’s like, “No, there’s nothing better yet.” (laughing)

– He would know.

– He would know. Yeah, and I guess I’m kind of waiting for like the Jesus PA system. ‘Cause the Bose, this one is great. You know, it would be awesome. Built-in wireless. But then I also, I don’t know, Bose isn’t known for its microphones. It’s not known for its wireless receivers. And I’m like, “Well, maybe I don’t want Bose “to make a microphone.” But yeah, this is, we can talk about audio forever. That’s audio guys, but.

– Good, yeah. We do still use one of the Bose as well. And we predominantly use a foldback wedge, but if it’s a larger space, larger crew, we pump it out to the audience. Or if, you know, the entrant, male or female, or otherwise, is coming down from a different direction, sometimes it’s nice to just point that out there. And yeah, so it is still nice to have that in the kit.

– Do you do that with a wireless, like a Sennheiser wireless transmission? Or do you run a lead?

– We just run a lead. Yeah, could do it wirelessly, but it’s not that necessary for what we’re trying to achieve, yeah.

– Yeah, I suppose as musos, you can, you’re positioning.

– We’ve got a lot of cables.

– Yeah, we’ve got a lot of cables, but you’re positioning, like you don’t have to be up the front and center, you know?

– That’s right, yeah.

– Celebrant kind of has to be up there. And so, and then by the laws of speaker placement, you want the speaker to be on the same plane as the Celebrant projecting back towards the audience. And so, so positioning, which is why I have a lot of wireless here, ’cause sometimes you’re just, positioning is just terrible. Just so the speaker’s gotta go over there and there’s no power, there’s no whatever.

– Yes, of course.

– Yeah, all right.

– Yeah.

– Cool, okay, I think we’ve just lost everyone with a good dose of audio trap. (laughing)

– Oh yes, I think Jackson’s still with us.

– Yeah, it’s just you, me and Jackson now. (laughing) All righty, well, look, man, I wish you all the best on your journey and I hope you can find a place where you can be an awesome Celebrant, an awesome musician and make a crap load of money and have a lot of fun. Thanks for studying with the Celebrant Institute.

– Thank you so much, pleasure.

(upbeat music) (upbeat music)


Journey to Joy: Rachel Ivy McDermott-Magrath’s Celebrant Adventure

Journey to Joy: Rachel Ivy McDermott-Magrath’s Celebrant Adventure

Welcome to another enriching episode of the Celebrant Talk Show, where we delve into the inspiring journeys of those who’ve embarked on the path of becoming a celebrant. Today’s episode features Rachel Ivy McDermott-Magrath, known professionally as “The Ivy Aisle,” who shares her captivating story from planning her own wedding to becoming a sought-after celebrant in Gippsland, Victoria.

Rachel’s conversation with us is not just a narrative of her transition into celebrancy but also a beacon of guidance for anyone considering this heartfelt profession. She reflects on the pivotal role her mentor, Sheridan Newham, played in her journey and how her experience with the Celebrant Institute’s comprehensive Certificate IV in Celebrancy program sculpted her skills and confidence.

Moreover, Rachel offers invaluable advice for prospective students, emphasising the importance of embracing feedback, staying resilient, and dedicating oneself to the study. Her insights into creating a personal brand, the significance of building genuine connections with clients, and the nuances of navigating the business aspects of celebrancy are particularly enlightening.

Whether you’re contemplating a career in celebrancy, currently studying, or already in the field, Rachel’s journey is a testament to the joy and fulfillment this profession can bring. Her aspirations to be a prominent name in Gippsland and her dreams of conducting ceremonies in iconic locations like New York and Paris are truly inspiring.

Join us in this episode to discover the passion, challenges, and triumphs of becoming a celebrant, and learn how you, too, can turn your aspirations into a rewarding career.




– I sincerely hope that these podcasts with the Celebrant Institute are encouraging for you wherever you are on your Celebrant journey, whether you’re thinking about becoming a Celebrant, whether you’re in the middle of study right now, or you are out there on the front lines doing the hard work of marrying people. I hope these interviews we’re doing with the new Celebrants in this little series is encouraging and awesome. If you’re thinking about becoming a Celebrant and doing the Cert IV, just like Rachel did in this episode, then head to to find out more information about the Cert IV in Celebrancy. And of course, if you wanna listen to more episodes of this podcast, is the website. Finally, if you’re a Celebrant who’s out there operating, doing your best work, then first of all, good on you. Second of all, we provide a mentoring and membership aspect of the Celebrant Institute. You get access to all the website blog posts, and also you get 24/7 access, though it might be a little bit sketchy between midnight and 5 a.m., access to Sarah Aird and myself for marriage law help, business help, just wherever you’re feeling like we could speak into your life, you get access to us. And it’s only 10 bucks a month. So join now at

(upbeat music) – My name is Rachel McDermott-MacGrath. I do go by the Ivy Isle, though, for my Celebrant business, because my middle name is Ivy, and it’s a pretty name, so why not? Plus the name Ivy Isle sounds really cool. And I’m from Drouin, which is in Gippsland in Victoria. So I travel all around Gippsland helping people get married, and I’ve been doing it for about a year and a half, yeah.

– And why on earth do you wanna become a Celebrant? There’s lots of great careers out there. If you talk to any good career counsellor, they’re talking about CEOs and accountants and doctors. What brought you to Celebrancy?

– Yeah, wow, so many reasons. I think the first one that made me decide to go into Celebrancy was planning my own wedding. And I honestly had the best time. I never stressed about it at all. It was incredibly enjoyable. And then I realised, well, hey, I’ve already got a degree in creative writing. I want to write stories. I love to write stories, so I can write people’s love stories. And I’m really social. I love a good chat, sometimes too much. And I’m not shy in front of people. I guess that comes from being a teacher for a few years, a high school teacher. So if you can stand in front of a classroom with kids, a big group of wedding guests is not that scary. So yeah, that’s why I dived into it. And I have not looked back, not once.

– That’s so good. People that listen to these podcasts would probably have heard me say that I feel there’s always two ways that people get into Celebrancy, either because they had a bad experience at their own wedding or at a Celebrant, or they had a great experience. And so it’s awesome to hear you had a great experience. How was your Celebrant experience as a client? Like how did that shape your journey to becoming a Celebrant, a provider of Celebrant services?

– Yeah, so funnily enough, my actual Celebrant became my mentor. So the one that was solemnizing my marriage, she became my mentor, and I’m still close to her these days. – Give her a shout out. – Yeah, her name is Sheridan Newham, and she is incredible. I idolise her in every way. And she’s the one that got me into the studying. She gave me a whole bunch of different courses to look into. She said, “Yes, you’ve got this. You are such a good person for this. Go for it.” And she’s just, she’s incredibly creative, and she’s got this incredibly fun energy to be around. So she’s inspiration, absolute inspiration. So that’s Sheridan Newham.

– That’s so good to hear.

– She’s selling everyone. She’s incredible.

– So good. And how did you go about kind of deciding where to study, how to study? I’m guessing that you, like many people, wasn’t aware that so much went into becoming a Celebrant?

– Yeah, no, I had no idea. And now that I’ve done all the work, and obviously now doing all the work as a Celebrant, I really can see the value in why Celebrants do have, I guess, the price on them that they do. A lot of people are a bit like, “But why?” And the amount of work that goes into it, before, during, even a bit after, it’s, you know, I can see why. And yeah, so for me, I was looking into all the different course options that I’d heard about, and I realized that the one I went with seemed to be that little bit of extra in terms of, I guess it was a little bit more thorough, and it also had a funeral aspect to it. And so one day I am looking at expanding into that. So obviously I started with the Celebrant Institute and under Sarah, and it was, yeah, I think I’ve been really, really well informed. I have gone in so confidently to every job, probably because we had so many pracs. And, you know, they really made sure you nailed every single assignment. And it actually turned out to be so worthwhile.

– That’s so good to hear. There’s such a high rate of people not finishing the Celebrant course across the industry. And so when Sarah and I set out to start, we were like, we thought we just, we can’t have that. It’s a waste of everyone’s time to start a course and to sell a course that you don’t finish. And so, and also, obviously once you finish it, that’s great, but then it would actually be useful to you when you’re actually out in the field. And so that’s really awesome to hear.

– Yeah, absolutely. So many things I’ve found are incredibly useful. I’ve barely felt, I guess, surprised by any moment, which is, yeah, it does happen because we work with anyone and everyone, but I feel I’ve been very well prepared. But also during my course, I was always well supported, not just by my mentor, but by the assessors and Sarah herself. Yeah, I think a lot of the time, you don’t actually get to meet the people that create these courses. And she was doing regular Zoom catch-ups and obviously there’s these podcasts that you can listen to with all this information. I’ve got a journal of all my notes from listening to things and scribbling down notes and whatnot. So yeah, so much support. It was awesome.

– So talking about support, people are listening to this, they’re thinking about becoming a celebrant studying, particularly for the study aspect. What are your thoughts on people going into the study? How would you prepare them? How would you give them a tip, give them some advice to walk into the study and succeed?

– Yeah, really good point. So I would say go into it confident, absolutely. And don’t be disheartened when you get feedback that says, you know, to put a little bit more into this or that, because it really will help you. So there was so many times that I got feedback that I felt like, oh, I really thought I nailed that, but I got this feedback and it was something as small as my tone of voice at that part of the prac sounded a little bit too sad for what, you know, celebrating a couple. And I was like, and looking back at it, that was very valuable. So it did feel maybe sometimes a bit disheartening, but then I actually look at it and go, no, I learned so much and it built my confidence so much more redoing things and making sure it was perfect. So now I go into working with actual clients and I feel like I’ve got this, I know I’ve got this. So I would just say, don’t let yourself be disheartened. It is a lot of work, definitely set aside a day, at least of the week where you really dedicate yourself to it. But, and you know, try and get yourself in the zone for studying and set yourself up with your snacks, if that’s what you need or have the right feng shui around you for study time, get into the zone and dive in, have confidence. I think, you know, it takes a really, really brave person to be a celebrant, but I think anyone that wants to do it can do it.

– It’s really interesting always talking about feedback. You know, like wise, smart people in their fancy books and their, you know, big name podcasts. There was talk about being really open to feedback. Like I think Steve Jobs or Jony Ive of Apple said something around the lines of, you know, feedback. It’s my favorite meal of the day or something like that. It was, they were talking about it being the meal they take every day. And I’ve always been open to feedback, but it’s funny, sometimes when you receive feedback, like you can talk the talk and say, “Hey, please send feedback.” And I’ve received feedback sometimes and it really turns out I haven’t been that open to it. And so when I have finally gotten over myself in whatever situation it might’ve been, and I’ve actually kind of like, you know, almost put the lion to sleep and had a glass of water and a deep breath, the feedback often is really helpful. And I think back to, I was on a TV show a couple of years ago and the director, you wouldn’t believe what the director was doing. They were directing me and it was terrible. (laughing)

– My God. How dare they?

– Yeah, I know. How dare you come to work and do your job? That is terrible. (laughing) And then she actually pulled me aside and she said, “Hey, we all want you to win. “That’s why we’re giving you feedback.” And I’m like, “Oh, so you don’t, “are you not a high school bully?” Sorry, I completely misidentified you as a high school bully as opposed to a professional TV director who actually wants me to be successful on this show. And yeah, it was a real groundbreaking moment for me. Not like I’m any better today. I still suck at receiving feedback. But yeah, like you said, if you can really open your eyes to that, particularly when you’re studying, like I can definitely say of Sarah and everyone else at the Sullivan Institute, we all want you to win. Like none of us take the, I’ve just forgotten the word, not the booking, the enrollment. None of us take the enrollment like, “Ah-ha, oh, another sucker. “Let’s bash ’em into smithereens “so they don’t think about studying anything else ever again. “What a loser.” Yeah, that would be a terrible thing to think of people that are studying. And also, obviously, the celebrancy is, celebrancy studies is one of those things where it’s quite very closely linked to the profession. And we also don’t want that for people joining the profession, but it would be an encouraging good thing. So I’m glad you received that well.

– There’s definitely times I was, had to take the walk away and be like, “What sort of feedback was that?” And it was never bad, never. It was always so helpful. But I tried really hard and then I was like, “No, I thought I nailed it.” But I’d have a quick breather, come back and go, “Oh yeah, no, they’re right.” And it made me a lot better.

– So I love talking about taking these skills to market. I’m making the assumption that once you graduated, the application process took what it took and you got your email saying you’re all G. And from there, let’s talk about branding, marketing, but also the thing I’m most passionate about, product. The actual thing you’re actually selling. When someone pays you a dollar, what do they get? And what was your plan to take yourself to market like that?

– Yeah, I actually think there was an assessment that really helped me with that as well, which I don’t think when I’ve spoken about courses, I’m not sure every course actually helps with that, but I found there was one towards the end that actually helped me really start getting into that mind frame. And that’s where I thought to reach out to my mentor and I asked her to introduce me to other celebrants and she got me into some social media groups with other celebrants, which then became, I guess my sounding board for ideas. And I even posted different logos and stuff in there to get feedback. But my mentor came up with the idea of the Ivy Aisle because I often, 50% of the time go by the name Ivy. And she’s like, “I had this crazy dream one night when we had both just done a wedding nearby, we went out and hung out afterwards and you were going by the name the Ivy Aisle.” And I was like, “That is it, that is my name.” And just from there, and then I had this assignment, just from there, I just started, I guess, this creative explosion in my mind. And I just went straight into looking into different types of websites that I could create stuff on. I found one that I felt really comfortable with, which was Squarespace. I know other celebrants use it, so I could pick their brains being like, “How did you get this to work?” and whatnot. But it’s really simple for me. And I then went into, well, the Ivy Isle, and I love plants and green, so everything’s green. I really love that fresh, natural vibe to it because it’s the vibe I’m trying to bring to weddings is that real natural down to earth sort of vibe. So I guess it all started working together from that moment. And I mean, ultimately celebrants, it sounds crazy, but we are sort of selling ourselves, are we not? You know, you want people-

– 100% you’re selling yourself, yeah. – Yeah, yeah, you’re 100%. So selling yourself and you want people to just feel a connection with you. So I say to my couples, I do a sort of meet and greet, no obligations type of situation, because I think vibe, and I’m sure most, if not all celebrants could agree on this, the vibe you have with your celebrant is a make or break for your wedding because you don’t want to feel like there’s a stranger standing there talking about you and this person you love as if they’ve known you for years. You want someone to be standing there as if they actually do know you. So I really try and make that connection first before I expect them to make any commitment so that they go into it feeling like, hey, she’s a friend, she gets me. Because they’re entrusting me to a lot. They’re telling me a lot about their love life and their intimate details. And that for some people is confronting. So they need to feel comfortable with who they’re working with. And that’s my aim. So I sell myself as crazy as it sounds as a third wheel to their relationship, as their friend. – Yeah, now I don’t know if you’ve read any more stuff of the Rebel’s Guide blog, but I’ve talked to her about with, you know, if you get a really good deal from your wedding furniture provider and like, and it’s a good furniture, and it’s a good deal, and you meet the person, like, ah, they’re a douchebag. Like, well, you know, you can kind of, if your wedding furniture guy is a douchebag, you can just live with that. And, you know, and there’s various suppliers that, you know, the person who owns the property, like, ah, they’re a bit of a douchebag, but we just don’t really gel, you know, politically or whatever. And like, yeah, well, you can kind of get by. But there’s people like, particularly your photographer and your celebrant, and like, they are in your face. Like, you probably spend more time with your photographer at a wedding than you do your partner, because they spend time with you getting ready. And then your celebrant, to the same degree, but much more intensified, for like, you know, half hour, whatever it might be, they’re kind of, they are the voice of this bit, the bit you invite everyone to. You know, the time that’s on the invite is for the ceremony, and there’s this really valuable, important thing happening. And yeah, you get a vibe with this person, which is why I don’t really, I really struggle with the idea of the whole wedding is awards. Because if they say, you know, Josh, this is number one, I’m like, what does that mean? What is it like, number one for like, Jack and Sally? But like, what about Todd and Samantha? What do they, it doesn’t really mean anything. So yeah, I’m glad you’ve identified that early.

– Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of the really important things for people to recognize once they do graduate, you know, it is hard to build up. You’re building up pretty much from ground zero. And you know, you’re gonna have people that will say that you’re not their vibe, and that’s okay. You just have to accept that, yeah, you’re not for everyone, and that’s normal, we’re human. But the people that you do vibe with, they will book you because they will have that connection. So I’ve definitely had my fair share of people say, no, decide to go elsewhere. And I will always say, I hope you have your dream day. Because honestly, everyone still deserves their dream day. I would love to be part of it. (laughs) But if it’s not right, it’s not right, and that’s okay. You just, you find, you start attracting particular couples anyway. So it works out okay, yeah.

– Yeah, yeah. And look, I’ll turn this around, just make this a little bit of a mentoring session. Hopefully it will help some people.

– Yeah.

– You’ve 100% gonna be okay with people saying no to people, and people saying no to you. But equally, and probably like 1% more, like 51%, 49%, you’ve gotta be okay with saying yes to people, and charging a good fee, and being paid that fee, and like, this is normal, like people want me. (laughs) You know, like I’ve, I was just coaching a friend earlier today through an issue with their business. And I’m like, it’s okay for people to pay the fee, and you do the thing, and for that to be good. (laughs) Which it sounds like a silly thing to kind of coach someone, but like, you know, we get all up in our heads sometimes. We get all, no, unless of course you’re mentally perfect, Rachel, then this is maybe for someone else’s sake. But, (laughs) it’s okay to be chosen by couples. And you know, like, I’m so blessed, I’m so lucky I get inquiries from around the world. And people always inquire about that, like, how do you get that? I’m like, I don’t know, man, I’m just really honest about who I am. And I put that out, and people say, yeah, that’s me. And then next minute I’m doing their wedding in Paris. Like, I’m not advertising destination weddings, I’m just advertising Josh, and just letting them know who I am, and what’s important to me.

– Yeah. – And that vibes with people.

– Yeah. – So it’s good.

– And I think that definitely does vibe with a lot of couples out there. They just, they like the transparency. But I, you know, I couldn’t agree more with what you were saying about being okay with charging people, because I guess a lot of people become celebrants, because they are very friendly, outgoing people. And then you build this connection, and I’m not gonna lie, I get a lot of guilt sometimes. I feel like, oh, but they were so cool. I feel really bad being like, hey, here’s my fee, or I need to charge you this much extra for travel. The travel, extra travel fee seems to be the one that I sort of struggle a little bit to, I guess, get on top of. So that, I could not agree more with that advice. I am starting to get a bit more of a backbone around it, but that has been one of the harder aspects for sure. For sure.

– Well, we’ll extend the mentoring session for another 30 seconds, and I’ll give you this advice.

– Yeah.

– ‘Cause I had travel fees. I think travel fees are an impediment to a commercial relationship. Like, I absolutely hate it. I hate buying things in America ever, because it doesn’t matter what you’re buying. You’re like, oh, it’s $100. Cool, I can do $100 for that. And then you get a bit like, oh, it’s 115, ’cause of this tax. And then go through, you’re in a restaurant, like, yeah, it’s an extra fee. Actually, I went somewhere the other day. I was in New York, and the, you know, I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but they have the default tip options. So you can manually say, you know, whatever percent. Or they’ve got, they have defaults. And their defaults started at 25%. I’m like, dude, 25%. You’re already a pricey restaurant. (laughs) And so I don’t, I just like knowing what something is.

– Yeah.

– And, yeah, like, I’d rather you say it’s $150 than say it’s 100 plus sales tax and plus tip.

– Yeah.

– And so, coming back to the travel fee, my advice for anyone with travel fees is not to say fee plus travel fee, but just say this is my fee. And so I remember the first time I ever did a Sydney wedding being based on the Gold Coast. It was because instead of saying fee plus travel, I just said, here’s my Sydney fee. And the Sydney fee was magically, you wouldn’t believe it, the same number as fee plus travel fee, but because it was just communicated as fee, it was great. And people, I’m a, people find it much easier to swallow.

– Yeah, yeah, no, that makes complete sense. ‘Cause I often have couples ask me, are there any extra hidden costs? And I’m straight out like, no, no, where you are, it is what it is and don’t stress. Everything that is written there is a part of the package, is a part of the package, there’s nothing more to it. But yeah, the travel one I do feel is tricky. So it must be something I might start looking to re-evaluating. I really appreciate the advice, so thank you.

– Well, look, it’s been really interesting to hear about your journey into becoming a celebrant, why you became a celebrant. And onwards and upwards, like leave us with this, what’s your big audacious goal? Like where do you hope to be in five, 10 years?

– I hope to be absolutely smashing it full time, marrying lovers in New York and Paris. That’d be amazing. I really hope that I am just your go-to name down in Gippsland, to be honest. I would absolutely love to be that celebrant people like, have you seen Rachel from the Ivy Isle? Oh my gosh, she is it. That is my absolute goal.

– Love it. Well, I wish you all the best in that. And I think you’ve got a real hot chance of achieving that goal, mainly because you know what it is. So 10 points.

– I’m already kicking goals. I’ve been setting goals each year, I’ve been kicking them so far, so smashing it, I’m loving it.


Our submission to the Senate Inquiry into the AG Portfolio Miscellaneous Measure Bill 2023

Our submission to the Senate Inquiry into the AG Portfolio Miscellaneous Measure Bill 2023

As mentioned in an update to my article about the Bill containing amendments to the Marriage Act that went to Parliament late last year, the Celebrant Institute was asked to make a submission to a Senate Inquiry into the Bill. As I said in this update, basically the Senate, instead of just signing off on the Bill and letting it pass into law, referred it to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for review.

We weren’t allowed to publicise our submission until it was made public by the government, which it has been today. I note we were the only celebrant body to make a submission to this Inquiry; obviously I have no idea how much weight the Committee will give the submission at this stage! They’re due to report on 1 February.

Create a rabbit hole for your couples to “fall” down

Create a rabbit hole for your couples to “fall” down

For close to a decade I’ve been “banging on” about celebrants like you creating content for your couples. It’s the easiest play in my opinion. You share wisdom, expertise, heart, and opinion, and in return you get clients who aren’t shopping for price but they’re shopping for you and you alone.

But something I’ve not really communicated when I’m talking about content creation is the idea that there’s a bigger plan at play. There’s something larger at stake. I’m talking about rabbit holes.

The right (and new) form to use when you have an interpreter at a wedding

The right (and new) form to use when you have an interpreter at a wedding

The Attorney-General’s Department’s Marriage Law and Celebrants Section announces a significant update: a new Certificate of Faithful Performance by Interpreter.

This change and changed form for 2024, results from modifications to Commonwealth Statutory Declarations, was developed in consultation with the Celebrant Institute and other professional networks.

Download it here

The Role of Interpreters

Do you need an interpreter? An interpreter is crucial when parties involved in the ceremony are not fluent in the language used. Unlike translators, who deal with written text, interpreters facilitate spoken communication. Their presence ensures that all parties fully comprehend the proceedings, a fundamental aspect of legal and emotional significance in marriage ceremonies.

When to Use an Interpreter

Celebrants should consider using an interpreter in the following situations:

  • When either party to the marriage is not fluent in the ceremony’s language.
  • If key participants (like parents or witnesses) require language assistance to understand the ceremony, though this is not legally required unless these people are witnesses to the certificates.
  • In ceremonies involving sign languages, such as Auslan, for deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals.

Incorporating Interpreters in Ceremonies

Incorporating an interpreter requires careful planning:

  • Introduce the interpreter at the beginning of the ceremony, explaining their role.
  • Ensure the interpreter is positioned where they can be easily seen and heard by those requiring their services.
  • Celebrants should pause at appropriate intervals to allow for accurate interpretation.

Professional Considerations

While the use of professional interpreters is ideal, friends or family members may also serve in this role, provided they are not parties to the marriage. Regardless, the selected interpreter must complete the necessary pre- and post-ceremony documentation, including the newly introduced Certificate of Faithful Performance.

This form, now a required component of the legal framework surrounding marriage ceremonies, underscores the critical role of interpreters in fostering inclusivity and understanding in these significant life events.

Fresh Faces in Celebrancy: Melissa Edwards’ Energetic Entry

Fresh Faces in Celebrancy: Melissa Edwards’ Energetic Entry

In this vibrant episode of the Celebrant Talk Show, host Josh Withers welcomes the enthusiastic Melissa Edwards, a newly minted celebrant who completed her Certificate IV in Celebrancy with the Celebrant Institute.

As part of our series on fresh celebrants, Melissa shares her inspiring journey – from witnessing her sister’s wedding to becoming a celebrant herself.

With a passion for creating inclusive ceremonies and a unique, relaxed style, Melissa is redefining the celebrant scene.

Join us for an enlightening conversation full of practical insights, personal stories, and the highs and lows of starting out in this beautiful profession. Whether you’re a budding celebrant or a seasoned professional, Melissa’s story is sure to motivate and entertain. Don’t miss out on this episode full of heart, humour, and helpful tips!


In this short run series on the celebrant talk show we’re talking to brand new celebrants. celebrants that have recently got their cert foreign celebrancy and they’re fresh out of the gate making ceremonies for awesome couples that are getting married. Today we’re talking to Melissa I hope it’s an encouraging chat for you and if you’d like to know more about studying the cert foreign celebrancy how to become a celebrant and if you already are a celebrant then there’s so many resources for you along with a membership and encouragement program go to the website and if you want to find more episodes of this podcast My name is Melissa, I’m Melissa Edwards and I became a celebrant in I think it was February this year. What a journey. It was a long journey. Doing the study for the the actual act of becoming a celebrant is a little bit more than some people realize so I want to talk about that in a second but first of all what’s your why? What’s your what’s your reason for wanting to to get yourself an A number and become a celebrant? Yeah okay so I went to my sister’s wedding and I’d also helped her through the whole process. She’s not a very sloppy person and I am and I’d helped her write the vowels, research readings all that sort of thing and she sort of said oh you’ve got a bit of a knack for this and I thought yeah it’s really fun and I enjoyed kind of helping her with I don’t know just a lot of the wording and then at the ceremony I was watching the celebrant and had a chat with her after about what it kind of entailed and little seeds sort of planting and I thought oh I think I could like this and yes I ended up going for it and I really enjoy it. I feel like there’s two kinds of celebrants that an aspirational celebrant says there’s a celebrant that was amazing and you think I was so inspirational I want to be like that person or was there the celebrant who left you wanting more? I hope and trust that the celebrant you saw was a great one? She was great she was yeah quite gracious warm she was just a really good speaker and it flowed really nicely it was a really sweet lovely warm ceremony and I quite like that yeah and she was a little older she was maybe a bit more tradition the warmth still came through and I sort of started thinking well I’d be younger and a bit different in my style and how would do it so I thought it started getting the wheels turning of how I would do it if it was me and my style and you know how I would get it going so it was nice to see the difference but also see some of the traits that are like. Okay well so tell us so what was your you that you wanted to hope to take to market the thing that you thought you could do exceptionally well or different that you thought would be interesting to couples? Some of my friends that had gotten married often the celebrants were a bit older or quite very formal in their approach even though the content was really great and I suppose I wanted to have great content but maybe be a bit more relaxed and current in how what might be appealing to maybe people more in the age frame of 30s 40s 50s that might appeal yeah and also I’m in quite an inclusive celebrant I’m gay and I wanted to appeal to people’s non-binary gay whatever heteros as well just a very kind of open everybody’s accepted sort of feeling with my ceremonies and I have been doing that yeah so that’s been really great I live in Ballarat near Dalesford it’s quite a queer community and so I’ve been connecting with with the community and having some interest so it’s been really good. I don’t know if I’ve shared this story on the podcast before but one of my one of my earliest conversations with a couple as clients potential clients that were two girls get married and this would be let’s look at 2013 so a good was it was the 2017 that the marriage came in? Yeah around then it was before the pandemic. It was like A, P, B, P before the pandemic happened. Before my friend had become celebrant in the queer community did it during COVID because it had just been legalized so yeah you’re right I think. Yeah so it must mean we are 2013 that I met with this couple and and like I said it was my first time as a as a celebrant maybe a couple potentially to be there celebrant and I sat down and I bring a lot of energy to some meetings just to kind of as an active leadership like you know I know that you don’t know what’s going on that kind of thing and so so like just bring some some kind of joy and leadership and so I came out of the gates and said I’m so excited to be a celebrant because unlike so many of my clients so many of my clients so many of my couples you two can can do what you like you’re not bound by by years hundreds and thousands of years of tradition you’re not bound by religious tradition you’re not even bound by law you can just do what you like. And and I said what do you mean we’re not bound by law? I said oh well because you know and they said what do you mean? I said well because it’s your your marriage wouldn’t be and I’m just kind of stumbling at my words dying because I’m realizing that they didn’t know that they couldn’t get married. Oh no you’re mortifying. They’re crying, I’m feeling stupid. Oh my gosh. Wow wow this is a point that they didn’t know well okay. Oh this is disappointing for that moment but I I still maintain that uh that and it’s funny out of the um out of the the couples I’ve met that have been allowed to marriage since 2017 a lot of them um kind of like uh the teenager who finally leaves home and buys a big tin of Milo because you know he can finally book and finally eat all the Milo I want take that mum and dad kind of the same way with their wedding they’re like aha I’m finally gonna get that traditional wedding that you guys have been holding back from me and so no like just make our numbers say half would be like that and half would be like oh cool like we are we are we’re fresh blood we’re like we’re like a new kind of a new cutting from the tree we’ll do something innovative and unique and special so it’s a cool time to be working. Yeah definitely I think so too yeah. So how did you find the study? Okay so oh it was epic really epic but wonderful uh okay so um you know some parts of it were dry for me I enjoy the practical side more than the theory side but you know it’s still amazing and you need to learn it uh so the assessments in the beginning it was really good learning I really enjoyed it um it was a lot to get through but valuable and I think one of the best parts was sort of learning later when you are a celebrant that you’ve got so much material to read from you don’t have to memorize everything it’s important to learn it as you’re learning but later on you’ve got the guidelines you’ve got the marriage act you’ve got so much to look back on and always get the information from so it’s going to be okay you know you feel at the time like oh my gosh you’re so much info how am I going to remember all this you don’t have to remember it all but you need to know the essentials um absolutely it’s definitely going yeah and it was wonderful to really learn it because I think there’s been a fair few celebrants that maybe didn’t get as detailed training and felt very unequipped and I feel like I got so much detail so much great information so much support better than many others and I feel very grateful for that uh and it continues after I mean you can stay with you guys with the celebrant institute um you know posts and everything there’s so much info still and support there I think so if you did if you do it through the pdf you’ve obviously got access to those pdfs and those documents forever because yeah I’m assuming they’re in your drop box categorized they’re very handy yeah but but then if you’ve done the um uh it must be the start of 2022 30 years or more together uh but yeah we have to add to a very online course and the same thing you can still access that forever so if you if you do the course today and yeah you become authorized tomorrow um uh you still go back and access that forever which is really really helpful because that certainly wasn’t the case when I became a celebrant yeah there’s so many templates that I use all the time you know because there’s so much you need I mean you’re doing welcome letters you’re doing all these sort of follow-up things there’s just you never know what’s going to be thrown at you and I feel like I can always find something in there that will help me uh yeah it’s been really really great actually um and just the basics of even invoices and receipts and all all that it’s helpful to sort of see examples and you change it and do your own thing with it but you feel like you’ve got everything you need to start and then you go out from there with your own you know branding or whatever on it but um yeah it’s been awesome I love that I’m really happy that that’s there yeah were you the kind of person who thought that the course couldn’t have been as big um as as it was made out to be no I thought it was going to be pretty big um because I did ring around quite a few celebrants beforehand ones that I thought looked amazing and asked them what they recommended for the training and they said you guys which is why I did it oh that’s so good and um and I read reviews and I sort of did a bit of research and I saw that it was much more detailed than the other ones and that’s what I wanted so although it is a lot um it’s worth it I think so yeah I kind of knew it was going to be a lot but um maybe not to the extent but that’s okay it’s it’s a big undertaking so you’ve got to be serious about it but it’s really valuable how long did it take the um the Attorney General’s office to to uh process your paperwork the full three months to me the full three months the stories I’m hearing these days it takes the full three months give or take a day yeah I would say so yeah it was a wait um that’s okay because I was still preparing a lot of things and um yeah I think I needed a little breather maybe after everything so it was it was kind of okay for me I didn’t mind yeah and you know I also have a work life where I work four days a week and I do my celebrancy on one day a week and then you know when I do other bits and pieces as well so I fit it in with my life it’s um with my other job so I kind of go at my own pace with everything um yeah so that’s okay for me you’ve already talked a little bit about um how you hoped to bring yourself to market uh but I you know you’ve been a celebrant for a few few hours now how have you found how have you found that process uh coming to market uh you know web social directories etc that kind of thing it’s been a real learning process uh learning about seo was a big thing that I’ve been researching and learning and at first I couldn’t even find in a google search once I first started and had my website up it wasn’t popping up it took a fair bit of work to get that to happen and I pretty much did ads on you know you do google business um instagram facebook uh starting to really pump that and that really started to get things happening and actually get some movement and people to actually find my website and then going through and making the searches of what people you know what you’ve chosen for the search is more specific because first it was melbourne celebrant I’m not in melbourne and I don’t want to waste my money on what I’ve been for the ads being melbourne based uh so just refining things so you’re getting better value for your money are the ads really reflect you and it just started to happen more and more and also on facebook I really have used that a lot facebook wedding groups and for me the lgbtq balorak group because people post up there and say does anyone know an inclusive celebrant and I’m on there straight away um chatting to them and sending my link so yeah that’s kind of how I’ve been growing it and I’ve got many more ideas it’s you know it’s early in the baby stage is still and I’m always delighted when someone contacts me it’s very exciting you go oh it’s working um yeah but there’s more and more and I’m going actually tomorrow night I’m going to a wedding industry ball in balorak and I’ve been going to expos I wasn’t uh registered in time to have a stall but I still went to a wedding expo near me and had a chat to celebrants and they were wonderful in balorak area and they will give me the contact and said let’s hang out let’s connect um let’s talk about ideas and we’re happy to give you guidance as well it’s been really welcoming so I think also at the ball it’s going to be nice to connect with other vendors and suppliers just to so everyone kind of see each other’s faces and then when you do cross paths you’ve got some familiarity so um networking in that way is helpful too hopefully for referrals down the future yeah so and I just got magnets for my car with my business logo got the business cards made and um yeah I’ve got other plans to join some expos as well and things like that so things in the works and getting photos getting photos done so you can put things on instagram and facebook you got to do all that stuff yeah and learning how to actually post things and do it well or getting better as you go well I hope that um that the celebrants are cheap not just the training through the RCA but the membership would be a blessing to you with that stuff as well because that’s uh obviously that’s the kind of stuff we’re passionate about and we’re posting that all the time and um of course you can always jump on the ask page as well and if we can um help us find more particular uh with with that said I um I wanted to wrap up the podcast uh with with with uh one final question uh or like what have you found the toughest across the entire journey from wanting to come a celebrant to today you know it was um like choosing uh where to study the study the application come into market what’s been the biggest struggle for you when I got my first wedding and then they cancelled that was I’m sorry that was a real hard one so I haven’t done a wedding yet but I have some booked now which is great for you know next year or further in the year um and I was so excited when I had my first wedding booked and then they and they paid their booking fee and you know we started doing the norm and all that but then they cancelled um so that was a real disappointment and then it was like dead silence for about a month and um that was a real challenge but it got me motivated and I went all right well I’m not doing something right here I’m not being seen enough okay I didn’t work with them but I’m gonna keep going and and then I did get another booking um once I really pumped up the advertising so yeah I had a bit of a downtime then where I felt really disappointed because it was like a high and then a low but I went you know you feel your little sads and you eat lots of chocolate that day and have a bit of a Netflix day and then you go all right well come on let’s just keep going how am I gonna how am I gonna up this so that I actually get out there and it gets bumping so yeah yeah I’d say because I was just so over overjoyed to have a booking like it was mind-blowing um yeah it was really disappointing but yeah it was a real growth experience after that I think yeah so it’s kind of helpful in its own way and you do get ghosted and you get so close sometimes and it doesn’t happen and then it and then when it does and it’s all solid and it’s happening it’s it’s really wonderful so you know you have you have your ups and downs with um starting out I think yeah absolutely no it’s all part of the journey I’m writing a book at the moment called the rebels gods getting married and I uh I mentioned in there when when we’re talking about contacting vendors just hit reply and let people know because I know you might be contacting 30 vendors but for the vendor you might be the one person that that in quiet today and we’re human and we love to hear from you we love to hear feedback or whatever it might be because uh don’t leave us hanging let’s say it sucks when it goes you hey it’s been a pleasure to uh talk to you today I wish you all the best on your celibate journey and I look forward to looking forward to seeing you grow and grow and grow and thanks for choosing the celibate institute to study with oh thank you you guys were wonderful and that’s why I did the interview because you know gratitude and really appreciate the lovely work you’ve done so pleasure pleasure chatting you.

Marriage law reform and change in 2024

Marriage law reform and change in 2024

Rounding out my 2024 prediction series of blog posts we know for sure that change is on the horizon for the old Marriage Act of 1961.

This article is going to be simple so the point is made clearly. Clear is kind I heard someone say this week, so this article, written on the first day of 2024 will be kind.

Weddings are getting smaller and more intentional

Weddings are getting smaller and more intentional

I am excited to forecast that 2024 will be hailed as the year of the intentional wedding. This is a shift that has been brewing for a while but is now taking center stage. It’s a trend that aligns perfectly with our ethos at the Celebrant Institute – the belief in creating meaningful, memorable experiences that resonate deeply with our couples and their guests.

Less is More: The Intentional Guest List

This year, we’re seeing a move away from the ‘big fat wedding’ to a more curated, intimate affair. Couples are choosing to have fewer guests, but better guests. This means trimming the guest list to include only those who truly matter – family members who have been integral to their lives, friends who have shared in their journey, and people who will actively contribute to the joy and significance of the day. This intentional guest list creates an atmosphere of love, warmth, and genuine celebration.

Prices are going up: 2024 is the year for your price to go up

Prices are going up: 2024 is the year for your price to go up

As wedding celebrants, we’ve weathered the storm of the pandemic, continuing to offer our cherished services amidst unprecedented challenges. However, it’s time to acknowledge a critical aspect of our business that many of us have overlooked since before the pandemic: our pricing structure.

The year 2024 marks a pivotal moment for us to reassess and realign our service fees with the current economic landscape.

Red-team your celebrant business

Red-team your celebrant business

With new celebrants entering the market every month, your marketing, sales, enquiry, and booking process need as much attention as your ceremony production and delivery do. I want to introduce the concept of red-teaming to your business.

You’ve probably heard of mystery shopping, and many of us have done it at some time to find out what others are charging or offering.

AI can allow you to express yourself meaningfully

AI can allow you to express yourself meaningfully

In the evolving world of wedding planning, the role of a celebrant is continually transforming. Today’s celebrants are not just facilitators of a ceremony; they are storytellers, advisors, and now, thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI), they are becoming content creators. AI is revolutionising the way celebrants like you can share your expertise, create engaging content, and connect with your audience in ways that were previously inaccessible due to skill or time constraints.

The Michael Darius Example: A Beacon of AI’s Potential

Michael Darius, a former Apple designer, serves as a prime example of how AI can bridge gaps in skill sets. Darius had a wealth of experiences and stories from his time at Apple, but he lacked confidence in his writing abilities to share these insights. With the advent of AI, Darius found a way to translate his thoughts and experiences into compelling content, reaching an audience that benefits from his unique perspective.

The rise of the expert and the death of “whatever you want”

The rise of the expert and the death of “whatever you want”

Go to any wedding celebrant’s website and there’s a 50% chance that somewhere on the front page they’ll say something like “your wedding your way” which is lovely and kind. Of course, the customer is always right as Harry Gordon Selfridge taught us, but the customer doesn’t always know what they want.

In 2024, the wedding client is looking for an expert, someone who can understand the client’s needs and deliver a product for them.

Social networking is getting small while social media is going big time

Social networking is getting small while social media is going big time

The digital era is witnessing a significant transformation in how we connect, communicate, and consume content. In the realm of social networking and media, a paradigm shift is underway. Traditional social networking is increasingly migrating to more intimate spaces like group chats, private forums, email groups, and platforms such as Discord.

Meanwhile, social media is evolving into a broadcast medium akin to television and radio. For Australian wedding celebrants, understanding and adapting to these changes is crucial for building community and effectively marketing our services.

Blogging is coming back!

Blogging is coming back!

In 1997 the term “web log” was shortened to blog and ever since common people like you and I have had the power to write and publish on the internet. For the longest time it was the only way you shared your mission, your life, your opinion, your story.

“Not only are bloggers suckers for the remarkable, so are the people who read blogs.” – Seth Godin


How to Celebrate and Not Hyperventilate with Megan

How to Celebrate and Not Hyperventilate with Megan

Embark on a celebrant’s journey with Megan Studman and Josh Withers in the Celebrant Talk Show! From certification to conducting her first wedding, Megan’s story is a fascinating dive into the world of celebrancy. Learn about the challenges and joys of becoming a celebrant, how to stay motivated through the course, and what it takes to create ceremonies that truly resonate. This episode is a treasure trove of insights for anyone interested in the art of celebrancy, seasoned professionals, and newcomers alike. Tune in and be inspired!

In this engaging episode of the Celebrant Talk Show, host Josh Withers takes us through an insightful conversation with Megan, a new celebrant who has recently completed her certification with the Celebrant Institute. Megan talks about her journey, from her initial decision to become a celebrant during Melbourne’s lockdowns to the completion of her Certificate 4 in Celebrancy. She shares the challenges and triumphs she faced, including the nerve-wracking wait for her registration from the Attorney General’s Department and the excitement of conducting her first wedding.

Listeners will find valuable advice on navigating the overwhelm of starting the course, the importance of having a study buddy, and the practical steps to entering the celebrant market. Megan candidly discusses her aspirations, her approach to creating personal and meaningful ceremonies, and the importance of finding her unique voice in the industry. The episode provides a real-world perspective on the celebrant’s journey, offering encouragement and practical tips for both new and experienced celebrants.


[MUSIC PLAYING] You’re listening to the Celebrant Talk Show with me, Josh Withers. I’m your host today. And we’re on a series talking to new, fresh, fresh out of the gate celebrants that have done a Certificate Four in Celebrancy. And if you’re new to the game, as in, you’ll think about becoming a celebrant, that’s the qualification you need to get to become a celebrant in the Commonwealth of Australia. And so please enjoy their journey. Figure out what the course is like and how to become a celebrant. And if you already are a celebrant, I hope that these conversations are encouraging for you. You can learn a little bit more from someone who’s walked through the gates a lot longer after you have. To find more episodes, go to Of course, this podcast is produced by the Celebrant Institute. We provide help mentoring support for celebrants through our membership program. Plus, we also provide the certificate for in celebrancy through the Celebrant Institute RTO. And all of that can be found on the website, [MUSIC PLAYING] My name is Megan. I completed my certificate for with the Celebrant Institute at the end of last year, so the end of 2022. And about a month ago, I finally received my registration from Attorney General’s Department. So I’m fresh. I’m brand newbie out in the real world. Fresh off the block. Yeah, exactly. They sent me out into the wide world, allowing me to sell nice people’s marriages against all odds. So yes, I’m a newbie. I remember getting that letter. Actually, question, because it’s funny. I’ve talked to a few people about this, and I’ve assumed– is it an email now, or do you still get the letter? It’s an email. Yeah, I thought so. And funnily enough, I was hoping to do– so I had said I would do my first wedding for a friend I went to school with, with a huge disclaimer that at the time I agreed to do it, I was not actually qualified. But Attorney General’s had given me enough confidence to believe that I would get it in time. And I followed up, and followed up, and followed up. And then it was literally the afternoon of the exact day, almost three months later, that I received that email from them. I don’t know. So they told me not to follow up before three months, and it was three months to the day that came through on an email. It’s interesting you say that, because quite a few people have reported it as being like, give or take a day or three. It’s been dead on three months. I feel that’s just their thing today. I feel like it just must be a peak bureaucracy in action. And I say that with affection, being a camberen and a former public servant. I know how these things work, but they’ve got their dates that they’re going to process things and review them and send it out to people, and there’s no rushing that. So that was– it was a painstaking wait, because I then received that email from Attorney General’s office 10 days before my friend’s wedding that I was going to be celebrating at. So it was a very happy day, and I was very glad to be able to do my first wedding a couple of weeks ago, which was great. I’m really happy for you. Congratulations. And what I was going to say is I remember getting the letter, which was, back in my day, you got letters in the mail. But I felt the same way I felt when they handed me my newborn daughter, and they’re like, yeah, just– you’re a parent now. Just go on. Go on, get out there. It was a little bit like that being a celebrator. You’re a celebrator now. Just go on. You can do it, mate. Go on, get out there. Well, I can’t quite relate to being sent home the newborn, but it’s definitely up there the time I went to pick up a new puppy, and they just let me drive off with her. And I thought– and I remember just looking at it, we were just sitting in the car looking at each other, like, what do we do now? I guess we just go home and do this thing together. It was a bit like that, actually, and especially showing up to my first wedding. But I did feel– I felt like the trading kicked in as corny as that sounds. I do feel really prepared. Yeah. That’s the goal, right? Exactly. Exactly. Who would have thought that almost two years, which is what I turned my daddy into, who would have thought I learned some things along the way? Yes. That turned out to be useful. Well, let’s start at the start then. Why become a celebrator? There’s a million good careers listed on Chat GPT. You chose celebrant as something you wanted two words to get involved in. Why? What was your genesis story? I guess there’s not one particular reason or moment that I decided to do it. It’s something that I’ve had in the back of my head for a long time. And I’d spoken to friends when they were getting married and gotten excited. I’ve always loved being part of friends’ weddings and being bridesmaid and being an emcee before. And always thought it would be very cool to be a celebrant, but not something I ever got around to looking into. And so being here in Melbourne in our extensive lockdowns was what actually prompted me to finally take the plunge. I had a lot of time up my sleeve. And I wanted to feel like I was using the time to do something productive. So I did a bit of quick bit of online research. I wouldn’t say it was extensive, but I came across Celebrant Institute. And I saw that they were delivering fully online and self-paced, which meant I could do it around my full-time job. I could do it in my own time. And I thought, it can’t be that hard. I’ll just give it a go. I feel like– Famous last words. I know. Can’t be that hard. I know. And if I send this recording to my mum one day, she’ll be laughing because she’s helped me a lot. And it’s been throughout this thing kept keep me on track many times when I wanted to give up throughout the study process. But I think more than anything, it was just a fun and creative outlet alongside my 9 to 5 job. I think my personality and temperament is well suited to it. I love hearing about people’s relationships and why they work and what makes them unique. I like drinking their champagne at weddings as well. So there was a little bit of that too. But it just felt like something I could basically get started is something I could just use my– and I would have felt like I’ve accomplished something, something that I’ve always had in the back of my mind as well. I didn’t quite envisage it would take me two years to do it. But that was what I was thinking at the time of taking the plunge and starting my certificate form. And you’ve already mentioned that maybe your expectations of the course were different to the reality. What’s your advice for someone getting into it today? I would say if you feel overwhelmed initially, don’t be scared off by that. I feel like that’s part of the process. The overwhelm is inevitable. So push through that. And secondly, buddy up with somebody else who’s studying. They don’t have to be in the same city. But just to feel like there’s somebody you can ask or even just study together over Zoom or meet up with, have coffee, ask you little questions with. Just someone to feel like you’re on the journey with them. Because I think studying can be quite an isolating process without that, particularly doing an online course. Or I would say those two things. Don’t be put off by the initial overwhelm and buddy up with somebody who’s on a similar journey. Those are the two things that really helped me. Having done the course and received your registration, what’s your plan? What’s your go-to-market plan? Is it going to be something you keep in your back pocket? Are you planning to take over the world? What’s the plan for you as a celebrant? Initially, maybe somewhere in between. It’s something I haven’t really proactively started looking into building a website or marketing or anything at all like that. I’ve got my first wedding under my belt. And I’m doing another one for some friends later this year. And I think once I get those two under my belt, I might feel a bit more confident in being a little bit more proactive. I always said I wanted to do it just for family and friends to friends and people I have a connection to. But I do foresee myself enjoying it so much that I’d like to find a way to do more of it. Because I think it’s one of those professions, the more you do, the better you get at it as well. So in the meantime, I still have my 9 to 5 job. And that won’t change. But if there’s a way I can add more of this lovely creative outlet and being a part of people’s special days in the future, I’m definitely going to pursue that. But I just want to get a first couple under my belt, get a bit of confidence from that, and then see how I feel. Because you’ve got to test the waters a little bit. I always like to ask people what their differentiator is, what their point of difference is. And I’ll ask you– I put a pin in there for a second. But there’s also the fact that I remember my first– I would say I didn’t really know who I was as a celebrant until late 2013. And I was authorized in May 2009. So that’s four years in the wilderness there, trying to figure out what am I good at, what are my strengths, what are my weaknesses, what do people care about. For example, a lot of celebrants get really up in the wedding industry game and with other celebrants and having celebrities. And please do all that. But there’s not a couple on the planet that cares so many celebrant friends you have. It’s their wedding. And so there’s that time that is required to figure out how do you matter to people. So as I said, I was going to ask, do you feel you’ve got a differentiator or something unique? But then also reflecting on that, how do you see yourself and your celebrants practice– celebrancy practice are mattering to people? That is an excellent question and maybe something I should have put more thought in before attempting to answer. Honestly, I don’t know because I know there’s so many incredible celebrants out there who’ve nailed their niche. And I followed them on Instagram for a long time. And I think I really aspire to be that honed and they so clearly know their audience. I haven’t really thought about who my audience is beyond people I know, to be honest, friends or friends or friends or family. I think going forward and what really sparks joy– sorry to use that phrase for me– is feeling like I can deliver a ceremony that genuinely represents who the couple are. And I genuinely have a connection with them. They’re people that I could have a drink with or have a great chat with, whether we’re talking about planning their wedding or not. So finding a genuine connection with a couple well before the wedding day is something I would like to become very good at, I think. I’m sure celebrants probably say that. But in terms of my differentiator, you might need to give me some time for that one, Josh. Well, you can have all of them in the world. Luckily, myself and no one else was pushing you into the marketplace. But yeah, it’s good to start thinking about that. And as you’ve already identified, wedding after wedding after wedding, that’ll become much more clear. I like you’re going to have times when you– I don’t wish this upon you. It’s just a simple fact of being human on the planet. But you’re probably going to screw something up, so– Oh, I’m sure I already have plenty of time. Yeah. But those things are such a beautiful opportunity. When you get that feedback from the couple, like, hey, you’re screwed up. And at that time, it’s such a good opportunity to be humble and kind, but also go like, oh, wow, this is a really good learning moment for me to do X, Y, and Z better, or don’t do A, B, and C, or whatever it might be. Yeah, I think it is. I’m so– yeah, absolutely. And I think I’m really open to– I think the nature of the course as well made me open to feedback and seeing that as invaluable little nuggets that I should be getting– taking from each couple and each experience to learn and grow, hopefully. That’s the plan anyway. I know you’re fresh into celebrancy. Your email is still drying. I think– does that analogy work? Yes. I think it does. I wanted to seek your final feedback as part of this interview to just– there’s so many different places that offer the cert for celebrancy. And there’s different ways of doing it. As someone who’s graduated, done it, what’s your feedback on the Celebrant Institute RTO and studying online? I would say I feel– I found it a challenging experience, probably only because I was in lockdown and I was doing it online, self-paced and in isolation. And I think I’m somebody who works generally, tends to get energy from working more in a team and with people. But I couldn’t change the nature of not being able to go and meet up with people at the time. And I’m grateful that I still could pursue the certificate for in that time. I think coming out– so I had plenty of moments where I felt like it was far more work than I bargained for. And I know that’s not necessarily the Celebrant Institute. That’s the requirements of the Attorney General’s office. And I wanted to– and I probably would have thrown in the towel plenty of times if it wasn’t for my friends and family who I’d already roped in had been on the journey with me because I talked about it all the time, encouraging me to continue. But now I’m on the other side of it, and hindsight’s a great thing. I do feel– I came out feeling really, really prepared. Like I found that even when couples were– not couples, there’s only been one– asking me questions, like I was– and I was sort of sitting across them and expected to answer with some authority. Even though I’d never, ever done it in real life before, I felt like I had enough experience from studying, that I could come up with an answer. And I didn’t feel– and I’d done it so many times through all those practical assessments that I surprised myself by how well prepared I felt when I stood up there in front of my first– for my first wedding. So despite it, it was challenging. And I found sometimes some of the feedback I got challenged me and it was pedantic. But you almost can see now on the other side of it why it was like that, and I’m grateful. I’m really grateful for the support of the trainers and, in particular, Tanya, who always took the time to explain things to me as we went along and cheered me on. It was a really, really good learning experience. Now I’m on the other side of it. I’m just not someone who’s ever really– I made uni much harder for myself than I needed to. But I’m really glad I’m on the other side of it. And I definitely feel– and I definitely felt prepared when I stood up there in front of my first wedding. So I guess I can’t ask for anything more than that. Well, I’m so glad that you got through the process. I know one of our stresses with the Cert 4, just with any kind of adult education, Cert 3, 4– it’s not Cert 5, but onwards, is a lot of people– a lot of people start and don’t finish. And so we’ve gone to great lengths to make sure people finish. And sometimes that means saying no early on. Well, it’s not necessarily no, but just really say, hey, this isn’t easy. And so if you’re not committed, then don’t start. We would rather you not do it and not pay, then start, pay, and not finish it. So congratulations on finishing. Congratulations on becoming a celebrant. And best of luck on your journey. Thank you so much, Josh. I really, really appreciate it. Lovely to talk to you. We’d see you talking to your voice. You’re so familiar to me. And now I’m actually speaking to you. It’s weird. But anyway, thank you so much, Josh. I really appreciate it. And lovely to talk to you.

From Dietitian to ‘I Do’s, a new celebrant’s story

From Dietitian to ‘I Do’s, a new celebrant’s story

In this episode of the Celebrant Talk Show, Josh Withers interviews Amy McNeilly, a recent graduate from the Celebrant Institute. Amy, who works as a clinical dietician, pursued celebrancy to engage more with people, inspired by a celebrant she admired.

The training was challenging, especially during the pandemic, taking two years to complete. She emphasises the role’s complexity and the importance of personalising ceremonies.

Her initial celebrant work began with friends’ weddings, and she plans to develop a more structured marketing strategy.

Or listen on the website

Transcription: G’day, welcome to another episode of the Celebrant Talk Show. My name is Josh Withers, I’m your host for today’s episode. And this podcast is produced by the Celebrant Institute, our website, We’re a membership program for celebrants to help you guys be the best you can be. Plus, we’ve got the Celebrant Institute RTO, where we train up new and aspiring celebrants with the qualification required to become a celebrant in Australia. And today you’re hearing another one of the series of our recent graduates talking to them about what it was like to do the course and of course become a celebrant. So please be inspired by today’s episode and hopefully you can take something away to make your celebrancy practice the best in the world. To find other episodes of the podcast, go to and of course, for the full website membership, about the information about the search for a celebrancy, you can go to

My name’s Amy. I am from Melbourne, Victoria, and I first became a celebrant. I got qualified in July of 2021. – Why on earth did you become a celebrant? There’s a million jobs out there. You could have been a surgeon, a vet. Why did you become a celebrant? – Absolutely. Well, that’s a great question, Josh. Absolutely. I actually already have another career. So by weekday, generally I’m a clinical dietician, one of the major hospitals in Melbourne, but I’ve done that career for over a decade. And as happens, when you’re sent to become more senior in a career, you get to do less of the fun stuff and more of the boring stuff. So when I was a baby dietician, I used to do awesome things like run groups and take people to supermarkets and really get to know my clients or consumers or however we wanna put the people who use our services. But the more senior I became, the less I did that. And so I’m someone also who really loves people. So in terms of, I really like to know their story to the point that I have to stop myself from really delving into a really deep conversation with people on the first meeting or two. And so I was thinking about what puts my skills of loving people, getting to know their stories, but also having a bit more fun in a job. And it had been something I’d thrown around years prior to that, as lots of people do around the time they get married, but thought, no, no, no, no, celebrancy, not the one. But at that point in time, it really felt like the right thing to do. So I signed up in, I think it was the March of 2019 and started there, Cert 4 in May 2019. And so that actually took me quite a while to finish, as I’m sure you can imagine, it’s supposed to go for about a year, but my year melded into the first year of the pandemic. And so lots of things got pushed back. So it took about two years to complete, but it definitely feels the brief of why I became a celebrant. – Things got pushed back during the pandemic.

I desperately wanna know more about this. Please. (laughs) – Yeah, absolutely. So the Cert 4 that I did, as I’m sure with any organization, it involves some theory, some face-to-face learning, some online self-paced learning, but also the major assessments being the performances. So you’re given a scenario of a certain couple and something happening, and you need to write their script and go through the process you would go through as a celebrant, but you have to film these. And so obviously we weren’t allowed at a point in time to actually see anyone apart from the people in our house. And as we know, there needs to be at least five people present to make a marriage legal. So the celebrant, the couple, and their two witnesses. So a lot of my assessments, I wasn’t able to do at certain points in the pandemic, because I wasn’t actually allowed to have people in my physical space. When we were allowed to have at least five people together, I did lots and lots of these during my catch-ups with my friends. I’m sure that’s not what they wanted to do in their first moments of freedom. And then the real sticking point for me was we had to do a ceremony in front of about 20 to 30 people. And so that one took quite a long time to build up to being allowed to have enough people available to finish that assessment. So that’s what pushed me back, Josh.

It’s been an interesting couple of years, hasn’t it? – Absolutely. – ‘Cause I do wanna talk about starting as a celebrant at that time, but I just wanna backtrack a little bit to that point where you decided you wanted to become a celebrant. And two quick questions around that. It’s not the first career choice for everyone. In Australia, there’s about 10,000 celebrants. It’s not a popular career. It’s not something that kind of everyone, like, yeah, little kids aren’t growing up wanting to become a celebrant. So had you seen someone, had someone inspired you, had you gone to a wedding and thought they were great, or gone to a wedding and thought they were terrible? And then secondly, like, you make the decision to become a celebrant. Like, what did you do? You call 1-800-SELIPANT? Like, what did you kind of, what action did you take to figure out how to do that? – I was inspired by someone, actually, someone who was fantastic. So I think it would have been almost 15 years ago, I went to a wedding where Julia, I believe her surname is Dohavon, Julia’s celebrancy services was the celebrant. – Yeah, that’s Julia, she’s amazing. – She is incredible. So went to a friend’s wedding. It was one of the first weddings I’d been to by a civil celebrant. Previous to that, I’d been to religious weddings. And I just thought she brought the vibe. And I was absolutely inspired by her, so much so that about seven years later, we decided to have her for our own wedding, my husband and I. And she still stuck out to me as someone who was really, I guess, bringing a really good energy and kind of was one of the reasons that I felt like I could bring that positive energy of getting to know people and doing the fun part of the things that I was missing in my clinical career. – Can I just say, big call to think that you could be like happier and more joyful than Julia, but you know, whatever. – It is a big call, absolutely. I feel like I haven’t reached that, but I am quite a bubbly kind of girl, but she’s definitely next level. You know, something to aspire to for my whole career, I’m sure. So I, as everyone does, did a little bit of Googling to see what you had to do. Found out there was a certificate for in celebrancy and then did some inquiring around about which course I wanted to do, which organisation. I guess for me, I was acknowledging that I wanted to do most of it self-paced. I’m really someone who’s very self-motivated and organised. I didn’t want to have to go to an organisation every Saturday and take up all of that time. I wanted to be able to kind of do it in my own time in the evenings or bits here and there, even in the mornings. But I wanted to have a bit of an intensive to dump me in to really get the flow of it at first. So I came across, I think at the time in 2019, it would have been through talented training. So, which I believe now is Celebrant Institute RTO. – That’s it, yeah. – Perfect. So yeah, I did it through Sarah Ed being the trainer and I loved Sarah and her vibe. And so we did a five day intensive with her and then did self-paced for the rest of the time. And so I guess, yeah, apart from Googling and having a bit of a squeeze, I did a bit of comparison about what was gonna work for me, the timeframes and then just saw my life away and got on with it. – The course itself is much harder than most people think. But how did the course match or exceed or not match or not meet your expectations as far as becoming a celebrant? Because, and just the angle you’re not going on is that a lot of people think you’ve just got to go online and buy the license like Joey on Friends. And it’s obviously a million times different than Joey from Friends’ experience. So like, how did the course and the application process differ in your expectations? – Yeah, that’s a great question. Absolutely, so much more involved than anticipated by lots of people and people are still shocked whenever I tell them. Or even, I think the same, I’m sure everyone who is a celebrant gets this, but like, oh, surely you don’t really have to do any work to be able to deliver the ceremony, right? Whether that’s a very different vibe to if we’re gonna provide quality ceremonies, there’s a lot of work that goes into it. So I guess when I started, I believe Sarah said it should take us about 600 hours to complete the cert four. And so that gave me a really good indication of the amount of time I should be dedicating a side. I definitely don’t think it took me anywhere near that long, but it did take me a good chunk of time. Essentially I completed it over the two years. I would say I was pretty committed to it in terms of doing a good chunk every week. So a couple of hours each week over that two year period. So really, it took a lot of commitment. And I wouldn’t say, I would say to people, it’s very worth it, but you have to be very, very committed to actually getting to the end goal and wanting to do it. I think if you’re just doing it, a lot of people ask me, oh, you know, my friend, my friend’s getting married and they want me to be the celebrant. And that’s in my opinion, not the right reason to do it if you don’t wanna be doing other weddings. We can all, as celebrants, we can help other people do weddings and do the legal part. But for me, it’s the real commitment to getting to the end goal. I found some of the assessments, to be honest, quite cumbersome. That felt quite repetitive at times, but that really drilled into me the importance of getting the details right. So while at the time it was frustrating, now that I am a celebrant, all of those things come back to me pretty quickly, or even the things that I had to resubmit. If I had missed a detail, I’d never miss them now. And I haven’t had to resubmit any of my marriage paperwork since I’ve done any weddings. So I think it set me up very well, despite being a tiny bit frustrating at times. – Yeah, it’s a little bit like learning algebra or whatnot in high school. At the time, you’re like, this is so stupid. (laughs) But obviously a lot of the learning does play out in your training as a celebrant, sorry, in your career as a celebrant. On that, I find a lot of people surprised at just marriage law, marriage act stuff. Like, oh, I didn’t know the cousins could get married, or whatever it might be, in becoming a celebrant. What was your big thing? Your weird thing? Oh my gosh, you kind of came home and told your significant other that whatever, this is so weird. – I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that I felt was so weird, but I think really realizing- – You were cool with the cousins bit? – I mean, look, you already said it, so I didn’t wanna repeat it. But I think the thing that really surprised me is just how little of a ceremony is actually the legal wording. You know, that you could literally get the ceremony done in less than five minutes, and that people still go to the registry office rather than getting someone else to do it somewhere that they really wanna get married rather than the registry office, ’cause you could do a registry style wedding quite quickly. – Yeah, absolutely. It’s a, I always find that represented when I have meetings with couples and they say, “Oh, do we have to do the, where one of us submits to the other?” I’m like, “Oh, no, dude, like, none of that’s in the law. That’s just, that’s another thing.” It’s funny, it’s all those hangovers that people have. – Yeah, yeah, and I think, yeah, just all the things we expect to go along with weddings that we absolutely don’t have to do at all. I think that was the most surprising thing for me. – Okay, look, that’s such a good journey, but all of that is a little bit like when you’re flying to a destination and we do a whole flight report on which aircraft you went on and how the flight events were, which is all really cool. But the whole reason you did this was to become a celebrant. Tell me about your kind of, you go-to-market strategy. Like, you get that letter from the AGD, you’re all good, you’re rigid edge, let’s send you off to market. What does that look like for you? Because every celebrant’s kind of go-to-market strategy is different and particularly yours. I think you mentioned you were still employed like the celebrant-y, at least currently isn’t your full-time gig. Do you have a plan for it to be full-time gig? Like, what does that look like for you? – Yeah, absolutely. So I had an original plan of go-to-market, but as discussed, we were still in the middle of the pandemic, even when I got my license. So that was in, I finished the course in April, 2021. I got my license in July, 2021. And because again, I work in a hospital, my full-time role was actually much bigger than normal, working a lot more hours. And those hours I’d planned on dedicating to celebrancy, things went to the, by the wayside. And so what ended up happening is I just ended up marrying friends. And then I’d planned in 2022 to get back on board and build out my website and my socials and kind of pitch to a bit of an audience and hone that a little bit. And then I fell pregnant. So again, I did weddings for friends and friends are friends. And I really, most of mine have just been these organic from a friend or a friend of a friend referrals. So my daughter was born in August last year. And then I did my first wedding postpartum at six weeks postpartum. And so that was a bit crazy. I don’t know really how I managed to keep my eyes open at that point, but essentially she’s starting childcare in two weeks time. And so I’m gonna sit down and finally actually make my website and a bit more of a structured strategy. – And so, I know you’re still working on it, but what’s that kind of seed in your mind? Like what kind of ceremony do you wanna provide? What kind of product do you wanna provide? What kind of couple do you hope to attract? Yeah, like give us a little bit of insight into that as we wrap up the podcast today. – Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s something I need to do a fair bit more work on Josh, but I think really people who were just looking for someone’s son, bubbly, and wanting to have a bit of a good time, but also go a little bit in depth into their story. I’ve certainly had people who inquire with me who just don’t really want a bubbly person and I’m not the girl for you. I am who I am, but also I really like going in deep and getting to the crux of what makes this couple different from everyone else. And so I need to define how to find those people a little bit more, but that’s what I’m looking for. – Well, I wish you all the best about it. Certainly a profitable and exciting place to kind of start walking towards because as much as just being a celebrant is really good and it is, it’s a great gig. And if all you did in your celebratory career was just, I don’t know, whatever you could define as bad weddings, it’s still a really good day. It’s like that sticky Santa Becca cars. A bad day at golf is still better than a good day at work. It’s a little bit like whatever you could decide to find as a bad wedding, it’s still really, really bloody good. But then when you start figuring out who vibes with you, who you are, ’cause that’s obviously part of the process is you seem a little bit more self-aware than the average bear, but many of us are still figuring out who we are and what kind of service we do provide. And so when you start kind of locking in all those puzzle pieces, that’s where the real joy is because you start doing work for people who really value you and they like what you do and bing, bing, bing, you have enough of the big win. – Absolutely, yeah, that’s the sweet spot. – I mean, well, hey, thank you for spending some time with me on the podcast today. Thanks for sharing your story. Congratulations on not just doing your search for, but also becoming a point of the celebrant. I’m really passionate about encouraging new celebrants because, well, you know what? Everyone was a new celebrant one time and I hope you haven’t experienced any of this, but when I became a celebrant, there was a lot of pushback and negativity from the celebrant community. And that’s almost like there was enough, if off we’re home, if off we’re full kind of vibe. And like we’re never full because there’s people who are meant for you to marry because you provide something unique and special and there’s something you can do that I, not only can’t do, I won’t do, but it’s just not supposed to be for me. And so, congratulations, I wish you the best and thanks for sharing your story today. – Thanks so much, Josh.

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.

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! 

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.


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.

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.


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?


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.

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.

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).

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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?


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.

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.

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.

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?


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.

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.

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.


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.

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

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:

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:

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.

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.

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!



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.

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.

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:

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.

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).

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Sign in or