Author: Josh Withers

When you are not different even Google is against you

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

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“Ceremony writing is my least favourite part”

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

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Changing from selling to serving

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

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Ten reasons you should take credit card payments

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

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

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Moving town as a celebrant

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

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You don’t have to do everything

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

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What are your travel fees for?

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

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Will a hot outdoor wedding cook my PA system?

Sophie asks: When performing a ceremony out in the blazing sun with no undercover area nearby are either of you protecting your speaker/receivers etc from the direct sun? I’m nervous about it all overheating and thought you guys might have found a solution? I thought maybe of attaching an umbrella somehow to my stand?

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

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

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

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Which iPad and which apps do you recommend for celebrants?

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

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Comparing a Josh wedding ceremony and a Sarah ceremony

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

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When you’ve got an odd name pronunciation

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

I feel the same way about business.

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Partnering with charities? Watch out for the ACCC

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

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40 Questions To Ask Yourself Each New Year

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

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

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

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

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What are the ABIA awards? A guide for celebrants

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

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Please put the (sales) gun down!

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

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

But my advice would be to stop.

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Communicating timelines with couples

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

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A review of Wedwordy, a ceremony script creator

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

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Is there room at the top of the market?

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

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How to surprise a couple with a ceremony

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

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Why we deliver the best Cert IV in Celebrancy Australia

If you’re aspiring to be a celebrant in the near future, Sarah and I deliver the Certificate IV in Celebrancy through this very Institute. We’re lucky enough to have experienced, and to continue to experience the full breadth of celebrancy training, students contact us every day with questions their trainers and colleges are answering incorrectly or weirdly.

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Josh’s ceremony inclusions

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

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Becoming a celebrant for a side hustle

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

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

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It’s time to wean ourselves off this teat

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

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

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How to say the monitum with warmth

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

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High pitched squeak out of the speaker system

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

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How to use two Bose S1 speakers in a wedding ceremony

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

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Josh’s plan for posting on social media

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

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Three reasons your celebrant website should be secure

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

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How to be a wedding reception MC

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

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

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$6 Dollar Breakfast!

After dropping my car off to be serviced this morning I hit the local cafe strip to find a breakfast befitting of someone wanting to sit in a cafe for breakfast and a coffee while answering emails and writing blog posts.

The first cafe was offering a $6 breakfast, and without inspecting the actual offering, I knew instantly that I didn’t want a $6 breakfast. Everything in me knew that I was not a $6 breakfast person. On a morning like this I was thinking that breakfast would cost at a bare minimum $10 but probably closer to $20, and there’d be a coffee as well, a large one, so I was expecting to pay no more than say $25.

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Sally’s dilemma is our dilemma

What most clients pay Sally for—the deliverable, is that five minutes of video footage. But what Sally dreams of doing and being paid for is finding stories worth telling. It’s easier for Sally to sell the outcome—the video, than it is to market her process and the impact of her work. So, she defaults to doing what’s easy and ends up selling videos in one-minute increments to clients who don’t understand or pay for her genius. People happily pay for the tangible. But if the tangible—the logo, the report or the cup of coffee, is a fraction of the value we create, then we need to get better at selling the intangible. It’s not unusual to wake up one day and find that the work people pay us for isn’t the work we intended to do. It’s our job to fix that, by telling the right story to the right people. Is the work people pay you for the work you want to do?

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Why people hire the mediocre celebrant instead of you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Your priorities are visible

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

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Shut down the myths around getting married and hiring a celebrant

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

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

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

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Simplify your celebrancy practice

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

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

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An example of finding your ‘Almost Nobody’

In a post yesterday I described the hard work of finding your ‘Almost Nobody’. This, I argue, is your life’s work, and something that will forever be changing. A good example of me doing that work in my own business is by filtering out the ‘Everybody’ and making room for the ‘Almost Nobody’ to feel comfortable on my social media.

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How to leave a celebrant association

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

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How value is really created

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

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Talking ‘Inside Baseball’

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

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What should I do at a wedding expo?

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

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

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

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How to make a great ceremony without a rehearsal

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

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Firing a couple

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

Today she asks, “should I fire them?”

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What do celebrants legally have to say?

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

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

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

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A massive change to how marriage celebrants can sight ID

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

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

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

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Do you really want that exposure?

On a road near my house there’s a billboard that promises to expose my business to many thousands of people. A similar promise has been made by the producers of Married at First Sight and other TV shows. Everyone wants to sell us exposure. I would argue that exposure is the last thing we need.

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How do I do marriage certificates?

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

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My disappointment every car service

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

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