Tips for a first-time funeral celebrant

I get a lot of marriage celebrants contacting me after they’ve been asked to do their first funeral, asking for advice, information and templates. I thought I’d put all my tips in one place in the hopes that some of you might benefit from them!

Change of name by marriage and the NOIM

Some of you may recall this little rant I went on after the updated Guidelines were released last year: “Change of name by marriage: A party who has changed their name by marriage, and retained their previous spouse’s surname, must record that surname on...

Taking over a wedding from another celebrant

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

Dealing with nerves and stage fright

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

Witnessing the NOIM: how much information is required?

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

VIC BDM RIO: everything I know

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

Victorian BDM RIO tutorial

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

Ceremony design process

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

Vow and ring exchange logistics

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

What do I read my ceremony from?

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

Interpreters and translators

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Sarita asks: We’re away at the moment and then the couple in question head away as we get back – so the NOIM will be getting lodged in Jan, with a day to spare.  The bride is from China and all her ID is in Chinese. As long as I tell them...

When to provide documentation to couples

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Peter asks: By when in the process must we have given the required documents to the couple?I have been giving the required documents (happily ever…, code of practice, complaint info, etc.) with the engagement letter / quote, however, often...

Sighting identity documentation

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Precious asks: I have a couple that I’ve met but they forgot to bring their ID when they signed the NOIM. One of them is available tomorrow to come round with both of their ID, but do I need to see both of them at the same time I see their ID,...

Lodging marriage paperwork electronically

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT A celebrant asks: Hey there.. a question – I’ve just registered to submit ceremonies online in NSW (I am in Vic). In reading the manual, I discovered you can scan/lodge all official documents ONLINE once the ceremony is over and...

Different signatures by parties

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

Starting a business

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Linda asks: I have completed my cert 4 at last and am in the process of doing my AG application so now I am thinking about the set up of my business. I have no previous experience in this area and wondering where to start really. Should I be...

Signing and transferring a NOIM

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT A celebrant asks: When I first enrolled in my course, my Dad asked if I’d solemnise his wedding in December 2018. Of course I said I’d be thrilled if I passed and got authorised. I’ve now completed my Cert IV and applied for...

Cost to register a marriage?

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT A celebrant asks: Does each state charge different fees to submit completed marriage docs? I’ve got weddings in NSW, SA and VIC coming up and I can’t find any details on costs associated with registering the paperwork? ...

Documents translated by overseas services

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Alice asks: I’m lodging a NOIM for a couple where the bride is Japanese. She has a passport (which is in English), but Japanese passports do not include place of birth, so I’ll also have to use her birth certificate (which is in...

Correcting errors on the NOIM

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Bree asks: Some of my parties have completed their NOIMs ready for our meeting and for me to witness. I have noticed as I have gone to log them into BDM that there are certain things I am concerned about as follows:- Use of blue pen for...

Insuring your PA system

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Ella asks: I’ve purchased my PA systems and equipment because this isn’t covered under my home contents as it’s business use. Most home insurers will find a way not to pay if I did try to claim if something happened! (Previous industry...

New draft NOIM. Sarah’s thoughts

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Hopefully all registered celebrants received an email from the Attorney General’s Department on 27 September 2018, inviting feedback on a new version of the Notice of Intended Marriage. Only members have access to the full article – To...

Change of name and identity documents

Sean asks: Bride has officially changed her name. Has new birth certificate with new name on it. Her passport still has her old name on it. Can I accept her passport as photo ID for completion of NOIM? I’ve written before about what to do if the names differ on the...

Dissolving a registered relationship

Charis asks: My client has registered a relationship. She was never married but registered a relationship with BDM. They told her she could not get married until this is cancelled by them. Do I record this info anywhere? She has never been validly married so I feel as...

Sighting original documents

Josh asks: What is your best understanding of original forms of ID like passports, birth certificates, and drivers licenses being "sighted by the celebrant before the marriage is solemnised"?Can we receive a scan, or sight them over video chat, or must we the...

Co-delivering a marriage ceremony

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

Charging for travel. Sarah’s view

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

Names on the NOIM: legal change of name

Veronica asks: I have a couple that had a commitment ceremony four years ago and legally changed their names, and are now wanting to get married. What names should I use on the paperwork? What's on their birth certificate? In a word, no. When a person changes their...

Parents’ names on the NOIM. Part 2

I've written previously about listing parents' names on the NOIM, and I've had some follow up questions (from a celebrant who had totally read the first post, yay!): 1) Recently received a NOIM by email (interstate couple) where the Father is listed as 'Unknown' -...

Proof of divorce: what, when, how?

A celebrant asks: Divorce certificates. They just get me confused as to what I need to sight, how I need to sight it and what I definitely need to record. What I'd really like clarified once and for all is:-- Do I need to see the original certificate?-- If it's from a...

One month notice period: we won!

Some of you will have been following my post about the updated guidance received on the one month notice period. If you haven’t had a chance, feel free to review it before you read on.  I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that this morning at 11.40am I...

Getting your start in funerals

Mercy asks: Like you I want to create beautiful funeral ceremonies. Because I think funerals can be beautiful. An assignment in my celebrant course had me visit a local funeral director with a bunch of questions on how they work with celebrants. The funeral director I...

Finding a mentor. Sarah’s view

Jo asks: In an earlier podcasts (I think top tips for new celebrants) you talk about finding a celebrant mentor and see if you can go along to some ceremonies. I am super keen to make this happen but where do you suggest I start to find a mentor? I am not yet finished...

Names in the legal vows

Jac asks: I have a bride who no longer uses her birth name for anything except forms. Her invites use her preferred name. She has actually said it’s causing her anxiety that her birth name be used during the ceremony.   Am I right in saying that during mandatory...

Office facilities – what’s required?

Alison asks: I'm currently studying to become a marriage celebrant, but there is one thing that worries me about setting up my practice once authorised: the home office.   I currently live with flatmates in the city, so space is limited. I'm only planning on...

My ceremony writing timeline

Mercy asks: This relates to the questionnaire you send your couples. I've been doing the same, but as I'm fairly new, don't really have a system in place as to when couples need to get back to me.   When you send the questionnaire do you give your couples a...

My Ceremony Builder Booklet

Mercy asks: I'd like to know about your booklet. The idea of printing an expensive booklet seemed a bit outdated to me, given that there are so many resources online and such a diversity of options for couples these days. None of my couples so far have been interested...

The rules for commitment ceremonies

Jac asks: I have a couple coming up. They got married a year ago (pretty much for their families to have a religious ceremony). None of their friends know this though. Before getting married officially for their parents, they said they would only do it their parents'...

Parents’ names on the NOIM

Listing the parents' names on the NOIM is often a huge headache. What if one of them changed their name? Do you put their name when they were born or when the party was born? What if there's a spelling error in their name on your birth certificate? What if they go by...

Ceremonies in public spaces and copyright

Jac asks: The guidelines state that weddings are usually considered 'private in nature' and so playing music, reading poems etc is fine. The examples the guidelines list are all indoors. What if the ceremony is in a public space? Do you have to get insurance for this...