Author: Sarah Aird

Wedding rehearsals – a video

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

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

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Record keeping in an online environment

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

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

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Changing the planned date of the marriage on the NOIM

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

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

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

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Contingency/death planning for celebrants

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

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

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

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Names in the ceremony

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

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

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

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Parents’ names on the NOIM. Part 3

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

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2018 marriage and divorce statistics, 5.5% increase

The annual release of marriage and divorce statistics by the Australian Bureau of Statistics occurs every year around 27 November. Right on time, the statistics for the full calendar year 2018 were released today at 11.30am. If you’re interested you can find all the information on the ABS website.

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

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

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Getting the guests to obey you

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

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“Authority for marriage despite late notice – not applicable”

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

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Taking over a ceremony for another celebrant: legal obligations

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

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Giving the couple a copy of their NOIM

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

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The survey about OPD and the new celebrant application process

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

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Registering Australian marriages overseas

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

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Marrying in your birth name after changing your name by marriage

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

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Sharing ceremony content

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

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Taking over a wedding from another celebrant: logistics and money

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

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Dealing with nerves and stage fright

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

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Witnessing the NOIM: how much information is required?

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

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VIC BDM RIO: everything I know

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

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Victorian BDM RIO tutorial

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

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Ceremony design process

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

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Vow and ring exchange logistics

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

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What do I read my ceremony from?

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

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Interpreters and translators

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

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When to provide documentation to couples

Peter asks:

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

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

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

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

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Signing two Official Certificates of Marriage electronically

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

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Lodging marriage paperwork electronically

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

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

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

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

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Different signatures by parties

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

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Starting a business

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

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

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

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Insuring your PA system

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

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Co-delivering a marriage ceremony

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

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Charging for travel. Sarah’s view

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

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

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

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Do I need a qualified / accredited interpreter?

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

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Office facilities for civil celebrants, what’s required?

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

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Guidelines 2018: What’s changed?

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

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Personal vows and their content

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

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My ceremony writing timeline

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

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My Ceremony Builder Booklet

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

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The rules for commitment ceremonies

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

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

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

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Parents’ names on the NOIM

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

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Ceremony script writing skills. Sarah’s view

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

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

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

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Running side hustles alongside your celebrant business

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

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

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Period of residency on the NOIM

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

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

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

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