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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Maybe I’m incompetent?

The Celebrant Institute, this website, exists for celebrants who struggle with their competence. It’s ok, you’re not alone in thinking “maybe I could do better.” Marriage celebrancy is my full time job, it’s all I do, and more often than not I question how competent I am at running a business, providing for my family, performing marriage ceremonies. My encouragement to you today is that it’s ok, this is human, our brains hate us.

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The only thing you can rely on in the wedding business

This afternoon a couple got engaged and they have never heard of you, they’ve not made any decisions about their wedding, and it’s highly likely they don’t know anything about the wedding industry, how it works, what things cost, and who does what.

The only thing you can rely on in the wedding industry is that today a couple got engaged and all of your previous branding, marketing, advertising, and godowill in the market means nothing.

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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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Tax deduction ideas for celebrants

It’s every business owner’s favourite time of the year: EOFYmas! As the End Of Financial Year celebrations takeover our lives I wanted to highlight the deductions I think we celebrants should be thinking of, and if you don’t have the record of these deductions from the past financial year, maybe try and keep them for this financial year.

I hope this goes without saying, but I’m not your accountant, I’m not the Australian Tax Office, and I’m not your mum, so make sure you run these things past those guys before taking my accounting advice as gospel. If you need an accountant, I can recommend mine but I’m sure there’s 100 within cat-swinging distance of your place.

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Get testimonies that matter

Celebrants offer such a personal service, your service is very different to mine, to every other member of this website, and the thousands of other celebrants available. We can communicate our differences in text and photos on our website, through blog and social content, and by meeting people but meeting every single enquirer can become tiresome.

So, let me introduce you to a secret warrior in my sales toolkit: testimonies.

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How to protect the copyright of your ceremony scripts

Tenielle asks: Just a quick question about intellectual property of ceremony drafts. Hasn’t happened to me, but have heard of stories of celebrants issuing a draft ceremony for the clients to look over, and then that ceremony being taken by the couple to a cheaper celebrant. Don’t know how true it is, but it did get me thinking about my own Ts and Cs and about how I could best protect myself at the end of the day. Look, I know how easy it is to forward on a PDF or a Word Document and there’s stuff all we can do about it at the end of the day, but it’s just another aspect of this job that’s been on my mind a bit lately.

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In praise of the not-young celebrant

I’ll never forget my very first wedding expo, where I arrived to the convention centre so green that I didn’t realise there was an expectation that I would design a booth. So we painted a board with blackboard paint and brought it to the expo, along with the required chalk, and with minutes to go until the expo doors opened I had to think of something to write.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Pricing on websites; to list or not to list??? Josh’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.” As Sarah noted, everyone has a different answer on this, and here is mine. Don’t count this post as the final word, it’s just a brain dump on a Wednesday afternoon. I’m sure this is a topic we’ll return to over and over, and I’d invite you to list your thoughts in the comments.

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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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Five ways to make your ceremonies better

A recent Seth Godin post about presentations of the corporate/Microsoft Powerpoint kind, spurred me on to thinking about our presentation style as celebrants. My ceremony presentation style has it’s roots in a) what I’m good at and b) what I like. Yours should too, so don’t read this and feel judged or ashamed. If your style is you at your best, and in a style that you would like to receive, then be proud. Hopefully these five points might inspire you to expand your presentation style and take you out of your comfort zone, which can only make you better.

Read Seth Godin’s post first, and then I’ve got a translation for celebrants below.

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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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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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Increasing your enquiry conversion rate

A question today about enquiries and how to increase our conversion: I have a question about converting enquiries as I am finding that I get a good amount of enquiries but feel my conversion rate could be way better. Wondering what I could be doing better or is there something I am not doing? Is it the language I am using in my initial contact too passive or boring? Or maybe I am giving them too much information? I currently do not have my price on my website so I am guessing some of the enquiries I am not converting are due to that and for follow up I send out a very short follow up email to them a about a month after not hearing anything. How do I better communicate to my leads in the initial enquiry stage to “seel the deal” with me or at least book an initial catch up meeting. Would love some constructive feedback on my “first email” and “welcome letter” attachment that I send as my first contact.

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The do’s and don’ts of email marketing

A pertinent question about building and maintain an email list today: For anyone looking to follow your example of maintaining “an email list of all couples I meet at expos, fairs, open days, along with all who enquire with me” and sending them a weekly newsletter – are there any legal considerations or permission issues (opt in/opt out) we need to consider? Is it fine to just add any email address to a newsletter database or is there particular wording we need to use in sourcing those addresses for that purpose? Cheers.

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What should we do on social media? Part 1

A member asks: When chatting with celebrants recently I heard again and again that most celebrants aren’t really that interested in following the general Instagram “best practice” advice that you see on social media blogs/podcasts. Most people a) don’t want to invest the time and energy to go down the Pinterest-style heavily-curated aesthetically-pleasing path, and b) think it’s bullshit anyway. They don’t want to follow a posting schedule, they may not even post very regularly. I think most celebrants just want to post photos that they like, when they have them – but want to maximize the appeal/reach of those posts and spend the least amount of time on them. Can you share any practical little hacks to shave a few minutes and a few headaches off your posting/planning time.

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What should we do on social media? Part 2

A member asks: When chatting with celebrants recently I heard again and again that most celebrants aren’t really that interested in following the general Instagram “best practice” advice that you see on social media blogs/podcasts. Most people a) don’t want to invest the time and energy to go down the Pinterest-style heavily-curated aesthetically-pleasing path, and b) think it’s bullshit anyway. They don’t want to follow a posting schedule, they may not even post very regularly. I think most celebrants just want to post photos that they like, when they have them – but want to maximize the appeal/reach of those posts and spend the least amount of time on them. Can you share any practical little hacks to shave a few minutes and a few headaches off your posting/planning time. There’s a reason Facebook and Instagram have personal and business accounts. There’s a place for you to post what you like, and a place for you to post content that has a positive on your business.

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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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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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What should we do on social media? Part 3

A member asks: When chatting with celebrants recently I heard again and again that most celebrants aren’t really that interested in following the general Instagram “best practice” advice that you see on social media blogs/podcasts. Most people a) don’t want to invest the time and energy to go down the Pinterest-style heavily-curated aesthetically-pleasing path, and b) think it’s bullshit anyway. They don’t want to follow a posting schedule, they may not even post very regularly. I think most celebrants just want to post photos that they like, when they have them – but want to maximize the appeal/reach of those posts and spend the least amount of time on them. Can you share any practical little hacks to shave a few minutes and a few headaches off your posting/planning time.

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How to publish Facebook ads that work

I don’t know.

If there’s anything you can expect from me today and into the future is that I’m not going to talk BS. The good news is that I know as much about Facebook advertising as most marketers and advertisers do, and they don’t know either, because there is no one perfect ad that will close all the deals and make all the bookings. So as much as I don’t know how to publish Facebook ads that work, I do know how to publish Facebook ads that work for me, so I’ll take you through that process and also weave in some professional best practises and see if we can’t help you.

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Getting your financials in order

“I just did my tax and I’m very frustrated!!! I need advice on what software or system to use to make it easier. Most I see are not designed for a sole owner operator that has not registered for GST (I earn less than 75k); they seem too complicated. I know what I earn and spend this shouldn’t be so frustrating. But I never know what category to put things in. I don’t know. What do you use? I have a subscription to 17hats I thought that might help but its basically designed for America.”

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What to do about crying

“Here’s a fun one for you guys. How do you deal with crying? I’m currently studying and in my performance assignment, my “bride” burst into tears and I realised I was totally unprepared for what I imagine is a very common occurrence. Do I just hand her a tissue and keep going? Do I wait until she regains composure? Do I try cracking a joke? Do I devise a “safe” word with the couple before the ceremony? I don’t want to embarrass anyone by drawing attention to it or making them feel bad about their reactions, but I also want to make sure they have a wonderful ceremony and can be present in the moment. How do long-time pros handle the floods of emotions from the couples – crying, uncontrollable giggling, nervous twitches? I’d love to know your techniques and any other thoughts from celebrants in the comments section.”

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Celebrancy: The price

Self-employed creatives can talk about price and fee until the end of time. I’ve had celebrants privately, publicly, to my face, and behind my back, make all of the comments about why I charge too much, or not enough, and how that’s a problem, or an opportunity.

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Which directories should we advertise in?

Sarita asks: I’m a relatively new celebrant and just after some advice on the world of wedding directories. There seem to be loads. Apart from the obvious ones like easyweddings, ABIA, there’s lots of smaller ones like polka dot bride, wedding guide, celebrant society, etc etc & a huge variation on how much it costs to list with them. Have you any tips, recommendations on where to go and where not to go. I feel like I should be listing somewhere (shouldn’t I?) but where to go!

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Joining an association, Josh’s view

Jo asks: What professional association do I join? One? Two? All? I know this is tricky question and high levels of diplomacy may be required – but how does a newbie choose between the associations? My RTO has given no advice and all associations seem to offer the same or similar benefits. The good news is that you don’t have to join a celebrant association, it’s a choice you get to make. As for which association, and there’s many, you ought to look at the benefits membership brings you. As I skim the membership benefits pages of many of the associations, I see insurance being offered by many, although because of my corporate structure I have public liability insurance separately, some offer celebrant software, some offer copyright licensing, and others offer mentoring, meetings, and online forms and Facebook groups (oh so many Facebook groups), and if pushed I personally don’t see immediate benefit to many of them outside of discounted insurance.

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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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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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Calculating your fee

Liene over at Think Splendid has published a super insightful blog post about how she prices herself for her speaking gigs.

I wonder if we as celebrants have considered not only our costs of doing business expenses, living wage, the average celebrant fee, the market’s response to fees, and everything else we can talk about when it comes to pricing yourself, but have we considered this important point.

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Old marketing versus new marketing, example 503,000,091

Old marketing would put the right message in the right place so the right people would find it. The celebrant would advertise in the wedding magazine because people having weddings bought wedding magazines. The tools were at the tool shop so people who needed tools would know where to buy them. The cheap services were advertised where cheap people shopped, and expensive services were advertised where people with too much money shopped…

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Beginners guide to not getting hacked

Reading the news today I realised that after Kristy Merlino’s email and Mailchimp accounts were hacked, that Kanye West’s iPhone passcode is 00000 and that Facebook doesn’t care about your privacy – it might be possible that other people aren’t 1) as passionate about Internet privacy and security as I am, 2) and even if they were, they might not know how to protect themselves…

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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