008 Social Media Challenge: Beat your own drum and testify

If someone speaks well of you, you’ve got to remember that, embed it deep into your soul, and know that you’re good at this.

And once you’ve done that you need to share that testimony

There’s a whole philosophy behind referrals and testimonies, but I’m not sharing them today, because I’m not a psychologist; I’m just a boy, standing in front a celebrant, asking them to testify! Testimonies about how you are good at what you do, and you do it in a certain way that makes a certain kind of person happy.

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How to collect wedding guest information for your own COVIDSafe requirements

Many governments are requiring people running events to collect data about who attends the event using QR codes and web forms. Your legal responsibilities regarding COVID and COVIDSafe plans are your responsibility and this article in no way communicates what you must do regarding COVID and any safety plans. But if you need to collect data about people attending a wedding or funeral you are attending, this is a quick and easy way of doing it safely and responsibly.

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How to name your celebrant business

David Placek is the branding genius behind some of the biggest names in the technology world. The words Sonos, Intel Pentium, Apple PowerBook, Blackberry, Gimlet podcasts (home of Reply All), and the Impossible burger, all came from David’s branding company, Lexicon Branding. In 2014 Placek released a book which I’d love to read – but can’t find for purchase. Luckily for me, and for you, Om Malik recapped the book in his blog recently.

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The best tablet computer for celebrants, is it the reMarkable?

For almost the past three years an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil has been my computer that left the home. I’d always loved a Mac but I predominantly left that at my desk and if I left the office for a marriage ceremony, a meeting, a photoshoot or for travel, I would take my iPad Pro.

I’ve written the story of how that’s no longer the case on my personal blog. It’s a two parter, the first part is introducing a new Apple Silicon Macbook Air which replaces my previous MacBook in speed and power, along with replacing my iPad Pro’s portability, responsiveness, and ability to run iOS apps.

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022 Social Media Challenge: You can ASCII me anything

In the beginning there was the text, and the text was good. It was all we knew. We called it ASCII, ASCII codes represent text in computers. When I first used a personal computer in 1991 “computer graphics” were mostly just text in the shape of graphics, like this was a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. And despite us inventing all of the great technologies that allow us to view videos, blogs, photos, and the rest online, in today’s challenge, we’re sticking with the original: text.

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What if Google didn’t exist?

Google, in light of legislation being introduced in Australia, has threatened to pull out of the Australian market. I’m sure they won’t, if only because they won’t walk away and leave $59 billion of income on the table and destroy the trust in their brand over a couple of dollars being paid to news organisations.

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How to get couples to book you as their celebrant

“I’ve a question about that first meeting – I’ve met a few couples, tried coming from different angles ie. Asking what they have in mind for their ceremony, how they met, build rapport, let them talk or I do most of the talking – introducing myself and how I help them with my process and system. Have not sealed the deal. What do you recommend as discussion points for the first meeting, for high chances of booking soon after?”

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Acknowledgement of Country in our weddings

First Australians have been marrying for thousands of years on the land we now call Australia. Terra Australis, the southern land, was home to people well before the Dutch or the British “discovered” it, so as much as Australian law requires us to identify that we the celebrants are authorised to marry people according to Australian law, common decency would see us acknowledge the truth of the land we stand on to create ceremony.

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Ultimate Guide to Creating Automation For Your Customer Journey

I recently spoke via video at the Wedding Business CEO Summit and spoke on the process of creating a customer journey. My talk was called There’s A Fraction Too Much Friction: Automation For Your Customer Journey. I believe this is an important and valuable topic for all wedding business people to get in their life, and I’m so glad I get to share it with Celebrant Institute members.

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When Facebook shuts you down, are you ready?

Your Facebook page, Instagram page, Google My Business account, your LinkedIn, and god forbid any of you have a Parler account, but they’re all not your property. Running your business on the back of those properties is like going to your local cafe and setting up shop at a table. Putting up a little sign with Married By John Citizen on it, and accepting meetings and enquiries there. It might be ok for the longest period of time (thanks for hosting me, Sisterhood Coffee), but at any time that business owner can ask you to leave and not come back.

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You should charge more, and here’s 10 reasons why

Mel is struggling with mapping out her pricing as a celebrant, and when she mentioned it to me I went straight to a conversation I had with my brother earlier today. He’s looking at starting a new business based on professional skills he holds, and he was looking for some guidance walking into the project. So I’ll tell you what I told him, then give you ten good reasons why you should charge more.

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“The truth is most of your followers won’t see what you share” on Instagram

Instagram has shared a post today about how and why people see what they see on Instagram. I’m not going to speculate on how much of this is smoke and mirrors, or politics, or conspiracy theories. Instead, lets take them at their word and believe what they say.

You can read the whole report here, and I’ll share some excerpts and thoughts on it below.

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Are you ready if someone tries to hack you and steal your client’s personal data

Reading the news today about the meat manufacturer that paid up $11 million in ransom to cybercriminals after having its business shutdown over a hack recently, my mind turned to celebrants.

I hold grave fears that any day now there’s going to be an Australian marriage celebrant breached by a hacker, and all of their clients’ NOIM, Marriage Certificate, Passport, Divorce, Drivers License, details will be leaked, stolen, sold.

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I’ve gone to court for cancelled covid weddings, and lived to tell the story

At the time of writing I personally have attended four court mediation sessions, and two court hearings. Theses are my stories. Dum dum. Ok, enough of the Law and Order jokes, but I am in the middle of a bunch of law suits and I figured that you, my fellow celebrants, would like to hear the stories, and hopefully you can learn from them. What follows is in no way to be considered legal advice, I am not a lawyer, and the advice given to me by my lawyer is confidential. The stories shared are personal anecdotes that would hopefully encourage you to engage with a lawyer.

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How and why you should position your speaker at a wedding

Many celebrants don’t know the science and method behind choosing where to position their speaker in a ceremony. This video will take you through the basic elements of choosing where and why and how to position your speaker, and one thing I didn’t note in the recording is that you want it up on a speaker stand at standing head height, you need those audio waves to be able to reach everyone’s ears and if the speaker is on the ground, people past the first row will be struggling.

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7 Insurances celebrants should have

A member has asked about whether the Celebrant Institute membership includes insurance. It doesn’t, and we’ll be honest with you, that’s because we reached out to a bunch of insurance brokers and insuring you lot in such a general way turned out to be so expensive and hard, that it wouldn’t be worth it for you, or for us, to offer such a broad stroke of insurance, when each of your businesses are so unique and personal.

So here’s the seven insurances I think every wedding celebrant should at least consider, and of course you need to do your own research and consider your own circumstances.

Please note that this is general information only and should not replace financial or professional insurance advice. Talk to a licensed insurance broker, business advisor or insurer for detailed advice. 

None of this information has been influenced by an outside business and we have received no payments or discounts for offering this information. 

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Three practical ways to increase your price

I’m not backwards in coming forwards about celebrants raising their price. I’ve given a number of good reasons in the past, but as lockdowns and travel bans continue to fuel the bonfire that is the state of the wedding industry today I was inspired by the idea that we, the wedding industry need not bare the burden that is wedding postponements, we are not wedding insurers, we are professional creatives. We are not wedding insurance. That’s not to diminish your want and desire to be generous and kind to your clients, be that, and more, but you are not their wedding insurance. Their wedding being postponed should not bankrupt you. So assuming you’re already ready to raise your price, if not read this, here’s three practical ways you can increase your price today.

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Questions to ask your couples for your review or testimony

Jason Fried has posted a list of questions he asks referees he calls for new employees. I read through the list and thought that it would be equally impressive to see our clients answer some or all of these questions in their reviews. Shape the questions so they serve you, but instead of asking for a plain old review, try asking your couples a question and ask them to share it as a Google, Facebook, or other form of review.

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How to record the location of a marriage ceremony on the water or in the air

Lizzie asks: “My couple is getting married on a boat in The Pittwater located on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Please advise how I best record the “at” on the docs for a wedding adrift.” The Guidelines to the Marriage Act, in relation to the place a wedding would occur, gives this poor advice: “The marriage must be registered in the state or territory where the marriage was solemnised. To meet this requirement, and possible requirements of other countries for recognition of the marriage, marriages in aircraft and ships at sea should be avoided.” I’m not going to say they’re wrong, but they’re not right. Australian authorised marriage celebrants have the authority and the ability to marry couples anywhere and at any time on any day within Australia and its territories.

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How to start taking better photos at your weddings

An element of my social media content strategy I’m quite proud of is that I’ve really worked hard at making better photos, photos that I have made – and therefore own – so that I have photos and video for my own social media channels and blog. If you’re interested in pursuing that art as well, Josh Rose has written a really good guide that I think would help you. It’s aimed at taking better holiday photos, but the advice translates directly to weddings as well.

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My secret to business success: email

Any successful endeavour requires a number of ingredients. An award winning cake recipe will have more than one ingredient, and an Olympic gold medal swimmer didn’t just swim their first lap that race.

There’s a process, there’s time, goal setting, and multiple resources being in the right place at the right time.

In the wedding industry there is so much focus on advertising and marketing, getting the enquiry, but less focus on winning that enquiry over, and worse, delivering an exemplary customer experience from woah to go.

Here at the Celebrant Institute we’ve written numerous articles about the value of creating and delivering a customer journey but today I wanted to hone in on one single aspect that apparently is really lacking in the wedding business: email.

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Why I hate wedding awards: “I am in competition with no-one”

For over five years now I’ve crusaded against wedding industry awards. I don’t like them, I don’t enter them, and I try to convince my friends and colleagues to avoid them as well.

I understand how nice it feels to be awarded number one. If you sent me an email right now that said “Josh, you are my number one celebrant” I’d probably print it out and put it on the fridge next to one of Luna’s paintings, but the truth is, I believe that wedding industry awards are unhealthy and unhelpful for the wedding industry.

And this letter from Nick Cave …

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How did I do 27 weddings in one month?

A few responses to my May 2022 email about having done 27 marriage ceremonies this month before prompted questions from celebrants across our Australian membership base and even internationally. Donna asked “how do you juggle that many” and others asked how I got that many bookings and other questions around the zone. How did I get 27 weddings in one month? Well, first of all, two of them were last-minute additions because a Celebrant Institute member got the spicy cough, and only two were fresh bookings or “new money” if you like. The rest were layovers from the two years of Covid – many couples on their third or fifth date — plus there were a handful of flood postponements as well. In the end, I’ve committed to just getting them done. That said, I’ve always operated at a high level of work in my business, and I’ve always had these words from Kevin Kelly in my mind when getting there:

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A lesson from Kobe Bryant for celebrants

Starting from zero is hard. I’ve found that creating from scratch, staring at a blank Word document, or an empty notepad, is the hardest work, like pushing a boulder uphill it requires you to muster everything inside of you. It’s a question new celebrants pose to us here at the Celebrant Institute every week: how to get started.

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You must call yourself a marriage celebrant

I’m sure that all of you have familiarised yourself with the Marriage Act of 1961, so you probably don’t have to read this, but on the off chance that Sarah Aird has schooled you, like she’s just schooled me, on some things in the Marriage Act, I thought I’d share them here. These are new changes since marriage equality was legislated. Today we’re talking about section 39G, Obligations of each marriage celebrant.

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Can AI write an original marriage ceremony?

Yes, yes artificial intelligence can write a marriage ceremony, but can it present one well?

You’ve probably read the news about OpenAI’s new GPT-3 chatbot, ChatGPT, so I won’t mansplain AI to you, but I simply wanted to share what AI thought should happen in a marriage ceremony.

The preparation for this blog post involved asking ChatGPT a few questions, and minutes later I’ve got a simple and sweet marriage ceremony prepped. I also asked ChatGPT’s big brother, DALL-E to create a featured image for this post.

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16 Ways a celebrant can end up in jail for six months

Sarah and I have been reviewing the Guidelines to the Marriage Act and one chapter caught my eye and I thought maybe you didn’t know how many things you could do that would end you up in jail for at least six months, or with “five penalty units” whatever they are.

You can find it all detailed heavily in the actual Marriage Act of 1961, but here’s the list of things a celebrant can do that could end them up in jail.

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Change your passwords

Depending on who you talk to, International Change Your Password Day is January 20 or February 1. Either way, in Australia we’ve missed both those dates, and because I’m writing this in Mexico I just saw the tweet from Fastmail reminding me.

Regardless of the “national date” consider this your reminder to change all of the important passwords in your world. In my humble opinion, all of the important passwords in your life should be changed annually.

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The difference between religious ministers and civil celebrants

Karen asks: What are the differences/similarities, restrictions and allowances between a celebrant-led wedding and a church wedding, that is, by
an ordained minister. I have noticed a lot of confusion and even ignorance about what can and can’t be done when the question of faith is raised. Can a celebrant read a biblical text, what constitutes a church and why can’t all ministers perform weddings? I am a civil celebrant who came from a faith background and I know, there are many others as well.

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I got scammed, and it’ll happen to you!

It was about 4pm in the afternoon here in Mexico and I had just emptied my inbox, a noble task in 2023, and the email came in. The email that scares me the most: my main domain name’s renewal had failed due a credit card issue. The last thing I want is for our business’s website and email to fail because the domain name renewal failed.

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16 Growth ideas for wedding celebrants

A celebrant friend was complaining to me recently about the market, we’ve all had the same conversation, either us being whined at, or us doing the whining. The truth is that we are not owed our next enquiry or booking, we need to work for it. So here’s some ideas on how to work for it how to grow your business. Take any of these ideas and deploy in an authentic and meaningful way for you.

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Chat and AI is going to change your entire business

Four points that you should take away from this article: 1) The power of the first-mover and the advantages you can take from being one. 2) Social media is both broadening and shrinking. Broadening into wider broadcast-style models like we used to know as TV and radio, and shrinking into smaller group chats like Wavelength or even iMessage/WhatsApp/Telegram/Signal groups. 3) Generative AI is a new tool for you to use to do your work. 4) AI chat is going to replace the traditional search engine.

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Start playing with generative AI

The best way to understand computers forever is that they work on a GIGO system. Garbage in, garbage out. Whatever you put in gets computed and is spat back out at you. If it’s garbage in, you get garbage out. So here are a few things you can try to get your hands dirty this week, some ways to put some garbage in and see what comes out.

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Collecting email addresses at a wedding fair with a QR code and ChatGPT

Luke emailed me yesterday as I was about to solve for myself the problem he identified: What software would you recommend to use for a marketing list? Again are there any zaps or workflows in setting up the marketing list?

Great question Luke! I’ve been toying around in this realm for a while and have regrettably landed on the most expensive solution around: Active Campaign. I’m going to show you how I created a Zapier zap to collect email addresses at a wedding fair and get ChatGPT to send each person an email instantly after they scanned the QR code and entered their email address. It was such a smooth and professional workflow, I’m really happy with it. But before I show you how I created that I want to talk about email marketing for a moment. Email marketing is amazing and horrible. It’s amazing because people who identify with you and how you roll can and will give you their email address, and you have the opportunity to bring value back to their inbox via marketing emails. It’s horrible because trying to land in someone’s actual email inbox and not their spam folder is an arduous exercise that even yours truly finds hard, and tiring, and annoying. So you’ll try the cheaper products, then you’ll try MailChimp, and the rest of them, and marketing folklore tells us that if you are serious about this you end up on Active Campaign. so that’s where I am. Whenever someone enquires with me, books with me, or if I interact with them at an open day or wedding fair, that email address heads into my Active Campaign contacts list and I try my hardest to bring them immense value and joy. Not spam. So let’s have a look at this zap to collect emails at a wedding fair.

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Embracing DMARC: A Must-Do for Celebrants

With the digital sphere becoming more integral to our work, it’s crucial we stay abreast of changes that impact how we connect with our couples and our industry. Today, I want to demystify a term that’s been floating around and is about to become even more significant: DMARC.

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