Alex asks:

My question is regarding communication with couples – specifically timelines.

Before I became a Celebrant I remember hearing a few off-hand remarks from a family friend and also a cousin about their Celebrants. The general feedback was that they never heard from their celebrant after booking them, had no idea what to expect (for example commented “we hadn’t heard from her in 4 months”) and both had doubts about how the day would run.

I was horrified! To me, managing expectations is super important but I also understand it may be different with each couple.

So my question is – sorry it took me a while to get there – do you have any advice on how you communicate a “timeline of events” with the couple – or can you provide an example of one? And also advice for me on ceremony writing….how soon before the wedding do you start it and if requested or preferred by the couple when do you send a first draft for them to review, and how soon before the ceremony do you “lock everything in?”

Sarah’s reply

‘m completely upfront with my couples about a timeline, in everything from my discussions with them to my emails to them.

So as an example, when they decide to go ahead and book me, the email they get with instructions to access my booking system closes with the following paragraph:

“My usual process after this is all completed is to meet with you both about three months before the ceremony to complete the legally required paperwork and start working on your ceremony, but I’m always available if you need any information or have any questions before then. I’ll be in touch later three months before your ceremony to organise our next meeting.”

And then once they’ve paid their booking fee and I’m sending out my Ceremony Builder Booklet, which is essentially the last communication they’ll receive from me before the three months before their wedding point, it closes with:

As always, please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions at all. I’ll be in touch three months before your ceremony to organise our next meeting.

So I’m always reminding them that that’s the next time they’ll hear from me.

In terms of timelines, you can find my entire process here.

Josh’s reply

I’ve talked a few times about how I view my process and business as delivering a journey, I call it my customer journey. One of the driving forces behind my journey is because I heard similar stories to your cousins. So many stories about celebrants and I desperately wanted to be better than that, so I crafted a journey that I believed would fight that vibe, and I intentionally take each couple, even friends and family, down the same path.

I won’t detail the path today, because the individual steps don’t matter in regard to your question.

The important note is that there is a journey, and you are leading the couple on that journey.

It’s about being proactive instead of reactive.

So I lay out, in super simple terms, what our relationship will look like the whole way long.

When they enquire and I’m available I’ll say something like:

I’d love to Skype or meet to talk through any questions or ideas you’ve got, and when you’re ready to book me in, ”instructions on how to book me in”.

Then when they’ve booked me in, I’ll acknowledge and thank them for inviting me into their wedding, but then say:

The next step from here is to fill out this form so I can begin preparing your notice of intent for you.

Always acknowledging their question or action, then providing a next step.

I like to think of it as a game of tennis, and my only objective is to get the ball back onto their side of the court.

Every email, phone call, text, meeting, ends with an action point, or an acknowledgement that there are no more action points, or that the next action point is 12 months away.

That’s not to say that everyone listens, but at least if I’m ever queried on it, it’s in writing that the next thing to do, was for them to do something.

As for the actual timeline, once they’ve booked me I want the following journey to take place:

  • they send me info to prepare the NOIM, this is through a form in Dubsado.
  • if we’re within 18 months of the ceremony, I’ll prepare the NOIM and email them a PDF to check for errors or corrections.
  • if we can meet in person we make a time to meet and sign the NOIM, or, I give them instructions on what to do with the NOIM
  • one to three months out from their ceremony we’ll meet to plan their ceremony
  • in the seven days before their ceremony we’ll touch base, phone, or Skype, or email if need be, to confirm final details
  • I marry them

So as we are communicating I’ve always got that timeline in my mind and even if the email isn’t about anything on that timeline, I’ll reinforce like this:

It’s totally ok to have Jason Momoa do a reading and interpretive dance at the ceremony. While I’ve got you, I’m still waiting for the information I need to prepare your notice of intent. If you can get that form filled out soon so I can get your legal paperwork prepared. Here’s a link to that form.

Always putting the ball back in their court.