Jo asks:

In an earlier podcasts (I think top tips for new celebrants) you talk about finding a celebrant mentor and see if you can go along to some ceremonies.

I am super keen to make this happen but where do you suggest I start to find a mentor? I am not yet finished studying (hopefully the end of Aug) so haven’t yet signed up to a professional association. Is it best to wait till I am done and have jumped through the AG’s final hoops? If so, what do I do? Stalk a celebrant who’s style I admire? Ask some friends who have had ceremonies to refer me?

Would love some advice so I can hit the ground running and learn from the wisdom of those before me.

First up, a big thanks to Jo for listening to the podcast. I’m glad you’re enjoying it and getting something out of it!

I haven’t checked with Josh about whether or not we have different opinions on this (he’s on a mountain somewhere in New Zealand as I write this) but it’s eminently possible that we do, so I’m making this post my view, and he can post his if he has a different one!

My celebuddies

I’ve just re-listened to section in the Top Ten Tips for New Celebrants edition of the podcast where we talked about finding a buddy or a mentor (mostly so I could remind myself what the hell I was saying); for those of you who haven’t listened, I was talking about the importance, particularly early in your career, of finding an experienced celebrant who’s happy to answer your frantic questions about legal stuff, who might be prepared to refer some work your way, and who could even be kind enough to let you watch them perform some amazing ceremonies. For me, this person was Danielle Binaisse (thanks Dan!), I will be forever grateful to her for fielding my questions and being so kind to me as I started on this new career path.

I knew about three celebrants before I decided to become one; one was an old friend of my grandparents who had performed three funerals for my family (she’s still the person I call when I have a super tricky funeral question); one was a friend of my mum’s, and one was the marriage celebrant who had inspired me to become a celebrant in the first place (thanks Geoff!). But these three people were all older than me and worked very differently from the way I thought I would work. I was lucky enough that Danielle and I shared a mutual friend who introduced us; she was the first “younger” celebrant I met, someone who was a similar age to me and practised celebrancy the way I wanted to. That’s how I found my first celebrant buddy (or celebuddy, as I like to call them).

But not everyone has a friend who knows a celebrant (although you should definitely tell everyone you know what you’re doing so if they do know a celebrant, they can introduce you), so how else can a new celebrant find celebuddies? I’m happy to say Jo is on exactly the right track with her ideas.

Networking

At another point in that same podcast episode, I talked about the value of networking, and that’s how I met most of my other celebuddies; through wedding industry networking events, through meeting suppliers at expos, through celebrant association meetings, and through getting involved in wedding industry and celebrant-specific Facebook groups. Last year I went to eight wedding industry Christmas parties (yep, I’m that celebrant who will pretty much go to the opening of an envelope). I can’t stress this point enough; I estimate that within one or two degrees I’m connected to every celebrant in Melbourne, and I put that down to my focused approach to networking.

It’s paying dividends now with my training work; a lot of those celebrants I’ve met through networking over the years now attend my OPD sessions, refer me to people wanting to become celebrants, and a lot of them support me through membership of this website ๐Ÿ™‚

Follow (stalk) on social media

Following celebrants you find interesting on social media is another great way to meet celebuddies. He may not remember this, but that’s actually how I originally met Josh. I started following Josh on Facebook while I was still studying for my Cert IV in Celebrancy in mid-2013. In November that year, after I’d been registered, I went to business networking event run by local council, and I was telling someone there that I’d just become a celebrant; she said, “oh do you follow this guy called Josh? He’s from Queensland and he’s amazing at telling his story on social media.”

In January the next year, when I was exhibiting at my very first expo (where I met my closest celebuddy, the wonderful Fiona Garrivan), a couple told me they didn’t need my services because they were getting married in Queensland. So I gave them Josh’s name instead, and that evening I messaged him on Facebook saying hey, hope you don’t mind, gave this couple your details, I’m new and don’t know many people. He was so welcoming, friended me on Facebook straight away, and started adding me to various celebrant-specific Facebook groups. We chatted in those groups, we emailed a bit, and when I was heading to Brisbane in the July for work, I asked if I could buy him a coffee. Turned out he was running his very first celebrant workshop that weekend, and he invited me along. I met a bunch of amazing celebrants that weekend, some of whom I’m still in constant contact with.

Another lovely celebuddy of mine, Mez Crookes, reached out to me in this way. I’d noticed this Mez person commenting on a lot of my Insta and Facebook posts; always saying such lovely things. Then out of the blue one day she rang me, saying she’d been following me for a while, thought I looked nice, and thought she’d ring to see if I wanted to get together for a coffee and a chat. Mez is one of my favourite people now, and our lovely friendship started because she was brave enough to call someone she followed on social media and admired.

So yes, what I’m trying to say is this is a great way to meet potential celebuddies. Follow the people who look like your people. Comment on their posts, give them a few likes, even share their stuff (with credit of course) if you think it might be valuable to your followers. Engage with them and their work.

Ask for referrals

This one is such a great idea of Jo’s; ask people you know who’ve been married if they can introduce you to their celebrant. To be honest, this never even occurred to me, probably because I hadn’t been to many weddings at which celebrants had officiated. But I think it’s awesome! They’re your friends, so hopefully they like the same stuff you do, and hopefully they might have chosen someone similar to you as their celebrant. It’s an excellent start!

And then what?

So there’s a lot of ways to meet potential celebuddies. But once you’ve met them, what next? Get in touch with them!ย Offer to buy them a coffee if you can pick their brain for an hour. Get to know them. Build a relationship with them. Do this the right way, with generosity and openness in your heart (and few expectations), and you’ll have them offering to help you be the best celebrant you can be.

A word of warning: don’t just come right out and ask for stuff and expect it to be handed over (like the requests I often get of, “can you send me a bunch of ceremony scripts?” or “can you help me with this tricky legal issue?” from people I’ve never met or engaged with). As a new celebrant, naturally there isn’t much you can give in return. That’s totally fine, this type of relationship isn’t necessarily an equal sharing of knowledge or experience. What you can give is support and friendship, a coffee or two (please don’t ask someone to help you out and then make them pay for their own coffee), and the promise to pay it forward when you’re more experienced yourself.

Jo should definitely not feel she needs to leave this process until she’s a registered celebrant. I met Danielle while I was still studying, and I started following other celebrants on social media pretty early on too. Start identifying the people you might want to befriend now; building relationships takes time, so start now and once you’re registered you’ll be in a great position already. I was attending wedding expos just to have a look and get ideas in the time between doing my course and being registered, and I met at least two celebrants at those expos who I then asked out for coffee, and they’re still friends today (hi Charis and Melissa!).

There’s also no limit on celebuddies; don’t feel like you need to find ONE mentor and you’ll be set. We all do things so differently, and if you learn from only one other person you’ll be stuck in their ways. The best thing to do is to go out there and meet as many different people as you can, pick as many brains as you can, and collect as much information as you can. All of that great info will swirl around in your mind, giving you ideas to try out in your own practice as a celebrant, and you’ll have a great foundation to start from.

Good luck!