A Celebrant Institute member asks:

Hi Josh and Sarah, 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? Thank you!

Sarah replied directly offering this advice:

I can tell you that I take the “I do all the talking, explain my process” approach, because that’s what works for me (most of the time). I’ve tried asking them what they want etc and haven’t found much joy; most of the couples I’ve worked with have no idea what they want until I explain to them what the possibilities are.

And I would 100% echo Sarah’s sentiments. People getting married don’t know what they want – it’s more than likely this is the first time they’ve ever planned a wedding. So I thought I could offer a more general response, along with strategy on how I book couples, that meeting being just a part of it.

Customer journey

I view the entire process as a journey – I’m actually talking about this at the Wedding Business CEO Summit this week – a customer journey, and that journey in my mind is one where my business is a slippery dip, a playground slide that exists in a playground.

The sales process starts with our potential clients finding the playground (the wedding industry) and they see all the different pieces of play equipment in the playground. They see other people playing (our social media and blogs) and they start to identify what kind of play equipment people like them play on.

Finding my slide

My marketing efforts are all about making sure the right people find my slide, and people who would not enjoy riding my slippery dip, would either never find out that it exists, or if they did find out, they would easily identify that I’m not the right slide for them.

This comes from avidly sharing on social media what I believe and what I do. I advertise or market in places where I believe that strategy can be outworked.

This is the first step in making sure people who are likely to book me, would even get in touch.

Putting a step on the slide’s ladder

As they approach my slide (view the website and social media), hopefully they’ll put that first foot on the ladder. That’s getting in touch. Each of us will manage this differently. My strategy is to offer an information pack via a secret link on my website. I do this instead of a PDF because PDF’s don’t read well on mobile and my secret page is easily updated and changed.

So they go to my contact page and request an information pack.

I reply to that contact form email with a Bonjoro video email. I’ve written an entire article about this.

That Bonjoro video email links to my information pack, which if you’re smart enough to figure out, is my domain name /information – I don’t want to link it because I don’t want Google to find it.

Taking the steps up the slide’s ladder

That information pack is actually also my booking form, and some couples actually go ahead and book me right there after being convinced that I’m the right slide/celebrant for them.

But many want to meet, and I like this as well.

I describe this part of the customer journey as climbing the ladder up to the top of the slide. When they sit on the slide ready to go down, that’s when they make the booking, sign the contract, pay the deposit.

So the next step after they’ve viewed the information pack – which goes to great lengths to communicate how I work, what that costs, and what I require from them – is to meet.

If they are willing to, and if restrictions allow, we meet at the cafe next door to my home. If that doesn’t work for them, we meet over Zoom/Facetime. People without children and an office space might use a tool like Calendly to schedule meetings. Me? I’m wrestling for spare time at any given minute, so we manually make a time – which starts with me offering two times that work for me.

The actual meeting

This is the most awkward part of being a celebrant.

It’s possibly a tense moment, people are weird and awkward, including us! So my secret sauce is to actually be what we are: a celebrant! Someone who can hold people’s attention and communicate effectively.

Before the meeting I read back over our emails so I am fresh on the who/what/when/where/why of the whole event.

Secondly, I’ve always got a weird conversation piece prepared in the vein of a first world problem – I love this part – for when they ask how I am.

Normally conversations start with “Hi! Hi! How are you? Good! How are you? Good!” So boring.

So when they ask how I am, I’ll say something along the lines of “I’m a bit rough this morning. I work up early to my toddler’s cries for mummy and daddy, got her out of bed, and went to make a coffee. I ground the beans, brewed the coffee, pulled out two cups, and bam – I’m out of milk. Day ruined!” and I’m sitting there grinning obviously joking that my day hasn’t been ruined but it breaks the ice and gets the conversation flowing.

See I firmly believe that every single marriage celebrant in Australia is duly authorised to marry people according to the law. It’s not a point of difference. And I hope that all of us help with Notice of Intended Marriage forms, and we have meetings, and we’re there to help, etc etc. Hopefully everyone has a good PA system, they answer emails, and run a good business. All the boring stuff that everyone does.

But a point of difference is how we make people feel.

How do they feel when they interact with us? When they hear us talk? When they are in our ceremony? How do we leave people feeling?

So the whole point of my meetings is to leave them feeling good.

I lead the entire meeting, it’s my job, and I’m most likely going to be much better at it than them, but the entire meeting is me asking them questions about their wedding and what they’re planning and why. Who have they booked for photography? Why did they choose such and such venue?

I demonstrate how they might feel in and after their ceremony, by making them feel heard, seen, loved, and appreciated in that first meeting.

The secret for me is to communicate all the boring technical stuff in the information pack, so I don’t have to do that in the meeting. And then the post-meeting boring stuff like a booking form, has already been given to them, and it’s in their inbox.

What if the meeting is online

I’ve offered tips on leading an online meeting before so please read that, but in particular if this is a sales meeting, a please-book-me meeting, take the lead on the conversation. Make sure your video feed is from a laptop or a a phone/camera on a tripod so it doesn’t look like you’re riding a rollercoaster. Talk slowly and clearly, and lead the conversation. Leading video meetings is a real art worth practicing. You need to account for the internet dropping out, delays, and not looking stupid. Practice with friends 🙂

Choosing to slide down the slide

Everything ahead of this moment on the customer journey is in service to this inflection point.

Am I their celebrant or not?

And here’s where I differ from many celebrants (from what I hear).

I will only follow up once – directly after that meeting.

At the end of the meeting I’ll refer them back to the information pack reminding them that if they’d like to lock me in as their celebrant they need to revisit the information pack, fill out the booking form, sign the contract online, and make their deposit.

I’ll follow up in the next 24 hours saying the same, and I leave it there. If they require multiple follow ups , I don’t want them as a client. If they think my time is so invaluable as to waste it with multiple meetings and follow ups and emails before booking, then they’re not the kind of people I want to create ceremony for.

Set boundaries in your life and your business. They lead to joy and happiness.

What about the actual slide?

Sliding down the slide while screaming “weeeeee” is the part where we create and deliver your marriage ceremony – it’s that good!

girl in pink and brown long sleeve shirt and pink pants sitting on yellow inflatable ring

Photo by Wilbur Wong on Unsplash