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.

Kelly’s on to something here.

To save you digging out your copy of the Marriage Act, let me copy and paste what has to happen before a marriage is solemnised (created/began)

the authorised celebrant shall say to the parties … “I am duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages according to law. Before you are joined in marriage in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses, I am to remind you of the solemn and binding nature of the relationship into which you are now about to enter. Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” or words to that effect.

Now we’re ready for some good old fashioned marriage solemnisation. Keep an eye out for all the times that the law says you have to say “I do”:

Where a marriage is solemnised by or in the presence of an authorised celebrant … it is sufficient if each of the parties says to the other … “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/husband/spouse” or words to that effect.

And just in case anyone is confused, the Marriage Act then goes on to say:

Where a marriage has been solemnised by or in the presence of an authorised celebrant, a certificate of the marriage prepared and signed in accordance with section 50 is conclusive evidence that the marriage was solemnised in accordance with this section.

Avid readers of the Celebrant Institute already know that ultimately it is up to the celebrant to comply with all of the requirements of the Act despite how they choose to read the Guidelines.

So I’ll give you a loose Wedmnesday-night Josh-interpration of what the Act says a celebrant should say.

G’Day Cobbers, I am a marriage celebrant which means I am authorised by Australian law to marry people according to the law. As the two of you enter this marriage it’s important that you know the value and nature of the relationship into which you are now about to enter. Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. It’s the two of you, together, forever, full stop.

To go back to Kelly’s question I would say that a Commonwealth authorised marriage celebrant has to say the following in a ceremony:

  • what authority they have
  • what that means to the people getting married

Or words to that effect 😉

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.

I’ve sent BDM a LOT of emails, had several conversations with the staff, attended meetings where BDM staff have talked about RIO, and read everything I can find in other forums about the problems people are having. I thought I’d collate all the problems I’ve come across and what’s happening to address them (if anything) according to the many conversations I’ve had. I’ll update this post as things change, so you can feel assured that whenever you’re reading this, it’s currently everything I know.

Please note these questions are not generally about how to use the system; they’re about inadequacies or bugs in the system. For tutorial assistance please visit the following:

BDM tutorial website: https://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/service-partners/marriage-celebrants

My BDM RIO video tutorial: https://celebrant.institute/downloads/victorian-bdm-rio-tutorial/

Updated 15 March 2019 with information received from BDM by the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants (of which I’m a member).

BDM says: We are working to continually update our guidance material and, where practicable, make improvements to RIO reflecting user feedback. Please send your specific feedback to bdmimprovements@justice.vic.gov.au and include “MC – System improvements” in the subject line.

It would be really good if the language was consistent throughout the site: in some places we have "Notice of marriage", in others we have "Marriage notification".

I think it would make the most sense if it were called “Marriage notification” throughout; some celebrants are already confused, believing they can’t change the information in the database because we are taught that the NOIM must be correct at the time of signing and therefore not to make changes on it. Because the database entry is called Notice of Marriage in some places (and the user guide refers to the NOIM throughout), they are thinking they can’t make changes if a party moves house or changes occupation, changes that need to be reflect on the DONLIM and OCM.

BDM agrees with this and they’re working to change it.

If the date the Notice was received is less than one month before the date of the ceremony, the warning message says "date of marriage is less than '30' days from the NOIM received date". Please change this to "less than one month".

So here’s the thing. The new system doesn’t understand what a month is (which is kind of fair enough, given a lot of celebrants don’t understand it). Therefore it is set up to calculate 30 days (which is going to lead to some problems in February).

However, I have asked that the validation error wording be changed to read “one month” rather than “30 days” so that it is more accurate. They’re considering my request.

It would be really helpful to have a date picker for every time a date is required, rather than typing in the numbers.

BDM agrees and they’re working on it.

Written response from BDM: By clicking ‘on’ in the relevant field, the calendar will appear and dates can be picked.

I’ve just tested this, and none of my date fields have the word ‘on’ anywhere near them. Anyone else?

Both the NOIM and the OCM that are generated from the system are leaving out the street address of the wedding venue; it’s pulling the information from Venue or Location, Suburb and State.

This situation is fine when the venue has a name, but when the marriage is to take place on a private property, there is only a street address. “Address line 1” is the required field, so we have to complete it; in a perfect world Venue or Location would be the required field, and we would only put the address line in there.

The system should really pull the venue name, address line 1, suburb and state. I’ve just printed an OCM that says the marriage took place at Lemnos, Victoria; that’s not sufficient information.

BDM is aware of this matter and they are working to fix it so that the NOIM and OCM will pull the Venue or Location, Address Line 1, Suburb and State. For the time being, if the couple are getting married at a property that does not have a venue name, I’m putting the street address in both Venue or Location and Address Line 1.

Written response from BDM is that this has been rectified, but it’s not working for me. Is it working for anyone else?

Given there's only one option in the dropdown box for Rites Used, it would be great if the system defaulted to the Marriage Act 1961 for that question for civil celebrants.

This is never going to happen.

Apparently there are some celebrants who are registered both as civil celebrants and as celebrants for religious organisations. They therefore need to have a dropdown list that they can choose from when creating their paperwork for each marriage. There is no way to default to one choice when there are multiple choices allowed in this list.

Written response from BDM: The options that appear generally depend on those assigned at the time of registration. Some celebrants do need multiple options available. Also, missing marriage rites have been rectified; celebrants should now be able to select the correct marriage rites when completing a marriage notification. 

Some of the fields are not marked with an * to denote they are required fields, but the form still throws up an error message if they are not completed.

E.g. Mother’s Family Name, if not completed, an error message says “Family name is required”, even though there’s no * to denote it’s a required field. Required fields really need to be marked with an *

BDM is aware of this, and they’re working on it.

I presume we're to put any person's first given name in the Given Name field, and their middle name/s in the Other Given Name(s) field.

This is correct; apparently this should have been obvious, but it wasn’t to me!

Previously I had been told by BDM staff never to leave a surname field blank; if the person didn't have a family name, we should write "No Registered Surname", or they would think it was an error.

Now if I tick “this person does not have a family name” it leaves the surname field blank on the OCM when it is populated. It would be better if it filled in “No Registered Surname”.

The response to this is actually super interesting. 

First some background. It seems really weird to most people I’ve spoken to that this tickbox even exists – “who doesn’t have a family name?” It turns out there are actually lots of people who don’t have family names, particularly people from a certain area in India, and women from several South East Asian countries (Indonesia comes to mind in particular. I’ve also heard of people who have legally changed their name to only have a given name, for whatever reason. So it’s definitely a thing!

While creating this new system, BDM consulted with lots of different types of stakeholders, including people from backgrounds where they may not have a family name. These people told BDM that it was highly offensive to them to be expected to sign a document that said they had “No Registered Surname”; they said that was not their surname, that they don’t have a surname, and the field should simply be left blank. So now it is!

Occupations. There's now a list we have to select from for the parties' occupations, and it's not particularly comprehensive.

Unfortunately, this is staying the way it is. They will not be changing it back to a text field. The problem here is that we’re used to entering job titles rather than occupations. In the old system, BDM would change whatever we had entered from a job title to an occupation (unless of course we’d already entered an occupation). Because the occupation field is not printed on the official marriage certificate couples receive from BDM, no one ever knew this was happening.

The way the BDM staff member explained it at a meeting I attended in early March is that her job title is Deputy Director Operations, but her occupation is public servant. Therefore public servant needs to go on the marriage paperwork.

The occupation information is for statistical purposes only (although it seems that even that advice isn’t current; it appears that the Australian Bureau of Statistics isn’t using the occupation information in any of its marriage reporting anymore). So BDM has taken the occupations list from the ABS and uploaded it directly into RIO.

What does this mean for us in practice? It means we need to drill down a bit further when we ask our couples what they do for work, and we need to ensure their occupation is recorded, not their job title.

I have managed to get hold of the list of occupations through another celebrant colleague (thanks Naomi!). I’ll be taking the list with me to meetings and making sure the occupation the parties choose is on the list before we finalise the NOIM.

There’s over 1100 occupations on the list, and quite frankly it appears that no one at BDM read it before publishing it to the system. According to the list, parties can choose occupations including “sales lady/home duties” (yes, that is a single line), “statue”, “different things”, and “puppet”. I presume the way the list was developed originally was from occupations people have listed on their census. It also includes an awful lot of job titles. *sigh*

It is highly likely that the occupation field will be removed from all marriage documentation when the new documents are released, which MLCS is currently saying will be mid-2019. Fingers crossed.

Reference List Occupations

This is the official written response from BDM: RIO has been designed for consistency with ABS occupation list options. It does not provide for job titles to be listed, for example, by providing a ‘free text’ or ‘other’ option. Please find the most suitable option from the list provided.

Update 19 March: friend of the Celebrant Institute, Michael Pratt, has managed to secure a new version of the occupations list from BDM, and it appears some changes have been made. I’ve uploaded the new version to the link above. The response he’s had from BDM is: “BDM VIC are updating the occupation list with received requests to add new occupations”. So I think on a case by case basis they are adding new occupations if it seems there’s really nothing similar available. 

In MCO we could click a box under each party's usual place of residence to say the other party also lived there, and it would copy the address across. It would be useful if we could do that in RIO.

Advice from BDM is that it is highly unlikely that this will occur.

BDM’s written response: You can use ‘copy and paste’ to transfer details, however, entering separately does provide further assurance address details are correctly recorded for each party, especially if you are ordering a certificate when the address will be pre-populated for the party who will be receiving the certificate.

Please include West Germany in the list of countries of birth; East Germany is there, but not West. I have asked for this previously and was told it would be included in RIO.

BDM is aware of this and they’re working on it.

It is confusing having to enter the party's birth certificate details in two places: under Party 1/2's Birth Details and under Party 1/2's Identification.

I suggest removing it from the Birth Details section and leaving it only in the Identification section, as an answer to the Evidence of Date and Place of Birth question.

See response above re driver’s licence in the evidence of date and place of birth section. Apparently it has to be in both places.

It would be preferable if all of Party 1's information was together, followed by all of Party 2's information.

If we’re entering the data from identity documents it is annoying and time consuming to have to switch between documents rather than being able to complete all info re one party at the same time. I know you can click on the navigation links on the left of the page, but it would be cleaner if the information flowed down the page in this way.

BDM agrees, and they’re working on it.

Not only should all of Party 1's information together and all of Party 2's, but all of Party 1's parents' information should be together (names and countries of birth).

I’m sure it makes sense for some reason in the back end of the database to split this information, but it’s not very sensible or intuitive for data entry purposes.

BDM agrees and they’re working on it.

The current NOIM issued by the Attorney General's Office only asks for mother's maiden name, not mother's current surname.

Basically the response here is “we know you don’t have to collect it, but we’d love it if you did.” They’re trying to create as many opportunities to link up records as they can, so providing more information rather than less is their goal. 

They are happy if we put Unknown or the maiden name in the Mother’s family name field.

They will be adding the Family name at birth field for Fathers as well (they admit that it should have been there already), and they’re likely to be changing the titles to Parent 1 and Parent 2.

Written response from BDM: “We are looking into making this field non-mandatory. However, we would encourage celebrants to fill in this field as it will assist us to develop person-centred records over time that will assist individual customers accessing their records and those of family members, and genealogists.”

Why is father's country of birth and whether or not they're alive not a required field, but mother's is?

Excellent question, said BDM, the mother’s information should also be required. They’re working on it.

We should not need to enter the party's period of residence in Australia if they were born in Australia. In MCO, those fields only became live for parties born outside Australia.

BDM agrees and they’re working on it. For the time being, just put their age in years in the Years box, and put 0 in the Months box. 

A reminder that this period of residence is as at the time the NOIM was signed.

The Guidelines on the Marriage Act only require us to enter months of residence in Australia on the NOIM if the party has been here less than two years; over two years they only require the number of years.

However RIO states the month field is required. Again, we should not need to enter information that is not required by the NOIM or the AGD.

BDM is aware of this, and just like with mother’s current family name, they would like us to collect it if we remember; when building the system they worked off the NOIM, which simply asks for years and months, and they didn’t look at the Guidelines that add a nuance to the rule about not needing to record months if they’ve been here more than two years. So they would like us to record years and months of residence for all parties, regardless of how long they’ve been in Australia.

Driver’s licence should not be included in the dropdown list of documents that can be sighted for date and place of birth; licences are only to be used for confirming identity.

A lot of celebrants are extremely confused about this, because the system is so ridiculously laid out. It asks for the party’s birth certificate details at the same place as their date of birth and other information, and then it asks for evidence of date and place of birth again further down the database.

The inclusion of driver’s licence in the evidence of date and place of birth list has led some celebrants to erroneously believe that they should list the birth certificate only in the first place it’s requested, and the licence in the date and place of birth section. This is wrong.

  1. The system asks whether we’ve sighted a birth certificate, and for its document number, when we’re inputting the party’s name and date of birth and other identifying information. This is allegedly for verification purposes, although it’s not required and it doesn’t seem to do anything. However if you’ve sighted a birth certificate, pop the details in there.
  2. Further down the database, the system asks for evidence of date and place of birth, and provides a dropdown list of documents we could sight, including birth certificate, Australian and foreign passport, statutory declaration, and driver’s licence. What this question is actually asking for is the birth certificate details for a second time, or the passport details if that’s what you’ve sighted for evidence of date and place of birth.
  3. The next question asks us whether we have confirmed the party’s identity, and gives us Yes or No as options. It does not ask us to provide the details of the document we have seen to confirm the party’s identity (which is where a driver’s licence comes in). This is actually correct, because sighting a form of photo ID is only best practice as recommended by the Guidelines; the Act only requires that we are “satisfied as to the identity of the party”. So this question is asking us whether or not we are satisfied as to the identity of the party; we just click Yes and carry on.
  4. We should still record the details of the driver’s licence or whatever other form of ID we’ve seen to confirm identity on the paper NOIM.
  5. I believe the system is supposed to open up a series of boxes asking for the type of document we’ve sighted for confirmation of identity (because it does open those boxes when you note that you’ve seen a statutory declaration for date and place of birth) but it’s not working right now. So for the time being, just tick Yes that you’ve confirmed their identity, and carry on.

Written response from BDM when asked where do you key in a person’s driver’s licence details: You don’t need to – only key in details of the document you are using to evidence place and date of birth (as noted above, driver’s licence does not record place of birth and we are working towards removing this option).

The list of "reasons for statutory declaration" is completely bizarre; it pulls up a list of conjugal statuses, which is not relevant for the question of reason for a stat dec for date and place of birth.

If a reason field is needed here at all, the list should include something like “refugee, no documentation available”, or “documentation destroyed during war” or something. There shouldn’t really be a reason question here at all. 

BDM agrees, and they’re working on it.

When "Identity Confirmed?" is changed to Yes, if the evidence of date and place of birth is birth cert or passport, nothing else happens.

But if the evidence is Statutory Declaration, fields to capture the type and number of identity document sighted are opened. Surely these should be opened with all entries. (The fields also get out of order when a Stat Dec is selected; the identity document fields come next, then whether the celebrant has signed the stat dec etc.)

Yeah this is weird. BDM is looking into it.

The list of possible witnesses for signing the NOIM is not complete for all qualifications who can witness signatures on a NOIM.

It would be more appropriate if there was a box to choose whether the NOIM was signed in Australia or overseas, then a conditional list depending on which was chosen, listing all possible witness qualifications. 

I haven’t heard anything about whether they’re looking at changing this.

It would be really helpful if the entry was separated into "complete these bits before the marriage" and "complete these bits after the marriage".

For example, the celebrant can’t sign the NOIM until after the marriage, but the box asking if the celebrant has signed the NOIM is directly under the boxes asking if the parties have signed the NOIM, which of course they do when the NOIM is lodged.

I think BDM doesn’t really understand what I’m on about here, but the new NOIM is set out in this way, so hopefully they’ll change it when the new paperwork comes out (hopefully mid-2019).

It's confusing that when you press the Save as Draft button, it takes you back up the record to the first place where there's an error message on a field. It's not clear that the record has been saved.

Bad luck, we just have to get used to this one. But you can rest assured that in general, even if you’ve got orange validation errors in your document, the information will save! In fact, if you scroll to the top of the document, you’ll see a lovely green highlighted line saying the notification has saved.

It is EXCEPTIONALLY confusing that NOIMs and DONLIMs/OCMs can't be generated from the "Related Documents" navigation link on the left of within the record, especially when there's a Generate Document choice in that area that doesn't seem to do anything.

That Generate Document section really needs to be removed, unless there’s a use for it I haven’t yet found.

BDM agrees this was confusing; Generate Documents should have been removed from the Related Documents navigation link. It was set to be removed the first weekend in March. It’s no longer appearing in my Action List, but it did take several days for the change to take effect.

It would be useful if there was an instruction at the bottom of the record saying something like "To print the NOIM and/or DONLIM/OCM, go to your Drafts list, check the box of the record you wish to print, scroll to the bottom of the screen, and click Print"

That would be sensible. I’ve got no news on that one.

It would be great if on the Drafts page there could be a Print button at the top (next to Clear and Search) as well as at the bottom of the screen.

Advice from BDM is that this is never going to happen.

When a NOIM is generated from the system to print, it should NOT include the following details on page 4: date marriage solemnised, place marriage solemnised, rites used, celebrant number.

These details are only to be completed after the marriage has been solemnised, and including them on the generated NOIM means they will be filled in on the copy the couple signs when they lodge the NOIM before the marriage. I have mentioned this previously.

BDM is aware of this, but they’re NOT working on it. They’ve told me it’s highly unlikely those fields will not be auto-completed in the document.

However I do know that the next iteration of the NOIM (hopefully due out mid-2019) separates the information into “fill this in before the wedding” and “fill this in after the wedding”, so hopefully BDM will have to make it work when that comes out!

The DONLIM pulls the parties' names backwards. It reads "I, Surname First Name Other Name..."

BDM is aware of this and they’re working on it.

Written response from BDM: BDM is working on aspects of how data entered by marriage celebrants appears in relevant marriage documents as a priority.

Party 1's address prints out in a smaller font than Party 2's address on the OCM and DONLIM, even when they live at the same address.

BDM Is aware of this and they’re working on it.

Written response from BDM: BDM is working on aspects of how data entered by marriage celebrants appears in relevant marriage documents as a priority.

Long addresses are not printing in full on the OCM or DONLIM.

Written response from BDM: BDM is working on aspects of how data entered by marriage celebrants appears in relevant marriage documents as a priority

Many celebrants are having trouble generating the documents (NOIM, DONLIM, OCM)

Written response from BDM: 

  1. When you request to print a document in RIO, the system will open a pop-up window in your browser.
  2. If your browser has a pop-up blocker, it may be preventing this window from appearing.
  3. Please ensure your pop-up blocker is switched off for RIO.
  4. To find specific instructions on how to do this in your browser, we recommend googling ‘pop up blocker’ and the name of your browser (e.g. “pop up blocker internet explorer”). It is generally a simple process
References to Form 16 for the official certificate of marriage should be removed; the numbering system was removed for all except the Form 15 in July 2014, and newer celebrants will find it confusing,

BDM is aware of this and they’re working on it.

Please, please, please put an instruction with the "Transfer to another celebrant" option that celebrants transferring the marriage must still comply with the Marriage Act requirement to transfer the hard copy, signed NOIM to the new celebrant, as well as transferring the data within RIO.

This information hasn’t been included in any of the training material as far as I’m aware, and many celebrants will believe they’ve done all they need to do if they transfer within RIO.

BDM is aware of this and they’re considering it.

The field "Original marriage documents received" is confusing.

I presume we change this to Yes when we have uploaded the NOIM, DONLIM and OCM, but then they’re not originals, they’re scanned copies, and we can’t certify BDM has received them, only that we’ve uploaded them. So it would be better to be worded something such as “Marriage documentation uploaded”, and it would be even better if it automatically changed to Yes when we uploaded the documents.

Apparently this field is supposed to be about whether or not we, the celebrant, have the original marriage documents in hand. That’s clearly not what it says. I’m using it in the way I think it’s supposed to be used; that we tick Yes once we’ve uploaded the marriage documents to the system. BDM is aware of this and they’re considering changing the wording. 

Can we upload the marriage documents all at once, rather than individually?

Written response from BDM: We need the DoNLI and OCM provided separately to the NOIM. Celebrants may upload the DoNLIM and OCM separately, or together, depending on their preference (that is, as one or two documents).

The fees for the certificate and postage are not listed anywhere within the certificate order form.

It would be helpful particularly for the postage if the amounts were listed in the dropdown list where you can choose the type of postage.

Fees for certificates and postage can be found here: https://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/about-us/fees

BDM is aware of this and they’re considering whether to add the fees to the dropdown list where we choose the type of postage.

I have a couple who would like me to order their certificate for them. They live in the Philippines though, where the mail system is not great, so they would like me to have the certificate sent to the groom's mother's home in Berwick. How can I make this happen in RIO?

This is totally doable!

When we order a certificate for the couple, in the Delivery Details screen you can now fill in anyone’s details at all! (You used to have to choose Party 1 or Party 2 and edit the address, but that’s changed.) Yay!

You can’t do this in the Applicant Details section though, only in the Delivery Details section. 

In applying for a certificate you have to enter the phone number in a very specific format.

It has to have no hyphens, spaces or brackets.

You need +61 at the front for your country code

Then leave out the leading 0 and enter the rest of the number. 

So my phone number would be: +61458022190

The list of document types in the Add Document section is pretty confusing because the terminology is not correct and/or not consistent.

Not correct: Declaration of No Impediment to Marry is actually called the Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage

Not consistent: DONLIM line says signed at the end, the NOIM line says signed at the beginning.

It is also unclear whether we are supposed to upload the DONLIM and OCM as one file (given they’re both listed in the same line) or as separate files (given the line title has an OR in between the two document names).

I have suggested the following list, in the following order, would be more useful:

  • Notice of Intended Marriage (signed)
  • Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage (signed)
  • Official Certificate of Marriage (signed)
  • Statutory Declaration re date and place of birth (signed)
  • Certificate of Faithful Performance by Interpreter (signed)
  • Parental consent for underage marriage (signed)
  • Court order for underage marriage (signed)

I know it may be difficult to put the document types in an order other than alphabetical, but this order would make more sense as it has the most used documents at the top of the list.

My tax invoice for the certificate payment reads ABN: $abnNumber for BDM's ABN. It is also addressed to Rachael Russell (Party 2) rather than to me, and as I made the payment I need to have it addressed to me so I can claim it against my business.

There didn’t seem to be an option in the certificate order section to order as myself, the celebrant, only to order it as Party 1 or Party 2.

BDM is aware of the issues with some of the form fields not pulling their information correctly (such as the $abnNumber field in this document) and are working to fix it.

I haven’t heard anything about how to get the invoice addressed to me though. 

When trying to submit a completed marriage, I'm getting an error message saying "Application is not yet completed/Validation errors"

I’ve been on the phone with BDM for a long time this morning (18 March) trying to get to the bottom of this.

  1. I’ve completed a marriage notification, including uploading documents and selecting Yes for all “has this person signed that document” questions.
  2. I’ve ordered the marriage certificate for the couple.
  3. The marriage certificate order says “Application saved, no validation errors”
  4. The marriage notification says “Saved, no validation errors”
  5. The listing in my drafts list says “Ready to submit”
  6. When I click on the box next to the marriage in my drafts list, scroll to the bottom and press Submit, where it should say “Ready to submit” instead it says “Application is not yet completed/Validation errors”
  7. I have had this same problem with almost every marriage I’ve tried to submit.
  8. Last week when I rang BDM, Stacey logged into my account and after pressing Save a few times managed to make it work; it was magic, and magic isn’t really the solution here.
  9. If I delete the certificate request, it will say “Ready to submit”, but that’s not a solution either; we have the option to order the certificate and we should be able to do it.
  10. So this morning I’ve spoken to Dina, who tried everything Stacey tried last week, and she couldn’t get it to work either.
  11. I let her know I’m not the only person with this problem
  12. She has escalated it to the support team and will let me know what happens next.

Stay tuned, hopefully we’ll have a response to this one in time!

The draft list of marriage notifications seems to appear in no apparent order when you first open it.

It’s not alphabetical by either party’s name, it’s not in order of date of marriage, it seems to be completely random. It would be helpful if it was in the order of the date of marriage as a default when that screen is opened. 

So it’s actually in the order the marriages were entered into the system, with the most recently entered marriage on top. You can change the way the list is ordered by clicking on the column headers, but it won’t stay that way; the next time you enter the drafts list you’ll need to change the order again.

There needs to be a space where we can leave notes for the registration team like there was in MCO.

BDM wanted to know what on earth we’d want to put in such a field. I said things like if a party has moved house or changed occupation between signing the NOIM and the marriage; or if a party has a special character such as an umlaut on a letter in their name (special characters can’t be entered in the system, so it would be nice to be able to leave a note to say there should be a special character, please put it on the official certificate); or if there’s an occupation that’s not in the list provided. They accepted that this could be useful and they’re considering it.

A couple of my weddings that I entered in the first days of the system are still showing as In Progress rather than as Registered.

These were both weddings that were migrated over from MCO, and there are some issues with some of the migrated records. It just means some of them need to be looked at and some errors fixed before the marriage can be registered; the automatic registration that’s working for most of the marriages isn’t working for some that were migrated from MCO. Be patient, they will be registered within 20 working days!

The question mark prompts at the right side of each field (which should provide further information) simply repeat the name of the field.

BDM is aware of this and they’re looking into it.

Why can't I see the weddings I submitted to MCO?

Written response from BDM: Previous completed and registered marriages were not migrated for celebrants to view – only draft marriage notifications were migrated into RIO, provided the RIO stakeholder account registration was completed prior to go-live and that the drafts had a valid marriage date entered as per our earlier advice to celebrants

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.

To help those of you who are struggling with how on earth to use this new system (because the user guide and video tutorial aren’t exactly useful either), I’ve put together a step by step video that takes you through registering a new marriage from beginning to end, including how to print your documents from the system and how to upload them so you can submit the marriage.

Remember, we no longer post our marriage documentation to BDM. We just upload scanned copies of all documents, and save on postage charges!

You can purchase the video and its transcript here:

$20.00 – Purchase BDM RIO video Excluding 10% tax

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

I wanted to pull that quote out and then bring it together with Sarah’s fantastic briefing on the most recent (at time of posting) Guidelines update, “What’s changed”. In the first part of that seven part epic series, Sarah noted:

Obviously there are numerous items in the Guidelines that are MUST DOs; they’re the ones required by the Marriage Act 1961 or the Marriage Regulations 2017. Everything else can be considered a SHOULD DO; they’re suggestions of the best practice at the time of publication.

Sarah Aird

I often find the attitude of celebrants I meet not one of a Commonwealth Authorised Celebrant.

To hold the title ‘Celebrant’ in Australia you must of at one time, and still today be considered a person of “fit and proper person to be a marriage celebrant.” The Registrar of Marriage Celebrants has considered you to be a person that “has sufficient knowledge of the law relating to the solemnisation of marriages” and is of good standing in their community.

Once the Registrar has checked you out you become “A person who is registered as a marriage celebrant may solemnise marriages at any place in Australia.” You are a person of authority, and you are “duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages according to law”. That’s not any old authorisation, that’s duly authorised. That means you are authorised in accordance with what is required or appropriate; following proper procedure or arrangement.

In modern day language, as the youngins would say, “You ‘da man”.

I say all that to say this: you’re better than your celebrant association thinks you are, you’re better than the Facebook Groups say you are, you’re better than the industry says you are.

You’re a marriage celebrant who has the authority to read the Guidelines as guidelines and to marry people according to the law.

You’re a marriage celebrant who has the character and skill to take the microphone and make this wedding an amazing wedding.

You’re a marriage celebrant who is quite literally breathing people’s marriages into life.

You’re awesome, own it.

Back to reading the guidelines, read them as just that. Ultimately it is up to you to comply with all of the requirements of the Act, that even includes the bits which note “or words to that effect.”

Do not worry yourself with the opinions of everyone in every celebrant Facebook group, in fact, if you want to experience true happiness, leave all the Facebook Groups. I did a few years ago and my sanity, joy, and business skyrocketed.

My hope for the Celebrant Institute is that we would assist you, help you, ride with you, and encourage you to be the best celebrant you can possibly be, but we can only go as far as you’re willing to go.

So how far do you want to go?

The Celebrant Institute 2019 Conference

The Celebrant Institute 2019 Conference

A 10 out of 10 learning opportunity for wedding celebrants

Sarah and I have got some big news for the Celebrant Institute in 2019! We’ve told so many people in person, over email and the phone, that we thought we best tell all of you as well: in August this year we’re partnering with Beat Mix, the premier DJ conference in Australia run by the DJ Association of Australia (the DJAA), to bring you the Celebrant Institute Conference on the Gold Coast, August 6-7 with optional OPD on August 5 and optional personality types workshop on August 8.

It’s two to four days of you being sharpened, encouraged, inspired, and driven to be the best celebrant you can be. If you don’t leave this week on the Gold Coast with bigger goals, improved sales processes, better business structures, a refined ceremony presentation, and a jump in your step, then you were in the wrong part of Twin Towns.

My promise to you is that this conference will easily pay for itself in the six months after you attend, if it doesn’t you’ll get a ticket to next year’s conference for free.

Monday August 5 // Optional OPD

9am-3pm with lunch included.

Complete your ongoing professional development with Australia’s best OPD trainer, Sarah Aird and Qualtrain, in a special OPD session before the conference starts.

Tuesday August 6 // Together

9am-5pm with lunch included

Day one is together with the DJs attending Beat Mix with topics that appeal to DJs and celebrants, talking sales and marketing, social media creation, and business operations.

Tuesday August 6 Evening // After party

On the Gold Coast we have the best parties, and this one is hosted by the best DJs from around Australia and New Zealand. Bring your 18+ card, and your dancing shoes.

Wednesday August 7 // Celebrants breakout day

9am-5pm with lunch included

Wednesday August 7: Day two is 100% celebrants only, with speakers from across the globe talking about the modern celebrancy movement, inspiring you to grow your craft, a marriage law update and live Q&A with Sarah Aird, a social media content creation session hosted by a Southern Cross Austero content creator who creates posts, videos, and podcasts heard by thousands of Australians ever day. Josh/I will be presenting a demonstration on how to ditch the red book and go paperless in the office and the ceremony in 2019. Finally, we’ll be hearing from an expert story creator to equip us with better storytelling skills for our marriage ceremonies.

Thursday August 8 // Colour Me Smart // Optional Workshop

Why should a business owner learn about personality types? Because people do business with people…and people have personalities. Being great at your craft just isn’t enough. To succeed in business, one must also understand people. Join many of your peers from the event world in spending a full day learning with Certified Personality Trainer, Vickie Musni. This brand new workshop is based on the concepts of her newest book, Colour Me Smart.

The following statement sounds a bit pretentious when everyone else says it, but it’s true, there are limited spaces and Celebrant Institute members have priority access before we open it up to everyone else soon.


Tickets are $500 for the two main dates. Click here to purchase. Tickets purchased before the end of March 2019 receive a $30 early bird discount.

OPD to be booked separately through Qualtrain at https://qualtrain.com.au/course-location/new-south-wales/ and use the code JWopd19 to get $40 off.

Colour Me Smart Workshop tickets available directly from Vicki.


Mantra Twin Towns

Located on the southern end of the Gold Coast on the corner of Griffith St & Wharf Street, Tweed Heads, the Mantra Twin Towns adjoins Twin Towns Services Club via an enclosed overhead walkway. Options include stylishly-appointed hotel rooms or spacious self-contained one or two bedroom apartments, all with balconies overlooking the beach, river, harbour or Tweed/Coolangatta CBD.

The following special rates are available for 2019 Conference attendees;

Hotel Rooms

Hotel Room (1 Queen Bed) for $169.00 per night

Hotel Deluxe Twin Room (2 Queen Beds) for $189.00 per night

Hotel King Room (Up to 2 persons) $159.00 per night

Hotel Rooms contain a kitchenette, ensuite and includes complimentary buffet breakfast!


1 Bedroom (Up to 2 persons) $169.00 per night

2 Bedroom (Up to 4 persons) $249.00 per night

All apartments are fully self-contained. Breakfast is not included.

For more detailed information and to book your accommodation, download and complete the Accommodation Booking Form and forward to Mantra Twin Towns by one of the methods detailed on the form.

Alternate Accommodation

Mantra Twin Towns is the most convenient option to the Conference Venue, however there is a variety of accommodation options available in the nearby surrounds, so feel free to explore these other options.

Note on conference financials: The Celebrant Institute, Josh Withers, Sarah Aird, will not profit at all from this conference. The two of us have actually purchased tickets ourselves, and our speakers are not being paid, you may have an opportunity to purchase products from them if you resonate with their message. The conference registration transaction occurs with the not-for-profit DJ association, the DJAA, the hosts of the conference, and they bear the financial responsibility for the costs of running the conference. Being our first conference we opted to partner with the DJAA who have been successfully running conferences for many years.

The Unofficial Guidelines on the ‘Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Marriage Celebrants’ for Marriage Celebrants

Deb writes in asking “I appear to get myself into hot water time and time again, by saying that the Guidelines are just that GUIDELINES, and the act and the regs are the actual LAW. Am I right?”

Deb, I would tell you that you are totally correct. The Guidelines are not the law, the law is the law and the Guidelines are the Attorney-General’s office Marriage Celebrants Section legal team best interpretation of the Marriage Act of 1961 into circumstances and issues they perceive to be relevant to marriage celebrants.

So as much as the Guidelines are not the law, they are the boss’ best guess as to what the Marriage Act of 1961 means.

So what does this mean?

Well in my interpretation of the AG office’s interpretation of the law I would say that until communicated otherwise, listen to the Guidelines to the best of your ability and knowledge. Breaking a guideline won’t have the local AFP squad bursting down your door anytime soon. But where it might come into play is

  • in your professional review the AG’s office takes of you every now and then,
  • when talking to other celebrants and they don’t appreciate how rouge and crazy you are,
  • keeping your ass out of jail in sticky situations,
  • copying and pasting sections to couples trying to do dodgy shit.

With that said, the Guidelines indeed are not law, and the interpretation is merely that, a human’s best interpretation of the law. The best thing about Australian democracy is that you and I have the power and agency to push back on different issues.

Only recently the Australian public pushed back on the Howard Governent’s re-interpretation of the Marriage Act and Constitution and now everyone in Australia can get married, instead of a select community.

Sometimes we push back and we get the conflict of interest guidelines changed. The Marriage Act of 1961 did not change, but because of my multiple emails, phone calls, and meetings with the Attorney-General’s Marriage Celebrants Section the conflict of interest guidelines were changed. They changed their interpretation of the act because we stood up and questioned it.

Sarah pushed back on the recent misinterpretation of “one month’s notice” and the AG’s office changed the Guidelines.

I’m doing the same thing at the moment in regards to sighting evidence of identity and birth. The Electronic Transactions Act says that “ensures that a transaction under a Commonwealth law will not be invalid simply because it was conducted through electronic communication. If a Commonwealth law requires you to: give information in writing, provide a handwritten signature, produce a document in material form, record or retain information, the Electronic Transactions Act means you can do these things electronically.” So Commonwealth Law actually overrules the Guideline’s guidelines. I’m not telling you to accept passports over email, but until such time as the Guidelines are updated I’ll let you and your lawyer figure it out. Or you can do like I am and email marriagecelebrantssection@ag.gov.au every month until they reply. (Spoiler alert, they don’t reply).

So the Guidelines are just that, guidelines, and the Marriage Act of 1961 is the law that would be argued in court, but unless you want to have every celebrant in the country making complaints about you (it’s so much fun having your lawyer reply to all those emails) I recommend staying within the goal posts set out by the AG’s office unless you have a conviction that the Guidelinesshould change, and when you have that conviction, start with an email, end with a blog post like this one.

Opportunity for a Melbourne celebrant wanting to go full time

Sarah and I have been talking to a Paul Carr, an entrepreneur, friend, and founder of Nudo about trying to find a match between his new wedding venue venture and celebrants.

His idea is packaging entire weddings, from venue to celebrant and everything in-between, by having all of the vendors on a wage. Obviously celebrants can’t be on staff at a venue due to the conflict of interest, but you can do a deal where you do ceremonies for them at an agreed rate.

Fitting into this model may not appeal to all, but I’m willing to bet there are a few that would benefit from the time in the air.

My personal thought is that if you’re new, or new-ish, consider this a year long apprenticeship. The best place to learn about celebrancy is at the end of the aisle and Paul will put you in front of 50-odd weddings in a year.

The added bonus is that Paul pays for your Celebrant Institute membership while you’re at Nudo so you have the support of Sarah and I directly.

From Paul:

Nudo has brought together a team of wedding specialists to offer complete end-to-end packages for wedding couples. They have assembled an awesome team and the last piece of their puzzle is finding an amazing celebrant.

If anyone would like to join our team, we can offer you 50+ weddings in the next 12 months. Nudo will:

  • cover the cost of all sales and marketing
  • offer you a minimum 50 weddings
  • develop a website, brand and portfolio for you to use at your own discretion

If you’re interested, reach out to Paul Carr at paul@nudo.co

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.

New marketing requires you to be found, to be stumbled across. For someone to tell someone else “look over there” and when they do, they’re pleasantly surprised as they find an opportunity to invest some of their money in something that resonates with their worldview, their needs, and their wants. New marketing is about aligning stories, creating serendipity, wonder, and aww. New marketing is a long term investment with even longer term gains.

New marketing isn’t about price, it’s about value, identity, authenticity, vulnerability, and care.

The art of differentiation

“Differentiation starts with the choice to do one thing well” says Bernadette at The Story of Telling blog.

I wanted to break that powerful statement down and offer up some food of thought for celebrants today.

The choice

Your celebrant practise, the act and art of you being the celebrant you are is a choice. It may well be that “every” celebrant does it “that way” or that there is an accepted or traditional method of doing something, but you still make the choice. Even if the choice is to change nothing and do the same as everyone else.

To do

The art of being different requires doing. Then failing, flailing, and falling, and finking (I really wanted all the words to start with F), and facing forwards and doing again.

No-one’s been different by not doing.

The truth is that you’ll actually find out how different you are a year or two after you start the doing and you’ll actually be a whole lot weirder and more wonderful than you ever could have imagined.

One Thing

I see celebrants worldwide offer up every single service and ceremony you could think of. If you don’t think you’ve found your difference yet, my challenge to you is to narrow that down to one thing, at least at the start. I’m not saying you can’t do funerals and weddings, but if you’re failing at finding your footing in both, put one on ice for a season and make the choice to do one thing …


You are really bad at a large number of things. I know I’m terrible at earthmoving, kitesurfing, video games, carpentry, the list goes on, but I would count my successes to figuring out what I can do well. 

My question for you, and for the comments, is what do you think you do well. Shout your own praises from the comments section.

And secondly, if you know another member of this community does something well but they need to hear it, mention it in the comments. Or at least send them a text.

Help others make the choice to do one thing well.

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.

How much value are we bringing to our couples?

How much better is their life, their wedding, their marriage, because of what we say and do?

It might cost us $100 to be a celebrant, and the average fee might be $200, and you’d like $300, but what if we are actually bringing $400 of value to our couples’ lives, and what if we had the potential inside of us already to bring $500 of value.

What if we revolutionised the whole game and our couples walked away $600 richer in their soul because their marriage was breathed into life by someone who cared?

Just some food for thought for all of us.

Giving your clients what they want: bad deal

I have been simmering on the idea that our clients don’t actually know what they want, despite almost all wedding vendor websites claiming to give them whatever they want, for quite a while now.

I even had half an article drafted, and then today Liene at Think Splendid wrote this great piece and it nailed the whole idea.

If you offer clients “what they want” without offering your expertise and insight, then your clients are actually getting a bad deal. You are getting paid for your professional opinion: speak up.

Read her piece here then maybe edit your marketing materials to reflect the professional you are. Or if you don’t have a professional opinion, develop one, or shut down. When your clients hire a celebrant, they’re hiring an amazing skilled and talented professional, not a “by the hour” legal signatory to some documents.

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.

Liaising with the Attorney-General’s department

There is however an important aspect of celebrant associations that many associations are dropping, that’s their liaising with the AGD office.

From this week’s issue of Marriage Celebrant Matters

The department met with marriage celebrant associations on 2 May 2018. Sixteen celebrants representing fourteen celebrant associations were in attendance. Issues discussed included improving consultation approaches between associations and the department, changes to the Marriage Act 1961 for marriage equality, and consultation activities including the review of official marriage forms. The meeting also included a presentation by the Department of Finance on the Australian Government Charging Framework. The department held a teleconference with associations on 10 August 2018 and the next face to face meeting is scheduled for mid-October.

Celebrant associations have a seat at the table with the AGD.

Our AGD needs to be held accountable to decisions they make, plus there needs to be open communication between that office and the celebrant population. In recent times our own Sarah Aird has taken that upon herself and if we don’t support associations, or have one worth joining, this kind of work will fall on individual shoulders.

Maybe that’s what the future of marriage celebrancy in Australia looks like?

Celebrancy: The price

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

Henry David Thoreau

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.

Everyone has an opinion on price.

Because our price is so closely linked to our soul, our heart, our skill, and as Henry says: the amount of life you exchange.

How much life are you exchanging per wedding? Are you charging a fair price, or giving away your most valuable asset for free?

Guidelines 2018: What’s changed? Part 7

In this series of posts (including Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6) I'll be 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. Let's dive in!

Read More

Guidelines 2018: What’s changed? Part 6

In this series of posts (including Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5) I'll be 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. Let's dive in!

Read More

Guidelines 2018: What’s changed? Part 5

In this series of posts (including Part 1Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4) I'll be 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. Let's dive in!

Read More

Guidelines 2018: What’s changed? Part 4

In this series of posts (including Part 1Part 2 and Part 3) I'll be 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. Let's dive in!

Read More

Guidelines 2018: What’s changed? Part 3

In this series of posts (including Part 1 and Part 2) I'll be 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. Let's dive in!

Read More

Guidelines 2018: What’s changed? Part 2

In this series of posts (including Part 1) I'll be 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. Let's dive in!

Read More

New guidance on the meaning of the one month’s notice period

This is a free article from the Celebrant Institute - please share with other celebrants and check out our home page if you're interested in becoming a member

8 July 2018

Most of you probably didn't pay too much attention to the fact sheet that was released on Friday 6 July 2018, in the email advising the new Guidelines were out. I certainly didn't until someone brought an apparent typographical error to my attention. You can have a read of it here:

Fact sheet re one month notice

According to the AFCC, who spoke to MLCS after the fact sheet was released, it is not an error but NEW GUIDANCE on how we are to calculate the one month's notice period.

I wrote this email to MLCS today. I'll keep you posted on the response...

Read More

Guidelines 2018: What’s changed? Part 1

This is a free article from the Celebrant Institute - please freely share and check out our home page if you're interested in becoming a member

In this series of posts I'll be 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. Let's dive in!

Read More

How to get professional photos to share on your socials

A common conversation amongst everyone in the wedding industry who is not a wedding photographer is asking photographers for photos.

It’s great when you get them, it means your social media feeds have a professional feel over an iPhone photo feel, and it’s literally their job to make art out of events so their photos are always going to be better than yours.

This is a free article from the Celebrant Institute – please freely share and check out our home page if you’re interested in becoming a member

Some ground rules:

  1. Start this process knowing that no photographer owes you photos. They simply don’t, so if you get a photo, they’re doing you a favour.
  2. Never screenshot photos, just don’t, when you screenshot images you take a large high resolution beautiful photo and then recapture it at the size of your phone. It’s like a taking a photo of a photo and it’s the first way to annoy your photographer friends.
  3. Do not edit, crop, change the colour of, or add a filter to any photographs you are given. This is art, and 99 times out of one hundred, you can’t make it better. And if you do edit the photo, then credit the photographer, your’e telling the world that the photographer had the final say on those colours, so maybe if you really like that filter, ask the photographer if they think it’s an improvement.
  4. Different photographers will have different rules for use, but unless they state otherwise, I would assume that these are only to be used in social media posts and blog posts that I own. So I’m not to send them to a wedding magazine or blog, submit them anywhere, or use them on billboards. If I was going to print photos for use in wedding fairs, billboards, or in marketing material, I would generally ask if it was ok.
  5. The easiest way to share photos and give honour to the photographer is to share their blog, Facebook, or Instagram post natively. Natively means not-screenshotting the images, but clicking share on Facebook, so the original post is shared. On Instagram this means sharing their post or story to your own story.

Now that we’ve discussed rules, let’s talk about how to get them.

How to ask

This is the easy part. Asking photographers for their photos is as simple as asking. I prefer email because they can reply in their own time, but if you’re already in conversation with the photographer, perhaps on Instagram DM or Facebook Messenger, then simply pose the question.

Try not to ask on the wedding day, don’t offer business cards or get them to write down your details. On the wedding day we are all-hands-on-deck and no-one cares about tomorrow’s Instagram post.

What to ask?

Can I share some photos from the wedding, I promise to play by your rules, always credit and not edit. You can use whichever words you want, but keep it simple, don’t waste their time, and be polite. (It sounds like a redundant thing to ask, but I’ve seen some of your emails)

Credit and not edit

When posting the photo/s, as early as your story allows credit the photographer. I like to try and make it a little bit cute and personal to, like how I’ve credited Michael Briggs in this Instagram post.

Be sure to @mention them, which means before you start constructing the post you’ve identified what their Instagram username is, if you’re on Facebook, you’ve done the same, and if it’s on a blog then you’re linking back to their website, or if you want to get tricky and they’ve blogged the same wedding, link to their blog post.

On Facebook @mentions work differently than on Instagram, you start with the @name but then choose their business page from the drop down list so it looks like Dan O’Days name on this post.

You’re welcome to word and caption to your heart’s content, just make sure it is clear that you didn’t take the photo and that if you’re interested in finding out who the photographer is, that you can click a link.

A quick note on @mentions on Facebook: Each Facebook page has a username and a “display name”. For example my own Facebook username is marriedbyjosh but my display name is Married By Josh.

If you visit a business’ Facebook page you’ll generally see the display name like mine in this screenshot “Married By Josh” and the username beneath.

When creating the post you can start typing @marriedbyjosh and my display name should come up for selection, or if you start typing @married by josh the same drop down box should appear.

When to ask

Sarah notes in the comments, and my friend James Day, both add good notes about when to ask. The average wedding photo contract promises delivery in under eight weeks, and the average delivery time is three to five weeks. So I’d be setting a timer/reminder/note to not ask the day after the wedding but to wait about six weeks.

Final note, what can you give?

This whole post has been about what you can get from a photographer, but consider what you could give as well. If you’re a marriage celebrant you know the couple’s story, and possibly even some vows. They’ve got the photos but you’ve got the captions. You need to be respectful of your couples’ privacy, and not share too much, but I’ll ask couples if they don’t mind some of their story being told in social media, plus those that book me see me doing it for others, and if they would like it to be private, they’ll let me know.

If you’re not a celebrant reading this guide, then maybe there’s other value you can bring to a photographer. Don’t feel like this whole experience requires give and take, but it’s the human way of operating, so at least offer a thanks and if someone’s looking for a photographer, don’t be afraid to refer them.

In praise of the not-young celebrant

This is a free article from the Celebrant Institute - please share with other celebrants and check out our home page if you're interested in becoming a member

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.

Some words that would draw the crowds in and pay my rent.

"Fine young celebrant" was my first draft that lasted day one of three at the expo. In hindsight, expecting everyone to heavily appreciate my play on words, was my first mistake. My second was that no-one wanted a "fine" celebrant.

Day two brought with it a wet cloth, a clean blackboard, and a second draft that became my tagline for the next few years: "Fun young celebrant!" Read More

2018 OPD with Sarah on the Gold Coast?

If you’re a celebrant in Southeast Queensland or Northern New South Wales that would like to complete their OPD (ongoing professional development) commitment with The Oracle, Sarah Aird (through Qualtrain) we can do it if we get 30 people in the room.

Completing OPD in a room with likeminded people and an awesome trainer beats the ass off completing OPD online or in PDFs.

So follow this link and select which dates work for you.


Once a date has 30 people’s names next to it we’ll email you with the registration details.

Portable PA speaker system purchasing advice

This is a free article from the Celebrant Institute - please share with other celebrants and check out our home page if you're interested in becoming a member

Jo asks:

Hey Josh, it's one of your favourite subjects - P.A. systems. I am saving up for my first one, not even sure where to start but think my budget might stretch to $2k. Is that too little? Can you provide some options and good suppliers? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Jo, you are so correct, this is one of my favourite subjects. Well before I was a celebrant with opinions on PA systems I was a guest at weddings and even regular events where I struggled to hear the person speaking. Nothing frustrates my brain more than being able to see the lips moving but the sound isn't in my ears. In fact, good stage designers and performance creators base their decisions on the audience's five senses being in line with what they are trying to deliver. Can the audience member at the front, middle, and rear, see, hear, feel, smell, and taste exactly what we want them to. Read More

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.

But there’s also a chance that we could be better, so the Celebrant Institute serves that space, for celebrants who are already celebranting but want to be better.

As part of this betterment I’d like to introduce you to the Dunning-Kruger effect. The effect is this: people who think they’re incompetent are not in-fact incompetent, because people who are incompetent are not competent enough to realise their own incompetence.

So if you have any illusion of high-functioning competence, you are most likely incompetent.

And if you query your own competence, perhaps even thinking you are indeed incompetent, you are not incompetent, but instead you are on the scale of competence. I’m willing to bet you’re even more competent than you imagine.

So if you find yourself on this spectrum of competence, that is, you’re not incompetent as a celebrant, but you also don’t think you’re so competent that you’re probably actually incompetent, then come along for the ride as Sarah and I answer your questions about the legal side of marriage celebrancy, the business and marketing side of celebrancy, and of course the performance aspects. We’ll cover it all, and all we ask is that if you value that kind of contribution to your competence, you put your money where your mouth is and become a member.