How to be a wedding reception MC

The art of MCing a wedding reception is definitely one most celebrants could master, but it’s a little different to being a marriage celebrant, so here’s master MC, Glenn Mackay, of G&M Event Group at the 2019 conference on how to perfect the art.

If you’re looking for more from Glenn he was a guest on the Celebrant Talk Show on a totally different subject, listen here.

Registering Australian marriages overseas

Just wanting some advice on how you inform couples on how to register their marriages aboard? E.g  A Scottish couple marry here, and ask you how they register their marriage in Scotland. I understand they need to have the Original Marriage Certificate apostille stamped, before their government will recognize it as a true document, however where can they get this done? The Australian Embassy in their country or??

Marrying in your birth name after changing your name by marriage

I have a bride that is divorced but still goes by her previous spouse’s surname. In regards to moving forward and taking on the new spouses name – does she have to go through any special process or will she just go to her organisations and show her divorce cert, and new marriage certificate to change to her new surname? In regards to the paperwork NOIM etc – if she shows me her birth certificate, but a passport/drivers licence with her previous married surname – as long as I’m satisfied that it is the same person, and she is who she says she is, does it matter? And i fill out the documentation with her maiden name?

Non-refundable refund demanded

Veronica asks: I know where you stand on refunds. Yesterday, I had a bride who cancelled her November wedding due to the relationship splitting, texting me nasty abuse and demanding the clearly stated non-refundable booking fee. It’s stated on my invoice &...

Five easy SEO hacks you can do that are driven by research

Everyone knows a guy who knows a guy who can get you on the front page of Google. I’d argue that you might not want to be on the front page of Google for everything, but it doesn’t hurt for the right people to be able to find you.

In this article I’m not going to add to the SEO noise, you can read a million articles about SEO practises and there are even more people willing to take your cash to make it work for you.

But if you don’t mind kicking around the shed that is your website, here’s a check list of things you can change or improve on, and they’re backed up with good research. As opposed to the standard old wives tale SEO advice that most people’s parent’s next-door neighbours are dishing out.

Sharing ceremony content

Jeff asks: I share my ceremonies with my couples using Google Docs. Every once in awhile I have a venue coordinator or wedding planner request access to the document, to which I normally deny access by kindly emailing them directly asking if I can help them out with anything specific. I kind of feel like there’s no reason for them to need to see the ceremony or have access, especially if it’s a venue I’ve been at a bunch of times. I would never request access to their day-of timeline they’ve created, that’s their business…

Shut down the myths around getting married and hiring a celebrant

I’m flying to Europe soon and I’ve put in for a first class upgrade. On Qantas you can apply for an upgrade and it costs you thousands of frequent flyer points. That’s how you fly first class, either that or you pony up the cash for it. In the history of flying the smallest handful of people have been upgraded to first class on a whim.

But if you talk to most people that don’t fly that often they will share the myth that if you are dressed well, looking sharp, feeling pretty, and you are nice to the check-in staff, the boarding staff, and the cabin crew, that you will hopefully be chosen for an upgrade.

That’s the problem with the areas of life that we don’t touch on often, they’re filled with mystery and intrigue …

Celebrant numbers at 10 June 2019

How many celebrants who perform civil ceremonies decided to become Religious Marriage Celebrants after marriage equality was introduced? I counted in 2018, and I’ve counted again in 2019. Enjoy the fruits of my nerdom!

Simplify your celebrancy practice

In the chaotic and wild adventure that planning and hosting a wedding is I always try to remain a calm, cool, friendly face to my couples. This sounds like a great idea, but you need systems and processes to allow yourself to be that cool and calm.

I was inspired recently by Hans Hofmann, the artist, who talked about simplicity as “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” …

An example of finding your ‘Almost Nobody’

In a post yesterday I described the hard work of finding your ‘Almost Nobody’. This, I argue, is your life’s work, and something that will forever be changing. A good example of me doing that work in my own business is by filtering out the ‘Everybody’ and making room for the ‘Almost Nobody’ to feel comfortable on my social media.

How to leave a celebrant association

A few recent conversations with celebrants on social media have prompted me to the question: what is membership in a celebrant association for? Traditionally the associations lobbied the Attorney-General’s office, and the BDMs of each state, on our behalf – but that role has diminished seriously in recent years, with individual celebrants getting more done than an association has …

What should I do at a wedding expo?

Hi, I am a new country celebrant with three weddings booked late this year, early next year but none performed so far. I am attending a wedding expo soon ( in the country) and am not sure what to do. I have collaborated with a supplier to use an arbor, have my logo enlarged to easel size and have business cards. But wondering what else I need. I dont have photos of me officiating yet obviously. What information type material should I have with me, what questions do you usually get asked, do I just stand there and smile, “have chockies to reel them in”? Please help!!

Can we marry people on the water or in the air in Australia?

Elle asks: I have a wedding where I am marrying the couple on a boat, we are all going to get on and cruise for 10mins until the couple get a feeling like yep lets pull up here and then I will do their ceremony, then the boat will carry on for couple of hours whilst everyone has drinks, food and watches the sunset. So in regard to Location of marriage on paperwork, NOIM and Marriage Docs as I won’t know the coordinates until we literally pull up, do I just write the coordinates in quickly before I call everyone in to kick ceremony off or can I fill when we go to sign docs? And am I just writing the coordinates, or do I need to put the boats name also?

How to make a great ceremony without a rehearsal

Tori asks: I would really love to hear from you both (knowing that you prefer rehearsals Sarah, and you don’t tend to do them Josh), what is your approach to ensuring a ceremony runs as smoothly as possible and flows well when couples elect not to have a rehersal? As a new celebrant with just two ceremonies under my belt, I noticed a real difference between the first ceremony which had a rehearsal (with all the bridesmaids and groomsmen), and the second when the couple were quite adamant they preferred to go with the flow on the day. How do you go about still ensuring everyone involved feels comfortable and knows where to stand/where to move to during the ceremony when there is no rehearsal? I had a ‘talk through’ with my rehearsal-free couple and explained a few points to brief their bridesmaids/groomsmen with, but I don’t think this occurred as on the day I could some of the bridesmaids in particular were visibly confused/looked a little uncomfortable not knowing what they were doing. Any tips would be appreciated! Thanks 🙂 Tori

Firing a couple

A celebrant friend has been going back and forth with a couple who want a celebrant that’s not her. Maybe they’ve been on the blogs and Pinterest and they’ve decided that this is how you deal with a celebrant, or maybe their friends and family have told them how to act this way, regardless, they are taking themselves on a different customer journey to the one my friend would normally take her couples on.

Today she asks, “should I fire them?”

Change of name by marriage and the NOIM

Some of you may recall this little rant I went on after the updated Guidelines were released last year: “Change of name by marriage: A party who has changed their name by marriage, and retained their previous spouse’s surname, must record that surname on...

Taking over a wedding from another celebrant

“A local celebuddy and I have recently been chatting about being a primary back-up celebrant for each other. As a fairly new celebrant, it got me wondering how other people manage replacements when you have to cancel at short notice (or even on the day). Do you ask the new celebrant to use your script (even if it’s very much in ‘your’ voice)? How do you divide payment? Do you partially/fully refund the couple because you’ve not completely fulfilled the contract? What if you’re in a car accident on the way to the ceremony and you have all the paperwork on you?”

Dealing with nerves and stage fright

Cass asks: My question is more of a concern. I already have full time work in the theatre so celebrancy for me was more of a service I wanted to provide for friends and family. I think celebrating love is one of the most beautiful and important things we can do as a society and for me it has always been about the intimacy of the couple. I used to be quite a confident public speaker when I was in high school but now I’m almost 30 I feel absolute terror at the thought of performing such an important task in front of potentially hundreds of people. I know the day is obviously about the couple and not me but I don’t want my nerves to interfere with their special moment. Do you have advice (apart from practice) to combat serious stage fright?

Witnessing the NOIM: how much information is required?

Lauren asks: “I got this question from my bride and I’m second guessing myself! ‘Went up to the police station on Sunday and got this signed, but I just wanted to check before I send you the original…in the qualification section, is it fine that it just says police officer? I only realised when looking at it later that there is no section for the witness’ name or identification number or anything, so hoping this is ok!’

A massive change to how marriage celebrants can sight ID

For the past six months I have been pursuing a line of inquiry with the Attorney-General’s office Marriage Celebrants Section over the line in the Guidelines section 4.4.2: It is not acceptable for a celebrant to accept a NOIM and/or supporting documents via videoconferencing services such as Skype. Actual documentation must be received by the celebrant.

How to tell an enquiry “It’s not you, it’s me”

Tenielle asks: Hey guys, I’m hoping you can lend me some advice or wording to send to a couple. Met with them on Saturday and whilst they are lovely, the vibe was NOT there. Conversation was really stunted and it didn’t seem like a natural fit from my perspective. I’m really not wanting to take their booking, but I don’t know how to politely tell them, ‘Thanks but no thanks’. I’m especially aware of any legal obligations we have to marry couples and not discriminate against them.I would use the whole, ‘Sorry I’m double booked!’ route, but their date just opened for my bookings and that would be a blatantly obvious lie.

Do you really want that exposure?

On a road near my house there’s a billboard that promises to expose my business to many thousands of people. A similar promise has been made by the producers of Married at First Sight and other TV shows. Everyone wants to sell us exposure. I would argue that exposure is the last thing we need.

Ceremony design process

Veronica has had a pretty rough trot with a renewal couple: They were one of my first bookings after becoming a celebrant. I was really unsure of how a renewal should run…only that it would be similar to a wedding just really without the legals. Since our first meeting in September, I have met with them four times, multiple messages and numerous phone calls. They sent me their desired ceremony plan. Which essentially had me as an MC…introducing a number of speakers and readers. They had also put my name against a couple of tasks. So based on that I wrote a script (as not very good at ad lib) and went to meet with them for a “rehearsal”. They almost tore the script to shreds. They had also added and removed things from their original plan without telling me and wanted to know where I planned on putting these new ideas in the ceremony. Not liking my suggestions and especially suggesting that it was getting a bit long. Decided to sit back and let them decide. We finally came to a mutual agreement and now they want to see my amended script so they can check it all over before finalising.So, feeling a little flattened and that I have had to work exceptionally hard for my fee (which is less than what I charge for a wedding). Did I miss something? Should I have asked questions differently? Really not wanting to go anywhere near Vow Renewals any more. How should I have handled it all?

Vow and ring exchange logistics

Tori asks: I have a logistics question for you around microphones/vow cards/ring exchanges. My first ceremony is fast approaching, and my couple have written their own vows. The plan at the moment is for me to hop out of the way during the vow exchange, leaving them to hold the mic for themselves while they read from their respective vow cards. They like the idea of ending the vows with the ring exchange (e.g. the bride would hold the mic for herself, read from her vow card, and wrap her vows up by presenting her partner with the ring. Then they would swap, and he would hold the mic for himself, read from his vow card and finish it off by presenting her with the ring). My concern is this – doing it this way would leave them with a lot to juggle – holding the mic and their vow card, plus a ring which they will be slipping on the other person’s hand at the same time. I guess my question is this: what do you find works best in the situation – do you tend to always hold the mic for the couple if they are reading from vow cards, or would you just avoid combining the ring exchange in with the vows, and instead let them do the vows with you out of the way and then come back in to feed them their ring exchange wording while holding the mic for them?

What do I read my ceremony from?

Tori asks: I have my first ceremony coming up in a week and a half (for a good friend), and while I am feeling pretty on top of things overall, I am still trying to work out what I will use to read from on the day. I was hoping you could talk a little bit about your experience/thoughts on using a tablet (which I’ve noticed quite a few celebrants tend to be doing?) VS something like a nice looking binder. Any specific tips/considerations either way (e.g. if you use a tablet, do you find a cover for it that you can tuck vow cards into?), and if you do go the binder/folder route, any ideas for where to buy something appropriate? Last question! If you do tend to use a tablet, do you always have a hard copy as backup anyway?

Interpreters and translators

Sarita asks: We’re away at the moment and then the couple in question head away as we get back – so the NOIM will be getting lodged in Jan, with a day to spare. The bride is from China and all her ID is in Chinese. As long as I tell them to get the passport, (birth certificate) & drivers license/ID card interpreted by a NAATI registered interpreter – is that all ok? Just wanted to check I’m not missing anything as it’s my first time doing a marriage that will involve an interpreter. 

How do I do marriage certificates?

I was just wondering how you all prepare your pretty Form 15s. Does anyone use traditional calligraphy? Hand write? Use a template on a printer? Julia Hern I’ll answer Julia’s question along with a wider explanation of how I prepare all of my paperwork,...

How I make personal ceremonies

When creating a marriage ceremony, my goal isn’t to personalise my ceremony, but to make it personal. That’s a subtle but pointed difference. Personalising my ceremonies is the act of having existing ceremonies and then changing them to suit the couple....

Marketing: if I was starting today

If I was starting as a celebrant today I would do so many things differently. This article is hopefully timely for our readers, after all it is enquiries season! My rough research tells me that more people are engaged in between Christmas Eve and Valentine’s Day...

When to provide documentation to couples

Peter asks:

By when in the process must we have given the required documents to the couple?

I have been giving the required documents (happily ever…, code of practice, complaint info, etc.) with the engagement letter / quote, however, often I only have an email address at this stage for one party, not both. As I understand it, this doesn’t satisfy the requirements of the act (giving happily ever… effectively to only one party).

Upon booking, that’s when I get my now clients to give me their complete contact information. I’ve trialed different methods of getting complete contact info on enquiry but nothing has really been effective.

I’m trying to optimise my systems and I don’t want to send more emails in my workflow than I have to, so I was wondering can I send this info at the point of our planning meeting (circa 4 months out) as part of an email that already sits in my workflow rather than at the point of booking?

Signing two Official Certificates of Marriage electronically

Alison asks: This might be more of a Josh question because it’s about electronic paperwork – or maybe it is for Sarah because of the legal side. I’m performing my very first ceremony tomorrow (hooray!) and I’ve received permission from the ACT BDM to accept electronic signatures and to submit the paperwork by email. I’ve watched Josh’s video for how to sign the marriage paperwork on an iPad and I’m all set to go.

Lodging marriage paperwork electronically

Hey there.. a question – I’ve just registered to submit ceremonies online in NSW (I am in Vic). In reading the manual, I discovered you can scan/lodge all official documents ONLINE once the ceremony is over and that’s that. I emailed them to ask if that was for real – we don’t need to mail the official docs in? They emailed back that is correct and we just file the documents.

Now – that’s not what the Act says. Hmmmmm. I don’t want to be responsible for holding the originals. I asked a few celebrants who all say they send the docs in as well. One celebrant said he rocked up to NSW BDM to hand the documents in and they flatly refused to take them from him, saying once they are uploaded online there is no need for the BDM to have them.

So I guess they are binning / destroying all the original docs people are sending them, if those same docs have been uploaded online.

I am dying to know: what do you two do when registering a marriage in NSW then uploading the documents? Do you send/destroy/keep the originals?

Different signatures by parties

A celebrant asks: I have received a Notice of Errors in documentation email from BDM. They have requested the bride provides a stat dec indicating why her signature on the NOIM and Marriage Certificate are different. Is there wording we can provide on the stat dec to assist completion? Can we provide a scanned copy of the stat dec to BDM (or do they need to sight originals)

Starting a business

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Linda asks: I have completed my cert 4 at last and am in the process of doing my AG application so now I am thinking about the set up of my business. I have no previous experience in this area and wondering where to start really. Should I be...

When a party’s recorded sex is different from their gender identity

A celebrant asks: The groom was born female, and identifies as male. He is male on his passport (that’s the doc I saw for ID purposes), but he’s just asked me if it poses any problems that his birth certificate lists him as ‘female’. I said no, because the changes to the rules have allowed for him to identify as male, so no dramas at all. However, my question is do I need to write a note of explanation in the ‘Additional Information to BDM’ section online? I know they sometimes cross reference with birth certificates and I don’t want to put the groom to any trouble by having to justify his gender. (I’d prefer not to make an issue of it by raising it if I don’t have to, but I know BDM can sometimes be a bit heavy-handed and insensitive).

Cost to register a marriage?

A celebrant asks: Does each state charge different fees to submit completed marriage docs? I’ve got weddings in NSW, SA and VIC coming up and I can’t find any details on costs associated with registering the paperwork? 

Documents translated by overseas services

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Alice asks: I’m lodging a NOIM for a couple where the bride is Japanese. She has a passport (which is in English), but Japanese passports do not include place of birth, so I’ll also have to use her birth certificate (which is in...

Correcting errors on the NOIM

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Bree asks: Some of my parties have completed their NOIMs ready for our meeting and for me to witness. I have noticed as I have gone to log them into BDM that there are certain things I am concerned about as follows:- Use of blue pen for...

Insuring your PA system

Ella asks: I’ve purchased my PA systems and equipment because this isn’t covered under my home contents as it’s business use. Most home insurers will find a way not to pay if I did try to claim if something happened! (Previous industry knowledge). Who do you use for insurance on your equipment? As my other insurance is the association group on – can’t just add it on it.

How to sign marriage paperwork on an iPad

I’ve had a few people ask how I sign marriage paperwork on an iPad, and I had the grandest of intentions of preparing a fully professional video detailing that. However we’re expecting a baby any day now and I figured a low quality video with high quality information is better than no video at all…

New draft NOIM. Sarah’s thoughts

§ MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT Hopefully all registered celebrants received an email from the Attorney General’s Department on 27 September 2018, inviting feedback on a new version of the Notice of Intended Marriage. Only members have access to the full article – To...

My disappointment every car service

Every time my car gets serviced, at 10,000km a service that’s about four to five times a year, I have this sinking feeling as I drive away from the mechanic’s workshop. After spending six odd hours away from me, and an average of $500 to $700 invoice, the car I drive away in feels pretty much the same as I brought to the workshop that morning at 8am…

Beginners guide to not getting hacked

Reading the news today I realised that after Kristy Merlino’s email and Mailchimp accounts were hacked, that Kanye West’s iPhone passcode is 00000 and that Facebook doesn’t care about your privacy – it might be possible that other people aren’t 1) as passionate about Internet privacy and security as I am, 2) and even if they were, they might not know how to protect themselves…

Change of name and identity documents

Sean asks: Bride has officially changed her name. Has new birth certificate with new name on it. Her passport still has her old name on it. Can I accept her passport as photo ID for completion of NOIM? I’ve written before about what to do if the names differ on the...

Dissolving a registered relationship

Charis asks: My client has registered a relationship. She was never married but registered a relationship with BDM. They told her she could not get married until this is cancelled by them. Do I record this info anywhere? She has never been validly married so I feel as...

What it’s like to be deregistered

351 Australian marriage celebrants were deregistrated this week because they “did not pay the celebrant registration charge“ and here are the three letters they received after their initial invoice: Date: Wed, 8 Aug 2018 12:07:09 +1000 Subject: Annual Celebrant...

How to get enquiries to reply to your emails

Great question today: Let’s talk follow up emails. You’ve received an enquiry, or worse, have met with a couple. You’ve sent them an email back, but it’s crickets from their end. How do you word your emails to try and elicit a response from them? I don’t want to rush them, but at the same time I’ve got a business to run.

Uploading documents to NSW BDM from a Mac

A little tip for celebrants using the NSW Lifelink system. I tweeted at the NSW Justice Department decrying their developers of not allowing Mac users to upload documents into Lifelink and one of their staff wrote me back with this little tip.  Don’t worry,...

Co-delivering a marriage ceremony

Josh asks: I have a celebrant mate of mine whose registration is pending with the AG’s office. But, she has a friend’s wedding coming up towards the end of September, which is the reason why she completed the course. I initially completed the NOIM for her and kept the date in September free (just in case), but what would you recommend I do to help from here? Should I just hang tight and wait for the AG or can I take care of the legals and have the other celebrant deliver the ceremony (other than the legal elements of course)? Also how would this work if the other celebrant has spent the time getting to know the couple and I have simply helped in a legal capacity? It’s definitely possible for an authorised celebrant to manage the legalities of the ceremony while another person (whether a pending celebrant or a friend of the couple) delivers the “ceremonial” aspects of the ceremony. 

Charging for travel. Sarah’s view

Mercy asks: I’ve been asked to do a wedding two hours from Sydney and quoted an extra $50 above my usual fee each way, but they want to do a rehearsal the day before which would require me driving an extra four hours plus the time it takes to do the rehearsal. How would you recommend I charge for this?

iPad Celebrants, you need this tip

If you’re a celebrant who reads off your iPad, you might not be aware of a simple way you can help photographers and videographers. If the ceremony is inside with lower lighting, your iPad’s screen brightness will often reflect onto your face, like this:...

Which directories should we advertise in?

Sarita asks: I’m a relatively new celebrant and just after some advice on the world of wedding directories. There seem to be loads. Apart from the obvious ones like easyweddings, ABIA, there’s lots of smaller ones like polka dot bride, wedding guide, celebrant society, etc etc & a huge variation on how much it costs to list with them. Have you any tips, recommendations on where to go and where not to go. I feel like I should be listing somewhere (shouldn’t I?) but where to go!

Where to host your website

Emma asks To squarespace or not to squarespace? What are your tips for starting a website? This article has the opportunity to be a long and nerdy one, so I’m going to be purposely brief so that you can make an educated decision easily. All business decisions...

Parents’ names on the NOIM. Part 2

I've written previously about listing parents' names on the NOIM, and I've had some follow up questions (from a celebrant who had totally read the first post, yay!): 1) Recently received a NOIM by email (interstate couple) where the Father is listed as 'Unknown' -...

Proof of divorce: what, when, how?

A celebrant asks: Divorce certificates. They just get me confused as to what I need to sight, how I need to sight it and what I definitely need to record. What I'd really like clarified once and for all is:-- Do I need to see the original certificate?-- If it's from a...

One month notice period: we won!

Some of you will have been following my post about the updated guidance received on the one month notice period. If you haven’t had a chance, feel free to review it before you read on.  I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that this morning at 11.40am I...

Getting your start in funerals

Mercy asks: Like you I want to create beautiful funeral ceremonies. Because I think funerals can be beautiful. An assignment in my celebrant course had me visit a local funeral director with a bunch of questions on how they work with celebrants. The funeral director I...

What to do about crying

Here’s a fun one for you guys. How do you deal with crying? I’m currently studying and in my performance assignment, my “bride” burst into tears and I realised I was totally unprepared for what I imagine is a very common occurrence. Do I just...

Getting your financials in order

“I just did my tax and I’m very frustrated!!! I need advice on what software or system to use to make it easier. Most I see are not designed for a sole owner operator that has not registered for GST (I earn less than 75k); they seem too complicated. I know what I earn and spend this shouldn’t be so frustrating. But I never know what category to put things in. I don’t know. What do you use? I have a subscription to 17hats I thought that might help but its basically designed for America.”

Answering “How much do you cost?”

Amber asks Leading from the price on website debate – how do you answer the “How much do your services cost?” enquiry?I try to start a conversation and speak about value and the experience but sometimes it is just frustrating. For example, l had the...

How to publish Facebook ads that work

I don’t know.

If there’s anything you can expect from me today and into the future is that I’m not going to talk BS. The good news is that I know as much about Facebook advertising as most marketers and advertisers do, and they don’t know either, because there is no one perfect ad that will close all the deals and make all the bookings. So as much as I don’t know how to publish Facebook ads that work, I do know how to publish Facebook ads that work for me, so I’ll take you through that process and also weave in some professional best practises and see if we can’t help you.

Finding a mentor. Sarah’s view

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...