Office facilities – what’s required?

Alison asks:
I'm currently studying to become a marriage celebrant, but there is one thing that worries me about setting up my practice once authorised: the home office.   I currently live with flatmates in the city, so space is limited. I'm only planning on doing the celebrancy thing as a side gig (at the moment) as an antidote to my corporate day job, so renting full-time office space isn't practical.   In your interpretation of the Marriage Act and Code of Practice, would it be appropriate to maintain an "office" in my lockable bedroom, securing documents in a locked filing cabinet, while renting a separate interview space when needed or offering to meet couples in their homes? Can you recommend any other solutions?
This is definitely something you shouldn't be worried about at all, there's no need to overthink it! Read More

Five ways to make your ceremonies better

A recent Seth Godin post about presentations of the corporate/Microsoft Powerpoint kind, spurred me on to thinking about our presentation style as celebrants. My ceremony presentation style has it's roots in a) what I'm good at and b) what I like. Yours should too, so don't read this and feel judged or ashamed. If your style is you at your best, and in a style that you would like to receive, then be proud. Hopefully these five points might inspire you to expand your presentation style and take you out of your comfort zone, which can only make you better. Read More

Personal vows and their content

Veronica asks:
I know according to section 45(2) of the Marriage Act, couples are required to say "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 (or husband); or words to that effect." When it comes to couples personalising their vows, aside from the previous mentioned, do couples have to say certain things, or are they free to say what they see fit?
This one's almost easy: they can literally say whatever they see fit, almost... Read More

My ceremony writing timeline

Mercy asks:
This relates to the questionnaire you send your couples. I've been doing the same, but as I'm fairly new, don't really have a system in place as to when couples need to get back to me.   When you send the questionnaire do you give your couples a deadline, if so do they generally stick to it, and what if they don't?? And when do you tell couples you'll send a first draft, final draft etc? Or do you sometimes have to play by ear according to the couples.   So far I haven't had any issues but I imagine some couples dragging their feet could affect getting the ceremony written. Would love your input on this.
I definitely have a process and a timeline and deadlines and reminders and it all works! I’m much more process driven than a lot of celebrants (including Josh!) but it works for me, and my couples appreciate the fact that they don’t have to think or remember anything; I tell them exactly when everything is due and send them reminders when necessary. Read More

My Ceremony Builder Booklet

Mercy asks:
I'd like to know about your booklet. The idea of printing an expensive booklet seemed a bit outdated to me, given that there are so many resources online and such a diversity of options for couples these days. None of my couples so far have been interested in readings, and I'm reluctant to pin them down as far as ceremony structure goes either, until I know more about them.   What does your booklet look like, how many pages etc and what quality do you recommend? Do you find that couples choose structure and content based on the booklet or do you also provide links?   And how do you get around the fact that you may want to update it when you find more content? I worry about the expense when I think about how often I come across new stuff and imagine wanting to change things up often.
I know not all celebrants provide a booklet of information to their couples, but I have since the beginning of my life as a celebrant, and I find it helps both me and the couple stay on track and organised, and the couples who choose to work with me love the way it helps them plan out their ceremony. Read More

The rules for commitment ceremonies

Jac asks:
I have a couple coming up. They got married a year ago (pretty much for their families to have a religious ceremony). None of their friends know this though. Before getting married officially for their parents, they said they would only do it their parents' way if they could have a big bash with their friends the way they want this year. The time has come! It's within a month.   I met with them yesterday and they were so stressed about their friends finding out etc that they were already married. I explained that we wouldn't have to focus on that and include in the scripting that "this is the day that Jack and Jill are choosing to celebrate their marriage in front of you special people blah blah blah". Instead of doing official paperwork, I offered a commemorative certificate instead (as this doesn't have any legal bearing anyway). Are there any issues with what can/cannot be written on this? Would 'wedding certificate' be safe?   I really don't want to say 'THIS CEREMONY IS IN NO WAY LEGAL/BINDING' so I was just going to gloss over it a little how you explained in your previous podcast. Obviously no Monitum will be said and there will be no legal vows but the couple will still write their own. Obviously I won't be doing DONLIMs or submitting anything formal to BDM, but I thought the 'pretty' certificate or a commemorative certificate would be okay. Anything else I should look out for?
The Guidelines are pretty clear on this, but let me give you my interpretation of what they say. Read More

Parents’ names on the NOIM

Listing the parents' names on the NOIM is often a huge headache. What if one of them changed their name? Do you put their name when they were born or when the party was born? What if there's a spelling error in their name on your birth certificate? What if they go by an anglicised name? The Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Marriage Celebrants have, until now, been silent on this matter, and it's often been a point of contention between celebrants. Some celebrants say you should put whatever is on the party's birth certificate, because the important thing is to be able to link all the records. Some celebrants say you should put whatever the father's legal name is now, regardless of what it was when the party was born. But all that has changed with the release of the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018, so I was pleased to be able to answer the following question. Read More

Prospective Marriage Visa: the celebrant’s role

Shamini asks:
I have my first Proposed marriage visa letter. Do I get the couple to fill out the NOIM and groom sign it (bride is overseas). Prepare a letter and then only when she gets in the country get her to sign the NOIM? Or does she need to sign the NOIM in her country before I can give a visa letter?
There are multiple different visas a person can apply for in order to emigrate to Australia. If an Australian citizen or permanent resident falls in love with a citizen from another country, applying for a Prospective Marriage Visa (PMV) is one way the overseas partner can start the process of emigrating to Australia. Remember, celebrants are in no way, shape or form allowed to give migration advice to couples. We must be mindful of the boundaries of our role. However, a PMV requires documentation from a celebrant before it can be approved, so this post is about the celebrant's role in this process. Read More

Ceremony script writing skills. Sarah’s view

Liane asks:
As a reasonably new celebrant (2016) my question to you both is how can I improve my skills and knowledge on writing ceremony scripts? How do you guys keep yourselves updated and up-skilled in this area? Can you recommend any resources, websites etc to increase my creative bank (example quotes, styles of weddings)? What framework do you both use when creating your wedding script?
Once again, Josh and I have VERY different views on this, so we're answering this one separately 🙂 First up, it's really important to know that ceremony writing is a very personal thing, and EVERY celebrant approaches it differently. This is just the way I do it, and that's not to say it's good, bad or other. It's just the way it works for me and has evolved over my celebrant career. Read More

Pricing on websites; to list or not to list??? Sarah’s view

Ella asks:
Price points seem to be a hot topic everywhere... Would you recommend putting your fees on your website? Some celebrants display their price on their website, others don't. Some also seem to provide services cheaper then a BDM wedding. Which poses that question that some people expect you to compete on price, they aren't comparing the quality of service provided. Only the number they see on the page...
You will literally get a different answer on this from every celebrant or marketing guru you speak to. So for this question, both Josh and I are going to offer our views! This article is just Sarah's thoughts. Read More

Running side hustles alongside your celebrant business

We've had a couple of anonymous questions on this in the last week, so I'm going to pop them both in here:
I'm looking at expanding my services other than just celebrant. At the moment I have a little side gig where it is wedding packages with hair, make up and myself this is run on a separate facebook page. But I'm wanting to possibly offer ceremony styling as well. Just wanted to check it I could advertise this on my celebrant website under a tab "Ceremony Styling" and offer DIY or we setup and dismantle the ceremony. Think simple to start with chairs, flowers and arch. Just before I go making any purchases just wanted some feedback and advice. Thanks!
And:
I am currently working for a theatre company and intend to keep working for them, but I want to be able to do weddings occasionally and for friends. However because I’m trained in fashion and costume I thought I’d be able to offer wedding dresses but from what I can understand I can’t? I understand how that can be a conflict of interest now but I was wondering where you draw the line within packages and extras. If I can’t even offer custom veils as an inclusion of a package then I feel like all my other hard earned creative making abilities are of no use?
This has all changed! We can now do (almost) anything we like! Read More

Ceremonies in public spaces and copyright

Jac asks:
The guidelines state that weddings are usually considered 'private in nature' and so playing music, reading poems etc is fine. The examples the guidelines list are all indoors. What if the ceremony is in a public space? Do you have to get insurance for this through an association or does it fall under Public Liability, Personal Accident, Professional Indemnity etc if you went for insurance privately. Would appreciate pros/cons etc of the going with an association if protection is required.
I'm going to look at all three questions here; whether or not we need copyright or other licences or insurances for weddings, and what kinds of insurance may be useful, and whether you should get your insurance through an association or privately! Read More

How to protect the copyright of your ceremony scripts

Tenielle asks
Just a quick question about intellectual property of ceremony drafts. Hasn't happened to me, but have heard of stories of celebrants issuing a draft ceremony for the clients to look over, and then that ceremony being taken by the couple to a cheaper celebrant. Don't know how true it is, but it did get me thinking about my own Ts and Cs and about how I could best protect myself at the end of the day. Look, I know how easy it is to forward on a PDF or a Word Document and there's stuff all we can do about it at the end of the day, but it's just another aspect of this job that's been on my mind a bit lately.
So there are three angles I'm going to answer this question from:
  1. copyright law, knowing it and protecting yourself
  2. sending scripts
  3. why is your script stolen
And I'll start with the most important one (in my humble opinion): Read More

Get testimonies that matter

Celebrants offer such a personal service, your service is very different to mine, to every other member of this website, and the thousands of other celebrants available. We can communicate our differences in text and photos on our website, through blog and social content, and by meeting people but meeting every single enquirer can become tiresome. So, let me introduce you to a secret warrior in my sales toolkit: testimonies. Couples I have already married, via a testimony, are the most experienced people to tell new couples how I am different from other celebrants, whilst also confirming that I am indeed the person talked about on the website and social media. Testimonies are social proof that you're not a dud, not a scam artist, but you are indeed a person who does the thing you say you do. Because here's the tip no-one else is telling you: in a world where anyone can start a website or social media account, we're looking for indicators that you're authentically, honestly, who you say you are. Read More

2017-2018 Tax deductions for celebrants

It's every business owner's favourite time of the year: EOFYmas! As the End Of Financial Year celebrations takeover our lives I wanted to highlight the deductions I think we celebrants should be thinking of, and if you don't have the record of these deductions from the past financial year, maybe try and keep them for this financial year. I hope this goes without saying, but I'm not your accountant, I'm not the Australian Tax Office, and I'm not your mum, so make sure you run these things past those guys before taking my accounting advice as gospel. If you need an accountant, I can recommend mine but I'm sure there's 100 within cat-swinging distance of your place. Read More

Period of residency on the NOIM

NOIM question. I know it says in the Guidelines if a person is in the country for a matter of days you leave the period of residency blank. Is that right? The only time I leave it blank is when they are born here, and I wouldn't want there to be any confusion with an overseas-born person if I left it blank and BDM thought I'd made a mistake and forgot to fill it in.
You're absolutely right, the Guidelines recommend leaving the period of residency fields blank on the NOIM. Read More

Portable PA speaker system purchasing advice

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

The only thing you can rely on in the wedding business

This afternoon a couple got engaged and they have never heard of you, they've not made any decisions about their wedding, and it's highly likely they don't know anything about the wedding industry, how it works, what things cost, and who does what. The only thing you can rely on in the wedding industry is that today a couple got engaged and all of your previous branding, marketing, advertising, and godowill in the market means nothing. Read More

How does a party prove they’re divorced?

When someone gets divorced they are sent a divorce certificate (also called a divorce order). That certificate may take a different format depending on when it was issued, but since February 2010 divorce orders have been issued electronically. Sometimes (often) by the time they come to remarry, a party has misplaced or lost their divorce order, but of course you can't marry them without seeing it. So how do they get a new one? Read More

Can the Marriage Registry transfer a NOIM to a celebrant?

Sometimes couples think they want to get married at the Registry Office. They go along to the Registry and lodge their Notice of Intended Marriage, and then sometimes it's a few months before they can get an appointment for a marriage ceremony. In the meantime they find an awesome celebrant who convinces them they can do a much nicer ceremony at a much nicer place, and they decide to get married with the celebrant instead. Read More

Shortening of time: the celebrant’s role

It is a legal requirement that couples who want to get married in Australia give at least one month's, and no more than 18 months', notice through lodging a Notice of Intended Marriage with an Authorised Celebrant. However in some exceptional circumstances it is possible to have that notice period shortened by applying to a prescribed authority for a Shortening of Time. In capital cities prescribed authorities can generally be found at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages; for regional and rural areas the list of prescribed authorities should be consulted. Read More

Ten reasons you should take credit card payments

If your couples don't have an easy way to pay you with credit card, I'm of the belief that you're not only missing out on cash flow and cash, but you're also missing out on the goodwill you would generate by making your couples' lives easier. Here are ten reasons I think you should either enable credit card payments (if you already have the option) or look at extending your payment options to include credit card. Read More

Who can witness a NOIM under the title “legally qualified medical practitioner”?

Notices of Intended Marriage signed in Australia can be witnessed by people with a number of different qualifications. Most are pretty straightforward: an authorised celebrant, a justice of the peace, a barrister or solicitor, or a member of the Australian Federal Police or the police force of a State or Territory. Easy, right? There's one qualification on the list that trips up a lot of couples and a lot of celebrants: legally qualified medical practitioner. What exactly does that mean? Read More