A member asked:

I would like you to do an article on how honest should you be with clients? For instance should newly appointed celebrants make the fact they are not experienced known? Or should we fake it till we make it? If a client asks if we have ever done a certain ritual like hand fasting should we be honest and say I have never done one or should we say no problem (and then quickly research it and then wing it on the day)?

In my view (and I’m pretty sure Josh would agree with me), honesty and authenticity are EVERYTHING in this business. Ultimately we are selling ourselves, our point of difference from other celebrants is our unique personality and traits we bring to the work, so being who we are completely and openly is key to both attracting clients it will be awesome to work with, and making our lives easier. We work pretty closely with our clients, and our work can create fairly intimate relationships, and honestly, it’s exhausting to pretend to be someone or something that you’re not all the time.

I see no issue at all with being upfront with clients about your level of experience. It can even be a selling point: “look, I’m new, so I’m charging you less to make up for my lack of experience, but being new also means I’m available a lot more than busier celebrants may be, and I’m super enthusiastic to try out all my new skills!” (Josh may have some things to say about this – I’m not the marketing guru, he is!)

I was absolutely honest with my couples when I started out, and I know of at least one couple who booked me BECAUSE I was honest. I did my first wedding expo when I’d only done one wedding, and that one wedding had been literally two days before the expo! That meant I didn’t have any photos of me in action on display, so it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t highly experienced. One bride came to my stall three times, the third time with her mum; her mum asked me, “how many weddings have you done?” I was honest and said just one. She said, “thank you so much for being honest; I could tell you were new, but I wanted to know if you would lie about it.” They booked me on the spot.

I remember having this discussion with a well-known celebrant when she had just performed her 50th wedding. She was asking me whether or not she should make a big splash about this milestone on her socials, because while she wanted to celebrate, she also didn’t want people to think she wasn’t very experienced. I told her that she should be honest and authentic, that people would likely be deeply impressed at how quickly she’d managed to rack up so many weddings, and that in my experience numbers on the board don’t really make that much of a difference to the average couple; they just want someone they can have a great time with while trusting them to marry them! I also pointed out that anyone who scrolled back through her socials would quickly be able to tell when she’d started posting and therefore how new she was 🙂

In terms of our member’s second question, about rituals or other ceremony components, this for me depends on whether the couple asks outright. I will never actively lie. If they asked me outright if I’d done something I hadn’t, I’d be honest and tell them no, I haven’t done, but I have lots of resources and lots of people I can ask for advice, I’m eager to learn, and I promise to work with you to make it awesome. If they didn’t specifically ask the question, I probably wouldn’t volunteer the information! I’ve gone back and forth on whether that stance goes against my notion of “authenticity and openness at all costs”, and I’ve decided it doesn’t, for me at least 🙂

Considering authenticity in celebrancy also goes towards helping me know what kinds of couples I’d prefer to work with, what kinds of weddings I’d prefer to work on (e.g. I don’t take bookings before 10am because mornings are not my friend), what I’m prepared to do at a wedding (e.g. I’ll never do a wedding in the surf or in a hot air balloon, and I’ll never be nude at a wedding), and even what kinds of language I’m prepared to use during a ceremony (e.g. I’ll occasionally swear if it’s relevant to the story I’m telling and only if the couple have asked for it). I might look at other celebrants on Instagram and think, “I wish I was more like them for X, Y, Z reasons,” but ultimately I need to work in a way that is authentic to what I believe in and how I live my life, otherwise it’s going to be difficult and I’m likely to end up resenting the clients and the job, and that’s no fun for anyone.

I hope this is somewhat useful. Always remember the iconic words attributed to Oscar Wilde: Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.