Category: The Art of Ceremony

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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?

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Creating an intimate ceremony, and including kids

A reader asks: I am officiating my cousin’s wedding next month and this is a particularly special one. It is going to be very intimate and relaxed – it’s also really important as my cousin was actually diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer this year (fk cancer!) and it’s really important to me to put together a really beautiful ceremony, but also one that is relaxed and casual just like their style! I was doing some research and wanted to find some nice ideas on how to include kids in the ceremony – they’ve both been married previously and are a blended family. I’ve mentioned how they can write special vows for their step children, or have a community vow – but i am very open to other ideas too – just nothing that is too ‘traditional’. I’ve never performed such a small and intimate ceremony before so was wondering if you had any advice for me – also with these special circumstances, we want to keep this a really positive celebration of their relationship but just wondering if you both had any experience with someone going through this and if there was anything different they included – i absolutely know it really comes down to the individual couple and what they want to include but just interested to know how you would approach this.

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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?

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Should I use a speaker stand, and should I use a PA for 10 guests?

Tam asks: I have my first wedding coming up next month. My question is in regards to using my PA system. I have Bose S1 with Sennheiser microphone. The wedding is only small (approximately 10 guests). Would you use a PA system? They are having a videographer so I didn’t know if this would play into whether or not to use it? If you suggest not using it, at what size wedding would you? Also I have not yet brought a stand. Is this an absolute must/do you recommend any particular brand/price point to aim for to get a decent one? Complete newbie with all this stuff!

All good questions, Tamika, and I’ll address them separately.

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Acknowledgement of Country in our weddings

First Australians have been marrying for thousands of years on the land we now call Australia. Terra Australis, the southern land, was home to people well before the Dutch or the British “discovered” it, so as much as Australian law requires us to identify that we the celebrants are authorised to marry people according to Australian law, common decency would see us acknowledge the truth of the land we stand on to create ceremony.

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How to say the monitum with warmth

Tracey asks: I’d really love some input about how/where in the ceremony you would say the Monitum. In amongst all the beautiful ‘love’ words it can feel a bit cold and clinical. I’m yet to find a way to bring it into the ceremony without it sounding a bit like an announcement! I feel pretty ok with writing sections of a ceremony. Tying them together is the tricky part for me!

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Wedding rehearsals – a video

I’ve been creating some video content for my Cert IV students and thought I might share it with all of you too, in case you find it interesting!

In this video I take you through how I run a wedding rehearsal. Please note this is only how I do it; I don’t expect you or anyone else to do it this way, but hopefully it will give you some ideas. Remember my philosophy with these things is that you should collect as much information from as many celebrants as possible, pick what you like and what you don’t, and hopefully that will help to inform the way you do things!

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We’ll do it live!

My friend, and article writing accountability partner, Jeremy asks: You mentioned in a previous podcast you would put up a post about how you live stream a wedding and what tools you use to do so. You still planning to put this up, mate?

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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?

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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.

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Josh’s ceremony inclusions

Jeff, a Canadian celebrant, asks: I’m wondering what sections you two include in your ceremonies? I have a very similar trajectory for each ceremony, and add or subtract (readings etc) based on what the couple are looking for, but was wondering how others on the other side of the world do it!

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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. 

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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

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How to surprise a couple with a ceremony

Jeff asks: When/how did you now it was ok to not share ceremony content with the couple but just have them trust you on the day of? Couples and guests really love what I put together (I guess I’ve figured out that much ha!) and I have lots of reviews that say it’s great – removing the step of sharing content would literally make things faaaar easier, just wondering how to get couples on board with that or when it’s ok to do that.

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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?

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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.

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A review of Wedwordy, a ceremony script creator

I was email marketed by the team at Wedwordy recently, with their offering of a ceremony script builder. Wedwordy promises to create personalised wedding ceremony scripts “as easy as 1-2-3” so I reached out to them and requested a review. I’ve listened to many celebrants through the ages talk about their ceremony script writing process, some put way too much effort in, and many simply phone it in by inserting names in the right places and clicking print. Some don’t even go that far and thanks to those celebrants the profession has that reputation of saying the wrong names in a ceremony.

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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…

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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.

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Comparing a Josh wedding ceremony and a Sarah ceremony

A topic we don’t cover enough here in the Celebrant Institute membership is ceremony presentation and style. It’s such a personal topic and each of us has our own style. But today we thought we’d lift the cover and show you all how Sarah and I both present a ceremony. Presented below are two videos, full recordings of a recent ceremony we have both presented recently.

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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?

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How do I do marriage certificates?

Julia asks “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?” I’ll answer Julia’s question along with a wider explanation of how I prepare all of my paperwork, including the Form 15.

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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.

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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 Seth Godin’s post first, and then I’ve got a translation for celebrants below.

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“Ceremony writing is my least favourite part”

Jeff asks: I’m heading into my busiest year yet, I’m so happy I get to work alongside so many great humans who want to be married! The downside (if we can call it that) – my ceremony writing process is my least favourite part (is that bad?). I’ve done the work of automating as much of the process as humanly possible while creating a very fun customer journey, but when it comes down to writing the ceremony I’m just not that psyched. And then when you multiply the procrastination to start by x amount of weddings it’s easy to fall behind. Couples and guests have always said they love the ceremonies I write (phew!) but it can be exhausting and seems hard to scale.

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Getting the guests to obey you

I recently had a ceremony which was in a very sunny/hot location, I asked the guests multiple times to move over to the ceremony area but they all resisted and stayed in the shade. I walked over and specifically asked them to move over and some did but some still didn’t. What are your tips?

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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?

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How to use two Bose S1 speakers in a wedding ceremony

Sophie asks: “After a beach ceremony last weekend I vowed to never lug my massive speaker around again – its ridiculously heavy, I’m pregnant, plus sand = a terrible time. I loved your set-up at the conference and def did not write enough notes at that time about what was going on. Bose S1 Pro, check. If I go with 2 speakers like you had do they have to be connected with a cable? I don’t think yours did but some audio store people are telling me I’d have to? I’m not too tech savvy but have reasonable intelligence so I know I can work it all out when I get going. Ideally I’d like 2 speakers playing all audio at once – me speaking through a headset (something decent Rode or the like), couples into a handheld (Senheiser right?) and music played through Bluetooth. This is pretty much what I’ve told the few places I’ve approached so far but then it gets complicated quick when they’re talking to me about mixers and cables etc etc and I’m lost. Any quick and not too laborious help??

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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 hand her a tissue and keep going? Do I wait until she regains composure? Do I try cracking a joke? Do I devise a “safe” word with the couple before the ceremony? I don’t want to embarrass anyone by drawing attention to it or making them feel bad about their reactions, but I also want to make sure they have a wonderful ceremony and can be present in the moment. How do long-time pros handle the floods of emotions from the couples – crying, uncontrollable giggling, nervous twitches? I’d love to know your techniques and any other thoughts from celebrants in the comments section.”

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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?

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High pitched squeak out of the speaker system

Thanks very much for your helpful article about PA system recommendations. I hope Bose & Sennheiser are kind to you! I upgraded to both recommended items & during testing at home & at a venue it worked perfectly, but once the ceremony started there was some audio issues; couple of those high pitches squeaks and I think a bit of cutting out. It wasn’t a disaster but also wasn’t great, and I’d like my audio to be as good as poss so just trying to figure it out before the next ceremony.

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