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, including the Form 15.

I recently found my original “red book” of marriage certificates whilst packing to move house. I used it five times before I started investigating other means. Around that time I found Ron Hoare’s Celebrant Suite (I particularly enjoyed his company name “Byronware” aka By Ron Ware, ware being slang for software). Almost six years on I still use Celebrant Suite and have particularly enjoyed Ivan Conway’s addition to the product (Celebrant Connection) with the ability for couples to fill out an online form and then I can import all of their information into Celebrant Suite. When I first started using Celebrant Suite I used the software on a spare Windows laptop and printed the paperwork onto good A4 paper. I kept the celebrant copy (instead of the red book), and mailed the BDM’s copy to the BDM. Today my Celebrant Suite use is a little different, so I’ll lay down how I manage my paperwork today, and maybe some of these tips can rub off on to your workflow.

Bye bye red book

So step number one is to put the red book away. Retire the book, step out from behind it like the big bold awesome celebrant you are. And now everyone hates me because they love their red book selfies, but I’m cool with that. The thing is, the red book isn’t the only way to fulfil that part of our obligation as a marriage celebrant, and the mere fact that you need to pick up a pen to do the work means that we’re letting potential errors enter our workflow.

How do I use Celebrant Suite?

My marriage paperwork workflow starts with every single couple being entered into Celebrant Suite, even though for a majority of my couple’s today I won’t even generate their paperwork in Celebrant Suite. But in my workflow Celebrant Suite is the ultimate keeper of answers to the following:

  1. Who has booked me?
  2. Has the couple competed a NOIM?
  3. When and where is the couple’s wedding?
  4. Record of use of Form 15 certificates and printing the certificates (with pretty fonts)
  5. Have I submitted the paperwork to the BDM?
  6. How many weddings did I do this year?

I know that Ron will be horrified when he reads that list, but being a Queensland-based celebrant who works primarily in New South Wales there are too many benefits in me registering my couples marriages directly with the BDM online, plus NSW BDM calls me every time I lodge a marriage the traditional way, just to make sure that I know they have an online system. They won, I got sick of the phone calls. For couples marrying in Queensland or New South Wales I enter the data into Celebrant Suite and the state’s BDM online system for double data dexterity (the BDM online systems are far from perfect) and then print the forms from the BDM because that’s the most important data point. I need the BDM-entered data to be spelt and typed correctly.

Couples of mine who are not getting married in Queensland or New South Wales, have their marriage paperwork generated in Celebrant Suite, because it’s quite simply a really beautiful way of generating and printing their paperwork.

The base premise is that you enter data once and use it many times. So in Celebrant Suite you’ll enter the couple’s names once and then on every certificate that original spelling is used. I’ll even enter the couples details either manually, or via the Celebrant Connection, then export a PDF of their NOIM to send to them just so they can check spelling and typos. No more errors!

Isn’t Celebrant Suite a Windows program?

I am a Mac and iPad user, who has a single Windows program to run – and Celebrant Suite is that app. I know there are other web-based programs but I’m not happy with them, and all my data is in Celebrant Suite. So I actually pay 9 cents per hour to rent a Windows computer in the cloud. When I’m not using it I shut it down and it costs me nothing. I can just remote desktop into it from my iPad or Mac, where ever I am in the world. It’s quite handy!

Celebrant Suite running on a Windows Server instance in the Alibaba Cloud for 9 cents per hour, being accessing through the Remote Desktop app on my iPad

How do I print/do the paperwork?

“Printing” the paperwork takes on two different meanings here. I personally print as little as I need to, but for most of you, that is, people who aren’t asking their couples to sign on iPad, you’ll need to print more.

So, if I’m printing paper: In my office I’ll print the paperwork from either Celebrant Suite or the BDM online and carry it in my Oroton folio. The BDMs online give you PDFs to print.

My general use case is that I’ll export a PDF from Celebrant Suite or BDM online and save it into Notability, my iPad singing app of choice and have the couple sign the paperwork in Notability. The only paper at the marriage ceremony is the Form 15 which the couple takes home.

If it’s a NSW wedding I can get home and upload that paperwork directly to BDM, essentially a paperless wedding on my end. In Qld I can upload but I still currently have to print and mail the paperwork as well. In the ACT I can simply email the paperwork in, and in other states I mail it in.

Printing the Form 15

The online BDM’s template for printing the Form 15s are pretty ugly, so I still use Celebrant Suite for my Form 15s. Coneria Script is my font of choice (to instal custom fonts onto your iPad, use AnyFont).

If Celebrant Suite is having a bad day, or if I’m too lazy to turn on the virtual machine that runs it, I also have a Apple Pages template which I can manually type the information into. Those templates are available for purchase below.

Form 15 (Marriage Equality Version) Apple Pages template

Form 15 (Old Version) Apple Pages template

2020 update

I still stand by everything I wrote in this article, but I wanted to clarify that I’ve moved 100% to the Apple Pages templates now except for Qld weddings, because the Queensland Form 15 templates from the online BDM are pretty good!