My couples tell me they love it, wedding vendors are always surprised, and other celebrants are always blown away. They are bewildered by my ability to perform a marriage ceremony without a script or notes.
Today, I’ll tell you my secret, and it comes via Mark Twain:
If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.
The fact is that I’m a terrible script reader, I have tried my hand in theatre and it is not somewhere I excelled. The ability to read and perform a script well is not a talent I hold. So if you can do it, you’re doing better than me. Faced with this dilemma early on in my celebrancy career I had to find a better way.
I reflected on my radio career and my best moments on air were when I was passionate about the subject, I was knowledgeable, I wasn’t acting, but I was vulnerable and authentic.
I knew that I had to bring that to my weddings.
Back to Mr Twain, if I simply told the truth in my marriage ceremonies, I wouldn’t have to have a script, or notes, or I wouldn’t have to try hard to remember anything. It would all just come naturally.
So how can you create a commercially viable business out of speaking the truth two to three times a week for completely different couples?
I would need to dig deep into my brain and really figure out what my truth was. In regards to marriage, weddings, and what it all means. Why do I think marriage is important, what do I think marriage is, and how does it affect people? How do I think it makes the world a better place and why am I encouraging of people entering marriage?
Further to that, once I had a solid understanding of what marriage meant to me, and what weddings were for, I would need to avidly, tenaciously, and boldly communicate that over a course of not just days or weeks, but months and years. In my case it’s been for almost ten years.
I hope that if anyone looks over the past ten years of my social media, blogging, vlogging, and podcasting, that you would see that scarlet thread of truth running through all of my thoughts. I might have grown up, matured, and possibly even got a little smarter, but that authenticity would run deep through it all.
This is the tricky part, because I completely want my couples to have their own agency, their own thoughts and beliefs, but all the time being close to my worldview.
I’m essentially looking for my truth and their truth to line up.
We don’t need to be facsimile’s of each other, but we would need to be able to be friends even if I wasn’t marrying them.
It’s still up to me to get to know the couple, and learn their story, but if I never knew their story and was thrown in the deep end, I could probably present a ceremony for them.
The truth of the day
Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is being aware of the event and the day. What crowd is rolling in, and how do they feel? What does the venue feel like and is the ceremony in a good place or a weird place, position-wise?
The actual physical surrounds, the weather, and the guests all weigh in on how the ceremony will feel and they definitely factor in to the truth of it.
In all of our meetings together I am writing down notes about the couple’s truths, what matters to them, and how we all line up, but ultimately I’m building their trust in me and making sure that we are all in alignment as to what their marriage is and how we can celebrate it the best.
At the end I have a Google Doc full of notes about the couple, their story, and what matters to them. I’m essentially writing a note that future Josh will read on their wedding day.
Before the ceremony I read that note past Josh wrote for me, and I get enveloped in their story.
I try to make the effort to catch up with both parties before the ceremony so they know I’m there and I have connected with them even briefly on a personal level outside of the ceremony.
Minutes before the ceremony I literally write (or type) their full name as a physical manifestation of remembering their middle and last names.
And then the music starts.
The ceremony and my ‘bits’
If you talk to comedians, their whole act, even their whole career, is split up into ‘bits’. The bit about Melbourne, the bit about public servants, the bit about that politician. They write all their bits, rehearse them, memorise them, and in their show, depending on the crowd, the vibe, and hope they’re feeling they bring out different bits and sometimes even customise them for the crowd.
My marriage ceremonies are very similar, I have a library of bits that I have written, rehearsed, tried, loved, and memorised.
I saw the band Weezer play recently and their’s a line in one of their songs that references ‘going to the Green Day concert’ but on the day I saw them they were opening for the Foo Fighters so they changed that bit to ‘going to the Foo Fighters concert’.
That’s how I perform a ceremony, I have all my bits, the bits I know that work, and those that work for certain kinds of couples. Some days, like yesterday, I think of a new bit on the fly and I try it out, and some days I’ll bring out a bit I haven’t used in years.
And it works because of this core belief of mine: people will never remember what I said in their ceremony, but they will always remember how I made them feel.
It’s that easy
I’ve always believed that things like this are easy until they’re not, and that’s where talent, skill, and experience come into play.
That note I wrote with the couple’s names is in my suit pocket, and I’ve been doing this long enough that I can’t make an awesome ceremony happen even without a script.
How will you go? We’ll never know until you try, but make sure you stay true to yourself and what you’re good at. The best celebrant you can be is you, everyone else is terrible at being you.