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. 

A lot of celebrants I know became celebrants in order to officiate at a friend or family member’s marriage. In years gone by that was a pretty easy thing to do; the couple paid for the friend to do the celebrant course (prior to 2003 there was no formal training at all; between 2003 and 2010 you only had to complete one unit of competency to become a celebrant) and it was all good. 

The current Cert IV in Celebrancy, which started being delivered across the country from July 2017, is much more intensive than anything we’ve seen before, so it’s possible that there will be more people wanting to deliver a ceremony in partnership with an authorised celebrant who manages the legal aspects. And certainly we’ll continue to have the cases such as in this question, where a pending celebrant hasn’t quite received their authorisation by the time the wedding comes up.  

Legalities 

Ultimately this is super simple. The authorised celebrant needs to make it clear to the guests that they are responsible for the legal matters, and the other person can do everything else. This is the way I do it at the actual ceremony:

  • The other person does any pre-processional housekeeping (turn your phones off, don’t take photos, etc).
  • The processional runs as normal.
  • I introduce myself as the authorised celebrant and say the couple’s full names, the same way I do at every other wedding: “Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to X Venue. My name is Sarah Aird and I am delighted to be the authorised celebrant to officiate at Party 1’s Full Name and Party 2’s Full Name’s wedding.”
  • I say something about how I’m the one responsible for the legal stuff, and I’ll shortly be introducing whoever, who will be responsible for the fun stuff.
  • I state the full Monitum.
  • I introduce the other person, and go stand at the side of the guests (I don’t stand up the front, I’m not needed there; I like to stand near the end of one of the rows of chairs so I can see everything that’s going on, and I’m close enough to jump in if I’m needed for any reason).
  • I must be close enough to hear the legal vows.
  • The other person delivers the ceremony, including pronouncing the couple married (that’s not a legal requirement and I don’t need to do it).
  • When it comes time for the signing, I head back up the front to the signing table to manage that process as usual.
  • The other person closes out the ceremony and presents the couple to their guests. 

So in summary, as long as I introduce myself as the authorised celebrant, say the Monitum, hear the legal vows, and manage the signing process as usual, someone else can do literally everything else!

The authorised celebrant also has to receive and sign all the legal documentation (including the Notice of Intended Marriage, the Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage, and the three Official Certificates of Marriage), and register the marriage with BDM as usual. 

Doing this in practice

There are a LOT of differing opinions about how to charge for this type of arrangement. Many celebrants choose to charge their normal fee, as they believe it is just as much work to manage a non-celebrant writing and delivering a ceremony as it is for them to write it themselves. 

I’m a bit different, and just as with all my other ceremony packages, it’s because I’m completely upfront and transparent about what I will and won’t do for the price I’m offering. 

I currently charge $580 for this arrangement, which is the same price as my Short and Sweet Ceremony Package. I make it clear to the couple that for that price I will provide:

  • a copy of my Premium Ceremony Builder Booklet that their friend can use for ideas on ceremony structure and wording
  • an hour meeting with the couple and the friend to complete the Notice of Intended Marriage and discuss their thoughts about the ceremony and logistical issues
  • a further hour working with the friend, in person or by phone or by email, on the script that they write
  • all the legal stuff
  • officiating at the wedding on the day.

I make it clear that for that price I will NOT write the ceremony, attend a rehearsal, or provide any more than the two hours of support I’ve offered. If they want me to write the ceremony, they pay my Premium fee. If they want me to attend a rehearsal or spend more time with their friend, they pay me an hourly rate to cover my time. 

So far I’ve had no problems at all with doing it this way. I don’t believe it reflects on me if their friend does a poor job writing or delivering the ceremony; I make it clear to the guests on the day that I’m simply there for the legalities and have nothing to do with the rest of the ceremony. Sometimes I feel sad that an amazing couple has ended up with a shit ceremony delivered by a crappy public speaker, but that’s what they wanted, and that’s their prerogative. I don’t feel comfortable charging my full fee when I’m not spending any time at all writing a ceremony, and I’m happy with that choice. It’s a personal choice, and that’s the way I’ve decided to operate.

It’s important to think about how you want to manage a situation like this in case it ever presents itself; it’s better to be prepared with an answer than to try to come up with a response on the fly. Does anyone want to share the way they manage such situations?

Legal stuff

The Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Celebrants 2018 do a pretty thorough job at outlining our responsibilities if we’re co-delivering a ceremony. Have a look at pages 63 and 64 for more info.