Alison asks:

A local celebuddy and I have recently been chatting about being a primary back-up celebrant for each other. As a fairly new celebrant, it got me wondering how other people manage replacements when you have to cancel at short notice (or even on the day). Do you ask the new celebrant to use your script (even if it’s very much in ‘your’ voice)? How do you divide payment? Do you partially/fully refund the couple because you’ve not completely fulfilled the contract? What if you’re in a car accident on the way to the ceremony and you have all the paperwork on you?

This is a really tricky set of questions to answer; every single celebrant I speak to has different views on what’s appropriate in these circumstances. All I can tell you is what I personally think is appropriate, as well as the legal stuff 🙂


If you have to cancel on the day, or even in the week or two before, as far as I’m concerned the replacement celebrant has little choice but to use your script, particularly if it’s been approved by the couple. However I don’t believe that means the replacement can’t make small changes to tone and vocab to make it more in their voice – changing “stoked” to “thrilled” or similar if that’s a word they’d be more likely to use. If it were me, I’d also be checking grammar and spelling because I’m a control freak about those things, and I do very much speak in proper grammar, so it would sound weird if I was to read something with incorrect grammar.


Payment is another reason I would tend to encourage the replacement celebrant to use the script that’s already been drafted; the first celebrant has already done that work and should be compensated for their time, and if you’re dividing up the money there’s not going to be enough to pay both celebrants for ceremony writing time.

I know some celebrants think the first celebrant should simply refund the couple and let the couple and the replacement sort out the money, but that can be tricky if it’s super close to the wedding, and it’s one more inconvenience for the couple on top of them not getting their preferred celebrant.

Personally I think a 50/50 split is fair. The first celebrant has done the marketing and won the work, has presumably met with the couple to complete a NOIM and gather information for the ceremony, and has most likely written the ceremony. The replacement celebrant has to recheck all the legal paperwork and print new paperwork with their name on it, check the ceremony script to ensure it’s legally compliant and make small tweaks, and attend the ceremony (and potentially the rehearsal). The replacement celebrant also has the legal responsibility for ensuring the wedding is valid. To me, each celebrant has done about half the work, but that’s really a discussion for the celebrants involved to have.

Refunding the couple

My preference is that if the first celebrant has been paid the full fee, that they transfer some of those funds to the replacement celebrant rather than refunding the couple and expecting them to pay the new celebrant. However this also depends a bit on the reasons for cancelling and what your terms and conditions say. If you’re cancelling because you’ve got a better offer, I believe you should be refunding the entire amount. If you’re cancelling because you’re sick or in an accident, the money you would have refunded for not completing the contract goes to the replacement celebrant for them to complete the contract.

Cancelling on the day

This is legally problematic and depends on your interpretation of the Marriage Act and the Electronic Transactions Act. If the first celebrant was able to take a photo of the NOIM and send it to the replacement celebrant (getting the original to them after the wedding), that would seem to satisfy the requirements of both Acts. Of course then the replacement celebrant would need time to produce a new DONLIM and Marriage Certificates, they would need to sight the parties’ identity documents, and it may be difficult for them to get hold of the script. (I know one celebrant who has a Gmail account that she sends a copy of every script to, so if she was in an accident her husband knows he can go to that account and forward on the appropriate script to the replacement).

It may be easier for everyone for the replacement in this instance to do a commitment ceremony and for them to worry about the legal stuff at another time, but it’s really dependent on circumstances.

I know a lot of my answers here are a bit vague; these issues really are dependent on the individual circumstances and it’s hard to make a concrete plan that would cover all bases!