It's been a pretty busy week for me, which I'm guessing is par for the course for most celebrants in peak season. When family and friends ask me what I've been up to, I invariably answer 'just busy with work' which is often met with a raised eyebrow and some exasperation. The look on their face says 'are you really THAT busy, when your job is just to stand at a ceremony and talk for 20 minutes?'
It used to make me angry when people didn't get what I do, but I have learned over the years that many people are simply not aware of what goes on behind the scenes, how much preparation goes into a ceremony and the contingencies that a good celebrant needs to account for.
So in the interests of being open and trying to educate rather than explode, here's a snapshot of what I get up to in an average week.
Working with my couples
- Meetings with my couples to complete their Notice of Intended Marriage, discuss their ceremony requirements or sign the Final Declaration, if I won't be seeing them for a rehearsal.
- Phone calls, emails, text and Facebook messages to stay connected and exchange ideas for my couple's ceremonies.
- Checking my couple's identity and ability to be legally married in Australia by checking their birth certificates, passports and/or previous marriage documentation to then complete, witness and lodge their Notice of Intended Marriage.
- Creating, updating, maintaining and providing the links to my exclusive online wedding ceremony planning resources.
- Preparing the first and subsequent drafts of the ceremony script for my couples to approve.
- Assisting with or writing vows and/or couple's stories for inclusion in ceremonies and tweaking of subsequent drafts.
- Preparation for and conducting of rehearsals including the signing of the Final Declaration.
- Preparing the marriage certificates and register for the ceremony.
- Setting up for the ceremony at least 30 minutes prior to the start in agreed position with consideration for the comfort of guests and best vantage point and light for the photographer and/videographer, with agreed equipment e.g. PA, signing table etc.
- Checking all equipment, testing batteries and soundcheck prior to ceremony, including microphones, PA & devices for recorded music.
- Liaising with other suppliers including venue staff, photographers, videographers and musicians to ensure that all of the couple's requirements and schedules are met.
- Working together with family and friends of the couple on readings, rituals and the operation of recorded music including preparation and explanation of copies of the script and palm cards.
- Helping the groom to feel confident in the last moments before the bride arrives including going over his vows, checking that the rings have been remembered and giving him tissues, breath mints, hand moisturizer, insect repellent etc.
- Conducting the marriage ceremony while ensuring all legal requirements are met.
- Assisting other wedding suppliers to do their job to ensure the experience of the ceremony is as smooth as possible i.e. calling guests together for a group photo.
- Scanning or all original documentation and forwarding of signed marriage certificate, Final Declaration and Notice of Intended Marriage to Births, Deaths & Marriages.
- Provide information to the couple on how to order their Births, Deaths and Marriages marriage certificate and advice to Brides on the process for changing their last name.
- Seek and act on evaluative comments from couples including obtaining photos and testimonials for future advertising purposes.
- Responding to general enquiries, preparing quotes and my advising my availability via email, phone and Facebook.
- Coordinating, preparing for and conducting first chats with potential clients.
- Follow up after first meetings and (hopefully) preparing the couple's service agreement.
- Set-up of new couples and their wedding details in the celebrant software.
- Receiving payments and invoicing couples for my services and adhering to the small business reporting requirements for our friends at the ATO.
- Interviewing people, collating credits and photos and creating original content for my blog.
- Promotion of blog articles to social media channels and maintaining my online presence by interacting with other suppliers and sharing their content.
Behind the scenes, as an independent, professional full time celebrant I am also required to:
- ensure I comply with the Code of Practice for Marriage Celebrants per the Marriage Act 1961
- keep up to date with the latest changes in the law and with relationship education services
- attend annual professional development sessions
- pay annual fees to cover the cost of the government regulation of marriage celebrants
- ensure my website and other advertising activities meet the government's Advertising Guidelines
- keep my office stocked with the legally required stationery (certificates and brochures required by the Marriage Act 1961).
- plan and network with other celebrants to ensure back-up systems are in place should unexpected illness or other circumstances affect my ability to conduct a ceremony.
So yes, I'd love to meet you at the pub during the week for a lazy lunch, but let's book it in for Winter. ;)