How To Choose The Right Celebrant For Your Wedding

Choosing the right celebrant sets the tone for a successful wedding day. Dianne Troup, president of the Celebrants Association of New Zealand, shares her thoughts on how to select wisely

Choosing a celebrant is one of the most important wedding decisions you'll make. Photo / Getty Images

How important is the celebrant to the overall wedding experience?
The celebrant and the ceremony is a vital part of any wedding because without the process contained within the ceremony it is really just a great, big, fabulous party. It is the ceremony that makes you married. There is no demanding social expectation to marry these days, so when a couple makes this decision, to commit publicly and permanently to each other, then it is a moment to be acknowledged and honoured.

Where’s a good place to start for people who aren’t sure who to have as their celebrant?
A wedding ceremony should definitely be fun but it should also have those special moments of solemnity that give credence to the real meaning behind what has brought the couple to this point. Every couple is unique and has their own story, so the ceremony should reflect that. It’s not the time to revert to cliches or cut-and-paste. Every word of the ceremony should be about that couple and no one else.

Look for someone who is prepared to sit with you, talk with you, hear what you have to say, understand what type of people you are and what this ceremony and marriage means to you. Book a time to interview your celebrant and make sure they “get you”. This is your day and you deserve to have someone standing in front of you who wants to make this the best experience of your lives so far, and is not just operating on autopilot.

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What are some key questions to ask the celebrant?
Ask them for a quote and what that quote includes; do they charge extra for travel, do they attend the rehearsal, do they have a sound system to use at the ceremony, have they had any training or undertake regular professional development, why do they enjoy this work, will they send you a draft of the ceremony to look through, how long before the ceremony will they arrive, do they have a contract that sets out clearly what you can expect of them and what you are required to do for them?

These are all valid queries and you won’t offend the celebrant by asking them. They in turn will ask you questions. What are your expectations of the ceremony, do you wish to write your own vows or will you need some help or guidance with that aspect, what, if any are your concerns? This back and forth of information and ideas is how the ceremony develops.

It’s important to remember that the couple have responsibilities too. They need to ensure the celebrant is kept abreast of any changes concerning the ceremony i.e. if the time or venue changes, and most importantly get any required alterations to the ceremony and a copy of the marriage licence to the celebrant at least 24 hours beforehand.

Have you noticed a shift in the type of ceremony people are having?
Couples are generally marrying at a later age than perhaps 15 years ago. When the time is right it’s right but overall the majority of marriages probably occur in the 28 to 38 year age group.

These couples have had a load of experiences; they may have had many years of study, they may have a young family, they may have spent years travelling or living overseas. They are not naive and the decision they are making has not been made lightly and they want a ceremony that has integrity. The most important element of any ceremony is relevance and relevance has nothing to do with how much is spent on the wedding.

The increasing cost of buying a home or a shift in priorities has led to some couples having simple backyard weddings that are just as beautiful.

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What are some broader trends with weddings you’ve noticed of late?
Pop-up weddings have become increasingly popular with time-poor couples or those who want to keep it simple or keep costs to a minimum. They are ceremony focused and can be performed with integrity by a celebrant who embraces the straightforward principle of taking the time to find the right words and the right feel.

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