How much should you pay for a Sydney marriage celebrant (in 2023)?
It’s a question that comes up for most couples when planning their wedding.
The short answer of course, just like every other supplier you will need for the wedding, is that there is a wide range of prices.
The real question is what is the right amount for you to spend on a celebrant in order to get the ceremony experience you want…
According to the 2023 Australian Wedding Industry Report, which collected data from 600 vendors and 3500 couples, the average cost for a celebrant in NSW is $833. Some celebrants may charge as little as $300. Higher-end celebrants in Sydney may charge upwards of $1500. A Sydney Registry Office wedding starts at $469.
Author: Meggan Brummer
If we haven’t met before, my name is Meggan Brummer - I am an award-winning Celebrant in Sydney, Australia.
I’ve married hundreds of couples over the last 11 years and have over 20 years experience as a professional writer.
At the lower end of the price scale, you encounter wedding celebrants who may not have been qualified for long or may have less knowledge, experience or mastery of crafting top-notch ceremonies. Typically, they will only work part-time as a celebrant, performing perhaps only a handful of ceremonies in a year. The exception to these part-time celebrants would be your ‘roaming registry office’ style celebrants, whose business model relies on quantity (through generic ceremonies and minimal interaction with couples) over personalised care and attention.
At the higher end of the scale, you encounter wedding celebrants for whom celebrancy is their primary, full-time occupation. They will be skilled at crafting quality, personalised ceremonies that reflect each specific couple and perfectly set the tone for the rest of the day. These celebrants will be highly experienced and will put in the hours to get to know the couple. They will then write a unique ceremony that’s perfect for that couple. These are celebrants are in high demand and charge a premium for their individualised attention and experience.
Whilst I fall into the higher-end bracket, I recognise that not every couple is looking for a high-end experience.
What couples do universally want, but in many cases don’t receive, is clear, transparent pricing on marriage celebrant’s websites. Lack of transparency around prices, not matter what it’s for, is always a real negative for me when researching any buying decision. You shouldn’t have to meet with someone before they finally reveal their price. Planning a wedding takes considerable time and effort as it is. Value the vendors who are open with you and who make the process easier for you, not harder.
A Saturated Marketplace
The Australian Wedding Industry Report estimates that there are over 9,800 registered civil marriage celebrants in Australia and that 2023 will see around 139,000 weddings.
Given those numbers, that’s just not enough work to go around. A study by the Coalition of Celebrant Associations estimated that only 2% of celebrants perform enough ceremonies to make a full-time, sustainable income from wedding work.
These statistics do not bode well when considering the emotional investment most couples make in having their wedding day be memorable and run smoothly.
You want your wedding ceremony to be in safe hands. It’s much easier to feel secure in your choice when you know that your wedding celebrant is in demand and has a depth of experience to draw upon and for whom celebrancy is not a just a hobby or a part-time ‘side-hustle’.
How to decide your budget for a marriage celebrant
But where on this scale should you budget for a marriage celebrant?
The smart approach is to arrive at a budget through knowing what ceremony experience you’re looking for and to base your celebrant budget on that.
If you follow these tips, you can reduce the chances of regretting your choice later on.
Having some sort of vision for your ceremony helps
Frequently, the couples I meet don’t yet have a clear idea of what they’re looking for in a celebrant.
In these moments, if I were not able to give them a compelling vision of how their ceremony experience might be, the couple would have little to base their decision on, besides how well we ‘hit it off’ and price.
On their own, those two criteria are hit and miss. So before you shortlist anyone for a meeting the two of you should sit down over a coffee and discuss what kind of ‘experience’ you want from your ceremony.
Your choice of celebrant, more than any other decision, matters most in delivering on that experience.
To start with, here are some questions to discuss with your partner …
- Do you imagine something traditional or something more bespoke?
- How much of your story do you want your celebrant to share?
- Will you exchange personal vows?
- Do you want laughter, tears, both or neither?
- How big of a personality suits you both?
- How stressed or nervous do you think you might be?
These types of questions will help to provide some clarity on what you’re looking for in a celebrant.
I’ve said to many of my prospective couples when meeting them – what you wear on the day is not the only thing that needs to fit. Your celebrant needs to fit too.
There’s usually more than the 2 of you to think about
In most cases, wedding ceremonies include guests. Not just anyone, but your nearest and dearest friends and relatives. They also deserve to factor into your decision.
If you don’t put enough thought into your celebrant budget and selection, you risk ending up with a ceremony that’s fluffy or that feels cookie-cutter. No one wants to look out at all their friends during one of the most significant events of their life and see they’ve ‘checked out’.
I know it’s already eye-watering thinking about picking up the dinner tab for perhaps 100-150 people, but before you share a meal with them, you have something much more valuable to share … your ceremony.
If you invest in a celebrant who knows how to have everyone lean in and feel really connected to you, they will set the tone for the rest of your day. The alcohol flows later on, but at your ceremony, you want to get the oxytocin flowing. Done correctly, your ceremony is the heart of the day and sets everyone up for a great party later on.
An experienced marriage celebrant is going to make your wedding ceremony run smoothly and professionally. They’ll use a quality PA system. I go one further and carry a spare PA and mic (in case of emergencies).
On the day, you want to know you’re in safe hands. The more you trust your celebrant, the more calm, centered and present you’ll both be. If you’re someone who is prone to nerves, this is priceless. Even if you can ‘white-knuckle’ it, it’s not going to be the memory you wished for.
You’ll have the pictures – Your guests will just have memories
Every couple and every wedding is unique. There’s no one right way with any of these decisions. But my final word on the matter is this. I’ve also been a guest at many weddings – both big fancy ones and small intimate ones. I can’t remember what I ate at any of them. I can’t remember what anyone wore. I don’t remember what I danced to… But I do remember the better ceremonies and how I felt watching my friends or loved ones express their love for each other in front of everyone.
If this resonates with you and you’re planning a Sydney wedding, why not book in a chat and see if we’re a good fit.