What do you ask your potential marriage celebrants when meeting them?
Are you feeling lost around what to ask marriage celebrants to see if they’re a good fit for your wedding?
Well don’t worry, below is a simple overview of the hiring process together with the best questions to ask to help you find your perfect marriage celebrant.
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.
Picture your ceremony before you picture your celebrant
Before you shortlist any marriage celebrants for a meeting, it’s important for you as a couple to have some shared vision for how you imagine the wedding ceremony.
When you are both on the same page and able to use a few words to describe the ‘experience’ or ‘vibe’ you are wanting for your wedding ceremony, it’s much easier to measure prospective celebrants against that.
Having that vision is also the perfect starting point for knowing how much you need to budget for your marriage celebrant.
So during a relaxed moment such as dinner or drinks, discuss a shared vision for the ceremony. Touch on things like…
- Do you prefer a more formal or casual vibe?
- Are you extroverts or introverts?
- How ‘fun’ do you want it to be?
- Do you think you’ll be nervous?
- How much input and control over the ceremony script do you expect?
The Google search
There are almost 10,000 celebrants in Australia, so you’re going to need to use some sort of criteria to whittle it down to a shortlist of (ideally 3) prospective celebrants. Here’s a few examples of criteria you can use to quickly reduce your options to a manageable shortlist.
- Are gender, age, cultural background or LGBTIQ significant factors?
- Do they have plenty of 5-star reviews on google (not just testimonials on their own website) Do those reviews highlight specific qualities or attributes of the celebrant or are they merely a brief ‘thanks’? The reviewer’s comments can be even more insightful than the celebrant’s own website as the comments are written from your perspective.
- Does the celebrant have detailed pricing on their website? I’m going all in on this point! Planning a wedding takes a lot of time and energy. With so many suppliers to choose from, do you really need to spend valuable time on suppliers who make extra work for you to collect basic information by making you contact them first. There are plenty of suppliers who want to make your life easy with transparent pricing – cull the ones who don’t.
- Place greater stock in vendors who are prominent in the ‘organic’ search results in Google. Anyone can pay for an ‘Ad’ spot at the top of the Google results. Same goes for wedding directory websites. Vendors featured at the top of listings have paid for that position. But the organic search results are earned, not bought. These suppliers will more likely be highly experienced, in demand and live and breathe celebrancy as a full-time career.
- And finally of course, you need to be drawn to shortlist celebrants based on who’s websites show you the right ‘vibe’ for the ceremony experience you’re looking for.
The initial meeting and making your decision
Ok, so you have shortlisted 3 celebrants and are now scheduling a chat with each.
You are going to need to keep your ceremony experience in mind throughout the chat to really confirm whether or not they are the right ‘fit’ for your wedding.
Chances are you might ‘hit it off’ with 2, maybe all 3.
So your best shot at landing your perfect celebrant is by asking the right, and sometimes tough, questions.
Here are 5 of the best questions to ask when meeting a celebrant
1. Is this a full or part-time job for you – How long have you been a celebrant – How many ceremonies have you done in the last year?
Everyone naturally presents their best self and best reviews etc, but this question cuts through all of that and gets straight to the core of the question of how ‘in-demand’ they are and how much experience and expertise they have.
Many Marriage Celebrants only do this part-time, marrying a handful of couples each year. Only about 2% of all celebrants in Australia make a full-time living as a career celebrant.
So the question to ask yourself is – how important is it to you to have a celebrant that is regularly marrying couples?
I know for myself that when I’m in the throes of high season – marrying multiple couples each week – everything flows incredibly smoothly and is really slick. I don’t need to refer to my thorough checklist. I know exactly what to do and when, I manage challenges with even more confidence, everything runs even more smoothly, and I get better and better at what I’m doing. As with anything – the more practice you have, the better you become and the more confident you are. And a really confident Celebrant can make the hugest difference to the vibe of your ceremony.
2. What’s your worst experience been as a marriage celebrant?
Yep. We’re going to get uncomfortable here, but ask this with a curious smile and then stay silent.
This question works on 2 levels. As well as giving information on the celebrant’s experience (and how they evolve and learn in their profession), the question is inherently uncomfortable and will abruptly shake them out of their comfort zone.
Whether they’re flustered or unfazed by this question might suggest how they’d perform during your ceremony should an unplanned or stressful moment occur and they were taken ‘off-script’.
I know you’re now wondering what my worst experience was, so here goes…
Several years ago, my PA system crackled then died during a ceremony. I was mortified for the couple who received an unreserved apology and a full refund. The following day, I had researched the best PA on the market….and bought 2 of them. Now at every ceremony, even though I’ve never needed it since that incident, I have a backup PA and mic set up and ready to go within seconds if ever there was a problem. It gives me peace of mind and that in turn means I can perform at my confident best for my couples. Which brings me to the next question…
3. What PA do you use?
There’s nothing worse than a ceremony you can’t hear. Whether that’s because the PA isn’t loud enough, has poor sound, or worse still, is unreliable, it amounts to the same thing – the quality of the PA impacts the quality of your ceremony.
Grandma needs to be able to hear your vows. The sound of the spoken words at your ceremony needs to be warm and rich – no one should settle for thin and tinny.
The PA is still important for small, intimate ceremonies and it’s vitally important for 25 guests upwards.
The more people you have the more the sound is absorbed, and if you’re outdoors the sound is easily dispersed, so if you’re having a big wedding or an outdoor wedding, you want to be sure that your celebrant has a high-end PA.
I use BOSE S1 Pro speakers and Sennheiser AVX digital wireless Mics. They’re high-end, trusted brands and consistently feature in ‘best of’ comparison articles. A number of celebrants will use similar setups. Others will use more budget options from brands like Mipro and Behringer… These don’t tend to feature so much in ‘best-rated’ articles.
4. What three words would you use to describe your personal style for ceremonies?
This again ties directly back to the ceremony experience you have discussed beforehand. What 3 words would you like your guests to use to describe your ceremony when they next see?
A variation on this is to ask the celebrant to give you 3 words their couples use to describe them (or look for those patterns yourself in their reviews). Because how others see us can sometimes be different to the way we see ourselves.
If you’re looking for a ceremony with an ‘intimate’ vibe you probably want someone who’s more sensitive and whose personality is not going to pull all the focus. Conversely, if you’re looking for ‘Fun’ you might be looking for that big personality.
If you think you might be nervous on the day. You’ll benefit from a celebrant who is ‘calm’, ‘organised’ and ‘experienced’.
Look at how well their answer aligns with your desired ‘experience’.
5. How does your ceremony writing process work?
Chances are you’ll hear a completely different answer here from every celebrant you talk to.
The important thing to know beforehand is how involved in the script you want to be.
Do you expect to be able to read over the script beforehand?
Do you expect the celebrant to support you with writing vows? Do you want them to check that the vows you’ve each written for each other are of similar weight?
Some celebrants don’t share the script before the ceremony, while others expect the process to be very collaborative and for you to be reviewing and giving feedback throughout the writing process.
At a minimum, even if you personally prefer to be more ‘hands off’, I do encourage you to ask to approve the script beforehand. Far better to take the opportunity to fix it in advance than to feel anything less than delight on the day.
Again, look at how well their answer aligns with your own preferences.
Booking your celebrant
Hopefully, once you’ve spoken to everyone shortlisted, you’ll have a clear preference for who you intend to move forward with and hire.
Now as part of the booking process, the final important part of the process is to make sure they provide you with a decent service agreement that sets out what’s expected of them and what’s expected of you. In addition, the quote/invoice should clearly itemise all inclusions and any extras. Read both documents carefully – this is your final due diligence and your best opportunity to avoid problems or disappointment later on.
And lastly, it’ll be really nice of you to drop the other celebrants a quick email to let them know you’ve decided to go with someone else.