Over time, marriage ceremonies have changed. Lots! Before 1973, in Australia, it was only possible to get married in a place of worship.
Since then, the year when civil marriage celebrants were introduced across Australia, more than a million couples have been married by civil celebrants. And gradually, the bonds between marriage and religion have reduced. At present, approximately 75% of marriage conducted in Australia are civil marriages
Civil marriages can only be conducted by persons registered as civil marriage celebrants by the Australian Attorney-General’s Department. And they must conduct marriages according to the Marriage Act 1961.
Like any other civil marriage celebrant, I feel privileged that I get to marry people – and I love my job!
Marriage Celebrants are governed by a strict Code of Practice. This code is set down in the Marriage Regulations 1963. The major role of Civil Marriage Celebrants is to make sure that you are legally married.
Here’s a list of roles they perform:
They are planners
I always work with couples to draft the entire ceremony. My aim is for the ceremony – the main focus of part of the day – to be authentic and memorable both for the couple and for the guests.
That applies whether I am planning a gay wedding ceremony for the LGBTIQ community, or if it’s a straight wedding. As a celebrant, I provide information and options for every stage of the couple’s ceremony. And because I’m really good at this, my couples are overwhelmingly thrilled with the outcome.
They take care of your legal requirements
If you’re worried about “which documents do I need to submit?” or “where do I lodge the legal documents?”, there’s no point in worrying. It’s the role of the celebrant to be responsible for completion and lodgement of the legal paperwork. We’ve been trained in what we can and cannot accept as proof of the termination of any previous marriages, as well as what sorts of photo ID we can and cannot accept.
This is crucial – because, if the legal requirements are not satisfied, then it poses a risk that the marriage may not be registered buy the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages (BDM). That’s why marriage celebrants take very seriously the legal requirements around marriage. It’s we who upload the legal paperwork to BDM within 14 days of your wedding – and we let you know when your marriage has been registered.
They check everything before your special day
I always end up performing a couple of thorough checks before the wedding day! I have a rituaI I go through – pretty much a checklist – to make sure I have everything I need to make sure the wedding goes smoothly.
If I leave home one little thing – or I don’t take care of the small details, there’s a chance that the wedding ceremony won’t be as flawless as we all wanted. For example, I make sure I have:
- the agreed final draft on my ceremony folder, printed out in 1.5 spacing and size 18 font, to enable easy reading;
- the personal vows and readings printed out on cards
- my fully charged sound system (and tripod) and fully charged microphone
- the adaptor that enables smart phones to connect to my sound system, to amplify a chosen playlist
- the marriage certificates, all printed out without error; and the Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage printed out, ready for signing immediately prior to the ceremony.
- a supply of tissues in my pocket, ready for those emotional moments.
They provide advice about marriage education
They inform and educate the couple about civil marriage and marriage in general. They also give the couple information from the Attorney-General’s Department about things to consider before and after marriage.
They take care of your things
They maintain an appropriate venue to interview couples. They even provide facilities to take care of the documentation – in fact, it’s their duty to secure the storage of all your records for a certain period of time and to ensure information and data about you are destroyed in a safe and secure manner, when the time comes. You can check how I handle data safely, in my privacy statement on my website.
Civil marriage celebrants officiate your wedding
Couples often find the process of registering their marriage – and the legal requirements – a daunting task. That’s where I come in, as your celebrant. Your celebrant is not only authorised to conduct your ceremony but also well-trained in how to do so. Celebrants all over Australia officiate at and solemnise weddings.
It’s the core of our job. And an important part of that is ensuring the accuracy of the documents. And when it comes to the ceremony, think of your celebrant as an event organiser or the conductor of an orchestra – in charge of making a heap of parts work together as a team to make your day one of the best and most enjoyable of your lives!
They maintain confidentiality
They respect and acknowledge the privacy of every couple and their families. That’s really important. Your celebrant is someone you can trust to not disclose information to others about you or your wedding – apart from posting to social media – but only with your permission to do so.
As celebrants, we have an obligation to ensure sure that details about you and your relationship remain confidential, apart from what you agree to include in your marriage ceremony. Put simply, your business is no-one else’s business!
They abide by the rules
They observe the Marriage Act 1961. The services I provide couples, as a marriage celebrant, vary according to the needs and wishes of each couple. But those services are regulated by the law of the land – there are some words you and I have to say.
These words are said at every wedding that marriage celebrants conduct across Australia. But apart, from those legal words, there’s lots of room to customise a ceremony that reflects each couple – who they are, their love and their aspirations as a married couple. That’s why I love my job.
They take care of the experience
They make a massive effort to make sure that your ceremony is audible to all those present. If the guest list is around 20 pax or more, then I suggest we use my professional sound system. It’s important that everyone there can understand and hear the entire ceremony. It’s the central purpose of your wedding day.
I have a wireless sound system – I charge it overnight the night before your ceremony and the fact that it’s wireless means there are no dangerous cords on the ground for people to trip over. And it also allows couples to share their favourite music through the sound system before and after the ceremony, as well as at strategic points during the ceremony – eg the signing.
Your celebrant is someone you can trust to not disclose information to others about you or your wedding – apart from posting to social media – but only with your permission to do so.
– Bronte Price
They make sure nothing goes wrong
It’s pretty usual for couples to be very excited in the leadup to their wedding day. In the final 24 hours, that excitement can turn to a level or nervousness. One of the things my couples have said about me is that I am great at reducing stress on their wedding day – and I can thank the fact that I worked for the last couple of decades as a senior executive in state government – in roles where I had to be fabulous at defusing stressful situations and reducing stress for all the parties. I strongly suggest that couples and I hold a rehearsal in the week prior to their wedding – it’s another way of reducing stress on the day, as you already know what to expect.
They don’t go wrong either
Are you worried because you’ve got a casual dress code for the wedding, but your celebrant is an officiant? Well, celebrants ensure that they are appropriately presentable, whatever be the theme or idea behind your ceremony. They dress as per the standard of the marriage ceremony.
And they are punctual, throughout
Of all the compliments that I’ve ever received, “Bronte, you are always on time”, is one of the most special. And that’s because punctuality is the key to any celebrant’s work. Celebrants maintain timelines for each step before the ceremony – and they arrive at the venue at least 30 minutes before the ceremony. That’s best practice.
In case yours is not the only wedding for them on that date, they are still efficient and professional
1. They ensure that the parties to each marriage receive a high level of service. Each couple deserves the high level of service that the celebrant markets as part of their brand.
2. Despite busy diaries, celebrants genuinely try to be truly in the moment for each wedding ceremony they conduct! On certain days, when I have more than one ceremony to conduct, I plan my day in a way that I can still offer each couple a high level of service.
I only take more than one wedding on any given day if I can be satisfied that I can easily and effortlessly get to both venues and be at my best for both couples who want to engage my services. Otherwise, I say no to the second couple who wants me to be their celebrant. And that’s not an issue for me.
But their services don’t end with marriage. A civil marriage celebrant also takes the extra effort to
- Use any evaluative comments from the parties to improve performance. Having worked in the complaints industry (for the Victorian Ombudsman), I understand that complaints are an opportunity to improve what I do. I am always keen to get feedback and reviews from my couples. And it is because of this feedback that I get to learn how to be a better celebrant.
- Maintain up-to-date knowledge. Celebrants are required to undertake 5 hours of Ongoing Professional Development (OPD) every 12 months, in order to maintain their registration. I do that, of course. But I also am a trainer of celebrants – that is, I train other celebrants in OPD to help ensure they are up-to-date with current legal and other aspects of celebrancy, so they’re equipped to deliver wedding ceremonies of the highest standard possible.