Top ten tips for new marriage celebrants

A podcast by request! Emily wrote in and asked for some tips for new celebrants, so here we are, with Josh and Sarah's top ten tips for new wedding celebrants!

  1. Network, network, network -  with anyone in the marriage industry

  2. Find a buddy/mentor

  3. Read the Guidelines to the Marriage Act cover to cover, and look at them regularly when you have a question

  4. Watch lots of ceremonies to find out different ways of doing things

  5. Learn how to business

  6. Figure out your differentiator, your point of difference

  7. Earn your fee … aka don’t just google other fees, but figure out how to charge what it costs you etc, and there’s the sliding scale of learner to expert

  8. Learn from other industries - business-wise - and ceremony wise

  9. Attend OPD in person! (not distance)

  10. PA system/tech gear

  11. A bonus 11th tip is an ad, for Freshbooks - because honestly, the biggest tip you could get is to get on top of your money. Get on top of invoicing, getting paid, tracking expenses. And you can get a 60 day free trial to Freshbooks at celebrant.fm/freshbooks

The one where we throw eggs at Sarah's house

Get your eggs ready folks, for once Sarah Aird says something controversial. Don't worry though, anything she said is not as bad as whatever Josh has to say.

This episode is all about money, how much celebrants charge, why they charge what they charge, and we touch on the topics of price-fixing in the celebrant industry and why marriage celebrants should charge cold hard cash for the wedding ceremonies they perform. Show notes below.


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Show notes and links:

On pricing, by Dally Messenger:

When Funeral Celebrants began in 1974, they inherited a culture.

The Funeral Director was in charge of the dignified disposal of the body.

The Church was in charge of the ceremony.

Funeral Directors ingratiated themselves with the clergy, because the clergy gave them work. As they presided at the last rites, the priest would recommend the Funeral Director who best understood that church’s ceremonial routine.

The clergy were the rulers of the roost - what they said went.

But the clergyman, strictly speaking, was not paid. He received a small amount of money as a gift - known as a stipend, It was presumed that the dead person had well and truly paid for his funeral in advance by his weekly offerings when he attended church.

Then came civil celebrants - who had not been paid “in advance” and who did not do, could not do, a “one size fits all” ceremony as the clergy had done.

But the Funeral Directors only paid celebrants the clergy “stipend”.

After the initial joy and sense of achievement had passed, many celebrants realised they could not pay the bills. Two things happened. Many celebrants ceased doing the work. Others lowered their standards of preparation and delivery. In Australia most of us had weddings to fall back on. A few who had private means kept a high standard and still do.

While this was happening a group of celebrants, of which I was part, politely confronted the better Victorian Funeral Directors and argued that we, in justice, should be paid more than the clergy. Two firms agreed - a Rob Allison of John Alison Monkhouse and Des Tobin of Tobin Bros Funerals. They gave us about double the clergy stipend. For a long while, funeral celebrancy in Victoria flourished.

But Victoria is but one state in Australia - and in the other states the funeral celebrants lacked political will, and to this day they only receive the clergy “stipend”.

Church attendance, however, has declined dramatically so the clergy (about 20% of funerals, we are 80%) have been demanding more.

The field is full of developments - not the least of which has been the takeover of most of the small funeral firms by the big corporation Invocare, whose one ideal is profit according to the norms of why corporations exist. In NSW there is now a campaign to have “the family” prepare and deliver the funeral to make their bill look less and to exercise their power ( They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV advertising every day.).

In 1997, after I was paid $150 for a celebrity funeral that took about 50 hours to prepare and deliver and had 8500 people attending, I started a “Contact the Celebrant first” campaign and declared that I would only work for an hourly rate, from that moment on.

Needless to say, the Funeral Directors (except for one or two) blacklisted me and much more.

So I only dealt with my own constituency (people whom I knew and for whom I had performed ceremonies). I was up front about an hourly rate and a ball park figure.

I averaged $1500AUD (850 GBP) to $2000AUD (1130 GBP) per funeral. I am mostly retired now but I averaged 2 per month for a long while - one month I did 5. As I have always had an income from weddings I never became worried.

An hourly rate is fair - my clients have never given me a complaint - the general public is not the problem - the funerals directors are, and it is not only money it is a question of power.

A final note - I nearly always perform 90% of a funeral ceremony at a venue away from the Crematorium. I average an hour to an hour and a quarter per ceremony - I think a good life deserves a worthy tribute, and I see the funeral service as a very serious responsibility.

 

The only podcast officially banned by the AFCC!

Welcome to the only podcast that's officially banned by the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants. We'd like to thank our families and our industry colleagues for supporting us thus far!

Seriously though, here's another sweet podcast episode, enjoy!


Ad: If invoicing and getting invoices paid is killing you deep down inside where brides and grooms should never reach, trial Freshbooks for 60 days for free and have invoices sent automatically, and your clients can even pay their invoices with credit card - it's all built-in! celebrant.fm/freshbooks to get the 60 day free trial for podcast listeners only!


  • Emily asks for a podcast episode with top tips for new celebrants, we'll release it soon!
  • Marriage celebrant matters, the AGD newsletter is out and boy is it fun/boring. We deliver a blow by blow recap of this industry-defining PDF file.
  • CoCA comments "we don't want the right to discriminate" in the SMH
  • Send in your feedback - why are you, or are you not, a member of an association
  • The Marriage Act (legislation) has not changed yet, so we can't accept notices (NOIMs) for same sex couples until the marriage act allows us to.  On the 23rd of November the current statement is "celebrants are currently not able to accept a Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) from same-sex couples."
  • BDM (Births, Deaths and Marriages) chat on the new Queensland BDM online marriage registration system, NSW's Lifelink and Victoria's Marriages online, and why you might want to, or not use them. Facebook post to the new forms in beta release from the Qld BDM. When the new Qld BDM online system goes live, you'll access it here.

I've never seen marriage paperwork fly like that

Two marriage celebrants with wedding hangovers bring you this November 6 episode of the Celebrant Talk Show,

In follow-up Evie writes in on the topic of titles for the individuals booking celebrants, and Sean asks how does Josh sign marriage paperwork on an iPad.

Topics covered in this talk show

  • AFCC advertising in the "Qantas magazine" - see the ad

  • Stat dec required for proof of date and place of birth - download the template

  • Listing your pricing and packages live on your website for the public to see

  • WTF?!? “CoCA does not support the September 2017 guidelines and position paper on the Conflict of Interest and Benefit to Business because the Policy does not uphold the professionalism of celebrants and the consultation process was flawed.” - read the statement

Listen below, or here's a direct link, or here are the links to subscribe in your favourite podcast app, and please share the podcast with all your other celebrant and officiant friends!