Straight up, the value of a Wedding Celebrant is severely overlooked.
I’m not one to throw stones but quite frankly I’ve experienced some ceremonies that make me want to pull my hair out strand by strand.
I worked out pretty early on as a wedding photographer that celebrants really do set a vibe for your whole ceremony. My advice is, don’t just pick anyone to tick it off your list. These guys do an important job and what they say and how they say it can really make the difference to your ceremony.
So I thought I would introduce one of the best celebrants I’ve worked with, meet, celebrant Nichola Nicholson who is based in Hawkes Bay.
Her ceremonies are incredible for so many reasons. How she stands to the side of the couple, how she projects her voice, her engaging ceremonies and her all-around vivacious personality.
I’m pretty sure this will give you a better insight into what makes a great celebrant and what you need to look for.
What does being a celebrant mean to you?
I’ve seen a celebrant defined as a party starter, a counsellor, a storyteller, a crisis manager, a love story enthusiast and an exceptional hugger, but I think that’s only just getting started. It is hands down the best job I’ve ever had, and it means a lot to me. It’s such a privilege to be able to take best friends and turn them, into husband and wife, wife and wife or husband and husband. Seriously other than babies being born I think it’s one of the most hope-filled, joyous and happy days in anyone’s life and to be able to make that happen is pretty much as close to a superpower as you can get I reckon.
I’ve seen your work and you’re hands down one of the best celebrants I’ve worked with. Can you tell me what you think makes a great celebrant?
Haha just don’t be a shit one! No, but seriously, we’ve all heard stories about celebrants that have forgotten names, turned up late or been more than just a bit boring. I think it boils down to commitment, I love my job (if I can even call it that) and because if that I’m committed to doing a bloody excellent job. You only get one chance at your ceremony and I want to make sure that it’s amazing.
There’s also a common misconception that celebrants turn up on the day, do a stock standard ceremony, drink your booze and leave, which would add up to about an hour’s work. But for me, and a lot of other great celebrants, I spend between 10 -20 hours on a ceremony and at the wedding itself.
Those hours consist of meeting with my couples numerous times, getting to know them, their story and what they want from their ceremony. Helping out with vows, readings, and the legal side of things. A rehearsal, turning up early before the wedding, helping out with the little bits and pieces that still need doing and only then doing the ceremony. Because of the desire for my couples to have a great ceremony it also means there are a bunch of small things that I do as well, like tucking a vintage hankie in the back of my folder so you don’t have to use a manky tissue during the ceremony, have lollipops in my bag for little people, and making sure you have a copy of your ceremony and vows to read back over later, just to mention a few. I.ve also been known to go the extra mile, once I had a bride who had gastro the morning of her wedding so while she was getting ready I dropped over some Gatorade, lemonade popsicles, and extra toilet paper.
How do you recommend couples choose their celebrant?
Take your potential celebrant on an awkward first date, whether it’s over coffee, wine or skype and ask them loads of questions, ask them about how they work, what their style is, and how their ceremonies normally work. Run any potential ideas past them, and ask for their help. Don’t worry about looking like you don’t know what you’re doing because the truth is most people haven’t been married before so we don’t expect you to know everything. Then if you feel like it went well and you feel like you want to see them again book them in. I feel like it’s such a cliché but make sure you click with them because the difference a celebrant can make is huge but can often be overlooked. Do you really want people to spend the rest of your wedding day talking about how boring the ceremony was or how the celebrant stuffed up the names?
Are there certain things you would recommend a couple to ask of a celebrant for their ceremony e.g. standing to the side?
Standing to the side during the first kiss is a massive one for me, seriously you don’t want a photo with me in the background with my mouth open because I’m talking! If you’re thinking about the aesthetics of your photos maybe check to see what the celebrant is going to wear. Check to see if they need to use a microphone, I personally find them a massive pain and am pretty loud – trust me I have school reports mentioning this 🙂
In return though there are a couple of things that celebrants would also like to ask from their couples and the first is to realise the more input you have into your ceremony the better we can make it for you. Trust us we get, sometimes it’s not easy to put into words exactly why you love someone, or why you are getting married. We also understand that the thought of getting up in front of the people that mean the most to you and telling your husband or wife to be a whole lot of lovey soppy stuff can be daunting. So, tell us and we can help. Also, the more you can share with us the more we get to know you and the more invested we are in your ceremony which will result in something amazing!
How long in advance should couples be looking to book a celebrant?
Honestly, as soon as you have a date locked in getting in touch with a few celebrants that you like the look of to see if they are available. When I first became a celebrant, it was normal to take bookings six to twelve months in advance whereas now it’s more like 18 months to two years. It’s better to be super organised rather than disappointed.