Lindy Cooke Celebrant wedding flowers, exchanging rings, ceremonies

How do I find the right celebrant for me?

Here’s some food for thought when considering this question …

 ♥ Qualifications ~ Has my celebrant successfully completed Certificate IV in Celebrancy?

Would you ask someone whose formal qualifications weren’t up-to-date to do an important job for you?

I am committed to being a celebrant so, for me, achieving this qualification was absolutely essential. While all registered marriage celebrants are authorised to marry couples, many do not have this qualification. Since 2013, the Registrar of Marriage Celebrants no longer accepts applications unless this training has been successfully completed.  (Note – A Certificate in Celebrancy is not the same as Certificate IV in Celebrancy and, as such, is no longer accepted by the Attorney-General’s Dept. for anyone seeking registration as a new marriage celebrant).

The required 13 units of study cover the skills and knowledge needed for a range of celebrancy roles. They also address the specific legislative responsibilities of a celebrant. As well as passing a legal test set by the Attorney-General’s Dept., those who achieve Certificate IV in Celebrancy must demonstrate that they are a “fit and proper” person for this role, undergo performance reviews and pass annual OPD (ongoing professional development) assignments as set by the Attorney-General’s Dept.

♥ Availability ~ Is my chosen celebrant available on the date and time I have in mind?

Depending on how many other arrangements you have already booked, such as your venue, do you have any flexibility with regard to when your ceremony is held? If you wish to book a particular celebrant, are you able to consider another date if they have a prior commitment? If you’re looking for amazing outdoor photos, prior to sunset for example, the time of day will also be an important consideration.

Some celebrants may choose to officiate at, say, three separate ceremonies in one day. Can you be sure that your celebrant will focus on you in the lead up to and on your special day if they are juggling so many other commitments? Other than in exceptional circumstances (such as a morning plus an afternoon or evening wedding), I choose to book only one ceremony per day so that I arrive in plenty of time, can attend to the details we have discussed and so I can focus 100% on you.

♥ Rapport ~ Do I share a rapport with my celebrant?

Let’s face it, if you don’t get a good vibe from your celebrant, they’re probably not the one for you, no matter how many people have recommended them. You need to feel comfortable with your celebrant and know that they are really listening to you and working with you to create a beautiful ceremony for your special day. If your celebrant doesn’t return your phone calls, emails or Facebook messages in a timely manner (or at all), you can be reasonably sure that they’re not interested in you. Something that is often said about me is that I am bubbly, and why not? Your plans are exciting and I’m happy and privileged when asked to be part of them.

If you like the look and sound of your celebrant from their website and business Facebook page and get a good feeling when you meet, you’re well on your way to developing a great relationship. If something doesn’t sound or feel right, it probably isn’t.

♥ Experience ~ How much experience does my celebrant have?

It’s easy to equate experience in terms of the length of time someone has been doing something with achieving a quality result. While this may be true in many cases, some celebrants have been around for a long time but may not have fresh ideas or be keeping their skills up-to-date. If your celebrant is not writing your ceremony from scratch and you suspect yours will be one they’ve used before for other couples, with the exception of a change of names, it might be best to find someone who’s pulling out all the stops to deliver a personal and creative ceremony just for you. They are bound to be very motivated in ensuring you are happy with your ceremony.

Also, don’t discount the work background your celebrant has come from. Their employment history may have been the perfect foundation for them to become a celebrant. In my case, I worked in advertising, marketing and event management roles before becoming a celebrant. My last job was as Marketing Manager of a large regional shopping centre so creative writing, staging events, public speaking, working with a wide range of people and handling things when they cropped up at the last minute were part of my everyday experience.

♥ Reputation ~ Does my celebrant have a good reputation?

A lot depends on the area in which a celebrant works. Where there are high numbers, not all may have had the opportunity to be well known as yet.

Worth of mouth, from someone you know, can be really helpful when choosing your celebrant. Online recommendations may be less reliable if you don’t know the person leaving the post or the history they share with their celebrant. Just remember, you have no way to accurately gauge another person’s expectations or behaviour if you don’t hear the full story or only hear one side of it.

In saying that, I do believe that multiple positive reviews from those who have engaged your services do hold weight. I regularly update the Reviews page on my website with examples of feedback I have received. This can be viewed via the following link: //lindycookecelebrant.com.au/reviews-2/ or you can go to my Facebook page //www.facebook.com/pg/lindycookecivilcelebrant/reviews/?ref=page_internal to view the star ratings and reviews which have been left there.

♥ Association Membership ~ Is my celebrant a member of a celebrant association or network?

Membership of an association such as the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants, of which I am a member, allows a celebrant to keep up-to-date with current knowledge and practice. It also provides an opportunity to meet with other celebrants at annual meetings or other events and to develop a network of contacts in the industry.

If your celebrant is a member of LinkedIn, it is highly likely that they are also members of celebrancy groups within that organisation. This allows them to liaise with other professionals in their industry, to share information and learn from the experiences of others.

♥ Insurance ~ Does my celebrant have professional indemnity as well as public and products liability cover?

Accidents happen. For this reason, it’s definitely worth asking your celebrant whether they have insurance cover and if it’s current should the unexpected happen on your big day. Again, for me, this is an essential part of my business plan. My cover is provided as part of my registration with the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants (the national association of professional celebrants).

♥ Equipment ~ Does my celebrant have the appropriate equipment for my ceremony?

Don’t forget to check if your celebrant has a comprehensive resource folder that you are able to access, a wireless PA system with mobile phone/iPod/iPad capability for your music which does not only work on mains power, a reliable car and a mobile phone (in case you need to make contact with a change of plans while they are en route to your venue.) They should also have computer and internet facilities so they can continually update their resource folder and keep abreast with current information from the Attorney-General’s Dept as well as connect with you via email, Facebook or Skype. Also, it’s worth noting if they have made an effort to look the part (clothes, hair, nails, shoes etc.) when they first meet you as this will be an indication of their interest in looking well groomed on your special day.

♥ Price ~ What can I expect for my money?

The first question many ask of a celebrant is “what is your fee?”. When you consider that you will never have this special day again, it may be more important to ask “can you provide me with a list of the services you offer as part of your fee?” In this way, you have a much better chance of “comparing apples with apples”.

What may look like an easy job where someone “turns up” for 20 minutes or so, actually requires a celebrant who is passionate about what they do to spend many, many hours working on each individual ceremony. It all starts with a phone call or online message, then one or two meetings (either in person or online), creating your individual ceremony, liaising with you in the lead up to your ceremony, offering a rehearsal in the case of a wedding, arriving a minimum 20 minutes before each ceremony, conducting the ceremony, complying with all legislative requirements as well as following up with each client after the event.

This is, of course, in addition to all the ongoing costs to run their business including annual registration with the Attorney-General’s Dept., hosting plus ongoing access to a domain name for their website, insurance, equipment, association membership, annual compulsory “Ongoing Professional Development” training, stationery including the Form 15 Certificate of Marriage, vehicle costs etc. etc.

Your celebrant will have their own day-to-day living expenses and may well have a family to consider too. I have carefully considered my fees and offer several wedding packages which are designed to meet most requirements. Your budget is an important consideration but it’s worthwhile remembering the adage “If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur!”  If you’re feeling comfortable that all the other questions have been answered to your satisfaction, the question of price will not seem nearly so important. In saying that, I believe my prices offer true value.

Don’t forget … there are some things you may be able to compromise on, particularly in the case of a wedding. You or a friend may decide to take care of your Save the Date cards, invitations and seating plan for your wedding which will reduce your printing costs or you may choose to make your own table decorations or use a friend’s vehicle for your wedding car.

On the other hand, your celebrant will be there with you, in full view of your family and friends, throughout your ceremony. In the years to come, selecting the right one for you will be what you remember, not how cheap or expensive they were.

♥ Finally ~ Is being a celebrant a hobby or a full-time passion?

I love meeting new people. When you choose me as your celebrant, I promise to guide you from our first meeting right through to your ceremony so that it is as stress free as possible. I don’t look at weddings and other celebrations as simply a date in my calendar and a place to be at a particular time. It’s an opportunity to get to know you and to weave your ideas and hopes for the future into a ceremony which you and your guests will remember for all the right reasons!

Being a celebrant is a full-time job for me, not something I fit in around other work commitments. For this reason, I am very active on social media. I find this is one of the main ways I connect (particularly initially) with people and so this is where you will often see photographs from ceremonies I’ve been involved in as well as lots of ideas and information that you’re welcome to use for inspiration for your special event. For details of the social media platforms I use, click here.

001 – 06/03/2014

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