How to choose your wedding celebrant

“How do you choose a wedding celebrant?” is one of the most common questions asked by couples getting married in Australia. In this article, Jennifer Cram - The Inclusive Celebrant shares her expertise as an ex recruitment specialist on how to choose a celebrant and what questions to ask to find the perfect celebrant for you.

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How to choose a wedding celebrant

Let’s start by asking you, dear bride or groom to be, an awkward question. If you were looking for a solicitor, a tradie, or a doctor, would you be looking for a new friend or would your priority be someone who is good at their job, someone who takes the time to understand your needs, someone who is a good communicator? 

Take a moment!

Getting married is a serious undertaking that has far-reaching consequences because marriage changes your legal status and responsibilities. It affects so much – who your next of kin is, who can inherit your estate, and who you are legally obliged to support.

Make no bones about it, your celebrant can make or break your big day. Of course you want to put your ceremony in the hands of someone you like, someone you feel gets you. But you also need to be confident that that person is capable of delivering a ceremony that will be something special, and that they know their stuff, legally as well as ceremonially.

Time to trot out the tricks of the trade used by recruitment specialists when seeking someone to fill a critical position. Time to ask some penetrating questions. But first, you need to look at celebrant CVs (resumes).

When you apply for a job you are generally asked to send in your resume, and you may be asked to respond to some selection criteria to demonstrate the extent to which you meet the company’s specifications. If you don’t fit on paper, you’ll be weeded out, fast. This is a very efficient way of approaching what could be a sizeable number of applicants. They look for red flags, for reasons to toss your application on the reject pile. It is a last man standing methodology.

And it is a relatively easy way to go, because they know what the job consists of. What skills and experience it requires. But you, dear bride or groom to be, may not be across everything a celebrant does. So you have a couple of things you need to do before you start a serious search.

How to choose wedding celebrants
To find your perfect wedding celebrant, start by doing a little research. Image: Ayzia Jade Photography

First Step: Find out what comprises a celebrant’s job

I’m not suggesting that you read the Marriage Act (unless you’re heavily into boring bedtime reading), but you should do a bit of research into the legal requirements for marriage, what a celebrant’s legal role is, and what it takes to develop and officiate the ceremony. The Attorney General’s website is not a bad start. And a google search should turn up the information you need.

Second Step: Write a little list

Unless you live in a remote region, there will be dozens, if not hundreds, of celebrants in your area. While all authorised celebrants are required to abide by a code of conduct and to solemnise your marriage according to the rules of the Marriage Act, there is huge variation in how they go about the business of getting you married.

So it would be a good idea to have a discussion about what you want from your celebrant (perhaps a description of your “ideal celebrant” together with any deal-breakers) so that you can quickly narrow down the number of possibles. 

Do you want an upbeat and fun wedding celebrant, an elopement specialist, someone who’s adventurous, relaxed, helpful & organised, has plenty of experience or who will put you at ease on the big day?

Tip: Recruitment specialists approach each application looking for negatives. They know what the red flags and deal-breakers are for each job and look for those. This makes it easy to quickly weed out unsuitable candidates. 

Third Step: Let your fingers to the walking

A celebrant’s business listing is their advertisement but also their application for the job of being your celebrant. Using your list, scan celebrants in your region for your deal breakers and make a list of those still standing. Keep refining that until you get down to your top three or so. Then prioritise that list. The idea being that you make contact with your top pick first, check availability, and get a sense of them as a person. 

Hint: Back in the day when I was involved in interviewing applicants, I became quite famous for writing “Where’s the bloody evidence” next to extravagant claims made by applicants when addressing selection criteria. The interesting thing about Australian law is that while, in advertising, intentionally misleading or deceptive statements are illegal, puffery is not. Puffery is the term used for wild descriptions or claims that the legal pundits believe are unlikely to ever be thought of as true – for example claims to be the best, the most sought after, and similar boasts. In other words, extravagant claims for which evidence is lacking or inadequate because there is no comparative data or universal assessment process in place.

Choosing a wedding celebrant
Image: PixieRos Photography

Fourth Step: Develop your questions

You will need two sets of questions. The first, basic availability questions that will be part of your initial approach. It’s a short list – Are they available on your date, and for your type and size of ceremony. And secondly, are they available for a ceremony at your venue. The second is important, particularly if some travel might be involved as many celebrants perform more than one ceremony on a day, particularly on the weekend.

The second set of questions is the probing ones you’ll ask when interviewing a short-listed celebrant. You’ll get the most useful responses if;

  • You ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered by yes or no
  • You test your assumptions by asking follow-up questions to either clarify or to expand on your understanding of what you are being told

Killer Questions a recruitment specialist would ask

1. What was your occupation/job before you became a celebrant and how has that fed into the way you operate as a celebrant? 

Why a recruitment specialist would ask this:

Recruitment specialists ask questions that will help them to get a sense of how well a candidate understands the role and its day-to-day requirements. They also want to find out whether the candidate’s skills match the job description and what they can do for the organisation overall. When you are hiring a celebrant how they answer this question should give you a sense of how they view their role, what their focus is, and whether their approach would be one you would be comfortable with.

Tip: Many celebrants either work full or part-time in another job, so you may need to tweak the way you ask the question to account for that.

2. How has the way you develop and perform a marriage ceremony changed over the period you have been a celebrant?

Why a recruitment specialist would ask this

Recruitment specialists ask questions that will help them get a sense of how flexible an applicant is, how nimble and open to change a candidate might be, and the extent to which a candidate is capable of introspection, analysis, and learning.

Tip: A good follow-up would be to ask How do you assess your performance as a celebrant?

3. What have you learned about weddings that has surprised you?

Why a recruitment specialist would ask this

Recruitment specialists ask questions that will help them get a sense of how deep the candidate’s understanding of the role is.

Tip: Inserting a question like this in the middle allows for a change of pace. That always helps as extra information is likely to be revealed when people are more relaxed.

4. What makes you a great celebrant and how does that set you apart from your competition?

Why a recruitment specialist would ask this

Recruitment specialists ask questions that will help them get a sense of how compatible the candidate might be with both the strategic imperatives and the culture of the organisation. How a celebrant responds to this question should give you an insight into their personality and the extent to which their values and style meet your requirements. 

Tip: Watch out for puffery! Good follow up questions would be asking for specific examples.

5. What do you do that is different from other celebrants?

Why a recruitment specialist would ask this

Where innovation is a key requirement, recruitment specialists ask questions that will help them get a sense of the extent to which a candidate can think outside the box and the extent to which a candidate understands relevant legal or ethical boundaries. How a celebrant answers this question may reveal both their focus and their understanding of both aspects of the celebrant’s role.

Tip: This question can also open the conversation to the nitty gritty of process. If it doesn’t, follow up by asking the celebrant to describe their process.

6. What questions do you wish we would ask you?

Why a recruitment specialist would ask this

We all know that one of the questions we are expected to be asked at the end of an interview is what we would like to ask the interviewer. Turning the question on its head by rephrasing it acknowledges that the celebrant is also assessing whether you are a couple that they would like to work with, but it also should give you a sense of their capacity to read you, and ensure that you come away from the interview with a full understanding of what is on offer, how it will be delivered, and how you will work together.

Last words of advice:

  • Listen to your guts (both of you)
  • Don’t be blindsided by shared interests, or similar tastes in food, drink, or sports – it is shared values that accurately predict the likelihood of success

Remember it is a two-way street. You’re hiring a partner, someone to work with you in creating a magic experience for everyone, including the two of you.

 Find your celebrant

This article was written by Jennifer Cram - The Inclusive Celebrant. Jenny is a wedding celebrant based in Brisbane. You can enquire with her here.

Cover Image: Jerome Cole Photography