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Wedding celebrants

More than sixty per cent of the couples that were married in Australia in 2007 chose a civil ceremony rather than a religious one, and were married by wedding celebrants. All wedding celebrants are authorised to perform civil marriage ceremonies anywhere in the country according to the Marriage Act of 1961.

Choosing wedding celebrants is a major part of wedding planning, as they have a very significant, personal impact on your big day. Before you start looking, you might want to make yourself familiar with the role of wedding celebrants, and the code of practise they have to abide by. Making a list of questions to ask potential wedding celebrants can also help you make the choice that is right for you.

Role of a wedding celebrant

Wedding celebrants are appointed by the Australian Commonwealth Government's Attorney-General's Department, and have to follow a strict policy when performing marriage services. Wedding celebrants follow an extensive code of practise which includes the following elements:

  • Wedding celebrants need to acknowledge the legal, cultural and social importance of marriage in Australian society, and should promote robust family relationships.
  • Wedding celebrants must work according to the requirements of the 1961 Marriage Act, and also abide by Commonwealth and State laws that apply to the region in which the wedding will take place. This includes making sure that the necessary documents are completed and sent to the registering authority within two weeks of the wedding.
  • Wedding celebrants must take measures to avoid any form of discrimination in providing celebrancy services, and must respect the privacy and confidentiality of the couples they marry.
  • Wedding celebrants must provide a venue to meet with betrothed couples, and a facility to store records securely. They must attend a ceremony rehearsal if this is requested.
  • Wedding celebrants must ensure they arrive in plenty of time for the marriage ceremony, and if they are attending more than one marriage on the same day, they must ensure both parties receive a high level of service.
  • Wedding celebrants must make sure their appearance is suitable for the marriage service, and should ensure that the service is audible to the wedding guests.
  • Wedding celebrants must accept feedback and use this to improve their services. They should also let couples know how to register complaints with the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department should they wish to do so.
  • Wedding celebrants must let couples know about any services available to them that will aid them in maintaining their relationship. They must also keep their knowledge of these services up to date through regular training.

Choosing wedding celebrants

The wedding celebrant’s code of practise details what wedding celebrants must do when performing a marriage ceremony. However, there will be a couple of more personal factors to consider when you are choosing between wedding celebrants. Here are a couple of the things you may want to look for:

  • Wedding celebrants should try to get to know the bride and groom personally to gain an understanding of their personalities, their outlook on life and what they represent as individuals.
  • Wedding celebrants should be willing to structure a ceremony which expresses how the couple truly feels, and they should be able to incorporate personalized elements in the ceremony if requested.
  • Wedding celebrants should be able to suggest alternatives to traditional parts of the ceremony, such as the wedding vows and the exchange of rings, in order to make the ceremony unique and meaningful for the couple.

Questions to ask when interviewing wedding celebrants

1. How will you handle the rehearsal?

Some wedding celebrants will want to manage the rehearsal themselves, while others will be happy to let you or your wedding planner make the arrangements. A rehearsal may be included in your wedding celebrant’s fee, but you will need to confirm this as some wedding celebrants charge extra for a rehearsal.

2. What will you wear to perform the marriage service?

Wedding celebrants vary greatly in their choice of wedding clothing, and you will want to be sure your celebrant’s outfit complements your wedding style as they will be a key figure in your wedding photos. Good wedding celebrants should be willing to tailor their outfit to suit your wedding, and if you are having a themed wedding many will be happy to become a part of that.

3. Will you be attending the wedding reception?

Some wedding celebrants expect to be invited to the wedding reception and many couples are so close to their celebrant by the wedding day that they wouldn’t have it any other way. However, if your wedding celebrant has another wedding to perform that day, or they live some distance away, they may not attend the reception. Find out whether they will be attending and whether they will be bringing their spouse so you can budget accordingly.

4. Are you free for our wedding?

This may sound simple, but when you are interviewing wedding celebrants you need to confirm that they are available to perform a ceremony on the date you have chosen, and that they will be free for a rehearsal in the weeks leading up to the wedding. If they have another wedding booked for your date, ask how much time they will allow between services to ensure they arrive at your wedding on time.

5. Are you willing to include personal elements in the service?

If you want to personalize your wedding, perhaps by writing your own vows, or asking family members to do readings or songs, make sure the wedding celebrants you interview are happy to include these extras in the service.

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