Booking your celebrant – how far in advance should you do this?
You’ve got engaged (whoo-hoo congratulations!) and you’ve told your friends and family. Now for the planning… venue, photographer, caterer, florist, transport, invitations… oh, and don’t forget your celebrant!
I’m often asked how far in advance I’m booked out? And at what point in the process should couples start considering who they want as their celebrant? Below are some tips to consider:
It’s worthwhile having a date confirmed when you contact celebrants, unless you’re completely flexible and want to work around a celebrant’s availability
I suggest booking your celebrant as soon as you can after your venue is booked
Saturdays are the most popular days for celebrants, and are often booked out 18 months (or more) in advance. The next most popular days that I conduct weddings are Fridays, followed closely by Sundays.
Certain months in Brisbane, SEQ, Northern NSW tend to be more popular than others. For example, I find December and January tend to be quieter than April, August, September and October, so therefore I will have more availability for these months.
When you contact celebrants via email, it is worth being specific about the date, timeandlocation of your wedding. Whenever I’m contacted with these three pieces of specific information I can inform them straight as to my availability.
Please do not hesitate to contact me regarding my availability for your special day. You can either email me at email@example.com or ring me on 0478 041227. Alternatively you can fill in this contact form.
Thinking of eloping? Whether you want to do so to save money, to negate the ‘inviting the masses’ issue, or you just want a really intimate commitment with only you and your witnesses then I’m able to help you with your elopement ceremony, ensuring it meets all your needs.
As a starter, I’ve produced some guidance on how to organise the perfect elopement:
Submit your completed notice-of-intended-marriage at least one calendar month prior to your elopement date with your celebrant. Unless there is a reason which falls under the exceptional circumstances (please ask me for more advice on these), you will need to lodge this at least one calendar month before your chosen date to get married.
Think about what kind of elopement you want.
Do you want super-intimate with only two witnesses or something with a small, intimate group of family and/or friends?
If you do want to invite guests, do you want them to be aware that you are eloping, or do you want to invite them under a different guise?
Do you want to include personalised vows in the ceremony?
Do you want any readings included? Would you like any of your guests to say something during the ceremony?
Do you want your elopement to be captured by a professional photographer and/or videographer to then share with others at a later date?
Decide where you would like to hold your elopement ceremony. I have conducted elopements:
at parks (depending on your type of elopement, it’s worth checking first to see if you need any kind of permit for that particular park)
on beaches, including those on both the Gold and Sunshine Coasts
in a coffee shop (with the bride and groom in shorts and thongs)
at the home of a couple, just before they were to fly off for a trip of a lifetime
at a small family 30th birthday party which turned into a surprise elopement
How are you going to share the news with your family and friends after the elopement? It must seem an odd question to ask, but quite often couples elope, and then spend days, weeks, even months, before they share the news because, well… basically they’re not sure how to do so! It’s worth having a think about this beforehand; are there those whom you want to tell first face to face, or are you happy to make an announcement on social media?
Please do not hesitate to contact me about elopements – I have a real sense of adventure and love surprises, so am more than happy to get fully on board to make your elopement totally right for you.
“Thank you for your wonderful assistance on our surprise evening… even your commitment to your backstory so my family wouldn’t guess you were a celebrant. Thanks for fitting in with our very simple, kinda last minute decision and making it super chilled with was just perfect for us.” Kellee and Ben (left)
It truly is something which I’m very passionate about and it beggars belief to me as to why we don’t have it. Please read my post on my thoughts about Marriage Equality, which can be found here.
As you may be aware, by law, all celebrants must include some monitum wording which includes:
‘I am duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages according to law. Before you are joined in marriage in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses, I am to remind you of the solemn and binding nature of the relationship into which you are now about to enter. Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.’
I really don’t like saying the bit in bold. I truly don’t. And often couples I work with don’t like me saying it either, and they ask if I can exclude it. Unfortunately I can’t, but what I can do is include a precursor sentence before the monitum wording paragraph which explains that this is not the views of all of us, and we hope one day to have marriage equality.
I recently conducted a wedding where when I said this, everyone cheered. It gave me goose bumps; I was so proud that so many like-minded people are out there. After the ceremony a guest came up to me and shook my hand. He was in his late 50s and told me that in all his life, he’d never been to a wedding where he and his (male) partner actually felt included.
This in itself is one of many reasons why I will keep supporting change for the introduction of marriage equality.
Hopefully you had a chance to read Part One of this blog, which was basically a love story between my handsome dog, Valentine McFarty, and Mr HB and I.
As promised in that post, I wanted to provide some ideas on ways you can include your dog in your wedding ceremony.
To Have, Or Not To Have
What’s that saying? Never work with children or animals… Well, I’ve worked with both, many times, and never once have I found it a major problem. Yes, even the best trained animal can be unpredictable, and if you’re looking for a ceremony which runs as smoothly as Kate and Wills, then it’s probably not such a good idea to have your four legged friend involved. However, if you are comfortable with the thought of your dog (or any other animal!) going off script then I think they can make such a wonderful asset to your ceremony.
Getting Your Dog Involved Prior to the Ceremony
Getting your pet involved in your engagement shoot or save the date photos can result in beautifully unique pictures. You can also include your dog in your wedding invitation – Etsy.com has lots of creative artists who can help you with this idea.
During the Ceremony
Having your furry friend as a bridesmaid, grooms man or flower girl can be a lovely addition.
There’s some great ways to include your pooch as your ring bearer. Not sure if my Valentine McFarty is well trained enough to carry the basket in his mouth like the dog below, but there’s other, perhaps safer, options available too.
I recently conducted a wedding where their dog, Ernie, was a big part of the day. He was there at all my consultations with the couple, he was mentioned during the ceremony, he escorted the groom’s party on arrival, and walked both bride and groom down the aisle. One of their friend’s made a fingerprint tree with Ernie sitting underneath. Ernie is very much part of their lives, and therefore very much part of their wedding. I ‘heart’ Ernie…
During the Reception
Even if your furry friend isn’t at the reception, there’s still ways you can acknowledge them.
What about having you, your partner, and your pet on your cake topper?
I went to a wedding once where Valentine, and other doggies were invited for the ceremony and the reception. If you’re doing the same, what about some wedding favours for your furry friends?
Fingerprint trees are very popular at the moment, and a great way of having a keepsake of all your guests. Why not include your dog in the print, or do the fingerprint dog in purple below. Or, if you’re really adventurous, what about a paw print from your pooch?
As much as you love your dog, you may not want to have to keep an eye on him or her all day, and you also may want to consider them going home after the ceremony. If so, there’s companies who can do this for you such as the lovely Sherron at Howl Yeah.
Love Animals, but are Animal-less?
If you don’t own an animal, but are an animal lover there’s still ways you can show your love for our furry/feathered friends. How about hiring some Alpacas from our wonderful friends at Alpaca Pooch – these lovely, friendly, super cute animals make a great addition to any celebration. Other ideas include a dove release from White Wings Dove Service or an owl delivering your rings (Raptor Vision).
If you decide against having your dog or pet at your wedding, I have some wording I can use which will give you and your guests a giggle and will acknowledge your pet within the ceremony. Please don’t hesitate to ask me about this.
When I worked as a celebrant in London, I rarely had an opportunity to include dogs into ceremonies – for a couple of reasons. 1) not that many couples had dogs and 2) not many wedding venues allowed dogs. However, here in Australia I’m doing many weddings where dogs are a part of the day and this means two of my favourite things come together.
In this two part post, Part One tells the story of my dog, Valentine McFarty, with Part Two providing ideas on ways to incorporate your dog into your ceremony.
Adopting our Dog
My husband, Mr HB and I wanted a dog since forever. We’d both grown up with them, but living in small apartments in London whilst working full time made it seem impossible.
It was only when someone suggested that with the help of dog-walkers and friends, we could make being a dog owner a reality that we decided to go for it. So, with much excitement we contacted Battersea Dogs Home, which was handily located down the road from where we lived.
Like many rescue centers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers make up the majority of abandoned, abused and lost dogs. Therefore it wasn’t surprising that we were matched with two brindle boy Staff’s, one six months old, and one three years old.
Mr HB and I played with both, before unanimously agreeing that the three year old – ‘Mitch’ – was our boy. Poor Mitch had been in the rescue center for three months, and was suffering from signs of stress. We knew the other puppy would have more chance of finding an adopter. The home knew very little about Mitch’s past. He had been found wandering on Clapham Common, scavenging through rubbish, and was rather overweight, but as to who his owners were, they knew zilch.
Within minutes we were walking out of the center with Mitch. We were dog owners!
We Ditch the Mitch
On our half hour walk home from the rescue center, Mr HB and I babbled excitedly whilst Mitch yanked on the lead, desperate to put as much distance from the center and himself as possible. It was at this time that Mr HB came up with an idea. Mitch had been found on 14th February 2011 by the rescue center, so why not call him Valentine?! A genius moment from Mr HB. Reader, this is why I married him.
His last name, ‘McFarty’, came from the moment I first saw him in his jacket we bought for London’s many cold winter days.
Me: ‘Oooh, don’t you look handsome’.
Me: ‘And what clan do you belong to?’
Me: ‘The McFarty clan, you say! How appropriate…’
I can assure you, he lives up to his clan’s name.
A Dogs Life In London
Valentine quickly settled into life with Mr HB and I, though initially was very quiet and cuddly boy, perhaps frightened that if he showed his personality too much we might return him to the center. He didn’t play with the plethora of toys we’d bought him, but he did learn many tricks. ‘Bang’ (where he drops dead), jumping through a hoop, ‘high five’ etc. He also loved coming to the pub, which was handy as we did this a lot.
As time went on, his confidence grew, and soon he would play with his toys, throwing his ball around our flat, and playing tug-of-war with his ropey. He loved chasing (but never catching) squirrels and foxes in the park opposite our house. We took him on our holidays, and realised he liked swimming in the sea and ponds, but not in a pool. He enriched our lives in ways that we never expected, and the cheeky, funny, silly side of his personality came out in droves.
A Dogs Life in Australia
In 2015, Mr HB and I decided to move to Australia. This meant organising for Valentine to get his Pet Passport, a million or so vet checks and a very, very expensive flight, followed by 10 days in quarantine in Sydney. And every penny we paid was worth it, as Valentine took to living here like he was a true blue Aussie.
Now we live in a house with a garden he has learnt to bury his bones (though he does struggle to remember where he left them), bark and chase the postman, tease the magpies (who take much joy in swooping him – it’s a fun game), and going for a swim in the sea at least twice a week.
Some people say Valentine is lucky we adopted him, but Mr HB and I are the lucky ones. Seeing this boy, who had experienced god only knows what in his first three years, living the life he deserves is the most satisfying thing to observe.
I guess you can say that I am a proper dog lover. I truly love Valentine, but I also love many other dogs. I can’t walk past a dog without saying ‘hello’, and many of my friends’ dogs received the same kind of loving I give Valentine.
I hope you enjoyed reading a little bit about my boy, and if you’d like to know how to include your furry friend at your wedding, please read part two.
When I tell people I’m a celebrant, and I conduct baby namings, weddings andfunerals I often get the same reaction: ‘The funerals must be hard. I couldn’t do that.’
And, yes, funerals can be hard, but I find them such a special experience to participant in, and if I can make the grieving process just that little bit easier, then I gain much job satisfaction.
Most people’s experience of funerals have been in a church, chapel or at a funeral home. But, what would you say if I told you that it doesn’t need to be like that? That, depending on whether you want a funeral or a memorial, you can hold these at a vineyard, or on a farm, or by the sea, or at home, or… well, there’s many choices.
So, why don’t more people do this? Basically it’s because usually the only experience we’ve had when someone dies is the more traditional process. It can be hard to make decisions when grieving, and when the loved one hasn’t left any instructions on what they want, it can seem easier to take the well-trodden path.
However, imagine a funeral or memorial that really celebrated your loved ones life; where people come together in a place that feels familiar or fitting for the deceased. Imagine being able to take your time to say goodbye, to share stories, laugh, cry, grieve in a way which feels comfortable.
Recently I’ve noticed a lot of positive media attention regarding alternative ways to say your last goodbye to a loved one, and this has reconfirmed what it is I’m trying to do with the funeral celebrant side of my business.