If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, or seen my Instagram or Facebook pages you’ll see that I have had an amazing, incredible, wonderful 2017. I conducted over 80 weddings in Australia, Bali and London, chucked in my day job to be a full-time celebrant, attended sessions on social media to learn what the hell I’m meant to be doing, and basically had the best year of my life.
And I know 2018 is going to be even better…
The reason I’m so confident of this is down to the simple fact that marriage equality is now a thing. In 2017 I conducted a couple of same-sex commitment ceremonies and, well, as beautiful as they were, it saddened my soul that I couldn’t marry them legally. Now, I can. I don’t have to say those hateful words ‘Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and woman…’ anymore. Hoo-bloody-rah!
Secondly, in 2018 I want to do more creative learning. I spent time in 2017 learning how to use social media, tailoring my website, and learning all the ins and outs of celebrancy in Australia. So now is the time for me to start doing some really fun stuff; attending courses and sessions which will hopefully include paints and pencils and textiles and design and writing and all the fun stuff.
I can’t wait for this year. I’d love to hear your ambitions for 2018, whether wedding related or not. Don’t be shy – come and say hi!
Hopefully you had a chance to read Part One of this blog, which was basically a love story between my handsome boy 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 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.
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?
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 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.
How to make your vows rocks? Well, the most heart-felt and beautiful part of any wedding ceremony is, in my opinion, the moment the couple share their vows.
However, this is one area which couples seem to get most concerned about. What to say? How to say it? What happens if one is full of lengthy heartfelt sincerity and the other is a quick witty ditty?
Argh! Panic not though – read my handy tips on how to write your vows which will help you through this part of your ceremony.
Where to start
You’ve got the blank piece of paper. You’ve got the pen. You’ve got total mind-blank. So, take a deep breath, pour yourself a beverage (alcoholic or otherwise depending on your preference) and ask yourself the following questions and write down your answers:
Why do you love your partner? How would you describe him/her to a stranger? What do they do that makes them different to anyone else you’ve ever been with?
What do you want to promise them you’ll always do throughout your relationship? Do you have some flaws that you will try to improve? Do they have some flaws you’ll promise to overlook? If in the future you have hard times, what do you promise to always do during this period?
Where do you see your future together? What support will you give them to reach these goals?
Does your partner have children, or do you already have children together – of the fur or non-fur variety – if so, what kind of parent/step-parent do you promise to be?
Forget your audience
Try to forget your audience. Write your vows for your partner and not for your guests. This may sound obvious, but I think it’s easy get hung up on ‘will people laugh’ or ‘will my friends and family think these romantic enough’. Imagine it’s just you and your partner, and you’re getting one chance to really explain to them exactly what you promise to do throughout your married life together.
It is also worth writing your vows as close to the ceremony date as possible. This might sound a bit ‘what the ….?!’ but writing your vows too far in advance can lead to over-editing and ending up with something which sounds insincere or over-written.
I also provide the option to couples of sharing their vows with me prior to the ceremony. Getting a second opinion can really help and can give you the assurance you need that you’ve written the right words.
If you’re completely freaking out…
You don’t have to have personalised vows. If you find that the thought of sharing your feelings about your partner in front of your friends and family excruciating and it’s going to outweigh any enjoyment of your ceremony, then don’t feel pressured to do it. If you want to omit this part of the ceremony, you may wish to consider other alternatives, which could be 1) share your personalised vows with your partner after the ceremony when it’s just the two of you, 2) opt for something more standard and less personal (there’s a plethora of options on the internet or I can help you) or 3) write something yourself but ask your celebrant to read them out for you.
Although the sharing of personalised vows can be one of the highlights of the ceremony, don’t let this part of your day overly stress you. A good celebrant will make this aspect of your ceremony a truly magic aspect of your day and will support you through the process. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss further by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0478041227.
Parents; you love them, yes, but their vision on what your wedding should look and feel like does not necessarily complement yours. A wedding can be a hugely exciting, emotional time for parents and sometimes their best intentions can come off as interfering. I know when – or should that read ‘if’ – my daughters get married I’ll have to have very strong words with myself to stop myself over-stepping the mark from helpful to interfering.
So, here are some handy tips on how to deal with mums, dads, steppies, or any other significant elder to prevent conflict during the planning and wedding itself.
If they offer to contribute to the wedding budget, ensure expectations are discussed before accepting
Try to do this as a couple if you can, and say something along the lines of ‘We are so grateful for your generous offer. We just want to check whether you have anything in particular that you want to see included in our wedding.’ If you find they have a shopping list of inclusions, you may decide to politely forgo their offer by emphasising that you’d prefer a more modest wedding that fits your vision. It’s much better to know about this up-front, than start planning and find out that they want to invite 50 of their closest friends.
If they are critical of your choices, reinforce how their criticisms make you feel
I hear this a lot; a parent who is verbal in their disappointment that their son or daughter isn’t getting married in a church or that they think your colour scheme is all wrong. Be explicit with them as to how their criticisms make you feel – be honest, yet calm, and use wording such as ‘when you say [this], it makes me feel like [this]’. You may also want to think about an advocate who can be a bit of a go-between, such as an relative or godparent who has a good relationship with the parent.
Give them a job to do
Being involved can really make a parent feel useful and will help them buy into your vision. Choose something which plays to their strengths. Do they have a skill? Is your mother creative and therefore able to make confetti cones? Is your father-in-law great at DIY and able to make an arbor? Even jobs like making the wedding favours will give them a sense of purpose and help them feel engaged in the process. Alternatively, why not ask them to curate a photo display for you – there’s some fantastic ideas here.
Include them in the ceremony
Traditionally, it was only really the father of the bride who had a formal role in the ceremony. There’s many further ways you can involves your parents or significant elders in the ceremony.
Ask them to do a reading – it could be the two mothers or fathers together as a way of helping them to get to know each other a bit better
Get the groom to walk both mothers up the aisle, or alternatively, ask the grooms’ parents to walk the groom and the brides’ parents to walk the bride up the aisle
If your parents have a long and happy marriage, ask your celebrant to recognise this within the ceremony
Provide your parents with corsages, flower bracelets, lapel flowers, or similar with flowers with meaning that is relevant to your relationship with them, and ask your celebrant to mention this during the ceremony
Choose your parents to be witnesses and/or ring bearers
If there is a particular family tradition or culture, consider including this within the ceremony. For example, I’ve conducted a non-Jewish wedding, where we including the breaking of the glass in acknowledgement of the bride’s ancestry or a wedding for a Greek bride where they exchanged crowns.
I have many examples where families have been vocal in their disappointment in the bride and grooms choices prior to the wedding day. In all these cases, I have watched the parents view the dressed ceremony space for the first time and fall in love with it, then watched them laugh, relax and enjoy the ceremony.
I’d like to share with you an extract from a letter written to me by a mother of the bride after the wedding ceremony. ‘I feel so bad that I wasso upset that my daughter and son-in-law were not marrying in our church. Now I can see that their wedding was 100% right for them and I had many of my friends say it was the very best wedding they’d ever been to. I cannot thank you enough for the perfect ceremony you conducted‘.
Be confident in your choices – trust your instinct, and enjoy your day.
I suggest you pour yourself a whiskey, plonk yourself on your comfiest seat, and gather round for a little love story: How I Met My Husband, by Roxy Hotten.
Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time I was married to a man who wasn’t Mr HB. Let’s call him H1. One evening, back in 1996, H1 and I were at a gig local to where we lived in the UK, and a mutual friend of ours introduced us to the guitarist of one of the bands. This guitarist was Mr HB, or just ‘Mr B’ as he was then. When I met him he had dreadlocks and was flanked by a couple of adoring ladies*. I remember thinking he was a bit of a, um, a bit of a… well, just a bit arrogant I guess, and didn’t really pay too much attention to him.
(* Mr HB disputes this fact to this day – not the dreadlocked bit, but the adoring ladies bit)
One Upon a Time + 2 Years
Fast forward two years later, and H1 and I were planning on moving to Australia. The same mutual friend invited us to his house for dinner before we left, and the other dinner guests were Mr B and his new girlfriend. I quickly realised that my initial impression of him was wrong, all wrong, and that he was a really nice guy. I also thought he was cute, but, you know, I was married, about to move to Australia, he had a girlfriend, blah blah – so definitely nothing weird happened.
One Upon a Time + 5 Years
Fast forward to 2001. H1 and I had split up in Australia, and were back in the UK. Our mutual friend invited us to his house for dinner again, and although H1 and I were no longer a couple, we were (and are) still friendly and so off we went. Upon arrival, I saw Mr B who launched in to a story about how he had been dumped by text message, which in 2001, was still a fairly new way of being dumped. I, being incredibly uncool quickly told him that although I was with H1 at our mutual friends house, I wasn’t with H1 anymore.
Throughout the dinner party we laughed, flirted, discovered lots of mutual interests, and when everyone had gone to bed, I decided it was very necessary to teach Mr B how to play ‘Heart of Gold’ by Neil Young on the guitar. Now, let me just paint a picture for you here if I may.
Mr B had been a professional guitarist for about 20 years.
I can only play four chords on the guitar
We had both been drinking straight for about six hours
Sitting on opposite chairs, I started to strum and bark out orders like a bossy music teacher…
‘Keep me searchin’ – D! – for a – E MINOR! – heart of gold. You keep me searchin’ – D!- for a – E MINOR! – heart of gold…’ etc.
Mr B was obviously blown away with my epic guitar playing, and after I felt that he had sufficiently learnt this master-piece from the, er, master, I decided it was time to make my move.
‘Howzaboutcha come overz here and gizzus a liddle kiss’.
I am pure class.
Fortunately Mr B found this a tempting offer, and there you have it. Hollywood-worthy it may not be, but it is our story and therefore very special to us. If you’d like to share your love story with me, and incorporate it into your ceremony, please feel free to email me at email@example.com or ring me on 0478041227.
There’s a saying in the ‘biz’ when you conduct baby namings, weddings and funerals that you do ‘hatched, matched and dispatched’ ceremonies.
Since becoming a celebrant in Brisbane, I’ve been predominately concentrating on the matched, with some hatched. And now I’m biting the bullet, giving up my day job and foraying into the world of funerals.
When I’ve told friends and family my plan, they have been very supportive, but I often hear them say; ‘Well, that’ll be less happy to do than the weddings.’ However, I don’t think so.
With the weddings I strive to give someone the very best experience of their life – celebrating among those who they love the most. And with funerals, I want people to have a similar experience. I want people to have a funeral which really celebrates them. I want to deliver a funeral or memorial or tribute which is genuine and true and which helps their loved ones to smile and reminisce of this person who was a part of their life. Yes, funerals are sad – it’s part of the grieving – but it’s okay to smile, laugh, groan as you remember the good times and the funny quirks to their personality.
I want to work with the grieving family or friends to produce a ceremony which feels genuine, real, fitting, honest, and helpful in the process of coming to terms with their death.
As much as I hope you’ll never have to use my services as a funeral celebrant, I also hope that if you do, the result will be a real celebration of your loved ones life, and as positive of an experience as possible.
Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss this service further on 0478041227 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Firstly the cons: this is the hard stuff that keeps me awake at night.
The Hard Stuff
The cost. Becoming and remaining a celebrant is expensive. Here are some of my costs (all costs are approximate from my 2015 expenses):
Training fee for initial training, which can range in cost depending on whether you want to do on-line or face to face. I chose to do on-line as I had already been a celebrant for five years in the UK so felt face to face wasn’t necessary, and this cost me $750. You then have to do a minimum 5 hours of Ongoing Professional Development (OPD) which I chose to do on-line for 2015 ($175)
Registration fee to the Attorney General’s Office to gain your qualification ($600)
Annual Registration fee to the Attorney General’s Office ($240)
Annual Membership fee to a Celebrant Association – Although this is not obligatory, I belong to the Australian Marriage Celebrants http://www.marriagecelebrants.org.au/ but there are other membership organisations you can join ($242)
Website – I use WordPress, and manage it myself. To set it all up, buy my domain, etc, this cost approximately $260, with an ongoing fee per year of $129
Marketing materials – I’m so grateful to my wonderful creative friends who have helped me keep my costs down with this, including the talented Heath at http://www.theleftlane.com.au/ and my designer friend Louisa. I pay for printing for business cards, leaflets, stickers and any other materials and would spend approximately $200 a year on this.
Official paperwork. Most of this has to be bought through the Government printers, CanPrint, and would cost me approximately $200 per year.
The hours. Wave bye-bye to your weekends. My friends, family, husband and dog are neglected on weekends. I’m either conducting a wedding, meeting up with prospective clients, doing paperwork, or writing a ceremony. I am also often busy on many week-day evenings meeting with prospective clients.
The responsibility. My recurring nightmare is to turn up at a wedding without my script. Or my legal paperwork. Which is an unnecessary worry as a) I’m super organised and b) I always have spares in my car. However, I did make an error on my paperwork for the very first wedding I did in Australia.My blood froze when I realised, though fortunately I had submitted the correct details to Births, Deaths and Marriages (who were wonderful when I confessed my mistake). Initially I found the paperwork a little confusing – it’s not hard, but there are documents which look the same but have different purposes. I’m now a whizz at it… though I still check, check, check… and check again.
The work/home balance. When I lived in London, my office was my dining table. I’m fortunate that now I’m in Brisbane I have a great home office which I love working in (especially as it means I can have my dog at work with me). But for some people, having your home as your workplace can be hard or not practical. Brisbane has lots of co-working spaces popping up and some are not that expensive. See http://stylemagazines.com.au/lifestyle/brisbanes-best-co-working-spaces-and-offices/
Reading all that, you may think ‘Why would anyone want to be a celebrant?’ Because there’s the Good Stuff…
The Good Stuff
The writing. Finally I get to utilise my writing skills for something more interesting than business reports
The people. I’m constantly meeting new people and hear their relationship stories. What other situation could I find out so much so quickly about two strangers?
The love. Meeting the couple, who are in love, then meeting their friends and family who love them. In fact, sometimes I fall a little in love with them. So much love!
The day itself. The build up. Seeing the bride and groom for the first time on the day. Seeing the venue and how they’ve decorated it. Meeting so many people who I’ve already heard about. And then the conducting of the ceremony. Seeing the bride, the groom, the family or friend show emotion as I speak the words I’ve worked so hard to get right for the couple
The travel. I love travelling so getting to see new places, whether in Queensland or beyond, is a big fat cherry on top of an already top notch ice-cream
The independence. My boss is me. (By the way, I’m a great boss)
The creativity. What other job can you suggest ‘dancing girls’ or ‘an arrival on a horse’ or conduct a flash mob mid-way through the ceremony?
The gratitude. When I receive an email saying ‘thanks’, or have a parent come up to me after the ceremony with happy tears in their eyes, I think ‘what a job’.
You will never hear me moan about the Hard Stuff because the Good Stuff outweighs it a million to one in my mind. I have found a job which I love so much that it doesn’t feel like work. If you’re thinking about becoming a celebrant and want advice or just a chat, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com
I met with a couple this week who had been quoted so many different prices from many different celebrants, they were utterly confused as to what was good value and what was not. Some charge less than me, and some nearly twice my price.
It made me realise that it can be a bit of a mine-field out there. So I thought I’d explain how I came up with my fees. I can only speak for myself, and I’m certainly not claiming to speak on behalf of all celebrants, but I do realise that this is an area which some couples struggle to understand, so in order to be honest and transparent, here is what you’re paying for when you book me.
I have been a celebrant since 2011, and this experience means I really understand weddings. I provide couples with lots of ideas and guidance and if there’s any issues along the way or on the day, I’m able to provide solutions
I am professional. This is my business and I run it as such. I respond to emails and telephone messages as soon as possible and communicate with you throughout the process. I use a modern, high spec P.A. system and always tailor my appearance to what is appropriate depending on the bride and groom’s style and vision for their ceremony
I am a full time celebrant which means that I am available for queries, meetings, consultations etc at a time which suits you, rather than you having to fit in around me. I offer initial meetings during week days, week evenings, and on weekends
I keep up to date with what’s happening out there in the wedding world. Weddings are my world and I am always researching so I can suggest fun or innovative elements to add in to your ceremony
Being a celebrant is expensive. I pay a yearly registration fee to the Attorney General, to the Australian Marriage Celebrants for my membership, for my insurance, for my advertising, and I pay to do on-going professional development every year
I write ceremonies which are bespoke and incorporate your story, and I take pride in tweaking every one to ensure it’s really and truly personalised – no cookie cutter ceremonies here…
I care. I know this may sound corny, or daft, but I honestly do. It’s important to me that your wedding ceremony is great, like, really really great. And because I care, I put the time and effort in to a ceremony, in the writing, the getting to know you, the rehearsal and the delivery on the day
I hope the above gives you a flavour on why I charge what I charge. You can find my current fees here at www.roxyrocks.com/fees and I’m always happy to answer any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0478041227.
A lot of the time when people ring or email me about my availability, they start off with ‘I don’t suppose you’re available on the xxxxxx date?’
Having come from England where celebrants are rare, and people that use them even rarer, the thought that I now work in a field which is super competitive and saturated with celebrants was at first a bit of a novelty to me However, I’ve been lucky, and my business in Australia has exceeded my expectations.
I’m still new in the scene though. I only really started advertising in Australia three months ago, and despite working for five years as a celebrant in London, I’m considered a ‘newby’ in this field. Therefore I have availability where others who have been around for a lot longer may not. I have some months already fully booked (for example, April 2017 only has one day still available), whereas March 2017 currently has nil.
My tip to get the celebrant on the date you want? Prioritize booking them as early as possible, ideally as soon as you’ve got your date locked in.
And don’t hesitate to contact me to check out whether I’m free on your chosen date. It’s no-obligation!