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Let's Design A Wedding

Part I

It is difficult to find a single point at which to begin planning your wedding; most people begin by choosing almost simultaneously the where and the when. The where is almost always influenced by the choice of reception site which then leads to where the wedding ceremony should be held. The choice of reception site is often determined by its availability, its pricing and its reputation; it can take some juggling to get alignment between these factors but you eventually will.

Now people begin to think about the wedding ceremony itself, namely who is going to marry us? Should you choose a church wedding then it gets a little easier because the where and the who come as a package; should you opt for a civil ceremony then you are faced with choosing a celebrant. In the Illawarra, you have no lack of choice as there are ninety-eight Certified Marriage Celebrants between Helensburgh and Nowra; but which one to choose? It will again come down to availability, pricing and reputation although you are now looking for their availability on a date which matches the reception site booking you have made.

The internet will now play its part and it’s here I’ll add a cautionary note; as a tool to show you your choices, the net is unparalleled in its search abilities. However, what you are looking at is nothing more than the celebrant’s ability to use technology to leap into your lounge room; the pages of material you are now faced with is not a reflection of the quality of the celebrant but rather their marketing skills.

Having raised a cautionary hand, I should at least offer a solution. I believe it comes down to two key factors, firstly, the degree to which the three of you can work together during the design phase; secondly, the trust you develop in the celebrant’s communication skills and therefore their public speaking capabilities. Can they bring what now exists on paper to life?

Here is a suggested methodology:

  • Be proactive by asking your friends and relatives for the names of potential celebrants; ask them to ask their friends and build a list of celebrants that people you trust have seen in action.

  • Look for celebrants who are members of a professional association and work in your local area, for example Australian Marriage Celebrants Inc.

  • Visit the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department web site to locate local celebrants.

  • Draw up a list from your research of four or five likely contenders.

  • Now the key point; construct your celebrant interview, much as you would prepare to interview a prospective employee.

  • What should you ask? Here are some suggestions:

  • Why are you the best celebrant to help us design and then conduct our wedding?

  • When designing our ceremony with us, do you begin with a blank sheet of paper?

  • What do you think we should expect of you as our celebrant?

  • Tell us about the worst wedding you’ve ever had to perform?

  • If a guest’s child begins to cry loudly during the ceremony, what would you do?

  • If we watched a video of your last five weddings, how much difference would we see between them?

  • Which do you prefer as a ceremony within the ceremony, the Hand Fastening ceremony or the Sand Ceremony?

  • What mistakes do couples make when designing their wedding ceremony?

  • Why do you work as a marriage celebrant?

  • Set up your interview notes so you can record each celebrant’s answers for later comparison. It helps if one of you does the talking and the other the recording.

  • From your interview select two celebrants you want to meet and set up the appointments.

  • Meet with the celebrants and make your decision; don’t be afraid to select a third for interview if the first two don’t impress.

The objective of this process is to find someone you can work with; there are no right or wrong answers to the above questions but there is an insight into the person you will be trusting to design and deliver one of the most important days of your life. Think about the pair of you and the type of person you might work best with. Do you want a talker or a listener; a highly-structured step by step individual or a broad brush “make it up as we go along” person? Will you both want the same kind of person or are you likely to each have different views? How good are you both at dealing with conflict over the decision making? Remember this whole process is designed to bring you ever closer together, for life; not tear it apart before it begins.

OK, now I need to give in to my intuitive side and put the logical thinking away for a moment. The world as you know it will not end if you just trust your “gut instinct”; that feeling you get when you meet someone for the first time and you, within minutes, feel a “bond” or “rapport” with them, as if you’ve known them forever. You can’t explain it, there is no logic to it but it’s your intuition giving them the big tick of approval; so, trust it, go with it and try not to act surprised when it all works out.

Next time I’ll talk about what happens once you have chosen your celebrant; ‘till then happy interviewing.

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