When you start wedding planning, and thinking about the wedding budget, everything can get a little overwhelming. So, we sat down with five different wedding celebrants from around Australia to demystify how much a wedding celebrant costs, and what it is that they actually do.
Give us a one-liner – who are you, and what do you do?
Precious: Hi! My name is Precious and I marry people to the love of their lives.
Sharon: I’m Sharon and I gasbag about your love story
Kitty: Hey, I am Kitty and I get to make people married!
Wendy: I’m Wendy, a Celebrant living in Margaret River, WA. I have the beautiful honor of walking alongside people as they plan their wedding ceremony, and then gently guiding them through one of the most important moments of their lives. It’s the most wonderful thing to be a part of!
Kate: Celebrant Kate – Lover of love, creator of authentic ceremonies!
Finish this sentence. I’m a professional…
Precious: I’m a professional party starter. Literally!! Your wedding party doesn’t start until I’ve said my bit!!
Sharon: Love journalist
Kitty: Jack of all trades! No really as a working mum with a side hustle I am the master of time management, have awesome organizational skills, skilled in the art of distraction and love to make people happy.
Wendy: …wordsmith, public speaker, and calming presence.
Kate: Party starter, love story writer, vibe creator, people connector, celebrator!!!
What the f**k does a celebrant do?!
Precious: Ummm drink wine and eat brunch? Oh, and we make sure that your wedding ceremony is devoid of boredom and exactly as you want it.
Think of us as the architects, writers and creators of your wedding ceremony. We gather all the information, make sure all the legalities are adhered to and then write the love story of the two of you.
Sharon: Creates an atmosphere from the moment guests arrive to get the celebratory vibes flowing.
Kitty: Essentially, we get to make people married. However, what you see us do on the day is just a small fraction of the amount of work we actually do. There’s legal paperwork to organize and submit, there’s the crafting of ceremonies bespoke to each couple, there’s the communication with your other suppliers to make sure your days is perfect for you and on top of all that we have to make sure we are the best celebrant we can be. Each year there is professional development to do and keeping up to date with all things legal about getting married in Australia. Then there’s all the advertising and being present on the socials.
Wendy: We make sure the beautiful celebration people spend months planning also results in a legal marriage!
An Authorised Celebrant at the very minimum prepares the legal paperwork and then officiates the ceremony ensuring all the correct legal wording and procedures take place. They then lodge your marriage with the relevant Office of Births Deaths and Marriages. Most Authorised Celebrants, like myself, will also spend time planning and write a personalized ceremony. We will attend the wedding rehearsal, turn up on the wedding day and officiate the ceremony with style, making sure everyone is taken on the journey. Then we pack up and leave quietly with a big smile on their face once the beautiful couple is declared married and the celebrations begin.
Kate: Make you married! Kick off the celebrations!!! Celebrate you!
What is one misconception about wedding celebrants that you want to debunk?
Precious: That we just rock up for half an hour on the day and say a few words! On average I spend about 15 hours preparing for your wedding ceremony. This includes filing the paperwork, speaking with your suppliers and working with you to create a ceremony that is perfect for you and your partner.
Sharon: That you just turn up on the day, say a few mushy words along with some legal ones and that all you do.
Turning up on the day is the easiest part, but without meetings and lots of questions, the ceremony would be cut and paste with zero personal details. So many hours go in behind the scenes.
Kitty: That a celebrant doesn’t just rock up for half an hour. We pour a lot of ourselves into making sure your ceremony is what you want it to be.
Wendy: Probably one of the big misconceptions is that we only do the hour of work that people see on the day – there’s a lot that goes on in preparation for that magic hour! Most of the work is done before the big day. To make it run smoothly, we need to build trust and rapport with the couple, preparing, write and fine-tune their dream ceremony, wedding rehearsals, and of course the legal preparations beforehand. Not to mention the training, registration costs, maintenance of equipment, lots of travel, and versatile wardrobe that is required!
Kate: That we’re just there to make it all official – this is definitely changing. I love working with couples who really value their ceremony and want to create a really authentic celebration of them. A celebration of their connection with each other, and a celebration that their guests feel connected to. I love seeing guests on a loved up high after a ceremony because they’ve just experienced something really special, a moment in time they’ll never forget!
How much do you charge for your services [in AU$]?
Precious: For a Saturday in peak season, my average price is between $1,100 and $1,300. If you’re having a weekday ceremony or its low season it’s usually a bit less, and if you’re just looking for a registry style ceremony with the bare bones only my charge is $450.
Sharon: Between $1200 and $1400
Kitty: It can vary because not everyone wants to get married the same way. So I have a package starting at $400 for just the legal words up to $1000 for a fully bespoke awesome ceremony.
Wendy: You’ll find there’s a big range in pricing among Celebrants, and the average varies from state to state. My Celebrant fee ranges from $600 – $700 depending on size and style.
Kate: My fee starts at $1200. This includes everything required to ensure you both love your ceremony on your wedding day, and have enjoyed the preparation leading up to it too. I work with you in whatever way suits you best and we create your ceremony specifically for you based on our conversations. You end up with a ceremony that is just ‘so you’ and also a memento of your relationship, what’s important to you and your story so far.
The fee includes…
- No-obligation initial meeting
- Unlimited meetings and correspondence to create your unique ceremony – the location and time is flexible
- The writing of your ceremony from draft to final copy
- ‘Getting Started’ pack full of ceremony ideas, inspiration and videos
- Final run-through of your ceremony
- All forms, certificates and legal requirements
- PA System, battery operated and can play your music as well.
What goes into writing a ceremony?
Precious: I start by loading my couples up on information, almost to the point of overload and then we cut it right the way back. There’s a lot of misconceptions about what a wedding ceremony has to include but as long as the legalities of the ceremony are met, then the rest is up to us.
When we meet I start by asking my couples what they love and hate about weddings. Maybe they’ve been to their cousins wedding and hated the start, or have seen a movie and loved how the couple walked down the aisle to a flash mob of musicians [I’m looking at you Love Actually]. And, after we have some of that in the mix, then we talk about traditions that they like and how to make them more modern, and less about giving the bride away as a property transaction – umm, no thank you! From there we usually have a pretty good outline of where to go and start talking about the particulars of the ceremony – like who they’d like to include, what they’d like to say and the language they’d like to use.
Some of my couples love calling their partner their best friend and soulmate – and other couples of mine would cringe completely at the thought. It’s up to us to decide what language we use, what stories go in and how much laughter and tears we want.
Sharon: I call it story time. Creating something out of nothing most of the time with couples not giving up much info. When you have your last catch-up, that’s when you pry the nitty-gritty and often juiced stuff that sticks the entire ceremony together so perfectly.
Kitty: I ask my couples questions so that I can get a feel for their personalities and determine what kind of ceremony they are after. I then use their answers to craft a ceremony, so I sound like a close friend sharing their love for each other. This is not always an easy process and can take some time to get it right. It can also be a collaborative approach, but most couples love to have a surprise on the day and hear the ceremony for the first time.
Wendy: Lots of carefully chosen words! I spend a lot of nights crafting my ceremonies and making sure the words I’m using reflects my couple and the ceremony they have asked for.
I have resources that I share with my couples as a starting point this way I can find out what they would like included. I have a few other tricks up my sleeve to find out a bit more about my couple and get a picture in my mind about what their ceremony could look like. I then write the ceremony from all of these aspects.
Kate: My heart and soul!! We have a ceremony planning and creating meeting where I ask the couple 50 million questions. Throughout that conversation I’m tuning in to their story, their dynamic, how they relate to each other, how they like to express themselves; and I’m also writing a whole lot of notes.
I sense where I need to take the conversation to get to know them without making anyone feel uncomfortable. It feels more like you’re hanging out with a friend, having a chat. I also put a whole lot of ideas out there about how we bring the awesomeness of them into their ceremony. It’s a super relaxed, collaborative, brainstorming session.
After that meeting, I am on their vibe and I write their ceremony draft. That usually involves me sitting somewhere light and bright [I need sunshine to be creative], visualizing your wedding day and letting the words flow onto the page to create that authentic celebration of you!
Aside from the ceremony, how else do you help couples bring their wedding to life?
Precious: I am there for ALL of it and want to know absolutely everything!! Is there any family drama, or is there going to be any tension in the room? Have both sides of the family met each other? Do you have an OTT uncle that I’ll need to keep my eye on otherwise he’ll keep taking photos on his iPad? Is there anything that you’re really nervous about going into the wedding? Do you hate public speaking? Is the thought of writing your vows terrifying you? All of this information is crucial to me being able to do my best possible job. By knowing it I know how to run interference on any problems that could occur, or know how to seat your divorced and difficult parents so that they’re both in the front row but not next to each other, or I know that I’ll need to hold the microphone a little bit different to put you at ease.
Sharon: Pre-ceremony banter is super important. By the time the ceremony has started, they know exactly who you are and how fun this could be. I’m also a pro at calming couples down if they are too nervous and firing them up if they aren’t nervous enough.
Kitty: I am their support person for that time of the day. I help where I can, be the rock they need and assure them that I have everything under control and just to enjoy their ceremony.
Wendy: I’m mostly all about the ceremony and how they can make it as personal, unique and meaningful as they would like. But, I do often find myself being a listening ear for couples as they work through other aspects of their day, or in thinking about surrounding elements [like timing, vendor suggestions, and how to manage children/fur babies or other unpredictable elements in the ceremony]. I have several children and some unruly animals, so I have some wisdom to share.
From your point of view, what happens on the wedding day?
Precious: I start every day with a mug of Earl Grey tea and a bit of toast.
On the day of someone’s wedding I’m usually too nervous to be able to eat anything for a few hours before a wedding ]although I’m getting a little better with that now that I’m almost 100 weddings in!].
Then I get ready, making sure that my outfit matches my notes on what the dress code is for the day. I always have a backup outfit and a backup pair of shoes in my car too. Sometimes I would have laid out everything that I need for the ceremony the day before, but I’ll always triple-check that my sound system and Kindle are charged, and that I have enough pens and extra certificates for in case an emergency happens.
I then head to the venue and get there about an hour early so I can make sure that all the vendors know me and answer any questions they might have. I’m not in charge of the whole day, but the ceremony is my domain and I need to know that every supplier has the same information from me. This is when I get my bossy pants on! Then once the couple have arrived I do some prep with them to help them calm down and enjoy the wedding ceremony. It goes really fast so I need to make sure that they’re as calm as possible so they don’t miss it or don’t enjoy it.
Sharon: You get ready drinking champagne/beer/whiskey, you get all gussied up like you have never done before, you cry, you laugh, and you nearly pee your pants from nerves.
You then stand in front of all your favorite people saying words out loud that you would typically say in private, you have a pash after an almost stranger tells you you’re married then everyone comes rushing at 100 miles an hour to kiss and hug you. You have some photos then you have a massive feast, lots of dancing later regretting you invited Uncle ‘handsy’ Harry after a few gins. You say goodbye to all of your guests and head back to your place of sleep. Then you reminisce about the most fabulous night of your life. You promise to consummate in the morning because all of the above has just got you all tired.
Kitty: From recent experience, it is a complete blur! The minutes go slow, but the hours go past so quickly! It is such a lead up on the day, so the ceremony helps set the scene for all the fun and love that happens after. The wedding day should just be joy, love and heaps of fun!
Wendy: I usually arrive at the location around 45 minutes beforehand to set up my PA system, test microphones, and sound levels, and make sure everything is in place such as the paperwork on the signing table. I will chat with the wedding coordinator and other vendors such as the photographer if they’re available to run them through anything they might need to know about the ceremony. If one of the wedding party is there I’ll touch base with them, calm nerves, make sure someone has the rings, etc. Sometimes the couple will arrive together so I’ll go and meet them when they arrive at the location to say hi and check-in, usually reassuring them that everything will be wonderful! And then on my signal, the ceremony that we have been planning together for so long begins, and I calmly guide everyone through it, pausing when tears need to be wiped away, when deep breaths need to be taken, or when moments need to be savored.
Weddings are such beautiful celebrations of love that reflect the couple and their uniqueness – whether it be a quiet, intimate gathering, or a big celebration surrounded by family and friends. I’ve officiated elopements consisting of 5 people standing on a beach in a short and sweet ceremony, to a room filled to the brim with 300 people complete with a choir – I love them all.
Kate: Everything that we’ve planned and created comes together and it all happens!! It’s the best feeling!! And I’m there for you, guiding you through everything, I’ve got your back. You actually don’t need to remember a single thing, just turn up and enjoy every moment.
I arrive early, set up and sound check, liaise with anyone else involved in the ceremony to make sure we’re all on the same page [event coordinators photographers, videographers, musicians, other speakers)]. When I come and see you before the ceremony I’m really tuning in to what you need from me in that moment; a chat or quiet time, reassurance, big happy vibes – whatever you need. I’m super organized when it comes to all the process and legal side of things so that I can bring the relaxed vibes to every moment before, during and after your ceremony.
…and what happens after the wedding day?
Precious: I submit the wedding paperwork to Births Deaths and Marriages and then keep my couple up to date with how the registration process is going. Once it’s been registered I let me couple know and they can then apply for the marriage certificate.
Sharon: Your married and in what I call a glitter bubble.
Kitty: Everything is exactly as it was the day before, except you get to wear rings on your fingers to show everyone you are married. After the wedding to get to relive all the joy going through photos and finally getting to talk to your loved ones.
Wendy: I prepare and send the marriage paperwork to BDMWA to register the marriage, and then send a follow-up email to my couple thanking them for letting me be a part of their day. I’ll also send information about how to apply for their Marriage Certificate and other details such as changing their name. This is often the end of our journey together, but I feel like I have a special connection with all of the couples I’ve had the honor of declaring married.
Kate: You’re married!!! You’re riding that beautiful, loved up, post-wedding high and re-living all your fave moments from the day… and I am too! I often get home after a ceremony [exhausted!], pour a glass of bubbles and cheers to the couple I’ve just married! I love knowing that I kicked off the celebrations with an amazing ceremony and they’re now partying the night away with their friends and family. My heart feels full knowing that I helped to create a celebration and a moment in time they’ll never forget.
You’ve been to so many weddings, what’s your favorite part of the day?
Precious: My favorite part of a wedding is just after it has started, when everyone is grinning from ear to ear and applauding our happy couple. I am nervous before EVERY single wedding – no exceptions – because I want to make sure that everything is perfect, but this is the bit where all the nerves drop away and it’s just a whole lot of happy people bought together to celebrate love.
Sharon: The drinks on arrival of course… oh and when the couple is declared married, and they have their first pash as a legally married couple.
Kitty: Straight after the ceremony. All the stress and tension has melted away. You have had a good laugh, maybe shed some happy tears, and you can finally just relax and go with the flow.
Wendy: I have a few favorite parts, but if I was to choose one… for me, there is a magic moment just as the ceremony is about to begin. Everything is in place, the guests are assembled, I’ve done all that I can do to be ready at that moment, and for my couple, the event they have been building up to for so long is about to be realized. I make the call, start the proceedings, and then it all begins and [almost] takes on a life of its own. Sometimes the couple enter the ceremony separately, sometimes together. Whatever way they choose to begin, I usually quietly encourage them to pause and take a breath as they look at each other and realize that it’s all about to happen. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, and still after 4 years can take my breath away – and then I start talking!
Kate: Seeing the range of emotions and expressions everyone experiences throughout the ceremony. The hilarious laughter, the heartfelt tears, contemplative moments, the smiles of pride!! I’m in this amazingly unique position of being able to see everyone’s expressions as they experience your ceremony – it’s an honor and it’s truly heartwarming!