How do I go about changing my name?”
“Would you wear fancy dress?”
“Has a bride/groom ever not shown up?”
“Do you have a back-up in case you are sick?”
All of these are valid questions, and they certainly do get asked quite often. But are they the most common questions? Not even close.
I have been in the wedding industry for several years now, and I have noticed a growing trend. It seems when it comes to choosing celebrants (and other wedding professionals, although I will leave that for another time), the question that is most often asked first is (drumroll, please)……….. “How much do you charge?”
Now I get it! Weddings can be expensive. Most couples have some sort of wedding budget in mind, and it can be challenging to keep within that budget once the planning begins. There is so much to consider:
Then there’s the photographer, the videographer, the DJ and/or band, the transport, accommodation, bonbonnieres…… the list goes on and on. And even if you are opting for a sweet and simple wedding, there are always more costs than you originally expect.
Now I am the first to admit that the old saying of “You get what you pay for” isn’t always true. And I would definitely encourage couples to shop around before making any decisions when it comes to choosing wedding suppliers. But there is a myth surrounding weddings that I want to dispel (and I admit that before I became a celebrant, I was adamant it was true). There is a belief that suppliers – whether venues, photographers, florists or hairdressers – jack their prices up randomly when the word “wedding” is mentioned.
Well, that may be true sometimes. But I can assure you that in most cases, wedding professionals put a great deal of thought into determining their prices to reflect the time and effort put into the services provided. And while I won’t presume to speak on behalf of all the other industry experts out there, I can put forward a celebrant’s view to hopefully give you an insight into why we charge what we do.
Firstly, it’s important to understand that wedding celebrants don’t simply “turn up for a half hour’s work”. There is so much that goes into the preparation of a wedding ceremony and most couples only see a fraction of that work. Sure, we have a couple of meetings, laugh and chat while discussing the big day, sign a few papers, and maybe attend a rehearsal. Then, of course, there’s the presentation of the ceremony itself. But is that it? Nope, not even close!
As officials representing the Attorney-General’s Office all celebrants are required to pay an annual registration fee, as well as complete yearly compulsory professional development to ensure we remain up to date with current legislation, best business practices, industry trends and obligations to our clients.
There is equipment to be purchased, maintained and serviced. As most celebrants run their business from home there is a need for all the usual home office equipment (computers, printers, phones…and all their paraphernalia). But then there’s also the stuff that’s unique to our job – PA systems, microphones, signing tables and chairs, certificates (yes, they cost us too), and hundreds of other bits and pieces that we keep on hand in order to help make sure your ceremony runs smoothly.
Insurance is a factor. Working with people in all sorts of locations and situations requires us to have up to date Public Liability Insurance. And our Copyright & APRA Protection means that you are able to have your favourite song playing as you walk down the aisle. I can’t imagine how much Christina Perri would be worth for “A Thousand Years” otherwise!
Like any business, there are many other expenses such as marketing, advertising, resources and general office costs. But the hardest things to put a price on as celebrants are our time, creativity and experience. And yet, they are undoubtedly what makes the greatest difference to the service we provide.
Your celebrant is the one who will set the entire tone for your wedding. The care taken to get to know you as a couple and put that into words means that your ceremony will be all about you and the things that are important to you. Knowing that you have chosen someone that you trust to take care of the “legal stuff” ensures that you, your partner and your loved ones can simply relax and enjoy every minute. And the peace of mind you will have in knowing that any ceremony emergency can be calmly and efficiently taken care of, is priceless.
So while it is important to consider the fee and what is included for the price, I would suggest it is more crucial to select your celebrant based on how comfortable you feel with them and how confident you are that they understand your vision for your big day. In five years, will you remember that you spent an extra couple of hundred dollars to get the celebrant you really liked? Or will you just remember that your ceremony was everything you had dreamed of?
Let me finish with a short story:
Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in a café when a woman approached him. “It’s you – Picasso, the great artist!” she cried. “Oh, you must sketch my portrait, I insist!”
Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a series of elegant pencil strokes to create her portrait. He then handed the woman his work of art. “It’s perfect,” she gushed. “Thank you! How much do I owe you?”
“One hundred thousand pesetas,” the artist replied.
“What?!” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a minute or two to draw it!”
To which Picasso responded: “Madame, it may have taken only a moment to draw it, but it took a lifetime of study and practice to be able to do it in that time.”
The moral of the story is that there is a big difference between price and value. And no, I’m not comparing myself to Picasso….but I’m sure you get my point!