What do we do now or Where to from here?

Most newly engaged couples don't know what the process is when they first contact their potential celebrant - here are some tips about what to expect.

I follow my own standard procedure whenever a new bride and groom contact me. It's my way of ensuring that they get all of the required information, and that we complete all of the necessary tasks in a timely manner, without it becoming too overwhelming. Some of the steps along the way are required by the legislation or the Marriage Celebrants' Code of Practice, others are just things I think are simply the best way to conduct my business. I've chosen to mark the things that are legally required with an asterisk (*) so that you'll know to expect nothing less from any celebrant.

1. Your initial call or email.
This is always exciting for me. I love hearing from new couples. In your initial contact with me I'll get some details from you. Most importantly, your wedding date so that I can check my calendar. I'll happily answer any questions you might have at this point but I'll try not to overload you with information.

2. Initial chat, cuppa or pint at the pub.
When we first talk I'll arrange with you to meet and have a talk about your wedding, your ideas and your questions. The express purpose of this meeting is so that you have a chance to meet me and decide if I'm the right person to conduct your wedding ceremony. This is really important, your wedding should express who you are and if you don't "click" with me then that's okay. It's a very personal choice. I generally ask that you let me know within two weeks of our meeting whether or not you'd like to book with me. During this time, I'll hold your date but it is completely obligation free.

3. Make a booking.
When you make your booking, I'll put a permanent hold on your wedding date and we'll make a time to complete the Notice of Intended Marriage (sometimes referred to as the NOIM or Notice).

4. NOIM* & Deposit.
At the time of completing the Notice, I'll ask for a deposit. We'll fill out this first piece of official paperwork and I'll need to sight your original birth certificates, some photo ID and (if applicable) your evidence for the termination of your previous marriage. The Notice must be completed at least a month prior to your wedding day but no more than 18 months. At this time I'll also make a booklet available to you that will help you with ideas and options for your wedding ceremony.

5. Drafting your ceremony.
Different couples like different levels of involvement from their celebrant in the writing of their ceremony. Some choose to work through the ideas themselves, making changes where necessary, then send me a complete draft. Other couples send me through some relatively sketchy ideas and I'll create a ceremony from that and still others choose to sit down and work through it all with me there. Most of the time (except in the last example), we draft the ceremony via emails and there's no real need to meet up again. BUT, if you want to sit down and go through it, I'm more than happy to do that.

6. Rehearsal* & Declaration.
Most couples choose to have a rehearsal even if it's just standing in the backyard and going over the lines in front of the dog. My advice is that if you have attendants (groomsmen, bridesmaids, page boys and flower girls) then it's a good idea to have a rehearsal so that everyone knows where they are to stand and what they have to do—this is particularly important when children are involved so they aren't overly concerned about knowing what to do on the day, it can be a bit overwhelming for them sometimes. If you have people reading during your ceremony, it's a great idea of they can be there too. At your rehearsal you'll also need to sign the Declaration (another piece of official paperwork). If you choose not to have a rehearsal (some couples do), we'll still need to catch up sometime in the two weeks before the wedding so that the Declaration can be signed.

7. Your Wedding.*
On your wedding day, I'll be at the venue a half hour prior to the scheduled start time (the Code of Practice states 20 minutes*). In this time, I'll calm the nervous, set up any of my gear and generally make sure all of the things we need for the ceremony are in place—I've had to organise a table cloth for a signing table and talk a mother-of-the-bride down from the edge of a near-nervous breakdown. Generally, though, it's all smooth sailing and I stand around saying hello to the guests as they turn up and talking to the groom and his groomsmen while we wait for the bride to arrive. When the bride is there and ready to make her entrance, I generally ask everyone to take their positions and stand for the arrival of the bride.

8. Lodging your paperwork.*
By law, your celebrant has 14 days to lodge your paperwork with the Birth, Deaths and Marriages Register of the state in which the wedding took place but I tend to post it on the Monday immediately after your wedding day. You can apply straight away to have your official marriage certificate issued to you by Births, Deaths and Marriage and once the paperwork I have sent is processed, they will do so. (This is what you need to do if you wish to change your surname after you are married.)

So, that's it in a nutshell. If you're concerned about what to expect from your celebrant you can read the Code of Practice on the Attorney General's website by clicking here.

Good luck and happy wedding planning.

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