What Cost the Marriage Celebrant?
Occasionally it’s heard said in ‘Celebrant circles’ that some marrying couples question why a Marriage Celebrant charges “so much”!
Let’s now consider what goes into the “making” of a Registered Civil Celebrant and their provision of a civil marriage ceremony here in Australia.
Studying / training
Training can be done online or in some cities face-to-face within the TAFE system. The requirement since Feb 2010 is a Certificate IV level. This will cost the ‘student’ considerable tertiary level fees.
When training has successfully been completed the qualified person must then undergo the government registration process which takes at least 3 months to be completed. This will include a police check and presenting personal references from very specific individuals. If successful through this process the person then pays the government a fee to be registered as a Civil Celebrant. Currently this fee is $600!
Marketing the Celebrant’s business
To be able to attract potential clients in this technological age most registered Celebrants find a need to establish their own personal website/facebook/twitter accounts to advertise their services. The costs in establishing these can vary greatly and the quality of what they create varies greatly too. Of course there is not just the set up costs but often the ongoing costs to maintain those sites – internet connections, registration of domain name; monthly webhosting fees etc etc.
Some celebrants choose to advertise through “wedding” websites. Again the costs involved depend on the website they join. A quality website that will bring real clients to their business can cost around the $1200 per annum. Some celebrants choose multiple websites which all charge fees to advertise. The same with wedding booklets, which must usually be renewed annually, at considerable cost.
Then there is the yellow pages (online) advertising which have annual fees and may cost from $500 – $2000.
There are opportunities several times every year for celebrants to host a booth at local “wedding fairs”. The average cost for the booth alone can be from $550 – $700 per fair. Then there are costs associated with putting together their personal booth. Depending on what the celebrant wants to display and give away will determine those extra costs. This could be upwards of an extra $200 per fair. Celebrants need to be booking clients directly from these fairs if they are to recover any of these costs.
Most celebrants hand out printed materials to advertise and inform potential clients. Professional printing of these materials can be expensive. Even if printed on the home printer there are ongoing costs associated with these materials.
The type and quality of marketing advertising for celebrants businesses can often be the “point of difference” as to whether potential clients choose to make that initial appointment to meet the celebrant. Do they look professional and experienced; do they give the potential client enough information at first view, is the celebrant easy to contact?
Meeting with and engaging clients
Celebrants usually do not charge couple’s for their first meeting together. This meeting can be likened to a tradesman coming to give a quote to do a job – obligation free!
Also to be added to the overall costing strategy are the phone costs and any mailing costs. Many celebrants spend a good deal of time on their phone (often mobile phones) with prospective clients giving information and answering questions. Often this time spent does not translate into the couple booking that particular celebrant so no money is recovered for this time.
Once engaged by the couple to conduct their marriage ceremony any extra efforts and services each celebrant may provide can again vary greatly. Celebrants who offer inclusions/extras such as use of their PA system, their signing table and chairs, a rehearsal time, extra meeting times etc, these all cost the celebrant for the initial purchase, for ongoing upkeep/replacement and for their time. Materials the celebrant gives or lends to their couples to assist in preparing their ceremony cost the celebrant to produce.
Some celebrants choose to meet in the client’s home, at a café etc, therefore costing the celebrant their travel costs as well as their extra time for each visit. The same can be said for the rehearsal time, usually conducted at the wedding site.
One thing that remains a constant for each and every celebrant is the LEGAL paperwork that must be provided to each couple and then submitted promptly after every ceremony to the state Office of Births Deaths and Marriages. What can vary in these documents is that now several of the legal documents can be downloaded online and printed by the celebrant thus costing them their printing materials. The official marriage certificate provided to every couple at their ceremony can ONLY be purchased from the government printer (located in Canberra) at a cost. Some celebrants choose to also purchase some of the other legal documentation there, at a cost.
Many celebrants choose to use different forms of marriage computer software to hold and help control all their documentation for each wedding. This software may come at a cost.
The time each celebrant choses to spend with their couples, once they have booked their services varies and is generally dependent on each couple and their “needs”. Some couples will require only minimal contact once they engage their celebrant while others will require several meetings with their celebrant. There is also time to email or have phone conversations with clients. Like any other profession the celebrant must figure into their overall fee structure their “time spent” with their couples – anywhere from 30 mins to 3 hours per couple can be the norm!
Ongoing Professional Development and Registration
A LEGAL requirement for EVERY registered celebrant is that they must undertake annual professional development (PD). The cost to do this annual training either online of face-to-face is currently around $200. If the celebrant does not complete this PD each year they can be deregistered by the Attorney General.
Every celebrant must pay an annual government registration fee which currently is $240. If the fee is not paid on time, the Celebrant can be deregistered.
As with a lot of other professions celebrants are advised to consider Professional Indemnity as well as Public Liability and Copyright insurances. Costs for these vary and again must be included in the celebrants pricing structure.
Professional Association Membership
There are many celebrant associations located around Australia. The largest of these is the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants. Membership to any of these associations is purely voluntary. However a great majority of celebrants find membership to one or several local associations is invaluable for professional networking, friendships, exchange of advice, ideas and experiences and many other included benefits. The cost of membership varies and can be up to $200 per year.
Preparing the marriage ceremony
A celebrant’s preparation for each ceremony will be different depending on what and how much each couple require the celebrant to contribute. But the amount of time spent by the celebrant on preparing the legal documentation should be about the same for every marriage – around 1 hour to correctly prepare and review JUST the legal documentation (not including actual writing of each ceremony). Does the celebrant write the entire ceremony themselves (with couple’s input of course) or do they have ‘prepared’ ceremonies they customise for each couple – whatever method these take the celebrant time to prepare, review with the couple and finalise.
The Wedding Ceremony
Every marriage ceremony is different for every celebrant. They are different in what they individually provide to the couple on the day as part of their package; how long the actual ceremony takes; where they will go to conduct a marriage ceremony (near or far); the time they allot to each ceremony including travel time; finalisation, checking and mailing/hand delivering/online delivery of the legal documents after the marriage; any further contact with the couple after the wedding.
It therefore can be stated that every registered Civil Celebrant will encounter different costs to run their business to conduct marriages. The above general information is to provide some insights into what costs each celebrant must put into their costing strategies in determining the fees they charge. Clearly, celebrants do more than what is sometimes seen and commented as “just spending a half hour delivering a marriage ceremony” for their fees!
This article was written by Judy Zilber who has many years’ experience as a Civil Marriage Celebrant, conducting civil ceremonies in and around Canberra and in other places in Australia.