How What Why When

The Top 8 Wedding Questions of 2023: Simple yes/no answers

I’m sitting in a coffee shop, meeting with a new couple, something, by the way, that I love to do.

We’ve chatted a bit, and they are starting to feel comfortable with me.  They look at each other a bit nervously and then say “This might be a bit of an odd question, but, we want to write our own vows – can we do this?”  I thank them for their insightful question, and proceed to tell them, yes, of course.  What I don’t tell them is that I’ve been asked this so many times that its hard to believe that the whole world doesn’t know this by now!

As a seasoned celebrant, I’ve encountered a myriad of questions from couples planning their big day.  Don’t get me wrong – I want, and I mean really want, you to ask any questions you have. None are silly. But this year, I thought I might beat you to it – by compiling the top eight questions I’ve been asked in 2023, complete with straightforward yes-no answers. Whether you’re deep in wedding planning or just starting out, these insights are sure to shed some light on common queries and concerns.

1. Can a Friend Marry Us?

Short Answer: No.

Details: While having a friend officiate sounds appealing, legally, you’ll need a celebrant. There are workarounds, but a celebrant will have to play an essential role. I’ve written a whole article about your options here

2. Can We Have a Surprise Wedding?

Short Answer: Yes.

But there’s a caveat: You can’t surprise your partner. Both parties must complete some legal paperwork at least one calendar month prior. Beyond that – you can surprise who ever you like.  Surprise weddings are unique but require careful planning.  Make sure you engage your celebrant right at the beginning so that your wedding is not thwarted by a legal technicality.

3. Can We Write Our Own Vows?

Short Answer: Absolutely, yes!

Insight: Personalized vows are not just allowed; they’re encouraged. Most celebrants, including myself, believe in making vows as personal and meaningful as possible, and will provide you support to do so.

4. Do We Have to Say Our Vows in Front of Everyone?

Short Answer: No.

How It Works: There are technical ways to handle this. You must recite the legal vows, but there’s flexibility how this is done.

Section 45 Form of Ceremony from the  Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 (p68) states that:

Where a marriage is solemnised by or in the presence of an authorised celebrant, not being a minister of religion, it is sufficient if each of the parties says to the other, in the presence of the authorised celebrant and the witnesses, the words: “I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, A.B. (or C.D.), take thee, C.D. (or A.B.), to be my lawful wedded wife (husband or spouse)”… or words to that effect.

This means that as long as the mandatory words are said and able to be heard by your celebrant and your two witnesses – this is sufficient.  There are a variety of ways this can be done.  Extending on this – you also can privately share your personal vows in a variety of ways that don’t involve all of your guests hearing them.   

For more tailored advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch

5. Do We Need to Follow a Traditional Format for Our Wedding?

Short Answer: No.

Freedom in Planning: Aside from a couple of legally required statements, vows and the signing, you’re free to design your ceremony. Ceremonies are usually driven by tradition, not legalities. Ring exchanges, for example, are actually optional.

Short Answer: Yes.

Role of a Celebrant: We’re not just about ceremonies; we’re the paperwork gurus! From start to finish, your celebrant will guide you through all necessary steps and documentation.  It’s actually our job!

7. Do We Need a Wedding Rehearsal?

Short Answer: No.

Flexibility: Rehearsals are optional. Most details can be discussed and resolved as your wedding day approaches, ensuring a smooth flow.  But if you are anxious about this by all means request a rehearsal – there may be an additional charge for this if it requires travelling some distance to a venue, or you can just physically rehearse somewhere locally.

8. Do We Need Special Permits for Our Wedding Venue?

Short Answer: It depends.

Venue Specifics: Public places might require council approval, and this varies based on the event size and location. For private venues, permits are generally not needed, but consider liquor licenses and insurance for non-traditional locations.

There you have it – my top eight wedding questions of 2023. Keep an eye out each month on my How, What, Why When section of the magazine for more questions answered each month.   And if you you have other questions or need specific guidance, feel or send me a message.  I’m here to make your wedding planning as smooth, easy and joyful as possible!

Can a Friend Legally Marry You in Australia? Exploring Celebrant Rules and Creative Ceremony Options

Can a Friend Marry Me?

This is a common question celebrants are asked. It’s good to ask and wonder about things, and here’s the lowdown from my perspective, the possibilities, the limitations, and the “good to knows.”

So – can a friend marry me – the short answer?

No. (That’s very short, isn’t it?)
At least, not in Australia.
In Australia, you can only be legally wed by an authorized civil celebrant or a minister of religion.
So, unless you are getting married in a church, you will need to book a celebrant.

So – can a friend marry me – what’s the longer answer?

There are a few options or workarounds to this – but it doesn’t change the fact that you need to book a celebrant.

  1. You may have a friend (or a relative) who is also a celebrant. Nothing in Australian law prohibits this friend or relative from marrying you. An easy tick!
  2. You may have a friend who is willing to train to be a celebrant. However, the course and registration process can take 12 – 18 months, the person must be of “good standing” in the community and approved by the Commonwealth of Australia, and the cost of the Certificate IV training is probably greater than the cost of a celebrant. A not so easy tick.
  3. The Co-Pilot solution. You can book a celebrant to work with a friend and deliver the ceremony together. The celebrant must complete all the legal parts, and your friend can do the rest. A workable tick.

The “Good to Knows” about  friends becoming celebrants and co-piloting weddings

The Friend Who’s Agreed to Train As A Celebrant

Keep in mind that this is a big commitment for this person – and juggling all the study and practical requirements (yes, there are practical assessments of conducting ceremonies, etc.) on top of a day job may be challenging. This may lead to a blowout in time, meaning they aren’t qualified in time for your wedding date. There are also factors outside of your control that affect meeting this deadline, such as the turnaround time frame on assignments and government registration.

The second thing to consider is that it is likely that your ceremony will be your friend’s first wedding. The risks with this are fairly obvious – it’s not likely to be their best work, and there may be issues or unexpected stressors with the legalities. Something for you to weigh up in your choices.

The Co-Pilot Solution

Often, people like this idea for two reasons. One – they’d love to have someone who is special to them marrying them, and secondly – it’s thought to be a cheaper option. The first is a lovely thought, but the second has implications you should know.

Firstly – it’s not necessarily cheaper. This is because the majority of the fee you pay a celebrant is not for the time spent “doing things” in a ceremony. You’re paying for their expertise in the planning and preparation in the lead-up to the wedding, and of course, the processing of the legalities. A co-pilot will need support and advice in how to create a ceremony, and the components within it, how to deliver it, etc. Think of the celebrant as needing to be a mentor. (And the end quality of the ceremony is a reflection on their business too). It’s often as much work (if not more) for the celebrant as there is one more person to communicate and collaborate with. Plus, on the day – whether they are speaking or not, they are still devoting that time to your wedding.

It can be difficult to find a celebrant willing to Co-Pilot – for two reasons:

  1. As mentioned above – if you are wanting a cheaper price – it’s usually not worth it for the celebrant – as the workload is almost identical.
  2. And if you do find a celebrant offering this option at a reduced rate, most will not want to do so on a Saturday in peak wedding season, as they are foregoing a full paying wedding – so be prepared to do this in quieter months or on a different day.



So, a friend who isn’t trained as a celebrant can’t marry you, but they can participate in your ceremony alongside a celebrant
And there you have it – the long and short of having a friend marry you, and some things to think about in terms of options.

If you have any questions, I’m always happy to hear from you.


The True Cost of Choosing a Celebrant: Why it’s more than just the price tag

“Mia and Kyle just got engaged!  Did you hear? This is going to be a super organised wedding – you know what they are like.  Mia’s got a list of everything to do, time frames and a budget for everything.  She’s scoured the internet for average prices for vendors and is going to aim for as many bargains as she can, starting with the celebrant.  And she has a permanent search in for coupon codes and discounts… Do you know of any celebrants that have sales at the moment?”

Does this sound familiar? Or even worrying?  Yes I may have exaggerated about looking for coupon codes for celebrants, but in all seriousness, sometimes in the overwhelm of the cost of a wedding, couples revert to the obvious strategy of saving money where ever they can.  There’s nothing wrong with this, and it’s great to think carefully about what you spend your money on.  But mindful and intentional spending is a totally different thing to looking for bargains.  And not getting it right, can be more expensive than you think.

When should cost be the most important factor?

Let’s start with the humble carton of milk.  This is called a “commodity” in the retail world.  Why?  Because there are some items that at their base are the same thing, regardless of how you package them.  Milk is Milk.  Ok there are plenty of varieties of alternative milks these days – but lets just talk about cows milk.  If you just want milk, you’re going to choose the cheapest carton.  There’s an important caveat to this – but I’ll discuss this later.  It’s also like petrol – we spend ages looking for the cheapest price at the pump, and don’t worry that a cheaper petrol will be inferior – because they’re all the same – right?  Petrol is Petrol.  It’s a commodity.

People.  People are not a commodity.  It doesn’t matter how you spin it, no one person is exactly the same as another, and the skill set they bring to a task varies.  For some tasks it doesn’t matter.  If the job is manually repetitive and everyone can do it to the same level, well perhaps it doesn’t matter.   But when the service you want requires people skills that result in a range of outcomes from absolutely mind-blowing  to average or perhaps even worse – on one of the most important days of your life, well now it really matters.  

If you want to save money in a wedding, focus on reducing the cost of “things” – aka “commodities”.  Its so tempting to want to have all the bells and whistles, but these little things actually really inflate the cost of a wedding, and they are not, and I’ll repeat it, they are not the things that make an unforgettable wedding.  It’s the people. The human connections.  The emotions.  The fun.  The special moments. And the sense of meaning.

Engaged couples often make a crucial mistake when choosing a wedding celebrant by focusing solely on cost, yet its your celebrant who plays a pivotal role in helping you realize your dreams and create unforgettable moments.

The role of the celebrant

A celebrant isn’t just there to tick the legal boxes and get you married. To make your special day truly magical, a great celebrant invests time getting to know you, grasping what makes your heart tick, and helping craft a ceremony that stands out as the highlight of your wedding. They don’t just show up on the day but stand by your side from the moment you engage their services.  

They are also the vendor you are likely to spend the most time with, and a great celebrant can help to guide you through the minefield of planning decisions that lay ahead.  A great celebrant will also ensure your wedding is highly personalised and authentically you.  You’re not a commodity either, and the combination of experiences you desire, your values, your desire for meaning  will be different to others.  On top of this, you can’t know what you don’t know in terms of options.  Your experiences of weddings to date will only have provided you with a small amount of information.  A great celebrant will open doors for you that you never knew existed!

The hidden costs of cheap

If your father had serious heart issues and could see a specialist or his general practitioner for a quarter of the cost,  who would you want him to see?  You’d want the best right?  As a general rule,  we don’t buy cheap products expecting high quality.

I’m not saying that cheap necessarily means low quality – but if you are making choices based on price alone and going for the lowest you can find, your bargain basement prices are rapidly increasing your risk of poor quality for one of the most important days of your life.

Imagine spending $30k on a wedding only to have a low energy, boring ceremony that didn’t reflect you as a couple at all. That left you a little, well, “ho hum”? Or worse still, what if the celebrant missed an important legal step or didn’t show up? How much could cheap services actually cost you?

Key takeaways

On average, couples in Australia spend $34,715k on a wedding (2023 Australian Wedding Industry Report)  A celebrant may cost between $500 and $2k which pales in comparison to the overall expenditure, but may be one of the biggest influencers of your wedding experience.  

A great celebrant will be highly skilled in designing a ceremony around you, reflecting your values and your personalities.  They will put the hard yards in to truly understand what you want, and offer what you’ve never thought of.  They will aim for nothing less than perfection, and be skilled in addressing anything unanticipated.  They will reassure you every step of the way, and find ways to make the whole experience as easy as possible for you, not for them.  They may also offer MC services, allowing you and your guests to have a seamless, amazing leadership all day long.

If you want to spend your money wisely – my recommendation is to focus on the people who are skilled enough to deliver the wedding day of your dreams, that is highly personalised, fun and meaningful, and then adjust the cost of the commodities around that.

Editors Note: Look out for next month’s article on how to find a great celebrant!