With more than 2000 wedding ceremonies under her belt, Melbourne civil celebrant Sally Cant knows a thing or two about conducting nuptials.
Sally has been a celebrant for two decades and, in that time, the former music teacher and IT consultant says she’s seen “everything under the sun” when it comes to ceremonies, be they weddings or funerals, naming ceremonies or civil unions.
“Your ceremony is the most important part of the entire wedding day,” says Sally who runs The Celebrants Training College, which has trained (and re-trained) more than 3000 celebrants in Australia and New Zealand, but also about 100 across the globe,
“Many couples get caught up with the little details or put so much energy into getting everything else in their wedding right, but the only part of the day that truly matters is that moment when you stand in front of your friends and family – and your partner – and perform the physical act of getting married.”
“Without it, there is no marriage and it’s crucial the person performing your wedding ceremony understand this, but also that they ensure everything goes smoothly and, most importantly, that everything is legally sound.”
Sally says that regardless of whether you are having a religious wedding ceremony or a civil one, the person performing it should offer a level of warmth, friendliness and professionalism, and they should also be competent.
“Above all, a wedding is a legal ceremony and your celebrant must ensure that the four core legal aspects of any wedding ceremony happen, so that your wedding is actually recognised legally,” says Sally.
All celebrants and religious ministers must:
– Introduce themselves to ensure they’re identified as the person who is legally responsible for the ceremony.
– The celebrant or priest must say the couple’s full names out loud at least once so that it can be heard by the gathered guests who can identify the couple.
– Celebrants must read out S46 of the Australian Marriage Act, which says “I am duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages according to law. Before you are joined in marriage in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses, I am to remind you of the solemn and binding nature of the relationship into which you are now about to enter. Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life” – or words to that effect.
Ministers of a church or priests fall under another provision in the Marriage Act and must read out words with equivalent meaning within the context of their religion and their traditional ceremonies as long as it is a form of ceremony that is authorised by the Attorney-General’s department.
– Finally, the couple must declare, out loud, their wedding vows.
But it’s not over until the paper work is done, so five people – the bride, the groom, two witnesses and the celebrant/priest – must sign the marriage documents.
“The whole process of getting married is very straightforward, but it can be confusing for couples who only truly understand the importance of choosing the right celebrant until after their big day,” says Sally.
“Most couples won’t really understand what is to happen until they are shown all the options and then have time with their celebrant and time alone to work it what is right for them as a couple, which can be a little frightening!”
It is for this reason Sally has spent nearly two years putting together a new DVD, called Creating a Perfect Wedding Ceremony, which walks couples through every element of their wedding ceremony from the first phone call to their celebrant/priest right through to the bridal party’s exit.
“No matter how much your celebrant explains things to you, there’s only so much you can understand by hearing about a wedding ceremony or Googling it,” adds Sally who says the reaction to her DVD has been “fantastic” with many fellow celebrants now using it to help their own couples understand what is to come.
“There are so many different options and choices and possibilities, so this DVD is a visual account of your wedding ceremony and what is involved long before you’re standing at the top of that aisle.”
The DVD, which costs $29.95, covers what questions to ask your celebrant or priest. and educates couples who often just do what they’re told because they don’t know what else is possible.
“Aside from those mandatory legal elements, Australian wedding ceremonies don’t have too many rules, so there is a lot of freedom and couples can personalise their wedding ceremony so that it truly reflects them, their personalities and their lifestyles,” she adds.
“By being armed with the knowledge of what can be done and what should be done, couples will have a better idea of what is possible and also know what they want from a celebrant.”
Also included on the DVD are examples of various wedding rituals, including hand-fasting, candle, rose and sand ceremonies.
“I am always humbled when a couple places their wedding in my hands,” says Sally.
“It’s a huge responsibility and I want to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible and that I help create a memory that lasts a lifetime – for all the right reasons.”