The lowdown on wedding celebrants

Okay, so you’ve picked a date and booked a venue, maybe even booked a photographer! But have you got the most important person (other than you two!) booked in? Your celebrant, besides your marriage licence, is the other legal aspect that you have to have for the two of you to get hitched.

So what do you need to know before booking a celebrant? We answer your top questions below.

What does a celebrant actually do?

First up, the legal stuff – in order for you to be married in the eyes of the law, you have to be married by a qualified and registered celebrant and say “I [name] take you [partner’s name], to be my legal [wife/husband/partner]” or something similar in front of them. They also have to confirm that you are who is named on the marriage licence, and send off a copy of the licence to Births, Deaths, and Marriages following the ceremony (check out our blog post about the legal aspects of a ceremony if you want to know more!)

However, the biggest part of their job is probably the part that can change the most – planning, writing, and performing the ceremony. Most celebrants will normally meet with you a couple of times before the wedding to plan this out, and make sure that the ceremony is exactly the way you want it. A good one will likely give you some ideas to look through to give you inspiration, or if you don’t like any that they’ve already got, will write a new ceremony for you.

How do I find a wedding celebrant?

There are heaps of ways to find a wedding celebrant – the Celebrants Association is a good place to find people, but it can be a little hard to know who to choose. So try talking to people first – ask your friends who have already been married, look at whether you know any celebrants personally, or search for recommendations in wedding groups on Facebook.

How do I pick a celebrant?

Most celebrants are happy to meet with you when you’re considering who to choose – it’s all about finding one who you get along with, who you feel will reflect who you are as a couple, and who is either happy to do the ceremony just the way you’d like it or provide guidance if you don’t know where to start! Try asking questions about what they do in the lead-up to the day, how they run the ceremony on the day, what they do other than being a celebrant and generally get to know them. You’ll normally find one that just ‘fits’ – much like when you found your other half!

What does a wedding celebrant cost?

It varies – but in NZ you can expect to pay anywhere from $350 to $600, with many sitting around $450-$550. Usually that will cover local travel but they may add extra on if you’re getting married a little further afield. Keep in mind that they do spend a lot of time working on your ceremony both with you and by themselves before the day, as well as obviously spending several hours getting ready, travelling to and from the wedding, and performing the ceremony itself – so it’s not just about showing up on the day!

A wedding celebrant is one part of the wedding you definitely can’t do without – and a good one can make your day absolutely amazing! So do your research, meet a few, and pick ‘the one’. Happy marrying!

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The Fine Print: Legal Requirements for a NZ Wedding

With all the planning, advice and decisions surrounding a wedding, sometimes we forget that there are certain legal requirements for any ceremony. I heard a story recently about a couple living in Australia who planned to marry in New Zealand. They, unfortunately, assumed their Australian celebrant friend could officiate at their wedding, and since this isn’t the case had postpone their ceremony at the last minute and go to a registry office! To help you avoid this scenario, I enlisted the help of our fabulous celebrant Desiree Mason. Whether you’re having a traditional church wedding or getting married on top of a mountain(!), all New Zealand weddings must include the following:

An officiant

In New Zealand, there are two legal ways to get married – through a registered celebrant like Desiree, or through the registry office. Wedding celebrants can be secular or religious (e.g. a pastor), as long as they are registered in New Zealand. Desiree must ensure that her registration is updated regularly.

A marriage license

This must be obtained at least three days before the planned ceremony. If you have a great celebrant like Desiree, they will probably ask you to organise it earlier so they can fill in the details in advance. You can download the application form here. You will need to know some details of the ceremony in order to complete the form, such as the location, date and celebrant. After sending the form off, you will be posted a marriage license and two versions of the “Copy of Particulars of Marriage,” all of which should be sent to your celebrant. According to Desiree, her obligations include: “formally identifying the couple on the marriage licence as the people that I am marrying, sighting the licence before the ceremony to ensure that the details are correct and holding the ceremony at one of the places named on the licence.”

A wedding ceremony

Your ceremony can include almost anything you like, but there are some “must-haves”. Desiree says as a celebrant, “I need to use the couple’s full names at least once in the ceremony and ensure that the couple says ‘I (full name) take you (partner’s name) to be my legal wife/husband’ sometime during the ceremony”. There must be two witnesses to the ceremony who must not be intoxicated and are able to understand what is happening. If the witnesses do not speak English, then an interpreter is required. The interpreter needs to sign a statutory declaration before the ceremony saying that they will interpret what is said accurately.

Signing the wedding registry (not the Honeypot kind!)

This usually happens straight after the ceremony, and involves the couple and witnesses signing the two versions of the “Copy of Particulars” at the ceremony. According to Desiree, the couple must use their pre-wedding signatures. The celebrant will send off one copy to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages within 10 days of the ceremony, and the second copy will be given to the couple.

Of course, a good celebrant’s role includes far more than the minimum legal requirements. When we got married, Desiree’s planning advice was invaluable and she works really hard to understand the couple on a personal level. Keep an eye out later in the year when we’ll be profiling Desiree as part of a “Wedding Expert” blog series. Until then, happy wedding planning!