1. Truly love your celebrant
When hunting for the best celebrant, chemistry is everything! You should pretty much be able to tell straight away from your gut feeling if they're the one because they should put you at ease. There are a lot of us out there and therefore taking some time to read reviews and conduct a bit of background research before speaking with a handful of celebrants is recommended. If personalisation is more important than budget, be prepared to put in a bit more work from onset because the more questions you ask and the more research your dedicated celebrant does, the more likely your ceremony will be bespoke (unique to you). The whole process of organising your ceremony should be fun so it makes sense to have fun with your chosen celebrant from the get go, as well as a clear picture of what to expect.
2. Avoid looking online for every answer
As tempting as it is to Google the answers for everything in this day and age, there are a few things that are better left to your imagination ... of your celebrant's expert guidance. One example is your personal vows, or the words you say to each other on the day. Your celebrant can guide you through several approaches but ultimately it's important you use words that are more casual dialogue and therefore your own. When the words are your own, they are more meaningful than words which are just copied off others' works. And vows that are often published online are often old hat or wax too lyrical i.e. not every sentence you speak need begin with "I vow..." and "I pledge..." It is the role of your celebrant to make things like crafting your vows easy and fun. There are a number of techniques that you can use to get your juices flowing and you can also use the freedom you have of self expression to a maximum, particularly if you're comfortable with agreeing on a basic format for what you want to say and sending it in to your celebrant separately so that it's a beautiful surprise to your loved one on the day. The best way of delivering words to each other to explain how you feel are using those which are your own. Copying off the internet doesn't always help the process and being confident in what you want to say is the key. You are far more likely going to say each word with sincerity if they are your own too.
3. On your wedding day, just be yourself
It is likely that the people you have invited to your wedding ceremony are your closest friends and family, right? Then it is likely that these people know you, or both of you, pretty well and you can afford to relax a bit. They have accepted your invitation to come along and celebrate with you not judge you. It makes sense then to behave in such a way that is natural to you both.
What is also natural is to feel a bit nervous and stiff. So often I will remind my couples to relax their bodies as well as minds during the ceremony – and not be afraid to just be how they would normally be. No matter what the formality of a wedding, you can instantly tell when it is going to be a fun one when the bride and groom share a little joke or two. A celebrant should help alleviate any 'stiffness' by gently guiding you the entire time. It is perfectly normal to actually hold hands and exchange words softly to each other during your ceremony. There is no 'right' or 'wrong' as to when you can hold each other or communicate with each other.
When couples take me up on this advice, it changes the whole feeling of the event that unfolds. From the moment the groom lays eyes on his bride and has the chance to speak with her, things fall into place. Friends and family can see instantly that what is about to unfold is just two of their favourite people getting married – and having fun doing so! Indeed, some of the best ceremonies I reflect back on are those where a bride or groom has confidently piped up and made a little comment or joke mid ceremony ... and this has resulted in a ripple of laughter through the guests that are there or me as their celebrant.
So, from the very beginning of the process right through to your wedding day, try to just be yourselves and have fun. Your ceremony will more likely be relaxed and happy, plus you will always remember it fondly because it was 100% genuine.
By Margaret River based Wedding Celebrant Joanne Armstrong