Just finished your celebrant course and received the exciting news that you’re officially allowed to start legally hitching people in Australia? Congratulations! It’s an exciting time, and if you’re anything like me, a fiercely intimidating time, as you scroll through socials admiring the work of your new colleagues.
But despite the glossy pictures and well-crafted captions, I can tell you, that each and every one of the celebrants you’re admiring has learned some lessons along the way. Hard lessons. Some you’ll need to figure out for yourself as you work out what systems and styles will fit best into your practice.
But to help you along the way, I asked a celebrant I admire greatly (understatement of the year) to share 10 things she would tell herself if she could go back in time to the beginning of her celebrant career. Dilhari Gustavino, of Kiss Me You Fool, is an absolute powerhouse on the wedding scene in Western Australia. In 2022, she’s celebrating her own milestone, graduating into the double digits with 10 years of celebrancy firmly under her belt.
As the saying goes, hindsight is 20-20, so here are a few things Dilhari would tell her newly-appointed celebrant self:
1. YOU WILL NEED TO DO THE WORK
It’s all well and good to love weddings, to marvel at marriage or to be a cheerleader of love, but you will need to work at building your business, honing your craft and finding your niche. It all takes work and in order to make it a successful calling. It will mean putting in the hard yards for yourself. There are plenty of ways to streamline, plenty of avenues for support, but there are no quick fixes. Ultimately, it boils down to you getting down and dirty and DOING THE WORK!
2. FIND PEOPLE THAT AMPLIFY YOU
There are plenty of people who try to be an island in the wedding industry and sure, that will get you so far. But what will accelerate your trajectory infinitely and bring a sense of belonging to your soul that you will come to value above all else will be finding those trusted colleagues/industry leaders/fellow hitchers who champion your biz as much as you do. Surround yourself with those that sing your praises and who don’t just treat you like competition to be swatted away. You won’t ever be sorry you took the time to curate your circle.
3. LEARN HOW TO ASK FOR HELP
Not every wheel needs to be reinvented and there are things that your celebrant oracles before you have already experienced and have nutted out extensively. When in doubt, don’t forge ahead with mistakes/errors that could have been easily avoided; rely on said “people” and their years of trial and error and accept the help, any help, they are able to give and know that they are there to turn to. If they are prepared to give support, be smart and graciously take it but in turn, when you have the chance to help others – pay it forward.
4. DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES
You will absolutely make mistakes and some will seem like the literal end of the world given the magnitude of the moments and spaces we are operating in. But it isn’t the end of the world – as hard as that might be to remember in the depths of those “WTF have I done” episodes. Every mistake is a chance to go back to basics. Every mistake is a learning opportunity. Every mistake is reminder to bed down those processes you have in place and ensure you don’t repeat that mistake again. The big kicker though, and the one we often forget – you are human. Acknowledge, learn, grow and move the heck on.
5. DON’T RIP OFF OTHER PEOPLE’S HARD WORK
I have seen a lot of celebrants come into the space in the ten years that I have now been hitching lovers and the thing that becomes glaringly obvious is the penchant for newbies to almost mirror those celebrants that they come across or follow. Of course, you can be inspired by someone – appreciate their business acumen; fawn over their content; admire their public persona. However, it is NEVER ok to plagiarise or to flat out copy someone else’s work or business presence. That was theirs to build and this is your time to find YOU. So, appreciate the colleagues around you by all means, but ensure that at every step of your celebrant adventure, you are remembering to honour what makes the business YOURS and not just a carbon inferior copy of someone else’s. Your self esteem and your confidence in yourself will skyrocket if you just remember to limit the time you look sideways – just lift that head high and keep looking straight ahead.
6. BE PREPARED TO NOT BE LIKED BY EVERYONE
This was one of the hardest lessons for me personally to come to grips with as an eternal people pleaser. However, I 100% believe this step has to go hand in hand with owning a small business, let alone a celebrancy business. You WILL NOT align with every couple you come across. You WILL NOT be everyone’s fave flavour of ice cream and some people will actively tell you so; and yup, that will singe the heart a little. But it also paves the way for you to be in the presence of couples who implicitly trust you, who froth over you and your talent and who will do anything to have you be part of their moment. Those are the couples who you lose sleep over – not the ones on the fence or clearly in another paddock.
7. DARE TO BE DIFFERENT
I am all about avoiding cookie cutter at all costs. I actively think as someone in a saturated celebrant market, you should be brainstorming ideas to make your service unique and distinguishable from all the others. This might mean the type of ceremonies you curate, the marketing you decide to put out into the world or just your whole general sh*t hot vibe. But just remember that taking the road less travelled or pushing your point of difference does not mean forgetting about your obligations to remain a fit and proper person and perform your service as a celebrant in accordance with those three important little words – Code of Conduct.
8. A GOOD REPUTATION IS MORE VALUABLE THAN MONEY
You can absolutely be the celebrant that pushes creative boundaries and keeps dazzling the couples every chance you get, but remember not to burn bridges along the way. Always be conscious of the fact that a lot of your bookings will inevitably come from word of mouth – be it the people you hitch, their friends and family, or from venues and vendors. They are all bearing witness to the power of you. I’m not suggesting to put on some farce or be someone you aren’t, but keep in the back of your mind that fostering a glowing reputation is vital, one that will keep you in good stead in the industry and ensure your name is synonymous with “what a legend”.
9. KEEP LEARNING
You can be at the absolute top of your game so to speak but don’t forget to keep on getting your knowledge on. Take any opportunity you can to add to your celebrant tool kit. Do the courses, do refreshers, do OPD even if isn’t a mandatory requirement any further. Don’t get comfortable doing the bare minimum, because your business and your couples won’t benefit from that level of mediocrity. Keep challenging yourself and finding new and innovative ways to raise that celebrant bar.
10. ENJOY WHAT YOU DO
It goes without saying that if being a marriage celebrant is something that sets your soul on fire, you gotta enjoy doing it. Any small business owner will tell you that being in the trenches can be frustrating, heartbreaking, overwhelming and with a teeny tiny dash of there-are-never-enough-hours. But amongst those challenges, comes the wonder of storytelling and marvelling at connection. If or when that shine wears off and you don’t feel the pull to the world of weddings or celebrant life, know when to bow out. Know when to pass the torch rather than enduring in something that once gave you such joy.