The top two reasons why someone becomes a wedding celebrant is;
1) they attended a wedding of a really good friend or family member and were so bored by the ceremony they thought, ‘I can do way better than this’,
2) someone who loves them dearly turns to them one day and says, ‘you would make a really good celebrant’.
So, you made the decision, you found a course, you passed, you sent your application off to the Attorney General’s office and now many, many moons later you’ve just received your letter – you’re finally a celebrant and can start marrying people! You do a little dance at the letter box and by the time you make it into the house you’re thinking ‘Holy Moley, I’m a marriage celebrant, now what?’.
It can be very daunting and somewhat lonely in the beginning. The hardest part is knowing specifically where to start.
HERE ARE 10 ACTIONS YOU CAN MAKE RIGHT NOW TO KICK OFF YOUR WEDDING CELEBRANT CAREER AND A CREATE A COMMUNITY YOU CAN FEEL A PART OF:
1.Make a budget that won’t break the bank
A celebrant business is one of the most low-cost businesses you can have, there aren’t many major ongoing costs such as: rent, product outlay, or staffing. However, in the beginning it can be really hard to know how much money you need and where you should
It’s important to set aside some cash for your basic set-up e.g., website, photo shoot and advertising, as well as the basic yearly stationery and registration costs.
Mindy Lewis from Port Macquarie, remembers this all too well…
“Starting out can be an expensive journey, it’s hard to know where to put your money in the beginning. I started with my website and socials, but I didn’t do it by myself I paid people to help me.” Mindy Lewis
2.You’ll need some gorgeous profile shots
Find a good photographer who can take fabulous images of you doing things that make you smile and bring out your personality both professionally and personally, find a location that has various settings and take a few different outfits to change into.
Many of us do this regularly too, take our veteran Brisbane celebrant and QLD local leader Roxy Hotten for example, she organised a photo shoot last year with her hubby, Danny, and pooch, Valentine McFarty.
“Do a photoshoot with a wedding photographer you admire and get shots of you playing with your dog/cat/kids, having a coffee/wine, at your computer… anything you can think of to use on your social media and website.” Roxy Hotten
Then you’ll need images of weddings. You could create a styled shoot, invite some local wedding vendors to collaborate with and ask friends to act as a couple you’re marrying. You’ll be surprised just how many will jump at the chance and create a stunning setting.
One good tip is, if a friend or family member has recently been married ask them if you can share their images throughout your website and social media, and always check in with the photographer as well, at the end of the day they own the rights to all the images. We’re not saying to pretend you married the couple, it’s just nice to have some beautiful images of weddings throughout your site and social media, it’s all in how you caption the shots.
3.Create some fun kick ass social media presence
If you haven’t already, create an Instagram and Facebook business account – and we don’t mean your personal one where you share loads of photos of your kids, or weekend brunches, or Friday night cocktails – create a separate business account.
If you have zero content, then follow a heap of other wedding accounts that have beautiful imagery. Specifically, but not limited to: florists, wedding dress or suit boutiques, and venues. Wedding magazines and blogs like; Hello May, Polka Dot Wedding, Rock n Roll Bride, Green Wedding Shoes, Dancing with Her/Them, Theodore Magazine, and repost their images either to your profile or to your stories. As long as you credit all of the correct vendors from that particular image, you’re always going to be okay.
This isn’t something to only do in the beginning either, it’s an ongoing process. Our gal Roxy uses Instagram as a tool to help boost her business all the time:
“I find consistent, amazing, creative people who influence me on Instagram. Think about who your ideal clients are and then search hashtags that they may look for (eg: I love vintage stuff so I look at #vintagewedding or #retrobride).” Roxy Hotten
4.Your website is your shopfront
It’s the place where people visit to learn all about you and the services you offer, so it’s important your website displays your personality. You can build something really simple to start off with that includes: About / Services / Blog / Contact. Initial website builds can differ from $500 right up to $3000 and finding a good web developer can be tricky.
Investing in a web person who will build the backend, so it’s optimised for search, is one of the best investments you will make for your business. Find a web developer who promotes SEO (search engine optimisation) as one of the built-in features. Also find someone whom you understand – there’s nothing worse than working with someone who consistently confuses you with their work jargon. You will find if you do it well you will make that money back within the first 12 months, if not before.
5.Network, Network, and then Network some more!
We cannot stress this one enough, it’s important in any industry but particularly in a service industry to get out and meet fellow industry people. Not only can it guarantee work for you but it also helps you to create a community so you can speak about your business openly. Find your favourite local wedding vendors and connect with them, ask them out and shout them a coffee, you’ll work out very quickly whether they’re your people.
Sam Johns is one of our newest celebrants and found the networking side of all this really daunting at first which is surprising as he comes from a hospitality background, this just shows it doesn’t matter who you are, or what your background is, when something is new it can be quite debilitating. But luckily for Sam he reached out to a local celebrant who invited him to a networking event.
“I was nervous about how ‘cagey’ other celebrants might be. To my surprise, the celebrants that I met at these social events have not only been welcoming but really encouraging. They were so happy to pass on really helpful advice and tips. A number of those celebrants even invited me along to observe one of their own ceremonies. All in all, I felt quite overwhelmed by the positive response I received from the local celebrants.” Sam Johns
6.Advertising costs money, word of mouth is free
If you have the right business mindset, you’ll understand the importance of needing to spend money to make money. As mentioned above we understand the set-up costs can be quite expensive, and you definitely need to follow a budget when you’re not getting any income in the first few months.
There are so many directories and wedding platforms out there and some are very new, it seems every week we’re getting cold called / emailed by a new one, so you need to do your research as to how many hits those sites get, and how strong their SEO is. If you sign up to TCS, a national directory listing is part of the membership, and many of us have gotten work out of this.
Easy Weddings is also a really good option to start getting some initial enquiries. You’ll hear some celebrants have a negative response to this platform but many of us have had extremely positive experiences with EW. Adam Straney for example still uses EW after years of being a celebrant and MC.
“I’ve seen so many people bagging EW but I’ve never had an issue, recently I extended my reach into QLD and VIC and I’m already seeing results… Over Easter I had 16 enquires and 14 have converted!” Adam Straney
Obviously, Adam has been doing this celebranting thing since cave men were grunting around the fireplace, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t receive 16 enquiries across one weekend!
Another simpler way to advertise is to follow Roxy’s advice:
“Tell everyone – and I mean everyone – that you’re a celebrant. My first job came through friends.” Roxy Hotten
7.Immerse yourself in knowledge
When you start something new it’s a good idea to literally immerse yourself in it. Apart from following all of your favourite wedding vendors and wedding celebrants on social media there are a heap of Blogs and Podcasts that oooooze information, for free! A couple of our favourite Podcasts are: The Love Biz Academy, and Celebrant Talk Show, and Blogs, check out Hello May and Polka Dot Wedding – you might even see your own face pop up from time to time.
Don’t forget about the Marriage Guidelines, this document has common explanations for every component from the Marriage Act and when you open it up on your computer it has a really easy to follow search function.
8.Join an association that fits your personality
There are quite a few associations in Australia you can join, and in the beginning many of us sign up to more than one to see which one fits our own needs. Apart from including the necessary Public Liability insurance, associations can help with forming a community of experts, not only from your local area but from across Australia, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself commenting on posts.
Charlie Bachali from Sydney tells us “in the beginning, I needed answers to small questions, details and specifics of the Marriage Act, little things like; when the guidelines say name do they mean full legal name? Also just learning how other celebrants did things was really helpful, whether it was from the courses, the member resources, or the Facebook group, my membership to TCS has been invaluable.”
Being in a service industry, you’re the product, so it’s important to be yourself. We know it can be difficult to sell yourself, but we all have our own little quirks and traits that people will relate to. Don’t try and be something you’re not because it will become obvious over time, and especially when you work with a couple and they feel they’re not getting what they originally thought.
Mindy has learned this one very quickly “Stop comparing yourself to others, it’s important to remember ‘I’m not them, I need to be me, people want to book me for me’. Stay true to who you are and be as authentic as you possibly can. Keep focusing on what you have to offer.” Mindy Lewis
10.The most important action is to Have fun!
One thing that we all have in common is one of the reasons why we entered into this industry is because weddings are fun! So, the journey should be fun as well. Don’t get too bogged down if the enquiries aren’t coming. If you stay true to who you are, keep up to date with all the tools, make your website and socials as authentic and colourful as you possibly can, and keep having fun along the way, the work will come, it just takes time and a whole heap of patience.
In featured photo,Sam Johns organised for some of his mates and favourite local wedding photographer (Marshal Photography) and organised a beautiful styled shoot.
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