“You charge HOW much?” is a question many celebrants hear from prospective clients. On the surface, it’s a fair question to ask particularly if all you think celebrancy involves is “standing up to speak for 20 or so minutes!”
This blog is an invitation into my life as a celebrant so that you can see exactly what you’re paying for if you employ my services.
There are often many, many hours involved from initial contact to the moment I walk away from your ceremony. It isn’t dissimilar to when you watch a movie. It might last for 1.5 to two hours but could have taken four years to make. The finished ‘product’ has been created, toiled over, refined and then presented after much behind-the-scenes work.
The initial contact I have with a potential client might involve them emailing or phoning me. Some couples are happy to book me without a meeting based on what they’ve seen on my website or because of a recommendation by a friend, family member or wedding planner.
Others like to have a face-to-face meeting first by Zoom (many of my wedding couples are from overseas and come to Cumbria for a destination wedding).
It is important that you have a connection with the celebrant who is going to be involved in creating, writing and officiating your ceremony. This relationship works both ways. If I don’t feel there’s an easy connection between us, I’ll recommend a celebrant that I feel will be a better fit. To me, this job is about relationships and the fit between celebrant and couple has to be right. I’m not a ‘take the money and run’ celebrant. I’d rather pass on a booking.
Once the couple has decided they wish to book me, they enter into a contract for my services by filling out a booking form and paying a deposit (50% of my fee). This deposit secures the date. It ensures that I don’t book anyone else in (I only book one ceremony a day), and allows me to start the ‘getting to know you’ journey.
Unlike many celebrants, there is no restriction on the number of meetings we have. (Some celebrants limit the meetings to one or two). I find, on average, that I meet with my couples 2-3 times during the lead up to their wedding. Again, this is primarily on Zoom but can be in a local café or other venue if they live near to me or are visiting the area. If it helps a couple to have more meetings than this, I will accommodate.
I also give my couples a questionnaire which augments the information gathering I need to do. It gives them time to really think about the questions, and provide me with thoughtful answers.
Our conversations are relaxed and easy. It’s not an interview process. My wish is for us to feel familiar and enjoy each other’s company. I won’t be in your life forever, but I hope that on your wedding day when you see me you’ll feel relaxed and in safe hands. That I’ve been a celebrant for 26 years also means you’re working with someone who is experienced.
I take a lot of notes as I’m getting to know my couples, and regularly write down thoughts I have, flashes of inspiration, and so on. There can be a lot of research, for example, if I’m writing a ceremony for someone who is including rituals, prayers or blessings, from another culture or religion, or if I’m creating a bespoke ritual.
About one to two months before the ceremony I write the full script. By now I have learned about what is meaningful to you individually and as a couple, what your hopes are for marriage, and what you’ll bring to the relationship. Your vows will be unique to your relationship.
I know how participatory you’d like your ceremony to be, and who’ll be involved whether they are a child, friend or relative. I’ve learned the style you’re after. By this stage, it all falls together and the months of ‘creating’ your ceremony with various ideas and inspiration is now on the page.
By this point, I could already have spent 5 to 10 hours on meetings, 5 or more hours on research, writing drafts, and completing a script.
Then, I send through the ceremony to you. Ideally you think it is perfect and don’t wish for any changes. You may, however, upon seeing it black and white, decide you’d like to add or delete something. If any revisions are required, these will be done too.
Upon approval of the script, I then ensure I have everything I need for the day: e.g. ceremonial items and presentation script. I now start familiarising myself with the script, going through it many, many times (this takes a good few hours, minimum) so that on the day the words fit like a second skin and I’m connecting with your audience, and you, and not ‘just reading’. Anyone can stand up and read! A celebrant is there to connect and engage. My aim is to be relaxed, but focused, dynamic yet graceful.
The day before your ceremony I meet you at your venue (if it is more than an hour away, this is negotiated). We use this day to meet in person for the first time if you’ve travelled in from overseas. It is also a chance to go through the choreography of the ceremony, in particular any rituals such as handtying. The rehearsal day could take 3 to 4 hours of my time not necessarily including my travel. (I usually spend more time on this day than the wedding day). So, on rehearsal day there’s the travel time (on average 2 to 3 hours), waiting around time till you and your bridal party are ready (you’re a chatty lot, and may not have seen each other in some time so it’s hard for you to be focussed on the reason I’m there! ~ don’t worry, I’m patient), and then going through the choreography.
Your wedding day: Whether the venue is five minutes up the road or 50 miles away, I ensure that I’m there at least one hour beforehand to avoid any travel hiccups. It also gives me some relaxed time before the ceremony to set up my amplifier and check my sound. I may liaise with your wedding photographer or wedding planner. Depending on the venue, I set up a ceremony table with ritual items, ceremony cloth, flowers, etc. I almost always go and see my couple before the start of the ceremony to let them know I’m there.
And then: your ceremony. The moment in time that you’ve spent months or years planning for and dreaming about. It’s here.
Before long, you’ve kissed and are walking down the aisle to your smiling friends and family.
I pack up my belongings. My feelings are mixed: joy at your delight, sadness that this shared journey is over. “What a lovely job I have,” I say to myself as I put your wedding card, ceremony script (and handtying cord, if you’ve had one) with all the cards and gifts from your guests.
Once my car is packed, I seek you out to say goodbye. Generally you’re covered in confetti by this point. What a journey we’ve had together.
For my part, 20 to 30 hours will have been invested in this day. One thing is for sure: I’ll never forget your ceremony. Thank you for asking me to be your celebrant.
As a funeral celebrant, there is a tight time frame that I work to. In other parts of the country, there may be up to 6 weeks lead in to a funeral.
Where I live, in rural Cumbria, I get between 3 to 7 days notice of a funeral, on average. During this time, I make arrangements to meet you/your family. (Depending on circumstances, such as Pandemic restrictions or if you live out of the county, our meeting may be on Zoom. If it is in person, I may drive for up to an hour to meet you).
I listen for about two to three hours as you share memories of your loved one.
When I leave, I let your memories fill my being. As I’ll be reminiscing on your behalf, it is important to me that I feel you’ve shared with me who they truly were. I will be writing ‘in my head’ for a few hours before I get to the laptop. I then type up all my notes that I took in our meeting. This usually takes at least an hour. Then I start to write. I’m a storyteller, so I’m not just going to read a bunch of facts. There is craft and care which goes into each script. Writing a funeral ceremony can take anywhere from an hour to ten hours. There’s never any way of predicting how long it will take. It doesn’t become quicker just because you’ve been doing the job longer! Sometimes it takes more time because you’ve got so much information and you’re trying to edit it down, and other times it is because you’ve got next-to-no information.
Once you’ve approved the script, I then have to ensure the funeral director has the order of service and that your music choices have been ordered through Wesley or Obitus.
Like with any other ceremony, I go through the script many times before the service so I am familiar with it.
Once I’m at the ceremony venue, I ensure everything is as it should be e.g. music choices.
My time investment per funeral is anything from 10 – 20 hours. You can be certain that a funeral celebrant who is officiating upwards of five funerals a week is not putting this level of care and attention to detail and creativity into their work. It’s impossible.
Another thing to consider when questioning the price of a celebrant is that they are independent, self-employed people. They do not get holiday pay or sick pay. They have to cover transport costs, office costs, insurance, stationary, CPD, and so on.
If I am blessed enough to be your celebrant, you can be assured I will give you 100%. I am fully aware that you only get one chance at your ceremony and I want it to be ‘just right’.
Veronika Robinson is a celebrant in Cumbria, in the north of England. She’s had the pleasure of officiating all manner of ceremonies since 1995. Her passion for ritual and ceremonies extends to her work as a celebrant trainer at Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training, and as editor and publisher of The Celebrant magazine.