Back in the day, there was only one way to get married; by a minister in a church but times have changed and especially in New Zealand, more and more people choose to exchange their vows outside of traditional holy matrimony.
With the introduction of independent wedding celebrants in 1976, there is a lot more freedom around when, where and how to get married. You can still appoint a minister and get married in a church, or you have a short and simple ceremony at the Registrar’s office, or you can plan for the wedding you have always dreamed; and for this you need a registered celebrant.
Finding the right wedding celebrant is important, as you will work closely together to ensure your big day is a success for everyone involved. Your relationship should be built on mutual trust and understanding and you need to be comfortable sharing your deepest wishes, ideas – and doubts. But what does a wedding celebrant actually do?
Before the wedding
Wedding celebrants typically work with both sides of the family in mind, to ensure that everyone’s needs are met. This is especially important when it comes to interracial, intercultural or inter-religious weddings where wedding couple come from different backgrounds and might have different expectations of their big day.
Initially your celebrant will want to get to know you by asking questions about your relationship, your interests, your families, and how you envision your wedding. Their biggest role at this point is to help you create the ceremony of your dreams, making sure that you meet all the legal requirements and have the necessary documents to go ahead with your wedding.
The celebrant will write out the ceremony with you, and can organise a rehearsal to make sure you know how proceedings will run on the day, and give you opportunity to make any last minute adjustments.
During the wedding
The wedding celebrant’s main duty during the ceremony is to ensure that the wedding goes ahead as planned and is legally binding. This includes formally identifying both parties named on the marriage licence as well as at least 2 of their witnesses. Their official job starts the moment the ceremony begins and it ends when the bridal party meets family and guest for the first time as a married couple.
After the wedding
The wedding celebrant is also responsible for making sure the vows are exchanged in accordance with legal requirements, the registration papers are signed correctly and returned to the issuing Registrar within 10 days of the ceremony.
How to find the perfect wedding celebrant
In order to make your marriage legal you have to choose a wedding celebrant that has been officially appointed by the Registrar-General and is listed in the New Zealand Gazette under Marriage Celebrants. You can also look for an appointed celebrant either by name or region on the website of the Department of Internal Affairs
A good wedding celebrant should be supportive of and responsive to your ideas and thoughts. They need to have excellent listening, planning and communication skills. Before you make a final booking, spend some time with each celebrant you contact and talk about how you envision your wedding, what expectations you have, and see if you are confident that your celebrant can make this vision come true.
How much does a wedding celebrant cost?
There is no set fee that a wedding celebrant can or cannot charge. If money is a priority for you, it pays to shop around, compare fees and decide which celebrant best suits your personal needs and your budget.
Advantages of having a wedding celebrant
If you are planning on getting married at the Registry Office you are bound to their opening hours. A wedding celebrant gives you more time freedom, as they can conduct weddings any time and any day of the week.
What if my chosen wedding celebrant is unable to attend the ceremony?
If due to unforeseen circumstances, such as sickness, your chosen wedding celebrant is unable to officiate your marriage, any other marriage celebrant that is officially registered can be a substitute.