Image of Shannon Fleming Civil Celebrant by Christine Lim

I remember my first Wedding as a celebrant. I must have checked my little suitcase and paperwork a thousand times. This wasn’t just my first wedding; this was my Best Friend’s Wedding. I’d purposely waited so one of my longest and most special friends would be the first name in my beautiful red Marriage Certificate book.

In this instance, from my friend’s perspective, the logic of ‘I’d like my friend to perform the ceremony’ was doable. But if I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me ‘I’d actually like my friend to do it’ or ‘my friend’s doing an online course, but can you be a backup?’ or something to that effect, I could treat myself to a lovely over-priced Perth dinner.

The thing is it’s not quite as simple as having a mate write the ceremony and stand up there in front of everyone. This getting hitched thing is a legitimate legally binding thing. It extends far beyond the day and is so much more than just a piece of paper.

So when you begin wondering “can a friend marry us”, the first thing you need to worry about is making sure you’re legally married. In Australia only a Civil Marriage Celebrant or Religious Celebrant can solemnize your marriage.

While there are internet and short courses that are available, if you have any doubt whatsoever, use a professional. All Commonwealth registered celebrants are listed on the Attorney Generals website so be sure to check. I’m right there on page 6 of “WA Celebrants”.

But, the legalities don’t mean you can’t have loved ones be part of your day. There are options. Firstly, you could have a legal ceremony, with just yourselves, a Celebrant and 2 witnesses prior to the ‘Wedding event’ and have a friend perform a Ceremony on the day. This is quite common for overseas weddings where the Marriage isn’t legally recognised in Australia.

Or, you can have a Ceremony ‘co-captain’ on the day. By this I mean the Celebrant will perform the required legalities, say all the jargon that must be said, and a friend can do the introduction, a reading, a poem, an interpretive dance if you like! So they are very much a part of the Ceremony. In instances where I’ve done this I’ve introduced the other person and explained we’ll be doing a joint Ceremony.

Overseeing a wedding can cause panic for some people, its daunting standing up there in front of 100 people. Even I have those deep breath moments and on Friday I’ll perform my 100th ceremony! So be careful who you ask. You may have a very dear friend you’d love to ask but if they’re shy or don’t like public speaking, it’s not going to end well. I always suggest to clients to approach asking someone to be involved in the ceremony in one of two ways. First option pick the reading to suit the person, so something cool and upbeat needs to be read by someone with lots of jazz and personality, so it doesn’t get lost in a monotone mutter. The second option is to ask the person you’d like to do a reading, to pick something they think captures you and their thoughts on you both.

Writing your ceremony, whoever it may be with, should be a collaboration. It has to capture you and your partner and the adventures that have lead you to this point. Make it really clear what you’d like to say and achieve in the ceremony, and work together. If you’re light hearted people, keep it light. If you’re not overly affectionate, don’t feel the need to be all ‘lovey dovey’ in the Ceremony or those in the audience, who know you best, will be standing there a little perplexed thinking ‘that’s not what they’re normally like?! ‘

Then, after all that, when the day comes to finally say I do, the person standing beside you both, will smile, as they say those words that make you Husband and Wife. It’s a privilege to be a part of someone’s day, and it’s our job as celebrants to make sure you have time to take a moment, smile and enjoy (and have a tissue handy if need be!).

Ms Gingham says: Great advice. Looking up the Attorney Generals website is something I wasn’t aware you could actually do!

Shannon Fleming Civil Celebrant says: “I’m a bit of an alternative to the ‘average celebrant’. Your wedding day should be relaxing, fun and one you will remember.”