Jen Lawrie-Smith Marriage Celebrant

Rating
1 5 5.0
(22 reviews)
 
Service Area
Bellarine Peninsula, Geelong, Macedon Ranges, Daylesford, Melbourne  View Map
Business Hours
7 Days - By Appointment
0830 - 2030
Phone
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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS


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How do you compare to the average celebrant, Jen?

I’m happy to tell you that I’m average in some respects but not in others!

 

  • The average celebrant (48%) is aged between 60-79
  • The average celebrant (55%) conducted between 1-10 weddings last year
  • 20% (including me) conducted between 10-50 weddings (only 16 people in Australia performed over 100 weddings)
  • The average celebrant (47%) was appointed between 2003-09
  • 29% of celebrants earn between $1,000-5,000 gross pa
  • I was appointed in 2003 and I’ve married about 500 couples!

So… I like to think I’m above average!

Ref: https://www.ag.gov.au/FamiliesAndMarriage/Marriage/Documents/OPD-survey-results-2017.pdf - updated May'19

You have some great reviews, Jen! Do you have any more testimonials we can read?

Sure! Here are some recent ones:

From Orange and Miranda - "It's our pleasure to have Jen as our marriage celebrant. Thank-you so much for giving us many good ideas and guidance as we didn't have any experience of western wedding ceremony. Jen really paid attention to details and always tried her best to find out the best solution for us. We were lucky enough to find Jen and will surely recommend you to our friends. Hope to see you again in one of our friends' wedding ceremony soon!" (Lancefield)

Bec and Tim wrote: "Jen we are so grateful for everything! We had the most wonderful ceremony - it exceeded our expectations. You are so warm, thoughtful and open, and so professional at the same time. We knew we were in good hands and completely trusted you. You have a lovely way with people and are so well-spoken. Thanks again! (Lancefield)

Heath and Elise: "We couldn't have been more happy with our ceremony! Although we weren't able to meet you frequently in person we still felt extremely supported throughout the process. You were readily available via phone or email and always responded to our quetions promptly. All of our guests commented on how beautiful our ceremony was! A huge thank-you from Heath and me!" (Sailors Falls)

Aaron and Sam: "Thankyou for being supportive from the beginning and all the way through to the ceremony. Your professionalism and the structure of the ceremony was outstanding. Thankyou for making our day special!" (Lancefield)

Laurie and Joy: Thank you Jen for understanding exactly what we wanted: to formallise our wedding without the fuss. We envisaged a relaxed, sincere ceremony, light-hearted but not too casual: you helped us to achieve this, with a touch of class. We thoroughly enjoyed the day and our guests are still talking about it. Family and friends have complimented us on the lovely ceremony you guided us through and we'd be happy to recommend you to anyone requiring a celebrant for any occasion. Your caring, genuine nature shines through, and we are delighted that we found you!" (Queenscliff)

 

Eliot and I [Erin] really just wanted to thank you for everything you did to make our wedding ceremony as memorable as it was. We definitely felt like everything was under control and that alleviated a lot of stress for us both in the lead up and on the day. Since our wedding we have had so many lovely comments from friends and family about how much they enjoyed the day and that it reflected the both of us so well. Thank you so much for the vital role you played in making that the case.  (Queenscliff)

 

Hey Jen, can we write our own vows?

Apart from the legal line, it's a great idea to write your own! But many people get stuck knowing what to say so my advice is to not overthink things.

You're basically promising to stick by one another though everything life throws at you, but how you word it is up to you. So, it can be short and sweet (great if you're nervous), romantic and poetic, or personal and even slightly amusing. It's worth remembering that your promises are the foundation of your marriage, so it's best to talk through the big things and share your thoughts even if you don't end up sharing the exact words until the big day.

I have loads of ways to help, even if you end up going with something traditional! 

What's the legal line?

"I ask everyone here to witness that I, (full name) take you, (full name), to be my lawful wedded husband/wife/spouse/partner in marriage." 

Do you provide a PA system, and do you need power?

I'm happy to provide either a full Mipro PA system or a Bose sound dock, both of which are battery powered!

So many weddings take place on the beach, in a winery, in a garden,  that having my own reliable system is something I prefer, even if your venue says they have 'a mic for the celebrant'.

I'll also provide a cable for your smart phone, ipod or tablet, so just organise a playlist and your music is set to go! I recommend downloading your tracks - don't rely on Spotify and think it will work at the last minute - there's often no reliable signal!

What sort of unusual questions are you asked?

  • Do you do naturist weddings?  No
  • Do you do weddings at sea?  Yes but it must be in Australian waters. If it’s on your boat the usual rules apply about it being seaworthy and the skipper being in control – if it’s my boat, additional charges apply
  • Do you do weddings overseas?  Yes, but generally these are renewal of vows or commitment ceremonies as my authorisation applies only to Australia. Although I’m delighted to go with you we'd need to chat about costs
  • Do you do surprise weddings?  Yes, I love 'surprise' weddings, but they must not be a surprise for your partner!
  • Do you do hot air balloon/underwater weddings?  I prefer not to
  • Do you conduct weddings in a church?  Yes, if the vicar/priest is in agreement
  • Could we have a naming ceremony for our baby and our wedding at the same time?  Yes, it’s a busy ceremony but can be lots of fun!
  • Would you dress up in costume for our themed wedding?  Sure, but please pay for the hire of any specialised costume
  • Can we have our dogs/cats at our ceremony?  Sure! (But they can’t be your witnesses…)
  • Can we book you two years in advance?  Yes, but we can’t lodge your Notice of Intended Marriage as the max timeframe for that is 18 months before the wedding
  • Have you married anyone in a plane?  Not yet!
  • What’s the most unusual date anyone’s chosen?  Christmas Day! It was a surprise for the family, and the mother of the bride said she thought I was Mary Christmas arriving with presents for the littlies!
  • What’s the worst wedding disaster you’ve seen?  Fortunately only a near miss: after a dramatic bridal entrance with a magnificent horse rearing up because it was a bit spooked, my lovely bride arrived to realise the groom didn’t have the rings. You know how it goes… he only had one job… (someone found them just in time)
  • Can our parents/friends marry us?  No and yes, in a way. Other people can participate in your ceremony but as your celebrant I hold the legal, public responsibility for the validity of your marriage, so there are specific parts I must say and do – other parts other people can write and deliver.

What about "just the legals only"?

It's not uncommon for a couple to want someone else to conduct the bulk of their wedding ceremony; that person might be a significant friend or family member, a religious celebrant who isn't legally able to conduct marriage ceremonies or possibly even a friend who's training to be a celebrant but isn't yet authorised.  So, it's fine to have someone else do the personal parts of your ceremony. But...

I still take legal responsibility for the validity of marriages, and that entails more than just standing to the side, watching someone else say the majority of the words!

I need to

  • meet with you at least twice before the ceremony begins
  • sight the original copies of your proof of identity documents and draw up all the legal paperwork
  • read over your ceremony to ensure that all legal aspects are followed in the correct order and there is nothing offensive or otherwise inappropriate in it
  • ensure that during the ceremony both of you are completely cognisant and comfortable with what is happening throughout
  • step in and halt or take over the ceremony should something go awry
  • say the appropriate legal wording, including warning you publicly of the seriousness of what you're committing to, then being certain you want to proceed
  • assist you with and witness your vows
  • be certain your witnesses also understand what's going on and witness all signatures
  • lodge all the documents with Births, Deaths and Marriages in order that your marriage is validly registered
  • travel to your venue (possibly in coastal or regional areas, up to 2 hours of my time)
  • dress appropriately, and
  • be fully present in your moments of happiness!

So, as this all takes considerable time and expertise I charge a minimum fee of $600.

There might also be an additional travel allowance. I will also save you some bother after the ceremony and apply for your marriage certificate and arrange postage to you, for an additional fee of $100.

Please bear in mind that a 'legals only' service is not a 'cheap wedding', and I lose the abililty to help another full-fee paying couple by committing to your date. For this reason, I don't take bookings for 'legals only' weddings months in advance. I didn't study celebrancy at University to provide this abbreviated service, but I'm happy to do it for couples who genuinely need assistance.

How do we choose a celebrant?

Great question - perhaps the answer's different for each couple. 

Start by asking your friends, and your married friends' parents: word of mouth is a great recommendation!

Similarly, your venue might have a list of trusted providers, but don't go by that alone and be aware that venues shouldn't 'bundle' celebrants in with their services or make specific recommendations, as couples should be free to choose someone who suits them.

Then to the internet. And that's a job you can make easy or hard, perhaps depending on your skills and/or your time! Do you judge a book by its cover? It's an unavoidable starting point... We're all drawn to people we find attractive, but search a bit deeper then for clues about experience, quality training and standards, and something that gives you a sense you'll 'click' personality wise! 

Your celebrant is the pivotal person who kicks off your big day! Search for someone who instils confidence. Some couples underestimate the importance of their celebrant but it's worth remembering that you're also preparing for your marriage at the same time you're preparing a celebration, so choose someone who appears to have a balance of maturity and legal expertise, as well as a style that might match yours and importantly, a sense of theatre!

Take the time to find the celebrant's Facebook Page. You might find a variety of interesting, fun, helpful or thoughtful posts over a period of time... not just photos of weddings, as many couples don't want to share their weddings publicly.

And finally, you can search on the association websites. It's reassuring to know your celebrant values the benefits of membership, and will have the necessary insurance cover and network should anything accidentally go wrong!

Then contact two or three. Don't just ask for a quote! Try to ask something that draws a bit more from their response, and that might help you narrow it down a bit more! 

You've found me here... how about a chat? You'll hear my voice and that's a very good indicator of whether I might be the right celebrant for you!

When should we book you?

It's best to book me as soon as you're happy with our calls, emails and/or at the first meeting.

I get lots of enquiries so please don't expect that even if you've had an email or two from me that I'll hold your date without a booking fee. Occasionally couples meet other celebrants then eventually get back to me and I'm still available, but not often, sorry!

The earliest you can marry is one month after lodging your Notice of Intended Marriage and the latest is 18 months. We don't have to do that in person, particularly if you're interstate or overseas: a scanned copy will do until I can see the original and original copies of your ID documents. We can do this at any time up till that one month deadline but it's cutting things fine!

So, don't leave this part until the last minute, just in case there are problems!

Book and lodge your NoIM early then you can relax!

What sort of packages do you provide?

Regardless of whether your wedding is small or large, short or long, I still have the same legal responsibility and there’s lots of background preparation. But, because couples like the idea of ‘packages’ just for fun, let’s separate ceremonies into sizes. Most people like a drink at a wedding – but this doesn’t reflect what you’ll actually serve at yours!

  • The Boutique Beer Ceremony Package – hand-crafted and micro-brewed for small weddings up to around 50 guests
  • The Medium Bodied Wine Ceremony Package – balanced and moderate, for up to around 85-100 guests
  • The Sparkling Wine Ceremony Package – rich and complex: when only the best will do! Large weddings

All my ceremonies are written with each couple’s needs and wishes in mind so you don’t get a cut and paste version of someone else’s proforma. More complex ceremonies obviously take longer to prepare. The main differences between these packages are the inclusions and travelling distances.

But, it’s best to chat about ideas rather than simply ask for ‘packages’. Rest assured you won’t miss out on anything! If you need it, it’s included!

Don’t choose a celebrant on price, but please be aware that my experience and high level of training are reflected in my fees.

Please email me and I’ll also send you a copy of What’s Included In My Fee.

Why choosing a cheap celebrant can cost more!

I received a call from a tearful bride - this is an example of how things can go wrong, even if your celebrant's website and price look amazing!

This interstate couple booked the celebrant after one phone call. They then received an email asking for 50% of the total fee and were told to fill out a blank Notice of Intended Marriage and return it via email.

Over the next six months they either received one-line responses to their queries or none at all. They received no invoice, no receipt, no information about how to plan for their ceremony or their marriage - nothing to make them feel they were in safe hands!

They asked many questions around lodging the Notice of Intended Marriage and didn't get satisfactory responses but they nevertheless lodged their NoIM via email, within the correct time-frame - but, they had misunderstood the instructions about who could witness their signatures!

Their celebrant, however, didn't respond to this email (with the NoIM attached) and eventually, when they emailed to check it was lodged correctly, they were told AFTER the deadline that the signature was wrong and they'd therefore failed to lodge it correctly and they they couldn't marry on the date that everything was booked!

Many lengthy phone calls and emails later, by both them and me, we were able to retrieve the situation, but not without a lot of unnecessary distress!!!

Needless to say, they were amazed at the quality business processes and brilliant communication they then got from me, and the equally fantastic ceremony I drafted for them - NOT from a proforma into which they had to add, well, everything! :) :) :)

Late lesson learned. Choose well! Choose an educated celebrant with a good track record of reliable business practices - not just one with a pretty website!


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