It always makes a celebrant smile, just a little, to have a couple enquire about their services and then, say in reply to the fee they have been quoted – “…….but we only need you for about 30 minutes on the day!”

This open letter to couples was written by an AMC colleague and fellow celebrant, Ann Dally.

Dear Bride & Groom,

 Thank you for your email regarding my services, availability and fee, and I note your comments regarding the “crazy” fees some celebrants are currently charging – $550-$700.

 I would like to give you some insight into what time is actually involved when a marriage celebrant begins the step by step process of looking after a “prospective” couple.

 The time allocated to each couple can, and does, vary. The range can be from as little as six hours, but more commonly 10 or 20 hours in total. Please allow me to explain:


2 or 3 meetings (sometimes more if requested by the couple).

Meeting (1):

The couple has an initial no-obligation consultation with a celebrant which involves going over all legal documentation and explanations, discussing types of ceremonies which can be written, answering any questions. Then a general informal chat to see if bride and groom think this celebrant may be a suitable “fit” for them. Celebrant’s Time: Up to 1hr 30mins

 Meeting (2):

A couple may interview several celebrants. Once a couple has decided on their celebrant, and after their initial interview, a further meeting is arranged. This meeting is to sign and lodge their Notice of Intended Marriage form, show the celebrant their identification papers etc. and discuss other paperwork required. The ceremony format is once again discussed and samples shown. Celebrant’s Time: 1hr plus


(a) The celebrant provides the couple with a wedding manual, sample ceremonies, poetry and readings, various rituals etc. (which has taken him/her many months/years to research, write, create and collate) – you are invited to take this home to consider your options; i.e. Askings, Vows, Ring Exchanges, Alternate ceremonies etc. Or if you wish, in celebrant may offer to write a totally unique ceremony for you. Celebrants time: Immeasurable – several hours.

 (b) You make your ceremony wording selections and email them back to the celebrant who prepares an initial draft for you – this can take 3 hours or more, depending on the content and particularly if the celebrant is one who ensures every ceremony is tailored-made to her individual couple. Celebrant’s Time: 3 hours plus

 (c) The bride and groom criss-cross back and forth to the celebrant via email with changes, etc. to the ceremony. The celebrant will incorporate these changes. When finalized, celebrant prints out and places in a presentation folder. The celebrant will also prepare readings on separate presentation cardboard to look attractive. Celebrant’s Time: 2 hours

 (d) In the meanwhile there are emails to and fro, asking many and varied questions, requesting suggestions, asking for assistance. Celebrant’s Time: difficult to estimate – in some instances, again, hours.

 (e) The ceremony is now complete. A rehearsal is organized. If performed in the celebrant’s home it takes up to one hour, if done on-site, there is the travel time to the venue, actual rehearsal time, celebrant’s return home travel time. Celebrant’s Time: In total up to 2.5 hours.

 (f) On the Wedding Day: The celebrant drives to the venue – He/she usually arrives 30 minutes early to check everything is in order and to set up the PA system and do a sound check. If requested some celebrants include in their fee a signing table and two chairs (if hired by the couple this can cost up to $80). The ceremony takes approximately 30 minutes. At the conclusion the celebrant packs up the PA system, signing table and chairs and drives home. Many celebrants have “roadies” so in actual fact, often there are two people looking after the ceremony for a couple. Celebrant’s time on the actual wedding day, up to 2.5 hours. No time charged for “roadie” who may, in some instances, takes care of the music.

 (g) When the celebrant arrives home, he/she processes the paperwork, photocopies, collates and addresses the documents to the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages. The following working day takes to the local post office to send via Registered Post to the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages. Celebrant’s Time: approximately 1 hour.

 There are so very many other costs which are also factored into celebrants’ fees but I felt if I just explained the basic “time factor” it may allow you to see that in fact, most civil ceremonies will take a minimum of 6 hours up to 12 hours – quite often more, depending on the situation.

In conclusion, I would like to just mention that in order for you to be married, of all the things I have listed below, there is only one item on the list which is an absolute necessity:

The wedding cake – $600 plus

The chauffeured limousine/s – $1500 plus

The photo albums – $2000 plus

The beautiful flowers – $1500 plus

The beautiful wedding invitations – $700

The DJ and MC $600 plus

Your magnificent dress, worn once $1500-$4000 plus

The Fairy Light Backdrop – $600

The reception – good food and wine, table centres $15000

Hair, make-up, shoes, bridesmaids gifts – ?

Suits hired for the groom and groomsmen $500+

Bridesmaids’ dresses $250 each &Bridesmaids’ gifts

And finally………..and most importantly…………

A beautiful ceremony delivered by a dedicated, professional marriage celebrant $500-$850.

I hope this clarifies that we celebrants are really quite a small cost towards your wedding, yet such a hugely important consideration to ensure your wedding day starts just as you wish, with that ever so important, memorable wedding ceremony to ensure you are now legally Mr. & Mrs. and have indelible memories etched in your minds forever.

My very best wishes to you both when selecting your marriage celebrant. Please remember “good is not cheap” – “cheap may not be good”.

Kindest regards