Why are wedding celebrants expensive?

For the uninitiated, being a wedding celebrant sounds like a great deal. On the face of it, they turn up, do some paperwork, talk for 10 minutes and leave. If that’s all there is to it, why on earth are they so expensive?

Having met some amazing celebrants, I know that they spend a TON of time and energy into each and every wedding ceremony they perform.  So I wanted to get Miranda Zander, wedding celebrant from Wellington, to help outline what goes into wedding prep for celebrants.

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Here’s what she had to say:

Why are wedding celebrants “expensive”?

Alongside the common question of ‘why are photographers so expensive’, I get wind of many gripes about celebrants’ fees. Heard and understood! I hate to burst the bubble, but: Yes, celebrant services do cost money.

Yes, there are cheaper options that you can try – often churches will undertake ceremonies for either a koha/donation if you undertake marriage counselling or are a member of that particular church. Fast and easy non-personalised registry-style ceremonies are no longer conducted in city offices. Another idea is a brand spanking new celebrant that might give you a special rate as long as they can use your photographs to help market themselves.  There are some celebrants that are accredited to carry out fast and easy registry-style ceremonies for $90 but only in special situations: weekdays, minimal numbers, at their houses etc). (more details here).

However if you decide to hire a celebrant, I can tell you that your wedding will take up at least FIVE hours of my time. And I will charge for that in my fee. Being your celebrant is more than turning up on the day. It’s more than just answering some emails. It is putting you at ease, being the perfect celebrant for you, crisis managing on the day, and – most importantly – making sure you go to bed MARRIED.

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A typical client-celebrant relationship goes like this: An initial meet-and-great with couples (1 hour); writing an initial ceremony (1 hour); answering emails and working with couples to tailor the ceremony to your needs and reminding you about your wedding licence (2 hours); putting together all the bits we’ve talked about and going back and forth (1 hour); possibly a second meeting (1 hour); attending a rehearsal (1 hour); turning up on your wedding day early and staying until it’s appropriate for me to leave (3 hours); and ensuring that your licence is lodged and your copy returned to you (5 minutes!). That’s approximately ten hours (at least!) as a rough guide and I haven’t factored in travel time or expenses such as stationery, internet, qualifications, and petrol.

When you break it down like this, it’s easy to see where the costs fall. Most celebrants will charge around $350-$550 however for small weddings or elopements the price can be $200-$500. For super experienced celebrants, celebrants with MC skills, or world-famous-in-NZ celebrities, you will be look at upwards of $800. Your marriage licence ($150 + $33 for the certificate) is on top of this price which you sort yourselves directly as celebrants can do a lot of things but cannot give a statutory declaration on your behalf! As with any trade there is a difference in prices because of location, experience, skills and professionalism.

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Yes, you can try to negotiate down a wedding fee if there is a reason to do so (smaller wedding party, happy with a template wedding etc). Many celebrants recognise there is a need for these weddings so in some instances charge half price ceremonies for minimal personalisation and no face-to-face/video meetings (I charge $250 for these ‘short and sweet’ weddings). For the most part, celebrants are reasonable humans and are often willing to budge on price if their commitment and involvement is small, or in their lunch time, or for some other compelling reason.

Even so, would you chose your clothing, shoes, flowers, venue, or photographer simply because it was cheap? Every single wedding couple is on a “budget”. And while cost certainly factors into a wedding, it is just one of many elements making up the balance.

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