Celebrants: Excessive number of civil celebrant appointments is totally destructive.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Memo: To Public Servants and Associations

Meeting on October 28th, 2019. 

Re the Number of Celebrants and
the sustained deluging of the market.

Dear Public Servants and Associations,

I am still alarmed that no discussion seems to be allowed on the one and the most important problem which is so destructive of the celebrant program – that of excessive numbers.

I keep my ear to the ground and talk to celebrants and the general public all the time.  There are a few quite wonderful celebrants, who by dint of skilled advertising on the internet and good reputation, manage to gain enough ceremonies to earn a part time income. There are a few  celebrants who are so well off financially that they are able spend a great deal of money to hire internet skills.  

The majority of celebrants, however, struggle to gain one or two ceremonies a year and when they do, through lack of practice, they forget the skillset needed and the procedures required. The public suffers from their lack of ceremonial expertise.

I am impelled to repeat the points I have made before. There are so many bad effects of these excessive numbers. 

  • Celebrants who used to be involved have lost interest; the energy they used to give to celebrancy, now goes to other activities.
  • All the work done with Ongoing Professional Development is mostly wasted because it is not applied. And by the time it might be applied it is forgotten.
  • In some areas over-competition has become really intense. Degrading and false claims in advertising abound. As a result we have lost status and dignity in the community.
  • Celebrants who outbid each other in price for ceremonies, find ways to lower standards. They find it impossible to put their time in to plan and execute a ceremony really well. These celebrants find it is not financially worthwhile to observe the high standards we have developed over many years, if they are not paid reasonably. 
  • Celebrants are thus spread too thin to develop intellectual, political and media leadership. 
  • Some celebrants have developed demeaning “gimmicks” to “get business”.
  • In general, celebrants have lost esteem in the eyes of the general public. I don’t see them looked to now for a range of other personal ceremonies (namings, adolescence, dedication of houses, industry transitions etc.). I don’t see them looked to as skilled ceremonialists for public ceremonies such as Anzac Day, or university and school graduations, building openings and the like. 
    • The good governance reputation of the Attorney-General and the Department, i.e. you, the public service, have been diminished. (Your over-concentration on legal trivia means that you are not concentrating your energies on the essence of the program. The people who pay your salary are only interested in the quality of the ceremony – after the event it is the only thing they discuss.)

THE NUMBERS: This is how I see it.
Before 2003, 1600 celebrants adequately catered for the whole of Australia. 2000 maybe would have been OK.
2500 would have been excessive.
Your destructive predecessors, dear public servants, against all advice, at that time appointed 11,000 !!
A crude bureaucratic fee and compulsory repetition OPD has forced out some wonderful celebrants. Admittedly it has reduced the numbers to 8,500 – still 6,500 too many.
Now, the influx of new celebrants equals or surpasses the ones who are resigning or dying. So we are stuck at this very destructive figure of 8,500.

If you are not insisting that this issue be discussed at your coming meeting, you are not speaking truth to power, and you are wasting each other’s money and time. 

YOUR QUESTION: What would I do?

  • 1. Place a moratorium on all appointments for say 5 years or so. (It was done before.) 
  • Make it clear that any “recognised” qualification only entitles people to apply to be a celebrant. Celebrants  are then only appointed through an independent vetting, selecting and interviewing process, according to balanced need.

(I wish I would have been a public servant — what a wonderful opportunity you have to do something good for the country.)

Respectfully yours with the utmost goodwill, 

Dally Messenger III STB, LCP, BEd, DipLib, ALAA

Currently: Principal of the  International College of Celebrancy
Sometime Lecturer – Victoria University – Graduate Diploma in Arts (Celebrancy)

Sometime Lecturer – Monash University – Graduate Diploma in Arts (Celebrancy)

Foundation President and Administrator of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants (1994-1999).

Sometime Life Member of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants (1996). 

(Until they abolished Life Members !!)

Life Member – Celebrants and Celebrations Network

Foundation President of the Australian Association of Funeral Celebrants (1978).

Foundation Secretary of the Association of Civil Marriage Celebrants of

Australia (1975-1980).

Author, Ceremonies and Celebrations (4 editions) – a handbook for celebrants.

Murphy’s Law and the Pursuit of Happiness: A History of the Civil Celebrant Movement




Mal Abrahamsen

Fellow I.M.A. : Life Member A.I.S.P. Govt. Authorised Marriage Celebrant 🤵
9 MIDDLE ST HADFIELD (nr Glenroy) 3046 
Phone:  (03) 9323 5477  or  Mob 0414 317 340

Excellent, bravo. Good onya Dally. Thank you for the wonderful work you do. 

Yes I totally agree and concur etc. etc.

Yes I too advertise on the web but it seems the costs far outweigh the benefit (if any) 

I rarely receive an inquiry, 

There are many cut price operators e.g. all done in 15 minutes.
I have conducted well over 300 marriages, most are referrals from previous clients.

I agree wholeheartedly that there are too many celebrants. The professional and high standing of Celebrants is suffering via the cheap gougers. 

Cheap prices – Cheap service and sometimes non legal marriages due to the inexperience of the Celebrant. AND a beautiful wedding does not happen.

Tougher licensing is required to avoid the constant erosion of the profile of good Professional Celebrants.  I have attended many OPDs where I have heard some ridiculous questions from attendees that are authorised Celebrants , but obviously have no idea and shouldn’t be seeking to conduct Weddings  until they pass an examination of some substance.  Being a member of a recognised Celebrant association should be compulsory, always a good idea for those that take their services seriously, keeping up to date and want to give their best. Have I been checked… ?

Yes over 11 years ago  I conducted 25 weddings as a trainee, supervised by one of the best Celebrants in Melbourne before I obtained my ‘licence’ to do so.

It is about time that the AG’s department started to take notice of the damage they are creating.

Mal Abrahamsen. Melbourne.

Denise L. Clair

Continue the quest, Dally! You will continue to make a difference.