Tuesday, September 16, 2008

why i need a stranger at my wedding

You might have noticed that we have budgeted $400 for a celebrant. If you live in the US, you might be thinking, That's crazy! It only costs $5 and a stick of gum to get married in my state, and anyone can perform the ceremony! Well, lucky you. Unfortunately, in Western Australia, we prefer people to live in sin, and even just getting married at the registry office costs $340. That's why they call it the Sexy State! (Not really.)

Anyway, you are required by law to have a proper marriage celebrant and it seems that the absolute lowest price you will pay is $350, so we budgeted for $400 because we want to get someone we like. Today I have been calling celebrants to get quotes, and it sucks.

It turns out that it is a gigantic faux pas to call a celebrant, introduce yourself and say that you are calling around for quotes. I have been greeted with a freezing silence by all but one of the people I have called. When I explained that we don't want a rehearsal, one of the women was openly disdainful. On another call, the woman took the opportunity to tell me that the most important part of the wedding was the ceremony (really? I thought it was mostly just an excuse to eat cake) and that the money wasn't really important (when ever someone says this, they are trying to sell you something) and the most important thing was that we found a very professional person and "if you pay peanuts, you may end up with a monkey!"

To which I should have replied, "Holy shit, really? I can get a monkey to perform the ceremony? Fucking sweet!"

Anyway, I wanted to write about this because I was surprised at my reaction. I felt awkward and embarassed. I know that I have a right to ask for quotes. I know that treating a wedding as though it's so sacred that money doesn't matter is ridiculous, and that you can be very serious about your relationship without being obsessively serious about your wedding. But it still made me feel like crap to be talked to as though I was kind of trashy to be considering the issue of money. And that makes me angry.

The thing is, I've been to a few weddings, and I've almost always found the celebrant to be a bit rubbish. They're soppy and false, or they crack jokes, or they talk about themselves, or they forget the names of the people they're marrying (seriously). So I'm not necessarily expecting the ceremony to be the most wonderful moment of my life. It will be special no matter what, because it is the moment when I marry the person I love. But it's not necessarily going to that much more special because I paid $600 for someone to rehearse the wedding beforehand, or because we get to sign the certificate with gold-plated pens in chairs with matching organza ribbons.

Now that I think about it, though, it really would be more special with a monkey.


annie said...

(continuing her string of bizarre ideas....) Get the legal part done at the courthouse, then have a friend (or monkey!) preside over the ceremony with your community. Is it more important for you to be legally hitched, or bound to the love of your life in the eyes of your nearest and dearest?

Heck, you could even say "in your eye" more to the state and have your ceremony first and do the paperwork later. The "celebrant" doesn't make your vows valid and important, you and your partner do.

(This coming from someone who believes that, in some ways, an important bit of her wedding was impromptu vows declared on a sunset walk a week before the ceremony, so take it with a grain or lump of salt)

Anonymous said...


We are using the monkey.

Jessica McLeod said...

Annie: Well, it would cost over $300 just to get married at the registrar (our version of the courthouse) so we figure we might as well pay a little extra and get the real thing! I totally understand where you're coming from, but for me, it is important that we recite our vows in front of the people we love. It really does mean something to me.

Ive said...

I had no idea monkeys ate peanuts!

aaron said...

hahaha, i had the same reaction tot he monkey line... "why didn't anyone tell us we could have a monkey do it?!? do you have the pone number for this monkey thing?"
i think annie's idea is pretty good. have a friend do the ceremony at the wedding and do the vows and everything, then make it legal later. i don't see why the ceremony and the legality need to be connected, especially if you can save some money and have a better experience at the ceremony. too bad you can't just get married in the u.s.

dirttree said...

I know I just called you and everything, but, continuing in annie's theme:

I was talking to my sister about this, cuz I was asking her about that celebrant dude (but family friend, and interstate wedding, so the talk wasn't useful from the money side of things), and she was saying that paying for the flights and accommodation for someone that she knew was way cheaper than paying for a celebrant in Sydney. How stupid is that? But that also the other thing she was considering at the time was to sign the paperwork before or after, and then do the ceremony with the vows as if it were the whole thing. Because she figured that the important part was the exchanging vows and being with friends and family, and that signing a bit of paper was so far removed from the getting-married part that it made no difference whether they were legally married when exchanging their vows or not.

Although, I can totally see that doing it that way might seem like cheating in some way. Because in the back of your mind you'll know that it's not all happening at once, and the moment that you're legally married isn't the moment with all your friends and family around. But seeing as the legal part is the least excellent part (unless you can somehow work finger food into it), it would just be personal preference.

Man, i've never talked so much WEDDING stuff before. Sensible in-your-face-establishment weddings are exciting!

ALSO: Do you know how many times I wrote 'ceremoney' instead of 'ceremony'?! I think there's something in that...