How long does it take to create a sensational wedding ceremony?

Maybe at some point during your research into celebrant weddings your eyes began watering, your throat constricted and you spluttered: “How much? For a half-hour ceremony?!?”

I totally get that wedding costs can be eye-watering. And it’s down to no-one but you to decide what your wedding ceremony’s worth (or of course what you can afford to pay) but - just for info - I’ve made a little pie chart to show a very rough breakdown of the work that goes into planning a celebrant wedding.

Celebrants are artisans; like your cake creator or a couture wedding dress designer, we’re making something from scratch - just for you. Beautiful takes time and time costs money. Every wedding is different - so these are just a few rough averages.

Ceremony duration: 30 minutes

(sometimes shorter; could be much longer)

Writing time: 6 hours writing time + 4 hours for revisions

For all good celebrants, this is the biggie! Sometimes I write bespoke poems for ceremonies; almost always the vows are unique. Sometimes the first draft is perfect and you nail it amazingly quickly; other times it takes seven rewrites or the couple change their minds about what they want (which is cool - you only get one chance to get this right).

Design and artwork: 5 hours

Of all the celebrants I know, I think it’s just me who spends this long on making pretty things - truthfully I spend way more than five hours but I knocked a few off because I get carried away and do it for pure enjoyment. I make a hand-bound, hardback book so my couples have a beautiful keepsake of their full ceremony script. I also design and print vow books and gorgeous wedding certificates to frame. All included in my fee; all unique; all printed on gorgeous, textured, unbleached paper or cardstock.

Research: a wild estimate of 4 hours

(it could easily be twice this)

For some weddings the research is as simple as getting to know the couple and their needs; hanging out together, getting some stories and me conducting a few chilled out interviews. But other weddings take lots of research - if you want a wedding themed on a particular book, film, historical period - anything at all - I’ll research it and research it until I’m a (temporary) expert!

Planning: 3 hours

This is basically calls and emails, double checking timings, special needs of guests/participants and liaising with other suppliers, the venue, members of the wedding party etc. It could also include shopping for supplies, if you’ve gone for the kind of ceremony that requires props, or even planning my own outfit if it’s important to you that everyone goes with a strong theme or dress code.

Venue visits and set-up: 3 hours

I’ll normally go to the venue at least once before the big day - either meeting the two of you there or just going for a look around and to meet the staff. On the day of your wedding I’ll be there at least an hour early - or much earlier if there’s a lot to set up or if I need to set up my PA system.

Travel: 6 hours

Again this is just an average figure. This estimate equates to an hour each way for a face-to-face couple’s meeting; an hour each way for a venue recce and a third two-hour round trip to travel to and from your venue on the big day. Some venues are way further away than an hour’s drive - but then if you and your partner live hundreds of miles away from me we might just meet by Skype rather than face-to-face. It all kind of evens out. The point is: I get to listen to a lot of great radio!

The proverbial tip of the iceberg...

So, all in all, that half hour ceremony works out as 2 or 3% of the total time I’ll put into making your wedding ceremony unforgettable.

And of course almost all celebrants are self-employed, so our fees have to cover all our business running costs, our considerable marketing expenses and all the hours and hours of work we do each week that no-one pays us for (from blogging and networking to accounting and ongoing training and development - all essential if you want to work as a celebrant but no-one’s going to directly pay us to do it).

I guess my point is that celebrants are no more expensive than buying any artisan product that’s been ethically made in the UK. And if anyone - a celebrant, an artist or any kind of maker - offers you a disconcertingly low price, you might want to ask yourself why.

The question shouldn’t be: ‘Why are your prices so high?’ It should be: ‘Why are her prices so low?’ There are a few people out there who treat their business as a hobby. That’s no value judgment - it’s just a reality. And if you don’t need the money, then why shouldn’t you do something you love and not bother yourself with the economics too much? Just understand what you’re paying for. And then decide if you want to buy from an amateur or a professional.

So my point is… What is my point? My point is I absolutely adore my job. I have never before felt anywhere near as fulfilled as I do since I became a celebrant. I genuinely would do it for free. If I didn’t have a family to support… But, you know, my kids think I work a few too many hours and they’re patiently waiting for me to take them on holiday with my earnings! Thankfully there are some amazing couples and families out there who love working with small businesses and believe professional training and consistently high standards are worth paying for.

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