Questions to ask a celebrant

There are two interviews – the initial phone interview and the face-to-face meeting. Never set up a meeting until you’ve first talked with the celebrant on the phone

GOALS OF INTERVIEW

1. Check the Chemistry. Sometimes the best celebrant isn’t the best choice. Not that he or she isn’t a capable professional. Rather, for this particular couple, the chemistry among the three of them isn’t quite right.

The best wedding celebrant for you is one who seems to bring out the best in both of you – and you bring out the best in the celebrant. Discerning that chemistry is the primary goal of the interview.

2. Discern Integrity. Another goal of the interview is to discern how consistent the wedding celebrant’s words, actions, and demeanor are with what’s presented and promoted in the celebrant’s web site. Does she or he come as advertised? Or do these appear to be two different people?

THE FIRST PHONE CALL– What to Say

Here’s a simple way to initiate contact and start the conversation:

Tip: Avoid showing your hand/preferences early in the conversation. It is extremely easy for prospective wedding celebrants to pick up what you’re looking for and “spin” the way they present themselves and their services accordingly. Remember, they have far more experience at this than you. So at this point it is best to remain a bit more reserved and distant.

If (or WHEN, more likely) the wedding celebrant asks you what you’re looking for, it would be better to politely respond, “At this point I’m just trying to get information. Then we can talk about what we’re looking for.” Then move on to the interview.

TOP TEN INTERVIEW QUESTIONS TO ASK

Here are helpful and important questions to ask:

“Tell me about what you do and your ceremonies. How does it work? What do you do? What’s the process?”

This is an open-ended inquiry to let you hear how freely and easily the wedding celebrant speaks. It also puts the onus on the celebrant to speak first, which is to your advantage. It is always better to have the celebrant talk about what he/she offers BEFORE you share what you’re looking for. Otherwise, they will ALWAYS naturally spin their services to what you indicate you want.

“What’s your background? What else do you do for a living?”

One purpose of the phone interview is to learn more about the character of the wedding celebrant. Very few wedding celebrants do this full-time. This question gives you a window to the primary training and experience of the celebrant. The average accountant has different skills (and temperament, usually) than someone who does television commercials.

“How did you get started doing weddings?”

This is one of your probing questions to discover their qualifications and competency. It also gives you an opportunity to hear how well they tell a story.

“How many weddings have you done? How many do you do a year?”

One of the obvious reasons for this question is to determine if their rates are commensurate with their training and experience. Of course, the obvious reason for this question is to access their qualifications and experience. This is likely the only way you’ll find out since they aren’t going to advertise this on their web site.

“Will you be conducting any other weddings on our wedding day?”

I know of wedding celebrants who perform as many as four weddings in a day. Keep in mind that celebrancy is a personal, emotionally draining activity. It’s highly people-intensive. There’s a limited amount of time, energy, and personal attachment a celebrant can invest in a wedding. If you’re going to have to split that with another wedding (or more), you’ll want to know that.

“When were you qualified? What did you have to do to be qualified?”

This is one of the most important probing inquiries for discovering qualifications and competency. Someone recently qualified is clearly less experienced than someonequalified many years ago. The second question is particularly important since this will tell you if they had to meet any performance standards or receive even the slightest amount of training to receive their qualification.

Finally, this again gives you a basis for accessing value to determine if their rates are fair or overpriced.

“Are you married? Tell me about your wife/husband/family.”

This is intended to learn more about the type of person this celebrant is. More than with any other wedding professional you book, the relationship you have with your future wedding celebrant is very personal, one requiring a great deal of personal trust in the handling of feelings in an emotionally highly-charged context. So it is appropriate to inquire (with discretion, of course) in a limited degree about the personal life of your wedding celebrant. Happy, healthy relationships with spouse and/or children is an indicator of someone who knows how to positively handle people and stressful circumstances. Plus, some couples want a wedding celebrant who is married him or herself.

“What would you say are your unique strengths and weaknesses? What do you do best and enjoy the most in your wedding ministry?”

You might notice that many wedding celebrant web sites look and sound pretty much the same. This (and the next question) is intended to help you differentiate between prospective wedding celebrants. EVERY person has strengths and weaknesses. This question can help you discover how honest, open, and self-assured the wedding celebrant is, or it can reveal a lot of self-promotion and spinning, particularly if the wedding celebrant is hesitant to profess any weaknesses.

The very best wedding celebrants know their unique strengths and have built their celebrancy on them. At the same time, they are also self-aware of and open about their weaknesses and have developed tools, mechanisms, and/or practices to compensate (for example, using e-mail or databases to keep a record of things for celebrants who aren’t born organizers).

“Why do couples choose you over other celebrants? What do you think makes you stand out? In other words, what would we get with you that we might not get with others?

This is another key differentiation question that you might find many wedding celebrants unprepared to answer. This question helps you discern value, provides you a basis for comparison (which, after all, is what this whole process is about), and gain insights and perceptions about the prospective wedding celebrant, based on the way he/she answers (or avoids) the question.

Throughout the conversation, listen and interact naturally and comfortably. After you hang up, stop and make notes.

POST-INTERVIEW EVALUATION

Ask yourself these questions:

Did you feel this wedding celebrant was genuinely interested in you?

Did you feel heard and understood? Did he/she listen?

Did the wedding celebrant put you at ease? Did you feel safe?

Did the wedding celebrant sound competent, like they knew what they were talking about, someone you knew you could trust?

Did you have to initiate all the conversation or did the celebrant engage and contribute to building a relationship with you? Did the conversation feel at all forced?

Did the celebrant feel comfortable with you and make you feel comfortable?

Was the wedding celebrant more guarded or open and transparent?