Confessions of a Celebrant
Establishing an interpersonal relationship with your celebrant is vital to ensuring your wedding day goes off without a hitch. In a frank and explorative interview with Cloé Timperley, Helen Williamson from Marry Me Helley discusses everything from dogs to donations, and explains how she delivers the perfect ceremony.
In many ways, your celebrant plays one of the most instrumental roles in your love story, so it’s important that you really get to know them in the lead up to your wedding day. In addition to being a cancer survivor, dog owner and lover of all things purple, Helen Williamson is a renowned celebrant who has built a reputation throughout Victoria for marrying couples in a distinct and personable way.
Here, Williamson chats to Melbourne Wedding & Bride about her beginnings in the industry, the joys of being a wedding celebrant and her top tips for nervous grooms.
What led you to a career as a marriage celebrant?
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved weddings. If I saw a wedding car when I was little, I used to make my dad pull over so I could see the bride and admire her dress. Later on down the track, I started making a career for myself as an executive administrator in the health industry, before I was suddenly diagnosed with a very rare and highly aggressive form of cancer.
“It was a very hard fight but with the love and support of my husband, family and friends, I was able to beat it. During this period I had a lot of time to reassess where I was career-wise and consider what I was going to do moving forward. I felt that something was lacking in my life, like I hadn’t found my purpose yet.
“Changing career paths and becoming a celebrant didn’t occur to me until a close friend of mine – who is also a celebrant – suggested it to me. My friend pointed out that I was passionate about weddings, so we looked into it and I decided to do it.”
Talk us through a typical day in the life of a marriage celebrant.
“I don’t think I have a typical day! In this business anything can happen, and that’s what I love about it. That said, I begin every morning with a large black coffee, followed by cuddles with my three dogs. Then I grab my phone and check my website and Facebook pages for any enquiries. If I’m not conducting a wedding that day, I devote most of my morning to working on the computer before heading out to appointments in the afternoon.
“In this job, I meet new people almost every day. The best part is that it’s ultimately leading to marrying two people and making their dreams come true.”
How important is a celebrant’s personality, and do you try to incorporate a little bit of yours into the ceremony?
“When couples decide it’s time to look for a celebrant, personality is vital. The celebrant you choose should be friendly, genuine and informative. [They should also] understand your sense of humour and how you want your ceremony to unfold. Integrity is also extremely important, so make sure you check their website or Facebook pages for good reviews.
“I spend a lot of time really getting to know the bride and groom, and by the time we get to the ceremony, we’re all close friends. I also love to inject some humour into my ceremonies, and I always look forward to working with couples who are into cosplay or themes as I just love to dress in costume!”
Speaking of costumes, what’s your outfit of choice to a wedding ceremony?
“I have a range of outfits that I wear to weddings, but my favourite is all purple so I usually wear that. However, I always ask the couple what they’d like me to wear first, and if they’d like me to coordinate with the bridal party. Ultimately, the decision is up to them.”
What are some unique and personalised touches that you have integrated into weddings?
“No two weddings are ever the same with Marry Me Helley! I have a huge resource folder that offers many different readings, poems and vows, as well as a range of rituals that I can include in the ceremony.
“I absolutely adore animals, so I also offer couples the opportunity to include their pets in their wedding. In addition to providing your pet with its own silk flower crown, we can even take your pet home after the wedding, feed them and settle them down. I’ve recently had three weddings where dogs were a huge part of the ceremony and the couple was thrilled, as were the guests! Marry Me Helley isn’t just limited to dogs, either – we can include all sorts of animals!
“I also donate ten per cent of my fee to the Cancer Council Victoria for cancer research. In return, couples receive an official Certificate of Appreciation and a letter of thanks.”
What’s the most memorable ceremony you’ve ever conducted?
“That’s a hard question, but if I had to pick one, it would be a lovely wedding I recently officiated for a young couple. They moved their wedding forward by more than a year to ensure the bride’s elderly grandmother could see her granddaughter get married.
“This couple gave up their dream wedding and reception in order to have a simple outdoor ceremony and a quiet celebration, which I felt was a very beautiful sacrifice. As they were fellow dog lovers, we even included their smartly dressed French bulldogs in the ceremony.”
Finally, do you have any tried-and-true tips for calming a nervous groom (or bride)?
“Prior to the ceremony, find five minutes of peace and quiet and do some deep breathing. Even if you have to escape to the bathroom, get away from it all for just a moment. Try not to stress over the little things; if it doesn’t go perfectly, so what? After all, you’re marrying your best friend, which is the most important thing on the day.
“As you’re walking down the aisle, just focus on your partner-to-be. When you’re standing next to them, about to say your vows, simply stare into their eyes and your nerves will melt away. Finally, remember that there is no right or wrong way – it’s your wedding, after all!”