LOVE STORIES AND PERSONAL VOWS WITH CELEBRANT LEANNE BOOKER
Ever been to a wedding where the celebrant keeps throwing down cliché lines, or tries way too hard to get a laugh? It’s cringe-worthy, right?! Choosing your wedding celebrant is an important part of the wedding planning process. Thankfully, there are some absolute gems out there, like our friend Leanne Booker. As an avid rower and ballroom dancer, Leanne has 32 years’ marriage under her belt and is a regular face around Factory51. We thought we’d grab a coffee with Leanne and talk all things celebrants, ceremonies, and how exactly to personalise those vows.
Leanne, you’ve gone from lawyer to marriage celebrant! What made you leave your career in law to pursue this path?
I have always believed you must love what you do and for many years I did love being a lawyer (surprise, I really did!). But the time came to move on and being a celebrant was something I had always dreamt about. I have four children and since I wanted to be around for their weekend activities then I waited until they were a bit older when my weekends were freed up! It was a huge financial decision to leave my legal career, however I believe in “passion over pay check” – you must love what you do in life!
We couldn’t agree more! We all love a good story… do you have a favourite ceremony memory to share (whether heartfelt, funny, or unexpected)?
Each of my couples has given me a beautiful story to keep in my memories but if I had to pick one it would be my very first wedding. It was a couple of months after the Yes Vote came in and I was asked to marry two wonderful women who had been together for over 40 years but had to keep their relationship a secret.
To stand there and watch my Brides walk in together, hand in hand, a simple gesture that for many years they were denied in public, was one of the most memorable experiences in my life. I was a stranger when I first met these two extraordinary people but now we are the best of friends and catch up every few weeks for a coffee and chat.
That’s so great that you can develop a special bond like that. We know many couples want to personalise their ceremony and vows, but that can feel daunting. Do you have any advice for them making the day or vows their own?
No two ceremonies of mine are the same and I pride myself on ensuring each wedding is unique and memorable, reflecting my couple’s personalities and story. I achieve this by sending each couple a Questionnaire for them to complete in their own time. We then meet and chat through their answers and story.
I’ll draft a ceremony with lots of samples and options for them to choose from including poems, readings, and vows to make their own (I can also write a couples’ personal vows if they prefer). Once they have chosen from the options provided, I pen the introduction and couple story from scratch. They’ll then approve this or give direction for any changes they’d like (except to the Monitum and Legal Vows which cannot be changed).
And here we were thinking that a lawyer and celebrant had nothing in common! So, what exactly should couples look for in a potential wedding celebrant, and are there any helpful questions they should ask?
The most important thing to look for in a potential wedding celebrant is RAPPORT. After all, this is the most special day in your life and you want to ‘like’ your celebrant and feel comfortable and relaxed with them. I suggest we meet for a coffee and chat (or wine and chat depending on the time of day) so the couple can check me out and see if we connect. You can usually tell if rapport is present from a 20-30 minute get together. Meetings of course are not always possible and so Zoom is an option too.
There are lot of questions to ask but my top five are outlined in this blog I wrote, covering topics such as experience, fees, cancellation policy, and the number of weddings officiated in one day.
Rapport is essential! You can see that impact the overall feel of a ceremony. In what other ways do you think a celebrant contributes to the smooth running of a wedding?
If possible, I try to drop in and see my Bride and her party before the wedding. Usually, they’re in their pretty dressing gowns getting their hair and make-up done and the excitement is so wonderful, it is intoxicating. I like to reassure my Bride of my presence and answer any last-minute questions. I always meet up with my Groom and his party at the wedding location, and if he needs me then I am there to help settle his nerves. Sometimes the Groom is busy getting photos taken or mingling with guests, so I’ll check my sound system and documents, and have friendly interactions with guests whilst they wait.
You really do play such a key role supporting your couple both practically and emotionally. How do you work alongside the ceremony venue?
In my Questionnaire, I always ask for the contact details of the co-ordinator at the wedding venue. I make contact usually by email in the week or two leading up to the wedding confirming sound systems, the rules for exit toss, parking, housekeeping, etc. Once I arrive at the wedding, I introduce myself to the person in charge that day and run through their requirements for the ceremony, in particular anything that needs to be mentioned before the ceremony starts.
With ceremony rehearsals, my couples usually arrange this directly with their venue co-ordinator and provide me with the date and time. It is a great opportunity to meet the team and get a feel for the venue, especially if I haven’t been there before. Factory51 is a particular favourite of mine – they have stunning surrounds, and as a bonus, I live a hop, skip and jump away so have been dining there for years. They do make the best pizzas on the southside! I have also discovered their great coffee as recently offered by the co-ordinator at a rehearsal.
Ok, time for a fun question – feel free to dream big! If you could marry any couple (whether already married or not), who would it be, and why?
That’s an easy one! Any one or more of my four children – what an amazing experience to be your child’s celebrant and marry them to the love of their life. Not to mention it saves on costs!
Aww… that would be a beautiful day! Final question for you, what’s the one piece of wedding advice you’d give to your couples? It can be about anything!
Your wedding is not just about the dream day itself, but the lead up too. I always tell my couples to enjoy the journey to getting married and have fun tasting wedding cakes, trying on attire, even listening to wedding playlists in the car (singing along of course!). It breaks my heart when I read on various wedding chat lines how brides are so stressed and overwhelmed, saying they “just want the day to be over”. I will do everything in my power to make my couple’s wedding stress-free and that includes always being available for advice, regular emails to check in, and sending links to a fantastic Wedding App, podcasts, and eBook to help organise themselves.
If you’d like to catch up with Leanne for coffee (or wine) and a chat, feel free to contact her. We’d love to host your ceremony at Factory51, so invite you to come in for a tour of our industrial glam space.