I’m an individual.

Decades later I can still envisage Mark ‘Jacko’ Jackson screaming those words as he walks down a beach in the music video. I’m sure you are already aware that Josh Withers is not a mass-produced drone (as cool as the Josh1000 could be), but it’s worth stating the obvious sometimes: I am an individual, I am not the same as everyone else.

So let’s put this very unoriginal statement into context: I am a unique marriage celebrant. In Australia there are about 9000-10000 celebrants. I am not the same as every other celebrant. In fact, I am completely unique to every other celebrant on the planet. This could simply be down to the maths, Australia and New Zealand are the only countries to call a celebrant a celebrant: in other countries they use other names.

But forgetting the mathematics of it all, I am an individual, and I’m not writing this to show off or to boast. I’m actually writing it as a warning. A warning to all who may want to book me, read this blog post and consider yourself warned. You now know what you’re getting yourself into. You booked an individual to be the celebrant at your wedding, and this is what that means.

I don’t read word for word from my notes, unless the situation calls for it, like your vows, or a poem or a reading. Everything else is adlib from notes and dot points and from my brain. This is just how I speak in public.

I have a personality, I was born with it, my friends encourage it, my wife rolls her eyes at it. I cannot apologise for it, I is who I is. It’s a jovial personality. Likes to smile and hang out with people.

I lose things sometimes, or just leave them in places, like my sunglasses that were in my pocket that I couldn’t find for ten minutes yesterday. What I mean to say is that I’m human, I make mistakes, sometimes.

I think that when two people ask me to marry them, they’ve already made the commitment to each other before they ever met me. So my job isn’t to magically glue them together in some kind of ancient weird ceremony where we sacrifice goats and virgins. My job is to pull their people together for a rare 15 minutes of real-life-special-stuff where we stop and celebrate a marriage beginning. Who knows exactly when it began. More than likely it secretly started happening when someone left a toothbrush at someone else’s house. And then it kind of happened when someone asked someone to marry them. And then it really totally happens when we sign some papers on a wedding day. But I don’t possess a magic wand. Just an authority from the federal government to turn a boyfriend and a girlfriend into a husband and wife.

I think that the phrase “traditional vows” doesn’t mean anything.

I believe the best wedding vows on the planet are real, true, honest words that you thought of yourself. They’re not a show, they’re a confession, a wailing from your heart, the words that remain when you throw all of your other shit aside. That’s a vow. Not I do.

I don’t really do the “I do” thing at my ceremonies. Unless the bride and groom want them. It just has no legal binding in Australia and is generally a church thing. But if we can come up with something cool for you to “I do” to then let’s do it.

I’m actively thinking of new ways to celebrate marriages. This is annoying when you’re on holidays trying not to work like I am right now as I write this blog post at 11:46pm at night from our Washington DC hotel room. This is where pop-up weddings came from. As for the next idea … I’m still waiting.

I don’t really love wedding traditions. They all feel like I’m wearing someone elses underpants. I remember going over friends houses when I was a kid and parents would suggest that after swimming in a pool that it would be ok for me to wear my friend’s underpants. I was never ok with this. Their underpants are fine, but they just aren’t mine. I’d like to wear mine please. I feel the same way about wedding traditions. They’re fine and dandy and lovely and awesome. But you are not required by law to follow them … and frankly … they’re someone else’s traditions.

There’s an exception to this though: if you find meaning, and purpose and can take ownership of a wedding tradition, then own that baby. She’s all yours. Throw that bouquet with passion. Otherwise – throw them all to the wayside.

I make typos in blog psots.

I’m almost never available at 3pm Saturday. For weddings or even social events, sorry Ash. Even though I get the coolest, hippest, most-unique wedding couples, 3pm Saturday is just a popular time to hold a soiree. So if you’d love me to be at your wedding, consider a different day or time, even an evening, how cool would that be!

I don’t think there should be sides to a wedding. Just pick a seat and stop being awkward.

I love it when a crowd of wedding guests cheer the bride and groom on. It just feels right.

I might laugh at your wedding. Sorry not sorry.

I like to take a selfie with couples after weddings. It’s so awesome capturing that real life raw #justmarried moment #sorrynotsorry.

I think the most important thing at a wedding is the marriage. Everything else is just fluff. It’s lovely that blah blah blah blah but the only thing that matters is that marriage thing, that real life thing.

I also think that a marriage, regardless of whatever other beleifs exist, is a union between two people, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. If you have any other meaning, understanding, or belief about marriage, it sits on top of that foundation. In Australia these two people have to be a man and a woman … that’s the law, folks. It’d be cool if anyone could enjoy that union though.

I won’t tell you how to live your life, or your marriage. I’ll let your parents bring you up.

I like music loud. Especially at wedding ceremonies.

I think a wedding ceremony is the most real life, real thing, that can happen in life. Everything else is a lead up to, or a result of, that real life thing.

I like to wear clothes that match my personality. Even if that means you never see my sexy socks.

I’m at my best when someone lets me be me. Not someone else. You see, I’m an individual. I am me.

I think that some of the best weddings have happened on a weekday or at night. And they’ve also had no bridal party. The best one was where everyone there was the bridal party. In short, the best weddings are personal.

I’m a full time celebrant, this is my family’s sole income. Although this is my greatest passion in life, and something I’ve dreamed about doing, now I do it also as a living and my wife supports my business as well.

I’ve got feelings. I read every single email and Facebook post and Tweet and Instagram comment. I Google my name and I read things and I take them to heart, because I’m human. Doesn’t everyone do that?

I’m insanely passionate about doing a really amazing job at weddings. When I don’t, I know it, and if you think I didn’t, then I’m sad. It’s more of an art than a service and it’s awesome when people like your art and it sucks when they don’t.

I like coffee, and Nintendo 64, and gadgets and playing with photography. Time with my wife should have been at the start of that list, but it’s not in any order right?

Also, when we meet, and we will meet at least once if not a thousand times before the wedding day, we’ll talk about your ceremony, about how it can be unique, personal, special and memorable. We’ll discuss what’s going to happen in the ceremony, and you’ve got control over that. But in the end you’ve got to trust that I’ll do a great job. So you don’t get a draft of the ceremony or a word for word copy of the ceremony. Only because I don’t have a word for word version of your ceremony. Lots of notes, dot points, more notes and scribbles. Then in the ceremony  I can literally be an MC (master of ceremonies), not a script reader.

So consider yourself warned. If you’re not cool with this list (that is probably missing a few things) then you’re totally welcome to book someone else to be your celebrant. But if you like me, then let’s get together and create something amazeballs.

And if I’ve missed something in this list, please add it in the comments.

P.S. The photo is by Anthea Auld, our pop-up wedding photog in Perth!