Q&A with Peter Gourlay Wedding Celebrant

Today on Madeleine Loves we are joined my Peter Gourlay- Wedding Celebrant.


Meet Peter:

Hello. My name is Peter Gourlay.

I am an experienced marriage celebrant and I am passionate about my work. I specialise in weddings, renewal of vows and commitment ceremonies (including same-sex commitment ceremonies).

While I am Melbourne-based, I travel widely and am very happy to do so to meet the needs of couples.

I am a confident public speaker, but more importantly I recognise the need to listen. After all, when planning and delivering a ceremony, the focus should be on the couple not me. It’s their day and their ceremony. My role is to work respectfully with couples to create their dream ceremony that is meaningful and memorable.

My goal is always to reassure, guide and remove any stress for an affordable fee.

I enjoy the connections and friendships I have established through my work, and I am rewarded by the appreciation and joy expressed by others.

If you have any questions, want to check dates or would like to talk more about the way I work, I am always very happy to chat or meet without any obligation.

petergourlaycelebrantbeach-How did you get started in the wedding industry?

I bring years of experience to my work as a celebrant. I have a background in education and training, human rights and social justice, and have worked in the public, private and community sectors. I am comfortable working in small, intimate gatherings or in front of large halls or stadiums.

But I always wanted to be a marriage celebrant! As “a people person” I thought the role would be perfect for me. So four years ago, I enrolled at the The Celebrants Training College. Today I am authorised by the Commonwealth Attorney-General to conduct wedding ceremonies throughout Australia. I am also an active member of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants.

-What do you like the most about your job?

What is there not to love? Being a marriage celebrant is interesting, fun and rewarding. Every day is different, every couple is different, and every venue is different!

Every week I get to meet new couples, and for each I have the privilege of creating their dream ceremony full of special moments.

I believe my enthusiasm for the role is contagious and couples tell me they find my experience and positive approach to be very reassuring. Planning a ceremony should be fun!

-How would you describe your approach to Ceremonies?

Everyone has different expectations, hopes and needs. My aim is to assist couples to ensure their ceremony is just as they want – whether big or small, formal or relaxed, traditional or a bit surprising.

I offer each a couple a unique, tailored ceremony that reflects their lives and the story of their relationship. No two couples are the same, so each ceremony should be fresh and special.

-What is your top tip for brides planning a wedding?

Remember – there are no rules! Of course, there are a few minimum legal requirements, but the rest is up to you. Think about ceremonies you have loved and those that have bored you. Talk to your celebrant about your wishes and expect them to be flexible, creative and accommodating. Celebrants should have lots of great ideas and examples. So long as the ceremony is legal, respectful and safe, almost anything is possible!

-What is the most important thing you have learnt about weddings?

I’ve learnt so much over the years, but perhaps the most important thing is to ensure the couple relax and enjoy the moment. My job as a celebrant is a little like being a stage manager. The couple are paying me to make it look effortless. Understandably, couples can sometimes be a little stressed or nervous and this can detract from the occasion. Many are afraid they will forget something or make a mistake. My role is to reassure and guide the couple confidently through the ceremony. It is amazing what a quiet word and a smile will do. This is the benefit of experience.

-What is the one thing you want to warn couples of before their wedding?

My main warning is a fairly obvious one. If the couple is planning an outdoor wedding, then a backup plan is essential in case of rain, heat or strong winds. Experienced celebrants will always anticipate the couple’s needs and be mindful of guest comfort and safety to ensure a successful ceremony.

-What has been your best experience over the years in the wedding industry?

There have been so many great experiences – memorable couples, wonderful settings, strong emotions and precious moments. It seems unfair to single one memory out.

Perhaps it was the couple legally marrying on their fortieth anniversary together?

Perhaps it was the wedding of one of my dearest friends?

Perhaps it was the wedding when EVERYONE cried as the bride entered?

Perhaps it was the childhood sweethearts who married after thirty years of living on different sides of the world?

Perhaps it was the wedding that beautifully combined western and eastern rituals?

Perhaps it’s tomorrow’s wedding???

-How would you describe what you offer?

What do I offer? Service, an ability to listen and wonderful memories!

I am calm, friendly and relaxed; I am practical and have an eye for detail; and my goal is to reassure, guide and remove the stress. I offer a blend of professional expertise with a relaxed style and big smile.

-What advice would you give to your potential clients looking for a celebrant?

I always encourage couples to talk to a few celebrants. Shop around a little. Know what you want, but be open to their suggestions.

It is amazing how often couples contact celebrants and just ask them one question: how much do you charge? This is a fair question but overlooks so much. Think about asking:

  • How do they work? Will the ceremony be personalised? Do they have examples of their work to look at?
  • Are they happy to meet and respond to emails and calls after the initial meeting?
  • Is travel included? Is a rehearsal included?
  • Will they conduct other ceremonies on the day of your wedding?
  • Do they provide a PA system and play your choice of music?
  • Will they provide a signing table and chairs if needed?
  • Do they have insurance? Are they members of a professional association?
  • Are they available?

When looking for a celebrant, I suggest couples think about celebrants they have seen and liked. What appealed to them? Direct observation and recommendations from friends can be really useful.

petergourlaycelebrantwithcouple-How far in advance do you need to book a celebrant? General timeline within your business.

Most of the better and more experienced celebrants are quite busy so the earlier you book them the better. It’s not a bad idea to book your celebrant early, at the same time you are thinking about a venue.

Before marrying in Australia, couples are required to complete a Notice of Intended Marriage. This form must be completed, signed and witnessed, and then lodged with your celebrant at least one month prior to the ceremony.

Occasionally I have performed weddings with just this one month’s notice, but the more time available the better. This allows me and the couple to get to know each other, and then for me to plan and draft a personalised ceremony that is just what the couple want. I usually like to meet with couples at least three times before their wedding, and always recommend a rehearsal.

-Do you also offer a service to renew vows?

Yes, I receive many requests from couples who want to renew their vows, perhaps as part of an anniversary or other family occasion. These ceremonies can be performed at any time and are often great fun and very moving.

Sometimes couples opt to renew their vows because they were legally married somewhere else (perhaps by elopement or while travelling overseas) and then want a ceremony in order to celebrate more publicly with family and friends.

-And what about Commitment Ceremonies?

Commitment ceremonies are similar to a wedding but are not a legal marriage. They are commonly chosen by couples who are not able or permitted to marry at this time, for example, commitment ceremonies are ideal for same-sex couples for whom marriage is not currently possible under Australian law.

-Dream location to host a ceremony?

Long gone are the days when ceremonies were mainly conducted in churches, halls and reception centres. I love the variety of venues and settings. Everyone has a different definition of their dream location – and this is how it should be.

To me a dream location is always one with a strong and meaningful connection to the couple, whether it be a sandy beach, a palatial home, a mountain top or a community centre. Even the simplest of settings can be beautiful and evoke powerful emotions.

petergourlayweddingcelebrantbw-Four words to describe you as a person?

Creative, fun, reassuring and professional


Where can I find you?

Website: www.petergourlay.com.au

Facebook: www.facebook.com/petergourlaycivilcelebrant

Email: celebrant@petergourlay.com.au

Tel: 0438 220 351