The Real Estate
Anyone who has
ever sold a house, browsed real estate listings, or
paused to read a for sale billboard outside a
property, cannot miss the large photo of the agent.
But who is the agent marketing themselves to?
Potential vendors. It is a tactic to attract more
listings. Buyers really don’t care who the agent is.
They are looking for the house of their dreams, not
the dream agent.
Using the marketing of a property to market the
agent to potential vendors, delivers no benefit to
the vendor who funds that marketing. Indeed, quite
the opposite. It is scarcity that drives prices up
and results in quick sales while more properties for
sale tend to depress prices and blow out time on the
The Real Estate Factor is alive and well in
celebrancy with one notable exception. Unlike the
property market, which cycles between a sellers
market, where demand outstrips supply, and a buyers
market, where there is an oversupply, for couples
wishing to marry it is always a buyers market. There
is no scarcity of celebrants. Indeed, the supply of
celebrants increases day by day.
Regardless of how much we feel the need to put
ourselves out there, we should never lose sight of
the fact that our couples hire and pay us to be
their celebrant, not a walking billboard promoting
our celebrant business to guests at the ceremony,
and to those who see the photographs they have hired
and paid a photographer to take.
or not we provide a legal service, consumer law
applies. Celebrants have a commercial relationship
with our clients. At its simplest, consumer law
protects the rights of both parties in a two-way
transfer of value. One party pays the other and
receives something of similar perceived and agreed
value in exchange. Where one party receives
something of value but delivers nothing in return,
what you have is a one-way transfer of value
One party gives. The other takes.
When the something of value is a physical good, such
as a pen or a packet of crisps, that good needs to
be accurately described, and fit for purpose. The
contract between seller and purchaser can, however,
be implicit. And when demand increases,
manufacturing can be stepped up without compromising
When the something of value is a service, contracts
need to be explicit because production of the
service happens simultaneously with its consumption.
The client does not have the opportunity to examine
it before signing on the dotted line and paying the
fee. It is, therefore, good business practice to
manage purchaser expectations and avoid the disputes
that can arise when assumptions are inaccurate; to
spell out what the service comprises in a way that
requires the client to actively consent and opt-in
to the components of the service to be provided.
That means no deficits and no unwelcome surprises.
It also means being aware that we sell ourselves.
Me. As an individual. And there will come a point
where demand compromises the quality of what we can
In some countries, it is illegal to frame consumer
contracts in terms of opt-out consent. Something we
are all familiar with in terms of email lists and
spam. But whether it is illegal in your jurisdiction
or not, it is poor practice to frame the contract in
a way that requires a client to opt out of giving
permission, for example, rather than opting in to
the celebrant’s use of photos of the couple and
information about the couple in marketing their
brand, services, and business. If the only way a
couple can withhold permission is to not hire you in
the first place, you are using opt-out consent.
Savvy celebrants know that the ceremony is important
as an experience as well as creating a change in
legal status. Savvy celebrants are aware that, on
the day, how the ceremony makes the client feel will
be their primary concern. The legal requirements are
not at the forefront of their minds. Savvy celebrant
contracts spell out what failure to comply with the
relevant Marriage Act would mean.
Everything else involved in or around the ceremony
is subject to opt-in consent. And I do mean
everything. Ceremony content and choreography
included. If you decide to manage demand by
outsourcing the writing of your ceremonies (another
growing practice) that should be made explicit in
your contract and consent obtained along with
consent for any other sharing of private information
by the celebrant both before and after the ceremony.
Which brings me to the elephant in the room. And it
is a big one, growing bigger by the day.
Branding, Marketing, and Consent
and social media posts suggest that the practice of
using the ceremony as a vehicle for explicit
marketing of the celebrant, that is, one-way
transfer of value from the couple to the celebrant,
the Real Estate Factor, is growing.
How one-way transfer of value works is something we
celebrants should have no difficulty in
understanding. We have been there. We ask for
reviews and complain bitterly when the response is
low, or when we are left off a long list of vendors
being thanked in a social media post. Nonetheless,
I’ve yet to see a celebrant acknowledge that
expecting a couple to spend time and effort to write
a review is expecting them (the couple) to give you
something of immense value to your business, for
Promoting the celebrant’s brand in-ceremony blurs
what should be a clear demarcation between the
celebrant’s role in officiating a state-sanctioned
legal ceremony and marketing that celebrant’s
business with the business owner’s hat on.
I am noticing that the Marriage Register, embossed
with the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, which makes
visually clear that the celebrant is performing a
legal service on behalf of the government, is
disappearing off the signing table at Australian
weddings. In its place we are seeing folders in
personal brand colours with personal brand names
embossed. Implying that the authority for the
marriage is the brand rather than the law. Ditto for
the reading folder, and for folders for vows.
it possible to redress the inequality inherent in
one-way transfer of value? Is there a way to turn a
one-way transfer of value into a two-way transfer of
value. Yes there is. At face value, it is as simple
as making sure that there is something in it for
both parties. Appropriate incentives offered and
accepted. Incentives help recruit advocates for a
business. They drive the influencer phenomenon, and,
through product placement agreements, make a large
contribution to film and television program budgets.
In the wider commercial world, it is not uncommon to
see gift card or discount on next purchase offered
in exchange for a share on social media or a review.
In Australia, offering an incentive for a five star
review, whether in cash or in kind, breaches the
Competition and Consumer Act. Such reviews are
classified as fake or misleading and can attract a
hefty fine. Incentives for reviews are only legal
where they are offered solely for the purpose of
encouraging all customers of the business to write
reviews, regardless of whether those customers are
likely to write a positive or negative review. The
business must treat all reviews equally, and must
prominently disclose details of the incentive to
consumers. In the UK the Competition and Markets
Authority (CMA) enforces similar requirements.
But offering an incentive for reviews or shares
differs from offering an incentive to encourage
consent to in-ceremony promotion of the celebrant’s
business. A review is post-experience reflection on
the service received. It in no way changes the
experience itself. In-ceremony promotion happens
during the ceremony and therefore inserts an element
into the experience and potentially into the
photographic record that does nothing to enhance the
experience and may detract from it.
While the law is silent on a celebrant actively
marketing their brand while solemnizing a marriage,
I suspect, for couples, the only incentive they
would consider would be a hefty discount on the
ceremony fee in exchange for their consent to
in-ceremony marketing of the celebrant’s business.
Whether such practice would be acceptable to the
relevant authorities when the service you provide
includes solemnizing a legal marriage is a moot
question. I would be very surprised if it was,
particularly as “personal” brands are often business
names which obscure the relationship between the
celebrant and the legal record. Business or brand
names never appear on the official documentation. It
is the individual who is appointed to solemnize
marriages and whose legal name must therefore be
recorded on the official documentation.
In-ceremony marketing can be seen as an
with the potential to erode the
couple’s rights as consumers. Without the couple’s
full and informed consent, it is shonky legal and
ethical practice, wildly risky in an industry where
reputation and word of mouth counts for a lot. It is
particularly risky in a situation where, should
aunties, grannies, and friends who were guests at
the wedding make negative remarks about the
celebrant promoting themselves during the ceremony,
regardless of whether they consented, the couple may
post negative and critical comments all over social
media and lodge formal complaints with relevant
To paraphrase Gandhi’s advice to parents that your
life is your message to your children
, what a
celebrant says and does sends a powerful message to
their couples, current and potential. Couples want
to feel that they are the most important couple in
the world to their celebrant. Performing their
ceremony with one eye on attracting the next
booking, fails to achieve that.
Thanks for reading!