Updated: Feb 3, 2022
✦ When it comes to the day of saying "I do", Jennifer McKenzie is there to hold nerves steady and make sure everything runs smoothly so you can sit back, be fully present and enjoy your wedding.
Jennifer McKenzie is a marriage celebrant.
One would love to sit next to Jennifer on a train ride and start up a conversation about what she does as a marriage celebrant. It's not every day that you meet one, and we were really intrigued by what she does. And from what we see in the movies, it's hardly enough to even remotely piece together what her job involves. It goes way beyond standing in front of a couple and reciting some legal phrases to validate their union.
So what do you really do?
Jennifer is an authorised Australian Marriage Celebrant based in Port Macquarie who helps couples select and plan a ceremony that best reflects what they have always wished and desired for. This is one special day where you'd want everything to be as you dreamed.
Celebrants are authorised to conduct formal ceremonies in the community. They officiate and solemnise weddings. They are also responsible for checking the accuracy of the legal documents required. Celebrants have the added special touch of being able to help couples create their own personalised bespoke ceremony.
It is all about assisting and guiding people who want to design their memories for a lifetime. There are those special days in one's lifetime where we'd really like to have some measure of control and desire over how it is going to be.
Jennifer's work also extends to other important days such as Commitment Ceremonies, Renewing of Vows and Baby Naming.
The work of a marriage celebrant is a curious mix of the practical and the artistic. Listening is the very first step to the entire process, and Jennifer sits down with her clients to understand exactly what they are looking for. It's not just about jotting down notes of what they want to do or say. It's about sifting through all the ideas to get to the essence of what they really want, and to find a way to turn that elusive essence into reality. A marriage celebrant has to be both well-organised to handle the administrative and legal planning, and to also have that special touch to introduce that bit of magic that makes every marriage so unique.
There is no limit to where the marriage ceremony can be conducted, or even the time. This is where the couple can let their imagination fly. Jennifer's job is always kept interesting because she never quite knows where her next couple will take her! Every couple has their own ideal venue they have always dreamed of. It can be in Port Macquarie itself, or the surrounding areas, parklands, beaches, mountains or even in your own home.
Jennifer travels around Australia marrying couples
Each couple's marriage ceremony is as unique as a thumbprint.
They have the total freedom of choice with not just the venue but also the vows, music and readings.
Jennifer's job is to guide the couple so they do not get overwhelmed by choices, and to help them understand the logistics of what they would like to have and how to make it all work. She explores options together with the couple so that they can find the most harmonious fit of all their ideas. It is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It is fun to brainstorm ideas for the ceremony, but it can also make one feel lost when you don't really know where to start. Jennifer is there to keep the couple on track and also enjoy the planning process.
How did you become a Marriage Celebrant?
Jennifer was professionally trained by the Academy of Celebrancy of Australia. When she completed her Celebrant course I, she also did her Certificate IV in Small Business management. She is a registered member of the Australian Marriage Celebrant Inc.
Marriage celebrants are authorised figures so there are training and legal requirements.
Jennifer moved to Australia in 1997 when the family decided they wanted a sea change. Since then, Australia has become their home, and she has spent countless joyful hours witnessing marriage ceremonies.
What special characteristics does it take to be a marriage celebrant?
Throughout her life, Jennifer has always enjoyed helping and working with people. If you get the chance to meet Jennifer, you'll notice her warm nature, her friendliness makes her very approachable. She makes people want to talk to her and feel comfortable doing so. Empathy and understanding come together with a good listening ear, and these are skills necessary to enjoy doing the job of a Marriage Celebrant, and to do it well.
Sharing one's lifelong dreams, desires and wishes can make couples feel shy or vulnerable sometimes. One can always fantasise and daydream about how we want our marriage to be, but we do not always have all the necessary information to know if what we desire is actually possible. You want to share these precious thoughts with someone who is genuinely committed to making your dreams a reality, not someone who is going to make you wish you had not been so much of a dreamer. If what you want is a picnic marriage ceremony near a lake where the guests come in white summer clothes and children get bottles of bubbles to blow while they do a reading from ´Some Things Go Together´ by Charlotte Zolotow, where all pets are welcome and can bring home a goodie bag of pet treats, why not? Jennifer's brain immediately starts whirring and coming up with all the possibilities and alternatives to make your dream as close to reality as possible.
Secret tip: Jennifer plays the bagpipes, and she'd be happy to play a tune or two for you if you asked!
A key part of a marriage celebrant's job is also to ensure the legal aspects of your marriage are done properly and that you have obtained and applied for the documents required. A marriage celebrant needs to know the legal requirements well, and to stay up-to-date with the law.
Why need a Marriage Celebrant?
A marriage ceremony is one out of a dozen other things a couple has to take care of when they make one of the most important decisions in a person's life. Of course, a couple can always plan and organise everything on their own. It means you will need a lot of time, energy, information, resources, networking and excellent skills with Excel and a myriad of organisation apps to help you get everything fitting in perfectly. And at the end of it, to actually still have enough spirit, energy and excitement to attend the marriage ceremony!
A marriage celebrant helps take on all these tasks (with a lot less stress and frenzied nerves) and makes sure all the cogs fit together and work seamlessly, so on the big day itself, the couple can be at their most relaxed to fully enjoy the experience and not have to be in active mode all the time worrying if all the procedures are in place.
Experience. This is another vital part of what a marriage celebrant offers. They have witnessed many marriage ceremonies and know what things to look out for; the pitfalls, potential challenges, what's best to avoid, potential hiccups, better alternatives, being able to offer a variety of possibilities, etc. A marriage celebrant's experience can help you when you are writing your vows, or deciding what readings to do. Writing one's vows is not exactly something we were trained to do in school essays, and it can be quite an intimidating task to put down what feels like an entire lifetime's feelings onto one page and to make sure it adequately expresses to your partner what you feel.
What are the rewards of the job?
Marriages are a momentous event and celebration of the lives of two people who are ready to create a new life together. Basically, it is a celebration of hope. Maybe you're marrying your best friend who doesn't mind your lion's mane in the morning when you wake up, or you're marrying the only person in the world who has managed to move you, or the girl you've always liked sharing a meal with since kindergarten or the man whose hugs are so tight they squeeze all the sadness and fears out of you... whoever it is, the celebration of a marriage is one that Jennifer feels privileged to witness and be a part of.
She loves what she does and she is as committed as the couples are to make this ceremony a memorable and beautiful one. Jennifer does not see herself as an 'external' element brought in to get the wheels running. She is very much a part of each of the marriage ceremonies she has undertaken, and this comes from her sense of pride, respect and responsibility for what she does to be involved in each couple's unique journey.
It is an emotional event to be a part of and to be the one making sure everything runs smoothly. For Jennifer, she sees herself continuing to celebrate the new and wonderful lives of every single couple who comes to her. Making a couple's dreams a reality is what she will be doing for many more years to come.
The next time you pass by what looks like a marriage ceremony, keep a lookout for Jennifer. You can be sure she is the calm, steady and reliable presence there to ensure no one's frazzled or lost. If you get to meet the couple and ask if they enjoy the experience, they'll both be in unison in saying 'I do.'
Contact Jennifer McKenzie Marriage Celebrant
Mobile: 0414 863 706
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