Coalition of Celebrant Associations

Australia’s Peak Celebrant Body

Civil Celebrancy – A changing profession

Civil Celebrancy – A changing profession

  • Civil Celebrancy continues to outgrow religious Celebrancy in weddings and is increasing in popularity for funerals

  • The ‘Baby Boomers’ generation turning 60 until mid 2020s and 70 until mid 2030s

  • Australia has an aging population making the funeral industry a growth industry

  • Only  Commonwealth celebrants are required to pay the mandatory annual cost recovery registration fees introduced by Attorney-General’s Department in 2014

  • There are concerns that state-based BDM departments will compete for civil celebrancy work outside their registry offices. This has happened in NSW, with the BDM staff now conducting weddings in non-government buildings, such as hotels e.g. Wollongong Novotel and Chiffley

  • The same-sex marriage debate continues to run in media and political circles in Australia with more countries introducing same-sex marriage laws.


Latest marriage statistics:

  • In 2013, there were 118,962 marriages registered in Australia, a decrease of 4,282 (3.5%) from the 123,244 marriages registered in 2012.

  • The proportion of marriage ceremonies performed by civil Celebrants has continued to increase in 2013, with civil Celebrants performing 72.5% of all registered marriage ceremonies, an increase from 71.9% in 2012.
    (ie almost three out of every 4 weddings (72.5%) were performed by civil Celebrants in 2013 of all weddings in Australia for that year)
  • There are currently 8,190 independent civil marriage Celebrants and 642 independent religious celebrants i.e. there are just under 9000 Commonwealth authorised marriage celebrants (8828 as at 11 January 2015).

  • There are currently 620 state and territory civil marriage officers and 22,601 state and territory celebrants from Recognised religions. (At 11 January 2015).   
  • 10 weddings per year.  The average number of weddings per civil celebrant per year is estimated at 9.7 using January 2015 celebrant numbers and ABS figures in regards to the number of weddings and percentage by civil celebrants. In comparison, in 1999, the average number of ceremonies per Commonwealth celebrant was 35.
  • $500 wedding celebrant fee.  $500 is the conservative estimate of the national average Celebrant fee per wedding.  This delivers a gross wedding celebrancy income of only $5,000 pa.

    Note: Even if one could doublecthe average fee for a civil wedding to $1,000, then the average gross income of a marriage celebrant at $10,000 is far below the $ 20,000 pa required for an ABN.

Factors affecting the wedding celebrant’s earning capacity

Wedding celebrant earning potential is impacted by many factors including:

  • Geographic location
  • Client preference for a male or female celebrant
  • The ratio of male/female celebrants
  • Age, personality and personal appearance
  • Date and time preference of couples (a celebrant can only do one wedding in a given timeslot; with spring and autumn being the peak wedding seasons)

Marriage celebrant earning capacity

  • Hourly Rate for 50 weddings pa:

    Net Income ($25,000 - $8,000) equals $ 17,000 now divided by the (total 750 hours or 21.5 weeks of yours and your family's life)  = $22.66 per hour

  • Net Income ($5,000 - $4,500) equals $ 500 now divided by the (total 350 hours) = $ 1.42 per hour

Wedding work

  • The net hourly rate for celebrants exclusively providing weddings was
    • $22.66 per hour for 50 weddings pa
    • $1.42 per hour for 10 weddings pa

  • A celebrant exclusively providing weddings would need to do 100 weddings or more to earn a sustainable full-time weekly wage (using conservative estimate of national average of $500 per wedding)

  • The average number of weddings per Celebrant per annum is 9.7 weddings per celebrant pa (up from 7 from 2012)

  • The distribution of wedding work shows only 2% can earn a sustainable full-time weekly wage (down 50% from 1999) and half of all marriage celebrants are earning $1.42 per hour or less from their work

  • For all Commonwealth marriage celebrants to make a sustainable full-time weekly wage from wedding work, over 85% would need to be de-registered even if these celebrants conducted all of the available weddings in Australia - at the current marriage number of weddings pa (118,962) ie then the current number of 8832 celebrants would need to be cut by 7643 to 1189

  • Same sex marriages are estimated to increase the marriages pa by an average of 10%, after an initial growth spurt

  • Efforts to double or triple the number of marriages is an unrealistic goal

  • There are opportunities for wedding anniversary (not renewals) and birthday work as yet untapped.

Conclusion: To earn a reasonable hourly rate from celebrant work, celebrants would need to be celebrants for all occasions to increase work opportunities and expertise.

Distribution of wedding work

  • shows only 2% can earn a sustainable full-time weekly wage from wedding work alone (down 50% from 1999)

  • the distribution of wedding work pre- and post- the 2003 changes shows that the opportunity to do wedding work has halved or more than halved for each of the following groups:

    • 100 or more weddings per celebrant pa - down from 4 % in 1999 to 2% in 2012
    • between 25 and 100 weddings - down from 34% in 1999 to 16.4 % in 2012

  • and a substantial increase in doing fewer weddings pa. for this group:
    • between 1 and 10 weddings -   from 30 % in 1999 to 52 % in 2012
Reference: Celebrante – AFCC Survey 2012


Comparison with pre-2003 changes:


What would be the most common size at your weddings?



  • In 2013, there were 47,638 divorces granted in Australia, a decrease of 2,279 (4.6%) from the 49,917 divorces granted in 2012.
  • The crude divorce rate for the number of divorces per 1,000 estimated resident population was 2.1 in 2013, a decrease from 2.2 divorces per 1,000 estimated resident population reported for 2011 and 2012.

  • Over the last 20 years, the proportion of divorces granted as a result of joint applications for divorce has increased. This has continued in 2013 to the point where joint applicants are the highest applicant type for the fourth year in a row, with 19,625 divorces granted from joint applications, compared with 15,684 from female applicants and 12,329 from male applicants.


  • There were 147,678 deaths registered in Australia in 2013, 580 more than the number registered in 2012 (147,098). Since 2003, the number of deaths registered has increased by around 1.0% per year on average for males and 1.2% per year for females, with year-to-year fluctuations (see graph 1.1).
  • Table 1: Deaths, Summary, States and Territories - 2003 to 2013.
  • In 2013, the median age at death was 78.4 years for males and 84.6 years for females. This was a decrease of 0.2 years for males and no change for females since 2012.

  • Over the past 10 years, the median age at death has increased by 2.2 years each for males and females at the national level. In 2013, the highest median age at death for males was in South Australia (79.7 years) and the lowest in the Northern Territory (63.9 years). Similarly, for females the highest median age at death was in South Australia (85.3 years) and lowest in the Northern Territory (64.8 years)



Causes of death
Causes of death data are a significant and important input to health and social policy formulation and planning as well as health related research and analysis.

For example, causes of death data provide insight into the diseases and factors contributing to life expectancy, potentially avoidable deaths, years of life lost and leading causes of death. 
In Australia, causes of death statistics are recorded as both underlying cause and multiple cause. The underlying cause is the disease or injury, which initiated the train of morbid events leading directly to death.

Multiple causes are all causes and conditions reported on the death certificate that contributed to, were associated with or were the underlying cause of the death. Analysis of multiple causes of death data complements analyses of underlying cause and offers greater insight into the morbid processes at the end of life.

Leading causes of death

Ranking causes of death is a useful method of describing patterns of mortality in a population.  In 2012, the causes of death were:

  1.  Ischaemic heart disease, was the leading underlying cause of death in Australia. Ischaemic heart disease includes angina, blocked arteries (heart) and heart attacks.
    Ischaemic heart disease has been the leading cause of death in Australia since 2000, however, the proportion of deaths due to this cause has decreased from 19.2% (25,439) in 2003. Ischaemic heart disease was the underlying cause of 13.6% (20,046) of all registered deaths in Australia, accounting for 14.6% (10,907) of all male deaths, and 12.6% (9,139) of all female deaths registered in 2012.

  2. Cerebrovascular diseases (I60-I69) was the second leading cause of death, accounting for 7.3% (10,779) of deaths

  3. Dementia and Alzheimer's disease (F01, F03, G30) was the third leading cause, accounting for 7.0% (10,369) of deaths.

  4. The fourth leading cause of death was Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34) accounting for 5.5% (8,137) of deaths in 2012, while Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47) was the fifth leading cause accounting for 4.5% (6,649) of deaths.

Gender differences are evident in the order of leading causes of death. For both males and females, Ischaemic heart disease is the leading cause of death. However, for males, Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung is the second leading cause of death, while for females, Dementia and Alzheimer disease is the second leading cause.

Deaths by gender
In 2012, males accounted for 50.8% (74,794) of registered deaths, a slightly higher proportion than females, who accounted for 49.2% of registered deaths (72,304).

The number of deaths for both males and females has increased compared with 2003 (68,330 and 63,962 respectively), but the increase has been larger for females. In 2003 there were 107 male deaths per 100 females. In 2012 this sex ratio dropped to 103 male deaths per 100 females.

The graph below shows the top 5 leading causes of death for males, females and persons from 2003 to 2012. 



There were 2,535 deaths from Intentional self-harm in 2012, resulting in a ranking as the 14th leading cause of all deaths.

Three-quarters (75.0%) of people who died by suicide were male, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for males. Deaths due to suicide occurred at a rate of 11.0 per 100,000 population in 2012.

Suicide as proportion of total deaths

While suicide accounts for a relatively small proportion (1.7%) of all deaths in Australia, it accounts for a greater proportion of deaths from all causes within specific age groups (see graph below).  For example, in 2012,

  • over a quarter of deaths of males in the 20-24, 25-29 and 30-34 year age groups were due to suicide (28.7%, 26.5% and 27.5%, respectively).

  • for females, suicide deaths comprise a higher proportion of total deaths in younger age groups compared with older age groups (32.6% of deaths of 15-19 year olds and 25.2% of deaths of 20-24 year olds).

Median age

The median age at death for suicide in 2012 was 44.6 years for males, 42.8 years for females and 44.1 overall. In comparison, the median age for deaths from all causes in 2012 was 78.6 years for males, 84.6 years for females and 81.7 years overall.

Age-specific rates

Age-specific death rates are the number of deaths during the reference year for specific age groups per 100,000 of the estimated resident population of the same age group .The pattern of age-specific rates in 2012 for suicide in males and females is shown in the graph below.

VET app-4-018

Suicide by year of occurrence

The number of deaths that are registered in any year will be different to the number of deaths that actually occurred in that year. Counts of specific causes of death (including suicide) based on year of occurrence are available for 2002-2011 in the Year of Occurrence datacube.

VET app-4-020

Suicide deaths of children and young people under the age of 15

The number of suicide deaths of children and young people under the age of 15 is small, but is significant in terms of the proportion of all deaths within this age group.

Deaths of children by suicide is an extremely sensitive issue. The number of deaths of children attributed to suicide can be influenced by coronial reporting practices. 

It is recognised that the death rate from suicide differs between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians. It should be noted that of the 57 deaths by suicide of children and young people under the age of 15, 15 deaths (26.3%) were of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The remaining deaths were of non-Indigenous persons or persons for whom Indigenous status was not stated.

Method of suicide

In 2012, the most frequent method of suicide was hanging, strangulation and suffocation, a method used in more than half (54.4%) of all suicide deaths.

Poisoning by drugs was used in 14.5% of suicide deaths, followed by poisoning by other methods including by alcohol and motor vehicle exhaust (8.5%).

Methods using firearms accounted for 6.8% of suicide deaths.

The remaining suicide deaths included deaths from drowning, jumping from a high place, and other methods.

Mechanism by intent - selected causes

Coronial processes to determine the intent of a death (whether intentional self-harm, accidental, homicide, undetermined intent) are especially important for statistics on suicide deaths because information on intent is necessary to complete the coding under ICD-10 coding rules. Coroners' practices to determine the intent of a death may vary across the states and territories.

In general, coroners may be reluctant to determine suicidal intent (particularly in children and young people). In some cases, no statement of intent will be made by a coroner.

The reasons may include legislative or regulatory barriers, sympathy with the feelings of the family, or sensitivity to the cultural practices and religious beliefs of the family. For some mechanisms of death where it may be very difficult to determine suicidal intent (e.g. single vehicle accidents, drownings), the burden of proof required for the coroner to establish that the death was suicide may make a finding of suicide less likely


VET app-4-022






2006 (d)

2007 (d)

2008 (d)

2009 (d)

2010 (d)

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  1. Deaths due to suicide are defined as ICD-10 codes X60-X84, Y87.0.

  2. Age standardised death rates enable the comparison of death rates between populations with different age structures by relating them to a standard population. The current ABS standard population is all persons in the Australian population at 30 June 2001. Standardised death rates (SDRs) are expressed per 100,000 persons.

  3. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to suicide. For more information see Explanatory Notes 98-101 in ABS Causes of Death, Australia, 2010 (cat. no. 3303.0).

  4. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revision process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2006 (final) 2007 (final), 2008 (final), 2009 (revised), 2010 (preliminary). See Explanatory Notes 35-39 and Technical Notes in ABS Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0)

    Source: ABS Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0)

Need for training in funerals and other ceremony work
SOURCE: Celebrante Survey 2012 - Download Celebrante Survey 2012.pdf

Celebrante had over 1,500 responses to a range of celebrancy-related issues from the changes proposed by the Attorney-General’s Department through to ceremony rates, locations and styles etc. 

This is the most recent independent  survey of celebrants:

  • Over 90% were celebrants appointed post 2003 
  • This survey shows the need for higher- more training
  • Up to 13 % could have been Cert IV trained 






Other relevant Celebrant information:










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