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Hunter celebrants set to welcome an increase in ‘I-dos’

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When Monty King welcomes guests at this weekend’s wedding, he’ll be happy to see a few more faces in the crowd.

It’s not that he needs an audience to make the occasion memorable, but he’s hoping fewer COVID-19 restrictions will mean more couples will be saying ‘I do’ in 2020.

Mr King, a popular Newcastle celebrant, says while ceremonies during the compulsory lockdown were permitted, the numbers have varied.

“The rules have definitely been bizarre,” he said.

“Previously the number was five which included the couple, the celebrant and two witnesses.”

A celebrant for more than five years Mr King said an April wedding he officiated was very ‘intimate’.

“The couple had been together for some time,” he said.

“Their ceremony was originally booked at the registry office in Parramatta but with travel out and the office closed, plans had to change.

“The couple were keen to keep the date 4 April 2020 so we did what needed to be done. They were married on their land with their kids, a photographer, who was also a witness, me and the bride’s mum.”

From May 15 the NSW Government is once again easing restrictions, allowing ten guests to attend a wedding.

“Now we’re at ten and, let’s call them the production team; the celebrant, photographer, and videographer, are no longer included in the count of ten guests. They are all in addition to the couple.

“It’s almost going to feel crowded,” Mr King joked.

While thoughts have been with couples and families having to miss a momentous occasion, for celebrants, like many other occupations, it has meant little or no income.

“I’m lucky,” Mr King said.

“My wife has been able to work throughout this pandemic.

“But I feel for those celebrants who are sole-income earners and faced all those cancellations.

“I’m sure some would be thousands of dollars out of pocket.”

May was to be Mr King’s busiest month. He had 13 weddings booked.

“A couple of these I’ll still do,” he said.

“We’ll do what we call ‘the legals’ and then they’ll follow with the big show later.”

The return of larger celebrations remains to be seen.

“No one really knew how long it would go on for,” Mr King said.

“So some couples postponed for three months, some for a year.”

By way of compensation the Federal Government announced on May 15 that it would waive its annual registration fee for civil celebrants.

Mr King said the announcement meant a saving of $240.

“It’ll be great not to have to put a hand in the pocket,” Mr King said.

“And for some celebrants this will probably really help out.”

This weekend Mr King will continue his trade at an outdoor wedding on the Central Coast.

“The only stipulation is that I have to keep the names and contacts of all those attending to make it easy to track them down if needed,” he said.

“All ten of them. Let’s just hope by September we’ll be back up to 100.”

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