Ron Gallagher is an Australian celebrant (aka officiant) and former magician at Your Celebrant. His tagline: “I do not just talk about Magical Moments – I create them.”
I first met Ron at the Wedding MBA in 2014 where he and his business partner, Geoff, entertained us with their antics. Since then, Ron has proven himself a formidable presence in our Wedding Experts Facebook group, known for his detailed feedback and no BS approach. His tagline could just as easily be, “Don’t ask what I think unless you’re ready to hear it.” 🙂
Ron upholds extremely high standards for himself and the wedding industry, and his generosity makes him a true Superhero. Here are some gems from our provocative interview:
Superpowers: Constructive Criticism & Constant Improvement
Strangely enough, I think I am best at seeing where things can be improved.
I can generally see, and often quickly, how something could be made better, tweaked slightly, or re-thought and improved in many ways.
I have a varied background: printing, graphic design, architecture, photography and videography. I apply it to virtually every other aspect.
The aesthetic is important to me. When I’m setting up a ceremony I look at it as a staging; this should be prominent, that should be hidden. That’s the way I deal with web design, brochures, other aspects.
It’s no good slapping someone on back and telling them it’s great. It’s not doing them any favors to give them feedback that’s next to worthless because it offers no improvement.
Constructive criticism. That’s what I want.
Biggest Challenge Overcome: Starting Alone From Scratch
The difficulties of starting from scratch (and by myself – I live alone) when it came to my wedding business was tricky.
Luckily, I have been a micro-business owner for decades. I was in full-time entertainment doing magic, juggling, stilt walking, a micro-agency that still operates. I knew I was talented as an entertainer, but that had very little to do in transferring to a wedding-related business.
Taking the plunge and ploughing tens of thousands into a new business in a flooded market was daunting and risky especially as not long afterwards the global financial crisis happened. The entertainment business suffered, so the wedding business had to work.
Setting yourself apart from the rest of the flock is vital.
I was lucky because I had Geoff who was 6-7 years into it. He had already created a model. I took that model and said, “If i was going to do this again, how would I go about it?”
I created a physical white folder that looks good. I made the process simple by creating a template to give couples all the info. I got into the writing because I can’t just take something from the internet. I have to write for them, which I really love to do.
Word of mouth is the main source of leads for me. Every wedding I do, I want to pick up another one. If someone is eligible to get married, I want that gig.
If a couple hires me, they’re not hiring me to present someone else’s work or something off the internet. They hire me because of my intros, welcome, readings and the way I structure things that is unique to me.
It should be self-perpetuating. If that’s not the case, something is wrong.
I want to be remembered. It’s a combination of making them the stars of the show, but being memorable enough that when it comes to future clients, they may not remember my name but they will ask and find out.
I push them towards YouTube. Video is vital.
I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. There are 50+ videos of me working; if you don’t like what you see, don’t book me! I am not likely to radically change my style or my look or my manner any time soon.
Commercial for a Melbourne TV station
Success Secret: Being Memorable & Not Cheap
What works for me in building my business is being open and honest and not chasing the cheaper gigs.
I try and convey a degree of confidence, but not arrogance, showing I know what I am doing, but not being a smart arse about it.
People need to remember you, so be memorable. Be kind and listen to them, DO NOT tell them you care about them SHOW THEM.
They don’t know I’m bringing a second PA. If I don’t like the look of their signing table, I put mine there. They don’t know I’m going to take photos and video, edit them, give it to them them for FREE.
One of the best marketing things I’ve ever done: a picture of the couple with my Just Married sign. I’m on my third sign. It’s my thing now; I refer to it as my “famous” sign.
People ask about price because it’s all they know about. There’s not going to ask what you had for dinner. What else are they supposed to ask?
If I pick up the phone and they ask me the price before anything else, I say, “It’s free. If I’m not available, it’s not right that I charge anything. Do you have a date in mind? Do you want me to check my availability and give you a price?”
It snaps them out of that price thinking like the zen master slapping them with a stick. They either hang up (that’s rare) or laugh. “After all, you are calling Fun Booths.” (I use this for my entertainment business.) It stops what they’re doing and snaps them back to what’s important.
Find a way of getting the work done with minimal options for mistakes. I run a program called Celebrant Assist to keep track of couples and their information. If there is a similar program for your particular niche I suggest getting it and streamlining your processes as much as possible.
Biggest Mistake: Waiting to Go Mobile & Social
Not updating my website to be tablet and mobile friendly sooner. Followed by not taking Facebook seriously and having a business page sooner.
Both these delays costs me clients and money I am sure.
Asking for reviews was another thing I left too long. Now I ask all the time.
I have a system in place because I shoot photos at a wedding and often video. It’s always best to ask for something when you’re giving something, because of the power of reciprocity.
I’ll edit those videos very quickly and in the follow up send them some photos and possibly a video, along with a thank you letter. “Please enjoy videos…Here’s a folder with photos…” and a link straight to my Facebook review page.
There’s the incentive to leave a review and 90% of the time it works.
I only ask for the Facebook review because I can put it onto my website anyway. I want the lowest possible friction. That’s why I send them a link; they don’t have to look me up.
When they leave the review, I thank them on the page. Always appreciate when couples make the effort.
Ron’s Advice: Cooperate With Other Wedding Pros
Share with others. If you have a picture, then for goodness sake, give it to the florist, the celebrant. If you have a video, share so all can benefit.
Then those people will recommend you.
We are NOT in competition; we are all there for the couple. Keep that in-mind always.
It is NEVER a photo-shoot or a dinner. Nor is it a night-club. Turn it down on occasion so people can talk. Create an atmosphere for ALL.
At wedding expos, share with someone to half the cost and double your chances. Share the wine prizes, share expo costs, travel together. Do magazine advertising. Why wouldn’t you do that?
Network and find a friend to share the cost. Photographers can join forces with video. It’s a natural blend. Florists and invitation people.
I do this with Geoff, who is another celebrant, at wedding expos. He’ll say, “What day? I’m not available. Talk to Ron.”
I’m three feet away. “I’m much better than him,” I tell them. We have some fun together.
You need to have the mindset, “I don’t care who gets the gig.” As long as one of us gets it, we’re happy.
When we give prizes away — we give away a lot of wine — we have a raffle and everyone gathers round to create a dynamic around the stand.
There are no rules. Just because something’s been done that way a long time doesn’t mean it’s the right way.
There are only ever three ways of doing something: The Best Way, The Second-Best Way and The NO F#%ing Way.
If it is not one of the first two, then do something else. Third best is never a viable option that you should or will ever be happy with.
I know no other greater truth than the Universe rewards action. It may not be what you wanted. It may well be negative feedback, but it is feedback. Without action you are living in a vacuum.
When in doubt – ACT.
Charity of Choice: Fred Hollows Foundation
Fred Hollows pioneered a system of fixing cataracts that brings sight to many who are needlessly blinded for only $25. His work continues across the globe.
Sight is such an important thing! When you see his videos of people and taking off the bandages, you can see the reactions. It’s fantastic. The guy can see! It’s life changing.
(Each Wedding Superhero chooses a charity to receive a $100 from Book More Brides in their honor.)