Meet the Irish wedding celebrant joining couples in Australia

Inspired by his own secular marriage in Sligo, Brian Morgan changed career

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Working Abroad Q&A: Each week, Irish Times Abroad meets an Irish person working in an interesting job overseas. This week, Brian Morgan, originally from Dublin, who now lives in Australia’s Northern Territory, on working as a wedding celebrant - and many other things. Want to share your career story? Email abroad@irishtimes.com.

When did you leave Ireland?

I most recently left for Darwin, Australia in July 2007. Ireland was still riding high and it would be another year before the lights came on and the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) would tell us the party was over. My timing was sheer dumb luck, and had a lot to do with my wife’s desire to avoid another Irish winter. Kerryn grew up in tropical northern Australia, so you can only imagine her dismay when she first touched down in Ireland one rainy November morning two years prior.

Do you think working abroad has offered you greater opportunities?

My career in Australia has been hugely varied with an abundance of opportunity, something I strive to remain grateful for. I first arrived in Darwin having completed my BA at UCD in 2001, where I majored in philosophy. Soon after arrival, I enrolled at Charles Darwin University, looking to find more purpose and hopefully fulfilment working as a school teacher.

The contrast to schools I had attended in Ireland in my youth was profound. My new co-educational class was made up of such a variety of students; it was a complete contrast. The Northern Territory (NT) is certainly one of Australia’s most culturally and linguistically diverse places, and I’ve loved every second I have spent here.

But for an Irishman overseas, the call of home is never far away. I proposed and married Kerryn in 2011. We were married in Sligo by Dara Molloy, who remains a respected celebrant and a great man, who inspired my next career choice. Thinking somewhat indulgently that I could do a similarly good job, and believing - quite correctly - that there would be enormous emotional fulfilment from working with couples on such a happy occasion, I studied, qualified and began work in Darwin as a civil marriage celebrant.

Brian Morgan, his wife wife Kerryn and son Tristan
Brian Morgan, his wife wife Kerryn and son Tristan

What’s it like working in the wedding industry?

The fun-loving, “loose unit” nature of Territorians (inhabitants of Australia’s Northern Territory are known) means I really have seen it all. I’ve performed ceremonies on land and at sea. One bride, Carolyn, arrived in a rubbish truck festooned with streamers, while groom Leon turned up on a jet-ski dressed as a duck. Yazza and Leah were married on Pussy Cat Island, while groomsmen carried shotguns in case of crocodile sightings. Rings have been delivered by Secret Service agents, Aboriginal dancers have performed Welcome to Country ceremonies, weddings happen in semi-circles of headlights at midnight, and I’ve even had the Darwin chapter of the Hell’s Angels attend one afternoon.

It’s an absolute privilege to be a part of so many different couple’s big days and now, with the successful legislation for marriage equality in Australia, I have performed my first same-sex weddings this year and look forward to many more. I really love my work.

The group shot from Brian Morgan’s good friend Joel’s wedding (Joel is the groom on the left). “Everyone in the picture are pretty much my best friends in the world over here,” says Morgan (in the dark blue shirt). Sadly, Morgan lost Joel to suicide and then he also lost his friend Kyle (two heads to Joel’s right) to suicide. Both losses have made him re-think his life plans
The group shot from Brian Morgan’s good friend Joel’s wedding (Joel is the groom on the left). “Everyone in the picture are pretty much my best friends in the world over here,” says Morgan (in the dark blue shirt). Sadly, Morgan lost Joel to suicide and then he also lost his friend Kyle (two heads to Joel’s right) to suicide. Both losses have made him re-think his life plans

Are weddings your full-time employment?

Unfortunately, most weddings take place in the dry season in order to avoid the monsoonal rain of the wet, so it could never be a year-round enterprise. In 2016, as a direct consequence of the suicides of two of my best Australian friends, Joel and Kyle, I narrowed my focus and left the classroom to focus on mental health promotion and wellbeing in general.

I secured a position providing professional development, programmes and services to schools across the Territory. It was my full-time position I work to promote positive environments for students and staff, embedding Social and Emotional Learning in school curriculums, advising how best to connect with families, as well as helping schools support students with mental health difficulties. For two years I was funded to travel across the NT promoting wellbeing. I was in the absolute right job for my headspace, and it felt great to be able to turn such tragedy into a motivation to do good in the world.

What does your day-to-day work involve? 

My full-time position in wellbeing was unfortunately defunded, so these days, every morning finds a new challenge. I’ve taken up many different opportunities and now work as a substitute teacher, a trainer/facilitator, and a wedding celebrant. A recent week looked like this, for example:

Monday: Teaching 25 Aboriginal primary school students

Tuesday: Flew to Alice Springs to deliver staff management training to doctors

Wednesday: Writing wedding ceremonies while awaiting my return flight

Thursday and Friday: Supervise year 9 students as they prepare for their mid-year concert

Saturday: Married Mel and Grant atop Dripstone Cliffs on a glorious afternoon.

At a recent wedding, Morgan got the bride and groom to saw through a log for “symbolic reasons”. You can insert your own symbolism as you see fit
At a recent wedding, Morgan got the bride and groom to saw through a log for “symbolic reasons”. You can insert your own symbolism as you see fit, he says

Do the Irish fit in well there?

Absolutely. Darwin is an incredibly multicultural place and the Irish simply add to that mix. Once you’ve shown that you can take a bit of banter and give as good as you get, your new friends can’t wait to show you all that life in the Territory has to offer.

What is it like living in Darwin?

Darwin has the best lifestyle of anywhere I’ve ever been. My son Tristan was born in October 2014 and I love how he’s outdoors every day. I’ve swapped traffic jams for foreshore walks and market laksas, overcast showers for guaranteed blue skies, and concrete streets for palm-lined drives. Although the population is about half that of Cork’s, the people are from every part of the world and every walk of life from bogans to budjus, ladies to larrakins. The creeks and beaches are spectacular, although there is the very real danger of salt-water crocodiles and deadly jellyfish. I wrote these words outdoors and barefoot while geckos chirp their chorus and rainbow lorikeets bicker on my TV antenna.

What are your plans for the future?

Only after being gone for years have I discovered a true understanding of the Irish connection to country. I am always homesick, but only occasionally does it rise to serious levels. I’d love to return home to live one day and I am still working towards that goal. 

I miss my mother’s lasagne, the familiar vistas and hypnotic rhythms of the Dart. The taste of a proper pint washed down with something, anything from a proper chipper. I miss running for Nightlinks across cobblestone streets. I miss afternoons at the Aviva, watching the Six Nations live during daylight hours, the sound of Ryle Nugent saying “Tommy Bowe”. I miss hacking golf balls around Puck’s Castle, the makings of a fry in every fridge, and a genuine feeling of history and belonging steeped in every corner and city street.

In Darwin I’ve been afforded opportunities well above my station that simply would not come my way back home and I’m grateful. But I miss home and would ya c’mere till I tell ye, I still miss my Irish family desperately, every day.

I have a beautiful family and a wonderful life, full of opportunity and the delights of a tropical destination. It is my home and I love it dearly. But it will never, can never, be Dublin.

www.brianmorgancelebrant.com

If you work in an interesting career overseas and would like to share your experience with Irish Times Abroad, email abroad@irishtimes.com with a little information about you and what you do.

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