You’re engaged! Now what?

He asked. She said yes. You’re getting married!

It’s such an exciting time. There’s so much love in the air, not just between the two of you but from all the people around you who are so genuinely happy for you both. I didn’t really understand this until the boy and I were engaged recently. We couldn’t get over the amount of cards and good wishes that came pouring in. It made it just that little bit more special to know that others were as thrilled as we were that we’d found each other.

Of course, hand in hand with the good wishes come questions. Well-meaning friends and family want to know all about the big day – have you got a date, found a venue, booked a photographer, chosen a dress? Given my profession, the most common question we were (and still are) asked is ‘but who’s going to marry you?

This, to me, is the most important question and one I wish more couples were asked. Now, I imagine you’re thinking ‘of course she’d say that, she’s a celebrant!’ but stop for a second. Think about it. You can get married without a venue, photographer, dress, cake or cars, but you absolutely cannot have a wedding without someone authorised to marry you!

East 13 Photography

I’m blessed to know a number of wonderful, talented celebrants who I refer couples to if I’m not available (and those superlatives are understatements – these ladies are awesome), but the average couple doesn’t have a contact list bulging with fantastic celebrants. If you want the pick of the bunch, move early. If possible, you should have your celebrant locked in no later than 9 -12 months from the big day.

This post has come about due to a few things that have got me thinking about the order of planning a wedding. Firstly, the fiancé and I are in the midst of planning ours, so there are precious few minutes in the day when I’m not thinking about someone’s wedding. Secondly, my dear friends at Melbourne Marriage Celebrants and I have recently been inundated with last-minute enquiries from frazzled couples. When it’s left this late, more often than not we’re already booked. There is no joy in having to turn couples away, particularly when we can see how stressed the search for the right celebrant is making them.

Generally speaking, the busiest period for the wedding industry is September – March, so if you’re planning a wedding during these warmer months, start looking ASAP. I’ve seen too many couples leave choosing their celebrant until the last minute and end up disappointed.  There are only so many days in a year and many celebrants (myself included) book just one wedding per day to ensure each couple gets the very best service possible. Last week I had to turn away a couple looking for a celebrant for their November wedding. The poor bride was so stressed that I didn’t have the heart to tell her that all my November Saturdays had been booked by April.

East 13 Photography

I cannot emphasise this enough: once you’ve decided on a wedding date, start talking to celebrants. It’s not just about finding someone who’s available – you have to find someone you both click with.  After all, this is the person who is going to preside over one of the most intimate and important moments in your life and you’re trusting them with your story.

You need to feel comfortable with the celebrant you choose and it’s imperative that they understand who you are as individuals and as a couple.

It should feel like you’re being married by a friend rather than a stranger.

End lecture!

*And for the record, the very first person we spoke to about our wedding – before we even had a date – was our celebrant. I practice what I preach!


Picking the perfect location

I’m off to a rehearsal this afternoon for a wedding scheduled to take place in the Edinburgh Gardens next week. With recent news reports indicating that the Occupy Melbourne protesters are considering setting up camp in this very location and a few wet and wild days of late, all fingers are crossed that the big day itself is protest-free and sunny!

In the time that I’ve been a celebrant, I’ve celebrated marriages in restaurants, gardens, private homes, vineyards, parks and heritage-listed buildings. Each location has been beautiful and special to the couple, chosen for how it makes them feel.  I feel like I’m getting to know my own town all over again thanks to the stunning places my clients introduce me to.

East 13 Photography

But how do you decide where to say your vows? Australian law permits you to marry literally anywhere within our borders, so you have plenty of places to choose from. Here are some points to ponder as you determine where you’d like to become husband and wife.

  • The first thing to do is write out a guest list. Once you have an idea of guest numbers – bearing in mind that this may fluctuate slightly – you know how much space you’re looking for.
  • Is there somewhere that has a special meaning for the two of you? It may be a restaurant where you had a special date, the vineyard that produces your favourite wine, a park that you enjoy exploring together or even the home of a family member. Pick a place that resonates with you.
  • If you’re marrying in a park, garden or other public space, chances are you’ll need a permit. As soon as you’ve decided on a date, contact the appropriate council to determine the next steps. They’ll be able to tell you if there are any conditions you must adhere to – no confetti/rose petals is a common one. Don’t forget to take the permit with you on the day.
  • Find out if any other events are scheduled for the same time as your wedding. We once arrived at a park to find that a childrens’ fair, complete with petting zoo, fire engines and Wiggles tribute concert was booked for the same time as our ceremony! This also applies to events that may close roads before and after your wedding. The last thing you want is for guests to miss out on your CBD ceremony because roads have been closed for the Melbourne Marathon.
  • If you opt for an outdoor ceremony, bear in mind that the weather will play a part in your day. Sunshine’s great but too much of it can lead to squinting and sunburn, which make for um, interesting photos. Look at having a partially shaded ceremony or providing parasols in the case of extreme sun. Wind is another one to be aware of as it’s notorious for stealing sound. Weddings by water, for example, are generally very windy so if you’re having a beachside wedding, consider a slightly sheltered area to stop your voices being carried away.
  • Further to the previous point, have a contingency plan for extreme weather situations. No one likes to imagine that it will rain on their wedding day but it can and it does. Have a back-up plan, whether it’s moving the ceremony or erecting a shelter. It’s far better to have a Plan B in place and decide a day beforehand to use it than to have to stop your ceremony and run for cover as it starts pelting down! Whilst we generally think of contingency plans for rain, it’s also worth considering for intense heat.  No one wants to see the bride and groom faint from sunstroke or for guests to become ill. If you don’t believe me, this article outlines how quickly intense heat can require action.
  • Is the ceremony venue easily accessible? If you were inspired by the landscape in The Lord of the Rings and fancy a wedding in the middle of an isolated field, ask yourself if everyone you want to attend will be able to get there on foot. Unless Nanna has a scooter with 4WD tyres, you might need to reconsider.
  • Can you get to your reception venue from your ceremony venue easily enough? While you might love the idea of a beachside wedding and a Yarra Valley reception, the travel time involved means a slight delay at any point can really ruin your plans.
  • What facilities are on offer at the venue? It sounds really obvious, but find out well in advance if the things that you assume are part of the package actually are. Is seating provided? Is there parking on-site?  Will bathrooms be available for guests?
  • Some people like to watch. Weddings are an intimate event yet most people can’t resist taking a peek at a ceremony if they happen past one.  Casual bystanders are almost always respectful but if you’re not comfortable with strangers observing this special moment in your life, you may like to choose a more private location.

So go! Get married! (And feel free to call me if you need some help…)