Budgeting Vs Investing In Your Ceremony

A Tale of Two Paths

Many of the decisions you will make when planning your wedding ceremony, will be made on strikingly unfamiliar territory. In other words, there will be a plethora of firsts; visiting bridal expos, florists, wedding dress suppliers, photographers, bridal cars, celebrants, event hire and so on.

Nothing can quite prepare a wedding couple for the bewildering array of questions and dilemmas that confront them, as they embark on their wedding journey. But no matter what demographic you fit into or how you decide to approach your wedding day, the subject of ‘price’ will almost certainly become a ‘point of conversation’.

You really need to decide your path right from the outset, in fact your entire wedding day experience comes down to just two (2) very simple questions:

1) Are you planning your wedding based on a ‘budget’?

2) Are you prepared to ‘invest’ in your wedding day

The second question is arguably more interesting than the first, for a range of reasons. The word ‘invest’ is not considered synonymous with weddings, since there is little tangible (financial) profit to be gained, unlike (say) investing in shares or property. The other point is that many couples (these days) are responsible for funding their own wedding, often resulting in the need to pursue question ‘1’.

Return on Investment

The big payback with question ‘2’ (ROI), is the immeasurable (and often underestimated) value of ‘experience’. This is a word that largely has no financial conotation, yet it’s life-long value is unrivalled.

Investing in your wedding tends to suggest that ‘money is no object’. Whilst this is rarely the case, what it actually (better) refers to, is a couple’s overall approach and desired outcome. Couples following the ‘invest’ path, generally design their wedding first, then seek-out suppliers and service providers who fit their design.

Whilst this doesn’t negate the need to be thrifty, it actually empowers couples to be flexible when trying to carve-out the perfect wedding day experience. In other words, price takes a backseat to ‘want’ (or need).

The other big win with question 2, is that it provides a benchmark for couples to determine if their dream wedding has been successful. Having researched and invested in the appropriate suppliers and services, the couple will be able to sit back after the big day, and assess if they received an adequate return on investment.

Weddings Driven by Price

Question ‘1’ provides a pathway for wedding couples who basically design their wedding in reverse. Couples in this category set a budget first, and then seek-out suppliers who fit that budget, often regardless of any other criteria.

There is a huge advantage in doing this, as it caps the overall cost of the wedding, and keeps it financially managable. The big problem here though, is a marketing term known as the ‘satisfaction curve’.

The Satisfaction Curve

The ‘satisfaction curve’ is an ideology where ‘too little’ investment in something may lead to a lack of satisfaction, and hence a poor (or dminished) experience (essentially negating any monies already invested). For example, a couple may budget $1000 for a wedding photographer, but find that (afterwards) the final product is so ordinary, that the additional investment of $500 would have delivered a satisfactory result.

The same applies at the other end of the price spectrum. For example, a couple may book a Hotel Suite for $500 a night, but experience the same satisfaction level as a Hotel Suite valued at $350 a night. This is called ‘over investment’, and can present a very real issue when planning a wedding.

However, the wedding industry (whilst being vast) generally has a way of categorising suppliers and services through natural selection. This means that much of the hard-slog (with regard to price) has been done for you. For example, the better (or more popular) the product or service, the higher the price. For couples on a budget, those products and services will often have less appeal, since their ‘satisfaction level’ can be reached at a different point on the ‘marketing curve’.

Like many markets the wedding industry could best be split into 3 price-based blocks. 15% (of suppliers and services) at the low price end, 75% in the mid-price range, and 15% at the upper price end.

Mixing Budget With Investment

There are arguably some couples who strike a balance between budget and investment, giving them more flexibility over their satisfaction level (as compared to couple’s strictly using the budget-based planning method).

There is certainly an advantage in having a wedding plan right from the get-go, negating the concern to make every decision based on price alone. Having said that, your satisfaction level (together with your overall experience) is of paramount importance.

This may ultimately mean going above and beyond your wedding budget. It may sound trite, but the most successful weddings, are those that deliver the optimum satisfaction level for the wedding couple, whilst being financially managable.

The Rising Popularity of Themed Wedding Ceremonies

As civil ceremonies continue to grow in popularity (as apposed to their denominational counterpart), wedding couples everywhere are beginning to take control of their big day, in an attempt to break away from age-old tradition.

The Pressure of Tradition

Part of this ideological breakaway, is the notion of ‘owning a ceremony’ (in it’s entirety), however this concept is not for the conservative or faint-hearted couple. As a community and society, we often feel bound (and pressured) to do ‘what is expected of us’; nothing could be truer than when it comes to wedding ceremonies.

As a civil celebrant, I am often confronted by traditionalists after a ceremony, questioning and analysing varying aspects of my presentation style, and why I occasionally veer from the ‘expected’ or ‘traditional’. The expectation of producing the same traditional ceremony ‘time after time’ is still very real, and has inevitably crept into the belief system of a contingent of ‘Gen Y’ers’.

Changing it Up

However for some couples, the message of keeping to tradition has either not sunk-in, or they are just too creative to continue the traditional narrative. Some couples see a breakaway from wedding tradition, not as heretical, but as an opportunity to express their characters during the most important commitment of their life.

So how do you know if you are a traditional couple or not?

It seems to me that if you share a great passion (as a couple), then you could be potential candidates for a non-traditional or (dare I say), a themed ceremony. For example if you love Disney Movies (as a couple), you may decide to exchange the white wedding dress for a Mickey Mouse costume, with a similarly attired bridal party (and guests, if you want to go the whole nine yards).

Perhaps you share a love of travel, food, the arts, popular culture, or sport; it really doesn’t matter what your passion is, the key is to act on it and become liberated (and motivated) whilst creating your wedding ceremony. Look at your ceremony as a creative opportunity, considering every aspect with a view to adding your own personal touches.

Full Theme Ahead

Once you have decided on a theme; Star Wars, Super Heroes, Fairytale, Mediaeval etc, then get very creative. Don’t look back, and (whatever you do) avoid tradition for maximum impact. Your ceremony is a statement, a reflection of your views, ideologies, characters and creativity, it provides the stage on which you will begin your exciting journey as a unified team.

If you decide to pursue a themed-style wedding ceremony, you will naturally encounter the traditionalists, who may question your alternative ideas and motives. However, wedding ceremonies are deeply personal, and tradition is exactly that…’tradition’, diametrically opposed to the creative couple in pursuit of a themed ceremony.

Working with the Right Suppliers

As you progress along your selected wedding-theme path, you will need the right suppliers by your side. Finding the right supplier for a themed wedding is surprisingly simpler than sourcing a supplier for a traditional wedding. The reason being, that the wedding industry has grown-up on tradition, which is unsurprisingly still the main stream (not to mention socially more acceptable).

When sourcing your photographer, videographer, venue, florist, and celebrant etc, simply tell them your idea (or plan), then wait for their response. If you encounter a supplier that feels awkward with your idea, move on immediately, remembering that many of your ideas will be fuelled by equally-creative and liberated suppliers.

Maximum Impact

If you have done your homework well, been true to your characters and beliefs, and hired the right suppliers, you (and your guests) will be handsomely rewarded with an amazing and unforgettable day. Themed weddings are always fascinating (if done well), delivering maximum impact, whilst inevitably baulking common ceremonial traditions (which by it’s petulant nature, creates a natural air of interest and curiosity).

As a liberated civil celebrant, I implore you to consider your ceremony as a themed event, an extension of ‘you’ as a couple. Find common interests between you and your partner, and bring them to life on your wedding day.

Get creative!

The Concealed Bride

Throughout marriage folklore history, there has been a continual underlying theme regarding the concealment of the bride, and her safe delivery to her groom at the altar.

It is often challenging to determine where such folklore originates, and why it was deemed that the bride required concealment in the first instance. However, given that the bride was perceptively under threat from the forces of evil, it is surprising how many folklore traditions have become a main stay of the modern ceremony.

In fact, marriage folklore literally underpins the entire modern ceremony, from the entrance of the bride, to the recessional. So how has this manifested in the secular ceremonies of today?

The Tradition of the Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids, according to marriage folklore, were simply decoys. Their primary task was to confuse the evil spirits, tricking them into believing that they were the ‘real bride’. In years gone by, they would even dress in a similar fashion (to the bride), although this latter tradition seems to have all but vanished.

The evil spirits, confused by the procession, would (theoretically) pick-off the bridesmaids, thus leaving the bride to safely reach the altar.

The Bridal Veil

Once again, the bridal veil was designed to conceal the identity of the bride. The theory was, that if the bridesmaids were unable to successfully confuse the evil spirits, then it would require the wearing of a veil to provide adequate concealment.

The real bride was safely hidden behind her veil, which was worn over her face until she reached the altar, at which point she would traditionally take her place together with her groom, wearing the veil over her face for the entire ceremony.

Even though many brides today wear bridal veils, they often wear them ‘back’ during the entrance. This is largely because the draconian belief in evil spirits has been surpassed by the importance of wedding photography.

However, if a bride does choose to wear a veil over her face (for the processional), there are several moments at which she may decide to remove it.

The first is when her father (or parents) ‘give her away’. A bride may decide to invite her parents to draw-back her veil, thus revealing the bride to the groom.

The second moment is when the groom has taken hold of the bride’s hand (after her parents have given her away), and has brought her into the ‘marriage position’. The groom may draw-back the bride’s veil, just prior to the commencement of the ceremony.

The third moment is just before the the bride and groom share their first kiss. This is generally after the declaration, when they have been announced as husband and wife.

The father of the bride

The father of the bride acted as a quasi ‘3rd line of defence’ in the ‘evil spirits’ scenario. The theory was that if the bridesmaids and veil were unsuccessful in confusing the evil spirits, then it was up to the father of the bride who, with his left arm hooked around the bride s right arm, would ‘draw his sword’ and ward-off the baddies.

The other important point here, is that the father of the bride would (as all gentlemen would), draw his sword with his right hand. It was not traditional to draw a sword with the left hand.

The Tradition of the Bridal Bouquet

In years gone by, sanitation was often an issue. In fact, it’s only in relatively recent times that we have access to fresh running water, and even more recently, fresh hot water.

As a result, the bride and her bridesmaids would carry a fresh bunch of flowers, designed to compensate for any lack of sanitation, thus enticing the awaiting groom.

As we meander along the pathway of the modern secular marriage ceremony, it is perplexing how (or why) many of the old folklore traditions are still practiced today.

Children at Weddings

As a civil celebrant, I am often asked whether children should be invited to a wedding. There is a range of factors that must be taken into consideration, before the ultimate conclusion can be drawn.

How young is too young?

The first question that needs to be pondered, is how old are the children attending?

In my experience, children under 4 years of age, can be often become quite restless during a ceremony, especially very young boys. The word restless needs to be explored, because it varies in intensity.

For example, I have experienced parents with 1-2 year olds verbally interrupting (constantly) during a ceremony, as well as 2-4 year olds performing antics at the front of the ceremony, providing (on one hand) entertainment for the guests, but detracting from the overall meaning of the ceremony (on the other).

Managing young children in a ceremony

Once a bride and groom have made a decision on a final guest list, they then must ensure there is a contingency plan to help manage any unexpected interruptions, if young children are going to successfully partake.

As a celebrant, I often commence a ceremony with a preamble (prior to the entrance of the bride and procession), thus empowering parents to move away from the ceremonial spectrum, should their children become restless. Difficulties can arise when children become restless, and parents fail to take their children out of the ceremonial space.

It stands to reason that since very young children have limited ability to make rational decisions regarding social correctness during a ceremony, then the question of management falls to the parent or guardian. This in turn redirects the argument from managing children, to managing parents.

Older children at a wedding ceremony

With children over the age of 4, I often find less of an issue with interruptions and distractions. The bigger issue for children of this age group is boredom and fatigue, which is generally combated by using either electronic devices (running in silent mode) to preoccupy the child, combined with a shorter style of ceremony.

Flower Girls and Page Boys

It is always baffling why so many couples select very young children to be flower girls and page boys. Whilst it is definitely cute to witness a 3 year old flower girl or page boy making their way down an aisle, it is also rare that it happens without obvious incident.

I have witnessed the usual gamete of antics from flower girls and page boys, and have concluded that it is simply impossible to predict how they will respond on a wedding day. Often a bridesmaid (or parent) is assigned to assist young ‘bridal party children’ down an aisle, which often results in a child being carried, thus changing the entire dynamic of the processional.

It may also be worth noting, that flower girls and page boys do not stand with the bridal party during a ceremony, so it’s very important to have a guardian on stand-by, ready to look after the child.

Giving parents a break

For many wedding couples who are designing a guest list, there is an assumption that guests will want to bring their children to a ceremony. In actual fact, there may be parents who would prefer to leave their children (at home) with a relative or baby-sitter.

This could be because the children will understandably be bored or restless, but also because the parents would like a relaxing (focused) stress-free experience at the couple’s wedding.

The irony is that parents often feel obligated to bring their children (if stated on the invitation), whilst couples feel obligated to invite them. A well thought-out guest list often requires communication between the guests and wedding couple, in order to devise the optimum ceremonial dynamics.

Are there any positives when inviting children to a wedding?

The short answer is ‘yes’.

Weddings are arguably about people (and more importantly about family), and families involve everyone from the very young to the elderly.

Since children are a vital part of a family heirarchy, they in-turn become an important element of a wedding. But as discussed above, children at weddings are more about the management of the parents, and having a well thought-out contingency plan, rather than their complete exclusion.

Put simply, if children are going to partake successfully in a wedding, then they must be assisted in every way, with careful consideration given to the elements discussed above. The assistance must be driven by the wedding couple, empowering the parents to make well-planned decisions, thus creating a harmonious ceremonial atmosphere that can be enjoyed by all.

Managing a Broken Bridal Party

A wedding is a monumental event, and involves the integration and cooperation of a many people; from friends and relatives, to wedding suppliers.

It is for this reason, that it is important that every person involved in the wedding is carefully selected, ensuring that they either want, or need to be there. This is particularly important when it comes to selecting a bridal party.

But what happens when there is a rift in the bridal party, or when the bride or groom has a fallout with a bridal party member?

Is it Common?

As a civil celebrant, I have seen this happen on many occasions, and have witnessed how different brides and grooms cope when faced with such a scenario. It may be worth emphasising that broken bridal parties are more common than you think.

The reasons why a bridal party may break are numerous, but are often based on the underlying stresses and pressures of the intense and important day that lies ahead.

The Bridezilla

Arguably the most common reason for a bridal party to splinter, is due to a stressed bride, who has placed the importance of her wedding day, above the feelings and concerns of her closest friends or family. This spells immediate danger, because a bride’s support network is often the most vital element of her wedding day.

Ironically, spotting a bridezilla is normally the domain of the bridal party, since their role is to work closely with the bride; shopping for wedding suppliers, discussing decorations and colours, and assisting and supporting her every step of the way.

It may be worth noting, that I see far more female bridal party members ousted than males. This is to be expected, since groom’s often have much fewer wedding responsibilities, hence much less wedding stress. The male members of the bridal party are also limited to a few simple tasks, mainly trying on suits, and (possibly) doing a short speech at the reception.

The Bridesmaidzilla

Stress (and the notion of being unreasonable), is not just confined to brides. It can also manifest in bridesmaids, who are either dominant, reluctant, petulant, or overly keen to relive their own wedding day.

Once again, it is the management of such situations that falls to the bride and groom. In extreme cases, it is common for the perpetrator to be ousted from the bridal party, in order to maintain harmony.

Bridal Party Management Solutions

It is common-place for a bridal party to incorporate the bride’s closest friends and family. It is for this reason, that simply ousting bridal party members is not always feasible.

So how do you manage an unruly bridal party member?

The first step is to determine whether an issue can be resolved quickly and easily, and what triggered the issue in the first instance. It is also important to be subjective at all times.

One idea, is for the bridal party to meet (if practicable), to air any issues that may have arisen. It then falls to the entire bridal party (rather than just the bride) to begin the task of negotiating a middle ground.

But what if you are dealing with a bridezilla?

Dealing with a bride who has become overly precious about her wedding day is like ‘walking on egg shells’, because there is often an element of irrationality. There are also (often) casualties, not only in the bridal party, but often in the wider guest list.

Once again, it may be useful for the bridal party to meet to provide support for the bride, and include a close family member such as a mother, father, or close sibling. If a bride has become irrational (about her upcoming wedding day) it is important to understand why?

Is she anxious, nervous, overwhelmed, poor at making decisions or too quick to reach a conclusion. Are there financial issues, or is the bride unable to get the exact colour, size or shape of a particular wedding feature?

Getting married is arguably one of the biggest days in a couple’s life, and apart from involving intricate planning (and loads of money), it also involves dealing with family and close friends. This can be intense, since families and friends have a history, and putting them all together in one place, can prove stressful for the fledgling wedding couple.

Weddings are renowned for bringing friends and families together, not the contrary. It is to this end, that offering assistance and support to bridal party members (during the stressful moments), is far more logical than ousting them.

A Look at Chapel Ceremonies

When a bride and groom begin their journey to find their perfect civil ceremony venue, the topic of chapels will almost certainly arise.

The issue for modern wedding couples, especially those who are determined not to have a religious ceremony, is that chapels are often associated with the Catholic church. The reason for this is that chapels are historically places of worship, and worship (in western society) is commonly associated with Christianity.

Whilst chapels are a regular feature of church structures, they can also be stand-alone independent structures, completely detached from any denominational parish or influence. The stand-alone (style of) chapel arguably offers modern couples the choice of either a denominational or civil ceremony.

Many stand-alone chapels are free of the usual denominational chattels, providing a fresher and more secular environment in which modern couples can get married. Having said that, the ubiquitous church pew and traditional red carpet (often) still remain, whilst stained glass windows are also a regular fixture in modern chapels.

As a Civil Celebrant, it is always perplexing why modern stand-alone chapels remain as popular as ever, however it seems that as long as their are no obvious signs of denominational content, modern couples (looking for a civil ceremony) are as keen as ever to utilise chapels.

It is possibly the fact that we (really) have no other ‘alternative vision’ of marriage ceremonies, other than that which the Catholic church has provided (for western society) over the past 2,000 years, thus perpetuating the use of chapels as an accepted ceremony space.

Stand-alone chapels provide fantastic solutions to weather-affected outdoor ceremonies, generally accommodating from 50 guests upward. Often the acoustics are better than comparable venues, whilst chapel layouts tend to lend themselves to the traditional incorporation of a bridal party, and certificate signing.

Modern reception venues have taken advantage of Gen ‘Y’s desire for chapel ceremonies, by (often) including a chapel on the reception grounds. This also shows how the modern approach to weddings has shifted (dramatically) from the bride and groom, to the guests. In days gone by, guests would attend a church ceremony, and then make their way to a separate (off-site) reception venue, the logistics of which could often present many challenges.

So the big questions is whether Chapel Ceremonies are sustainable, considering Gen ‘Y’s arguable shift away from the Catholic church. Given the arguments above, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

The Disappearance of the Shotgun Wedding

For many couples, the thought of standing in front of a crowd and declaring their ‘undying love’ is simply too overwhelming. But this is just one potential driver of an eloping couple.

The other driver (for many), is the stigmatised fear that the bride will be (or is) pregnant prior to her wedding day. However, it is arguable that Gen ‘Y’ has little to no affiliation with such outdated concepts, whereas Gen ‘X’ still exudes an underlying fear that a couple must be wedded prior to becoming pregnant.

Where does such folklore originate, and why is it so indelibly stamped on our social physche?

The Catholic Church and the Pregnant Bride

Without question, the Catholic church (in western society) has led the fear campaign in this area, arguably brain-washing generations that ‘it is a sin to be pregnant and unwedded’. It may be worth noting that (in days gone by), the Catholic church derived a handsome income from sinners (and such sin), not to mention the unmitigated power that could be wielded against believers.

This in-turn created a massive social stigma, filtering into the community and manifesting in the fathers of pregnant brides, who would perceivably take matters into their own hands with their preferred ‘pregnancy deterrent’; the humble ‘shotgun’.

So, with the fear of being socially outcast, and the ‘all important’ father figure reinforcing his disdane, the pregnant bride would be forced to either elope, abort the pregnancy, or run the risk of being ousted.

This was an ideal situation for the Catholic church, since sinners are the life-blood of the faith, and marriage was the domain of the church, and with a dutiful community wielding the church’s cross, it proved both a powerful and profitable result. However, there are several interesting factors that have all-but seen the disappearance of the ‘shotgun wedding’.

A Change of Direction

The first of these is the obvious shift of Gen ‘Y’ away from the outdated doctrine of the Catholic church (discussed in a previous article). The second of these is the gradual defrocking of the ‘all important’ father figure, giving rise to the ‘all important’ mother figure in recent years. The final factor (and perhaps the most obvious), is the abolition of gun ownership in Australia.

Oddly, I still hear the echoes of stigma in modern-day pregnant brides, uttering the often common phrase “I don’t wan’t to be pregnant and unmarried”.

Fortunately, the term ‘shotgun wedding’ has now been replaced with the term ‘elope”, and generally refers to a wedding couple doing one of three types of ceremonies. The first is to get married at a Marriage Registry Office, the second is to get married in private (often with just 2 witnesses and a celebrant), and the third is to travel overseas to be legally married under another country’s law.

Living Together and Eloping

Apart from pregnancy and the fear of speaking in front of guests, Gen ‘Y’ is also now living together prior to marriage; another sin according to the Catholic church. However the act of living together (prior to marriage) has brought about new responsibilities for unwedded couples, most notably money.

There was a period in recent history, where it was up to the ‘father of the bride’ to fund a large portion (if not all) of the wedding. This was arguably done to ensure that the bride ‘did the right thing’, prior to marriage (ie. no sex, no pregnancy, no living together with her partner).

However, since it is now common-place for couples to buy a house and live together prior to marriage, it also stands to reason that they are more ‘money conscious’, thus prompting a need to be more frugal with wedding costs.

It is this last point, that makes the concept of eloping so attractive to modern couples. In fact, the Marriage Registry Offices are often flat-out marrying couples on a daily basis, giving enormous credence to the argument that financial considerations for many modern couples is now a major driving influence.

Technology and the Modern Wedding

It would be fair to say, that the biggest impact on the modern wedding comes from recent advances in technology.

From the moment a couple begin planning their wedding, to their departure at their reception into married life, modern technology will have played a key role. Put simply, the modern wedding is spiraling vertically through a range of exciting technological nuances.

The Internet, Social Media, & Web Security

The first and most obvious advance, is the way couples use the Internet to plan, shop, and research every aspect of their wedding day. From the comfort of their home, wedding couples literally trawl social media sites and wedding portals, gathering, comparing, and shortlisting everything from ceremony venues, dresses and flowers, to event hire companies, cars and celebrants.

The Internet has arguably empowered modern wedding couples, especially with the development of social media sites that help couples to accurately authenticate and verify particular suppliers and services.

Credit card services and online transactions have also become more secure in recent years, and are virtually second nature to the modern bride and groom. This means that securing wedding services and suppliers is dramatically accelerated, not to mention more convenient.

Wireless and ‘i’ Devices

Another major advance in technology is the explosion of wireless and next generation devices. The big plus is that couples can connect and communicate from just about anywhere; 24 hours a day, once again, speeding up the marriage planning process exponentially.

As a celebrant, I notice more and more couples supplying their ceremony music (and reception music) on ‘i’ devices or USB memory sticks. I’ve even witnessed couples read their personal vows from their ‘i’ device, which can be downloaded in realtime from a Cloud Service.

My own personal presentation method is sourced from an Apple iPad, giving me enormous flexibility as a presenter (during a ceremony) to capture images, record video, play music, expand text size, increase backlighting, or connect to the Internet (if required).

As an MC, I have witnessed couples receive ‘Telegrams’ (at their reception) via text, as well as play (previously uploaded) youTube videos through a projector, creating an entirely new reception segment.

The ‘i’ Camera

Another major advance in the modern wedding, is the ‘i’ camera. It seems everyone is a photographer, and it’s now commonplace for guests to ‘snap’ eagerly during a wedding ceremony, often keen to be the first to post an image (of the happy couple) to a social media site.

The ‘i’ camera has also seen several wedding services become (virtually) obsolete, such as: the reception portrait photographer who (in days gone by), would capture couples sitting happily together at their table, and charge handsomely for the priviledge; or the humble ‘disposable camera’, that would be ubiquitously used as a bombonierre.

The video function on most ‘i’ devices, has also led to a decline in couples hiring a professional videographer, where as the advances in SLR video cameras has seen the fusion of the professional photographer and professional videographer, because the high definition quality of video can virtually be used to extract precise photographic stills.


Another fascinating feature of the modern wedding, is (arguably) the ability to Skpye. This enables guests (who are unable to attend a wedding), to watch the ceremony from afar. I have performed many weddings, where Skype has been used to transmit ‘live’ images to overseas guests, the elderly and even the unwell.

Who would have thought that you could watch your closest friends or relatives get married, from the comfort of an off-site location, for free!

3D Printers

For me, the most exciting (and daunting) of all modern technologies, is the recent development of the 3D printer (aimed at the consumer market). The mind simply boggles at the possibilities, especially for wedding couples.

Couples will be able to (and already can) print everything from their bombonierre, table centre pieces, bridal jewellery, shoes, and just about anything else that can be imagined. The effect this will have on wedding suppliers and services is yet to be assessed, but (without doubt) 3D printing technology will reshape the consumer landscape.

In a Manner of Speaking

In a recent survery, people were asked: “On a scale from 1 through 10 (with 10 being the worst), what is it that you are most afraid of in life?” At number 9, most people chose ‘death’ as the thing they most feared. At number 10 was public speaking!

In Australia there are thousands of registered civil celebrants, each with a personal or particular reason for becoming an officiant of marriage. For some celebrants, it’s the joy of meeting couples (who are excited about their upcoming wedding day), for others it’s the creation of the ceremonial event, and being involved in a finite outcome.

But (arguably) the overarching skill that is required, is the ability for a celebrant to conduct an actual ceremony with both poise, finesse, professionalism, and eloquence.

It may seem obvious, but public presentation skills and the ability to manage an event from start to finish are absolutely paramount. Above all, a celebrant is remembered for their performance during a wedding ceremony, how they speak, how they interact with the audience, and how seamlessly they deliver the programme.

The art of public speaking is more than a phenomena, it goes to the very heart of human fear, the fear of being exposed as non-credible or a fraud. Public speaking is more than just a skill, and can take many years to master. It requires the application of a simple (yet often intangible) formula:

Anxiety (on stage) = Personal Fear versus Expectation

Expectation = Audience Perception versus Personal Self Esteem

Personal Fear = A lack of Confidence versus Under-preparing for the task or Presentation

After a lifetime on the stage, I am continually learning about the varying elements of the above formula

Space & Time

For many public speakers, anxiety triggers a need to talk quickly and (sometimes) incoherrently. I have learnt that formulated (calculated) space whilst speaking, is one of the keys to effective and concise performance delivery. Hearing the subtle ‘decay’ at the end of a sentence, pausing slightly, then resuming with a measured ‘attack’ on a fresh sentence.

Listening to an Audience

A critical element of public speaking is the ability to ‘listen to an audience’. By this I am referring to the way a public speaker should watch closely an audiences natural movements. A public speaker should also be intimately tuned to an audiences general rise and fall, their chatter, laughter type, demographic appeal, and any unexpected curve-balls or nuances.

Self Esteem

Possibly the most difficult battle to win (onstage), is the battle being waged in all of us. Standing alone (and presenting) in front of a crowd exposes every chink in our social armour, so it is critical that (as public speakers) we must love who we are, love what we are saying, and embrace how we are saying it.

There must be no-doubt that the overall ‘pitch and roll’ of the content, it’s delivery, and the person delivering it are all asynchronous.

To Infinity & Beyond

Preparation is paramount.

There is an old saying: “You need to be twice as good in rehearsal, to be half as good (as you think you will be) on the day”. There is nothing that builds confidence like knowing the material.

Warming up prior to an event (or performance) is also very important. Doing yogic breathing, stretching, or doing vocal exercises are all key to essential preparation. Many public speakers miss this vital step.

Success on the stage as a public speaker is a learnt skillset, that is continually added to after each event. Watching, listening, and being open to new skills and ideas, will help mould a public speaker.

How Marriage Does Not Change Your Name

It has long been an anomaly amongst females in Australia, but what actually really happens to a bride’s surname after marriage?

If you were to ask the majority of married ladies from Gen ‘X’ and earlier, you would find that the resounding answer reaffirms how the bride denounces her maiden name, in favour of her married partner’s surname.

I often hear (from brides [and older ladies] getting married for the second time), how they plan to change their previously married name ‘back’ (?) to their maiden name.

What is fascinating about the above argument, is that it is completely erroneous with (absolutely) no legal basis.

A Look at Why?

The first element effecting name usage is referenced in the Australian Marriage Act which was legislated in 1961. Despite the fact that we still follow the Westminster system (in part), there was arguably a change in the legal direction of marriages at about that time, most notably the paradigm shift toward civil ceremonies (as distinct from non secular ideals).

The second element is the Attorney General’s (AG) office, which is responsible for instating the rules of marriage in Australia, whilst ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ (a division of the AG office) is responsible for recording implicit details about the population’s social movement in order to track lineage, estates, rites of passage and so on. For this very reason, the most accurate records kept by (BDM) are those that record both past and present data.

When a female gets married in Australia for the first time, she enters her ceremony with her maiden name (the name on her birth certificate). Her (maiden) name cannot be changed by marriage, since there is absolutely no mechanism in the Marriage Act for that to occurr. However (once married), she may use her partner’s surname legally (if she so chooses).

I would like to briefly point out an interesting nuance. A female getting married for the second time, will enter her ceremony with both her maiden name and her previously married name. A female getting married for the third time, will enter her ceremony with her maiden name, plus her two previously married names and so on.

The office of Births, Deaths & Marriages produces an Official Marriage Certificate for the newly wedded couple, which (subtly) displays how the name usage will be applied. For example, the Official Marriage Certificate shows both the groom’s full name and the bride’s (maiden) name, indirectly inferring that the parties to marriage have a legal right to use each other’s surnames (if they so choose).

The important point is, that at no stage (during the marriage process) does anything physical happen, that changes either the bride or groom’s birth certificate. In effect, this means that a marital name change is an administrative change only.

It may be worth noting that the ‘rite of passage’ (when it comes to legal name usage) is bidirectional, meaning that the exact same rules apply to the male (although it is rare for a male to use the female’s surname).

So for all those Gen ‘X’ ladies that are of the belief that their name changed once they were married, the news is that it didn’t. They simply earned the right to use another person’s name, if they so chose.

The only sure-fire way for a bride to change her surname (permanently), is to effect a physical name change on their birth certificate, a step which is completely unnecessary (as far as marriage is comcerned). Having said that, couples who choose to hyphenate or combine their surnames, would definitely need to perform a physical name change on their birth certificate, since they are creating a new instance of a name (a point that is not covered in the Marriage Act).

What name to sign?

On her wedding day (once she is married), a bride may choose to sign one of several names on her marriage certificates. Whilst many brides will sign using their maiden name (or the name they are most used to signing), there is a contingent of bride who creates a new signature on her wedding day, for the sole purpose of celebrating the acceptance of a new name.

An important (misunderstood) point that I hear echoed frequently, is that the latter signature does not have to be an exact carbon copy of it’s successors, since signatures are simply our own recognition of ourselves, and have no other real-life or legal basis.


In a nutshell, the act of marriage has no physical impact on a bride or groom’s surname, other than the impact of the choice they make if deciding to adopt their partner’s surname.

Gen ‘Y’ – Changing 2,000 Years of Marriage Tradition

For nearly 2,000 years, the Catholic church has been at the centre of marriage tradition in the western world. With specific doctrine regarding such points as; who could wed, where a marriage could be solemnised, what would be said, how it would be said, what music would be acceptable, and who would officiate.

The Catholic church has also changed it’s stance on marriage several times throughout the millennia, most notably from it’s original introduction of marriage as a form of ‘branding’ (in early AD), to the union of a man and a women (in current day).

However, it is arguably the church’s inability to move (quickly) and change with the times, that has prompted a recent mass migration away from the Catholic church’s style of marriage ceremony. In particular, the church’s view towards women in marriage, and their pledge to ‘serve and obey’.

Gen ‘Y’ has been one of the major drivers of this revolution, applying the same liberation to modern marriage ceremonies that they apply to just about everything else. Marriage ceremonies (for the first time in 2,000 years) are no longer the domain of the powerful Catholic church, but suddenly being driven by a generation that has little to no interest in outdated doctrine.

Furthermore, Gen ‘Y’ is (unknowingly) developing a style of marriage ceremony that is both sustainable and appealing to the greater population. Gen ‘Y’ style ceremonies incorporate a much more relaxed approach to ceremony music, where a ceremony can be held, what can be said, who can wed, and who can officiate.

One of the most notable advances in marriage ceremonies driven by Gen ‘Y’, is their focus on the (importance of) guests, as well as the elevation of the ‘female’ as the focal point. The latter argument is supported by the positive language that has been incorporated into modern wedding ceremonies, that portrays the female as an equal of the male.

Interestingly, not all of the traditions sanctioned by the Catholic church have been ousted by Gen ‘Y’. In fact, several folklore traditions are practiced regularly by liberated secular couples, most notably; the wearing of a veil (by the bride), the giving-away of the bride (by the father), the carrying of bouquets by the bridesmaids, and the seating of the guests on specific sides of the ceremonial space.

The most obvious reason why some of the folklore traditions are still practiced by secular Gen ‘Y’ couples, is because they form the basic foundation of a marriage ceremony, without conflicting or encroaching the liberated ideals of the current generation. However, the types of veils, the side the father walks on, the types of bouquets, and the side that the guests are seated, are often modified to suit the liking of the modern couple, without the anguish of contravening doctrine.

As more and more couples choose to be wedded outside the jurisdiction of the church, it will be very interesting to see if non-secular institutions adopt a more relaxed (updated) approach to wedding ceremonies in the next milennia.

A Look at Common Marriage Rituals

When couples begin planning their wedding ceremony, they invariably discover a myriad of marriage rituals.

What are marriage rituals?

Put simply, marriage rituals are a physical representation of a couple’s unification and their journey going forward. Rituals are often simple in structure, and may incorporate close family and friends, together with a range of props.

The trick with rituals (during a wedding ceremony), is to keep them both brief and interesting, whilst delivering a meaningful symbolism. It is very important that the guests can see (exactly) what is transpiring, and that they understand the point of the ritual.

What are the more common rituals?

For centuries, couples of Catholic denomination have commonly performed a candle lighting ritual (also known as a unification ritual). Today, this practice extends beyond the church, and is performed regularly in civil ceremonies (often where [at least] one partner is Catholic). It is also worth noting that the candle lighting ceremony is often avoided by non-denominational couples, for fear of sending the wrong spiritual message.

In western civil ceremonies (where religious denomination is negligible), the most commonly performed ritual is (arguably), the ‘pouring of the coloured sands’. This ritual is very appealing, because it (often) involves parents and close family, whilst the wedded couple have a colourful keepsake (memento) of the day.

Other commonly performed rituals are the ‘warming of the rings’ or the ‘blessing of the rings’. Once again, couples can invite family and close friends to partake (forming a circle around the bride and groom), whilst the bride and groom stand in the centre. The wedding rings are passed into the circle, and physically blessed by the participants.

The release of creatures is also quite popular amongst brides and grooms, generally as a symbol of hope; the most common creatures are homing doves and monarch butterflies.

Other rituals include; the cutting of the ribbon, the hand blessing, the honey & lemon ceremony, and (my personal favourite) the Pagan Hand-fasting (which I will discuss in greater detail in an upcoming post).

My personal view is that the best wedding ceremonies are the ones that have multiple elements, incorporating strong symbolic meaning. It is also vital that couples select a ritual that they can both identify with, and that accurately portrays their union.



Melbourne Beach Weddings – You’ll Be Blown Way

So you are getting married, and you are contemplating a beach wedding in Melbourne? What are the attractions and common pitfalls?

As a celebrant based in a region that lies 1,600km to the south of the Tropic of Capricorn, I am always perplexed by the thought of a ‘dream’ beach wedding. There are a number of rather obvious considerations that seem to elude even the brightest of wedding couples.

Melbourne (Australia) is a great city (especially for weddings), a city of fresh (quasi) arctic air, parks, cafes and fine fresh food. But what Melbourne isn’t, is a city known for it’s warm climate, at least not consistently. To the south is the small island state of Tasmania, and beyond that (4,000km to the south) is Antarctica.

The city of Melbourne is fortunately chaperoned by Port Phillip Bay, with an opening to Bass Strait (at Point Nepean) lying about 120km to the SE. It’s the anatomy of Port Phillip Bay that causes the most headaches for brides wanting a ‘dream’ beach wedding.

The heads at Point Nepean act as a draught-corridor for the winds coming from the south. The winds often blow through the heads, and hit the shore line along the beaches around Melbourne, often gusting along the popular foreshore from Port Melbourne to Frankston. For this reason alone, beach weddings (in this part of Melbourne) are often wind swept, causing issues with audio, ceremony decorations, and of course ‘the bridal party’s hair.

Whilst the bay’s tides are generally small, the weather (on the other hand) can turn reasonably quickly. For this reason, wedding couples should think carefully about their plan of attack, and (at very least) have a contingency plan.

I have rarely done a wedding on the beach (anywhere in the Melbourne area), that hasn’t been affected by one of the elements, but in nearly every instance, wind gusts have been an issue.

I recall doing a wedding at Green Point (Brighton), where the contingency plan was to erect a marquee if the weather turned. The only issue was that the wind gusts were so strong, the marquee company was unable to anchor a single peg. We proceeded with the ceremony, which was hammered by wind gusts that exceeded 70kmh.

In another instance (at Mordialloc Beach), I recall that the wind gusts were so strong, that I ushered a guest to hold down my sound-system during the ceremony. Aside from the rain, the seagulls, and the obvious issue for females walking through sand in 3″ high heels, beach weddings in Melbourne never seem to (quite) live-up to their reputation.

Online Marriages – The New Revolution

One of the first questions I ask couples when I meet with them, is ‘how did you meet’?

The interesting answer I used to get (several years ago) was, ‘we would rather not say’, suggesting their meeting was either embarrassing (in some way) or contraversial. I would often push the couple to share their story, and quite often they conceded.

What I began to find out was that (more and more) couples were meeting online, either via social media or (more commonly) via one of the myriad of online dating sites.

It is interesting that in 2014, the stigma of meeting a future partner online appears to have all-but dissipated, paving the way for a new socially acceptable way for couples to meet. In fact, my experience is that over 80% of second-time married couples meet online, since the inconvenience of going to a bar or nightclub (especially for parents with small children), seems unfeasible.

The question is, whether meeting a partner online is better than meeting at a bar or nightclub? There is a plethora of information debating this exact topic, however (as a civil celebrant) I am a strong advocate of online meetings (that eventuate in marriage).

The most poignant variant to online meetings (as opposed to real-world meetings) is that couples (especially females) have the power of coherent and calculated choice, with an ability to make a clearer assessment about a future partner, based on their intellectual compatibility (as opposed to physical attributes).

I believe that (since marriage is for life) it is far more important that couples are paired according to how they interact intellectually, rather than how they interact physically. What I am experiencing with couples (that meet online), is that they (often) seem ‘better connected’ than couples who meet in the real-world.

However, it would be naive of me if I didn’t factor in the importance of physical attraction, so (yes) of course that is a contributing factor, it’s just that it is ‘not the main factor’.

So is the online method of meeting here to stay, or is it just a passing phase? My guess is (based on the way humans now interact) it is definitely here to stay, and (in the not too distant future), will become the definitive way by which couples choose to meet.

Advocating Gay Marriage in Australia

As a Civil Celebrant, I am continually asked about my stance regarding gay marriage in Australia.

Having recently witnessed the debacle in Canberra, that saw gay couples wed in some kind of psuedo-union, it became clear that the quasi legal loop-hole proved little-more than insulting to gay and lesbian couples.

Considering the history of marriage (in Western Society), and it’s birth in the Catholic church in early AD (as a form of branding), it baffles me how the issue regarding who and who cannot be married, has somehow filtered into the non-denominational sector?

I acknowledge the position of the Catholic church, and fully respect their beliefs (albeit I do not necessarily agree with their [arguably] draconian teachings and doctrine). However (as mentioned above), I am unsure why sectors of the greater public would be choosing to fly a similar flag?

I do not envy the position of the Federal Government, since changing the marriage act in favour of gay marriage, will undoubtedly unseat a few ‘powers that be’. However, (ironically) it would be a resoundingly popular decision, since the liberation of Gen ‘Y’ and the subsequent generational shift away from non secular beliefs is undeniable.

The issue that astounds me most of all, is that (in my public life) I often find it difficult to find any member of society that actually opposes gay marriage in Australia, leading me to the conclusion that the percentage of gay marriage sceptics in Australia is arguably a minority.

Changing the marriage act could be done reasonably promptly, since a referendum would undoubtedly return a support in favour of gay marriage.

The final point (and possibly the most baffling of all), is that gay couples can currently do everything that heterosexual couples can do, with the exception that wedded heterosexual couples have an ability to apply for partner or marriage visas (in the case of foreign relationships), as well as having the legal right to use their partner’s surname.

In a nutshell, if gay and lesbian couples already have nine-tenths of the rights of heterosexual couples, then why wouldn’t we grant them the final step, giving them the dignity to share equal marriage rights? It seems to me, that the marriage act has been caught in a ‘no mans land’, between the ‘old world values’ of outdated doctrine, and the fast ‘new world’ of a liberated generation.

Getting Married to Stay in Australia

As a civil celebrant, I am continually contacted by couples (both locally and overseas), keen to secure residency in Australia, and wanting to use marriage as the vehicle.

The important point about visa applications, is that there is both a cost and a waiting period, depending on which visa is being applied for. The 2 main marriage visas are the ‘prospective marriage visa’ and the ‘permanent partner (or spousal) visa’.

Prospective Marriage Visa

A ‘prospective marriage visa’ can only be applied for from outside Australia, and is normally accompanied by a Notice of Intended Marriage [NOIM] (sent to a civil celebrant). The celebrant would then raise a letter of support (sent to the Department of Immigration via the couple), containing the couple’s names and intended wedding date.

The problem (for the couple) with setting a specific wedding date with a celebrant, arises from the issue that the couple may not know the exact date range that the visa will be issued, so often the wedding date is a guestimate.

Permanent Partner Visa

This visa can only be applied for, once the couple has been legally married. Many couples find the entire process a ‘race against time’, rushing to get the marriage legalised, whilst applying for the ‘permanent partner visa’ before the original prospective marriage visa expires.

The key to meeting the deadlines, is to first complete a NOIM (which can be downloaded from the AG’s website), then apply for the ‘prospective marriage visa’ (whilst sending a letter of support from a civil celebrant).

Couples who are well organised, should be able to have their marriage registered, and apply for a ‘permanent partner visa’, all while the ‘prospective marriage visa’ is still in effect.

Tim Manger Celebrant