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.

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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