A Marriage Celebrant’s job is joyous, humbling, uplifting, and… important. ~ Reflections on real-life weddings conducted by Anita the Celebrant.
A good Celebrant knows each couple’s story; their hopes, their values towards marriage, and perhaps some of their in-jokes to weave subtly into their ceremony.
She is the professional that ensure the marriage is valid, and the artisan that creates and delivers a magical ceremony — one that will be cherished for the rest of their lives.
I feel so honoured to be trusted with such a massive role in each couple’s ceremony, celebrating a major turning point in their lives.
It is humbling standing next to a couple exchanging heartfelt promises, while everyone else gets to watch from afar. I mean, how privileged am I to bear witness to the soul bared, the truth told through tears, and hopes sealed with a promise and a ring?
Each couple impacts my life in some way. In performing their wedding ceremony, and therefore enabling them to become husband and wife in a supportive (and legal!) way, I feel a vested interest in their happiness and wellbeing.
They have become a part of my life, just as my service has changed their life forever, too.
These little stories I tell of my weddings, are an expression of my gratitude for the couples that chose me as their Celebrant.
But more than that, they are an acknowledgement that each couple matters to me, and in some way, has changed my life for the better.
Herewith, my real-life wedding stories from my 2014-15 season*
1. K&V: The couple wanted a low-key elopement, so made it the most un-planned wedding possible. They even entrusted me with bringing their witnesses! When I made the call-out for witnesses (via my facebook page), another couple who were planning to elope put their hands up. Witnessing K and V standing barefoot on the beach, making promises to each other in a deeply intimate and personal way, they “got” what making a commitment to marriage is about.
It’s about the couple; not the guests.
It’s about making promises; not putting on a show.
It’s about focussing on what matters; rather than the bells and whistles.
2. S&M: Three random guys did a nudey-run into the ocean — directly behind where the ceremony was set to go! The guests were in stitches watching them frolic (there’s no other word for it!) in the waves. The bride eventually arrived, looking nervous and ready to burst into tears. Standing by her groom, she glanced towards the ocean and saw the streakers. A small smile, and little laugh, a raised eyebrow.
“The bride has just noticed our pre-show entertainment,” I said to the guests. There we go — a big smile, a laugh, and voila, a happy bride feeling present, relaxed and ready to enjoy herself.
3. S&R: Vintage chic, flower crowns, colours that pop, kids, dogs and besties! The biggest challenge with marrying friends is that I tend to get more emotional than normal. I really stepped up the “game face” a notch this time though, and got through this amazing ceremony, really and truly enjoying every minute. (Cried afterwards instead, but the bride doesn’t know, tee hee.)
4. L&R: The couple chose to have a butterfly release (my first experience). Butterflies are symbols of transformation, yada yada yada, but this is what I invited guests to do:
As butterflies don’t make a sound, they can’t tell anyone – apart from Great Spirit – what you tell them. And so, in Indian legend, if anyone wants a wish to come true they must whisper that wish to a butterfly. In so doing, by telling your wish to the butterfly and releasing it, your wish will be taken to the heavens and be granted. As the couple release their butterflies, you may like to make a wish on their behalf, now.
5. S&C: Married by the creek at the Margaret River Heartland, the peppi trees looked like they’d been purposely decorated for the wedding – laden with white flowers and swaying beautifully in the breeze. I couldn’t have styled a scene so beautiful!
6. J&C: Engaged for 19 years, the bride decided she wanted to be a married woman before she turned 40 (the next day!). And so, in a little park in Busselton, they smiled and laughed through their ceremony to become husband and wife. To whit:
“C, do you take J to be your husband?” (C responds, “I do.”)
“J, do you take C to be your wife?” (C responds, “He does!” ha ha ha)
7. Z&S: Had a sobering moment when I realised I was marrying someone born in 1994.
MY SON WAS BORN IN 1994. WHERE DID ALL THAT TIME GO? That little bitty baby can’t be old enough to marry already?! But yes, old enough he is, as is this groom.
So, time-is-flying-by shock aside, the ceremony was relaxed, with many people kicking their shoes off to enjoy happy times on this secret beach location in Augusta.
8. M&K: For a quietly spoken couple, they sure pulled out a bold, confident and exquisitely styled wedding ceremony! Even the photographer had tears in her eyes at how beautiful they were, their guests, and their ceremony set-up.
Incidentally, this is a photo Maz snuck of me, enjoying the readings chosen by the couple, one of which is in my Top 10 Wedding Blessings list — “Oh the Places You’ll Go” by Dr Seuss.) Look at me tearing up! That’s how lovely it was!
9. F&A: This was an aaaaaRRRR-rated wedding ceremony! A zombie-pirate themed wedding for Halloween! I had HEAPS of fun with the ceremony!
His vows read:
I, GROOM take ye, BRIDE as me Heart, me Soul, me Good Wench, as the bright dawn of each new day and the stars that shine at each day’s night, and wife.
I promise to love ye and honour ye; to make ye laugh when yer feelin’ blue and listen to ye when ye babble on. I promise to love you through scurvy and celebrate with you in times of feast. All of this will I undertake until there are no horizons left to chase and all the rum is gone.
10. M&C: The groom was so adamant he would cry during the ceremony I decided to slip a little joke into the “solemn” part of the ceremony to help him feel more relaxed. To whit:
“Bride, are you willing to enter into marriage with M?” (C responds, “I do.”)
“Groom, are you willing to cut the umbilical cord to your best mate…” (M responds, “Ha ha ha!” and grins all the way through his vows, thereafter.)
11. P&R: A lovely, lovely elopement in one of my happy places: the Boranup Forest. I provided the two witnesses, one of whom I’ve known for 10 years. In all that time, I’ve only ever known her by her nickname. Today I got to learn her real, legal name as she wrote it in the Register. Even the couple got into the act, trying to guess what their witness’ real name was!
12. J&A: The groom wanted to abseil down the face of the cave on the Wavehouse Studio property, but was told he couldn’t because it’s a sacred site. But it does give you an insight as the couple’s approach to their nuptials: it was to be a true, all-out, all-in, heavens-to-Betsy celebration. We closed the ceremony full of laughs, wolf-whistles and the longest reading ever (Valentine by John Fuller), with a traditional Scottish ritual of a Quaich blessing (including the very fine Scotch whiskey!)
Strike hands with me,
the glasses brim,
the dew is on the heather,
for love is good and life is long,
and two are best together.
Bless the union of these two,
eager for marriage, eager for love.
May they begin life together,
live that life together,
and come to the end together.
13. J&L: I am full of respect for this couple, for their steadfast positivity in the lead up to their wedding. This bride knew exactly what she wanted for her day, and stayed strong and true in alignment with her heart’s desires. Kudos to you Ms L!
14. C&T: An intimate breakfast wedding on the beach before their three children. The older two were the photographers, while the youngest was the flower-girl (who is in my daughter’s class, incidentally). This is the third set of parents I’ve married from my daughter’s class… I’m wondering if the unmarried parents are starting to get nervous at the odds stacking up against them?! LOL
15. A&C: The couple met at Timezone so I had lots of fun making references to Games during the rehearsal. A very hip and happy crowd!
16. D&C: The couple organised their wedding from Mumbai, and what a wedding it was. A three-day extravaganza including the civil ceremony (by me), a cocktail party, and a Hindu wedding ceremony. A gorgeously polite and easy-going couple, and a joy to unite in marriage.
17. P&S: Loved, loved, loved marrying this couple! I bound them together two years ago in a commitment ceremony, so to bind them again, this time in marriage, was a privilege beyond measure. Whereas the commitment ceremony was just the three of us in a forest, the marriage ceremony was a grand affair — 20 groomsmen and bridesmaids, three days of celebrations, two photo shoots, and one very happy group who had travelled far and wide to be here.
18. J&R: The groomsman was in charge of the iPod, which he didn’t realise was on “shuffle”. When he accidentally dropped the iPod during the aisle march, an all-new song started playing. The bridesmaids froze like statues mid-walk until the correct aisle song could be found. It was exactly the right tone of hilarity that helped the groom break into a big smile, snapping him out of his teary state.
19. H&J: Family was super important to this couple, which is a lovely way to start married life. Mum read a passage from the heirloom bible, all parents were acknowledged during the ceremony, and Grandad got extra long hugs at the end.
20. J&L: At 160 guests this is pretty much the biggest wedding I’ve done. Very well behaved guests, smiling throughout the ceremony and cheering with genuine happiness for the first kiss. I’m impressed at the level of detail achieved with the ceremony and styling considering the couple organised it from London!
21. P&M: ‘Twas the blending of two families into one. The couple were flanked by mostly-grown-up children in the beautiful gardens of Yallingup Brook. The kids were each given a talisman to symbolise their New Zealand heritage, but were most excited by the chance to drink champagne, ha ha ha.
22. J&P: Married atop the scarp overlooking Dunsborough, the couple opened their ceremony with Josh from Koomal Dreaming presenting a “Welcome to Country“. All these years I thought “Yallingup” meant “Place of Love”… WRONG! According to Josh it means “Place of Caves”. Wow!
24. R&L: The bride “stole” the groom’s line in her vows — he was spewing he didn’t use the “You are the only fish in the sea for me” line, but she did. The look on his face when he heard her saying it? Hilarious! All good fun.
“Look. You can have a ceremony only 5 minutes long… but I’m still dressing up!”
Welcome, monitum, vows, kiss, DONE! Even the kiss was longer than the ceremony! A nice reminder that short’n’sweet is every bit as magical as the grand gestures!
26. C&K: I married this bride’s sister two years ago. It was really awesome to see her again; it felt a little like a family reunion. I loved seeing her husband’s eyes glued to her as she walked down the aisle as a bridesmaid. Naw.
Anyway, the ceremony was held inside the old barn at Alverstoke, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Holy moly, it was beyond lovely! It was particularly awesome to watch the groom’s mother’s face as it dawned on her that the bride was reciting her vows in Spanish — she’d learned them in secret, as a gesture of inclusiveness to her new (Spanish-speaking) family. More tears!
27. B&J: This gorgeous couple wanted a farm wedding, so I gave them access to our farm — the Margaret River Heartland — and married them in the late afternoon by the Wilyabrup Creek. Talk about a magical atmosphere — full of romance, whimsy and love.
28. J&F: I met the groom for the first time just five minutes before the ceremony began. They’d organised the whole wedding day from Montreal, Canada! A vintage, blue, and beautiful day.
29: A&C: Far out. Tears upon tears upon tears for joy. I don’t know why I cried so much in this ceremony… Could it have been the romantic picnic wedding setting? Or the wide-open hearts of the families? Or the electric chemistry between the bride and groom? Or the little sister jumping up and down squealing with happiness? (Laughed and laughed, though, when she turned to me and said, “I bet you see little sisters losing their shiz all the time huh?!”)
30: S&C: The groom wore a cloak made of feathers as a reflection of his New Zealand heritage. It was amazing!
31. A&J: Their late afternoon wedding at Watershed Margaret River was so elegant it should have been in Vogue. ‘Twas a neutral colour palette (my third wedding that day with the same colour scheme!)
32. B&L: I rocked up to find the groom topless in the carpark at Meelup Beach. Hubba bubba! Very considerate husband-to-be didn’t want to sweaty-up his shirt while carrying chairs to the middle of the Meelup Regional Park. “We got quite a few “BEST WEDDING EVER!” which I’m stoked about,” he wrote to me afterwards. I love a thoughtful groom!
33. I&L: My first “shortening-of-time” marriage, that required the couple going to court to be allowed to marry inside the one-calendar-month rule. They were totally lovely, and gracious in the face of rain on their wedding day. I wanted to help them feel better about rain on their wedding day, so this is what I told them…
My 200th wedding ceremony!!!!
To celebrate my 200th wedding ceremony, in a clearing in the middle of the Boranup forest, I wore the same dress I wore to my first… a vintage lacy number by Alison Koh.
The groom really wanted the song “Jerusalem” in his wedding ceremony, and that was the only thing he asked for. The bride, however, told him the musicians said it would be too hard to play. He took the news with his chin up, but unbeknownst to him, she secretly organised song-sheets for all the guests to join in.
Listening to such a gutsy, rousing hymn in the middle of nature’s most beautiful chapel, was a feeling that will last with me for a long, long time.
35. S&E: Ducked down to a secret beach and married quickly and easily on the shore. No script; just channelling what was right and easy. No dramas; just the bride happy dancing during her vows, and beaming smiles on everyone’s faces.
36. B&L: There wasn’t a dry eye in the house — or under the tree, as the case may be. Married before their families, from Australia and Scotland, every single person sobbed with happiness to see this couple united.
37. F&A: My first wedding during a downpour! The couple were ultra-cruisy, so nothing would dampen their joy. Even the guests were happy to stand in the rain and woot-woot their way through this high-celebration-vibe ceremony. What a buzz!
The couple exchange marigold wreaths instead of wedding rings… I wrote a blessing about the symbolism of marigolds for them. Here it is:
Marigolds are known as the “Herb of the Sun” and are symbolic of passion, creativity, a trust in the divine and a will to overcome obstacles. Being vibrant gold in colour, they are also associated with the sun. Marigolds are even used as a balm for mosquito bites and stings!
And so, as you place these wreaths around each other’s necks, let them be imbibed with the bright, positive energy of sunshine, passion, creativity, and the ability to bring peace and calm to any wounds life may bring your way.
38. T&D: Advocates for Marriage Equality, the couple and all their guests wore white ribbons in support. They also requested that I read a pre-amble to the “discriminatory phrase” included in the Marriage Act. This is what I read:
Before I commence with the solemnisation of D and T’s marriage, the couple have asked me to share their feelings on the wording of the Marriage Act 1961.
D and T believe any strong, loving and healthy relationship deserves to be recognised and celebrated. The ability to do this, and to be legally recognised by the state, is a solemn responsibility, a privilege, and much more; it is a basic human right.
In a just world, all people would be free to celebrate their commitment and be recognised as a valid and legal union in the eyes of the law.
While this is not the case in Australia today, they remain hopefully that, one day soon, this will change for the better.
In the meantime, I am obliged to state the Marriage Act in order to ensure their marriage today, is valid. Therefore…
39. C&J: The groom was adamant that he wanted to tie two balloons together and release them at the moment I pronounced them husband and wife. Thank goodness he had a sense of humour when one balloon released sooner than the other. “Come back my beautiful wife!” he yelled after it.
40. D&A: An elopement on the stunning Bunker Bay beach… At the last minute they invited the groom’s parents and sister. Despite it being a tiny group, they still had all the styling (an arbour, beautiful flowers, an aisle runner and table adorned with all the goodies). I loved that the groom was teary all the way through the ceremony, but the bride giggled, enjoying herself immensely!
41. L&C: This couple eloped under the dead tree at Margaret River Heartland (a farm wedding venue). They arrived early in the day to decorate the tree with 1000 origami cranes. It looked stunning! I’m always impressed at the new ideas people come up with for styling their wedding!
42. D&D: The groom got a bit shaky so held onto me while exchanging his vows. I had tears rolling down my face; it was just so lovely to feel trusted like that.
43. G&R: Another elopement — this time the couple had driven across the Nullarbor to surprise her son. They surprised him again by taking a stroll through a winery’s gardens, and upon deciding on a location, announcing “Anita is not our personal guide; This is “Anita the Celebrant“, and we’re getting married!” The poor guy had that dazed, glassy look on his face that comes with massive surprises. We gave him a few moments to let it sink in, then it was Celebration City!
44. J&J: At the end of the long, exuberant, funny and teary ceremony, the best man took the mic and asked the guests to applaud “Anita the Celebrant, the best Celebrant in the world!” Talk about BLUSH! I have never been thanked or acknowledged so publicly before. Very humbling!
Aaaaand that’s pretty much my wedding season 2014-15, in a nutshell. I have a couple more commitment ceremonies to do, but other than that, I’m only holidays until late July.
While on holidays I’ll be competing in my 1st ever (and probably ONLY) half-marathon. If I can raise $10,000 I’ll run in my wedding dress. (Part of me hopes you won’t donate, but it’s for MND and Me Foundation, so go ahead, it’s for a good cause.)