Ceremonies 101 – part 2


Bridal Party

Who to choose? Who to CHOOOSE!?

To most, the choice is obvious, to others, not so much. Chose people who have supported you through your life’s ups and downs, and who will continue to stand by your side.o to pick? Who to pick?!

Or…just won’t have a bridal party? Share the experience with everyone equally.

Or…have your best male friend on the bride’s side or vice versa.

In short…it comes back to the old ‘it’s your day so it your way’


Music. Is. Key! It sets the tone, invites people in to be a part of your day and will be the tunes you make that special walk to!

I tell clients to tackle the music in 3 chunks!

  1. ‘Before Music: Background tunes to set the mood while everyone is mingling awaiting the arrival of the bride
  2. Ceremony Music: You need 3 songs for the ceremony – the aisle song (that the brides walks in to), signing song (something to play whilst we sign the paperwork) and an exit song (the celebration song you make your first walk together as husband and wife to)
  3. After Music: Something upbeat to start the celebrations! You can create one amazing playlist for before AND after and just play in any order if you’d prefer!

For me, I have clients send me the music beforehand and I set up a playlist so everything runs smoothly.

But! There are other options. Live music or a quartet is equally as amazing (if not better in my personal opinion)

Recently I met Bourne Entertainement at a friend’s wedding and they were fan-tas-TIC!

They did their own take on classics and did some amazing covers – so much so we thought it was a recording at one point! But one thing that was for certain, when we (the bridal party) arrived at the reception, everyone was relaxed, enjoying themselves and ready to spend the night celebrating!

‘Who brings this woman to this man in Marriage?’

I’d say in most of the weddings I conduct it’s still the father that walks his beautiful daughter down the aisle to present her to her husband-to-be, This said, doesn’t mean that’s what has to be done.

If you’re a little more left of field, you can have both parents, your cousin, best friend or even the milkman walk you down if you’d prefer!


“I Do”. Do you?

Vows are hard, and people often worry about them. A lot. Thanks to movies like ‘The Vow’ and other such Hollywood creations, people worry what they say wont’ be perfect. But there’s no point having a Champagne ceremony if your actually Beer people. And by this I mean the key to your vows is just be who you are.

They can be serious or light-hearted but what’s important is that they mean the most to you. And reflect your story and journey together, and what makes you, ‘you’.

I provide my clients with a selection of vows and examples and all sorts, but it’s just a guide, no-one knows your relationship better than you.

You can even keep your vows a surprise and only share them on the day!

Some of my favourites have been the most simple and honest: “I promise to close the cereal box every morning & to try to be a good egg” or..

“I love that we can explore together, that when we travel and see something amazing that I will have someone next to me to say ‘that is amazing’. Instead of to myself…, in my head”

The legal jargon

The legal jargon

There are without doubt some words in the ceremony that cause some contention, but unfortunately, yes, they have to be said. Things like the Monitum and The Asking within the ceremony are non-negotiable in a legal sense but this doesn’t mean we can’t still have some fun with them.

If you aren’t super keen on the ‘I do’, as long as there’s some form of a verbal offering and acceptance of the Marriage you will still be legally married.

“Marriage, by law is the union of a man and a woman and is voluntarily entered into for life” – this is another line that can bring quite a bit of upset. And yes, this unfortunately it has to be said as well.
But! We can mention your support for the cause. More and more clients are asking to add something within the ceremony showing their support for family and friends and look forward to the day same-sex couples can be married too. But only incorporate this if you feel it’s appropriate for your audience!

 Party 3 coming soon!

Ceremonies 101 – part 1

SHANNON-Morgan-Leigh-3I did a wedding recently, and as we clung to what shelter we could to sign the paperwork as the rain fell around us, the Bridesmaid said ‘there’s a few things to sign, they don’t show that part in the movies’.

No, they don’t. But it got me thinking, and I hear it a lot, most people have very little, if any, idea of what to plan and consider for the Ceremony. They think about the reception and how to get to the Ceremony but not what to include AT the Ceremony.

While I do give examples and help you along the way, I thought I’d jot down a few points to consider to ensure the Ceremony suits you as a couple…it’s your day, have it your way. So this is part one (of 3), now let’s begin…

Location, location, location

Where to say ‘I do’, while most people have a pretty good idea where they want to have the Ceremony by the time we meet, many often change.

It’s important to remember it’s your special day, so surround yourself with special memories. Perhaps the spot you had your first date, or a favourite park, of family farm? Somewhere that resonates with you is always a great option.

But also consider that while we do our best, we have no sway with the weather gods. So consider the weather at that time of year. If you’re having a winter wedding, ensure there can be a backup plan in place if the heavens do open. If it’s a summer soiree, no-one loves standing out in the sun on a 44 degree day, especially the Groom and Groomsmen in suit, and sweat patches aren’t sexy on anyone! So opt for a late afternoon Ceremony rather than 1:00 when the sun is beating down and plan where you want the photos taken.

Other things to ponder is the layout for the guest, are they on chairs, benches, sitting, standing? What sort of feel do you want for the Ceremony as a whole? Consider your guests and their comfort, while it is your day, they’ve come from far and wide and frocked up to be there and want to enjoy it just as much as you.


The who

Before you jump on Google and type in ‘Celebrants’ think about what sort of person you’d like. Male or Female? Younger or a little older? Religious or Civil? Do you have a budget?

Talk to friends about what they looked for and if the person they had was what they wanted. Knowledge sharing is a wonderful thing, but be sure not to make your decisions solely on others opinions and experience – this goes for all suppliers.

Sometimes things go wrong as with anything in life, and one scathing review somewhere doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t any good, so if you think you’d like to use them, tee up a time for a chat and form your own opinion. Just because someone’s florist couldn’t give them roses (no doubt due to the weather or some other random circumstances), doesn’t mean the flowers weren’t amazing.

The Celebrant is what makes you legally married and they should take care of everything, from the Notice of Intended Marriage, Declaration, and Marriage certificates – and more importantly making sure everything is lodged. You shouldn’t have to worry about a thing in this regards, after all this is what you’re paying them for.

When you have your meeting go with a few questions, I often ask clients what they’ve seen that they didn’t like at a Ceremony. That way we know what’s definitely excluded and start working from there. It’s a chance for us all to meet and get a feel for each other, to make sure you’re comfortable with me and my approach and for me to answer any question, regardless of how crazy you think they are! Check how many weddings they do a day, and how much time they allow for each. Are they all written individually by the Celebrant themselves or ‘mass produced’ so to speak? No two ceremonies should be the same!

And also make sure you’re really clear on what they include, in my first email after an enquiry I outline everything I include and the cost so as to avoid an awkward moment over coffee!

‘We don’t want a long boring Ceremony’

Good, because I don’t do boring! But as for length, how long’s a piece of string?

The length depends entirely on you. A bare bones Ceremony with only the legalities can be over and done with in 5 minutes! Or you could add readings, rituals, poems or even an interpretive dance. What’s important is you don’t feel you ‘have’ to have a ceremony a certain way. Don’t have a champagne ceremony (or wedding!) if your beer people, and by this I mean, don’t pretend to be something you’re not.

This’ about the two of you, and your adventures & the story that has lead you to this point, the end of the aisle.

You could have a theme, keep it light and funny, or quote the Muppets. Nothing should be off limits!

While a Civil ceremony is usually non-religious, you can still incorporate traditions and customs from your family’s culture, or memories past, honour those who aren’t with us or include family and friends to share a reading or sing to you!

It’s also a great way to include special people in your life who aren’t in the bridal party (more on this in part 2).

Splurge or Save?

Wedding splurge or saveThis weekend just gone I sat on the other side of this wedding ‘fence’ and spent the day dress shopping with one of my closest girlfriends and brides to be.

What I was taken aback with was the number of comments from the ‘bridal posse’s’ at each dress shop. “Oh don’t worry it’s over budget just don’t tell him”, “your folks will pay” or a polar opposite “I’m only wearing it for a few hours why spend $5000?!”

I have to say I agree with the latter.

Getting married is one day, on the rest of your life. No doubt may other wedding industries folk will be cursing me for saying that but let me explain my logic.

Budget is the key thing to any Wedding, every single couple talks about it at some stage in their planning, it causes stress and arguments, and if you exceed what you had planned, you’ll regret it later.

I heard a great radio interview recently with another cool young Celebrant over on the east coast about his pricing. The announcer asked if that’s cheap, and he said no. But then went on to say he’s setting himself up so he’s still in business in 6, 12, 24 months and so he can keep giving this is all and be the best.

And I feel the same. Unlike every other component of a Wedding, you have to have someone to officiate it. Or it’s not a Wedding. And the Ceremony will set the tone for the rest of the day.

Every wedding supplier will say their product/service is the key to a successful day. And most are probably right.

But somewhere along the line, more often than not, something’s gotta give.

All you NEED to get married, and I mean be legally married, because after all that’s the outcome your trying to achieve and the whole point of the day, is someone you love standing beside you, 2 other loved ones (but it can be random folk off the street, it’s happened!) and someone to officiate it.

Those are the absolute necessities. Everything else is a bonus. You can get married in your jimmy-jam’s in your Mum’s lounge room if you like. Or the grand ballroom at the Waldorf.

But those few things are all you NEED.

So how to tackle this awful budget thing. Where can you splurge and where should you scrimp?

My advice is pretty simple. Write a list.

List every single thing you want at your wedding, then rank them from most important ‘must have’s’ to ‘negotiable’, and where possible include them in order of priority.

Usually the Venue, Celebrant, Photographer, Dress, Food and Drink are the top few. Their things you need to book or order in advance.

From there, think outside the square. Where can you save or ‘trim’ the costs? Perhaps don’t spend $500 on a wedding cake, and perhaps do a Cake Buffet? Or don’t have the photographer for 12 hours, if you can only afford 6 or 8?

Ask your married friends what they would’ve done differently? Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Another kicker is the ‘oh I can just do it myself, we’ll have a craft afternoon’ logic – this doesn’t always work either, (here’s another great blog on this and working with suppliers – http://www.shannonfleming.com.au/stop-collaborate-and-listen/) and can often end up costing you more financially as well as in sanity.

Some things are definitely worth spending the extra on. One common question I see on the Wedding forums is ‘can anyone recommend a great, cheap photographer’ – this is in the same category as Unicorns and a washing machine that folds your clothes. Doesn’t exist.

So spend a little extra, within reason, so you can enjoy your Wedding photos for years to come.

Celebrants is another thing, I know of Celebrants $250 cheaper than me (and Josh!) but with us, I genuinely believe you get what you pay for. I think I’m worth the extra and I’m sure the other ‘not so cheap’ Celebrants do too.

Food IS important. No-one wants to be starving at a wedding and chasing the caterer and their canapé tray around the reception. Make sure you have enough food and drink. If you can’t afford ‘enough’ of the fancy shmancy food, go down a level/cost bracket and you can order a bit extra, the same goes for drinks. And if you aren’t supplying food or a lot of drinks, that’s absolutely ok, but be sure to tell your guest beforehand, that way they can have lunch or a snack between Ceremony and reception.

Some things will longer long after the Wedding day, and some will be thrown out by the cleaners as everyone heads home, high-heels in hand.

So work out what matters to you, think of anything you’ve loved at weddings you’ve been to, things you thought they could do better, and go from there.

But above all keep it in perspective. It’s about celebrating the fact you’ve decided to spend the rest of your live with the one you love.

Krystyna - I need to book a celebrant for the 24th April 3016 can u please send me your prices and details please

So you want a friend to Marry you?

My best friends (and first ever!) Wedding

My best friends (and first ever!) Wedding

I remember my first Wedding. I must have checked my little suitcase and paperwork a thousand times.

This wasn’t just my first wedding; this was my Best Friend’s Wedding. I’d purposely waited so one of my longest & most special friends would be the first name in my beautiful red Marriage Certificate book.

In this instance, from my friend’s perspective, the logic of ‘I’d like my friend to perform the ceremony’ was doable.

But if I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me ‘I’d actually like my friend to do it’ or ‘my friends doing an online course, but can you be a backup?’ or something to that effect, I could treat myself to a lovely over-priced Perth dinner.

The thing is it’s not quite as simple as having a mate write the ceremony and stand up there in front of everyone. This getting hitched thing is a legitimate legally binding thing. It extends far beyond the day and is so much more than just a piece of paper.

The first thing you need to worry about is making sure you’re legally married, in Australia only a Civil Marriage Celebrant or Religious Celebrant can solemnize your marriage.

While there are internet and short courses that are available, if you have any doubt whatsoever, use a professional. All Commonwealth registered celebrants are listed on the Attorney Generals website http://marriage.ag.gov.au/marriagecelebrants/civil so be sure to check if you aren’t sure. I’m right there on page 6 of “WA Celebrants”.

But, the legalities don’t mean you can’t have loved ones be part of your day. There ARE options.

Firstly, you could have a legal ceremony, with just yourselves, a Celebrant and 2 witnesses prior to the ‘Wedding event’ and have a friend perform a Ceremony on the day. This is quite common for overseas weddings where the Marriage isn’t legally recognised in Australia.

shootinghip.comkeil-funny-readingsOr, you can have a Ceremony ‘co-captain’ on the day. By this I mean the Celebrant will perform the required legalities, say all the jargon that must be said, and a friend can do the introduction, a reading, a poem, an interpretive dance if you like! So they are very much a part of the Ceremony. In instances where I’ve done this I’ve introduced the other person and explained we’ll be doing a joint Ceremony.

Overseeing a wedding can cause panic for some people, its daunting standing up there in front of 100 people. Even I have those deep breath moments and on Friday I’ll perform my 100th ceremony! So be careful who you ask. You may have a very dear friend you’d love to ask but if their shy or don’t like public speaking, it’s not going to end well. I always suggest to clients to approach asking someone to be involved in the ceremony in one of 2 ways. Either pick the reading to suit the person, so something cool and upbeat needs to be read by someone with lots of jazz and personality, so it doesn’t get lost in a monotone mutter, or! Ask the person you’d like to read, to pick something they think captures you and their thoughts on you both.

Writing your ceremony, whoever it may be with, should be a collaboration. It has to capture you and your partner and the adventures that have lead you to this point. Make it really clear what you’d like to say and achieve in the ceremony, and work together, If your light hearted people, keep it light, if you’re not overly affectionate, don’t feel the need to be all ‘lovey dovey’ in the Ceremony! Or those in the audience, who know you best, will be standing there a little perplexed thinking ‘that’s not what their normally like?! ‘

Then, after all that, when the day comes to finally say I do, the person standing beside you both, will smile, as they say those words that make you Husband and Wife.

It’s a privilege to be a part of someone’s day, and it’s our job to make sure you have time to take a moment, smile and enjoy (and have a tissue handy if need be!)

Trung Truong - Hi Shannon! Love the post. Can I ask in regards to the Ceremony ‘co-captain’ option, What are the minumum legal requirements of a civil celebrant?

My understand is:
• Celebrant identifies themself as the authorised celebrant
• State the Monitum (Section 46 of the Wedding Act 1961)
• Ensure vows contain the legal phrases required
• Prepare the papers to be signed and witness

When should I book my Celebrant?

Shannon FlemingThis has got to be one of the biggest hurdles I face as a Celebrant.

Aside from the legal requirement and time frames there’s the availability issue.

People tend to book with plenty and I mean plenty (think 2013 booking for 2015 wedding!) of notice, or too late and their date isn’t available.

So when should you book your celebrant? In short, as soon as possible! In fact I’m going to say it should be a top 3 decision. Date, Venue and Celebrant.

There’s nothing worse as a Celebrant than getting a fabulous excited email from someone asking you to be part of their day, and having to decline because you’ve already got a booking. And even harder, is them not understanding how you’re already booked when it’s still 4 months away.

Aside from the fact this’ the part that makes you legally hitched, your Celebrant & Ceremony will set the tone for your day. It’s super important that you find someone you both really click with and genuinely feel comfortable around and don’t end up in an ‘anyone will do’ situation.

Because no, just anyone won’t do!