One of the first questions I’m going to ask you about your wedding is when and where. So in planning your wedding, the date, the time and the location, are the first things you need to lock in. Melbourne offers such a fantastic variety of locations: from the local park, to a city hotel, a reception centre, the top of Eureka tower, the end of St.Kilda pier, the Fitzroy gardens, the Zoo, the Northcote Town hall, Como House, a country winery, Brighton beach, you favourite restaurant or bar, or your loungeroom……. the list is endless. All you have to do is decide on one that feels right for you and that fits in with the style you’re aiming for. Having done that, then you’ve got a starting point from which we can begin to plan. So what’s in a ceremony ?
From a legal point of view, there are only three requirements in a ceremony. A paragraph that I have to say which includes your full names (the Monitum), a sentence that each of you has to say (the legal vows), and the presence of two witnesses over the age of 18 who will co-sign your marriage certificates.
So, it could all be over, in a matter of minutes!
Generally though, most people prefer to savour the moment, to heighten the experience, by incorporating those legal requirements into a ceremony. Something that lasts a little longer – 20 to 30 minutes – by creating moments that tell something of you story, of the journey that’s brought you to this moment of commitment on your wedding day. And the beauty of a civil ceremony is that there is no right or wrong; provided we include the legals, the rest is up to you. So just as every couple is different, so will your ceremony choices be and so will the finished product. But a rough order of service, a logical progression, might look something like this –
The Beginning is important, it sets the framework for all that is to follow. How should the ceremony start? Will the groom and his attendants be waiting in position? Will the bridesmaids enter followed by the bride or will they walk in partnered by the men? Will the bride and groom walk in together, or will the bride walk in alone and the groom meet her halfway? Will you both be in position already? Will the parents of the bride and groom enter as part of the ceremony? Choices and yet more choices….
What will you walk in to? The music that you play here can really set the tone for the ceremony and is a great way of saying something about you as a couple. ( From a technical point of view, I would always have music here, and always something that’s good to walk to, something with a definite rhythm.) Depending on your location, you would need a piece that’s at least 2 minutes long.
The time when I welcome everyone and talk about why we are here – namely you two! I like to talk about your history as a couple, what has been the lead up to today? What is it about each other that makes you want to take this step? Why do you love each other? Obviously to do this I need to know something about you both, so here is the first mention of “HOMEWORK”.
Giving Away –
Traditionally, this would be Dad accompanying his daughter and giving his blessing (rather than his permission), and it is a lovely father and daughter moment. But you might like to have both parents accompany you, or your children, or your siblings, or no-one.
Or, you may as a couple, like to ask your entire family and all your friends for their approval. This can be a great way of engaging your guests in the proceedings – asking them to participate rather than just observe.
*** Usually by now, we would be ready to have a change of pace, by having somebody else speak or perform. This is a great opportunity to include or honour people who are special to you – family or friends. They could read a poem or a piece of prose, they could write something themselves? They could sing a song or play live music……..Whatever it is, and whoever does it, remember that the reason for having it , is to celebrate you and your life together – it must mean something to you. If it isn’t relevant, don’t have it. ***
Monitum – my legal paragraph
My name is Lise Rodgers, and I am duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages according to law. Before you are joined in marriage in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses, I am to remind you of the solemn and binding nature of the relationship into which you are now about to enter. Marriage, according to the law in Australia, is the union of two people, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
*** The emotional core of the ceremony is coming up – the Asking, the Vows and the exchange of Rings. Usually the mood will change here, sometimes more serious, usually more intense emotionally. It is the time in the ceremony for you both to speak. ***
This is the prelude to the marriage vows, the chance to say “I do” or “I will”, ( and also the chance to test your voice before you really need to be heard). I will ask you a question like – “Do you XXX take YYY to be your…….?”
The heart of the ceremony and really, what the whole thing is about. Standing up in public and declaring your love and commitment. A special moment between you that we are privileged to share. Yes, you must say your legal vows here, namely – “I call upon the persons here present, To witness that I XXX take thee YYY, To be my lawful wedded Wife/Husband/Spouse. But then you follow on with your own words.
Something that comes from your heart – and you don’t have to say the same vows, they can be different. In fact really they should be different, because each of you is sharing something from within. You can choose something existing or you can write your own. But there is no right or wrong, it’s what suits you. Here is the second mention of “HOMEWORK”. But whatever you say, they should reflect what you feel for each other.
Exchange of Rings
– A moment of giving and receiving, of symbol and ritual. You might both have rings, or only one of you – or you might not have them at all. They are not a legal requirement. Traditionally the best man holds the rings, but you might have more people that you would like to honour and include, so this is a good time to do it – two rings mean that you can have two people involved. Or you may have more, so a “warming of the rings”, by passing them through the hands of your family before they reach yours might be appropriate. This is another opportunity for you to speak if you choose, or I can do the talking and you can exchange the rings in silence.
*** As we move towards the end of the ceremony, the mood often changes once again. This is another moment that would suit participation by others – another reading or song? Again, something reflective of who you are, and maybe something that looks towards the future? ***
The remaining elements of the ceremony are –
the Signing – of the certificates. A great photo opportunity. It’s also the time to play another special song – perhaps a more romantic choice. Music gives people something to listen to, and holds their attention while you move away from them. You will need a good 5 minutes of music if not more – nothing is as deafening as silence. Your witnesses come to the fore here. As long as they are over the age of 18, you can choose anyone. Again, it is a role to give to someone special to you – sibling, best friend, grandparent, parent.
the Declaration – I now pronounce you Husband and Wife!
the Kiss – Seal your marriage with a Kiss!!
the Presentation – May I introduce for the very first time as a married couple.
the Conclusion – Thankyou everyone, this is what is happening now……
Now the traditional order for these would be –
But I think that the ceremony often has a better energy or momentum, if we leave the kiss for last-
But the choice again depends on you. Some people prefer not to use ceremony time for signing, and that’s ok too. It just means that I have to take you away from photos and congratulations to complete this particular task.
Recessional / Exit –
The End How will you exit the ceremony space?
People will want to rush and congratulate you. Depending on the size of the location, it is often better to formally “recess” or walk out of the ceremony space. Traditionally this is bride and groom, followed by bridal party, then followed by guests. You might like to stop and hug and kiss your immediate family in the front row, before moving on.
This is again a spot for a special song – something up tempo this time, that sets the mood for the celebration to follow – and it’s a good idea to have another song or two to follow so we don’t suddenly go to silence. I’ll usually give your guests some idea of what will be happening now – photos, refreshments, meeting up again at the reception – so that everyone knows what you want them to do. So, what else could we include? That really depends on what you want to express about yourselves.
You might want to include something that acknowledges your family, your cultural background, those loved ones no longer with us? You might be taking on the role of step – parent through this marriage, so something that symbolises the blending of two families might be appropriate. There are also many symbolic, ritualistic ways to express your feelings – but once again, you need to know what it is you want to say. In my experience, adding something just for the sake of it, will always appear just that – an add on. Now comes your homework.
The two homework areas already mentioned are specific tasks that I’ll give you, but the rest……. is all about you starting to visualise your day and what you want your ceremony to be. Then together, we can start to make it happen – so call me!