In 2020, I’ve been a Sunshine Coast marriage celebrant for 16 years and there’s not a lot that I haven’t seen or heard. I’ve signed the paperwork on boats, planes, cruise ships, rocks, motorbikes and horses’ butts. I’ve played dress up and loved cosplay weddings, learned scenes from movies (Think: The “Mawwiage” scene from Princess Bride), obliged when a couple asked if we could stand waist deep in the ocean for their ceremony … overall, I’ve enjoyed a pretty amazing career of awesome weddings.
Because I’m naturally creative, I’m always after new ways or ideas that will provide a point of difference for my couples. Many prefer the traditional stuff, but for those wanting something different, this blog shares some of these in the hope it will inspire you to think outside the box and really make your wedding your own.
1. Give your bouquet to the couple who have been married the longest
Have all the guests stand, ask those who have been married less than a day to sit (obviously the bridal couple), then ask those who’ve been married for less than a year to sit, then five years, then ten years and keep going until only one couple remain standing. (You might need to get down to months and days if there’s a few couples remaining standing). Then ask them what them what they think is the secret to the longevity in their marriage. After, give them your bridal bouquet as a congratulations.
2. Are you creatives? Have the guests paint your portrait
Get your favourite picture of the two of you and print it out to a size where it’s easy to see. Divide it into equal sized squares down and across. Supply paints, brushes, water and aprons and allocate a square to each guest (or couple). Your new portrait can pride of place in your home and will be a wonderful memory of your special day.
3. Get the groom to make an entrance!
Everyone expects a grand entrance from the bride, but what about the groom? Have him share in the fun but arriving in a helicopter (complete with James Bond music), a water ski, boat, horse and anything unique. I had a groom arrive on a tractor for a country wedding.
4. Games at the reception
Create your own quiz about your relationship, have the Best man read the quiz questions and pit the tables against each other to see who wins.
5. Design your own cocktail
Create your own cocktail, name it and serve it at the reception.
6. Hire a local artist to paint your ceremony while it’s happening – what a fabulous way to remember your day.
7. Donate to a charity
Rather than giving favours to guests as a thank you, leave them a note saying you’ve made a donation to a charity on their behalf (A charity idea: www.myweddingwish.org an Australian charity that gifts weddings to couples with terminal illnesses).
8. Are you having a photobooth?
Send guests their photos with your thank you card. It’ll put a smile on their dial!
9. Want an alternative to the 3-course meal and alternate drop?
Have the food prepped and delivered to the tables so the guests can serve themselves creating a more intimate dining experience.
10. Want all the guests dancing?
When you send their wedding invitation, ask guests what songs would get them up on the dance floor. Then give the list to your DJ to play to ensure everyone dances.
Got any awesome creative ideas for your wedding or reception? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.
Well, that went fast. I’m sitting here at my computer reflecting on the year that was 2019 in all it’s beauty and all it’s rawness. Reading through my wedding schedule and remembering each ceremony and each couple and I can honestly say they were all absolutely fabulous. That’s why I love being a marriage celebrant: I spend my time with beautiful couples at the most joyous time of their lives. That’s called winning at life!
In 2019, through my business Elope to Australia I added a new product to my range catering for couples who want to marry without all the fuss and cost. My legals-only coffee table ceremony days, where couples marry in a no stress, simple ceremony for only $450 have been super-popular! I knew they would be. Perfect for those couples who couldn’t be bothered with wedding planning, the stupid costs, and the stress. They’re also popular if you’re planning on getting married in another country (think Bali for instance), but want the legal stuff kept in Australia. So many couples said they didn’t know this was an option. Well now there is.
Couples book a 30 minute time slot, come to the agreed venue on the agreed date and WHAM: married! How simple!
I have several of these days booked in for 2020, but if the dates I’ve picked don’t suit, you can pick your own date for just a small extra cost. The beauty is that you can still pimp it up and wear a wedding gown, say vows, exchange rings and have up to 8 guests. So the legals-only weddings are a perfect way to marry on the Sunshine Coast.
HINT: (If I get enough inquiries I’m happy to arrange these days in other parts of Queensland and Australia – just ask!)
I’ve conducted more funerals than in previous years – a heart wrenching time for the families left behind, but it’s always a real honour. Two funeral ceremonies that come to mind were for young women who both died from cancer – both had over 300 guests attending to pay tribute. Being told by family that the ceremony was ‘just perfect’ always gives me a thrill and I just love seeing big funerals – it shows that there is love in life, and love still, in death.
Ken and I were blessed to have two overseas holidays this year: a month in the US and Canada, then two weeks in New Zealand and we just loved every second. Bring on more travel in 2020! And more weddings with more fabulous couples.
I wish you an amazing 2020 and hope it brings you the joy you deserve.
Looking for a marriage celebrant and not sure what questions to ask? Check out my hints to ensure you’re asking the right questions so that you choose your celebrant to make your wedding day perfect:
How long have you been registered as a marriage celebrant?
Does it matter how long someone’s been registered as a marriage celebrant? Well that depends. If they’re newbies (and there’s nothing wrong with that – we all started somewhere), they won’t have the wealth of experience that a more experienced celebrant will have. After a while you learn to think on your feet and know the best way to handle issues that might arise. If you’re keen on a newer celebrant, you may be able to negotiate their cost down which is a bonus.
How many weddings have you performed?
This question is important because let’s say the celebrant has been registered for five years and they’re done 50 weddings, that means they’re averaging 10 weddings a year, which in turn assumes that they are a hobby celebrant rather than a professional celebrant. Does that matter? Well, that’s up to you. Hobby celebrants are usually cheaper. As a benchmark, the average celebrant does about 5 – 10 weddings per year while professional celebrants can do anywhere up to 150 per annum and this equates to a big difference in experience levels.
How much do you charge as a marriage celebrant and what does it include?
Please never choose a celebrant on price alone! Trust me, that’s fraught with danger. There are basically three price ranges for marriage celebrants (though this is generalised to the Sunshine Coast and obviously changes according to different regions):
Up to $450 : The lower end of the market – be careful how you choose your celebrant, don’t do it just based on price
$500 – $750: What most marriage celebrants charge
$800 + : The high end of the market and usually an indicator that you’re dealing with a professional marriage celebrant (as in this is their main source of income)
But there’s other things to consider beside price. For instance, you might find an absolute gem that ticks all your boxes for $450, or you might hire a dud when you’ve paid over $1000 (I’ve heard horror stories!) Paying a lot does not guarantee a fabulous celebrant. Do your homework on the celebrant’s you’re interested in and listen to your gut instinct – that’s what it’s there for. I use gut instinct too, and because of it, have knocked back couples that I got queasy tummy flips. Ain’t no-body got time fo dat!
What’s your natural style as a celebrant?
Trying to be someone you’re not will make for a very inauthentic ceremony, and no-one wants that. Be clear on what style of wedding ceremony you want: romantic, emotional, quirky, hilarious, traditional – they all require different personalities. Try to find out the true personality of your celebrant and make sure you ‘click’. You can do your homework in other ways, for example check the photographs they use to advertise. Most of my photos are of the couple, their wedding party and guests laughing because that reflects my natural style of ceremony. The other thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of people think that couples want all the gooey feely stuff which is just not true, so there’s a little bit of acting in this business!
What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you at a wedding?
This is where question 1. becomes important. “What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you at a wedding?” is a pretty common question and I’ve got a few hilarious responses which I respond with (seriously, I should right a book). Not everything always goes smoothly and it’s the way your wedding suppliers deal with what goes wrong that separates the wheat from the chaff. To be more precise, you could ask about your personal ‘worst fear’ at your wedding and ask that, eg. “What if it buckets down half-way through my ceremony?”, or “What if someone has a medical issue during my ceremony?” You’ll quickly get an idea of how your celebrant will react and whether you’d be happy with the reaction. Whatever their response is, it will help you choose your celebrant.
As a celebrant do you book more than one ceremony per day?
Some celebrants guarantee they only do one wedding a day and it really amuses me. You don’t need to be an administrative genius to work out the paperwork of more than one ceremony, but what your celebrant should do if she does more than one ceremony a day, is work out the time allowed for each wedding and the time between ceremonies that will ensure there’s plenty of time to cater to those things that can go wrong: traffic jams, accidents, etc. Let your celebrant know that if they do book another wedding on your day that you’d like to be notified so you can figure out if you’re comfortable with the timing and perhaps pre-negotiate a refund or partial refund when you originally chat to them. They might say no, but there’s no harm in trying.
Eeeek … I need help with vows!
Most couples are clueless when it comes to writing their own vows and it’s important that you feel supported by your celebrant and will be able to ask for help or be given some resources to help. I have a stop by stop process that’s almost foolproof – check that your celebrant does too.
What’s happens if I’m late?
I have a late fee so my couples are rarely late. Some celebrants don’t. It’s good to know what you’re signing up for and if you plan your day carefully, you should be okay. If you’re going to be late, please let the celebrant know as soon as you can, and they’ll advise the guests and other wedding suppliers. (Try not to be more than 10 minutes late though, it’s pretty rude).
I’d like to have a beer/champagne before the wedding, as a celebrant, are you okay with that?
The law says that you can’t be intoxicated because you’re signing a legal document. Some celebrants don’t mind you having one or two drinks before you get married, other celebrants will refuse to marry you, and will go away for a few hours until you’ve ‘sobered up’. Check each celebrant’s rules on this. Because everyone is different with their response to alcohol I tell my couples if they can legally drive a car, they can legally sign the paperwork.
What happens if the celebrant can’t make it on the day?
A professional celebrant will have a strong network of ‘locum celebrants’ so if something goes wrong, they can easily call a backup. Check that the celebrants you’re chatting to have this. Also, check the reviews of the celebrants you’re keen to talk to, there are a few who take multiple bookings on the same day and time, and then eventually ‘pick’ the one they most want to do, leaving couples scrambling and panicked. (This is across the board for wedding suppliers, eg. a venue may do this, preferring a wedding of 100 guests, rather than a booking for 40).
Lynette Maguire is a popular marriage celebrant on the Sunshine Coast, and has just about seen and heard it all when it comes to weddings in south-east Queensland.
Amazing wedding vows capture each couple’s uniqueness; honouring each individual, and the relationship all while capturing the humour that every relationship has.
I call them kick-arse vows!
But I also love vows that mean something! So, I did some research into what behaviours and emotions make for successful marriages and thought it might be fun to come up with some wedding vows based on these insights. Obviously I have a lot of couples ask me how to write wedding vows, so here we go:
Gratitude: Let your partner know that you’re grateful to have them in your life.
Saying something about how grateful you are makes your partner feel appreciated, which in turn makes them happy, and bonus, they’ll become more grateful that you’re in their life – so it’ll create a nice little loved up cycle. When we’re expressing gratitude, we’re also expressing appreciation so we can’t ever take each other for granted. An example wedding vow might go like this:
“I’m so grateful to have you in my life, and I promise I’ll show you every day just how lucky I feel that we’re doing life together.”
Commitment: Add in a line that says you’re committed to that person and the marriage.
We all know there’ll be times that aren’t all glowy and gorgeous. Sometimes life throws some curve balls at us, and when we have a committed outlook, it means we’ll be there for the good, the bad and the ugly times. If you both have this outlook, you’ll work on seeing each other as part of a united team, committed to each other’s well-being. This actually creates an ‘us against the issue’ mentality, rather than a ‘you against me’ mentality. A sample of this commitment in your wedding vows could be:
“I promise to stand by your side, shoulder to shoulder through all that life may throw at us, the good, the bad and the ugly. Together, we make an amazing team.”
Future Planning: Write something about the growth of you both as individuals, and your relationship.
Marriage is mostly about the future planning and promising to keep the love and excitement alive by date nights, travelling and enjoying new experiences will mean that the relationship won’t fall into a rut. When couples engage in interesting things together, research shows they’re happier! Expressing this in your marriage vows is as simple as this:
“I promise to keep our love and passion alive and will continue to surprise and challenge you in all our adventures together.”
Support: Tell your partner that you’re their safe haven through the good and bad times.
This is all about being the other person’s ‘person’ and revolves around being a positive attachment figure for each other; someone we can always rely on for support when we’re upset and when we’re happy. Whatever you do, you know your partner will have your back, even during those times you do make mistakes. Writing wedding vows about your support might look like this:
“In marrying you today, I’m committing that whatever challenges you face, I’ll be your soft place to fall. I’ve got your back!”
Autonomy: Individuality within any relationship is also super important
When we’re guilted or pressured into making decisions our autonomy is lost, and research shows that we don’t like that! When we don’t really have a choice, we’re less fulfilled and less happy. So yes, you’re a fabulous couple, but respecting each other’s individuality will give us more joy in our marriage.
“I promise to honour your decisions and choices, loving and respecting you as an individual, as I know you will for me.”
Positivity: Let your partner know that you see them in a positive light, now and in the future.
No-one’s perfect, but if you focus of the other person’s flaws, chances are things might not go to well for the longevity of your relationship – tell your partner you’ll respect and appreciate them; having this positive attitude will lead to greater relationship satisfaction. Letting your partner know that they have your support as they grow and try to improve themselves is beneficial to your marriage.
“I promise to always respect and admire you, loving and adoring the man you are today, and the man you’ll become in the future.”
Lynette Maguire is a popular marriage celebrant based on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. Lynette is also founder of national charity My Wedding Wish, gifting weddings to couples where one or both has a terminal or life limiting illness.
The four predictors of marriage success or failure
In my last blog ‘The major negative behaviour that predicts the end of your marriage’ I spoke about the fascinating research by Dr John Gottman who claims he can predict the success or failure of a marriage with over 90% accuracy. The negative behaviours which are deemed to be predictors to marriage success or failure are stonewalling, defensiveness, contempt and criticism.
My last blog touched on Contempt (the biggest badie), but what about the three others? Let unpack them here:
Stonewalling is when one party dismisses the other party. I know this firsthand because my first husband was a Grade A stonewaller and it drove me nuts. When I’d approach him about something I wanted to talk about, I’d invariably be met with “Don’t start on me now,” if he sensed the subject might be controversial, have something to do with feelings or discussing problems, or hold him in a not so great light. Eventually, he needn’t have worried because I just stopped talking at all.
Men stonewall more than women, withdrawing from the interaction, closing into themselves and shutting down. They build an emotional wall between themselves and their partner and that’s not healthy.
However, when women stonewall, it’s a big predictor of divorce.
Gottman defines defensiveness as, “self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood in an attempt to ward off a perceived attack.”
Thanks to Only You Forever (https://www.onlyyouforever.com/defensiveness-in-marriage/ Here are some sure-fire ways to put your spouse into a defensive mindset:
Use words or tone of voice that evaluates or judges the listener (“I see you are on your phone…again”)
Attempt to control or coerce the listener (“If you don’t put that down I am going to freak on you.”)
Strategic or manipulative communication (targeting, needling or guilting over it)
Neutral speech that conveys a lack of concern (#hairflip you’re on your phone again)
Implications of superiority
Dogmatism or certainty in your own opinion
Any behavior that your spouse deems threatening or punishing
Loud or rapid speech
Frequent interruptions or corrections
Criticism which is meant to make your partner feels rejected, hurt or small is toxic to a loved-up relationship. Criticism is not to be confused with constructive criticism which doesn’t attack someone’s character but rather focuses on specific behaviours.
Constant criticism is a major predictor of divorce because it’s difficult to be around someone who is always pointing out your flaws and shortcomings. Over time, unconstructive criticism such as critiquing, disapproval, nitpicking and blaming erodes away any healthy areas of any relationship.
You are very critical of yourself when you make a mistake (i.e. what do you automatically tell yourself when you make a mistake?). If you are highly critical with yourself, then you are probably highly critical of others.
Your parents were highly critical and/or had high expectations.
You tend to be a perfectionist.
You tend to offer editorial commentary on others appearance, home, and choices.
Your loved ones tell you that you are critical.
You are easily offended and insulted.
It is easier to find fault than praise. You will find the flaw rather than the positive.
Even if your partner does 90% of a task, you focus on the 10% that is incomplete. You get preoccupied with how your partner didn’t complete the task to your liking, and you forget to focus on the value of your partner’s effort and help.
You micromanage. You have a hard time letting go. If your partner didn’t complete a task in your preferred way, you will go afterward and fix it to your liking.
You tend to view others’ mannerisms and behavior as negative. As Steven Stosny jokes in his article about criticism, people will say “I give feedback; you’re critical. I’m firm; you’re stubborn. I’m flexible; you’re wishy-washy. I’m in touch with my feelings; you’re hysterical!”
If you recognise you or your partner in any of these four negative behaviours, you might want to think about working on it either by yourselves, (hey, recognising behaviour is the first step, right!) or head to a marriage counsellor. I know heaps, so shoot me an email and I’ll recommend someone fabulous. Sometimes it helps to have a third person who’s objective to point out behaviours which we’re not aware of and if we open ourselves to help, we might just save our marriage = worth it!
Dr Lynette Maguire is a popular Marriage Celebrant on the Sunshine Coast, who is fascinated with people and behaviours which prompted her attaining her first degree majoring in Psychology.