Wedding Planning Tips
As the owner of Roxy Hotten – Celebrant since 2011, I know a thing or two about wedding planning. I also know a thing or two about moon-walking and typing really fast, but there’s not much call for my advice on these, so instead I thought I’d share some of my wisdom.
ONE: AS [BLANK] IS MY WITNESS
How do you choose your witnesses? You’ll need two, and witnesses can be anyone over 18 who is present for the ceremony. Whether it’s your mum, dad, sister, brother, godparent, best friend, adult child, or, in the case of elopements, two randoms who happened to be walking past, anyone can be a witness.
You can choose them beforehand or hold a witness lottery by placing names of those who meet the criteria in a hat, drawn out as part of the ceremony.
It’s always a good idea to have a bit of music playing/ a reading/ interpretive dance whilst signing is happening as it takes about 4 to 5 minutes
TWO: THE HEAT IS ON
During these hot summer days it’s really worth thinking about your guests comfort before the ceremony has started. You may think ‘it’s only a 30 minute ceremony’ but some guests will arrive 30 minutes (or more) beforehand and if the ceremony starts a bit later than expected then it can be a long, uncomfortable wait. If it’s a venue with no bar or shop nearby, it can get a bit dicey for your guests and I’ve had some near misses with fainters. Play it safe and have some water on offer for your guests. If this isn’t an option, let guests know it’s a good idea to bring a bottle with them. Guests who are travelling to Qld/NSW and who aren’t familiar with just how hot it can get will thank you.
Check out this for more information on best day and date to get married.
THREE: ORDER OF BOOKING
Getting started with wedding planning can sometimes be the hardest part. So, what order should you start booking your vendors?
1) If it’s all feeling a bit overwhelming, or you’re time poor, you may want to use a wedding planner or coordinator. If this is this case, choose them first. They’ll save you a lot of time plus they know which suppliers and vendors will work best to fit in with your vision.
2) Start scouting for ceremony and reception venues. If you’re flexible with the dates, then you’ll obviously have more choice. If you already have a date locked in but are flexible with venues then you can start to book other suppliers
3) Book your celebrant. I, personally, take bookings up to two years in advance, and the more popular dates tend to get booked quickly such as May the Fourth, Saturday’s in peak season, Easter Saturday etc
4) Book your photographer. If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of talent out there, ask your celebrant who they’ve work with and would recommend. Some couples book their photographer before their celebrant and that’s totally cool too
5) Book your make-up, hair, florist, stylist, on-the-day-coordinator, cake, music, food, dog-chaperone, signage or anything else you may want to make your day amazing.
What music do you need for the ceremony? As a minimum I suggest a song for arrival of the bride(s) and/or groom(s), a song during signing, and then something post-smooch.
You can also play tunes from when guests arrive, setting the atmosphere from the get-go.
Music is such a personal choice and I’m sometimes asked for suggestions which is hard to do as my taste is probably very different to yours and visa versa. So I suggest to help you decide, that you close your eyes and picture the actual moment within your wedding where the music is playing. What emotion do you want to feel? One of romance? A feeling of joy? Of high excitement? Then choose some music which fits that feeling – whether it’s Pachelbel’s ‘Canon in D Major’, Farrell’s ‘Happy’, or Metallica’s ‘Nothing Really Matters’ – and play it, imagining your wedding at that actual moment. Does the song evoke the right emotion you’re hoping for? If so, bingo!
FIVE: WHO’S WHO IN THE ZOO?
How do you plan your wedding party? How many people should you have? What do they actually do during the ceremony? Do you even need them?
Choosing bridesmaids/men and groomsmen/women is, of course, completely down to personal choice. There are many ancient traditions as to why we have them (including best men stealing the bride from her family, and bridesmaids checking that the marriage has been consummated) but nowadays most wedding party members are there for emotional support, to help plan bucks/hens parties and to provide company when getting ready on the day.
More and more couples are moving away from this tradition. Take Hannah for example. She has a large close group of friends she’s known for years. Choosing just a few seemed impossible, so she didn’t. She still had friends with her when she got ready, but during the ceremony it was just Sean and her.
Consequently this created a real intimacy which is evident in this great photo by Wildflower Weddings.
You may want to have attendants, and that’s totally cool too. It’s also worth considering whether you’d like them standing up there with you for the whole ceremony, during the introduction and post-signing part but in with your guests for the main part of it, or for them to join your guests once the ceremony has begun.
Whatever you choose, do it because it feels right for you, rather than tradition dictates. It’s your day after all!
SIX: ‘IT’S LIKE RA-A-AAAAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY…’
Rain. Ugh. It’s the one thing you have zero control over on your wedding day and even if you choose a non-rainy period there’s still a chance. Our lowest rainfall months in Brisbane are July/August yet these months still average seven days of rain. So, if you’re planning an outdoor wedding, it’s worth having a ‘plan b’ so you don’t spend the whole day prior to your wedding obsessively checking your Bureau of Meteorology app.
Option 1) Chat to your reception venue to see if there’s a suitable spot to hold the ceremony
Option 2) Book an indoor ceremony space as your backup plan. This doesn’t need to cost a fortune if you’re just using it for the ceremony and paying the extra $$ will be worth it for the peace of mind.
Option 3) Buy some umbrellas. If it rains only lightly then investing in these could mean you’re still able to go ahead.
Finally, if it does rain on your wedding day there’s one thing you are guaranteed and that’s amazing photographs! Check out these pics of couples I’ve worked with who didn’t let rain ruin their day.
SEVEN: THE QUICKIE
In Australia you need to give one months notice in order to marry. And it’s amazing how much you can get done in a month.
Take Kitti and Paul for example. They arranged their whole wedding in this time and had their perfect day. They were focussed, decisive, and despite the short turnaround, still had so many personalised, memorable moments within their ceremony.
A quickly planned wedding does not mean a less than awesome one. If you’re flexible with what day of the week you want your ceremony and reception it can be done.
I offer various types of ceremonies; all can be organised in a month.
Here’s what Paul and Kitti said about their day:
‘Roxy was outstanding from the very start! She was so helpful to ensure we could meet our own chosen deadline with submitting forms (on the same day we first called her!), we had no idea how to make what we wanted into reality but Roxy was a wealth of information and suggestions, and she was very supportive in tailoring our ceremony to suit us. I think above all she is a really genuine, warm, fun and friendly person and it really shows naturally! We couldn’t have been happier with our wedding ceremony, it was just perfect thanks to Roxy and we’re so grateful! Our guests were also very impressed with Roxy, we had lots of feedback of how great she was! Thank you!!!’
EIGHT: DOGS. SIGH. LOVELY DOGS.
Dogs. Oh dogs. How much do I love our four legged yeasty-smelling companions?
Having your dog at your wedding is a no-brainer for some but for others it can be a little bit trickier.
As much as you love your dog, you may not want to have to keep an eye on him or her all day, and you also may want to consider them going home after the ceremony. If so, there’s companies who can do this for you and I can advise you if you’d like some recommendations.
If your dog can’t attend then you can acknowledge your dog (or cat, or llama, or fish, or snake…) by having their image on your invites, including them in your engagement shoot, immortalising them on your cake topper or on a fingerprint tree. Check out this blog post for more info on how to include your four-legged friend in your wedding.
NINE: Snap Happy
Photography. If there’s one thing worth investing in on your wedding day, it’s this (and your Celebrant, of course!). A good wedding photographer knows what shots to get and when. If you can afford a pro, get one! I’ve seen weddings where an inexperienced photographer has missed opportunities because they’re not familiar with how weddings work.
A great wedding photographer will scout the ceremony location to get interesting shots. They’ll take photos of the arrival of the bride and the reaction of the groom. They’ll know how to manoeuvre around the ceremony in a stealth-like fashion. They’ll be ready for ‘the kiss’ but won’t be in your face when it happens.
When choosing a photographer it’s also important that you feel comfy with them and you gel. If you’ve already booked your Celebrant, ask them if they have any recommendations. I find that often I work with the same photographers because my Celebrant style and their photography style is very similar. Check out one of my favourite photographers, Kirsty, who wrote a guest blog for me here
And finally, if you’re wondering whether it’s worth getting a videographer, the answer is a massive yes. Do it if your budget allows. You will never regret having this and great photos to reflect on.
TEN: The Kiss
The Kiss. This is such a much awaited and iconic moment of the ceremony and whether you want the words ‘You may kiss the bride’ or something less traditional like ‘Give each other a pash’, everyone loves this moment.
However, you might want to mix it up a little as these super spunky couples did. What about everyone joining you in taking a shot? Kelly and Keith prepared little pots of ‘apple pies’ (fireball with cider) which guests held onto until I announced them as married, as captured below.
ELEVEN: Not All Celebrants Are the Same
Not all celebrants are the same and finding the right one for you can feel a little bit like on-line dating.
Us celebrants come from all walks of life with different styles, personalities, beliefs, experiences and approaches to working with you. Some celebrants wear bright colours. Some dress like a member of the clergy. Some are risqué. Some are conservative.
Some (fortunately most) are supporters of our LGBTQI community. Some are not. Some will produce a fully personalised ceremony. Some will only change your names. Some will provide you with your ceremony in advance. Some will keep it a surprise from you. Some will meet you face-to-face to get to know you. Some will do it via Skype.
If you’ve done some on-line scouting for celebrants and there’s a few who seem to fit your criteria, have a chat to them before deciding who is the right fit. It’s a hugely important part of your day and me, well, I love a coffee – or a wine – so am always happy to meet to see if I’m the right one for you.
TWELVE: And Breathe…
Try to take a private moment post-ceremony with your new husband or wife.
Weddings can be full on and you may want to find a spot for just the two of you to enjoy a glass of champagne or a moment in complete privacy to go ‘Wowza. We’re married!’
Mr HB (my cockney, handsome husband) and I did this after our ceremony. It gave us 20 minutes to get our emotions in check and celebrate all that had happened, before rejoining our guests at our reception. For the rest of the evening I barely spoke to Mr HB as I was chatting to family and friends, and when I think back on our day, I’m very appreciative of those few moments in private with him.
THIRTEEN: Time After Time
I am often asked: what time should our ceremony start? About 85% of weddings I conduct start between 2.30 to 4.30pm. However when wedding planning, the decision on what time to start will be based on factors such as:
1) is your ceremony and reception at the same venue or do you need to factor in travel time between the two
2) chat to your photographer and see how long they need to get any post-ceremony shots and, if a winter wedding, how much day-light they require
3) what time are you serving food and will there be nibbles available post-ceremony? Chat to your venue or caterers about this and ask for their advice
4) will kids be at the wedding and are they a big part of the day? If so, you may want to start earlier so they can be involved without running out of steam too early into the celebrations
5) how long do you require to get ready pre-ceremony? Are you doing any of the set-up yourself? How long will hair/make up take?
All of these factors will help you decide. And if you want a sunrise wedding, or one at the stroke of midnight, go for it!
FIFTEEN: Doin’ it for the kids
When wedding planning and you and/or your partner have children, it’s often as much a day for them as it is for you. There’s loads of ways you can involve your offspring in your ceremony:
👪 include them in your wedding party as a flower girl, bridesmaid, best man or ring bearer
👪 help them choose a reading, or ask them to choose something themselves. They might want to deliver it together or do shorter ones as individuals
👪 give them a gift after you’ve exchanged rings to show your commitment – a piece of jewellery, cuff links, a watch or a photo of you all as a family
👪 if any of the children are over 18, they can be witnesses
👪 include them in your vows – what kind of parent or step-parent do you promise to be?
👪 choose a ritual they can be included in such as a sand ceremony, handfasting or unity candle
I love this photo of a blended family I married on their back deck. We kept it super-casual and the love they have for each other radiates crystal clear.
Read more at Part Two of Wedding Planning Tips.
Or, if you’d like to chat to me, please don’t hesitate to contact me on 0478041227 or at email@example.com