Two Of My Favourite Things: Dogs & Weddings (Part One)

My Love of Dogs

When I worked as a celebrant in London, I rarely had an opportunity to include dogs into ceremonies – for a couple of reasons. 1) not that many couples had dogs and 2) not many wedding venues allowed dogs.  However, here in Australia I’m doing many weddings where dogs are a part of the day and this means two of my favourite things come together.

In this two part post, Part One tells the story of my dog, Valentine McFarty, with Part Two providing ideas on ways to incorporate your dog into your ceremony.

Adopting our Dog

My husband, Mr HB and I wanted a dog since forever.  We’d both grown up with them, but living in small apartments in London whilst working full time made it seem impossible.

It was only when someone suggested that with the help of dog-walkers and friends, we could make being a dog owner a reality that we decided to go for it.  So, with much excitement we contacted Battersea Dogs Home, which was handily located down the road from where we lived.

Like many rescue centers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers make up the majority of abandoned, abused and lost dogs. Therefore it wasn’t surprising that we were matched with two brindle boy Staff’s, one six months old, and one three years old.

Mr HB and I played with both, before unanimously agreeing that the three year old – ‘Mitch’ – was our boy.  Poor Mitch had been in the rescue center for three months, and was suffering from signs of stress. We knew the other puppy would have more chance of finding an adopter.  The home knew very little about Mitch’s past. He had been found wandering on Clapham Common, scavenging through rubbish, and was rather overweight, but as to who his owners were, they knew zilch.

Within minutes we were walking out of the center with Mitch.  We were dog owners!

We Ditch the Mitch

On our half hour walk home from the rescue center, Mr HB and I babbled excitedly whilst Mitch yanked on the lead, desperate to put as much distance from the center and himself as possible.  It was at this time that Mr HB came up with an idea.  Mitch had been found on 14th February 2011 by the rescue center, so why not call him Valentine?!  A genius moment from Mr HB.  Reader, this is why I married him.

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His last name, ‘McFarty’, came from the moment I first saw him in his jacket we bought for London’s many cold winter days.

Me: ‘Oooh, don’t you look handsome’.

Valentine: ‘…’

Me: ‘And what clan do you belong to?’

Valentine: ‘…’

Me: ‘The McFarty clan, you say!  How appropriate…’

I can assure you, he lives up to his clan’s name.

A Dogs Life In London

Valentine quickly settled into life with Mr HB and I, though initially was very quiet and cuddly boy, perhaps frightened that if he showed his personality too much we might return him to the center.  He didn’t play with the plethora of toys we’d bought him, but he did learn many tricks. ‘Bang’ (where he drops dead), jumping through a hoop, ‘high five’ etc.  He also loved coming to the pub, which was handy as we did this a lot.

As time went on, his confidence grew, and soon he would play with his toys, throwing his ball around our flat, and playing tug-of-war with his ropey.  He loved chasing (but never catching) squirrels and foxes in the park opposite our house.  We took him on our holidays, and realised he liked swimming in the sea and ponds, but not in a pool.  He enriched our lives in ways that we never expected, and the cheeky, funny, silly side of his personality came out in droves.

A Dogs Life in Australia

In 2015, Mr HB and I decided to move to Australia.  This meant organising for Valentine to get his Pet Passport, a million or so vet checks and a very, very expensive flight, followed by 10 days in quarantine in Sydney.  And every penny we paid was worth it, as Valentine took to living here like he was a true blue Aussie.

Now we live in a house with a garden he has learnt to bury his bones (though he does struggle to remember where he left them), bark and chase the postman, tease the magpies (who take much joy in swooping him – it’s a fun game), and going for a swim in the sea at least twice a week.

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Some people say Valentine is lucky we adopted him, but Mr HB and I are the lucky ones.  Seeing this boy, who had experienced god only knows what in his first three years, living the life he deserves is the most satisfying thing to observe.

I guess you can say that I am a proper dog lover.  I truly love Valentine, but I also love many other dogs.  I can’t walk past a dog without saying ‘hello’, and many of my friends’ dogs received the same kind of loving I give Valentine.

I hope you enjoyed reading a little bit about my boy, and if you’d like to know how to include your furry friend at your wedding, please read part two.

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Confessions of a Celebrant – what’s it like really?

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Firstly the cons: this is  the hard stuff that keeps me awake at night.

The Hard Stuff

  • The cost. Becoming and remaining a celebrant is expensive.  Here are some of my costs (all costs are approximate from my 2015 expenses):
    • Training fee for initial training, which can range in cost depending on whether you want to do on-line or face to face. I chose to do on-line as I had already been a celebrant for five years in the UK so felt face to face wasn’t necessary, and this cost me $750.  You then have to do a minimum 5 hours of Ongoing Professional Development (OPD) which I chose to do on-line for 2015 ($175)
    • Registration fee to the Attorney General’s Office to gain your qualification ($600)
    • Annual Registration fee to the Attorney General’s Office ($240)
    • Annual Membership fee to a Celebrant Association – Although this is not obligatory, I belong to the Australian Marriage Celebrants http://www.marriagecelebrants.org.au/ but there are other membership organisations you can join ($242)
    • Website – I use WordPress, and manage it myself. To set it all up, buy my domain, etc, this cost approximately $260, with an ongoing fee per year of $129
    • Early on, I advertised in a number of places plus Google Ad Words, and I would spend on average $500+ on advertising per month
    • Marketing materials – I’m so grateful to my wonderful creative friends who have helped me keep my costs down with this, including the talented Heath at http://www.theleftlane.com.au/ and my designer friend Louisa. I pay for printing for business cards, leaflets, stickers and any other materials and would spend approximately $200 a year on this.
    • Official paperwork. Most of this has to be bought through the Government printers, CanPrint, and would cost me approximately $200 per year.
  • The hours. Wave bye-bye to your weekends.  My friends, family, husband and dog are neglected on weekends.  I’m either conducting a wedding, meeting up with prospective clients, doing paperwork, or writing a ceremony.  I am also often busy on many week-day evenings meeting with prospective clients.
  • The responsibility. My recurring nightmare is to turn up at a wedding without my script. Or my legal paperwork.  Which is an unnecessary worry as a) I’m super organised and b) I always have spares in my car. However, I did make an error on my paperwork for the very first wedding I did in Australia.  My blood froze when I realised, though fortunately I had submitted the correct details to Births, Deaths and Marriages (who were wonderful when I confessed my mistake).  Initially I found the paperwork a little confusing – it’s not hard, but there are documents which look the same but have different purposes.  I’m now a whizz at it… though I still check, check, check… and check again.
  • The work/home balance. When I lived in London, my office was my dining table. I’m fortunate that now I’m in Brisbane I have a great home office which I love working in (especially as it means I can have my dog at work with me).  But for some people, having your home as your workplace can be hard or not practical.  Brisbane has lots of co-working spaces popping up and some are not that expensive.  See http://stylemagazines.com.au/lifestyle/brisbanes-best-co-working-spaces-and-offices/

Reading all that, you may think ‘Why would anyone want to be a celebrant?’  Because there’s the Good Stuff…

The Good Stuff

  • The writing. Finally I get to utilise my writing skills for something more interesting than business reports
  • The people. I’m constantly meeting new people and hear their relationship stories. What other situation could I find out so much so quickly about two strangers?
  • The love. Meeting the couple, who are in love, then meeting their friends and family who love them. In fact, sometimes I fall a little in love with them. So much love!
  • The day itself. The build up.  Seeing the bride and groom for the first time on the day.  Seeing the venue and how they’ve decorated it. Meeting so many people who I’ve already heard about.  And then the conducting of the ceremony.  Seeing the bride, the groom, the family or friend show emotion as I speak the words I’ve worked so hard to get right for the couple
  • The travel. I love travelling so getting to see new places, whether in Queensland or beyond, is a big fat cherry on top of an already top notch ice-cream
  • The independence. My boss is me. (By the way, I’m a great boss)
  • The creativity. What other job can you suggest ‘dancing girls’ or ‘an arrival on a horse’ or conduct a flash mob mid-way through the ceremony?
  • The gratitude. When I receive an email saying ‘thanks’, or have a parent come up to me after the ceremony with happy tears in their eyes, I think ‘what a job’.

You will never hear me moan about the Hard Stuff because the Good Stuff outweighs it a million to one in my mind.  I have found a job which I love so much that it doesn’t feel like work.  If you’re thinking about becoming a celebrant and want advice or just a chat, please feel free to contact me at roxy@roxyrocks.com

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My Husband and Our Wedding

In 2017 it’ll be my 10 year anniversary of being married to Mr HB, and when I look back on my wedding, it was the happiest day of my life.

One of the things I was most happy about was how easy and stress free it all was and I think this was down to the fact that all I wanted on the day was to be married to Mr HB and for my friends and family to have a hoot on our wedding day.  We were living in Battersea, London at the time, and Mr HB and I had barely two pennies to rub together.  I was working for a disability charity and had a job which didn’t pay very much, and Mr HB was trying to establish himself as an actor.  And, as you probably know, London is an expensive city.  roxydanwedding

Our wedding was held at Wandsworth Registry Office, where
Mr HB’s Parents and Grandparents married, following by a big, messy party at our local pub (which was sadly demolished a few years ago).  My dress cost £68 (approx $120AUD) and our wedding meal was a self-serve BBQ.  Mr HB’s parents secretly paid for the BBQ for us, so we used the money we’d saved for this to put behind the bar so our friends and family could have some drinks on us.

If we had have had more money, we may have done some things differently, but we didn’t, and so we did what we was the most affordable and fun at the time. And it was fun.  Oh my gosh, was it fun.  Our friends were amazing, so kind, and they took the whole day in the spirit it was meant – as a celebration of Mr HB and my relationship and our friendship with all of them.

Nearly ten years on, I look back at that day with fond memories.  I also look back at my relationship with Mr HB with the same.  We’ve done a lot, and had many adventures.  We’ve adopted the Best Dog in the World, Valentine, and we’ve traveled to Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Indonesia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Holland, Germany, Poland and now have made Australia our home.  We’ve suffered hard times, but we’ve suffered them together.  We’ve learnt how to support each others ambitions and passions.  And we’ve celebrated our achievements together, like the time I rode my bike from London to Paris or Mr HB made an appearance in Eastenders.

So, I guess in a way, this post is dedicated to my husband, Danny Brown, and to say ‘thank you’ for being you.  I’m just the luckiest girl in the world.

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