I've been to alot of weddings over the years and after completing my third season as a marriage celebrant and going through the planning process with so many different couples I have observed some interesting things. You learn alot when you become part of the machine by signing up to be a wedding vendor.
A wedding vendor is any person or business that a couple needs (or wants) to engage with to get married and it's big business. Everyone from celebrants to florists, transport and travel providers, caterers and venues, dress designers and suit outfitters, jewellers and wedding planners, make up artists and hairdressers, shoes and bridesmaid dresses, balloon artists and food trucks, wedding party gifts and wedding favours, bands and DJ's, photographers and videographers, PA systems, lighting and venue stylists, hire equipment and furniture, the list is endless!
The funny thing is, that the only necessary vendor is the celebrant. The other stuff is great but is all for show and not needed to become married, yet the celebrant is often the last thing to be considered on the list of preparations. The rest are important sure, I know you want to wear a nice dress and have a lovely meal for your guests of course, but when I see the order of priority for many couples planning lists it amazes me how everything is ahead of the one thing they actually need. I often see social media posts raving about someone's wedding and tagging in the florist and the makeup artist, the venue and the wedding planner, with hardly ever, in fact never to date, a mention of the ceremony or the celebrant.
Now you might think that as a celebrant this is about sour grapes or not getting a big enough slice of the spotlight, which really couldn't be further from the truth.
For me it's about wondering how the emphasis for your wedding day could be more about how it looks instead of how it feels. And why would you leave the choice of the one vendor that can truly make or break your day so late? I have lost count of the number of couples who tell me they couldn't get the celebrant they wanted because they left it too late. Don't let that be you!
I know that the look of an event can provide ambience, and I understand that feel can be largely influenced by the setting, the decorations, the music, the food and the clothes. I get that. But the biggest influencer of creating the feeling of love, celebration and inclusion on someones wedding day is the ceremony itself. Those 20 - 30 minutes where we are sharing the story of your relationship with all those who are close to you. The moments you share your heartfelt vows and promises with each other. It's a sacred ritual where you make commitments to your chosen partner to do life together from here on in. You get to do this once, hopefully, and it's momentous. Why would you spend all that time, money and effort getting everyone in one place to celebrate but not invest the same time and effort into making your ceremony meaningful and perfect for you?
The best weddings I have officiated at have not been the designer weddings where every last detail has been perfect and cost tens of thousands. The most moving and memorable weddings for me, and I believe the potentially longest lasting marriages, have been the low key and intimate gatherings where money and image doesn't even come into it. The ceremonies where the couple are truly in tune with the importance of what is happening right here and now and their guests are all carried away on the wave of feeling created by the sharing of this intimate and special ritual.
I have been lucky enough that most of the couples I have got to work with have also felt this way. They have been focused on the marriage itself, the importance of what they are sharing and not just the wedding day. It has been a dream to work with them and to witness the joy of their wedding days.
I would love more couples to realise that it's not about what you spend or how you managed to fit into a dress 2 sizes smaller than usual. It's about the love you bring and the commitment you are making. Of course you want to look your best on the day, we all do. But just remember that you don't have to spend thousands to do that and your day will be remembered for the sentiment long after people have forgotten what you served for dinner or who your band was.
If you're planning a wedding I beg you to put your early time and energy into choosing the right celebrant, booking them early and building a relationship with them before you start tasting cake or choosing wine and I guarantee you will have a wedding day that no one, least of all you, will forget.
If you are interested, my priority list for wedding planning to get the best results is:
Boom you got engaged! Tell your parents, siblings & bestie before you announce it on Social Media!
Set your date and invite wedding party attendants to stand up with you (and your MC if you are having one)
12 months ahead -
1. Choose your wedding planner if you are having one - if not (and you don't need one) buy yourself a good planning book (The little white book by @shesaidyes is awesome) and keep everything in one place
2. Choose and book your celebrant and your venue (make sure they have a bad weather option)
3. Choose and book your photographer, videographer and band or DJ
4. Choose and book your makeup and hair artists
5. Choose and book your florist
6. Choose and book your cake and catering (or food trucks)
7. Choose and book your cars if you are using a commercial vendor
Your celebrant is likely to be able to offer recommendations for all of these having worked with many before and identified the really great vendors already
6 months ahead -
8. Send invitations (recommend not having a seating plan - this will save you untold stress)
9. Choose your wedding outfits and accessories (involve your Mum if you are lucky enough to still have her)
10. Choose rings and attendants gifts (if you are giving them - they are not necessary)
11. Choose where you will spend your wedding night and book if needed
12. Plan and book a honeymoon if you are having one
3 months ahead -
13. Check all of your bookings and confirm
14. Chase up RSVP's and make it clear if they don't by x date there will be no place for them
15. Fittings for dresses if needed
16. Invite those you want to be involved - witnesses, ushers, readings, performance etc
2 months ahead -
17. Meet with your celebrant and share your love story, discuss details and plan your ceremony - a good celebrant will have lots of ideas and suggestions for you
18. Book a rehearsal with your celebrant and venue, ideally the evening before the wedding
19.Don't do wedding favours - no one appreciates or remembers them and it's more stress and expense
On the day -
20. The most important thing on the list - Don't stress, it's too late for that now. Relax and enjoy your day. This is your day and you will want to remember it.