Ten Years a Celebrant!

On this day ten years ago the Attorney General’s Department saw fit to approve my application to become an Authorised Marriage Celebrant. Ten years ago? Geesh! That time has flown!

Since the 27th of August 2009, I’ve hitched almost 600 couples, I’ve helped others renew their vows, I’ve named babies, I’ve seen marriage equality achieved (hallelujah!) and I’ve seen trends such as mason jars, L.O.V.E letters and sand ceremonies come and go. I’ve seen the rise and rise of Tinder hook-ups, Instagram hashtags (and couple name generator apps), floral arches and ceiling installations, festoon lighting, neon signage, unplugged ceremonies, first looks and non-traditional ceremony venues like bars, distilleries, cellar doors and art galleries. I’ve mentored dozens of celebrants and I’ve won a few awards along the way, but most importantly, I’ve forged trusting relationships with many wonderful couples and close friendships with many industry folk.

I have loved working with happy couples and meeting proud and emotional parents. I have loved making people laugh and watching them cry. I have loved solving problems, dressing up, visiting beautiful venues, and observing talented creatives work their magic. I’ve always appreciated having the best seat in the house.

And so, to anyone who has hired me, recommended me, reviewed me, followed my socials, photographed or filmed me, thank you. To those of you who have spent too much time with me in photo booths, chatting on Messenger threads or carving up dance floors at industry events, sorry (not sorry).

And to my wonderfully supportive husband, thanks for holding down the fort on weekends, for always offering to pack and unpack my equipment from the boot and for having wine, vegetarian pasta and a listening ear at the ready when I return home from ceremonies and insist on reliving every moment.

2029 here I come!

Sal x

ZOE + DAN - Style and Sophistication (...with a side of silliness)

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

What do you get when you combine two gorgeous, accomplished and utterly joyful people, a glamorous bride tribe, dapper and downright hilarious groomsmen, an elegant garden setting, a wise and oh-so-witty zia and some seriously A-grade vendors? One of the most elegant and exuberant ceremonies ever.

The impeccably dressed and contagiously happy Zoe and Dan were married in the Italian Garden at Coombe Yarra Valley. With superb styling by Tori Allen Events and music by the fabulous Logan Entertainment their sentimental, yet laughter-filled ceremony looked and sounded amazing. And it was once again so wonderful to team up with some of my very favourite creatives; photographer Katie Harmsworth and videographers Annette + Dani Films.

Zoe and Dan, thanks so much for the many, many laughs and for sharing these images of your utterly beautiful day.

(Laughing before we officially begin. Love that!)

(Still laughing….)

(Until Aunty Betty’s story brings Zoe to tears.)

(How’s that for perfect dress and wedding party placement? I’m ALWAYS on top of this!)

(Thanks for laughing at every. single. joke. Dan!)

Love Note…

Sally is simply the best! She created the most warm and engaging atmosphere during our ceremony which was the highlight of our day. She thinks of everything and manages all aspects of the ceremony from start to finish masterfully, not to mention what a joy she is to work with in the lead up to the big day. Thank you Sally!

Zoe + Dan


Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Venue: Coombe Yarra Valley

Photographer: Katie Harmsworth

Videographer: Annette + Dani Films

Stylist: Tori Allen Events 

Zoe’s Dress: Cappellazzo Couture

Bridesmaid Dresses: Bec + Bridge

Suits: Hugo Boss

Hair: House of Hoxton and Kirby Richards

Make Up: Danielle Gardiner

Musicians: Logan Entertainment

Rings: Rod Valenz

Cake: Pastel and Bloom

KATE + STEVEN - Banking on Love

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Celebrant

Great ceremonies are dependent on two factors; an easy-going and good humoured couple who are willing to share great stories, funny and romantic (preferably both) and a celebrant who knows how to retell them in a way that will make a group of people sit up, listen, laugh and sigh. Add to that a stellar supplier line up and a group of guests who have just enjoyed a welcome drink (it’s a game changer!) and you really can’t go wrong.

Kate and Steven’s ceremony ticked both boxes. Two laid back, yet organised people, funny, fun, sentimental and intelligent - they’re a celebrant’s dream really. And importantly, Kate and Steven placed their trust in me to read the crowd on the day and play to them in a way that met their “relaxed, interactive, sentimental and a little cheeky” brief.

And boy, the crowd was on fire! They responded to every little joke, quip (scripted or otherwise) and romantic declaration without restraint. But don’t take my word for it. Let Katie Harmsworth’s fabulous photos of their Stones of the Yarra Valley celebration demonstrate my point.

(Tip - if your budget and logistics allow, always serve a welcome drink. It’s a ceremony game changer!)

Kate & Steve by Katie Harmsworth 26.jpg

Love Note…

“Sally, it was truly the most amazing day and I think our favourite thing was the ceremony!! You absolutely nailed our brief of being humorous yet sentimental and so many of our friends and family raved about it afterwards. Thank you again for making it so special!!”

Kate + Steven


Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Venue: Stones of the Yarra Valley

Photographer: Katie Harmsworth

Videographer: One Heart Studios

Katie’s Dress: Suzanne Harward 

Katie’s Denim Jacket: One Day Bridal

Bridesmaids Dresses: Shona Joy

Suits: Oscar Hunt

Florist: Sugar Bee Flowers

Hair: Tara Steel

Make Up: Merton Muaremi

Ceremony Pianist: Liam Dixon

Reception Musicians: Baker Boys Band

Cars: Supplied by Kate’s dad

Rings: Simon West Fine Jewellery

Neon Sign: Neon Collective

TRENDING - Surprise Weddings

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Celebrant

“We're newly engaged and considering a surprise wedding.  Can you tell me if there's anything we should consider from a planning perspective and if there’s anything we need to know from a legal standpoint?”

Given that I receive enquiries like this several times a year, I feel that the subject of surprise weddings well and truly warrants a blog post.

Surprise weddings are fabulous! There's nothing quite like the roar that erupts immediately after guests learn that they've been unwittingly invited to a wedding. The thrilling cacophony of squeals, applause, laughter and odd cry of “I knew it! I knew it!!”, never fails to make me smile. The atmosphere is always electric.

The Pros and Cons of Surprise Weddings

If you’re considering a celebration that doesn’t conform to the norm, allow me to take you through the pros and cons of surprise weddings.

Pros:

  • The vibe is fantastic. When guests realise that the’ve been invited to a wedding they tend to get really loud and really excited very quickly. They’re usually a few drinks in by that stage, so by the time the ceremony begins they’re ready and willing to involve themselves and actively participate. I love this.

  • Savings (well, in theory anyway!). You can still end up spending large on catering, clothing, styling and so on, however surprise weddings tend to be a little more casual than traditional (i.e. disclosed) bells-and-whistles ones. The opportunity to combine your engagement party with your wedding is a definite cost saver too.

  • Less stress. Given that you won’t be fielding questions from well-intentioned loved ones about your reception menu, choice of band, wedding party and colour palette, there’s no expectation to conform to expectations held by others. You have so much more freedom to do it your way.

Cons:

  • You can’t discuss your plans with anyone other than suppliers. This means no water cooler conversations with work colleagues about finding your dream dress, and no counting down to the big day on your Facebook page!

  • Parents, siblings and besties may be offended if they aren’t privy to the plan. And fair enough. When you think about it, your parents have probably thought about your wedding day for longer than you have. Though they can certainly be involved in your celebration, you may have deprived them of their opportunity to contribute to the planning process, including preparing a heartfelt speech. For that reason you might want to give some serious thought to letting the VIPs know. ONLY the VIPs!

  • You’ll probably miss out on a hen’s/buck’s/huck’s night.

  • Guests may arrive after your ceremony has taken place or they might even miss your wedding altogether. The latter particularly applies to overseas or interstate guests. Often logistical and financial constraints cause long-distance loved ones to skip your so-called engagement party in favour of your future wedding - the wedding they might miss.

So, if you feel a surprise wedding is the way to go, here are a few tips to ensure the surprise element plays out perfectly.

  • Unless you're absolutely certain that your work colleagues won't see your work emails, use a personal email address for correspondence with suppliers. (Nothing ruins the surprise like an email from sally@celebrantsallyhughes.com.au)

  • Don't note the name of your celebrant, photographer or dress designer in your work diary/calendar.  Again, work colleagues may recognise a wedding supplier, as was the case with a surprise ceremony I was hired to conduct. One of my former brides arrived at the so-called “engagement party” certain that it was a wedding after having seen my name in her boss’ diary.

  • Don't tell anyone! (Have I stressed this point enough?) I know how tough this can be, however trusting people to keep such a big secret is a risk!  If anyone queries whether your engagement party or child’s first birthday bash is likely to double as your wedding, don't feel bad about telling a white lie.  It makes the surprise so much better! Keep in mind that if everyone’s in the same boat, guests are less likely to be offended. Issues usually occur when 20-odd people are in on the secret and the remaining 50 realise they weren’t deemed as trustworthy as the others.

  • Consider how the surprise will be delivered.  Will your celebrant pose as a singer in the Baker Boys Band (yes, I've done that!), or as the venue's emcee (that too) and make the announcement?  Will your fiance and yourself welcome guests and announce the ceremony yourselves? Will guests arrive to a huge “Welcome to our Wedding” sign? You’re only limited by your imagination.

  • Consider whether or not your celebrant should remain well hidden before the big announcement. When I know that my former couples will be attending, I think it’s best that I stay in the back room until show time. Otherwise, they’ll figure it out rather quickly.

  • Give some thought to what happens immediately after the big reveal. Will your ceremony begin immediately or will you need five minutes to change your outfits and put a few chairs in place? Will you announce the names of your official witnesses and wedding crew and invite them to come up and stand with you? You’ve gotta have a plan!

From a Legal Standpoint

For an Australian marriage ceremony to be deemed legally valid, the surprise element can only extend to official witnesses and guests. In other words, the ceremony cannot come as a surprise to the marrying couple. A ‘Notice of Intended Marriage’ (NOIM) must be lodged with a celebrant at least one calendar month prior to the “surprise” marriage ceremony (unless a shortening of time is approved by the relevant authority) and the celebrant must be satisfied that both parties understand the nature of the relationship they intend to enter into and that they are doing so voluntarily and without coercion. The celebrant must also have sufficient time to establish the identity of each party to the marriage.

And for the record… it is legally possible to surprise one of the consenting parties to the marriage with the date, time and location of the marriage, as long as intention to marry has been lodged within the required one calendar month timeframe. For example, a bride and groom could lodge the NOIM with their celebrant but agree to leave all the event planning (date, time, venue and so on) to the groom. The bride would therefore be surprised in that way. It’s not commonly done, but it is legally permissible.

If you’ve any questions or stories to share, feel free to comment below.

Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

Looking for a little inspiration? Take a look at Nicole + Saul’s surprise wedding.

MADELEINE + DANIEL - Morning Micro

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

Madeleine and Daniel flew from Brunei to Australia to be married in the morning sunshine at Zonzo Estate in Victoria’s Yarra Valley. They spent time among the vines with their photographer Suzie Potter of London Ivy Collective and then married before a small group of family members and friends.  After their micro ceremony (and a quick costume change) the newlyweds made their way indoors to The Stables, a stunning light-filled space, to enjoy a celebratory lunch. 

Madeleine and Daniel’s low-key celebration was a wonderfully unhurried and intimate one. Further proof that micro weddings can be just as beautiful, meaningful and enjoyable as the large-scale variety.


Celebrant: Sally Hughes for Signed and Sealed

Photography: Suzie Potter of London Ivy Collective

Ceremony Venue: Zonzo Estate

Flowers: Sugar Bee Flowers

Madeleine’s Dress: White Runway

Daniel’s Suit: Zara Man

TRENDING - Rose Petal Recessionals

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

Rose petals are making a comeback, folks! And it’s thanks to pictures like these that couples are opting to bring back the tradition.

The tradition of showering newlyweds with small objects dates back centuries. It’s widely believed that rice and grains, precursors to petals, were thrown as a way of symbolising rain; a sign of prosperity, fertility and good fortune (i’ll be sure to mention that to couples when downpours are imminent!). Coloured paper confetti then became all the rage until dresses became stained and venue operators became tired of cleaning it up. Petals came next, but like all trends, their popularity declined somewhat. Again, venue operators played a role here because, like paper confetti, coloured petals stain carpets and tiles too. However I have noticed that some venue operators will now allow white or freeze dried petals.

Anyhow, enough of the history lesson. Petals have made a comeback! When thrown well, they look great in photos and they inject a little fun into the recessional. EVERY couple laughs while their friends take aim - and these photos prove my point.

A few tips for rose petal recessionals:

1. Have your Celebrant instruct guests to throw petals above you, not at you. While it is rather funny watching a couple cop a face full of blooms, it won’t be the most pleasurable experience for them. And the photography and footage will suffer.

2. Ditch petal cones. Guests don’t want to balance a cone of petals on their laps during the ceremony. And those in the standing section should be hands-free so they can applaud your extremely witty and hilarious Celebrant and wipe their tears during a sentimental exchange of vows. A bowl or basket of petals is all you’ll need.

3. Distribute petals during the signing of the certificates. No one wants to hold a handful of petals for more than a few minutes. As per point 2, guests should be hands-free during the ceremony, so just ask a friend to walk up and down the aisle to distribute during the signing.

4. If petals aren’t your thing, consider glitter cannons, sparklers (provided fire bans aren’t in place), pom poms, leaves or bubbles.

AMY + PHIL / Gerard Assi Photography / The Riverstone Estate / Edward & I

AMY + PHIL / Gerard Assi Photography / The Riverstone Estate / Edward & I

ZOE + DAN / Katie Harmsworth Photography / Coombe Yarra Valley / Tori Allen Events

ZOE + DAN / Katie Harmsworth Photography / Coombe Yarra Valley / Tori Allen Events

AMANDA + MATT / Lost In Love Photography / Zonzo Estate / Sugar Bee Flowers

AMANDA + MATT / Lost In Love Photography / Zonzo Estate / Sugar Bee Flowers

FIONA + PAUL / Stewart Leishman Photography / Immerse / Debbie O’Neill Flowers

FIONA + PAUL / Stewart Leishman Photography / Immerse / Debbie O’Neill Flowers

TAYLA + TODD / Sigrid Petersen / Coombe Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

TAYLA + TODD / Sigrid Petersen / Coombe Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

AMI + MATT / Michael Briggs Photography / Zonzo Estate, Yarra Glen / Sugar Bee Flowers

AMI + MATT / Michael Briggs Photography / Zonzo Estate, Yarra Glen / Sugar Bee Flowers

AMELIA + WILL / Blossom Daisy Creative / The George Ballroom / Floretta By Grace

AMELIA + WILL / Blossom Daisy Creative / The George Ballroom / Floretta By Grace

ANNALIECE + ALEKS / Michael Lean Photography / Dayne Robinson

ANNALIECE + ALEKS / Michael Lean Photography / Dayne Robinson

CAROLYNE + MARTY / Robert Hock Photography / Coombe Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

CAROLYNE + MARTY / Robert Hock Photography / Coombe Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

EMILY + CAM / Warren Photography / Stones of the Yarra Valley / Red Earth Flowers

EMILY + CAM / Warren Photography / Stones of the Yarra Valley / Red Earth Flowers

JEN + JARMON / Shot From The Heart / Lyrebird Falls / Sassafras Flower Design

JEN + JARMON / Shot From The Heart / Lyrebird Falls / Sassafras Flower Design

MELISSA + JED / Aria Photography / Zonzo Estate / Silver Suede Flowers

MELISSA + JED / Aria Photography / Zonzo Estate / Silver Suede Flowers

BETH + JUSTIN / Dijana Risteska Photography / Zonzo Estate / Sugar Bee Flowers

BETH + JUSTIN / Dijana Risteska Photography / Zonzo Estate / Sugar Bee Flowers

LIV + NATHAN / Beck Rocchi Photography / Coombe Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

LIV + NATHAN / Beck Rocchi Photography / Coombe Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

KATE + STEVE / Katie Harmsworth Photography / Stones of the Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

KATE + STEVE / Katie Harmsworth Photography / Stones of the Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

ANIKA + ANDY / Fifteen Photography / Yering Station / Sugar Bee Flowers

ANIKA + ANDY / Fifteen Photography / Yering Station / Sugar Bee Flowers

EMILY + HAYDEN / PiXray Photography / Quat Quatta / Victoria Whitelaw Flowers

EMILY + HAYDEN / PiXray Photography / Quat Quatta / Victoria Whitelaw Flowers

CHLOE + ED - Truly Madly Deeply

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

Chloe and Ed were married on the Harbour Room rooftop at the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron during one of the most relaxed and interactive ceremonies I’ve ever had the pleasure of presenting. The laughter, the unscripted banter, the spontaneous applause… the sheer willingness of everyone to get involved, made for such a great ceremony.

As the genetically blessed pair stood together that warm and sunny St Kilda afternoon, I spoke of the strong bond they have with their family, of the many close friendships they’ve forged (involving quite a few people as I did - and gee they played along well…) and of the relationship that resulted from a shared cab ride one rainy evening in South Melbourne.

The ceremony concluded with an almighty roar, cocktail hour commenced and Chloe and Ed ventured downstairs with their wedding crew to see their precious Staffies, Opie and Bo, and hang out with their very chilled and very talented photographer, Daniel Milligan.

Photo by guest

Photo by guest

“I’ll be your dream, I’ll be your wish, I’ll be your fantasy.

I’ll be your hope, I’ll be your love, be everything that you need…”

The Savage Garden classic was the song of choice for Chloe’s processional. Several guests and I may have sung along…

Love Note

“Sally was absolutely incredible!!! From the first meeting until the big day Sally took so much stress out of the whole ceremony process for us by guiding us through everything. Her level of professionalism is outstanding and she was a friendly, enthusiastic and fun person to have as part of our important process. Our guests completely raved about her following the ceremony where everyone gave her a round of applause at the mention of her name later on during the reception. Sally was an absolute godsend and we could not be more thankful for having found her.”

Chloe + Ed

Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Photographer (excluding photo 2): Daniel Milligan

Venue: Harbour Room at the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron (Managed by Food & Desire)

Ceremony Musicians: James Howlett and Bron, AKA 'Le Bron James’

Reception DJ: Ian Henton

Florals: Melbourne Event Florals & Flowers In Hand St Kilda

Wedding Dress: Jane Hill

Suits: My Tuxedo tailored by Looksmart Alterations

Bridesmaid Dresses: Nookie

Hair: Rhiannon at Ayana Hair Design

Hairpiece: The Luxe Bride Co

Make up: Rachael Amy

Rings: Parker Diamonds

Cars: Always Classic Cars


CAROLYNE + MARTIN - Say 'I Do' at Coombe

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

I absolutely love Yarra Valley weddings. I love cueing up a TED Talk and driving along long and windy roads, passing rows upon rows of grapevines, paddocks of cows and hay bales and arriving at beautiful venues. When Carolyne and Martin’s enquiry arrived in my inbox, the old “Oooo, I hope I’m available for this one” thought most definitely entered my mind.

And that’s because Carolyne and Martin were married at Coombe Yarra Valley - one of my favourite Yarra Valley venues. Bordered by a ten metre high cypress hedge, the estate boasts magnificent oak trees, lush green lawns, stunning architecture old and new, delicious food and wine and, importantly, superb service. It’s no wonder this venue, opera singer Dame Nellie Melba’s former residence, has established itself as one of Victoria’s premier wedding venues. It’s a dream venue for couples and Celebrants alike.

Add to this location a couple as funny, kind and easy going as Carolyne and Martin and a fabulous afternoon is assured.

The moment 100-odd guests made their way from the cellar door to the ceremony space - many with a drink in hand (I love the way they do things at Coombe), I knew Carolyne and Martin’s ceremony would be an interactive one. Without doubt. They were laughing, they were loud and they were keen to play along with my pre ceremony warm up. I absolutely love couples who invite people like this to their ceremony.

Carolyne and Martin were married on Melba’s former tennis court under blue skies. Carolyne and her bestie arrived in a black mustang ten minutes prior to our scheduled start, allowing us ample time to talk through their entrances, admire Carolyne’s stunning Maggie Sottero wedding dress and soak in the pre ceremony excitement away from the gaze of guests.

Lark Music provided the sound track to the processional, nailing John Legend’s Stay With You, and four year old Mila almost stole the show, walking some 50 metres on her own (her pre ceremony run-through with her mother and I while dozens of supportive guests cheered her on must have helped). Carolyne’s bestie Alyssa followed, looking gorgeous in maroon. Her bouquet in hues of pink, red and burgundy was one of many stunning Sugar Bee Flowers arrangements on display that day.

But then it was all eyes on Carolyne as she took her brother’s arm and walked toward Martin.

(Side note: Isn’t it lovely to see a distinct absence of cameras and phones in the processional images below?)

And so began a ceremony that included an emotional processional, a light-hearted reteling of an eight year-long relationship story, a few highly romantic moments and fair smattering of guest interaction. OK, a LOT of guest interaction! I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome for this gorgeous pair. It really was a ceremony that had it all.

Love Note

“Sally, thank you for everything that you did for our wedding. You went above and beyond our expectations and made it a seamless journey for both of us! All of our close family and friends have expressed how fabulous, easy-going and kind you were on the day and how fantastic the ceremony itself was! People have said to us multiple times how lovely and kind you are, so thank you from us and everyone else.”

Carolyne + Martin


Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Photographer: Robert Hock

Venue: Coombe Yarra Valley

Videographer: Iconic Pictures

Flowers: Sugar Bee Flowers

Music: Lark Music

Wedding Dress: Maggie Sottero

Suits: InStitchu



What's a Micro Wedding?

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

‘I’m sorry, but what do you mean by micro wedding? Is that a new thing?”

Put simply, yes! (well the term is, anyway). And you’re not the only person to wonder what on earth they’re all about.

The micro movement has been around for a few years, however only in the past twelve months have I noticed a significant growth in its popularity. So what’s it all about? Essentially, a micro wedding is a wedding that has all the big ticket items of a regular wedding, but on a smaller scale. So, yes, there’s a ceremony and a reception that follows, there’s a fancy wedding dress and/or suit, rings, flowers, music, photography and videography. The main difference is that the guest list is significantly smaller than what we’ve come to expect from a regular-sized wedding (think 20 not 120).

And the motivation? There are a few, however I believe the major motivator is to reduce costs. With only 20 odd guests to feed and hydrate, only 20 ceremony chairs to hire (or not) and a photographer whose presence is only required for a few hours, there’s usually a significant saving to be made (and perhaps a home deposit left untouched).

Another reason to go micro is to provide an arguably better experience for all involved. The overall spend might be the same as a large scale wedding, however the experience might be more, shall we say, discerning. With fewer guests, a couple could book out a private estate for a weekend, hire a celebrity chef, special entertainment, and/or provide accommodation for all. Alternatively, they might book a private dining room at a fine dining restaurant like Vue de monde (take a look at Brian and Nicholas’ micro below).

And then there’s the vibe of it all. When you can eyeball every single guest at your ceremony, when you can hear every giggle, every sniffle and every comment that is made, the experience is quite different. I find that micro ceremonies are a little shorter than those I present at large scale weddings, but they’re just as meaningful, just as interactive (perhaps even more so) and just as enjoyable. Couples feel every bit the Bride and/or Groom, regardless of the number of people gathered around them.

So, if you feel inclined to jump aboard the micro wedding train, get in touch! I can point you in the direction of some great venues and talented industry folk who love a small scale celebration as much as I.

Oh, and a quick tip! If you host your micro between Monday and Thursday, minimum spends are lower and venue availability will be far greater.

Love Note…

“Sally was brilliant! From our first meeting she made us feel comfortable despite the nerves. She guided us from start to finish, and the ceremony was perfect. It really felt like Sally understood who we are and what we wanted. It was a pleasure to have her as our celebrant.”

Brian + Nicholas


TING TING + KENNETH - Married in the Valley

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant


Ting Ting and Kenneth met in Hong Kong and relocated to Australia as young adults. Within a short space of time they not only mastered the English language, they earned university degrees, established admirable careers and adopted two fluffy white pooches. Though they’ll return to their homeland for a big wedding next year, they wanted their legal marriage ceremony to be a low-key affair, conducted in their adopted country.

Within minutes of my first conversation with Ting Ting, I was drawn to her bright personality and her sentimental nature. Though she had indicated that she and Kenneth wanted a simple “Legals Only” style of ceremony, I sensed that they might enjoy making a little more out of the occasion. And so I suggested that they dress up, ditch their backyard for a beautiful, wide open space and hire a professional photographer for an hour. They loved the idea!

Ting Ting & Kenneth eloped at Zonzo Estate, a stunning wedding venue, vineyard and restaurant in the Yarra Valley. Their parents flew over from Hong Kong to witness the happy event and to keep a close eye on pooches Christmas and Pinkie, Joanne from Lily Infusion Weddings acted as our official interpreter and the incomparable Rick Liston captured it all on camera.


Celebrant: Sally Hughes for Signed and Sealed

Photography: Rick Liston

Ceremony Venue: Zonzo Estate

Ceremony Interpreter: Lily Infusion Weddings

CHRISTINA + WARREN - Seaside Elopement

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

 

elope

ɪˈləʊp/

run away secretly in order to get married.

Christina and Warren were married before four friends on St Kilda Pier in what was one of the happiest and most heartfelt ceremonies I've conducted.  While most of the world was busy going about their working day, time seemed to stand still for Christina and Warren.  They looked into one another's eyes and reflected on the decisions that had led them to each other. They spoke of their love and admiration for each other and of their gratitude for the relationship they had cultivated.  They laughed, they cried, they grinned as their friends gave impromptu speeches and then, we all drank spicy margaritas!

Warren+Christina6 (Marie-Luise).jpg
Warren+Christina40 (Marie-Luise).jpg

JESS + ROB - Glasshaus Nuptials

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

 

serendipity

ˌsɛr(ə)nˈdɪpɪti/    

  1. the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Jess and Rob met briefly while traveling through Europe.  Serendipitously, a year later they met again at a local football match.  The following week their paths crossed yet again at, of all places, at an ATM in the city and then, when Rob asked Jess to join him at a party the following week, they discovered that Jess was invited too.  And so it would seem that the universe was conspiring to unite these genetically blessed humans.

Jess and Rob were married at The Glasshaus in Cremorne - a garden nursery by day and event space by night, situated in a quiet street just off the hustle and bustle of Swan Street in Richmond.  It's a venue where fiddle leaf figs the height of giraffes adorn the walls and where ferns are suspended from timber ceiling rafters en masse.  It's one where the last rays of the afternoon sun filter through from directly overhead, creating magnificent opportunities for photographers and stylists alike. It really is a space unlike any other in Melbourne.

And so it made absolute sense that Jess, one half of the popular wedding photography duo  Flash 2 Flash Photography, and her Rob, chose this unique space to be married.  It also came as no surprise that they assembled a team of industry superstars; I Got You Babe & CoBelinda Fitzpatrick Events , Enriched Productions and Made With Love Bridal, to style, co ordinate and capture their day.

Jess and Rob's ceremony was informal, interactive and often humorous... oh and rather loud too (especially when their well-meaning Celebrant delivered a recap of their vows - a recap that several guests interpreted as a double entendre!)

Their reception followed nearby at Rupert on Rupert, another non-traditional wedding venue, where funny speeches, dancing and some clever DIY wedding dress alterations ensued.

Love Note…

“We had seen Sally in action a couple of times and knew we had to have her as our celebrant.  We even based our wedding date around Sally’s available dates. I know I can be a stress head at times but I knew I was in great hands with Sally as she is so professional in every way which put my mind at ease.  We couldn’t recommend Sally more highly as she tailored a fun, personable and relaxed ceremony to suit us”

Jess + Rob


Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Photography: I Got You Babe & Co

Videography:  Enriched Productions

Venue Styling, Florals & Event Co ordination: Belinda Fitzpatrick Events

Ceremony Venue: The Glasshaus

Reception Venue:  Rupert on Rupert

Jess' Gown: Made With Love Bridal

RENATA + NICK - A Wedding of Distinction

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

 

Meet Renata, a Director at Weddings of Distinction, a premiere wedding and special events company based in Melbourne.  I’ve seen Renata style and manage some epic events, so I knew that when the time came for her to marry her Nick, their celebration would be beautifully styled and managed with the precision I have come to expect from WoD. I knew Renata and Nick would bring together a very large team of Melbourne’s most sought after suppliers too, industry professionals I very much admire.

And so you can image how thrilled I was when Renata and Nick asked me to conduct their marriage ceremony at The Glasshouse in Melbourne. 

Not surprisingly, Renata and Nick decided to do things a little differently to the norm.  They wanted the transition between ceremony and reception to be a seamless one and so decided that the spaces would be one in the same.  They envisaged a formal and traditional ceremony, one that would incorporate humour, theatricality and elements of their Russian and Greek heritage.  I couldn't wait to get started.

 

While guests enjoyed pre ceremony cocktails and canapes, Renata and Nick met for "first look" photos at the stylish Crown Towers.   

They then made their way to The Glasshouse together and waited in their bridal suite for their guests to enter the room.  When the doors opened, allowing family and friends to be seated at their tables, I lost count of the number of "oohs and aahs" I heard.  The room looked nothing short of spectacular.

Before 200 guests, all seated in the round, Renata and Nick stood under a magnificent suspended floral chuppah (which, to the delight of the crowd, slowly descended from the ceiling as Renata entered the room) to celebrate a relationship that came about as a result of a Groupon voucher, a rather persistent matchmaker and a touch of Facebook stalking.

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Not withstanding the jaw-droppingly beautiful floral arrangements, the many crystal chandeliers and candles, the perfectly placed table settings in gold and crystal, the cigar and cognac station, the champagne and dessert bar, the chilled vodka carts, the fantastic live music, the exceptional sound and lighting design, the motorised ceiling installation and the highly courteous and impeccably dressed staff, it was the love between two people and the strong sense of celebration in the room that impressed me most that evening.

Renata and Nick, thank you for inviting me to play a role in your big, fat, theatrical, romantic, joyful, loud and utterly beautiful Russian / Greek wedding. I wish we could do it all again (says the person who didn't spend countless days and nights planning it!).

Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Photography: Warrenphotography

Videography:  C2 Films

Venue Styling: Weddings of Distinction, Lulu Bird

Venue: The Glasshouse / The Big Group Melbourne

Decor: Weddings of Distinction, Place Settings, Complete Function Hire, Harry The Hirer, Dann Event Hire

Sound & Lighting - Prolight and Sound

Ceremony & Reception Music: Rumours Band

Cars: Always Classic Cars

Renata's Gown:  Leah Da Gloria

Renata's Make Up: Beauty By Julie

Renata's Hair: Frankie Salon

Nick's Suit: Hugo Boss

NAT + PETE - A Rooftop Elopement

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

 

I have long admired Nat’s work as a stylist. On countless occasions I’ve seen her transform ceremony venues into jaw-droppingly beautiful spaces. When I met her many years ago, I was equally as impressed by her warmth and humility. When Nat and Pete asked me if I would conduct their elopement ceremony, I felt so very honoured.

Nat and Pete were married on a warm Autumn afternoon on a rooftop terrace in Sandringham.  Nat entered the rooftop with her mother to Evermore's I'll Never Let You Go  wearing a sheer lace gown she designed and made herself. She even assembled her own bouquet of white O'Hara roses.  She's seriously clever!

With the brightest of blue skies above them, Nat and Pete stood before their parents, grandparents and siblings to celebrate a relationship that began on the slopes of Mount Baw Baw some fifteen years prior. 

Nat and Pete’s ceremony unfolded in such a relaxed way.   Their small gathering of guests (including their good friends John from Warrenphotography and Marcus from C2 Films) involved themselves throughout - laughing, crying and commenting without reservation. Their love for Nat and Pete, their unrestrained displays of emotion and the strong sense of celebration is something I shall always remember.

"My thoughts go out to you my immortal beloved, I can live only wholly with you or not at all. Be calm my life, my all. Only by calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together.  Oh continue to love me, never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.   

Ever thine. 

Ever mine. 

Ever ours.”

(Ludwig van Beethoven)

Congratulations Nat and Pete and thank you for inviting me to share in the beauty and excitement of your intimate celebration.  I sincerely loved every moment spent with Team Jordan!

 

Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Photography: Warrenphotography

Videography:  C2 Films

Venue styling: The Bride - Natalie Jordan

Nat's gown:  The Bride - Natalie Jordan

Nat's hair: Dani North Wedding Hair

Pete's suit: Peter Jackson

 

OLIVIA + NATHAN - Kisses in the Rain

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

Liv and Nath shared their very first kiss in the rain.  Six years later, in the Italian Garden at Coombe Yarra Valley, history repeated itself (fortunately to a far lesser degree) as they shared their first kiss as Mr and Mrs.  

When Liv arrived at the beautiful Yarra Valley estate and stepped outside her black Mercedes wearing a Pallas Couture gown, I wasn't the only person to gasp.  She looked absolutely breathtaking.  She beamed as she stood with her bridesmaids, dressed in classic white, excited to be marrying the man she had known for over a decade.

Liv, her proud father Vincent and six attendants entered the Italian Garden to Little Buster Brown's evocative rendition of Angels by XX.  Vincent warmly embraced his beautiful daughter and future son-in-law before Liv and Nath together walked toward the magnificent green hedge.  They stood before a white screen (made by the Father of the Groom), artfully decorated with the classic combination of white and green flowers and foliage by Sugar Bee Flowers.

And so began Liv and Nath's romantic, sentimental and joyous marriage ceremony. It was a ceremony that honoured family and friendships and the very deep love and respect they have for one another. We sighed and laughed interchangeably as I told the story of a friendship that began in their teenage years, the bond that was strengthened during university study dates and the romantic relationship that they were destined to realise.  The story of Nath's well planned Royal Botanic Gardens proposal was particularly well received.  It was a proposal which included both a surprise performance by an acoustic duo the moment Liv said, "Yes", and photographer friends hiding in bushes.... until an oh-so-excited Nath outed them!

Midway through Liv and Nath's ceremony distant rumblings of thunder sounded and spectacular bolts of lightning pierced through the clouds.  Fortunately, we only experienced a few drops of rain so decided to continue as planned.  Liv and Nath exchanged vows and rings; rings that were contained in a wooden box carved by Nath's Nunnu, blessed by immediate family and brought forward by a rather charismatic Best Man!  And then, to a tremendous cheer, Nath and Liv were declared to be husband and wife.

Given the likelihood of rain, we decided to move the marriage certificate signing to a sheltered area after the ceremony.  While guests happily made their way to the cellar door for canapes and refreshments, the bridal party, parents and grandparents gathered under the canopy of tall trees to witness Liv and Nath's final step toward newlywed status.

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Liv and Nath, the relationship you have is so very special. Your kindness towards one another and the importance you place upon family is clear to all.  It was an honour to share your day with you. Congratulations Mr & Mrs L. 

Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Photography: Beck Rocchi Photography

Venue: Coombe Yarra Valley

Flowers: Sugar Bee Flowers

Chairs: Feel Good Events

Screen: David, Father of The Groom (Contact me if you'd to hire it.  I'll connect you!)

Musicians:  Little Buster Brown

Olivia's gown:  Pallas Couture

Nathan's suit: Herringbone

SARAH + JARRYD - An Elegant Garden Wedding

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

I remember this wedding as though it were yesterday.  The setting for Sarah and Jarryd’s black tie garden ceremony was perfect.  We were blessed with sunshine, blue skies and lush green lawn as far as the eye could see at the elegant Rippon Lea Estate.

As Jarryd took his place before a white metal arbour adorned with cascading white roses, orchids and lilies, 160 guests turned to observe Sarah’s four bridesmaids, all dressed in white, enter the private garden to ‘Higher Love’. Jarryd greeted each attendant, before taking his place with his four groomsmen, awaiting Sarah’s entrance.  

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And then, on the arm of her proud father, Sarah appeared.  Dressed in a custom One Day Bridal gown designed by the incredibly talented KYHA, she looked breathtakingly beautiful.  Her dress softly billowed about her as she walked the long grass aisle toward Jarryd.   After her father raised her veil and gave her a kiss, Sarah then took Jarryd's arm and together they took their places with their bridal party of eight.

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Hand in hand, the beaming bride and groom stood as I told the story of their first meeting at the Inverloch Esplanade Hotel on New Year’s Eve, their intimate Sunday afternoon engagement and the many qualities they’ve come to admire in each other.  Sarah and Jarryd then exchanged self-penned vows.  Observing Jarryd encourage Sarah as tears welled in her eyes was a touching moment. Jarryd’s Best Man and Hawthorn teammate Jordan presented the rings and then, to a very loud cheer, Jarryd and Sarah were declared to be husband and wife.

Sarah and Jarryd, thank you for inviting me to work with you to create your romantic and laughter-filled ceremony. I thoroughly enjoyed working with a couple as kind, easy going and humble as you. Congratulations Mr and Mrs Roughy!

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NICOLE + SAUL - Surprise!

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

Surprise weddings.  Whenever I receive an enquiry for a surprise wedding ceremony, I always feel a little ping of excitement as I head to my calendar to see if I'm available.  This is because surprise ceremonies (ceremonies that are a surprise to guests, not the couple) are most often the loudest, liveliest and most adrenaline-filled ceremonies to conduct. 

Nicole and Saul were married at Little Henri , a popular cafe/restaurant in Thornbury, during what began as an engagement party.  When Saul’s dad Michael stood high on the steps in the courtyard to welcome guests, no one seemed to notice that Nicole had slipped away to change into a stunning Sherri Hill tulle-skirted gown. When Michael finished his welcome speech with “because tonight we’re having a wedding!” the crowd well and truly roared. Guests literally descended on a beaming Saul, offering congratulatory hugs and kisses, while several men exchanged high fives and many women held their hands to their faces in shock.

Bench seating was swiftly brought in and within minutes, to the soundtrack of Ben E King’s ’Stand By Me' the very beautiful Nicole entered the courtyard on the arm of her very proud father, Peter.

Together Nicole and Saul stood alone, until one by one, I invited wedding party members to come and stand beside them. The cheers that ensued after each surprised member was announced (OK, perhaps the bridesmaids had a heads up), were priceless. In keeping with the surprise element, I invited Saul’s siblings to act as official witnesses to the marriage, before Nicole’s father stood to offer his blessing on behalf of their community of family and friends.

Unrestrained cheers, laughter, applause and comments ensued as I told the story of Nicole and Saul’s on-campus meeting, the osteopathy study group that gave Saul the opportunity to both impress and distract Nicole, the relationship they kept quiet in order to avoid wolf whistles on campus and Saul’s very romantic and well rehearsed Byron Bay proposal - complete with a ring that Nicole, despite her best efforts, couldn’t find prior.

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One year on and I still recall this lively ceremony and this sweet-natured couple so clearly. 

Nicole and Saul, you are two of the nicest people I have had the pleasure of meeting. You have such warm and kind souls and I feel so very privileged to have been entrusted with your very happy of secret.  Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos - the one below still sits on my desk.

Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Images:  Dijana Ristevska Photography

Venue:Little Henri

Nicole's dress: Sherri Hill

Make Up: Magical Makeovers

 

GEORGE + JACK - Loud and Laughter-Filled

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

One year ago today I presented one of the most lively and interactive wedding ceremonies I’ve ever known.   This was due not only to the fact that George and Jack are hilariously quick witted and clearly well-loved by many, but because they are actors.  And many of their guests were too.

When dozens of actors, dancers, musos and other creative types enter a ceremony space, the energy level rises dramatically.  Without fail.  At George and Jack's ceremony, it went through the roof!  I recall laughing as I tried to hush the crowd in readiness for George’s entrance.  I knew there was no way I’d be able to temper the excitement in the room.  Instead, I’d embrace the sense of celebration and encourage guests to "play along".

George and Jack were married at Lot Four Studio in Richmond. Guests arrived to discover old-fashioneds, Pimms and martinis being served from the coolest of vintage caravans and a studio space decorated with festoon lighting and shiny confetti wall decals (and if you scroll to the end of this blog you'll see my favourite decal).  Everything shouted, "Be yourselves and have fun!"