Outdoor Wedding Venues - Private Places

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant


Marrying outdoors in Melbourne?  There are so many breathtakingly beautiful gardens, vineyards and fields to choose from.  Earlier this year I shared my favourite Outdoor Wedding Venues - Public Spaces. Here are my favourite privately-owned outdoor spaces in Melbourne (and surrounds).

Yarra Valley


Alowyn Gardens, Yarra Glen

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Riverstone Estate, Coldstream

City & Inner Suburbs

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Luna Park.jpg
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Lake House Daylesford

And what's the advantage of marrying at a private venue, as opposed to a public space?  You'll most often be able to have your reception onsite (guests love not having to drive to two venues) and you'll most likely able to head indoors with minimal fuss should the weather become inclement.  It's also likely that there will be venue staff on hand to assist, seating, restrooms and considerably better (and free) car parking options for guests.

With the exception of those credited to photographers, the images used in this post have been obtained from official venue web pages.  

Sally Hughes - Melbourne Celebrant

Outdoor Wedding Venues - Public Spaces

Melbourne (and surrounds) is blessed with so many beautiful parks, gardens, forests, beaches and reserves.  From time to time I'm asked by couples for recommendations. That's easy! Here are some of my favourite public places.

City & Inner Suburbs

Image by Ben Swinnerton

Image by Ben Swinnerton

Birrarung Marr, Melbourne CBD

Nymphaea Lake West - Royal Botanic Gardens, South Yarra

Nymphaea Lake West - Royal Botanic Gardens, South Yarra

Nymphaea Lake East - Royal Botanic Gardens, South Yarra

Picnic Point - Royal Botanic Gardens, South Yarra

Princes Lawn - Royal Botanic Gardens, South Yarra

Dog Flat - Royal Botanic Gardens, South Yarra

Tennyson Lawn - Royal Botanic Gardens, South Yarra

Tecoma Pavilion - Royal Botanic Gardens, South Yarra

Rose Pavilion - Royal Botanic Gardens, South Yarra

For information regarding permits for the Royal Botanic Gardens, contact Blakes Feast

Fawkner Park, South Yarra

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John F Kennedy Memorial - Treasury Gardens, East Melbourne

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Temple of the Winds Rotunda, Fitzroy Gardens, East Melbourne

Pioneer Women's Memorial Garden, Kings Domain, Melbourne

Lady Janet Clarke Rotunda - Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne

Image by Daniel Brannan Photography

Image by Daniel Brannan Photography

Carlton Gardens, Carlton

For information regarding permits for Fawkner Park, Treasury Gardens, Fitzroy Gardens, Pioneer Women's Memorial, Queen Victoria Gardens, Flagstaff Gardens and Carlton Gardens, contact the City Of Melbourne

Grollo Equiset Gardens - National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

St Vincents Garden, Albert Park

For information relating to permits for St Vincents Garden, contact the City of Port Phillip


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Edinburgh Gardens Rotunda, Fitzroy


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Malvern Gardens, Malvern

Hedgeley Dene Gardens, Malvern East

For information regarding permits for Malvern Gardens and Hedgeley Dene Gardens, contact the

City of Stonnington

Alexandra Gardens, Kew

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Canterbury Gardens Rotunda, Canterbury

Maranoa Gardens, Balwyn

For information relating to permits for Alexandra Gardens, Canterbury Gardens and Maranoa Gardens, contact the City of Boroondara

Blackburn Lake Sanctuary, Blackburn

For information relating permits for Blackburn Lake Sanctuary, contact the City of Whitehorse

Westerfolds Park, Templestowe

For information relating to permits at Westerfolds Park, contact Parks Victoria

National Rhododendron Gardens, Olinda

For information relating to permits for the National Rhododendron Gardens, contact Parks Victoria

The Secret Garden - Sky High Mount Dandenong

Tim Neville Arboretum, Ferntree Gully

For further information relating to permits for the Tim Neville Arboretum, contact Knox City Council


Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne

For information relating to permits for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne, contact Blakes Feast

George Pentland Botanic Gardens, Frankston

For further information regarding permits for George Petland Botanic Gardens, contact  

Frankston City Council


Williamstown Botanic Gardens, Williamstown

For information relating to permits for Williamstown Botanic Gardens, contact  

Hobsons Bay City Council

Werribee Park, Werribee South

State Rose Garden - Werribee Park, Werribee South

For information relating to permits for Werribee Park, contact Parks Victoria

Footscray Park, Footscray

For information relating to permits for Footscray Park, contact the City of Maribyrnong


St Kilda Pier, St Kilda

For information relating to permits for St Kilda Pier, contact Parks Victoria

Catani Gardens Rotunda, St Kilda

St Kilda Botanical Gardens, St Kilda

For information relating to permits for Catani Gardens Rotunda and St Kilda Botanic Gardens, 

contact the City of Port Phillip

Brighton Bathing Boxes - Brighton Beach

Kamesburgh Gardens, Brighton

Band Rotunda, Sandringham

For information relating to permits for the Brighton bathing boxes foreshore, Kamesburgh Gardens, Brighton Town Hall gardens, and the Sandringham band rotunda, contact Bayside City Council

Yarra Valley

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Redwood Forest, East Warburton

For information relating to permits for the Redwood Forest, contact Parks Victoria

- - -

If you plan to hold your ceremony in a public place, be sure to check with local council or Parks Victoria to confirm whether a permit is required and the conditions of the permit.  Conditions may relate to site and insurance fees, bond payment, hire duration, maximum group size, alcohol consumption and whether structures such as marquees and market umbrellas can be erected. 

Looking for a little more outdoor inspiration? Take a look at my blog Outdoor Wedding Venues - Private Places

Sally Hughes
Authorised Marriage Celebrant



Royal Botanic Gardens courtesy of Blakes Feast

Pioneer Women's Memorial courtesy of John Torcasio

Carlton Gardens courtesy of Sally Hughes

National Rhododendron Gardens courtesy of Cosplay

Footscray Park courtesy of Sally Hughes

Band Rotunda, Sandringham courtesy of TappaNappa




KATH + ROD - A Celebration of Love

This is a story of love.  And I have tears in my eyes as I write it.

I met Rod in January this year.  He was Johnny's Best Man and entertained Johnny and I with some rather hilarious pre ceremony banter.  I remember joking with him about the heat of Sandbar Beach Cafe's gas flame he was required to stand beside.

Rod called me in early July to ask me to officiate at his and Kath's wedding.  He and Kath had become engaged four days prior and hoped to be married as soon as possible.  Rod's mother, Eleanor, was battling cancer.  

And so we immediately set about writing a ceremony that would celebrate their happy three year relationship, their joy in having found each other and the strong bonds they have with their family and friends.  It would recount the story of their childhoods in East Gippsland and their random meeting over a decade later at the Mentone Hotel.  It would celebrate family - notably the important  roles their parents' had played in their lives - and honour the friendships they hold so dear.

Kath and Rod shared with me the qualities they had come to admire in each other.  I kept their responses secret, as they wanted to hear them for the first time during their ceremony.   And so, in the backyard of Rod's parent's home, before an intimate gathering of family and friends, I spoke of Kath's admiration of Rod’s intelligence, wisdom and his creative mind.  I told of her love for his affectionate and protective nature ..and his risottos.  I then spoke of Rod's love of the sound of Kath's laugh, her beautiful eyes and her loyalty to her family and his.    Her ability on the dance floor also warranted a mention, as did her karaoke skills.

Kath and Rod then declared their unwavering desire to continue to share each other's dreams, encourage each other's passions and be supportive through times of need.  To a tremendous cheer, we declared Kath and Rod to be married. Celebratory champagne was dispensed, long, emotional hugs were shared and heartfelt tears were shed.  It was truly a celebration of love and life in its purest form.

Two days later, Eleanor lost her fight.

This morning Kath and Rod kindly sent me this movie of their ceremony.  It demonstrates just how precious and beautiful life is and how, as they put it, "you don't need a lot to have your special day".

I share this footage with you, with Kath and Rod's permission, so very humbled and so very grateful to have been able to share this moment in their lives with them.  Thank you Kath and Rod. 

Kath and Rod's Movie - A Celebration of Love

Celebrant - Sally Hughes

Videography - The White Tree

GEORGIE + ANDY - Substation Ceremony

Each time I write a ceremony, I always consider how it will be received by the guests. Will they sigh when I describe a romantic proposal? Will they laugh when I share a funny story?  Will they applaud when I recount a happy or triumphant journey? 

Georgie and Andy's guests responded better than I had hoped for. They were active participants in the ceremony, which is clearly an indication of just how happy they were for Georgie and Andy.

Georgie and Andy were married at The Substation, a magnificent neo-Classical red brick venue in Newport, in a relaxed and laughter-filled ceremony. As I entered the building, with its enormous red velvet curtains, exposed brick walls and grand arched windows, I found myself immediately captivated. Not only was its sheer size appealing,  the venue lent itself beautifully to styling.  When I peeped behind the ceremony area curtain in search of the reception area (I have a habit of doing so!), I once again found myself impressed.  Three long tables, lined with black tiffany chairs, were adorned with brightly coloured tulips, orchids, pomegranates, pears and crab apples, courtesy of Cecilia Fox.  The vibrant colours were illuminated by dozens of overhead light bulbs.

Then I saw Georgie.  Georgie looked truly radiant in her very elegant and delicate Jenny Packham gown.  As I visited her in the bridal suite prior to the ceremony I could barely shift my gaze from the exquisite lace detail.  The only thing more beautiful was the sparkling smile that never left her face. By contrast, her four effervescent and utterly lovely bridesmaids wore striking magenta cocktail gowns by Willow.  Their bouquets, also by Cecilia Fox, echoed the bright colour palette; roses and dahlias in claret and pink looked fabulous against the warm red curtains and brickwork. 

Andy, her very handsome groom, stood with his four groomsmen watching the ceremony area quickly fill to full capacity.   It was wonderful observing so many cheerful people come forward and shake his hand and offer their good wishes.

Georgie and her bridesmaids entered to It's Like Love by Dewaynne Everettsmith.  It's the first time I've heard the song played at a ceremony and I'm sure it won't be the last.

Andy's sister Kate and Georgie's friend Sally each presented readings; The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and an excerpt from Hemmingway's classic novel A Farewell To Arms, respectively.   I then recounted significant moments in Georgie and Andy's relationship.  The method by which Andy sought Georgie's father Maurice's blessing, was very well received.  

'...As Maurice is a Doctor, Andy decided it was easiest to visit him at his clinic.  He therefore booked an appointment.   Dr K knew Andy was coming and correctly guessed the reason for his visit.  With this in mind, Dr K was rather confused, and equally amused, to discover that Andy had completed the patient information form, even disclosing his Medicare details, in readiness for his so-called "appointment". '

Following a very sincere and romantic exchange of vows, a ring warming ceremony and ring exchange, a very happy Andy and Georgie were declared husband and wife.  The cheer that erupted from the excited crowd was exhilarating.

During the signing, Georgie's bridesmaid Lou Spargo sang 'The Book of Lov'e (the lyrics always make me giggle) and the sentimental 'Feels Like Home' to a guitar accompaniment.  Lou has a fantastic voice and it was so lovely to pause and listen to her.  Involving talented friends in a ceremony is a wonderful thing to be able to do.   I imagine it was a moment in time that neither she, nor Georgie and Andy, will forget.

The Book of Love  (Peter Gabriel)
The book of love is long and boring,
No one can lift the damn thing.
It's full of charts and facts and figures
And instructions for dancing.
But I, I love it when you read to me.
And you, you can read me anything.
The book of love has music in it,
In fact, that's where music comes from.
Some of it's just transcendental,
Some of it's just really dumb.
But I love it when you sing to me.
And you, you can sing me anything.
The book of love is long and boring
And written very long ago.
It's full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we're all too young to know.
But I love it when you give me things
And you, you ought to give me wedding rings.
And I love it when you give me things
And you, you ought to give me wedding rings.

The ceremony concluded with the oh-so catchy Queen classic You're My Best Friend and yet another enormous cheer. 

Congratulations Georgie and Andy.  Two kind, accomplished and easy going people, who are quite clearly, perfectly suited. May you continue to laugh, embrace and feel as happy as you did on your wedding day.

Celebrant:  Sally Hughes  
Venue: The Substation
Photography:  Words & Music Company (Image 2) & Hwa Goh (Images 1 & 3- 7)
Georgie's Dress: Jenny Packham 
Andy's Suit: Travellers
Bridemaids Dresses:  Willow
Bouquets & Floral Arrangements: Cecilia Fox
Event Styling & Co ordination: Amanda Vella of Red Tee Pot

JOSH + MEL - A Wedding in Warrandyte

Josh and Mel were married on a sunny Saturday afternoon in the beautiful Potters Receptions chapel in Warrandyte.  Their ceremony, much like their personalities, was relaxed and jovial.  

Mel's perfectly timed entrance to The Police's Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic was nothing short of fabulous.  From behind the heavy wooden double doors she entered on the arm of her father just as the music built to the song's explosive chorus.  The combination of the anticipation of her appearance, the bright sunlight that burst through the doorway and the revelation of a beaming bride was, to borrow from Sting's lyrics, "magic".  (If you're unfamiliar with the song, you must click the link.  Mel entered at the 35 second mark.)

Mel wore a magnificent Connie Simonetti couture gown, while Josh, the calmest groom I've ever known, looked dashing in his black, satin lapel suit. 

Together they stood with their seven attendants, relaxed and clearly enjoying themselves.  I told the story of Josh and Mel's memorable and rather humorous first meeting at Josh's family home, "matchmaker" Beth's success in uniting her brother and Mel, their mutual love of water skiing in Eildon (the location of their reception) and Josh's thoughtfully planned and highly romantic Rockpool proposal.

I loved how relaxed Mel and Josh were.  Every time I looked across to them, I was met with a grin, a laugh, or one of Mel's trademark smiles.

The ceremony was underscored by music - an idea that Josh and Mel proposed during our first meeting. Surprisingly, it didn't prove distracting, as was my initial concern, the soft accompaniment to the ceremony dialogue created a tranquil mood.  It was also reflective of their lifestyle.  Josh and Mel play music at their home 24/7 - yes, even their dreams have a soundtrack!

Mel's friend Danielle presented Union from 'The Beginning To End' by Robert Fulgham, while Josh's friend Evan read the lyrics to the Stevie Wonder song For Your Love.

All the gold in the world is nothing to possess
If all the things it can bring can't add up to one ounce of your happiness.

And for your love, I would do anything, 
Just to see the smile upon your face.
For your love, I would go anywhere.
Just you tell me and I'll be right there.

I could never have fathomed this.  
Such joy, love and tenderness that you give to me.
For the love I feel inside, it's so wonderful I can't hide.
And I glow, I glow, with just the though of you.
I do, I do, I do, I do, I do, I do.

And for your love I would do anything
Just to see the smile upon your face.
For your love I would go anywhere.
Just you tell me and I'll be right there. 

Josh and Mel composed their own vows.  Their exchange was entirely joyful.

"... I will be your helpmate throughout life, always putting you first above my own needs, to make you glad to have married me this day." 

"... Josh, you are my best friend and my one true love, the one I will live with, dream with and love forever."

I loved the "where's the ring?" charade superbly enacted by the three groomsmen, watching Josh's parents subtly reach for each other's hand when I read an excerpt from The Blessing of the Hands, (it was a beautiful moment that I was very fortunate to observe), Mel's power ballad singing during the signing of the register and her brief moment of disappointment when she realised that their ceremony was nearly over.

The ceremony concluded with a love letter and wine presentation.  Mel and Josh placed letters they had written to each other in the days prior to the ceremony in a wooden box.  The letters detailed the qualities they had come to admire in each other and their hopes for their marriage.  The box also contained a bottle of Izway "Bruce" Shiraz - the wine they drank on the evening of their engagement.  The newlyweds shared a bottle that evening, while the other will be opened, together with their letters, on the occasion of their first wedding anniversary.

Congratulations Josh and Mel and thank you so much for the inviting me into your lives.  It was truly an honour planning and conducting a ceremony for such a happy, beautiful and thoroughly lovely couple.  xx 

(Hehe, yes, that's a life size cardboard cutout of the happy couple.  Mel and Josh thought their guests might enjoy posing with it while they were away having their bridal party photos taken.  Hilarious!)

Celebrant: Sally Hughes
Venue:  Potters Receptions
Photography: Jade Walton Photography
Mel's Dress: Connie Simonetti
Josh's Suit: Menz Mode Doncaster

STEPH + DAMIAN - Love on a Rooftop

Every so often, I meet a couple who make me laugh and laugh and laugh.  Meetings reserved for wedding planning somehow morph into lengthy discussions about Tuscany, Cuban jazz, wineries, vegetarian lasagne and Golden Retrievers, for example.   This was the case when I first met with Steph and Damian.  We clicked before we'd even ordered our coffee.

When I learned that Steph and Damian had chosen to hold their ceremony in the Harbour Room at the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron, I was not at all surprised.  A Friday evening rooftop ceremony in trendy St Kilda seemed a perfect choice for this exuberant couple.  When they informed me that they'd also booked the über-talented and downright hilarious John Warren of Warrenphotography, and the super cool musicians from The White Tree, I was certain we were going to have a fabulous time.

Steph, radiant in her Mariana Hardwick gown, entered the rooftop on the arm of her proud father to The White Tree's rendition of Snow Patrol's Lifening.  Much like her usual self, she smiled and laughed the entire way.

We began by introducing all the people who had made a marked impact on Steph and Damian's lives.  Three such people were invited to come forward and present readings.  One of the readings was taken from a Bruce Springsteen song.

If I Should Fall Behind
We said we’d walk together, come what may
That come the twilight, should we lose our way
If as we’re walking a hand should slip free
I’ll wait for you.
And should I fall behind wait for me.

We swore we’d travel darling side by side
We’d help each other stay in stride.
But each lover’s steps fall so differently
I'll wait for you.
And should I fall behind wait for me.

Now everyone dreams of a love lasting and true
But you and I know what this world can do.
So let's make our steps clear that the other may see
And I'll wait for you.
If I should fall behind, wait for me.
Now there's a beautiful river in the valley ahead
There beneath the oaks bough soon we will be wed.
Should we lose each other in the shadow of the evening trees
Darling I’ll wait for you.
And should I fall behind wait for me.

I then had the great pleasure of recounting their first meeting at the Corner Hotel; whereby Damian keenly pursued Steph.. and her plate of nachos, the hilarious case of mistaken identity on their first date at The Black Cat, Damian's many proposal hurdles, and their numerous and varied idiosyncrasies.  Needless to say, their stories had us in stitches.

Damian and Steph composed their own vows.  Their exchange was sincere and joyful.

"... Steph, I will cherish the happiness married life bestows upon us, and hope that one day we can raise a family who we will unconditionally love and support, just as we will each other..."

"... Damian, I look forward to growing together, learning more about you and falling in love a little more every day..." 

Steph and Damian's parents and grand parents participated in a ring warming ceremony.  Each person held the rings and made a silent wish or prayer for Steph and Damian in their marriage. The rings were then brought forward, having been symbolically warmed by their wishes.

Rings were exchanged and certificates signed, all the while this happy couple laughed, kissed and smiled.

The ceremony concluded with a toast to the newlyweds, a huge cheer ...

yet another kiss...

.... and you guessed it!

Steph and Damian, I loved that every aspect of your ceremony reflected your relaxed style and bright personalities. Your good humour and laughter is infectious, as is your positive outlook on life.  Lucky am I to have enjoyed your ever-cheerful company. Keep laughing!

Celebrant: Sally Hughes
Photography: Warrenphotography
Venue: The Harbour Room
Musicians: The White Tree
Steph's gown: Mariana Hardwick

NICOLE + WILLIAM - Black Tie & Bag Pipes

Nicole and William were a dream to work with.  Easy going and genuinely lovely, I looked forward to each meeting.  And so you can imagine my disappointment for them when they realised that their NGV garden ceremony would occur at the very time Formula One racing cars would take to the nearby Grand Prix track.  Needless to say, exchanging vows to the piercing sound of F1 engines was not the soundtrack they had in mind for their ceremony!  Fortunately, they were able to reschedule the date and fortunately for me, retain their celebrant!

And so, a week earlier than originally planned, Nicole and William's black tie ceremony in the Grollo Equiset Garden at the National Gallery of Victoria took place.  Stylishly attired guests arrived to the music of the Baker Boys Band and excitedly awaited Nicole's entrance.

And what an entrance it was!  It was one i'll never forget.  Though Nicole and William were supported by a bridal party of eight, all attendants mingled with guests prior to the ceremony before taking their seats in the front row. Then a lone bagpiper, Lachlan McKenzie, entered the garden playing the Highland Cathedral.  Nicole and her proud father David followed him along the long and winding path.  The combination of a beautiful, beaming bride and the arresting sound of the bag pipes commanded everyone's full attention. 

During the ceremony Nicole, resplendent in a figure-hugging Bernadette Pimenta Couture silk and lace gown with cowl neck, and a very dapper William, wearing a Hugo Boss black suit, only had eyes for each other.  Their joy at being married was obvious to all.

It was important to Nicole and William that all loved ones actively participate in their ceremony.  I therefore asked all family members to stand and offer their blessing and pledge their support for the marriage.  Following this, I invited their friends to stand and offer theirs.   

After sharing stories about the happy and rewarding journey Nicole and William have made together,  their siblings then came forward and presented readings. One of which was Edmund O'Neill's Marriage Is A Promise Of Love.

Marriage is a commitment to life - to the best that two people can find and bring out in each other. It offers opportunities for sharing and growth no other human relationship can equal, a physical and emotional joining that is promised for a lifetime.

Within the circle of its love, marriage encompasses all of life's most important relationships. A wife and a husband are each other's best friend, confidant, lover, teacher, listener, and critic. There may come times when one partner is heartbroken or ailing, and the love of the other may resemble the tender caring of a parent for a child.

Marriage deepens and enriches every facet of life. Happiness is fuller; memories are fresher; commitment is stronger; even anger is felt more strongly, and passes away more quickly.

Marriage understands and forgives the mistakes life is unable to avoid. It encourages and nurtures new life, new experiences, and new ways of expressing love through the seasons of life.

When two people pledge to love and care for each other in marriage, they create a spirit unique to themselves, which binds them closer than any spoken or written words. Marriage is a promise, a potential, made in the hearts of two people who love, which takes a lifetime to fulfill.

"William, I give you this ring, that you may wear it, as a symbol of the vows we have made on this day."

After they had exchanged rings and sincere and romantic vows I had the honour of declaring William and Nicole to be husband and wife.  I loved seeing just how happy they were at that moment in the ceremony.

We signed the marriage certificates without a musical accompaniment, the silence punctuated only by laughter and good wishes from guests.

Congratulations Mr and Mrs B.  Two gracious, kind-hearted and thoroughly lovely people.  You are quite clearly, perfectly suited. 

Celebrant: Sally Hughes
Photography:  Glenn McCulloch Photography
Venue: Grollo Equiset Garden, National Gallery of Victoria
Musicians: Baker Boys Band & Lachlan McKenzie
Nicole's Gown: Bernadette Pimenta Couture
William's Suit: Hugo Boss

Do We Really Need An Order Of Service?

From time to time I'm asked by couples if it's generally expected that they provide their guests with an order of service.  You know, the booklet or card often distributed by ushers to guests prior to the ceremony, otherwise known as a ceremony program.  My answer?  "Take it or leave it."   Given that the duration of a civil ceremony is usually 30 minutes, guests don't necessarily need one.  Over half the ceremonies I conduct don't include them.  



By comparison, the duration of religious ceremonies is generally longer than civil ceremonies, often lasting for an hour or more.  So giving guests, especially those who are likely to be unfamiliar with the content of a specific religious ceremony, an understanding of what to expect can be a good idea.

For example, have you ever attended a Macedonian Orthodox wedding and had absolutely no idea of what was being said?  I remember standing in an Orthodox Church many years ago, watching rituals such as the Crowning, the procession around the sacramental table and seeing almonds being thrown about, having no appreciation of the meaning behind each ritual.  The fact the ceremony was conducted almost entirely in Macedonian didn't help either!  An order of service with a brief description of each ritual, or translations of each reading, would have been a welcome offering.

But that's me.  I enjoy learning about religious and cultural rituals.  Others may simply view an order of service as a guide by which they can, dare I say it, determine "how much longer there is to go".  I mean no disrespect in this regard, but a poll of my peers (many of them monolingual and non-religious), over many years and many weddings, supports this view.

An order of service can enhance the overall styling of a wedding.  They can help to the convey the level of formality (or fun!) you are trying to achieve before the ceremony has begun.

They can serve a practical purpose too.  I've seen some include hand drawn maps, guiding guests to the reception venue and directing them to the location of the barbeque being held the following day.  Some were printed on fans, which were a welcome gift during warm weather.

Kate Stoops Photography

Kate Stoops Photography

Shannon and Brad incorporated a little pocket on the back of their booklet.  In the pocket was a tissue and underneath, the inscription "A tissue for your tears", which was very well received on the day.

Melissa and David inserted a crossword puzzle for their guests to complete (not during the ceremony, mind you!).  I mentioned prior to the ceremony that the answers would be revealed during the ceremony and that a prize would be awarded during the reception.    Again, the guests loved the idea (and I've since shared that idea with many of my couples!).

Of course, the order of service can also list family members, the bridal party and other participants, such as your celebrant and musicians.  It can also include specific requests, such as refraining from taking photos or throwing rose petals or inviting guests to take a container of bubbles (should your ushers, preoccupied with handing out booklets, fail to distribute them!).  They can include a note of thanks to all guests.

And so, if I’ve managed to inspire you, and if you have the time and the creative energy to produce one (they’re usually relegated to the bottom of the “to do” list), please consider this advice: Don’t list too many ceremony details.  I believe a simple running order is far better than writing paragraphs of information.  If your vows are included in the order of service, guests will most likely read along, rather than observe one of the most important and memorable ceremony moments. You should consider that most guests will read them prior to the ceremony too!  Humorous vows obviously lose their impact if guests read ahead (and I promise you, they will).  Similarly, guests aren't likely to sit and enjoy the performance aspect of a reading or ritual if they have the text in front of them.  View them more as a keepsake than a script.

And should I ever spy a lone order of service, abandoned on a chair or pew, you can bet your bottom dollar it won’t remain there.  I’m always looking to share creative ideas with couples.. and I quite like a keepsake!

Sally Hughes
Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

RHEA + BEN - A Class Act

There is some merit to the theory that you can meet the love of your life at a wedding.  Rhea and Ben met at a wedding on Hayman Island.  They caught one another's eye, however barely spoke.  The following year, when Rhea's mum Liz needed a lawyer, Ben came to mind.  Rhea contacted Ben to set up a meeting and, when the pair met again, Liz believes she witnessed an undeniable connection. Understandably, she also takes the bulk of the credit for their union!…

Ben and Rhea were married at Carousel by Albert Park Lake.  The ceremony was to be held outdoors on the deck, however 43 degree heat necessitated a welcome move indoors.  With the comfort of their guests assured, and concerns about the condition of the many hundred David Austin roses put to rest, Ben mingled happily with family and friends awaiting the arrival of his bride.  The pre ceremony period was underscored by an impressive performance by Ruby Strings.

Despite the intense heat, Rhea, dressed in a Suzanne Harward French silk and lace couture gown, was all smiles when she arrived. Attended by her brother, Rhea, together with her bridesmaids, entered to a performance of Pachelbel's stately and sentimental Canon in D Major

Rhea and Ben received the blessing of Rhea's mother and brother, before Liz stepped forward with their adorable five month old son to read a sweet and humorous children's story; The Lovely Dinosaur by Edward Monkton.  Rhea and Ben's faces instantly lit up when their little boy was brought forward.

After telling the story of their meeting (the reaction from Ben's business partner and Groomsman Darren was priceless when he learned that Ben hadn't billed his hours of work while representing Rhea's mum!), Ben's friend Richard presented the final reading; 'Union' from The Beginning To End by Robert Fulgham.

Ben and Rhea recited vows they had composed themselves.  They were romantic and reflective and were delivered with touching sincerity and a hint of humour.  

"..I previously thought that a partner needs to accept you however you are and for whatever you do, but you've shown me that relationships take time, effort and sacrifice,  and if you do these things with love and kindness in your heart, the rewards are beyond compare..."

".. I vow to be honest, caring and truthful.  I vow to love you for eternity, respecting you, honouring you and growing old with you until we have to carry each other's walking sticks."

After my very happy task of declaring Ben and Rhea to be husband and wife, we were entertained by Ruby Strings' renditions of J.S Bach's Air (Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major) and Mancini's Moon River.

Ben and Rhea's introduction for the first time as Mr and Mrs was met with an enormous cheer.  As they walked down the aisle, hand in hand, to the tune of Bittersweet Symphony, it was clear that they were a much loved and respected couple - qualities I identified the moment I met them.   

Congratulations Rhea and Ben.  Your kindness and easy going attitudes made planning and presenting your ceremony so enjoyable.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  Have a wonderful life. xx

Celebrant: Sally Hughes
Photography: Warrenphotography
Venue: Carousel
Styling: Intique & Co
Musicians: Ruby Strings
Rhea's gown: Suzanne Harward 
Ben's suit: Hugo Boss

LAURA + ANDREW - Married at Mount Macedon

It's quite appropriate that Laura and Andrew, self-confessed film enthusiasts, met at EzyDVD.  Andrew interviewed Laura for a position at EzyDVD in the food court at Sunshine Plaza.  Andrew liked Laura's glasses and thought she was smart.  He decided immediately that the position was hers, though he took three days to offer it to her.  Laura was thrilled, as she thought her new boss was handsome and very cool.

Their first date was to Ryan Gosling's latest movie offering, Lars and the Real Girl, and much like the film script, it began a little awkwardly.  When Laura made light of the fact that they were both acting far too nervously, they immediately relaxed.  Their second date was to a screening of American Beauty and this time there was no hint of awkwardness.  In fact, Laura and Andrew shared their first kiss afterward.

It comes as no surprise that a movie features in their engagement story.  Laura and Andrew share a particular love of old Hollywood movies.  Having received Laura's mum's blessing, Andrew took Laura to the Astor Theatre in St Kilda to see a screening of Gone With The Wind.   During the scene when Rhett Butler proposes to Scarlett O'Hara, Andrew began to whisper Rhett's proposal lines to Laura.  He then presented her with a beautiful engagement ring.  Unlike Scarlett's reaction "Turn me loose, you varmint, and get out of here", Laura's response one of great surprise and sheer delight.

Laura and Andrew were married on a wonderfully warm and sunny day by the Memorial Cross in the Mount Macedon Ranges. The 21 metre high structure, set against the brilliant blue sky, was most certainly an awesome sight to behold. 

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Laura was accompanied down the dramatically long aisle (it's 200 metres!) by her mother and bridesmaids to Regina Spektor's Real Love.  She and her bridesmaids wore stunning Collette Dinnigan gowns, carried peony roses and smiles from ear to ear.

Family and friends came forward and read passages by William Shakespeare Hays, Dante Aligherie and one of my favourites, an excerpt from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables:

You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.  The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness.  We pardon to the extent that we love.  

Love is knowing that even when you are alone, you will never by lonely again.  And great happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.  

Loved for ourselves.  And even loved in spite of ourselves.   

"In all that lies before us, I pledge my faith to you, as long as we both shall live."

We signed the marriage certificates to Cats & Dogs & Coeur D'Alene by The Head and The Heart. 

What a wonderfully sunny and laughter-filled afternoon we had.   Congratulations Laura and Andrew on declaring your love from a mountain top.  May you always remain as happy as you were on your wedding day. xx

Celebrant: Sally Hughes
Photographer: Corey Sleap Photo
Venue: Mount Macedon Memorial Cross
Stylist: Laura and her mum, Wendy.  Rather impressive hey?
Laura's Dress: Collette Dinnigan