Ad-free news, views and advice on the local wedding scene for Canberra ACT and nearby NSW, and on getting married in Australia in general. With Michele Bolitho, registered civil marriage celebrant for well over one thousand wonderful weddings. ... Your day is my focus. That's my promise. It's my pleasure.

25 August 2016

How to add warmth and friendliness to your legal vows of marriage

Hello, and welcome.
Jia and Ben married in the autumn Heart Garden 6 May 16
This blogpost is about:
  • Your legal marriage vows
  • When does marriage legally come into effect?
  • Legal name change
The green room, set up for a small private winter wedding. Bride and groom stand in the bay window.
Your legal marriage vows

As you may or may not know, we have no registry office weddings in the ACT. Couples who are looking for a registry-style wedding often want the shortest, simplest ceremony possible. I’ve been celebrant at hundreds of short simple weddings so I know it’s a popular choice. 

If a short and simple ceremony is what you both choose, then you’ll probably only want to make legal vows of marriage, rather than adding personal pledges to each other as well.

If you opt for legal vows only, you will probably want them to sound warm and heartfelt, rather than the cool, compulsory wording of a legal contract, straight off the Attorney General’s website. Here are some ideas to help you achieve this desire. 

Michelle married James at the National
Carillon on a sunny autumn morning
14 May 2016
If you want your marriage to be legal – and of course, you do – then your vows of marriage must comply with the Australian Marriage Act of 1961. They must be legal but they need not be legalistic. They can sound intimate and heartfelt. (Having said that, I am also aware that keeping your vows strictly traditional can also sound warm and moving when you add your loving feeling to the words.)

Here’s the vow as it appears in the Marriage Act: “I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, A.B. (or C.D.), take thee, C.D. (or A.B.), to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband)”; or words to that effect.

You’ve probably heard this legal vow many times over at the weddings of friends and family. It can sound rather dull and same old, same old.

The option to make your vows warm, fresh and friendly lies in or words to this effect. You won’t have free choice here however, to choose words that you personally decide mean much the same thing.

The words to this effect are set strictly by the Commonwealth Attorney-General. Problem is, as I see it, few celebrants explain all the wording options that are legally available to couples getting married in Australia.

It’s fairly common knowledge I think, that you won’t have to use the old-fashioned thee in your vows. You can say you instead. But did you also know that there are several variations on all persons here present?

You can say all people here present. This is a bit more 21st-century but there are two more modern options that may surprise you. You can say everyone here or say everybody here in place of all persons here present.

Michelle makes her vow of marriage to James
Compare I call upon the persons here present to witness with I ask everyone here to witness. See what I mean about warmer, fresher and more friendly?

And then, to everyone here, you can add our families and friends. Note here however that you can’t say our families and friends instead of all persons here present or the like, but you can add it in.

When does marriage legally come into effect?

And here’s another fact you may not be familiar with:

Your legal marriage takes effect when you make your vows, not with the signing of certificates. In my many years as of experience as a civil marriage celebrant, I’ve found this is a very common misunderstanding. Your certificates will state that a legal marriage has already taken place.

Mae and Rhuanie in the winter Heart Garden.
We had the ceremony and signing inside, in the cosy green room.
22 July 2016
Before you, your witnesses and your celebrant all sign your three certificates of marriage, you are already legally married. This means that if anything happens to your paperwork it won’t affect the legality of your marriage.

Good to know this, yes?

Legal name change

You may also like to know that if you plan to change your name with marriage, this change also happens when you make your vows of marriage to each other during your ceremony. That’s all there is to the legal process of name change.  

The bride can take the surname of the groom, the groom can take the surname of the bride, or you can join your surnames together. The choice is yours.

You may choose to be presented by your celebrant at the end of your ceremony with your new names, like Aaron and Kelly, Mr and Mrs Stanton. Or Kelly and Aaron Stanton. This option is legal, whether you have signed during a break in the ceremony itself or the signing happens after your ceremony ends.

When you are signing your certificates, you already have your new legal name. You must however, sign the three certificates of marriage with your usual signature (or pre-marriage name). From then on, you can use your new signature.

Naw Be and Eh Keh married in their
Gungahlin home. 12 June 2016
Soon after your wedding, you will probably want to order a transcript of your official certificate from the Registrar in the territory or state where you were married. You will need this documentation to prove your change of name for any official purpose, such as changing your driver’s licence or getting a new passport.

My next blog will be about your names during your wedding ceremony. Following on from this one, it will help you become aware of other choices that you may not realise you have. Did you know for instance, that if you always call each other by the nickname Baby, then you can use Baby in your marriage vows? There is a strict condition that goes with this however. I’ll tell you in my next post.

You may like to use my Search box to read about things like free wedding venues in Canberra, or see what I've written about a venue you have in mind for your wedding. On August 1, Google stopped Blogger access to all Picasa album images, and I always used to use Picasa. I'm sad to see so many dull empty boxes in my older blogposts, in place of my beautiful photos.

If you love wedding photos (as I do) you may like to visit one of my collections. Here's a link to one of my archive albums. I've just revisited this album for old time's sake. Some of the images are just gorgeous. They no longer appear in blogposts.

If you would like me to be your celebrant

     If you would like me to be your celebrant, I'd be delighted. Please contact me by filling in this Email Contact Form, or by phone or text to 0406 376 375, anytime on any day between 9am and 9pm. We can text, phone, email, use facebook messages, or talk on Skype if you wish.
     By the way, I've just been corresponding with Ms Rose at Polka Dot Bride (with whom I have no commercial connection). It's a great resource site, run by lovely people. I recommend it. 


06 April 2016

How will you make your entrance?

Hello, and welcome.
Sarah has walked down the aisle at Gold Creek
Chapel with her Dad. A happy handshake
follows between father and groom.
     If you’re planning to marry - well, first thing, my congratulations to you both. You may be wondering about the right way to walk to your wedding ceremony.
     There actually is no right way, and there is no wrong way. There’s a traditional way but that no longer makes it the right way. Things are more flexible these days.
     Chloe married Jadium at the National Carillon on Aspen Island on Thursday 31st March. She walked across the bridge to the ceremony, as tradition goes, with her step-Dad, Robert. Some brides are accompanied by their mothers or another special person and some choose to walk in between both their parents.
     Chloe kissed Robert. Jadium and Robert shook hands, then Robert joined the arc of guests. During the simple ceremony, Jadium and Chloe made quietly-spoken, heartfelt personal vows to each other before their vows of marriage. Their guests were standing only a few metres away from the bridal party and this gave a friendly intimacy to their wedding.
     Here are Thuong and Rob who married in my Heart Garden on a beautiful summer's day in February.
     Rob and Thuong arrived at the Heart Garden together with their guests. After their Declarations of No Legal Impediment to Marriage had been signed, Thuong walked alone along the garden path to her waiting groom.

     Like many couples do these days, when Qin Qin and Chang Yong chose to marry in the Heart Garden in December, they walked in together. So really, you can see that it’s totally your choice about how you arrive for your ceremony.

Lucy was accompanied by her young
son when she arrived for her marriage
to Kirk last Spring.

     Smiling nonstop, bride and groom, Lucy and Kirk leave their simply beautiful and beautifully simple wedding together, along the blossom-lined driveway. They are now wife and husband, joined in marriage. 

Consider the sunshine and the cool

     Autumn is such a beautiful time to marry in our nation’s capital. Canberra will soon be aglow with stunning autumn colours and they’ll last right into June. Our autumn days are typically sunny ones.
     The autumn solstice around March 21 and 22 started our shift to shorter days and longer nights. Daylight saving has come to a close. The more we move towards winter, around the middle of the day is probably the most enjoyable time to marry. As the sun goes down earlier, the afternoon shadows get longer and can be too cool to stand in. It’s good to take this into account when choosing the exact spot for your ceremony.

If you plan to marry outside, as so many couples do, always work out what the sun will likely be doing. You want everyone to be comfortable. You want them to have happy memories of enjoying your wedding. You won’t want your guests to wish your wedding would finish so they can head to a more comfortable place! 
Think too about your own comfort. Strapless dresses in autumn and winter are fine in warm churches and special wedding places, such as the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion at the National Arboretum. But when you’re standing outside on a cooler day, you may be glad of sleeves or a warm wrap. Some brides  wear fluffy boleros. They look warm and gorgeous.

The weird thing about chairs at weddings

The presentation of Jayden and Sarah as
newlyweds was easy for all to see.
     The weird thing about chairs at weddings is that almost no-one ever wants to sit in them. If there are lots of chairs, it often takes me a while to fill them before the bride arrives. I plead: ‘Please guests, take a seat. Empty chairs look bad in wedding photos’.  So, if you’re thinking about chairs, I suggest just a few at the front, perhaps for immediate family, the elderly and the very pregnant.
     Of course, if your wedding is to be quite formal and you’ll have chairs for every guest, then it’s clear that everyone will be sitting down. Keep in mind however, that in a church or chapel where everyone is seated, they can look up to the bride and groom on at least one step above them.
     On level ground, it can be difficult for guests just a few rows from the front, to see what’s going on. Guests at the back will hear your wedding but may not actually see it. Keep this in mind if you’re choosing a formal venue. The Hotel Kurrajong for instance, has broad steps for the bridal party to stand on. So does the courtyard at Old Parliament House. The Chapel at Gold Creek is configured like a church so all the guests have a good view of the ceremony.

If you would like me to be your celebrant

     If you would like me to be your celebrant, I'd be delighted. Please contact me by filling in this Email Contact Form, or by phone or text to 0406 376 375, anytime on any day between 9am and 9pm. We can talk on Skype if you wish.
     It just so happens that because we have no Registry Office weddings in the ACT, my specialty has become simple weddings, usually quite small. I describe them as Simply beautiful and beautifully simple but I still love large weddings too. As a writer, I also enjoy helping couples craft a totally unique wedding for themselves in the full service that I offer. My fees for simple and longer weddings are here.
       Many of the weddings I attend as celebrant are small and private. This means that I never post photos from them online. Two weddings recently have been so small and so private that I've also found witnesses for the marrying couples. 
     One wedding was in the National Rose Gardens at Old Parliament House and I helped the bride and groom by finding a professional photographer who was also very happy to be witness. At a wedding in my garden last week, two of my writing group friends kindly agreed to be witnesses. I guess you could call these two weddings 'elopements'.
     Even with the simplest of weddings, there are lots of options, especially in choosing your location. I have many years of experience as a civil celebrant in Canberra and close-by. Please think of me as a freely-available resource, as well as your possible celebrant. I'll happily answer any questions you may have.


08 January 2016

Last year had such a happy ending.

Hello, and welcome.
On Saturday December 5 2015,  Lou and Dan married at Mystery Bay on the south coast.
It was a big, joyful family-and-friends event. They had a simple wedding ceremony, which included
very moving personal vows to each other. There was a fabulous party to follow. Many guests camped at the site.   

January is a quiet time for me and weddings because I have my annual rest until the Australia Day holiday.
UPDATE 26 January
I enjoyed my time off in January. I thought I'd get some writing done but I always seemed to end up working in the garden! When it calls me, it's so insistent! As I add this update, I'm at my desk, preparing for a wedding in my garden tomorrow morning.

     As we move into 2016, the googlebots are still being very kind to me and sending lots of work my way. Surely, over 120,000 page views of this blog is a high count for something so local and so specialised.
     There are no weddings at the Registry Office in the ACT and searches for this are often sent my way by my googlebot friends.
Annette and Matthew married
with a simple ceremony
in the elegant simplicity
of the Margaret Whitlam
Pavilion at the Australian
National Arboretum
Saturday 31 October 15
     I pop over to facebook every so often and maybe I’ll give my facebook page more attention this year. I take lots of wedding photos and I like to put some there (with permission, of course).
     And as always, word-of-mouth is still a main way for couples to hear of the high quality of the service I so enjoy providing.
Your day is my focus.
That’s my promise. 
It’s my pleasure.
     In the short and simple ceremony I've created, all legal requirements are included, yet couples still have the opportunity to make several choices about how the legal parts are presented. They can also add their own personal vows if they wish. Many choose to do this. Many don't.
     Simply beautiful and beautifully simple.  These are the weddings I already specialise in. Simple weddings are so popular these days, especially in my private romantic Heart Garden. There’s no extra cost involved for this.
     Couples who visit usually notice how special the Heart Garden feels. The peaceful welcoming feel doesn’t come across in online images and they often comment on this. Wedding guests also tell me they enjoy the way the garden feels, and not just its beauty.
     If you'd like to see how the garden looks in the month you plan to marry, my page on Pinterest has a large collection of photos. Or visit and look for the menu of monthly slideshows. 
Happy bride Nisa, after her
marriage to Selwyn  in the
Heart Garden, Canberra
Friday 27 November 15
     Much of the time, I’m in the garden, working away as The Heart Gardener. I'm adding plants, weeding, feeding and generally maintaining. On and off during the day, and into the evening (often until about midnight) I’ll be at my desk. Of course my desk overlooks the garden!
     I’m self-employed. This means that I set my own schedule. I can be available for your wedding any day, or any night, at any time and location that you choose. (Please note here that Heart Garden weddings are only held during weekdays.)
My Wedding Pages will give you extra information
As more and more couples who are planning to marry are using smartphones to search for their wedding services and suppliers, fewer people are noticing the extras on this blogsite.
     On a laptop or desktop screen, my Wedding Pages, my slideshow of gorgeous wedding photos and also my resource list, all appear on the right-hand side. I also have a Search box for tracking down information about locations, etc. On the small screen of your √≠Phone or Android, I hope you’ll find menu icons so that you can also access these extra resources.

These are my Wedding Pages:

Qin Qin and Chang Yong married in
the Heart Garden on the last day of last year.
We drank a toast to their marriage
and then one to the New Year.
     If you're planning to marry soon, or a while into the future, I'd love to hear from you. By law, the lodging of a Notice of Intended Marriage must be done with the celebrant or church of choice, at least one month before the day of the wedding. I can help you marry exactly one month from the time you're reading this!
     If you’d like to book me as your celebrant, please phone or text me on 0406 376 375 (any day between 9am and 9pm) to see I’m available. If you email me with a wedding booking. I’ll reply quickly. Or if you simply have queries, please feel free to contact me by phone, text or email. I’m a very experienced marriage celebrant and always happy to help. 
Here's to 2016. 
I wish you a wonderful year!