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.

29 October 2010

'It's a fairy garden!'


Robert signs while his bride
Natasia looks on


Hello, and welcome.
     Three year old Sarah came with her parents Robert and Natasia on Monday for their wedding in the Heart Garden. As soon as she came through the rustic wooden gate, Sarah exclaimed with delight: ‘It’s a fairy garden!’
Before the wedding began, I got great pleasure from showing Sarah the glass fairy house, the three bears near the children’s table and wooden stump (see below) which my husband fashioned with his chainsaw many years ago into a chair for a small child. 
Table and chairs on the right
Three bears just out of sight (sorry)
     I showed Sarah the big jack rabbit, and the fairy Arielle who watches over the garden from her secluded spot amongst the fading bluebells, and the little praying angel nestled under a large pink rhododendron. And there was the hand-potted bird house in the amelanchier tree, and Merrick, the peaceful face in the elm (who actually appears briefly in this video I recorded in the winter).
     Liliane, the graceful maiden features in many photos you’ll see on line of the Heart Garden. You’ll rarely see photos of Delphine who’s in a less exposed position.
Delphine
and the yellow rock rhodo
     The garden is enchanting at this time as we come into the last month of Spring. Spring rains have been of great benefit and cold weather has elongated the spring display. The heritage wisteria has been stunning. 
     At last I have learned how to prune the wisteria properly! Six years ago my son and his bride married at exactly this time of year under this majestic climber. I had botched the pruning. Not one flower in sight! A quick dash to our local balloon shop on the morning of the wedding provided mauve and white helium balloons to simulate wisteria blooms. The delicate pastel balloons had their own charm.
     My other son (who married two weeks ago) is now responsible for the annual pruning of the grand wisterias that festoon mighty wooden Chinese frames throughout the Prime Minister’s courtyard at Parliament House, here in Canberra. His skill is sensational, and I'm glad to say that he has taught his Mum how to get it right.
     There’s another small wedding in my garden tomorrow (Thursday 28), this time for a couple who have chosen to keep images from their wedding private. I must away to finish the pruning and trimming I started this morning to shape the burst of new growth on so many shrubs in this beautiful place I am so blessed to co-own.
     We have no registry office weddings in the Australian Capital Territory. If you are wanting a small weekday wedding, you are most welcome to marry in my garden at no extra charge. There’s either the Simple (but still Special) Service I provide, or my full service which allows you a lot more options, like more wording choices, the opportunity to invite more guests, and the option to linger longer to take photos. If you’d like to bring champagne, I’ll provide the crystal glasses.


     Please phone me any day between 9am and 9pm to discuss your wedding plan, or email me by clicking here. There’s also a contact form in Wedding Pages (top right) you may wish to use. 
     When the Heart Garden was in the Australian Open Garden Scheme several years ago, I explained my personal philosophy: The house is the place in the garden where the people live. I would be delighted to share with you on your wedding day, the magic piece of floral paradise in which my home is situated. Lucky me!

     Till next time
     Sincerely
     Michele

21 October 2010

Giving thanks for soft warm - and very timely - sunlight during chilly midSpring weather


Hello, and welcome.
     Well, we've had so much rain in Canberra lately that everything is blooming like crazy! The rain has been torrential and the dams have benefitted greatly. 
     I am so happy to say that we got a warm sunny break in the wind-off-the-snow weather, right on cue, for the wedding of our son and his beautiful bride on Saturday (October 16). 
     For the reception we had dinner at D'Browes in Narrabundah. Warm and cosy with candles, white tablecloths and beautiful flowers everywhere. A truly wonderful and memorable occasion. 
     
     The cold front has moved on by now and I expect the spring flowers will warm up and finish quite soon. Then it's time for the roses. 
     The Heart Garden has layers on layers of mid-Spring loveliness. I'll put lots of photos on my other blog Come to My Heart Garden. There will be two small weddings in the garden in this coming week. Their timing is superb. The rare and special wisteria is especially spectacular with its long generous racemes. (See photo on the left).
     
     Have you been to Weston Park in Yarralumla recently? To the English Garden and Oaks Brasserie? I have been watching the transformation there since early this year, and everything looks great. ACT Government has invested millions (literally) in the gardens and surrounds of the Brasserie to beautify this heritage site, and owners of the Brasserie, Brent and Elaine have also been refurbishing their restaurant and gallery in a big way. I knew by October the place would be looking beautiful, and it does.
     Our son's wedding was to be held amongst the dogwoods, rhodos and other blossoms in the English Garden, quite near the lake, but the weather moved the ceremony to a sheltered spot in a lovely new garden with fresh lush lush lawn, closer to the heritage building. (The newlyweds are honeymooning on the Barrier Reef right now and I don't have their OK to add their photos to this blog post.) 
Brent, co-owner of Oaks Brasserie in the English Garden, Weston
Park, Yarralumla, with son Ewan and Michele, Mother-of-the-Groom
     We had a post-wedding, pre-reception party in the sheltered grounds of the Brasserie and in the warm setting of the marquee. It was an excellent back-up plan. 
     Brent and his staff looked after us very well, and Brent expressed his gratitude that a celebrant with over twenty years experience, with as much knowledge of the local scene as I have, would be recommending his establishment to my son and his bride.
     The engaged couple had chosen the English Garden for their wedding because they both love beauty in Nature and the view of the lake from this grand garden. I anticipate they got some excellent photos around the English Garden after their wedding ceremony. This magnificent garden belongs to us all. You can marry there for free with National Capital Authority permission. (The link will take you to 'Planning a Wedding on National Land', a really useful site.)
     Masses of beautiful flowers featured in the wedding, in soft spring colours with perfume of freesias to make those olfactory-type memories that can take us back to a happy scene so quickly. Margaret was the marvellous florist but she has retired so I'm sorry I can't recommend that you choose her to do your wedding flowers. I can tell you though that long-time friend of the bride and groom, Kate (Roberts) was their celebrant, and she was excellent. Kate is based in Cooma and travels willingly to Canberra weddings.

Cupcakes by Cherry Seed in Ginninderra Village
- decorative, delicious, just the right amount of sweetness,
and perfect 'take home' gifts for wedding guests
     Weddings celebrate love and commitment, and they are so good for the heart. They strengthen family and community. This all reminds me how much pleasure and satisfaction it gives me to be around these open declarations of love, and the many special new family connections which a wedding will instantly create. 
     If you would like me to officiate at your wedding, I'd be delighted to do so. Please phone me any day between 9am and 9pm on 02 6161 0718, or email me by clicking here

     Till next time
     Sincerely
     Michele

04 October 2010

Twelve good reasons for choosing Michele as your celebrant

Hello, and welcome.
Radiant bride Valerie arrives for her marriage to Gary,with her lovely daughter Kiliane
The Heart Garden, Weston ACT,  early October 2010
See more photos in the slideshow to the right of this post.
I'm taking the opportunity in this post to tell you more about the service I provide to marrying couples, like Valerie and Gary who had a very happy wedding in the Heart Garden last week. 


I've chosen as my logo ‘Your day is my focus’? What does this mean?

It means that from the moment I wake up on your wedding day, my thoughts are on your wedding and helping you make it wonderful. Actually, before the big day I am already working towards your most successful and memorable day.

Why would you choose me as your celebrant? Here are twelve good reasons:

*        I am enthusiastic. I totally love the work I do. My role and purpose are to serve you. I consider it a real privilege to be with you at this most significant time in the life you share together. I will put my heart into your wedding (but I promise I won’t go OTT!)

*        I am very experienced. I know what I'm doing – I really know what I'm doing! 
         I’ve been celebrant for nearly nine hundred weddings. This has given me heaps of experience in many different settings,like a balloon, boats large and small, large islands like Springbank in Lake Burley Griffin, and of course Aspen Island with the National Carillon, and an island in the Macquarie River that so small, only five of us could fit and the guests sat on the bank across the water. I officiated at a ceremony in a local Catholic chapel (with the blessing of the priest in charge). I've taken part in many other different circumstances, like getting married sitting in the living room or family room with a couple of friends, having a wedding ceremony within a choral concert in the Brindabellas, a wedding in a bush chapel on a hill high above Wells Station and a sunset wedding on Tharwa bridge when it was closed to traffic, and so on and so on. I’ve even married twin sister brides in a dual ceremony in Glebe Park!
I’ve officiated at Buddhist weddings, a Quaker wedding, themed weddings (including a mediaeval wedding in the Senate Chamber of Old Parliament House) and a wedding for a minor where we needed permission from the court. I’ve shared two weddings, complete with prayers, with ex-priest Paul Collins. 
If you are overseas (one or both) and you plan to marry in Australia, you can be confident that I can help you every step along the way to realising your plan, like preparing letters to immigration authorities.
I’ve learned to greet guests in Mandarin, Japanese, Finnish, Spanish and French. I’ve even read a poem in Latin during a beautiful private ceremony and just had to hope that my pronunciations were OK. I love the variety in this amazing job!

*        I won’t overbook. Your wedding day needs to be as stress-free as possible. You want to know that your celebrant won’t be delayed at someone else’s wedding and turn up late for yours. If I have more than one booking on a particular day, the weddings will be generously spaced with plenty of time-cushioning. I’ll always have my mobile with me to answer calls or messages.

*        I’ll be there. In over twenty years, I have never been ill or had to change a wedding arrangement. If my perfect record had to change for any reason, I could easily recommend an excellent replacement. As well as knowing celebrants who have been authorised for as long as I have, I recently met many of my new celebrant colleagues at our annual Ongoing Professional Development. Changing your celebrant is a very simple process, even at the last minute if the need arises.

*        I’ll make your marriage totally legal. You can be confident that I will carry out the requirements of the Australian Marriage Act to the letter. I am confident about claiming that I am one of the few civil celebrants who has actually read the entire Marriage Act, cover to cover.
If there’s anything about the current nature of legal marriage in Australia you’re not comfortable with – and this is not uncommon – then we’ll find a way together to work strictly within the Act.
Some celebrants may leave out legal requirements, like the requirement for each of you to state your legal names to your guests and call on them to witness your marriage. The couple then receives their certificate at the end of the ceremony, yet their marriage may not be absolutely legal. With me as your celebrant, you’ll never have this worry.

*        I'm flexible. Many civil celebrants are not comfortable with religious or spiritual content in weddings but I am. I'm also very happy to include extra elements, like lighting candles, exchanging roses, poruwa (traditional Sri Lankan wedding platform) or the Jewish shattering of the glass. A formal ceremony is just as easy for me as an informal one.
     I'm happy to totally step aside and let the couple and their special people run the wedding themselves, calling on me to just do the solemnising, or legalising. I'm also very happy to conduct a ceremony with a trainee celebrant and provide feedback.
     I can be available for a wedding at any time so if the time to start needs to be auspicious according to your culture, I will go along with that personal choice.
     I had a wedding recently where the bride and groom were in a remote part of South America. They needed to find a notary to sign their Notice of Intended Marriage and get it to me the statutory month and a day before their wedding date. By the time they’d got to a capital city and found a notary, and emailed the Notice to me, the month and a day took them to the next day, being the day the groom’s parents were leaving Australia to fly back home. 
     Our solution? Hold the wedding at one minute past midnight. And it was so lovely! We had candles, and fairy lights in the trees. There was even a full moon to light the ceremony, and since it was just after Christmas, the evening was warm and most pleasant.
Robyn and  Julian had a wedding during their
engagement party at their home in Fadden
and totally surprised their guests.
What a party!
     I’ve also had weddings at dawn, like one on Mount Ainslie at sunrise, one on Mount Taylor at the same time, and one by the lake that was rather chilly for the feet.
     Sometimes the party’s already started when the wedding takes place and I'm easy with that too. I’ve officiated at quite a few weddings like this. They have quite a different feel to them to traditional weddings that begin with the entrance of the bridal party to the chosen site.

*        I present myself well. Sometimes I hear horror stories about celebrants who wore inappropriate clothing to a wedding, like loud clashing colours. When a celebrant stands out for all the wrong reasons in the memory of couples or their guests, it seems that these memories are particularly long lasting!
I take great care with my appearance. I buy high quality, well cut suits and my jewellery is discreet. I will always ask you your colour scheme so I can blend in unobtrusively with my clothing choice. If I'm invited as a guest, I will usually wear something that’s less businesslike.
You may have been to a wedding where you couldn’t hear what the celebrant was saying. I have a portable, battery-driven state-of-the-art PA system with cordless microphone. The sound quality is excellent, and I'll do a sound-check before we start the ceremony.
Sometimes the bride and groom like to hold the microphone for their personal vows. At other times, I will say to guests something like:‘Simon and Tasha will now share vows they have chosen just for each other’ so guests understand they may not hear all that is being said at that intimate part of the ceremony.
My voice is well-modulated I’ve had two years of voice training and done several voice training workshops. I used to talk every week on Radio 2CC and occasionally on community radio 2XX and the ABC. I’ve sold a couple of thousand relaxation tapes, featuring my gentle and relaxing Australian voice.
By the way, I am confident that if you want a guaranteed way to relax on the lead-up to your wedding, or on the actual day, then Time Out for Ten will work for you every time. You can buy it now as an mp3 $7US by way of PayPal or credit card, or debit card, again through PayPal. PayPal will automatically do the currency conversion. Just click this link. (Enjoy!)

*        I am upfront about my fee(see Wedding Pages to the right of this post) 
        The fee I quote you covers everything and I put it in writing. There may be extra for out-of-town travel, but there are no hidden costs.
My fee is payable in two parts. The non-refundable deposit is due at a meeting that takes about half an hour. This is when you lodge the Notice of Intended Marriage with me as registered celebrant. This meeting must take place at least one month and one day before the wedding. (Note here that all registered celebrants are lodging authorities and we don’t send anything to the Registrar at this stage.) 
If you’ve opted for Simple (but still) Special Service I provide, then you pay the full fee at the one meeting we have together, at least one month and one day before your wedding. This meeting takes about an hour.
With my usual full service, the balance is payable (plus any extra for travel) at a one-hour meeting, usually in the week of the wedding. At this meeting we have a thorough virtual rehearsal that covers every little thing so that when it comes to the wedding, you’ll be totally confident about exactly what’s happening and what happens when. After the wedding, I send your papers to the Registrar for registration (as all celebrants do).
When you book with me, I will tell you exactly what costs are involved and I’ll provide you with a signed agreement. I will only quote extra for travel when I need to go beyond ‘city limits’ – past Watson, Lanyon, Hall or Queanbeyan. I calculate the extra for my return journey beyond these limits at $1.20 per kilometre (or less per km for long distances) and note the calculation in our agreement.

*        I’m readily available. I am self-employed. I'm available for weddings during weekends or week days. I'm available day or night. If you choose to marry in my Heart Garden – and there’s no extra fee for this - it will be a small weekday wedding.
Because I'm a writer, my timing is flexible. Please feel free to phone me any day between 9am and 9pm to chat about your wedding or ask me any questions. I'm usually at my computer during the day (if I haven’t been lured into the garden by some particularly enjoyable task) and I'm often at my computer after dinner, so if you email me, expect a swift reply.
        Like I said, I'm a writer. I’ve had many articles published in newspapers and on line on personal wellbeing. I have almost finished my first eBook.
Using my expertise, I’ll help you prepare a unique and memorable ceremony. It may be short, straightforward and standard. It may be a ceremony that’s decidedly different. So long as we cover the legal requirements, the choice is entirely yours. When we have our first meeting together, you’ll see lots of wording ideas that I’ve put together and updated over the years.
There’ll be a variety of simple or complicated ceremonies to take home with you, a collection of suggestions and detailed notes about exactly what has to be included to make your wedding legal. Of course you can add wording from any other source to individualise your ceremony, like vows on TV you liked or poems from the internet. You can be as creative, traditional or original as you wish. (For instance, you don’t need to make matching vows.)
If your choice is my new Simple (but still) Special Service, I’ll provide you with a simple set ceremony and adapt it with your details. You can make choices from a few options within the ceremony, like do you prefer ‘ask those here present’ to ‘call on those here present’ in the legal part? Choose your own ending, like the traditional ‘I now declare you husband and wife’, the less formal ‘Congratulations. You are married!’ or the exciting ‘It’s now time for your first kiss as...husband and wife’. This appeals to many couples as they’ve been living together for some time.
Most couples mix and match until they make a ceremony that expresses what they both feel good about (and I hear that this is not difficult to do.) Once you’ve put your words together, together, I can give you any help you need to make sure your ceremony will ‘flow’ well on the day (like making sure you won’t be holding too many things at once, like flowers, ring, wording, microphone.)
     So many times after the ceremony, guests have told me how much they enjoyed the ceremony because it sounded ‘so right’ for the couple they know so well. ‘The best wedding I’ve ever been to’ is not an uncommon comment. (In fact, if no guests approached me after a ceremony to tell me how much they liked it, I’d be really worried I got something wrong!)
     With your chosen wording, you’ll email a draft to me before our second meeting then we’ll take time together going through and making any changes. It’s only when I’ve keyed in the changes, sent them to you for your approval (or further change) and received the final OK from you both that I will print your ceremony ready for your wedding.
     I’ll print your ceremony in the font you’ve chosen for your wording and certificate on elegant cream parchment paper, in lightweight parchment for the ceremony wording, and heavier weight for the cover. (It’s a similar colour to the wedding certificate you receive on the day.) I’ll use my laser printer so you can be sure that if there are raindrops (or teardrops when you are reading to each other) the ink will not run.
     I’ll use the same special paper for wording for your readers if you’d like, I’ll tie your wording into a booklet with ribbon you have chosen to match your wedding colour scheme. I’ll also make sure that any words you choose to read to each other during your ceremony are printed in Bookman 14 so they’re easier to read than the fancy font you’ve chosen for your wording and certificate. I’ll also make sure the whole vows for both of you are on the one page so you won’t need to turn over. (Don’t want to give you any cause for stress!)
After the wedding, I will hand a plastic wallet containing your wording and certificate to one of your guests for safe-keeping - usually someone in the family of the bride or groom.

*        You’ll know exactly what to expect on the day. Like I said before, at our second meeting, we’ll go through in fine detail, everything you can expect on the day. This works like a very detailed rehearsal. If you choose to have a physical rehearsal, or a simple walk-through individually with each participant (like the father of the bride) and I do think that this is a good idea so everyone involved is familiar with their role on the day, someone else can easily stand in for me.
          I’ll make sure that you are both very well-informed about proceedings. I can’t however, prepare you for the unique emotional atmosphere of your wedding ceremony. What I can do though, when we are standing together about to start your ceremony, is wait for each of you to feel that you are totally present. I missed the beautiful much-anticipated ‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered here’ at the beginning of my own wedding many years ago because I was so overwhelmed.
I want to make sure that you are present, centred and grounded for your marriage to each other before the ceremony begins. I’ll start when you each give me the nod. I will speak clearly and slowly during your ceremony so everyone can take in the wording you have chosen (though it’s likely you’ll think it all goes way too fast!)

*        I won’t appear in the middle of your wedding photos. I will not stand in the traditional place between the bride and groom (unless you ask me to, of course.)
Josh makes his vows to his beautiful Bryony
(Note there's no celebrant standing in between them)
The Heart Garden February 2009
I prefer to stand slightly off to the side. From here I can have face-to-face contact with all the guests, as well as the marrying couple. It also means that the bride and groom are at the centre of everything, instead of the celebrant. This will also give you what always feels to me like a ‘sacred space’ of your own. Sometimes I even feel a need to step aside a little further when vows are being shared, as the emotions are so powerful and personal.
When you see your wedding photos, you won’t see me in shot at those very special moments, like when you’re making your vows, exchanging rings or enjoying your first kiss as husband and wife. I think you’ll be glad of that.

*        I can help you with other choices for your wedding. I am familiar with hundreds of wedding venues in ACT and nearby NSW, from little quiet places in a bush setting, to grand amphitheatres - even grand amphitheatres in a bush setting!
I know what’s flowering when to give you a great backdrop for your ceremony and impress your guests, especially those from interstate and overseas. I know of unusual places, like the room at the top of the National Carillon with its stunning views in all directions, and a magical place in a wild wood near the lake, with large spotted toadstools like in fairytales, and places with cathedralesque gum trees, and a forest with mighty redwoods, perfect for mediaeval nuptials.
I can recommend reception places (I can even tell you who makes the best canap├ęs!) I know several excellent photographers. I’ve seen a few extraordinary wedding cakes and found out who made them. I know very good florists. Would you like a harpist or a singer? I can recommend musicians. I'm happy to help you with ideas about other wedding services and please note that, while I certainly have my favourites, I have no commercial arrangements with any wedding service providers.
The majority of my celebrant work comes from word-of-mouth. This blog is a creative outlet that brings me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction. I’ve set it up, not only to promote the service I offer but also as a service to anyone who wants to get married in Australia, particularly in Canberra or nearby NSW.
I'm pleased to say that ‘Michele the Celebrant’ does bring me wedding bookings, but in my steady stream of bookings, most still come from word-of-mouth recommendations, Often the recommendations come from couples who had me officiate for them. Lots of times I’ve been recommended by people who were guests at a wedding where I was celebrant. I’ve become ‘our celebrant’ to several families and groups of friends and that’s just lovely. I get to meet the babies and see them grow. (It’s been over twenty years now!)
        That’s about all I can think of at the moment. I’ll keep this list dynamic so I can add to it or change it anytime.
Please let me know if there are any questions you have about the service I provide as celebrant that I haven’t covered here. Email me, or phone 02 6161 0718 any day between 9am and 9pm. My job is to make you totally confident about your choice of wedding celebrant and help you stay relaxed and full of joyful anticipation. After all, there are no second chances here. You really want to get it right on the one and only big day.
To me you are always my valued clients and I am your service provider. I am here to please you, and provide you with satisfying service. I am totally committed to making your wedding fully legal, a great pleasure to take part in, a most memorable success, and a great lead-in to your celebrations.

     Your day is my focus. That’s my promise. It’s my pleasure.
     
     Sincerely
     Michele Bolitho
     5 October 2010