I go to a wedding every weekend. No exaggeration. I talk about weddings every day of the week, read about them every day of the week and write about them… yes, every day of the week. Given my passion for all things wedding-related, it would be fair to assume that I had been planning my wedding since I was five, but you’d be wrong.
Did I dream about my wedding day from time to time? Sure. But until Dave proposed, that’s all it was – a daydream. Once we actually were engaged, I wanted it to be our wedding, not just mine. If our wedding was going to be a celebration of the life and love we share, it needed to celebrate our relationship, not just things I happened to like.
Much to my relief, Dave was also very keen to jump into the planning. He has been to a lot of weddings with me and, perhaps unusually for a man his age, has a lot of thoughts about what our wedding should feel like. After we returned from overseas and announced our engagement, we set about planning the day. Together.
Given what I do for a living, it’s probably not surprising to learn that getting the ceremony right was our first priority. The ceremony sets the tone for the whole day and, let’s face it – it’s the reason for the day. Without the marriage, it’s just one very expensive party, so choosing the right celebrant was imperative. We wanted someone warm and sincere, who would be engaging and relaxed without being flippant. We wanted someone who would do our story justice, who would make our guests feel part of the day and who would put us at ease if any nerves flared up.
It was an easy decision. We had long known that my friend and mentor, Amanda Matler of Splendid Ceremonies, ticked all of our boxes so as soon as we had settled on a month, I called and asked what days she was available in July. We were always going to marry in winter – not only did it make it easier for overseas guests to attend during their summer break, it is also slow season for weddings. I knew we stood a greater chance of getting the venue and suppliers we wanted if we went with a colder month. Luckily for us, Amanda told us we could have any date we wanted. We were in business!
If there is one piece of advice I can impart to brides it is this – do not leave finding your celebrant until the last minute. Trust me, you do not want to be worrying two months out from your wedding if it will, in fact, be a wedding at all if there’s no one there to conduct it. Start looking for your celebrant as soon as you set a date. You need to bond with your celebrant, trust them, relate to them. If you do, your guests will too, but finding the right person isn’t as simple as finding someone who is available. Bear in mind that many celebrants conduct only one ceremony each day and once the date is gone, it’s gone!
With our celebrant locked in, our next step was to look at venues. While neither of us had a theme in mind, we both knew how we wanted our reception to feel and that led to us choosing a restaurant. Given that our happiest nights are usually spent entertaining friends at home, chatting and laughing over dinner and a few bottles of red, it didn’t take us long to work out that we wanted our reception to feel similar to a relaxed dinner party. We had three non-negotiables for our venue – it had to offer great food, excellent wines and an authentic atmosphere.
Photo by Sarah Collins of Love Katie + Sarah
Early in my celebrant career I married a couple in the gallery at Church St Enoteca. It stayed with both Dave and I for its warmth, elegance and art deco styling and Dave has long considered it his favourite wedding venue. We’d eaten there on numerous occasions and knew the Italian-inspired menu (the tiramisu. Oh, the tiramisu!), fantastic wines and attentive service were second to none. Once we decided on a restaurant reception, it was the only place we looked at. They also had availability in July. Second item checked off!
Finding a ceremony venue was a little harder. It had to be indoors as Melbourne in winter (who am I kidding? Melbourne at any time of year) can be an inhospitable place. It also couldn’t be somewhere that I had married a lot of couples as I didn’t want to associate the day with other weddings. After searching out a few new venues, we decided on the Victoria Police Academy Chapel.
A former Catholic seminary, the chapel was built as a Basilica and although it is now non-denominational, it retains the character of a grand church. With a renaissance ceiling, romanesque arches and lots of natural light, it provided the sense of occasion we were after and the flexibility to have the ceremony we wanted. And what do you know? It was also available in July. Hey presto, we had our ceremony venue.
With the big three locked in, we only had two more items on our must-book list. As for what they were…. that’s the next post!
Ms Gingham says: Koren is definitely someone who is speaking from experience. Listen up girls!
Koren Harvey says: “I love standing with a groom waiting for his bride to arrive and watching the emotions well up in his eyes. I love seeing the joy on a bride’s face when she catches sight of her husband-to-be. I love what I do. Being a celebrant is the best job in the world.”