Being a marriage celebrant and celebrating happiness and love must be one of the best jobs in the world. Melissa Polimeni – Marriage Celebrant is one of the lucky people who seems to enjoy every aspect of her profession and puts her heart and soul into crafting ceremonies that are as individual as you are. And when Melissa says “I want family and friends to walk away from a ceremony full of joy, feeling the love and feeling like they just witnessed and were involved in something truly special and unique” – isn’t that the essence of a perfect ceremony? Because, after all, what an honour it is for all of us to witness a couple getting married. Let’s read all about Melissa’s story.
Could you please tell us a little about your background and what led you to becoming a marriage celebrant?
It goes without saying that I love weddings. It’s so fulfilling and oh so much fun to be involved in the planning of a ceremony and then to stand beside my soon-to-be-married couples on their wedding day is such a wonderful honour. I can honestly say after almost 300 weddings, I’m just as excited about marrying couples today as I was when I first started out in 2009. Back then, I was a political reporter in Canberra and I was looking for something happy, fun and fulfilling to do on my weekends. I took the plunge and I haven’t looked back since.
Image by Beck Rocchi Photography
How does your former journalism and TV career influence your working life now?
In journalism, my job is essentially telling stories in a captivating and compelling way. I approach a ceremony in the same way – except even better, I get to tell love stories in a compelling way and they always have happy endings! My couples often tell me I have a very calming voice and presence and I believe that’s thanks to my radio and television experience – I’ve always felt very comfortable and confident with public speaking.
What is it that you love about being a celebrant?
Everything! I love meeting and getting to know my couples. I love writing their story and the fulfilment that comes from creating a ceremony that truly reflects who they are. And then on the wedding day, I love greeting guests as they arrive. I love standing beside the groom and feeling his nervous anticipation and then sheer joy as he first sees his soon-to-be wife walking towards him. I love witnessing the reactions of parents and loved ones throughout the ceremony. I love standing beside my couples as they declare their vows to one another. I love the signing of the Marriage Register and the relief and excitement that follows when my couples realise they’re married!
Image by Karleen Minney Photography
How would you describe your style? How formal are your ceremonies?
My ceremonies are personalised, relaxed, engaging and fun. You don’t need to wait until your reception for the celebrating to start – your ceremony can (and indeed should) have a festive feel to it! My ceremonies are always filled with happiness, laughter, quite often some happy tears and of course, love. I want family and friends to walk away from a ceremony full of joy, feeling the love and feeling like they just witnessed and were involved in something truly special and unique.
Do you modify your style depending on the personalities of the couple?
My advice to my couples is to make sure every decision they make in relation to the ceremony feels authentic to them – if you do that, you can’t go wrong. I take the time to get to know my couples so that their ceremony is truly reflective of them and their relationship. And I always take my cues from my couples – if they’re easy-going and fairly light-hearted, then I’ll make sure that shines through in their ceremony.
Image by Julian Meehan Photography
How do you help couples personalize their ceremonies? How do you keep your ideas fresh?
There are so many ways to personalise a ceremony – from telling a couple’s story to readings to vows to music choices and all the other little details in between (and yes, people will notice and appreciate the little details!). I’m always inspired by my couples – I love brainstorming ideas with them, talking about what they want, having a think and then coming up with ways to make it part of their ceremony.
How important is the ceremony in setting the tone of the wedding day?
The ceremony sets the tone for the entire day – I may be a tad biased here but I believe its importance should never be underestimated. You want everyone raving about how special and meaningful it was at the reception! So when crafting a ceremony, I encourage my couples to put a lot of thought into what they want. Most of the time, my couples want their wedding day to be a relaxed and fun celebration and I make sure this is reflected in their ceremony.
Image by Michael Renga Photography
How many ceremonies do you conduct in one day?
I usually only do one ceremony per day to ensure I’m completely focused on that one couple. Occasionally I’ll have a morning ceremony followed by another one in the afternoon or evening but generally my policy is one per day.
What are some of the most unique ideas you’ve seen or heard in the course of your work?
One ceremony that stands out for me was when we asked the guests to stand in a circle, surrounding the bride and groom. My couple told me it made them feel less nervous and less ‘on show’ to an audience. Another one of my couples recently did something a little different at the end of their ceremony. Rather than mingling with their guests or taking a group photo as soon as the ceremony was over, they instead opted to spend some time together in private. It was only about five minutes, but they told me it was a really special time savouring the wonderful ‘just married’ moment.
Image by Windmill Photography
On the wedding day, what is your routine for preparing the groomsmen and/or bridesmaids for their roles? How much guidance do you give to them?
I always like to give the bridal party a pre-ceremony pep talk, but I keep it simple because instructions can be overwhelming when you’re already feeling a bit nervous! I remind them to smile, relax, take deep breaths if they’re feeling nervous and most importantly, enjoy the moment. I also reassure them that it’s OK to feel emotional – being a member of a bridal party is such a wonderful honour and it’s normal to shed some happy tears for the newlyweds.
Do you have some techniques or tips to help a nervous couple relax?
So long as you’re happy, reasonably relaxed (yes, it is possible!), you keep your sense of humour and you don’t lose sight of the wonderful reason for the day, then it will be everything you want it to be – I guarantee it. Don’t sweat the small stuff because it truly doesn’t matter in the end. All that matters is you’re marrying the love of your life surrounded by your most special people. This is one of the most significant days of your lives, so live it and love every moment of it. Smile, laugh, take deep breaths and feel the love!
Where do you mostly work? Do you travel outside of Melbourne?
I mainly work in and around Melbourne but I never say no to a destination wedding! And yes, in case you were wondering, exotic beach locations are my favourites!
How do you cope with the weekend work?
I feel very privileged to be able to do the work I do – not only is it extremely rewarding and makes me very happy, but it also goes some way in helping me achieve the somewhat elusive work/life balance. My weekdays are spent writing weddings and being a mum to my two young daughters and weekends are spent marrying awesome couples!
Image by Karleen Minney Photography
What do you do after delivering a marriage ceremony? How do you relax?
I love when a couple invites me to stay for a post-ceremony celebratory drink. It allows me to get to know the most important people in their lives and I also get to see the two people I just married at their happiest and most relaxed.
What do you enjoy about living and working in Melbourne?
I grew up in country Victoria and moved to Melbourne to study when I was 18 and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the city, despite the always unpredictable weather! Melbourne has a certain vibrant energy about it – it’s such an exciting city to live in. There’s always something interesting to see and do. I love spending my weekends visiting its fabulous wedding venues – from hidden city gems to wineries in the Yarra Valley or on the Mornington Peninsula – it’s such a joy to discover and experience new places all in the name of work!
Thank you Melissa for sharing your story. I do love the idea of the bridal couple spending 5 minutes together after the ceremony savouring the moment. Very special! To find out more about Melissa Polimeni – Marriage Celebrant visit the website.
Headshot courtesy of Melissa Polimeni – Marriage Celebrant.