Image via Studio Hudson

When I work with couples one of the first questions I ask is “how do you want your guests to feel during the ceremony?”. This helps me to understand the kind of ceremony the couple want to have, the vibe, and then I can help guide and make some suggestions as we design the ceremony together.

My ceremonies tend to lean towards fun and laughter with a pinch of romance. I am also a big believer in making sure your guests are present and engaged in the ceremony. Not just bystanders.

I try to throw in a few suggestions of ways to engage guests, to capture them right from the start.

Here’s my top 10 ideas for engaging your guests in your wedding ceremony:

Image via Studio Hudson

  1. Witness ‘lucky dip’ – pop the names of your guests (or even just the ones you wouldn’t mind being your witness) and at the start of the ceremony you draw them out of the ‘hat’. Especially useful if you can’t decide on who to choose.
  2. Hide the rings – hide/tape your wedding ring(s) under the chairs of the guests. At the start of the ceremony we ask guests to check under their chairs and the lucky guests get to be the ring bearers during the ceremony.
  3. Group vows – as part of their commitment to the couple I like to ask guests a few questions and get a group “WE DO”. Questions like; “Do you promise to ugly cry and feel all the feelings? Do you promise to holler and clap in all the right places? Do you promise to dance your arse off at the reception and not leave before the couple? (group) “WE DO”
  4. Bridal Party Intro – After being primed by the couple, the Celebrant introduces each member of the wedding party in the theme of either a talent contest or a game show or even a beauty pageant.
  5. Ring Warming – this is actually a Celtic tradition. The rings are placed in a bowl or on a piece of string. During the ceremony these are passed around the guests who each make a wish whilst holding the rings and then pass onto to the next person.
  6. Musical chairs – during the signing guests can play musical chairs i.e sit next to someone they don’t know when the music stops.
  7. Flash mob wedding reading – chosen guests OR ALL sing or read poem, reading or song during the ceremony. I like to sometimes add this to a ceremony as a surprise for my couples (if I think they will totally dig it). It can be such a great way for the couple to stop and really take in their ceremony.
  8. Wishing bowl – as guests arrive they write their wishes (in one word) for the couple and drop them in a bowl. These are gathered up and could be read during the ceremony, the reception or on their first anniversary.
  9. Marriage advice – similarly guests can provide some marriage advice to the couple and these suggestions can be read out to the couple or saved for an anniversary (or the first fight?).
  10. Guard of honour recessional – The guests form a guard of honour for the couple. Guests can blow bubbles, raise a glass of champagne, hold something high (flowers or palm fronds) or just high five the couple as they walk through to a really fun song (this can be formed during the signing of documents) and is such a fun way to end a ceremony.

Image one Jo Booth Image two by Sarah J via Francescka & Anton’s Romantic Winery Wedding

So there’s my top 10 ideas to really bring a bit of joy and laughter to a wedding ceremony. Really consider how you want your guests to feel. After all, they have gone to a fair bit of effort to be there too (admittedly not as much as the couple).

Another good thing to remember is if you have friends or family members that were disappointed at not having a ‘role’ at your wedding, these kinds of activities can be a way they CAN feel part of it. It’s easy to find them a little job to do on the day with some of these activities.

Image by James Day via Emma & Ryan’s Elegant & Rustic Country Homestead Wedding

Remember the wedding ceremony isn’t just the ‘boring legal bit before the reception. WITHOUT your celebrant and the ceremony, your reception would just be a party. So why not make it fun and get the vibe going for the reception. Set the tone from the outset. Really great celebrants will go above and beyond, so please use their skills and experience to help you bring everyone ‘in the room’ as it makes our jobs so much easier and FUN!

Ms Zebra Says: Including guests in your ceremony is a great way to make everyone feel involved – especially those who may have felt a little left out without a ‘role’ on the day. Thanks Jo for sharing these great ways to involve those closest to you in your special day.

About Jo Booth: Jo is a marriage celebrant and MC that loves to laugh so it makes sense that she tends towards fun, joyful and laughter filled ceremonies. But fear not, Jo can be romantic, serious and sombre when it’s needed. Jo’s ceremonies are NOT cookie-cutter, they are each completely different and written from scratch. Jo will ensure your ceremony is stress free, oh and legal, so you can relax and enjoy your special day. It will be the stuff of legends.

Ever felt awkward as soon as someone holds up a camera? So many of us have. And that’s why I adore Louisa Jones’ approach to photographing people. She wants her couples to feel at ease and awesome, because that way it will show in the photos. Today we chat to Louisa of Louisa Jones Photography about relaxing in front of the camera and how she helps her couples to achieve this. She also reveals the best spots for photographs around her local area of Geelong, what she finds so rewarding about being a wedding photographer, and how she prefers her couples’ wishes to be paramount (instead of forcing a particular style). Over to you, Louisa!

Where are you based?
Geelong, Victoria

What do you love about where you live?
It’s bigger than the towns I grew up in, but it’s not too big. I love being in proximity to Melbourne with its urban architectural and cultural treats and on the other side access to the natural beauties of the surf coast and the Otways.

What are the best photo spots in your city?
It really depends where the wedding or portraiture takes place. Tell me what your vision is and we can just about make it happen. Just don’t say snowy mountains! Geelong’s region covers beaches, marinas, vineyards, paddocks, rolling hills, and bush. There are a lot of hidden little spots that are underused and I’ve yet still to take advantage of them.

Do you work closely with any other local wedding vendors?
Yes, I’ve met a lovely lot of venue managers and celebrants, cake makers and florists. I have worked with the fabulous Lainie Brookman Couture for many styled shoots and weddings.

How long have you been a wedding photographer?
Eleven plus years. I just get younger and younger.

Why did you become one?
Bitten by the love bug. In all seriousness, I love photographing people. What’s a better time to photograph them when coming together to celebrate a friend/family member’s best day of their life?

Tell us about your studio…
My studio is part of a shared artists’ space in factory 21 Newtown – think bohemian – but not traditionally as we all shower…  My studio space is number 3 and it has no door handle on the inside. Yep, I’ve been there five years, who has time for a door handles…

How would you describe your photography style?
A combo of candid, relaxed, arty… but basically, it’s about the client. I’m there for the client. If the client is after something specific I’ll do it. Within reason. I won’t go under water, I’m not a swimmer.

You also do fashion photography. Has that helped or influenced your approach to wedding photography in any way?
Not really.  Fashion photography and wedding photography requires completely different approaches.  Fashion photography is controlled and time can be taken to get the right shots, and it really isn’t about the people.

Wedding photography is about the people. Whilst there is a point where I can choose the right spots for the family photos and bridal photos, much is out of my control. Especially because I’m relying on the weather and time constraints. Ideas can change instantly, there is only one take for the ceremony. Much of the day is photojournalistic. It’s a matter or working in the moment for the right angle and lighting. Realistically it’s mainly about family and friends coming to together to celebrate the couple’s’ commitment to each other.

You say that photography is a two-way street. When you’re feeling awesome, it will show in the images. How do you get your bridal couples feeling awesome, especially if they’re nervous or camera shy?
It’s a matter of being relaxed and presenting a calm experience myself, which is easy when I love taking photos. I think it’s definitely a personality thing as well and being there for the couple. If you are feeling a bit camera shy or worried, I’m more than happy to chat and meet up as many times before the wedding to get used to me with my cameras. I do recommend if you are a bit nervous to definitely book coverage for getting ready as it gives you time to get used to me flitting around in the background taking photos.

How early should a couple book you in?
As soon as you decide and lock in a date. There are usually two particular dates per season that seem to be the most popular and I do get several enquiries for the same date quite often. The earliest I’ve been booked has been two years out. I’d advise more 18 months to one year is most typical.

Do you travel for weddings?
Yes! I’ve travelled as far as Palm Cove in Queensland to take wedding photos. I will travel anywhere in Victoria. I’ve been as far as Bright, and have a wedding in Halls Gap later this year.

What have been your favourite weddings in the past year?
Oooh, so many!  All my couples are amazing, I must say I do love the ones where my couples have their pets involved.

Is there any part of the wedding day you enjoy shooting the most?
I love the dancing at the end where people are relaxed and chilling and all the formalities are done. However I also love shooting around a beautiful location with the bridal party too.

Best wedding venue you’ve visited lately?
Hmm, all of the above? I do have a special place in my heart for King Parrot Cottages in the Otways.  I’m a sucker for rainforests. I just adore the place. And then there’s Lorne just down the road, of course.  The ultimate wedding destination for elopements. I also love a bit of the Mt Dandenong mountains and surrounds. Did I say I love forests?

Name three things you find rewarding about your job…
The people I meet, the rush I get when everything looks so beautiful, and the resulting photograph.

And what’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
I’m half Italian. My dad emigrated from Italy. However I look more like my mum who is fourth generation Irish.

Thank you Louisa for sharing your story and photography philosophy with us today. I think it’s so wonderful that you can adapt your style to cater for what your couple wants. That takes true talent and dedication to your craft (and client!). Thank you also for sharing a small sample of your extensive work. What beautiful images. I’m sure they are treasured by the brides and grooms in them. To find out more about Louisa and see more of her wonderful work, head on over to the Louisa Jones Photography website or check her out on the Polka Dot Directory.

Images courtesy of Louisa Jones Photography
Headshot courtesy of Kerrie Manly Photography

This August on Polka Dot Bride we are rolling out the red carpet and talking all things invitations, stationery design, creative DIY ideas and guest etiquette. You’re invited to celebrate The Invitation Issue.

From crowd-pleasing playlists to incredible invites, gifts, to unique ways to include your guests in your big day, we want to celebrate the family and friends who make your day so special. Make sure to follow along for all that we have in store here.