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Originally posted on Polka Dot Bride on May 4, 2009

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I feel really honoured today! Peter Phillips, a civil marriage celebrant based out of Sydney is today’s expert! There are so many myths and misconceptions when choosing a civil marriage celebrant, I was thrilled when Peter joined Polka Dot Bride to give advice to Australian brides to be!

What attracted you to becoming a Civil Marriage celebrant?
I have always worked in customer service, and I enjoy ‘helping people’. Getting married should be the happiest day of a couple’s life, up to that point in time. The next biggest event is the birth of their first child. If I can contribute to that first happy event, then well and good.

Was there a particular event/catalyst that inspired you to become a celebrant?
Yes, many years ago, I attended the wedding of some very close friends, which was conducted by a celebrant. I thought I’d like to do that, but it was not until many years later that I was able to realise my ambition.

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How much study is involved and what do you learn about?
Quite a bit in fact. Lots of reading and research. You are required to complete many assignments, which are then ‘marked’ by the instructor. I worked out a timetable, did the work and completed within the required timeframe.

What is important for couples to know about a Civil Marriage Celebrant?
Firstly that we are non religious, and that certainly in my case I am there to help and make the day a special occasion for the bride and groom. Whatever they want, they can have, and hopefully I can guide them, towards achieving the best possible outcome for them.

How does the ceremony differ from a conventional church based ceremony?
No reference to either God or the Church. Rather than get the Church ‘boiler plate’ service which is very impersonal, the couple can tailor the service, which is all about the Bride and Groom, and include family and friends who may read a poem or do a particular reading that holds special significance for them.
What are the roles you perform for the couple?

Checking that all of the required documentation, is correct and in order, and completed within the correct time frames. Helping them choose the ceremony that is right for them. On the day, it is actually the Bride who marries the Groom, and vice versa, when they say their vows. ( It is not about me )

What do you talk to couples about prior to the ceremony?
Firstly and most importantly establish, what it is that they want. How long do they want the ceremony to last, who else do they want involved in the ceremony. Active listening and then communicating with the couple. I meet with them, as many times as they want, until they feel comfortable that they have the service that they want.

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How do you personalise their ceremony for them?
Every service should be a personal service as it relates to the individual Bride and Groom. Whilst I can and do make suggestions, I never use a ‘boiler plate’ service. Use of special verses, poetry that one will say to the other, music that has special significance to them both ( ie it was the song playing on their first date ) and the involvement of their family and close friends.

What are the legalities a couple must undertake in order to get married?
As the Celebrant I have to correctly establish their bona fides. Establish who they are, by sighting original birth certificates, or overseas passports, divorce papers if either of the couple have been previously married, and that they are over the age of 18, and not related to each other either by birth or adoption.

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What are 6 things for a couple to have clear in their minds before talking to a marriage celebrant?

What day they want to get married on, the time they want to get married, the type of service they want, how long they want the service to run for, and the location of the service ( park, beach, hall etc )

ALWAYS have a Plan B, when they are planning on an outdoor location for their weddings.
These days you just cannot count on any particular time as being certain that it will be fine.

What is your philosophy about your role in marrying the couple before you?
It should be the happiest day of their life, so relax, enjoy it. The mere fact that they have chosen a Celebrant, suggests that they don’t want the ‘formality’ of a Church serivce. Whatever they want, they can have. I’ll look after the legal paperwork, and as I stated before they marry each other. It is certainly not about me.


What do you love about Australian brides?

I love all brides. A bride, is a bride, is a bride. It is their day to SHINE, so they should just relax and enjoy the experience. In my experience ALL brides know the significance of what they are doing, and in the majority of the weddings that I have conducted, the Bride has been a ‘traditional’ Bride. Even from an early age, I suspect that all girls want to be a ‘Bride’.

Thank you for joining Polka Dot Bride today peter! You can learn more about Peter Phillips at his website Peter Phillips Celebrant

All photos courtesy of Peter Phillips Celebrant

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Originally posted on Polka Dot Bride on April 28, 2009

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Today we’re joined by photographer Meaghan Cook. Meaghan Cook owns her own photography studio (Meaghan Cook Photography Boutique) and is based out of Geelong in Victoria. Meaghan has a keen interest in engagement shoots and is sharing her top tips with Polka Dot Bride readers today!

Tell me about yourself?

I’m domestically challenged and that doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve got one child who’s favourite food is cold scrambled eggs, and another who insists on calling me daddy. I’ve got Cherry Ripe’s hidden in the cupboard above the fridge. I was lucky to find lasting love at a young age. I’ve been a journalist/schoolteacher/ bunny at a children’s birthday but it’s photography that makes my heart really sing.

How did you get into photography?

When I was working as a journalist, there was a story that I was sent to without a photographer. Instead my editor thrust a camera at me and said ‘you get the shot’. I did, and I’ve been getting the shot ever since.

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What inspires you in your photography?

Telling stories. Of course I’m inspired by beauty, colour and pushing the creative envelope, but it’s being able to tell someone’s story that really inspires me.

Why is an engagement session particularly important?

It’s the couple’s chance to get comfortable in front of the camera. Most of us, and I’m no exception, don’t love getting our photo taken and usually become quite tense. An engagement session is the place to get rid of those nerves and become comfortable showing your love for your fiancé in front of the camera. Then the nerves are gone for the wedding day.

What locations would you use for an engagement shoot?

I personally prefer locations with meaning to the couple, such as a café they frequent or their favourite beach. Even a couple’s home can be great. It’s about the couple having a connection to the place, so the photos have more meaning. The end result then tells a more detailed story about that particular time in their lives.

What clothes should people wear for their engagement photographs?

Clothes from their cupboard! By saying that I mean clothes that they would usually wear, and will feel relaxed in. If you’re not a heels kind of girl, don’t wear them. If you’re not a collared shirt kind of guy, then don’t wear one. Just wear what is ‘you’.
I suggest wardrobe change halfway through a session too. One casual outfit, and one a little dressier. The change adds variety to their photos, and adds some spice.

How do you plan your shots so that each bride has a unique ‘story’ of her wedding?

I plan with the bride and groom. I talk to them about their vision for the photos. I discuss what they have planned for their wedding and the best way to capture it. The bride and groom are the best resource for helping a photographer, and way too under utilized.

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Do you try to get to know the couple so that you can capture their unique personalities in your photography?

Of course. I ask lots of diverse questions such as how did you meet, and what music do you listen to. It all helps me understand the couple better, and get to know their personalities. I’m then able to photograph their wedding knowing exactly where they are coming from, and what has brought them to this time and place in their lives.

You emphasize a ‘non intrusive’ approach to your photography. What are you trying to achieve by doing this?

Non-intrusive means that a wedding is not about me. Not at all. So I won’t interrupt a hug, a moment, a congratulations just because we are running on a schedule. I prefer to let these moments happen naturally and fluidly. I don’t want guests to even know I’m there. This doesn’t mean I don’t get all the important shots, its just means that I let the natural magic of a wedding day unfold on it’s own. I stand back, and capture it all.

What is your number one tip for brides?

Make sure you really like your photographer. You’ve got to spend a lot of time on your wedding day with your photographer, and if you don’t like them it could really bring down the mood of your day. If you’ve developed a real and trusting relationship it means your photos will be more beautiful because you’ll feel at ease showing your natural happiness in front of the camera.

What are your favourite wedding photograph ideas?

Apart from engagement sessions, it would have to be the ‘First Look’ option. A ‘first look’ is where the bride and groom opt to make their own tradition by seeing each other before the ceremony, and having their formal photos taken then. It gives them privacy to really express how they’re feeling about being married, and the photos can be taken in a relaxed way. The best part is that there’s no waiting for guests between the ceremony and reception.

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What do you love about Australian Brides?

I love that Australian make their weddings very personalised affairs. At every wedding I photograph I see subtle touches that uniquely represent the couple. It makes each wedding just so special.

What was your most memorable wedding moment?

The very fist wedding I photographed was of a very dear friend. When she stepped out of the car she turned to me and winked at me. My heart absolutely flew because I knew just how amazing she was feeling right at that moment, and how nervous she was, but she still had time to think of me and how nervous I was too. She had faith that I’d nail the photos, which gave me faith in myself.

What are the biggest mistakes you see brides making?

Following tradition for tradition’s sake. Bride’s should think about every aspect of their wedding, and consider if it holds any relevance to them.

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5 things a bride and groom must get right?

1. The bridal party. Choose people who will make your day the best it can be, not ones that you know will be difficult to convince to get into the spirit of the day.
2. The timing of the day. Don’t make guests wait around too long between the ceremony and reception. They want to see you and enjoy your day with you.
3. Stay true to yourself. Don’t follow trends, follow your heart.
4. Keeping the day in perspective. Remember that it’s the first day of the rest of your lives together, not your only ever day together. This will help you not to feel too overwhelmed.
5. Did I mention staying true to yourself?

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and advice on Polka Dot Bride Meaghan! You can check out more of Meaghan’s work over at her website Meaghan Cook Photography Boutique.

Originally posted on POlka Dot Bride on April 7, 2009 

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Today’s expert works with one of my favourite things- flowers! Kate Hill of Kate Hill Flowers is a leading Melbourne florist who not only provides floral arrangements for some of the best hotels and businesses in Melbourne but also creates beautiful wedding arrangements!

How long have you been passionate about flowers? What led you down this career path?

I have always been surrounded family that has been passionate about design in one way or another, so it must be in my genes! My father was a graphic designer, my brother an industrial designer, and my mother a landscape designer. I guess it was my mother’s love for nature that really inspired my direction.

You have a studio located in Melbourne. What are the advantages of this over a retail outlet?

Ultimately it allows us to give brides our undivided attention and personal service above and beyond their expectations. At any time of day (or night!) we are able to close the doors and be completely focused on the wedding, from the first meeting all the way through to the big day.

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What sets you apart from others?

Service, design and the quality of our product.

As mentioned, we are highly service orientated. This impacts greatly on the design and attention to detail because we have time to really get to know the bride and her vision for the big day. We don’t force ideas on brides like we hear happens with many florists. We work to compliment her every wish.

The quality of product comes from building close and positive relationships with suppliers. I have worked in wholesale and know how they work from the inside out. They know how fussy we are and the great lengths we will go to ensure our brides have only the very best.

What inspires you?

Generally speaking, art, design, fashion, seasons, and colour inspire me. All of which we are blessed to have in abundance here in Melbourne!

When it comes to weddings, the story of the couple always leads to great inspiration.

What do you love about designing with flowers? What is your design philosophy?

I love designing with flowers as I love working with nature and all its wonder and beauty. I love enhancing the flowers natural beauty and creating new and innovative designs that are never the same. It’s a beautiful medium to use and be around to bring joy into other peoples lives.

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What is your number one tip for brides?

Your flowers are the next most noticed item after the dress!

Remember that your flowers will be in all of your photographs and have a huge impact on the feel of the church and reception. After the wedding dress, the flowers are the next most notable element when you walk in the room – yes, more than the jewellery!

It’s such a shame when brides realise this too late in the process.

Besides that, plan early. Tentatively booking your preferred supplier is the key to success. Missing out by leaving things too late and using second rate suppliers invariably means a second rate wedding.

Tell me about your dream wedding? What sort of flowers would you use, and how would you use them if money was no object?

I love flowers on mass and my dream wedding would be OVER THE TOP! I envisage long mirrored guest tables with table length floral hedges styled masses of white blooms such as white Peony Roses, white Blossoms, white Oriental Lilies, white Lilac and drenched in white Rose petals and Gardenias. All my favourite flowers would be incorporated into the table.

What do you love about Australian Brides?

Australian brides are innovative and creative and generally find their inspiration from the US and Europe styles. It’s always exciting working with each bride and groom, creating an unforgettable wedding that reflects them perfectly.

What should brides start with when they’re planning their flowers?

Budgets! Generally for flowers, 10-15% of your total wedding budget is a good range.

The reason I am upfront about this is because otherwise both parties time will be wasted with aspirations that were never reasonable. If you’re clear about budgets your florist can help to educate you on the best options from the very start.

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What are some unusual or new ideas you’ve seen, that brides could use?

Incorporating amazing jewels/crystals detailing into their bouquets. They look exquisite with stunning crystal detailed gowns (such as J’Aton gowns).

What are the biggest mistakes you see brides making?

Some brides tend to research too much and end up having too many quotes to choose from. This can become very time consuming and stressful for the bride and can make it even more confusing when trying to establish ‘apples for apples’. I recommend researching 3 of your favourite suppliers and focusing on the best value for money quote, not necessarily the cheapest.

This is a once in a lifetime event, yet I am amazed at how many brides simply go for the cheapest quote and wonder why they are telling disaster stories for ever after. Fortunately their friends and family get a valuable lesson on who not to go to when it’s their turn to get married!

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5 things a bride must get right?

1. Make sure your quote is itemised in fine detail. This is more than fair to ask for, especially in terms of matching colours and confirmation on varieties.

2. Sign a contract with your florist containing your final order and terms and conditions of service. It will give you the confidence that you will get everything you order- nothing more or nothing less.

3. Have the florist deliver and set up to ensure you get your flowers fresh and on time. You don’t need any extra stress on your big day.

4. Insist that the florist does the wedding cake flowers. There are a couple of suppliers that can do this well, but they are extremely rare.

5. Encourage your bridesmaids to be involved in decision making. They can be very helpful at a time when you have so many options.

Thank you for sharing your expert tips on Polka Dot Bride Kate! To check out more of Kate’s work, visit her website.