Frequently Asked Ceremony Questions

Q:  Do we have to memorise our vows?

A:  It’s a legal requirement that you speak your marriage vows to each other.  I don’t ask anyone to memorise their vows (that’s too much pressure!) and I’ll give you the option to either repeat them after me or read them to each other. It’s your choice.


Q:  I don’t like my middle name. Does this have to be mentioned during the ceremony?

A:  Unfortunately, yes. At some stage during the ceremony your full name (including your middle name) has to be said for the purpose of legal identification. However, you don’t need to say it during your vows if you don’t want to. As long as it has been mentioned before then, you can simply use your first name only.


Q:  Do we need to have a rehearsal?

A:  The answer to this is, “It’s your choice.” I find about 50% of couples decide to have a rehearsal and 50% decide to ‘wing it’ on the day. A wedding rehearsal may help calm your nerves and make you feel a bit more relaxed if you’re feeling anxious about the big day.


Q:  How do I change my surname after the wedding?

A:  If you want to change your surname after the wedding you will need to apply for a registered copy of your marriage certificate with Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) in the state the marriage took place. Once you receive the registered certificate from BDM, you then take this with you to the relevant organisation and they will adjust their records to reflect your new surname accordingly.


Q:  Do I have to change my surname after the wedding?

A:  No. It’s not a legal requirement that you change your name after the ceremony.


Q:  What time should the groom arrive on the day of the wedding?

A:  I usually suggest about 20-30 minutes before the ceremony should be plenty of time but, if the groom has to travel a distance to get there, it’s a good idea to allow a bit of extra time in case of any traffic delays.


Q:  We know there is wording that has to be said about a marriage being between a man and a woman. Can we change this?

A:  Some people are uncomfortable about the legal wording (Monitum) which needs to be said by the celebrant before the marriage vows. This wording includes: “Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman…” . Although these words cannot be changed, you can add something after this such as, “<Bride> and <Groom> hope that one day this is a right that will be allowed for all couples regardless of gender. “


Helen Coghlan
Simply Magic Ceremonies
Gold Coast – Queensland – Australia

Choosing the right celebrant

It’s essential you choose the right celebrant for your special day as they are one of the most important, if not the most important, part of your wedding. If you make the right choice, your wedding ceremony will be stress-free and memorable.

As soon as you decide on a date, start making enquiries as good celebrants are usually booked well in advance.

When choosing your celebrant, here are some things you should find out:

Fees: Find out what their total fee is and make sure it includes any travelling and a rehearsal. (You don’t want to be hit by any hidden fees.) If their fee seems excessive, ask them why.

Experience: How long have they been a celebrant and how many weddings have they done? You will need an experienced celebrant who knows what they’re doing and, more importantly, can handle any unforeseen situations which may arise.

PA System: Do they have a decent PA system? Unless you’re having a very small wedding, a PA system is a must to ensure all guests can hear the ceremony. Make sure it’s a good one, too, as there are many inexperienced celebrants who only have a small system which may not be suitable if, for example, it’s a windy day.

Music: Music plays an important role in any wedding. There should be music playing as the guests arrive and, of course, during the ceremony e.g. as the bride walks down the aisle, signing the certificates and the introduction of husband and wife afterwards. Will they be able to play the music for you through their PA?

Rehearsal: Do they make themselves available for a rehearsal, if required (without any extra fee).

Professional Association: Are they a member of a celebrant association? Although this is not a legal requirement an experienced celebrant will understand the importance of being a member.

Backup plan: What happens if they’re sick on the day of your wedding? Do they have a contingency plan in place?

Extras: Check if their fee includes any extras, such as books or printouts containing ceremony vows and readings, etc. Will they provide help and advice on obtaining council permission or applications required to change your name, etc?

Timing: How long before the ceremony will they arrive? How much time between weddings do they allow if they have more than one on the same day? Make sure you choose a celebrant who does not have back-to-back weddings. A good celebrant will allow plenty of time in between just in case, for any reason, your wedding is delayed and running late.

Testimonials: Look on their website to see if they have any testimonials from couples whom they have married.

The next step is to make an appointment to meet with them or call them for a chat.

With the right person looking after your ceremony, you can be assured of a wonderful day!

Wedding Rehearsals – are they necessary?

Gold Coast WeddingsAs a celebrant, one of the most common questions I’m asked is, “Do we need to have a rehearsal?” The answer to this is, “It’s your choice.” I find about 50% of couples decide to have a rehearsal and 50% decide to ‘wing it’ on the day.

A wedding rehearsal may help calm your nerves and make you feel a bit more relaxed if you’re feeling anxious about the big day.

The main objective with a rehearsal is to familiarise with what will be happening on the day. Things such as walking down the aisle and what to do when you get to the end, which side you stand, what the father of the bride does, who brings the rings forward and when they do this, etc, etc.

The most important people to have at a rehearsal are just the bride and groom.  Not everyone will be able to take time off to attend so don’t stress.

On the day of the wedding, the groom and his posse of groomsmen usually arrive before the bride and bridesmaids so that’s when they’ll receive their instructions of where to stand, what to do with the rings, walking down the aisle after the ceremony, etc. By giving the boys these details on the day you will find the information is fresh in their minds.

Most of the time the bridesmaids know that, when they walk down the aisle, they ‘mirror-image’ where the groomsmen are standing. If there is timing with the music that needs to be perfected, a rehearsal with the bridesmaids may be necessary.

If there are children in your bridal party you might want to have them at the rehearsal to get them used to the surroundings.

Here are some important things to remember:

  • Allow about half an hour for a rehearsal and ensure everyone is on time. You will usually only have limited time with the venue and Celebrant and you want to make the most of this time.
  • Don’t invite every Tom, Dick and Harry.
  • Don’t be drunk.
  • If you don’t have a rehearsal, this doesn’t mean something will go wrong. Have faith in your Celebrant. An experienced Celebrant will guide you through effortlessly.
  • At the end of the day you will get married to the person of your dreams and that’s the most important thing to remember 🙂

Want to include something extra in your wedding ceremony?

There is a lot that you can add to your ceremony if you want to symbolise the joining of two lives; perhaps the coming together of two families; express your gratitude to your mother; or even if you want to acknowledge a loved one who is no longer with us. Below you will find a few ideas.

Sand CeremonySand Ceremony

A Sand Ceremony represents the joining of two lives. The Bride and Groom each have a glass container, such as a vase, of sand which represents their own individuality, beauty, strength and character and qualities they take into the marriage. They pour their individual containers into another larger glass container symbolising the joining of their lives.

This ceremony can also incorporate children and other family members. A sand ceremony works particularly well when blending families; giving each child a glass container of sand and recognising his or her importance within the family unit.

Unity Candle Lighting

This is similar to the ‘Sand Ceremony’ in the sense that it symbolises the joining of two individuals or the joining of two families. Two candles, representing you as individuals, are used to light a single centre candle as a visible symbol of your commitment to each other.

Rose Ceremony

If you want to acknowledge your mothers, a Rose Ceremony is a perfect way. It will let them know how much they are appreciated and the roses are a promise that, no matter how far apart you may be, that they are not forgotten and a reminder that they are always in your hearts and thoughts.

Acknowledgement of Past Loved One

Although a wedding is a happy occasion, it is also a time to reflect on deceased family and friends whose presence is greatly missed on your special day. Their acknowledgement can be done in a simple yet dignified manner.

Sharing Wine Ceremony

In this ceremony the goblet of wine represents the cup of life. As a couple, you are invited to drink from the cup and share your first drink together as husband and wife.

Box, Wine & Love Letter Ceremony by Carol J. Merletti

For this ceremony you will need a wooden box or container that will hold a bottle of wine and two glasses. Before the ceremony you write each other a love letter, expressing your thoughts about the good qualities that you found in your future partner and the reasons for falling in love. Under no condition can you read each other’s letter. During the ceremony the letters are sealed and placed in the box with the wine and glasses.

The idea is that, should you ever find your marriage in difficulty, you open the box, drink the wine together and then go to separate rooms and read the letter that you wrote to one another to reflect upon why you fell in love in the first place. 

The hope is that you’ll never have a reason to open the box and, if this is the case, you can open the box on your 10th anniversary.

Warming (or Blessing) of the Rings

This is something that involves all of your guests. Your wedding rings are placed in an organza bag and passed around. Your friends and family are asked that, when they hold the rings, they are to pause and make a wish for your future. In this way the thoughts and well-wishes of those who mean the most to you will be with you forever, embodied in the rings you wear as a symbol of your devotion to each other.


Handfasting is believed to be a Celtic wedding tradition and is where the term ‘tying the knot’ came from.  It was a term used to describe their traditional marriage ceremony in which they were literally bound together.

There are a few variations and one of these is to have some long coloured ribbons draped over your wrists – each colour has a different meaning. For example a blue ribbon symbolises a safe journey and longevity, a brown ribbon represents understanding and patience, a pink ribbon for romance, honor, partnership and happiness, etc. Once all the ribbons have been presented, your wrists are then tied loosely together.

Your hands are then removed from the ribbons with the knot intact and the tied knot placed into a bag for safekeeping.

Thinking of eloping?

ElopingTo elope, most literally, means to run away and to not come back to the point of origin.  More colloquially, elopement is often used to refer to a marriage conducted in sudden and secretive fashion, usually involving a hurried flight away from one’s place of residence together with one’s beloved with the intention of getting married.

Many couples these days are choosing to elope for a variety of reasons. The first reason is the cost.

According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s latest data, the average wedding in Australia costs $36,200. That is definitely a lot of money and can be sometimes hard to justify. Why spend that much money on a wedding when you could put it towards your mortgage, a holiday (a first-class round-the-world trip for that amount!), a new car, deposit for a house or other everyday expenses.

Another reason couples are choosing to elope is other people’s input and ideas. Although their intentions are good, couples can often be bombarded with suggestions from parents and close friends on what they should be doing. More often than not, these are unwanted suggestions. These people lose sight and forget that it’s not their day – it’s the couple whose wedding it is.

Maybe you don’t like being the centre of attention either or don’t want the stress that’s usually associated with a large wedding.

I marry a lot of couples who are choosing to elope but, instead of just the two of them, they will invite immediate family only or a couple of close friends. Although this isn’t technically an elopement, they don’t let anyone else but the select group of invitees know.

If you’re considering an elopement please click here for further information.

rock candyTo bomboniere or not to bomboniere

Bomboniere (Italian) also known as “favours”, are gifts given by hosts to their guests on special occasions such as bar- and bat- mitzvahs, weddings, baptisms, First Communions or Confirmations. They usually include Jordan almonds, known in Italian as Confetti.

Trying to decide what bombonieres to choose can be tricky. Here are a few popular ideas:

  1. Five sugared almonds (traditional)
  2. Hangover kit (bottled water, headache tablets, Berocca tablet, mints)
  3. Personalised chocolates or lollipops
  4. Tealight candles
  5. Shot glasses
  6. Keychains
  7. Small photo frames
  8. Bottle stoppers
  9. Coasters
  10. Mini mason jars
  11. Small soaps
  12. Personalised rock candy

Wedding Anniversaries


The historic origins of wedding anniversaries date back to the Holy Roman Empire, when husbands crowned their wives with a silver wreath on their twenty-fifth anniversary and a gold wreath on the fiftieth. Later, principally in the twentieth century, commercialism led to the addition of more anniversaries being represented by a named gift. Here is a list of the anniversaries and the gifts:

Anniversary Traditional Modern
1st Paper Clocks
2nd Cotton China
3rd Leather Crystal/Glass
4th Fruit/Flowers Appliances
5th Wood Silverware
6th Candy/Iron Wood
7th Wool/Copper Desk Sets
8th Pottery/Bronze Linens/Lace
9th Willow/Pottery Leather
10th Tin/Aluminium Diamond Jewellery
11th Steel Fashion Jewellery
12th Silk/Linen Pearls
13th Lace Textile Furs
14th Animals Gold Jewellery
15th Crystal Watches
20th China Platinum
25th Silver Silver
30th Pearl Diamond
35th Coral Jade
40th Ruby Ruby
45th Sapphire Sapphire
50th Gold Gold
60th Diamond Diamond

Wedding Entertainment Ideas

The entertainment is the one aspect of your wedding that all of your guests will remember. While discos and function bands are classic features of the everyday reception, you shouldn’t feel obliged to include them. It’s your day, so don’t be afraid to add a little creativity to the mix. After all, sometimes it’s the most unconventional ideas that are the most fun!

These are just a few ideas:

Supersized Board Games

gamesWhen you have two different sides of the family in one place getting everybody to mingle can be a challenge. Jenga, four in a row, tug of war and giant inflatable skittles are excellent social games that can help bring two separate social groups together. Split up your wedding guests into groups fusing different congregations of family and friends, and then hold a friendly competition. If you want to take this even further you could even hire some sumo suits or an adult bouncy castle.


Karaoke, sing-a-long, sing star, and whatever else you want to call it, is classic entertainment at its best. If you have a special theme, such as a Beatles inspired wedding, then why not add a karaoke stand with a selection of songs from the Beatles’ back catalogue? A big screen, speakers and a couple of microphones are all you need to make this entertainment the one hit wonder of the night. If you want to complement the experience and take it up a notch, then you could even hire a karaoke DJ. Who knows, maybe you’ll find the next Idol amongst your nearest and dearest? Gather up all your friends and family, make Simon Cowell proud and sing your heart out!


Do you want your wedding guests to go home with a memento? What’s better than a hand-drawn comical portrait? Book a caricaturist to make your wedding extra memorable. A caricaturist will entertain everybody and cause fits of laughter throughout the day. A caricature can help break the ice and provides a great topic of conversation. Who knows, you may not even need a photographer!

Makeshift Casino

Set up a few tables with craps, roulette and blackjack and hire a professional dealer. While your guests won’t be allowed to gamble with real money, no doubt they’ll add a little flavour to the evening by placing a friendly wager or two amongst themselves. Casino areas will give your guests a little boost of adrenaline when they need it, ensuring that the party atmosphere remains throughout the entire evening.

Mix-Your-Own Drink Table

drinksHow can you guarantee that your guests will enjoy the drinks at your wedding? Well, you let them make their own! A tropical wedding calls for refreshing drinks, and if you’re in a hot location you’ll have exotic fruits such as coconuts, mangos and pineapples right on your doorstep. Create a mix-your-own-drink table and decorate it with a variety of colourful fruits and flowers. Hire a bartender to assist your guests, and if you wish, print out some recipes (they will come in handy!). Margarita, Piña Colada, Strawberry Daiquiri and whatever else tickles your fancy.

Line Dancing

Cowboys, cowgirls, hay bales, a barn and traditional Western music are basically all you need for your Western themed wedding. But if it still seems like something is missing hire a line-dancing instructor. Line-dancing is a fantastic way to involve everyone – especially the non-dancers! A line-dancing instructor will show you the steps, so all you’ll need to do is pull on your cowboy boots, grab your hat and get ready to say ‘Yeehaw!’ Your guests will not only feel great, but will be left with a memorable experience and a few dance moves to show for it!

Helen Coghlan,

Simply Magic Ceremonies

Gold Coast – Queensland – Australia


MyBudget_WeddingInfographic_Feb2015 top sectionThe Rising Cost of Weddings

They say you can’t put a price on love, but according to Bride To Be magazine the average cost of a wedding in Australia is over $54,000. The survey revealed that, for most couples, the budget was quickly out the window, with the average initial budget standing at $25,866 – 48% lower than the spend amount.

So where is all this matrimonial money going? According to the survey, over $8,000 is spent on rings alone. The reception is the biggest average expenditure, coming in at just under $12,000. At over $7,000, the suits and dresses for the newlyweds and bridal party make everyone feel a million dollars. With a long list of bridal bling to budget for, rooms to decorate and guests expecting to be fed, the budget can easily spiral out of control.

Almost half of all newlyweds go into debt for their big day, which is understandable as most strive to create an event to remember for years to come. If you’re looking to save for the big day you need to create a budget and, more importantly, stick to it.

If you need some help before the wedding, or find yourself in debt after the wedding, MyBudget is Australia’s largest trusted personal budgeting specialist, ready to assist you get on with your new lives together without any money worries.

9 Signs You’ve Found The Man You Should Make Your Husband

There was a great article recently on that I just had to share.

There’s one thing we’re all chasing after. One force that trumps money, power or reason, and that very closely dictates the kind of people we become. And it’s love.

Falling in love is like coming home. Your worries are quieted and you feel protected in your partner’s arms. The man you give your heart to just feels right.

When you’re deep in love, it’s hard not to picture the rest of your life with that other person. But how do we know for certain that it’s real forever and not just a current fantasy?

Perhaps we’re a little old-fashioned, but we like to believe that marriage — for better or for worse — is sacred for life. Here are the nine signs you’ve found the man you want to spend the rest of your life with:

1. You don’t need to be “on” in front of him

Good days and bad days, he understands who you are and doesn’t expect you to be anyone but yourself. In his eyes, you’re special by just being you. There’s no pretending.

During those lazy times when all you want to do is lounge in stained sweatpants and not formulate sentences, he gets it because he’s right there with you. You can totally be yourself — whatever mood you’re in — and he always thinks you shine.

2. Your happiness is his happiness, and vice versa

You know he’s the one because he’s good to you in ways that you’ve never thought possible. He wants what’s best for you, even if it comes at a cost to him.

The man you marry gives selflessly, as your interests are now his interests. In fact, he thinks he’s being selfish when he indulges in you because it brings him pleasure, too.

To that end, he can balance ambitions at work with ambitions at home. Some stages or careers are more difficult than others, but he finds ways to let you know he hasn’t forgotten about you.

3. Even at the end of a really bad day, all you want is to be with him

No matter what kind of crummy mood you’re in, you’d rather be with him than be alone, for you’re better with him than without him.

He patiently listens while you speak your mind and he won’t invalidate your concerns with his honest feedback. His confidence and passion positively influence your own, which makes your relationship all the more exciting. You want to be near him, always.

4. The attraction is palpable

Physically, emotionally and mentally, you two are compatible on all those levels. The chemistry between you both is powerful enough to block everything else out. Sometimes it feels like it’s just him that really matters.

Even doing the littlest things together, such as running to the grocery store, feel more special because he’s around. The attraction is pervasive from the bedroom to the most platonic of places, like the doctor’s office. You can’t keep your hands off each other and you certainly aren’t holding back.

5. You want to share every experience with him

When you envision your future, he has a major role in it (and vice versa). The idea of spending the rest of your life with him doesn’t scare you. Being by his side is where you feel most comfortable.

When something funny happens or you receive good news, you immediately want to share it with him first. When a cheesy love song comes through your headphones, you instinctively think of him.

From what he ate for lunch to what he’s currently watching on television, you’re interested in all that he does. And, while you sometimes hate to admit this, you’re more inclined to do something if he’s part of it. That’s just what companionship is to you.

6. You have the same idea of romance

Sometimes you feel like you’re in a “Twilight” movie with all this inexplicable magic and love buzzing around. Whatever your definition of romance is — intimate dinners, long road trips, cuddling in bed — he shares in it and will go the extra step to make that happen.

He won’t shy away from pouring his heart out or opening up to you because he trusts you and wants to connect with you on a deeper level. He’ll always be your man, but he’s not afraid to show you a softer side either.

7. You love more than you fight

It never feels good to fight because you care too much about him to hurt him. The compromise always seems like the best option because you both can be happy. But at the end of the day, you really can’t stay mad at each other for long.

8. He not only listens to you, but he also hears what you’re saying

He can read between the lines and anticipate your needs without you having to communicate them all the time. He’s thoughtful and well-intentioned like that.

He knows what you are trying to say without having to always explain yourself. You help each other grow and become the people you want to be.

9. He accepts you as you are

You’re messier, louder and maybe less funny, but he loves you for it. He makes you feel good about all those things you might dislike about yourself.

And he brags about you to his friends because he’s so proud to call you his own. You would brag more, except everyone already knows how enamored you are.

He knows everything about you — good and bad — and appreciates both because it’s all part of who you are.

You are his, he is yours and suddenly it all feels comfortingly simple.


Helen Coghlan,

Simply Magic Ceremonies

Gold Coast – Queensland – Australia