A Guide On Planning Your Backyard Wedding

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WHY HAVE A BACKYARD WEDDING?

It will reflect the real you

Couples who choose to have a backyard wedding are often those who want a wedding that genuinely reflects them and avoids many of the trappings typically associated with the wedding industry. They are keen to bring together their closest friends and family members to witness and celebrate what is arguably one of the most important days of their lives. And where better to do that than in their own backyard!

It will save you money

Whether you want to have a backyard wedding in your own backyard or in the backyard of a family member or friend, as soon as you commit to this style of wedding, you reduce how much you need to spend on things like: venue hire; packages demanding you pay a certain amount per guest; décor and flowers; catering; car hire; and wedding attire.

Of course, your pets can come!

Your pets are your family. They deserve to be at and included in your special day. Imagine trying to bring a pet to a wedding venue – there’d be so many layers of red tape, you’d normally just give up on the idea. And your poor old pet is left at home while you get married. But if you have a backyard wedding, there are no barriers to including them. They know the venue. In fact, if it’s your backyard where you’re getting married, they live there! And when they’ve decided they’ve seen enough people for one day and cosied up to as many as they wish to, they can simply go back inside their own turf and have a snooze.

Your day is your day, not the venue’s

If you’re having a backyard wedding, then you obviously have control over the availability of the backyard. It’s that simple. One thing we know about traditional wedding venues is that they get booked out 18 months or more ahead, especially in the peak wedding season. And you can pay up to $8000 just for the pleasure of stepping foot inside the venue. In your own backyard, there’s no such issue. Decide when you want to get married, put it in your calendar, and send out your ‘save the dates’. You’re on the way to getting married!

You can invite who you want and keep it as small as you want

 

Often, backyard weddings are smaller than those conducted in a wedding venue. They can range from a tiny celebration with a handful of guests to a larger gathering of perhaps 50 people – however many can fit comfortably in the backyard. One of the key determinants of the size of the backyard wedding will be the size of the backyard. You want your guests to be comfortable, rather than cramped, no matter how large your guest list. Just a note: it’s important to make sure your backyard is accessible for people in wheelchairs – and that it’s safe and smooth for people who are frail or lack mobility.

The emotional factor

You know your backyard better than anyone else does. You’ve spent countless hours there, throwing the ball to your dog, enjoying a glass of wine, having endless barbecues, weeding the flower garden or vegetable garden and, of course, mowing the lawns. It’s a place that reflects you. So, instantly, you’ll feel relaxed and ‘at home’ there, which will take some of the nervousness out of your wedding day.

Other considerations . . .

The weather

One important thing to consider, if you’re getting married in a backyard, is the weather. You must have a Plan B, in case it’s extremely hot, or very windy, or if there’s thunder and lightning or rain. So, perhaps think about what will happen if one of these weather events occurs – and it could easily occur. Will you have room in the house for all your guests to see and hear the ceremony? Will it impact on catering and other pre- or post-ceremony activities? Will you need to transfer to another location for your Plan B? And, finally, don’t ignore it and think it won’t happen. Whatever your hopes, you need a Plan B.

Getting the backyard ready

Is your backyard in a nice enough state for it to be the venue for your wedding? Do you need to do some repairs, alterations or maintenance? How major are they? Do you have the budget to do them? Do you have the time to do them? And, most importantly, do you have the willpower to do them? Are the weeds overgrown so much that it just seems like a task that’s too daunting to fix? Is the backyard full of nice lawn or bricks or pot plants to make it attractive enough without the need to hire other things that might make it more attractive? All of these things are points to have discussions about, in the planning of your wedding.

The power of love

Think about the power requirements of your backyard wedding. Will you need power for a sound system? Cooking and catering? Heating or cooling? Is your domestic power supply able to handle these needs or will you have to bring in a generator? And, if so, consider the noise of a generator standing in or close to your backyard. What will be the impact of that?

Those pesky neighbours

Think If you get on with your neighbours, consider inviting them to your wedding. If you’re not so close to them, then at the very least, let them know you’re going to be having a backyard wedding and there may be some extra noise generated by you and your guests. Give them plenty of notice so they can make alternative arrangements if they wish. And, after the day, write them or visit them to say thank you for their cooperation.

When you have to go

How many toilets are in your house? Will they accommodate the number of guests you’re expecting? Will you need to hire a portable toilet or two? Consider accessibility again, in doing so. And don’t forget – any extra toilets will take up more space either in or close to your backyard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos by Tanya Voltchanskaya – http://www.tanyavoltweddings.com

What are Wedding Vows?

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Often, I get asked by couples to explain exactly what wedding vows are. It’s not unexpected or surprising that lots of people don’t know what vows are, particularly if they’ve not been married before or if they’ve not been involved in a civil marriage ceremony before.

Essentially, vows are promises or pledges you make to each other. There are several types of vows that can be included in a marriage ceremony. One of those types, the legal vows, are mandatory.

wedding vows

The Legal Vows

A marriage ceremony will always include, by law, the legal vows or words to this effect – which must be said by each person getting married: “I ask everyone here to witness that I, AB, take you, CD, to be my lawful husband (or wife or spouse or partner in marriage) and I ask everyone here to witness that I, CD, take you, AB, to be my lawful husband (or wife or spouse or partner in marriage”. This is a requirement of the Marriage Act 1961 and is one of several factors that must be met in order for a couple to be considered legally married, in Australia.

The Personal Vows

Many couples also choose to make some other, more personal promises to each other straight after the legal vows – these are known as personal vows.

Usually, the personal vows begin with some nice words to each other that they have written before the ceremony. Often, these personal words are about how each person feels about the other; they might include some favourite memories of their time together; they might mention some of the awful habits they each have, as well as the gorgeous things that keep them loving each other; they might include how falling in love with their partner has led to a positive change in one of them; or they might tell of some challenges they’ve both overcome together, and so on.

Following that, the true promises or vows begin. These are promises that the couple commit to keeping. They can be as serious or as hilarious as you want. There are no rules about personal vows other than they need to be doable or achievable, they need to be authentic, and they need to reflect you as a couple.

Oh, and your personal vows can be combined with your ring exchange, if you’re giving each other rings during your ceremony. For example, you can say your personal vows to each other as you put the wedding rings on each other’s finger.

Can we keep our personal vows secret from each other?

Some couples like to inject an element of surprise by keeping their personal vows secret from each other until they say them on their wedding day. The go-between in this situation is your celebrant. They can help you write your personal vows, and will be able to provide you with heaps of samples, to give you an idea of what personal vows can look like. They can also be the mediator, if one of you writes vows that are very funny and the other writes vows that are completely serious; or if one of you writes two pages and the other writes a 10 lines. In both those cases, a good celebrant will make you both aware, without divulging the content, and then let you both decide if one or both of you need to change what you’ve written.

What’s the difference between personal vows and “the asking”?

Lots of couples include three pieces – one after the other – in their wedding ceremony:

  • the legal vows
  • the personal vows
  • the asking.

The asking is a traditional part of the wedding ceremony. It’s the part where the couple get to say to each other “I do” at the end of some words. Those words could be something like, “A, do you give yourself to B, to be (her / his / their) (husband / wife / spouse), to live together in marriage, to love, comfort and protect (her / him / them) in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, keep only unto (her / him / them) as long as you both shall live?” Response: “I do!”

Your celebrant will be able to show you a variety of samples of The Asking, and you should feel comfortable in amending them to better suit your needs, if you choose to have an Asking.

Remember, only the legal vows are required by law. Whether you decide to have personal vows and an asking is completely up to you.

A Guide To Renewing Your Vows

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Why renew your vows?

At some stage in their married lives, lots of couples get to a point where they consider or decide to renew their marriage vows.

For some, it coincides with a significant wedding anniversary – perhaps 10 years or 25 years; or a significant birthday (50, 60 or 70 years of age, for example). And one or both parties decide it’d be a nice thing to do, or a romantic thing to do, to remind each other why they decided to get married in the first place. It gives them a formal chance, in front of family and friends, to re-pledge what they promised to each other all those years ago.

For others, it might mark the end of a stressful or rough patch in the relationship and they just want to celebrate getting through that period by again proclaiming their love for each other.

Others want to freshen up their relationship and say to their married partner some promises they were prohibited from saying when they got married in a church.

Sometimes, one party wants to surprise the other by setting up what is essentially a highly romantic party and celebration. A word of warning about this. The excited party needs to somehow be certain that their partner will want to also renew their vows. There are some married couples who, when asked if they’d ever want to renew their vows, have said quite firmly they’d walk out if “such a stunt” was put on them by their partner, as a surprise. Not everyone wants to renew their vows!

vow renewing

What steps do I need to take to renew my vows?

Having decided to renew your vows, the first step is to choose a celebrant who is willing to work with you to draft and then deliver a renewal of vows ceremony. Whilst it may seem easy to have a renewal of vows, if it’s to be truly meaningful and memorable, then it can take almost as much prep work as a wedding – but without all the usual associated trappings.

One of the nice things about a renewal of vows ceremony is that there are no rules. There are no legal aspects to be covered off; there is no paperwork. And so the world is your oyster as far as what the ceremony will include and look like.

That brings us to the second step – decide on the atmosphere you wish to create for the ceremony. Where will it be held? Will it be at home? Or in a hall? Or a venue that both of you cherish? And when will you have it? After work on a weeknight, followed by some nice food and celebratory drinks? Or on a Saturday evening just before you have a lovely dinner? Do you want your ceremony to be lavish and complex or brief and simple? The choice is yours. That will help you decide who and how many guests you will invite. Will it be only close family members and a few friends? Or do you want to invite people who were part of your wedding, to help rekindle some of those original memories?

What’s included in a renewal of vows?

Having decided on those things, the third step is to sit with your celebrant and begin outlining what you’re after in your renewal of vows ceremony. Because there are no legal aspects to your renewal of vows, you can pretty much include whatever you want.

Obviously, there’d be a welcome and a few words about why you’re having a renewal of vows, and why at this particular point in your marriage.

You may wish to include a non-religious reading or two that summarise your feelings about your relationship, your marriage and each other as committed life partners. Your celebrant will be able to show you a diversity of samples of such readings for you to choose from.

At some point, you will say your vows to each other. This is the core of your vows renewal. Again, your celebrant will be able to help you out by showing you samples of such vows. They can be as formal – or not – as you wish and, of course, there’s room for lots of humour, if that’s your preference. A renewal of vows allows you to come to this point with much deeper understanding and love of each other than you had when you first said your marriage vows. So your renewal of vows ceremony will be richer for the fact that there’s now so much wisdom and experience, as a married couple, that you can draw upon.

Finally, after saying your vows to each other, you may wish to open it up to members of your family or close friends to say some warm words about you on this happy occasion.

Perhaps you may also want to engage with your guests during the ceremony by getting them to say an affirmation of support for you both as you head into the next phase your married life. Your celebrant will be able to explain this to you.

Your ceremony would typically close with some nice words about the importance of what’s just taken place, and best wishes for continued happiness in your marriage. And you would typically thank people formally for coming to share in this important occasion.

How do we recreate the atmosphere of our wedding?

A good celebrant will try to recreate at least some of the atmosphere around the original marriage ceremony – minus the legal parts, of course. They’ll investigate what the weather was on your wedding day, and ask you about a host of other things:

  • perhaps the lead-up to your wedding – was there a buck’s party and hen’s night?
  • where the wedding was held and how many guests there were
  • who you chose to be your bridesmaids and groomsmen, and why – and, if appropriate, whether you’ve kept in touch with them
  • cars used to transport the bridal party to the wedding
  • what the bride’s wedding dress looked like
  • what the bridesmaids were wearing
  • the wedding’s colour scheme
  • the flowers in the bouquets
  • what the groom and his groomsmen wore
  • hymns or other songs that were played and sung
  • any readings that may have been included
  • where the reception was held
  • the name of the band that played while people danced the night away
  • the food that was served to guests at the reception
  • the wedding cake and who made it
  • who made speeches and, perhaps, some funny things that were said
  • where you stayed for your first night as a married couple
  • where you went on your honeymoon.

As well, they’ll likely ask you about any memorable things that happened during your wedding ceremony – or perhaps the reception. The more open you can be – and the more giving you are – the better and more enjoyable will be your renewal of vows ceremony.

Often couples who have had a renewal of vows tell me that the ceremony helped re-energize and re-boot their relationship. It’s a time to look back on what you’ve created in your marriage, the joys and highlights that you’ve both shared, as well as the challenges that you’ve overcome.

 

What are the legal requirements to get married in Australia?

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You just decided to get married, now what? Well, apart from perhaps planning a wedding, there are some legal things you need to consider.

In Australia, marriage is highly regulated at the federal level. The relevant legal instruments are the Marriage Act 1961 and the Marriage Regulations 1963.

It doesn’t matter if you’re from Australia or from another country, if you’re planning on getting married in Australia, the legal requirements are basically the same. You don’t have to be an Australian citizen or a permanent resident of Australia to legally marry in Australia. You can find marriage visa information here, if you hope to live in Australia after your marriage.

Some countries don’t recognise marriages in Australia as valid, unless other requirements such as the prior granting of permission from that country’s embassy, are fulfilled. This can have implications for foreign citizens – particularly LGBTQIA couples – who intend to return to their country after getting married in Australia.

If your marriage involves an Australian citizen and a foreign citizen, you should obtain advice about immigration issues from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection or a registered migration agent. 

You may also find some useful migration related information in Plain English from Nick Hansen in his migration blog.

How is ‘marriage’ defined in Australia?

The Marriage Act 1961 defines marriage as ‘the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”. State and territory governments have until December 2018 to align their laws and regulations with this new definition that came into law on 9 December 2017. (Some state-based laws and regulatory requirements made it more difficult for some members of the LGBTQIA community to assert their right to get married than the majority of the population. That is being rectified.)

What are the minimum legal requirements to get married in Australia?

To be legally married in Australia, you must:

  • not be married to someone else
  • not be marrying a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister
  • be at least 18 years old, unless a court has approved a marriage where one party is aged between 16 and 18 years old. Approval will not be given if both parties are aged below 16 years
  • understand what marriage means
  • freely consent to getting married
  • use specific words during the ceremony
  • give your celebrant written notice of your intention to marry, within the required time frame. This is explained further in the next section.

Your marriage celebrant will be able to explain each of these conditions to you in more detail.

What are the legal steps I need to take to get married in Australia?

Step 1: Complete and sign the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM)

The first thing you need to do is fill out a Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM). You can download one here: https://www.ag.gov.au/FamiliesAndMarriage/Marriage/Documents/New-notice-of-intended-marriage.pdf

There are notes on the NOIM to help you fill it out. You should read those notes carefully, as you complete the NOIM.

What evidence do I need to provide?

Your celebrant needs to be satisfied that you and your partner are who you say you are. The evidence they need from you is:

  • evidence of your place and date of birth and evidence of your identity (you can use your passport for this, if you have one – alternatively, you can provide your driver’s license and birth certificate.
  • if one or both of you were previously married, evidence of your divorce or death of a previous partner. If you have been married more than once, then you only need to provide evidence about the most recent divorce or the death of your most recent partner.

What are the terms used in the NOIM?

Both parties to the marriage are required to tick one of three boxes that best describes them: ‘groom’, ‘bride’ or ‘partner’. It’s up to each party to decide which option they want to use to describe themselves. For example, it is completely fine for a person who identifies as a male to tick ‘bride’.

Do I need to provide evidence of my sex?

The celebrant doesn’t need to see evidence of your sex. Nor is it appropriate for your celebrant to question the sex or gender that’s recorded on a passport or driver’s license. The NOIM allows individuals to identify as female, male or as a gender other than the sex they were assigned at birth or to identify as ‘other than female or male’. In that case, they can tick the box labelled ‘X’. Your celebrant should be sensitive enough to understand that people may hold conflicting documents – for example, people who identify as ‘X’ may wish to have a different gender recorded in their passport to ensure their safety whilst travelling overseas. Whilst there is some indignation about non-binary genders being cobbled together under an erasing ‘X’, that’s the current public policy position of the Australian government. I’ve commented on this in further detail in a separate blog post.

What do I need to do if I’m living in Australia?

If you’re living in Australia, when you’ve finished completing the details in the NOIM, you can either get your signatures witnessed by a police officer (AFP or state / territory), a barrister or solicitor, a legally qualified medical practitioner (note: this doesn’t include a pharmacist or dentist), or a Justice of the Peace. You can then post it or email it to your marriage celebrant. Alternatively, you can meet with your celebrant and get them to witness you signing the NOIM. They can even help you fill out the form, if you wish.

What do I need to do if I’m living outside Australia?

If you’re living outside Australia and are planning on getting married in Australia, then when you’ve finished completing the details in the NOIM, you can either get your signatures witnessed by an Australian Consular Officer, and Australian Diplomatic Officer, a notary public, an employee of the Commonwealth authorized under paragraph 3(c) of the Consular Fees Act 1955, or an employee of the Australian Trade Commission authorized under paragraph 3(d) of the Consular Fees Act 1955.

You can search for a marriage celebrant on the official Attorney Generals Department website.

The NOIM must be received by your celebrant no later than one month before your wedding day. The lifespan of the NOIM is 18 months – that is, you can get married at any time between one month and eighteen months from when your celebrant receives your signed and witnessed NOIM.

What if I need to get married before the one month is due?

If there are extenuating circumstances that mean you need to get married within a month of your celebrant receiving your NOIM, you can apply to a prescribed authority (check out https://marriage.ag.gov.au/stateofficers/authorities) to see if it will approve a shortening of the notice time. There are only five circumstances that can be considered for a shortening of time. No other circumstances are able to be considered by the prescribed authority. And there is no guarantee that any application for a shortening of time will be successful.

The five categories of circumstances set out in the Regulations are:

  • Employment–related, or other travel commitments
  • Wedding or celebration arrangements, or religious considerations
  • Medical reasons
  • Legal proceedings, and
  • Error in giving notice

When making a decision, the Prescribed Authority will consider and assess the information provided in support of your application and may seek additional information.

If you’re going to apply for a shortening of time, then get prepared. Make sure you have all the necessary documentation that supports your request, before approaching a Prescribed Authority.

What steps do I need to take in applying for a shortening of time?

  • Contact a marriage celebrant who is willing to conduct a ceremony at short notice.
  • Complete a Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) and provide it to the celebrant (see earlier section on this). Make sure you don’t sign the NOIM until you are in the presence of the celebrant or other approved witness.
  • Choose a date and time for the ceremony – this can be changed, if necessary.
  • Ask the celebrant to supply you with a letter of support stating they have received a valid NOIM from you and is willing and available to conduct your marriage ceremony on the date and time nominated, provided the approval of a shortening of time is granted.
  • Go to a Prescribed Authority to request a shortening and take the NOIM with you so that it can be signed by the Prescribed Authority. When you receive approval for the shortening, you must return the signed NOIM to your celebrant.
  • Make sure you take all documents that you would require to be married (passports, or birth certificates + driver’s licences, divorce papers / death certificates, as relevant) and documentary evidence to support your reason for applying for the shortening, such as medical reports, employer’s evidence, wedding receipts etc.

Step 2: The Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage

The Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage must be signed as close as possible to your wedding day. It is a legal declaration that both of you are of marriageable age, are not in a prohibited relationship, are not married to someone else, and are not aware of any other legal impediment to your marriage taking place. Often, celebrants will combine the signing of the Declaration with a wedding rehearsal within the week before your wedding. Some celebrants might ask you to sign it immediately before your wedding ceremony on the day of your wedding. It is unlawful for it to be signed after your marriage ceremony has taken place.

Step 3: The Official Certificate of Marriage (x2) and Certificate of Marriage

On the day of your wedding, immediately after your marriage ceremony, you’ll sign three marriage certificates. Two of these are the Official Certificate of Marriage and the other is called a Certificate of Marriage. After you, your two witnesses and the celebrant have signed all three certificates, the celebrant will hand you the Certificate of Marriage – it is a record of your marriage that you can keep.

Within 14 days, the celebrant is required to provide your paperwork (the NOIM, the Declaration and one of the Official Certificates of Marriage) to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the jurisdiction where the marriage took place, so your marriage can be officially registered. (Your celebrant is required to retain one copy of the Official Certificate of Marriage in a secure place for 6 years).

When the Registry has registered your marriage, you can apply for a copy of the registered Official Certificate of Marriage through the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the state or territory where you got married. Your celebrant will likely inform you when your marriage has been registered.

What if I’m getting married overseas?

If you’re planning to get married overseas, remember you can’t then come back to Australia and get married again. You’ll be already married. You can have a commitment ceremony, or a renewal of vows ceremony back here in Australia but whoever conducts that ceremony must make it clear to all who attend it that the ceremony is not a legal marriage ceremony.

If you want to get married overseas and want to involve a marriage celebrant from Australia, you need to be aware that marriage celebrants authorised in Australia can only perform legal marriages within Australia. Some overseas destinations – eg the USA – may allow Australians (including Australian celebrants) to satisfy their requirements to become an officiant and perform legal marriage ceremonies – but you need to carefully consider what those requirements are and be satisfied with the legalities of doing so, before proceeding.

Will my overseas marriage be recognised in Australia?

Although lots of overseas marriages are recognised in Australia, overseas marriages cannot be registered in Australia, and the marriage certificate you will be issued with when you get married overseas will be your evidence that the marriage took place. As with all Certificates of Marriage, it’s your responsibility to ensure you keep this certificate in a secure place as it may not be easy to replace if lost and it provides the only evidence of your marriage.

An overseas marriage will generally be recognised in Australia if it:

  • was a valid marriage in the overseas country where the marriage ceremony took place.
  • would have been recognised as valid under Australian law if the marriage had taken place in Australia.

Useful information for LGBTQIA couples thinking of getting married overseas can be found in this SmartTraveller’s blog.

For further information, I would recommend you to know more about planning an overseas wedding.

Is my overseas same sex marriage recognised in Australia?

The Marriage Act 1961 recognises existing and future same-sex marriages solemnised overseas under the law of a foreign country. Same-sex marriages solemnised in Australia by a diplomatic or consular officer under the law of a foreign country before 9 December 2017 are also recognised. A couple whose foreign same-sex marriage is recognised in Australia cannot marry each other again in Australia, unless there is doubt as to the validity of the foreign marriage. You can have a commitment ceremony, or a renewal of vows ceremony back here in Australia but whoever conducts that ceremony must make it clear to all who attend it that the ceremony is not a legal marriage ceremony.

 

What’s the language used in the Australian legal marriage vows, for members of the LGBTQIA community, in particular?

The legal vows that must be said by each party to each other, during their marriage ceremony, in the presence of the celebrant and the two witnesses are as follows:

‘I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, A.B. (or C.D.), take thee, C.D. (or A.B.), to be my lawful wedded wife (husband or spouse)’; or words to that effect.

Under subsection 45(2) of The Marriage Act 1961, marrying couples can make a personal choice about the terms to be used in their marriage vows that best reflect their relationship. The following wording substitutions and changes are acceptable given the inclusion of ‘words to that effect’ in subsection 45(2):

  • ‘husband’, or ‘wife’ or ‘spouse’ may be changed to ‘partner in marriage’
  • ‘call upon’ may be changed to ‘ask’
  • ‘persons’ may be changed to ‘people’
  • ‘thee’ may be changed to ‘you’
  • ‘persons here present’ may be changed to ‘everyone here’ or ‘everybody here’ or ‘everyone present here’ or ‘everybody present here’, or
  • the couple may leave out either ‘lawful’ or ‘wedded’, but not both

Therefore, it is completely lawful for the following vows to be said by LGBTQIA couples, who may find the use of the gendered terms ‘husband’, ‘wife’ and ‘spouse’ offensive, and who wish to have a more contemporary set of vows that better reflects how they live their lives:

‘I ask everyone here to witness that I, A.B. (or C.D.), take you, C.D. (or A.B.), to be my lawful partner in marriage’.

or

‘I ask everyone present here to witness that I, A.B. (or C.D.), take you, C.D. (or A.B.), to be my wedded partner in marriage’.