Wedding Traditions that can die already. A controversial commentary by Melbourne Celebrant Nat Sproal
I get asked a lot about my wedding. We were married back in 2012 in Summer at my in laws in Surrey Hills. It was all about our fave people, amazing food and drinks and mad tunes.
WHAT I WORE: Gave not many f#cks about my dress to be honest. Bought it off the rack at DJs. Charlie Brown. $500. Simple, long, big split, strapless with origami folding. Dry cleaned it and sold it two weeks after my wedding for half what I paid. Happy days. Wore some dark blue satin heels that lasted on my feet for about 31 minutes before being discarded for bare feet. Had my hair up with a rock vibe. Makeup minimal. It’s terrible but I have no idea who I used as vendors.
WHAT NIK WORE: A navy suit from Calibre and Cons. Boutonnierre was handmade- a timber guitar pick and various feathers. Was cool as hell.
GUESTS: 50. This was hard but we were brutal. We wanted our closest people there and I didn’t want to spend my whole time making my way around to 150 guests making small talk. That was wasted d floor time in my opinion. The result: an intimate, relaxed and warm vibe with a strong party crew. Perfect.
BRIDAL PARTY: My two sisters were my bridesmaids and wore strapless pleated crepe dresses in dark blue. Hair up because hot AF. We had three little flowergirls in navy and pink tulle skirts and a page boy in mini version of what Nik wore- navy and Cons. It was fun and relaxed. Nik had his bro as Best Man and he wore what he wanted which ended up being pants and a waistcoat.
CEREMONY: Took place out the front. Business in the front, party in the back. We served heaps of bubbles and cold beers pre. I arrived in a Mustang and walked in to the XX ‘VCR’. Music is massive in our lives and was a big focus.
RINGS: Matt Wynne, Carlton. Support local guys. We had the rings in a vintage tape case- Talking Heads Stop Making Sense: one of our fave albums of all time.
AFTER PARTY: In the backyard. The garden was lush and green and we had a marquee housing one long table. We sat amidst our friends and family. I didn’t want a bridal table. It was either thongs or barefoot. Tunes, lots of good booze and massively chilled vibes.
FOOD: Totally self catered. My entire fam is basically in food and wine and we’re massive foodies so this was a pivotal decision in choosing to have it at home- being able to quality control everything. My father in law ran the kitchen with some hired staff. My brother in law, who is a winemaker chose all our wine. Everything was abundant and top shelf. Incredible bread and cheese, local organic meats, most served cold, whole baked snapper, quiche and tonnes of amazing salads that everyone pitched in to make.
BOOZE: We did Spanish bubbles, three whites, two beers and two reds. At 10pm we had trays of G + T’s come out. When everyone was sweating their bollocks off on the outdoor d floor and that icy blue glow in tall glasses materialised, a cheer went up. Master stroke. We also divided our guest list into ‘Normal Drinkers’, ‘Pissheads’ and ‘Total Units’ to guide the volume we needed. For the record we had 5 total units and got them t shirts printed with that on them which they were pretty proud of haha.
TUNES: Recorded for ceremony. DJ for after party. We had DJ Obliveus from Black Caesar Events and he was the first vendor I booked. I’ve know him forever and he is the business. He just totally got it and rolled out funk, hip hop and 90’s R + B all night. I can still remember him starting up and dropping Close to Me by The Cure and the d floor was pretty much rammed from then on. I still recommend Eric regularly to my couples now.
CAKE: My sister in law made a chocolate cake with textured buttercream and topped it with gorgeous hand made felted birds. It was delish. I ate it in the cab on the way home, extremely drunk. I have a talented fam.
BONBONIERRE: Hate that word. Meaning stuff you give to your guests to take home. We mixed a CD for them of our fave tunes. It’s still a banger to listen to today and was well received. Otherwise I think this B word is kinda a waste of money tbh (Controversial!)
What I’d do differently knowing what I know now:
Hire an amazing professional photographer: You cannot take it back people. Find your person- love their pics and love their vibe? Lock em in. I’d be all over one of my three fave photogs these days.
Acoustic Duo: For pre ceremony/ ceremony and that interim part before the DJ kicks off. Nothing better than rolling up to a wedding and there’s live tunes and great drinks. Instant vibe. Fidel and Sarah would def be getting a guernsey.
No cake: Look, our cake was beautiful but it was hot at hell and honestly- no one wants to eat cake in that kind of weather. They just don’t. Don’t ever do dessert and cake either. Complete waste of time. If I did it now in January- gelati cart or alcoholic icy pole cart alllll the way. People LOVE that shit and these are the little touches that they remember as being awesome.
Pay for the pack down: If you’re doing your own gig, when they ask you if you want them to dissemble the marquee- say yes. Just pay it. I tell you what- waking up the day after my wedding, boiling hot, extremely hung over- taking down a marquee and cleaning up was the last thing I felt like doing. Pay an event planner to deal with all the shit you don’t want to do.
Answer: For a good one $1000-1600. Fact.
Like anything in life, you get what you pay for. You can definitely get one off Gumtree or some dodgy local directory for $400 but I can’t guarantee what your experience will be like.
The value of a great celebrant lies in how they make you feel:
· Excited as they have lots of options and ideas for your ceremony
· Thrilled when you receive your ceremony that is personalised and perfect for you
· Supported: being able to contact your celebrant at any time/ ask questions/ bounce ideas off
· Relaxed because they’re totally on to it: they have a process they move through, everything is sorted and they’ll be there on the day, on time and warming up your guests, prepare all the legal docs meticulously etc
(Don’t scoff- twice last year I took over at the last minute for bargain basement celebrants who became uncontactable in the months pre wedding)
· Happy when it’s delivered and it is awesome, gets the laughs, is delivered with warmth and humour and gets a few tears too
· Stoked when your guests all remark about how fun the ceremony was and how much they enjoyed it. A great celebrant gets a little bit mobbed at the end of the ceremony- with positive feedback and requests for biz cards
15-20 hours go into the average ceremony so the fee is not for ’15 minutes work’ as we often hear.
There’s meetings, research, witnessing and preparing docs and writing and rehearsing before we even get to the presenting part. Then there’s more doc prep post.
If you’ve never seen a great celebrant in action it’s fair to say you don’t know what you don’t know. But do ask around- ask others about their celebrants and their experiences. They’ll either shrug and say ‘Yeh she was ok- did the job’ or will rave about them and foist their details onto you ‘I’ll ask my friend who hers was at her wedding a few months back- she was awesome!’
You can’t take it back once it’s done. If you’re going to do then do it well. Start your wedding as you wish to continue it into the reception- with great vibes.
Summer weddings are great but they can also get sweaty and uncomfortable. Read on for some tips to alleviate discomfort and make your summer wedding totally awesome.
Firstly- don’t expect the guys to wear full suits. This is so ridiculous. They’ll be sweating bullets and that makes people self conscious and cranky. Guys in a nice shirt and pants (or for some weddings nice shorts are ok too) with suspenders and/ or a bow tie look awesome and will be infinitely more comfortable. Plus, this dress suits the summer vibe so much more.
Move inside/ undercover: Be prepared to let go of your outdoor dream if it means everyone including you- are going to be more comfortable. Sweating the makeup off that took hours to apply and guys with massive sweat patches: not fun, no good for pics. Just let it go. Your guests (and your vendors) will thank you. Celebrants have reported PA’s and Ipads failing in high heat and I’ve heard of a couple fainting. Come on- this is just silly.
Water: Provide lots of it. Sparkling and still and make it cold. You can never have too much. I don’t love the idea of bottles because allll that unnecessary waste. Allowing people to serve their own water via big cannisters with taps or providing jugs that are constantly topped up works well. Add ice and some sliced fruit in the dispensers and people are all over it.
On the subject of ice- lots of it: Serve beers and white wine and serve it cold. Signature drinks are awesome too- frozen margaritas, gin and tonic with tonnes of ice and sliced cucumber, dacquiris or mojitos. Serve em up, serve em cold. People love a personal touch like this and for years you’ll hear them talk about ‘that bloody steaming hot day, rolling out those margaritas was a master stroke’
Shade: Sounds simple right? Nup. Have turned up to weddings in the blazing sun and there’s not been any shelter. You gotta get the marquees up, the market umbrellas and even provide single umbrellas for shade. And while we’re on it, sunscreen- provide it in baskets so guests can put it on themselves. If you’re going for a fun vibe at a backyard/ winery/ brewery type wedding, get visors made with your wedding deets on them and hand them out. Great for pics and people will really appreciate them as the day progresses.
Forget the cake and do fancy iceblocks or icecream. I promise you no one’s eating cake when it’s 39 degrees. They want light snacky food, white meat, salads, fruit, water and ice. There’s so many amazing gelato and icecream trucks and vans that do weddings. My Goaty, Bianco Latte, Short Batch and Something Sweet all service Melbourne. Google what’s in other states.
You can also get fancy alcoholic icy poles. Champers, frosè, martini in an icy pole? https://wearepops.com/australia/ let you order online or can send a bicycle and someone to serve them.
Alternatively, have an old skool nostalgic fave on ice- Frosty Fruits, even Zooper Doopers. These little touches are the things people remember really fondly about a wedding. Promise.
Anti perspirant Deodorant: I recommend to all my couples Mitchum deodorant. I probs wouldn’t advise wearing it daily but for your wedding- it’s industrial strength and works a treat.
Misting fans/ systems/ bottles: these are relatively inexpensive to hire or buy. You can get hanging misting systems on line and at Bunnings that connect simply to a garden hose. Later in the day, when heat begins to really soar and you’ve had some pretty pics done, why not- get wet, get cool, have fun. Guaranteed awesome fun pics too.
Alternatively, get those nice looking slimline metal misting bottles from $2 shops, fill and leave in a bucket of ice. People can use at their leisure.
Feeling cooler? Sweet as. Have a killer summer wedding!
Does music matter to you? Are you feeling overwhelmed about where to start with tunes for your wedding?
When we were planning our wedding, tunes were the first thing we booked. I knew immediately who I wanted and was prepared to change my date if he couldn’t play that day.
So, where to start with finding the right fit for you?
Ask your vendors- particularly if you gel with them and they’re music people too. Vendors work with music makers all the time and they’ll have some recommendations.
Hit Insta. Most bands and DJ’s will have sample tunes to give you an idea of their sound. Check their reviews. Watch their vids. Sometimes they’ll play public gigs so go and see them. Do they have the vibe you want?
Honestly, in my opinion, if you want a banging wedding, tunes are non negotiable. There is nothing- NOTHING- that will create an atmosphere/ an energy/ a vibe like music- particularly if it’s live.
I put recorded music on as soon as I arrive at a wedding. Generally I ask the couple to make me a couple of playlists so it’s personal and I hook it up to my PA. It gets me in the zone and there’s nothing worse than guests arriving to complete quiet. It’s like a wake and everyone will be awkward and immediately get their phones out to scroll. Social alibi and all that.
Must have tunes (even recorded) and give them a drink! Nothing says this is going to be a fun gig more than these two elements from the get go. It gets people in the mood and gets the party vibe started early.
So, as far as tunes go- who are my faves/ what are my recs?
It depends entirely what you want.
An ideal wedding for me involves acoustic duo pre and during ceremony and for the signing and dinner then later- a DJ who will get the place absolutely jumping.
You cannot go wrong with some 80’s, some 90’s R n B, funk, disco and hip hop. Everyone loves it. You will have a full dancefloor and a big vibe on this kinda tune catalogue. Music can be so complementary but it can also be polarising. Death metal or dubstep may be your thang but it’s probs going to leave your guests a bit confused and disengaged. Tunes need to be fun/ inclusive/ nostalgic/ even a bit daggy. Honestly, there’s nothing better than a whole crew of people singing or giving a bit of that toot toot, some of that beep beep.
If you’ve got a DJ, send them a playlist of tunes you love so they get your vibe.
If it’s a live act, ask them what they can do. Honestly. Fidel and Sarah, who are one of my faves and do awesome folky tunes have done some really crazy shit in their own style and absolutely smashed it. Acoustic Chop Suey with ukulele? Amazing!
Put some time into your choice. Your wedding will be so much better for it. We still have guests almost 10 years later talking about our mad d floor.
A few of my faves in the mix right now:
http://blackcaesarevents.com/ (We had Eric (Obliveus) for our wedding- he’s amazing)
Go get em!
Great question. Stick with me whilst I give you a short summary and then a convoluted answer..
The answer is: It depends what you want!
If you want fun, relaxed and a bit loose- or demure, classy and sincere or funny as in telling jokes and putting on a performance. Maybe you just want safe, middle of the road, a little of column A, a little of column B.
Do you want someone to hold the show because you’re not limelight people?
Want to be really involved and to share the space with your guests and bridal party with your celebrant leading the way?
Perhaps you want someone a bit cheeky who will take the piss a bit and have everyone in stitches?
Someone quirky and cool, a little left of centre?
Or you want a nurturer- someone warm and lovely, perhaps a little bit older?
Someone confident and experienced who can handle a crowd? If your wedding is going to be rowdy and full of big personalities you want someone who can roll with that and allow some looseness but not let things get out of control.
See where I’m going here? Some of these qualities will cross over in each celebrant of course and that’s rad.
Me personally, I’m never going to be the celebrant doing fancy elaborate weddings south of the river- it’s just not my jam. But there are plenty of celebrants who fit that bill perfectly and are awesome at it.
I’m a local venue/ bar/ warehouse/ backyard/ winery kinda girl. Anything a bit different that attracts people like me: people who love good food, great booze and mad tunes, I’m in.
Think about what you want and then stalk the shit out of us on Insta and see who you think is the best fit for you.
I'll let you in on a secret: celebrants do the stalk too. We want to see if you might be a good fit for us also before we get to meeting stage.
Narrow it down to a few heads you like the vibe of and then meet up.
Don’t sleep on it though. Great celebrants are booked at least a year ahead. Tick tock!
How to find and choose the right celebrant for you
Ah, here’s an area that’s fraught with confusion. There are a LOT of celebrants in Victoria and just quietly, there’s a lot of pretty ordinary ones too.
How, in this big pool of different people, personalities and price ranges do you find the one who is right for you?
Word of Mouth
Ask your mates who they had or take note at weddings you attend- what is it you like or don’t like about their ceremony? Your photographer is often a good person to ask also as they work with us all the time. As far as venues recommending celebrants- that’s all well and good but you are still entitled to seek one from elsewhere if the ‘preferred suppliers’ don’t float your boat.
Hello May, Ivory Tribe, Easy Weddings etc. Scroll and find heads you like the look of, read their bios and narrow it down to a contact list
Instagram is a goldmine for finding the right wedding suppliers! You can totally stalk someone and get a great feel for their vibe just from their Insta page. You can often hear them speak in Stories and vids also which is invaluable. A good Insta profile will tell you exactly who that celebrant is and how they roll. Look at the type of weddings/ types of clients they have, the way they speak, dress and their personality should shine through the photos.
Read reviews on directory listings, Facebook biz pages or Google. You will find reviews tucked into Insta pages also, perhaps pinned as stories at the top or throughout the feed. These give you a great idea of the experience you could get from this person.
Google/ Hashtag search
What are you looking for? A funny celebrant, a funky celebrant, a quirky celebrant or a fun celebrant? We often tag our pics with these descriptors to make it easy for you to find us. We’re all different but there’s pockets of celebrants within our networks that roll a similar way. We talk to each other, refer to each other and know that if we can’t do the wedding, the person we’re passing it on to has a similar vibe and style and will bring the goods.
I often say to my couples when I meet them- choose someone you could drop into your reception with your guests and they’d fit right in and have a good time. It’s a fairly intimate relationship- you’re sharing a lot of stuff about your relationship so you want to feel comfortable about it. Also, you want to head to your meetings looking forward to seeing your celebrant. You should be able to have a chat and a laugh with them (and a wine too in my case). You should feel you can rely on them and that their presence is calming.
Prices vary widely but as a guide, any celebrant worth their salt in Melbourne currently is charging $800-$1600. Which is still a very small percentage of your wedding budget- for the only thing you legally require to be married. Don’t be governed by your pocket. Choose the person you click with, who you can see standing up there and owning it for your big day.
It feels awesome for me when I'm mobbed post ceremony by guests telling me they loved it. It's going to feel the same for you too, knowing you chose well.
Is it wrong that I'm singing 'You're Welcome' like Maui from Moana now?