Stunning cover photography by Sam Irving Photography.
Recording by the fabulous Miss Bella Hazelton
0:37 Amber’s Procedure
2:36 Writing vows
4:02 Celebrants ruling photos
7:02 Most precious moment
8:37 Amber’s uniqueness
10:40 Intimate ceremonies
13:32 Amber’s top wedding tip
15:01 Amber’s love story
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Hopelessly Devoted podcast. I’m bridal gown designer Sally Mussared delivering you the inside tips from Melbourne’s top wedding professionals.
Welcome to Mussared studio, today we’ve got Amber the Celebrant who does weddings particularly across the west side of Melbourne, and anywhere you’d like to have this fabulous person. We’ve got her in the studio today to give you some wedding tips on understanding what a celebrant does and what to look for and what to ask for.
When couples come to you, what is the procedure that you step them through?
So I always meet with couples before they book me, we sit and have a chat, I think it’s always important to get along with your celebrant, and I say to my couples that the reason for that is that I don’t want to be the only person at your wedding who doesn’t know you. So if I have to stand there and talk confidently about you and your relationship, and why you’re standing there, getting married in front of all those people who love you, I want to know you. So, that might be something I do which is a little bit different.
And how long is that for?
So we usually meet for an hour over coffee or beer or wine or chocolate.
I find that’s a really good time to get a feeling for each other, and then we don’t usually meet again until about 6-8 weeks out from the wedding. We do the legal paper work that has to be done a month before the wedding but I like to get it done so there’s so dramas time wise. We also sit down and start the planning of the ceremony. I give them lots to take away, resources, but then I also like to sit down with them and have a ceremony planning because my couples write their ceremonies with me, I don’t write their ceremonies for them. It’s what they want to say in their wedding not what I want, or what I think they should say. Often couples then choose to have a rehearsal, not everyone, but some people get a little bit stressed wondering what might happen.
It helps reduce the nerves, they know where they are supposed to be and when.
And we can also sign some initial paperwork at the rehearsal as well. And then the wedding. So that’s the meeting process that we have, and there’s lots of emails, phone calls back and forth in between that process as well.
And so you say you get them to develop their own service. How do you encourage couples to develop their vows?
With vows it’s interesting because a lot of people don’t want to speak in public and a lot of people don’t want to gush their love story in front of all those people, so I give them an ideas booklet that they can read through and steal stuff from, and I also say, watch lots of romantic comedies, there’s real Hollywood writers that write that stuff. Or if you’ve got a favourite song, or there’s often a song or a poem or a passage in a book that you’ll read and think; “Oh that’s exactly how I feel about that person!” and there is no reason that you shouldn’t reword it or use it. And I had a bride read that song from Pink “I hate everything you do sometimes and want to smack you in the head!”. Your vows should be what you want to say, and then on the other side of it, some couples really don’t want to say more than what is legally required. So we make sure that if they choose, the other personal stuff is included in the ceremony, but I say it on their behalf. Which means they still get a personalised ceremony, but they don’t have to speak in public if they don’t want to.
To us the vows are the most intimate part of the ceremony and we get photos back from the brides when they share them with us, which is really exciting, and the celebrant is often standing front and centre. You get a beautiful bride and groom shot, they kiss and right behind is the celebrant standing there. Do you stand right behind them? If not, where do you go and why?
Celebrants ruining photos
Do you know I have a Pinterest page of celebrants who ruin wedding photos. I have a whole board on it because it is actually a pet hate of mine. It’s not my wedding and there is no reason for me to be in the middle of the photos. In fact I find my couples are much more relaxed because I do stand to the side. So, if I stand behind where it is traditionally where the celebrant or the minister would stand, the couple would then look backwards, so most of their guests would only see the back of their heads, or the dress which obviously is sometimes a good thing, but people come to your wedding to see you smile and laugh and enjoy and be in that moment, they don’t come to see the back of your head wobble, so, if the celebrant stands behind them, that is obviously where they project their voice and vision as well. And that also means that all the guests stare down the barrel at you as well because that is the only place to look. Whereas when I’m standing at the side, it does depend on how many groomsmen or bridesmaids they’ve got and things like that, but to the side, I never stand in front of the bridal party because that just blows my mind when I see photos like that. But when I stand to the side it means that the guests look at the bride and groom and then at me, then at the bride and groom, then at me. They are not staring straight down the barrel at the bride and groom and they can stand there together, hold hands, whisper stuff to each other, heckle me, whatever, it’s their wedding, I don’t have a problem with that because that’s…
The intimacy is between them and not the three of you.
That’s right. And there’s not someone standing in the middle of them. So I would rarely ever be seen in a wedding photo. And one thing I do do is to get the best man to hold the microphone for the vows if they don’t want a stand. He’s supposed to be in their wedding photos. He’s been particularly chosen to be with them at that moment, and it also doesn’t look as strange as having an extra person there as well. And some of the best wedding photos I have seen, even this year, and the ones that people choose to put on their walls, are the bridal party, and just them and the best man is holding the microphone, and one of them in particular, the bride is doing her vows, and she actually said “pain in the arse” and the groom has thrown his head back in laughter, and the bridesmaid is like this, and it’s just perfect, that’s their wedding, that’s what they’re capturing that moment in their life and there is no need for me to be in that.
Gorgeous. That’s obviously a gorgeous photo. What’s one of the most precious moments you’ve ever had as a celebrant?
Most precious moments
That’s a really hard question actually.
You must get lots, but what’s something that’s really stuck with you.
I think when family are involved. Quite often couples choose to acknowledge or thank their parents. Not many people get ‘given away’ by mum and dad anymore, but I think its quite respectful to acknowledge if you are close to your parents or other people in your life. But recently, we did have, eastern european tradition, I do believe, where you give a gift to the parents. And it was a table cloth that they chose to give to the groom’s parents and the bride’s parents. The groom gave to the bride’s parents and the bride gave to the groom’s parents. And it symbolised that meals are such an important part of your life and your day to day life. But also as a family and that there will always be room at our table as well as we will always make time to be at your table. That was really, really beautiful and the parents didn’t know about it either and they were just completely blown away. The mums cried, but that’s sort of a given, but the dads cried as well and that was really really special. That was only earlier this year. It’s something that I’ve added to my ideas that I give couples. It doesn’t have to be a table cloth, but just something that can be significant to your family.
So what do you do that’s particularly unique as a civil celebrant? Obviously I like that you don’t stand front and centre, so that’s major for me, but what else do you do?
It is fairly unique, and the thing about not standing in the middle is that as soon as I mention it to couples, they down the track always tell me that from then on, is that every wedding photo they look at online, all they can see is the celebrant, so I sort of ruin people for weddings for ever once you say it.
I suppose that I’m fairly unique in that I’m up for anything. I’ve never told a couple what they have to do except for the 120 words you have to say to get legally married. So I got called the other day “would I do a nude wedding”. Sure. You want to be nude? Go for your life. I’ve done weddings for couples in pyjamas, I’ve dressed gangster, I’m going to be the Queen of Hearts at a wedding later in the year. It’s not my wedding. It’s their wedding. They should get married however they like. I love doing surprise weddings. Obviously you can’t surprise the bride or the groom, but when we surprise the rest of the guests.
They say we’re having an engagement party and it turns out to be a wedding?
Yeah, or a 50th or a house warming, a couple of weeks ago I did a surprise wedding at a house warming. Whilst we’re still on script, I say what they wanted me to say, no one there would realise that’s how it’s going down, and that’s really fun. In fact yesterday I ran into the grandmother of a couple who I did a surprise wedding for, and she said to me “you look familiar, do I know you?” and we worked out that’s where it was. She said “do you know what… I knew it was a woman, but my jaw was open the whole time, and I couldn’t believe they were getting married that I don’t remember any of the details.” And I said “that’s what I love about weddings. My aim is not to be the thing that’s remembered, my aim is for you to remember that they laughed or they cried, and that they enjoyed themselves, and the last thing that I want you to walk away from is the celebrant was or is, or wore or anything like that.” Making it about them is what I love doing.
You were saying before you give your couples a survey, how does that work?
The survey works really well for a couple of reasons, the first is that I often take some information from the survey and use it in their ceremony, obviously with their permission, especially if they don’t want to gush in their wedding vows, or speak out loud about why they love the other person, it can help to make the ceremony about them.
A lot more intimate.
That’s right and also, I think that time, eight to six weeks before you get married is an important time to sit down, and one of the questions is “why are you getting married” and so often my brides and grooms come back to me after completing the survey and say that was a really rewarding experience during all the fittings and the meetings and the deposits and the final payments and the all the stress. That’s all the stuff which goes with having a wedding, its really important to go back and say ‘why am i getting married and why do I love that person’. So the process is really good for them, but it’s also really good for me to find out just that little bit of information and sometimes we have a bit of fun with it. If they first met in the 1980’s at a skate rink, we will find some information about what they did and what they might have been listening to or something like that. So just to make it about them. And that’s what I hope people walk away from ceremonies that I do with ‘that is exactly what I thought they would have, that suited them’. Not ‘that’s the wedding I would want’ but ‘that suited them’.
We spend a lot of time with that. We are trying to draw the brides personality out into the gown, so that the gown reflects her style and her figure and what she feels so that then she feels incredibly comfortable in it. So that’s why they are so unique because we are all unique.
And that comfort level is something that’s so important because if you don’t feel comfortable on that day, that’s such a shame because that’s your day. Well it’s supposed to be half your day, but it’s your day and it can be their day as well. The brides and grooms that are the most relaxed are the ones that are themselves. If you wear glasses, wear glasses during your wedding. There’s been a couple of times when brides have been walking towards me down the aisle and I’ll look at the groom and think “heck I hope that’s her” because she looks way different from how I’ve ever seen her look. And I just wonder why people don’t want to be themselves on that day. Be yourself. If your relationship is funny and you love ribbing each other, then make that part of your ceremony, why not? Everyone there knows you and they’re going to think it’s more real if you’re real about what you are.
Is that what you’d say is your one tip for couples? What is the one thing for brides on their wedding day that you’re always telling them that is so important to get right?
Amber’s top wedding tip
The one thing about their whole wedding I would say – pick three things that are important to you about the day and don’t worry about the other details. For me, when I got married, I wanted a dress that I felt beautiful in, I wanted a band that I could dance to all night, and I wanted really good food. And so when they came to me and said “what colour serviettes do you want?” I said “whatever, pick a colour”. “What colour bridesmaids dresses?” “Pick a colour”. If you let go of all those little decisions and just know the things that are really important for your day. Then it makes the whole process much more relaxing. Ive had a bride who was loosing sleep at night because she couldn’t find the green serviettes to match her bridesmaids dresses and I had to say to her in the end “I can guarantee you not a single guest at your wedding will even notice the serviettes, and if they do, then you probably shouldn’t have invited that person”. So just focus on the things that are really important because I think that the couples that I see that enjoy their weddings much more are the ones that have picked the things that mean something to them and make the decisions, but don’t sweat them out.
The last thing I like to ask. I’m a hopeless romantic and we’re putting together a collection of love stories at the moment, and we would love you to tell us what is your love story. How did you and your husband meet?
Amber’s love story
I actually met my husband when I was thirteen years old. Previous to that I had told his mother that I was going to marry one of her sons, but I’d only met two out of three of them at the time. My husband was about six years older than me so I was thirteen and he was nineteen the first time we met and we just became friends. I was friends with his family and his brothers and him with my family. And when I was sixteen, I wanted to do my debut, and my mum said that the only two people that you know that are taller than you are your brother or Damon. So I asked Damon if he would be my debut partner. And so he was my deb partner. And that night, well the story goes that, my brothers actually took him aside and said “don’t go near our sister, we like her just the way she is!” So he didn’t. And then I moved away to Uni. He moved away to a different town. We always just remained friends and stayed in touch until I was twenty-three actually, so a full ten years after meeting, we ended up catching up one Christmas. It was less than a month before I moved overseas, which was highly inconvenient. And always seems to happen. I hear that story all the time that people had known each other for ages and then just before they were about to change something massively big in their life that would happen. So I moved overseas and obviously came home and that was just it. We have been married for nearly fourteen years, we’ve got three children, and that’s life. His mum still laughs that I always knew I was going to marry one of her sons. Our parents have known each other, well our dad’s since they were kids and our mum’s since they we engaged to marry our dads as well. So extended family was really easy. Pretty simple hey!
Thats fantastic. Thank you for your time.
Thank you for having me.
I will put down in the show notes how to contact Amber the Celebrant. If you’d like any details, we’d love to hear from you.