Given Away?

When it comes to gay wedding ideas, giving away the bride is not the most obvious consideration, but it can be relevant for same sex couples.

Continue reading “Given Away?”

BDM Fee Increase

On an entirely different note for this blog, a price hike has led me to review my pricing structure for weddings. Victoria’s Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) recently increased the cost of birth, death and marriage certificates by almost 50%. In my opinion, this increase is not just extreme in value, but also very poorly justified. It comes at a terrible time for engaged Victorians dealing with extreme cost of living increases following two years of uncertainty, cancellations and postponements.

My pricing structure change

Since moving to Victoria, I have mostly incorporated the cost of certificates into my fees. However, this is something I cannot control or have any influence over. I have therefore decided that the best course of action is to separate the cost of marriage certificates.

For a small proportion of couples, the official certificate from BDM is not necessary. If neither party is changing their name, there is no particular need to hold legal proof of your marriage. Fluffy Form Fifteen, which you get anyway, is sufficient in this case (there is a description of the difference in this post).

For those couples who do need the official certificate, the most efficient way to obtain it will still be to have your celebrant order it at the time of registration. For my clients, I will simply add the current BDM cost to invoices, and change that charge every time the Registrar increases it.

I have updated my Pricing page to reflect this change.

The Change

Until February 2022, getting your marriage certificate in Victoria cost $36.3 plus postage.

Today, getting your marriage certificate in Victoria costs $51.4 plus postage.

Presumably, the next increase will take that cost to $75.61 (though they may generously round that to the nearest decime as they’ve done in the past). And that could happen any time! It only takes the time required for the Registrar to seek feedback and then have some Vogon write a list of reasons why the feedback is invalid.

Faux Consultation

The Registrar asked Celebrants directly to comment on the proposed change in the name of ‘consultation’. Despite what appears to be almost-universal objection, the Registrar has spent a wad of taxpayer money trying to justify the change by negating all the feedback received.

Provide your feedback

If you would like to read more about the change, follow this link.

If you want to make your voice heard about this change, email or contact the minister responsible, Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes. Good luck.

Help! I’m the Best Man!

Being chosen as the best man for a friend’s wedding is one of those great honours people long for. But how do you write a best man’s speech, and what else is expected? Here’s a quick guide to get you started.

The role

First and foremost, a best man should remember that he is there to support the person who invited him to take on the role. If that person says no buck’s night, there will be no buck’s night. If that person is stuggling to tie his tie, you better know how. If that person wants to wear a hot pink suit, you may have to convince their fiancé to let them do so, help them find a hot pink suit, or stage an intervention. Or possibly all three!

However it plays out, if you’re focused on helping, you’ll do well.

Task list

Now, the term best man is slightly in decline, and even the customs around what he does are not set in stone. There is certainly no reason why this role cannot be undertaken by a woman, and a male best man could be there to support a bride!

Whatever the context, the list below is a random collection of things best men over the years have taken on. In twenty-first century weddings, though, no task should simply be assumed: always speak with the couple about what they expect, and follow their lead.

In order of the most common roles that fall to a best man to the least, here it is:

  • Get the groom to the ceremony
  • Get the rings to the ceremony
  • Witness the groom’s signature on the marriage certificates
  • Write and deliver the best mans speech
  • Propose the first toast to the newlyweds
  • Join the first dance with the Maid of Honour
  • Organise a bachelor party
  • Help with outfit planning
  • Collect cards and gifts from guests
  • Keep the official certificate of marriage safe

Preparing a speech

Many best men sweat about preparing the best man’s speech. There have been many great ones and the bar is very high. So if you dont know where to start, the most important thing to do is start early!

A simple approach is to follow this pattern:

  1. Talk about the person who asked you to be their best man, and why they matter to you
  2. Talk about the person they’re marrying and why you support the marriage
  3. Wish them well.

If that sounds too simple, get started and you’ll quickly realise only the third point is easy! But also remember that if public speaking is a challenge for you, one paragraph on each of those points is enough. If your best man’s speech is two minutes of heartfelt congratulations, it will be perfect.

If you are more comfortable with public speaking, I would encourage you to have a look at my post about humour in wedding speeches. It is focused on queer weddings but very relevant for straight weddings too.

Most importantly

Have fun. If youre not having fun, the groom is probably not having fun either, and as their primary support person, its your role to change that. And keep in mind that this may mean supporting their partner as well!

There is no right or wrong way to be the best man, there’s just your way. Be yourself and stay focused on making your groom’s day.

Wedding Music Tip #3


Classic wedding songs used to be social cues. When I was a lad we knew when to stand and when to sit based on the tune that was being played. These days, I have to tell guests when it’s time to stand or sit. I like it when couples select music that’s meaningful to them personally, but there is something to be said for these classic wedding songs and the pageantry they invoke.

If you want to know how to find those classic wedding tunes, here are the names for those compositions that have a special place in the wedding music canon.

The Processional

We’ve all heard that beautiful tune traditionally played as a bride walks down the aisle. Richard Wagner composed it for the romantic opera Lohengrin. He called it Treulich Geführt, which can be translated to English as “Faithfully Guided”. Stirring stuff.

This composition has various names in English. Some label it the “wedding march”; others the “bridal chorus”. If you Google up any combination of those words with Wagner’s name, you should get great traditional results. There’s a rather lovely rendition of Treulich Geführt in the original German on YouTube, and Wikipedia has the lyrics (which none of us know) in German and English.

If you have a bagpiper, a modern traditional tune for the processional would be Highland Cathedral.

The Recessional

That rousing tune we know as the end of a wedding is—very inconveniently—known by the same name in English as the traditional tune for the processional! In the era of Google, the best way to distinguish them is by their composer.

Felix Mendelssohn composed it for a production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1842. There’s a lovely rendition of Mendelssohn’s wedding march by the London Symphony Orchestra here.

Just like its Wagnerian counterpart, it is the quintessential classic wedding song and cannot be beaten for pomp.

Still looking for your track? Have a look at my other wedding music posts 😉

Changing Your Name After Marriage in Victoria

You don’t have to change your name when you get married. But if you decide to, the most challenging part is prioritising what to do first. So here’s a guide for newlyweds changing their name after marriage in Victoria.

What are my rights?

You always retain the right to use the name on your birth certificate. If you have previously legally changed your name, that name always remains your right as well. You can use your previous name professionally while also using your married name in other contexts. And you can revert to that name at any time you wish, for any reason you wish.

When you get married, you also gain the right to use the family name of the person you marry. You can replace the family name on your birth certificate or change of name certificate with it, or you can use it in addition to your previous name.

If you decide to use both names, you can use them in any order you choose. For example, if Tobin Jones marries Kia Nguyen, Tobin’s options are:

  • Tobin Jones
  • Tobin Nguyen
  • Tobin Nguyen-Jones, and
  • Tobin Jones-Nguyen

And Kia’s options are:

  • Kia Nguyen
  • Kia Jones
  • Kia Jones-Nguyen, and
  • Kia Nguyen-Jones

And your partner’s choice has no effect on yours.

These rules are the same regardless of your gender: a husband can take his wife’s or husband’s name the same as a wife can.

How do I prove it?

You only need your marriage certificate to prove a change of name after marriage in Victoria, but you need to use the right one!

The certificate you need to start this process is the one issued by your state’s registrar, but that’s not the first certificate you will get. Your celebrant must provide you with an entirely useless sheet of paper on your wedding day. This sheet of paper is officially called Form 15, but celebrants usually refer to it as Fluffy Form Fifteen, as a reference to its odd status in law. To ensure maximum confusion, the Vogons have put the words Marriage Certificate at the top of Fluffy Form Fifteen.

The piece of paper you need to change all your details is called a marriage certificate, and at the time of writing, Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria advises that it takes them 28 days to produce it.

Your celebrant will usually order this certificate for you. If you need to do it yourself, you will have to wait for your celebrant to advise that the registration has been processed, and your celebrant will need to check this manually until that part of the process has been completed.

The certificate for any marriage registered in Victoria can be ordered by either party to the marriage from

Once you have it in your hot little hands (please wash your hands), you can then start the daunting process of getting your name changed with other organisations. I have prepared a list below, including links to the relevant authorities in Victoria where appropriate. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully at least starts you along the right track.

The List

Stage 1

Update your licence first to use as proof of your change of name after marriage in Victoria with other organisations.

  • Driver Licences can be changed with VicRoads using only your marriage certificate from the Registry Office. There is a form on the website, but if you just go to your local office with your existing licence and your marriage certificate, they will do it on the spot (note that the warning that you have only 14 days to notify them does not apply to you, because your previous name is still your legal name)

Stage 2

These are government agencies that take a some time and effort to process your change of name after marriage, so get the ball rolling as soon as you can.

  • Passport if you have a passport and there are more than two years until its expiry, the Passport Office will replace it at no charge, though you do need to produce two new photos
  • MyGov is a little complicated, but not entirely illogical; go in via MyGov to access your account with any one service like the Australian Taxation Office, Medicare or Centrelink to change your name, and it is then populated back across all the other services connected to MyGov
  • Electoral Roll details can be updated via a simple online form from the Electoral Commission

Stage 3

These are private organisations, but with a higher priority than the last stage, which can just keep ticking over with your old name until you get around to it.

  • Real Estate ownership is mostly straightforward, as you just need to notify your local council
  • Medical Providers will still get your data from the central registry, but it is still wise to ensure you’ve advised them of your name change to prevent it being a distraction in an emergency
  • Wills are automatically invalidated by marriage, so if you have one when you get married, you’ll need a new one afterward
  • Financial Institutions will each have their own way of doing things, so pop along to each of your institutions’ websites to find out their process; and remember to think of your
    • banks
    • super funds
    • insurers
    • investments
  • Employers
  • Professional Bodies
    • Professional registration
    • Working with Children check
    • Union membership

Stage 4

The entities below don’t matter anywhere near as much, and it is entirely reasonable to simply update with your change of name as the need arises. The critical element is having your licence or passport done and ready so you have some photo identification ready whenever the need arises.

  • Utilities will have their own way of doing things, so contact them one at a time if it matters:
    • electricity
    • gas
    • phone
    • internet
  • Schools
  • Organ Donor Register
  • Library and other memberships
  • Frequent Flyer and other loyalty programs

For more on wedding planning, check out this page

Adoption Ceremonies for Rainbow Families

Looking for a way to welcome a new member into your family? This is a quick review of the value of holding adoption ceremonies for rainbow families.

Continue reading “Adoption Ceremonies for Rainbow Families”

Wedding Music Tip #2


Finding the best wedding songs to match the feeling you want for your wedding is a challenge. And although the technology that rides around in our pocket has dramatically opened up the options, there is now even more to wade through!

You probably already use streaming apps like Spotify, Apple Music, or one of the many other services. You may even be using a music identification app like Shazam or Soundhound. Between these two types of apps, you have the best pair of helpers you can get for setting the tone for your big day.

And these ideas are still helpful even if you are lucky enough to have live musicians performing at your ceremony.

Get set up

Here are my steps for setting up your music selection strategy:

  1. If you don’t already have both a music identification app and a music streaming app that lets you make playlists, download one of each and set up an account
  2. List the sections of your ceremony you want music for, and create a new playlist for each section
  3. Make sure you and your partner both have access to the playlists and can add to them as well as listent to them
  4. Ensure your music identification app is very easy to access on the go

That’s all for the setup. Now, you may have a few tracks to add to your playlists already, and thats great. I suggest that you dont rush to fill them up though. These playlists are your shortlists, so you want to keep them as short as possible to begin with.

And to get the best wedding songs in them, allow the inspiration to come. Hopefully you’ve set yourself up months before the big day. So when you hear a song that could be suitable, ID it, and add it to the appropriate playlist (remembering that you can add the same song to all the shortlists if its suitable).

It’s also good to keep in mind that your additions may inspire your fiancé to add theirs, so a slow burn is great. Just keep an understanding between yourselves that you only delete tracks from a playlist together.

Set a deadline

The next thing to do, though, is to set a deadline for closing the playlists. And when that deadline happens, it’s time to sit down with your fiance and select from the tracks youve shortlisted.

Allow hours! You won’t be on the same page all the way, so you need to allow yourselves time to get there. Most importantly, listen to each other!

Still looking for your track? Have a look at my other wedding music posts 😉

How to Write Wedding Vows

Transcript for How to Write Wedding Vows:

I don’t know how many times I’ve sat at my desk waiting for a couple to—you know—send me their vows when it’s getting really close to the line. And the fact that I have to wait so often really indicates to me that there must be something I can do to help people. By giving them a bit of an idea of how to go about doing it.

So this is my take on how to write vows.

A lot of people don’t realise, but personal vows are actually quite a new idea. They haven’t been around for as long as marriage has been around. They came along when civil celebrants came along and people decided to create ceremonies their own way, which is kind of what civil celebrants are really all about. Personal vows are not essential, but they really are a good way to make your ceremony about you, and that’s one of the reasons why they’re so important.

Historically, vows used to be set by the church or the temple or the mosque, so you just did whatever you were told and you said whatever you were told to say.

What you decide to write, though, that’s up to you. It can be a secret from your partner, or you can actually let them know what you’re what you’re going to say beforehand. There’s no reason why you have to keep them a secret, but it’s a nice thing to do as well.

So, how long should vows be?

If you’re a great writer, you could potentially write pages and pages, but that’s not necessarily a great thing.

Long vows tend to get lost. You get halfway through and everyone has forgotten what you said at the beginning, including your partner, which is the last thing you want. You get to the end and the and that whole swathe of information is just kind of gone unless you’ve been a great storyteller. If you’re just a normal storyteller like me, then you need to keep them short.

I always say three paragraphs is about right. That’s about an A6 sheet of paper. If you filled that whole thing up, that would be fine, but you really don’t want much more than that. You need to keep it short, keep it simple: I write 3 paragraphs.

This is this is the same with all kind of writing; not just vows, but I always write in threes. And I have three things that I think you should include:

  • Why this person?
  • What do you promise, and
  • When does it end?

When Does it End?

It’s especially helpful to start at the end with wedding vows because the end is almost written for you. When does the marriage end? When one of you snuffs it (that’s exactly how my husband and I entered our wedding vows).
Most of us here in Australia have heard the traditional ending of Christian wedding vows, which are usually something like “until death us do part” or “for as long as we both shall live”.

I love the ending of Buddhist wedding vows, which run along the lines of “I give you my life to keep”. And Hindu wedding vows end with a similarly eloquent “let us be true companions and remain lifelong partners by this wedlock”.
Now, there is the vague possibility that couples do not intend to stay together for life—and that seems to me to be a very important conversation to have with your fiancé—but most of you are going to want to find a nice way to say that your marriage is for life.

And because this part of your vows is pretty straightforward, start by taking a moment to think about how you want to say it, and that will mean you’re not starting the beginning of your vows with a blank piece of paper, and it will also give you a general idea to aim for with the rest of your vows.

Why this Person?

We’ve done the end. It’s time to start at the beginning, which is why this person. Now, when I started writing my vows for my husband, I was on a train in Scotland.

Scotland itself is a mystical place to me. It’s the home of many of my ancestors and it is a place where I feel deeply connected to the land. I was also about as far away from my fiancé as it was possible to get and it was so much easier to think about what’s important to you when it’s not right in front of you. I highly recommend getting away for a bit before you even think about writing your vows.

So think about why you chose to marry this person and what it is about them that makes you want to make a commitment to them in the first place and come up with a sentence or three.

Again, there’s that’s three.

You can think about things like their personality: their sense of humour; their passions; how they treat their family; their appearance; their talents and skills; that weird way they fold socks or all the fact that they like to have ice in their red wine.

The main thing is keep it to three. Pick your top three and stick with those.

What are You Promising?

And that brings us to the middle, which is actually the end of your writing challenge: what are you promising?

This is the core part of your vows, and this is the main thing that you need to actually get across. This is the most important bit, the biggest challenge in terms of writing your vows. Summarise why you’ve made the decision that you’ve made and why you’ve decided to get married on this particular day.

You should talk to your partner about those expectations anyway. When you get married, it’s a perfect opportunity to express your commitment in a way that’s memorable and full of all that importance.

Traditional vows use words like love, honour and obey. Now don’t use obey: that’s completely anachronistic! But values like trust and loyalty are certainly not going out of fashion. And it doesn’t matter how many other brides and grooms have used them in the past.

The other classic is to acknowledge that things won’t always be rosy. Promising to never leave the lid off the Vegemite; or making an effort not to leave your dirty socks on the couch always raise a laugh. And promising to be on hand with an icy Prosecco in a crisis usually elicits a nice aww. But most importantly, this is where you lay down your intentions.
Your promises should be personal, relevant, and meaningful.

And you should get to the point and say them in a single paragraph. Three sentences to sum up what kind of a husband or wife you mean to be.

And that’s it.

Finishing up

There’s one more thing to think about. There are mandatory vows that you have to include somewhere in your ceremony. The smoothest way is to put them at right at the end of your personal vows.

In Australian law, the Marriage Act of 1961 requires that you recite mandatory vows, whatever your personal vows may say. You have to say the words prescribed in this legislation. Bob married Blanche away from the cameras in the Ritz Carlton in 1995. He had to say, “I ask the persons here present to witness that I, Robert James Lee Hawke, take thee, Josephine Blanche D’Alpuget to be my lawful wedded wife”.

The statement is part of the process and your full legal names have to be used. He couldn’t be called Bob; it had to be Robert. She couldn’t be called Blanche; it had to be Josephine.

And don’t be fooled by the fact that it says “or words to that effect”. You really can’t change very much.

Just a little more help…

There are of course pages all over the web that can help you with writing vows. I don’t have a crystal ball or anything that means that my way is the best way. Absolutely use all of them.

But I’ve done one more thing to try and help you with your vow writing. I’ve gone one step further in making this process just a little bit easier.

I created a form that will help guide you through these steps. It will email your completed vows straight to your inbox.

How easy is that? Just go to

Even great writers get stumped sometimes, especially when it comes to something as important as writing your vows. So don’t feel bad about it. Just get in there and do it. I hope this has helped, and if it did help, share it.

See more wedding planning help here

You may now kiss the…

Traditionally, after the official business of marrying a couple is done, a celebrant will say something like, “you may now kiss the bride”. Which makes sense if it’s the nineteenth century and a groom has just taken possession of his bride. But I’ve never been comfortable with that wording. I don’t have the authority to permit anyone to kiss anyone else, and nor should I!

I’ve shortened it to you “may now kiss”, which is okay, even if it sounds unfinished. I’ve occasionally turned it on the guests and suggested they might like to see the couple kiss. My favourite solution was a recent wedding where I turned to the bride and said “you may now kiss the groom”!

At my own wedding, we played with it a little more, and instead of having one, we had five! Each moment where it felt appropriate, our bagpiper played the refrain of Scotland the Brave, and that was our cue!

But the awkwardness in the celebrant’s phrasing is nothing compared to the question each couple faces of how they should kiss!

Do we go for a long, impassioned smooch?

Do we have a peck on the lips?

Should you kiss their hand and leave it at that?

You could head down a YouTube rabbithole, or I could just tell you: the answer is somewhere in the middle. It can be fun for the celebrant to have to remind you that you have guests. And it can be charming to play it coy. But the fact is most Australians want to see some passion in the kiss, and not too much!

You’re in charge of this, though: if you tell your celebrant you’re going to have a fifteen minute pash while everyone watches, then that’s what should happen. And if you tell your celebrant to leave out the kissing altogether, then that’s what should happen. I might think you should find the sweet spot between those two extremes, but the most important thing to remember is that it’s your wedding: you do you.

I could tell you that 15 seconds is plenty of time to kiss the bride (or groom!), but if you’re really in the moment, you’re not going to have your stopwatch going!

But I will say this: make sure you talk this through with your partner before the day. It can be uncomfortable for both of you, and probably your guests too if you aren’t in sync. So get on the same page, and have fun practising 😉

For more on wedding planning, check out these posts!

That’s Not Very Punny

There’s often a fine line between a joke and an insult, and in recent years weve been bombarded by those who decry the growth of what they call “political correctness”, or as I like to call it, “good manners”. So is there a way to make non-offensive gay jokes, or do we need to be entirely serious when preparing speeches for same sex weddings?

Wedding speeches

There is a firmly entrenched custom in western cultures in which certain guests—and usually the couple themselves—make a speech. And very frequently those speeches are hilarious. One of the main reasons humour is considered appropriate at this point in the customary proceedings is that the process a formal wedding takes usually means it has been very serious—probably also stressful—up until this point. And there’s a myriad of studies about the health benefits of humour.

So, with that in mind, the couples’ parents, attendants and even the couple themselves are very likely to want to include humour in their speeches.

Now, there are some very standardised jokes that are wheeled out for weddings. As much as these might elicit a laugh, the best laughs always come from more personal musings directly related to the couple being celebrated.

The science of jokes

Cognitive psychologists largely agree that there are three stages in finding something humorous. For a joke to work, the audience has to:

  1. Mentally construct the set-up of the joke
  2. Detect incongruity in its multiple interpretations, and
  3. Resolve the incongruity by inhibiting the literal interpretations (which are not funny), and enjoying the meaning of the funny one.

You can read more about this process in this excellent article on humour in The Conversation, and theres a great study of humour from the ACU here. But all you really need to know to tread the line between funny and just plain rude is whether your audience will be able to step through that process with you.

To do that, first consider whether the audience can imagine the set-up you’re creating. If they aren’t with you in the setup, there is no way they’re going to follow you into the next stage. It’s here, right at the beginning, that those who want to keep telling old jokes lose their audience.

If a tired or inappropriate stereotype is being perpetuated, any member of the audience who finds the stereotype inappropriate won’t be able to inhibit the unfunny interpretations, and therefore won’t recognise the funny one. Its not a choice they’re making; it’s a choice you’re making.

And thats when the jokers start complaining about political correctness.

Start by understanding the audience

The most important thing you can do is consider the audience. And for a wedding, they are all reasonably likely to have something in common with the couple getting married. A gay wedding will probably have a strong proportion of gay attendees: so gay-themed jokes are fine, as long as they don’t mock gay people. A lesbian wedding will probably have a strong contingent of lesbian attendants: so lesbian jokes are definitely appropriate, as long as they don’t mock lesbians.

Are you detecting a theme yet?

If the only way you can be funny is by mocking others, you’re probably not very funny. Perhaps in that case you can ask someone else to make that speech. But non offensive gay jokes exist, and it’s always better just to stick to jokes that don’t mock other people.

The idea that you can’t tell a joke without offending anyone anymore is just nonsense. You never could tell a racist joke without offending a racial minority. The only thing thats changed is that—for the most part—we actually care about racial minorities now. You could only tell racist jokes in the past because in the past your audience didn’t care about racial minorities. The same applies to any other kind of marginalised group.

Write for the couple, and you should hit a point that carries most of the audience along with you.

Write your own jokes

I don’t object entirely to using jokes you find on the internet. There are many many many websites dedicated to listing jokes and one liners for wedding speeches. There are even a few that list non offensive gay jokes. But apart from the fact that your audience is very likely to have heard them all before, using recycled jokes misses the advantage you get from ensuring your audience can construct the setup in their imagination.

Write your own jokes, considering the couple and the characteristics their friends are likely to share. This is a winning formula for a hilarious wedding speech that is perfect for the event.

That said, it can be helpful to gain some inspiration, and I certainly guffawed at this page!

Celebrate the couple

Lastly, the most important thing you’re being asked to do when making a speech at a wedding is to celebrate the couple. If you get so lost in the humour that you forget to do that, your speech will definitely fall flat.

  • Use humour to engage the audience.
  • Use humour to make the event a celebration.
  • Use humour to praise the couple.

The speaker who can make us laugh while being entirely serious about how joyful the occasion is, wins.

Check out my other posts about same sex weddings!

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