Time and tied (knots)

What time of day are you meant to have a wedding? What are the rules? Well the answer to the second question is easy - there are no rules! (Or at least, not any more.)

For a long time the traditional church wedding was in the morning, in a church, immediately after mass (which was then followed by the first meal as a married couple, the Wedding Breakfast, which was literally breakfast, since they fasted prior to the wedding). But no longer. These days, by far the most common time of day that modern weddings occur is afternoon, usually mid-afternoon, something around 3pm, give or take an hour.

As far as I can tell, the popularity of the mid-afternoon time-slot is based on two simple reasons: 1) the majority of secular wedding ceremonies tend to be outside these days (weather permitting), and so choosing a time near the warmest part of the day makes sense on that front; and 2) if the reception dinner is going to be at dinner time (with speeches and dessert and dancing and drinking following that), then working backwards and allowing a little bit of time in between for drinking and possibly photo-taking, mid-afternoon works well for the ceremony kick-off. An optional third reason is 3) because everyone else is doing it.

Now to be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with mid-afternoon for a wedding. I had a mid-afternoon wedding; it was great. It remains popular because it clearly works quite well for most people. But it’s important to realise that it is simply one of many options, and if you are planning your day, you should stop and think seriously about exactly what you want out of the day, in order to figure out what the best time is going to be for you.

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One potential peril with an afternoon wedding, especially earlier in the afternoon, is catering. Consider a 2pm wedding: your guests are going to be leaving the house no later than say 1pm, probably earlier. They’re going to start getting ready no later than 12pm, almost certainly earlier. They hopefully had breakfast, but it’s very possible that they didn’t have time for lunch. Dinner isn’t til 6pm. How much are you feeding them prior to dinner? They may have eaten nothing for literally hours.

The later in the afternoon you get, the less the catering is an issue. Of course, if you get late enough, it becomes an evening wedding, which can be quite an elegant, ‘compact’ celebration. Just at the weekend, I did a 6pm wedding, which was followed by drinks and nibbles, and then a sit-down dinner in the mid-evening. The benefits of this model are that you aren’t hogging the whole day - the guests still get the daytime to go about their business, and then the evening alone is dedicated and focussed on the nuptial celebrations.

At the other end of the scale, maybe those old-fashioned churchgoers were onto something. I did a morning wedding once, 9.30am. What a lovely way to start the day. The Wedding Breakfast was actually a Wedding Lunch, then drinking continued through a sunny afternoon (the venue was a racecourse, so not entirely inappropriate there). By late arvo, things were winding up, and the happy couple were back at home relaxing after a long day, eating fish’n’chips for dinner in their pajamas.

So what’s my point? Well, nothing really, except to ask that you don’t just do a thing cos everyone else is doing the thing. (And also, to make sure you’re sparing a thought for your poor guests’ rumbling tummies!) Stop for a moment and think through all the options, and decide which one is going to be best for you, to help make your day what you want it to be.

PSA: New Marriage Licence & Certificate prices

If you're currently in the planning stages of getting married, here's some info that might be relevant to you: The Department Of Internal Affairs has recently concluded a consultation and review process regarding its pricing structure, and as a result there are a few changes coming. Most of them are behind the scenes are affect us celebrants, but there are also some price changes that almost-but-not-quite-married couples should be aware of.

Product Current Fee New Fee
Marriage Licence (if you're using a celebrant like me) $122.60 $150.00
Marriage Licence (if you're going the registry office route) $173.70 $240.00
Marriage Certificate $26.50 $33.00

So yes, prices are going up a little bit, although I don't think they've actually changed them in a few years, so fair enough I reckon. More importantly though, you'll notice that the numbers on the right-hand side of the little decimal point have gotten a lot simpler (a.k.a. no silly 50c/60c/70c after the dollars bit), so that's nice.

Now, if you happen to be sorting the paperwork side of things right now then you'll still get the old pricing - these new changes will take effect in two weeks' time, on 22 May 2017.

(And in case you're wondering, no, my own fee will not be affected by any of these changes.)

Bridal Show (& Tell)

Over the weekend, I attended as an exhibitor at the 2017 Great NZ Bridal Show. It was my first time having a stand at one of these expos, so wasn't 100% sure how it would go, but apart from some very achy bones at the end of a long day of non-stop standing, I had a blast. And sure, these things can feel like a bit of a meat market sometimes, with all the various vendors selling their wares and the potential wedding customers possibly feeling a bit overwhelmed exploring their options. But as counterpoint to that, there were certainly an awful lot of happy smiling faces filling the crowds too. And you can spot them I think, the ones who have decided they're not going to let the apparent hugeness of wedding planning drag them down, and they're definitely out there to have fun.

Me, at the end of a long day, moments into packing up my stall and suddenly getting belated inspiration to capture a piccy of my setup, for posterity (a.k.a. Mum - hi Mum!)

Me, at the end of a long day, moments into packing up my stall and suddenly getting belated inspiration to capture a piccy of my setup, for posterity (a.k.a. Mum - hi Mum!)

And if people are finding the stresses of the pre-wedding hustle getting the better of them, I reckon that's a big part of where my job as celebrant comes in. I'm there to soothe those nerves and pretty much just say, "Hey! It's all good, everything's going to be fine, and I'm taking point to help hold all the bits and pieces together for your ceremony, so follow my lead and just relax and do your job of being two beautiful-looking, very-in-love people." (And hopefully that came across in my 20-second over-the-table sales pitch!)

Worth mentioning too that despite what the expo's name suggests, it wasn't just the ladies who showed up. Granted, they significantly outnumbered the gents, but I saw plenty of men there as well - with their partners, with friends, perhaps a father there supporting a to-be-married child. Which is a good reminder that a wedding day isn't all about the bride, no matter what the magazines may imply; the groom (or the other bride, as it may sometimes be) is half of the relationship, and really should be equally represented in what happens on the day.

The day was also a terrific opportunity to have a casual chat in the quiet bits with some of my fellow Christchurch celebrants, and what a lovely bunch they are: Kineta, Kate, Chris, Annette, Andrea and Tricia. Thanks to all the not-quite-weds who came by my wee table and said hi, and maybe I might be chatting with some of you again soon!

Name Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

This is a follow-on post from an earlier one about names, here - I've recently made some clarifications around this stuff, and I wanted to make sure I'm not setting anyone on the wrong track. In short, just about all of what I said last time still holds, but there are a couple of additional wrinkles to be aware of.

First up, contrary to what I said previously, the two bachelor names of the marriage can be combined, either with hyphenation or a space, and hence Rose Smith marrying Greg Jones could become Rose Smith-Jones, and that would be generally recognised. Furthermore, if one of the bachelor names is already a hyphenated name, there's no rule against combining that with a third name (although there comes a point where you want to think very carefully about whether you're going to be making life unnecessarily difficult for yourself...).

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But there is a bigger point to make here, which is that a change of name as a result of marriage is what is known as an assumed name, and is different than a legal name. If Rose Smith marries Greg Jones and takes his surname, she is still legally Rose Smith, but may go by Rose Jones as an assumed name.

In New Zealand, for all intents and purposes an assumed name functions essentially identically to a legal name, in terms of use on ID, bank accounts, etc. And so most of the time, the distinction is an academic matter. However, once you venture out into the big scary world, things have the potential to get more complicated, since some countries may only recognise your legal name, not your assumed one, and so if travelling abroad (especially if living overseas), it is really important to first double-check what the requirements are on that front.

You can see more info about these rules on the government website here.


Podcast fun!

I recently spoke with a friend and fellow Christchurch celebrant Kineta Booker, as part of a new weddings-themed podcast she is producing. We chatted about a range of celebrant- and wedding-related topics, and you can hear it for yourself right here:


(And if you listen to podcasts using an app, be sure to subscribe to Backstage Podcast:Weddings NZ podcast so you don't miss out on any future episodes.)

It's, like, rain on your wedding day

I have a sneaking suspicion that whoever invented the superstition about rain on your wedding day being good luck was just ad libbing in the interests of comforting a rain-soaked bride. And if it's your wedding that's getting unexpected dampened, you're going to cling to anything to make you feel better. Although I'm not trying to side-step the fact that if you’ve planned an occasion designed for the outdoors, then of course you’ll want to be outdoors for it.

Still, rainy days have their own charms – warm yet rainy is one of my personal favourites, especially if you’re under shelter but exposed to the open air. I did a wedding the other day which was essentially that: outside but under the somewhat patchy shelter of a big old tree (the forms have the odd water blotch on them to prove it!). Sure, it was a tiny wee service and we weren't there for too long, but it was a rather lovely occasion. (Actually, the lack of other people wandering past due to the rain might have also contributed a little to the intimate vibe.)

A guest arriving at my wedding.                        (Photo credit: Andy Currie)

My own wedding seven years ago was inside, but despite that the weather still had plenty to say. The morning was overcast, then around an hour before the ceremony a light sprinkle of precipitation began to fall. By about quarter to, the heavens were starting to well-and-truly open, and we have some amazing images of guests dashing from cars to the venue – less wedding, more war photography. For the duration of the ceremony, from our windowless theatre we heard the roar of pounding hail on the roof, punctuated with drum fills of alarmingly loud thunder. And then, after the ceremony, the rain eased off, and then by dinnertime it was all blue sky and sunshine.

I have no grand conclusions to draw from all of this. Rain is a thing that the sky sometimes does, and even if you struggle to appreciate the majesty of nature as you stand sodden in your best clothes, at least it'll make for a good story later.

Earth-shaking romance

I'm of two minds about Valentine's Day. On the one hand it's easy to get cynical about what seems to be a manufactured, Hallmark Card-style event, a sort of cardboard cut-out version of romance that gets culturally advertised at us. On the other, well, I guess there is a nice idea at the heart of it, underneath all the consumerist trappings: it's an annual reminder that we all ought to take time to do something special for our loved one, and not take them for granted.

Of course, you might argue that we should all be doing this anyway, as often as possible, and that we don't need to hold off on the thoughtful acts until a specific point on the calendar rolls around (the same argument holds for Mothers and Fathers Day too). But I guess that as long as you're not only doing romantic things on Valentine's Day, and turn into a loveless hermit for the remaining 364 days of the year, it's all good.

Today is Valentine's Day, and in Christchurch the earth shook for us in ways that perhaps weren't quite what the romantics had in mind. Big quake, 5.7, probably the most violent shake we've had in a couple of years (original earthquake was a little over five years ago, in case anyone's still counting). But the thing is, this city's so acclimatised to them now that, after the initial shock, people by-and-large seemed to cautiously shrug and just get on with their days. And it's not about making light of a potentially serious thing; it's just that after a while, you learn not to waste unnecessary energy on something that you have absolutely no control over.

Which, if you'll allow the clumsy segue, is a bit like the attitude you need when planning a wedding. Sure, everyone needs a backup plan, an emergency kit (a.k.a. the wet-weather option), but there are some things you can't plan for. And you have to be at peace with that. So instead of planning for everything that might happen (which is impossible), what you need to do is plan an attitude, a state of mind as you sit inside your head, ready to accept the aftershocks of unscheduled real-life, and just roll with it.

It's also a good reminder of why that space on the Marriage Licence for a Plan B venue for your wedding, while optional, is absolutely a good idea to fill in. It might be an earthquake or other natural event, maybe the place burns down in a fire or goes out of business, maybe the wedding gets delayed due to illness or giving birth. Plenty of reasons to list Uncle Kevin's house (the one with the big backyard) as a backup - you know, just in case.

A very good place to start

Dearly beloved*, we are gathered here today to start writing a blog. Mostly because in the course of putting together this website, it's occurred to me that there are plenty more things I want to say, but I can't figure out exactly where they should go. So in a sense, this blog will serve as my clearing-house for random musings and the odd piece of advice that I want to share with you all.

Now, I've had blogs before, and one thing I know for sure is that posts on here won't be regular. So that means I might have three posts in a week, and then nothing for a month. That said, I'll try my best to keep a steady drip-feed of content coming out, and I suspect that every new wedding I do will serve me up a platter of fresh inspiration.

So have a read, and please do comment if the mood takes you (even if it's to say that I'm wrong about something - I like debates). Enjoy!

* I promise I will never actually say "Dearly beloved" in a ceremony, unless you really really want me to. And even then, I'll probably try to talk you out of it, cos let's be honest, it's kind of a weird thing to say, especially to strangers.