One of the benefits of being married in Australia by a Civil Marriage Celebrant is that you can have your ceremony anywhere you want.  It could be on a cliff top where the big question was asked; on the beach; in a park; in your own garden; on board a boat; in a hot air balloon; on a plane… the list is only limited by your imagination.

The only thing you need to keep in mind is to have a back-up plan and be realistic about when you need to change to your alternative venue if circumstances go against you.  I say ‘be realistic’ because it’s easy to be so hooked on wanting your wedding ceremony to take place in your favourite place, that desire can overtake commonsense.

A sensible celebrant will have an agreement in writing with you that a final decision needs to be made in plenty of time for everyone to be notified if the venue has to be changed.  While it might be disappointing not to be married at sunset on the headland overlooking the ocean where your proposal took place, there is nothing romantic about your documents being rained on or worse still, blown away and everyone looking like drowned rats in the photos.  Another scenario could be guests dropping with heat stroke and the bridal party suffering second-degree burns on the hottest day of the century.

However, if the alternative venue is close by then a decision can be made at the last minute.  I recently officiated at a small wedding in a park just below the house where the reception was being held.  It rained gently off and on but armed with my supply of umbrellas (two huge, one normal man’s size and one smaller folding one) plus some that sensible guests had brought with them, we still managed to hold the ceremony by the water without anyone getting too wet.  There was one small drop of water on the couple’s marriage certificate but I told everyone that rain was a good omen.  It meant a cleansing so that their lives as a married couple could start with the past washed clean and a new path ahead of them and that the water spot on their certificate will be a permanent reminder of their ‘good fortune’.  They loved it!

On another occasion it had been pouring all day but at the eleventh hour the Groom said we would still hold the ceremony outdoors.  The ground was sodden and we had to move much further out onto rocks (and closer to the cliff edge) to avoid standing ankle deep in water.  The sky was almost black but the rain held off for just long enough and as I pronounced the couple to be husband and wife three rainbows appeared directly behind them, arching through the dark clouds – amazing.  Then the wind started and I made an executive decision that all document signing would take place at the reception venue, which was luckily within walking distance.  We gathered everything up and ran for it, with the last person getting under cover just as the heavens opened with an enormous clap of thunder.  After a few restorative beverages, the rain stopped, the sun came out and we finished the ceremony off with the signing of documents and presentation of the couple as Mr and Mrs Newly Married to the assembled guests.

Experienced celebrants have come across just about any scenario and have found ways to manage most situations.  If your celebrant suggests you change to your alternative venue and you don’t want to, remember you have hired them not simply to perform your ceremony but to ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible.  Listen to their advice because it will be in your best interests.

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