A Magical Modern Wedding In Australia

It was such a great delight to be the celebrant at this amazing wedding.  Natasha and Simon were a delight to work with from start to finish.  This article was posted in UK Brides Magazine Brides Magazine the no.1 wedding mag in the UK.  Very exciting.

Profile Photo by RICK LISTON

A Magical Modern Wedding In Australia

This couple’s wedding venue, Projekt 3488 in the Yarra Valley, Australia, was rustic yet modern, industrial-looking yet elegant and even included a seriously zen garden that would take anyone’s breath away.


Natasha Edward-Johnson, 27, married Simon Cox, 27, at Projekt 3488 in the Yarra Valley, Australia, on 21st April, 2018. She says:

When we walked through the doors of Projekt 3488, we looked at each other like: this is our wedding venue. We weren’t actually doing a site visit, but were there for another event. By that stage, we’d seen over 15 other venues, none of which felt right. The tranquil gardens, complete with water pools and an abundance of plants, took our breath away. The building itself, a recently restored Masonic Hall built in the 1920s, is exquisitely designed. Its décor allows the building to shine with all of its original charm. We were looking for something a little different and wanted both indoor and outdoor space, and this was it.

Mark Fenech, the designer-owner behind Projekt, has such an eye for style and detail that we really didn’t have to do much in the way of decorating. It was already there! However, our amazing florist, Holly from Anouk Flowers, created gorgeous arrangements using our colour palette of dark blue, deep red and dusty green. Thistle-like seaholly, eucalyptus, touches of tea tree and Casa Blanca David Austin roses were just some of the magical species she included. The romantic floral arbor she made, beneath which we married, blended seamlessly with the rest of the garden.

I found my wedding dress on a spontaneous shopping trip with my maid of honour, Vanessa. My previous attempt to find one had left me deflated, with the feeling that I’d never find something that was both my style and affordable. But Fairytales Bridal in Nunawading was having a sale, so we thought it couldn’t hurt to have a look! I initially saw my dress’ bold boho-style lace and was intrigued, but it was hidden on the rail behind another gown. I asked the shop assistant to pull it out and tried it on. It was by Jessica Couturesand fit me like a glove. Everything I had been looking for.

Though I loved the dress, my favourite detail on the day was my veil. It is just so meaningful to me. My friend and colleague Lauren helped choose the materials and then spent hours sewing it all together using invisible thread. It was more beautiful than I could have imagined and also added a longer train to my outfit – something my dress didn’t have on its own.

Photography by Rick Liston

Basic Elements of a Wedding

Basic Elements of a Wedding by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

So you are getting married.  Where do you start?

Here are the basic elements in a wedding and the legal requirements along with answers to some of the most asked questions.

These are the legal requirements of an Australian wedding.

These are non negotiable and required by law according to the Marriage Act 1961.

Your wedding must be conducted by a Commonwealth Registered Celebrant and you must have two witnesses who are over the age of 18.

  • At some point in the wedding ceremony we have to use your full name.  The name that is documented on your birth certificate or passport.
    • This can cause some frustration but unfortunately we need to do this to validate your marriage
    • For Example:  If you were born ‘Vasilly Dominique Hibbbert’ but are known by everyone as David.  At some point I need to say your whole name, once is enough, then for the rest of the service we can refer to you as David.  Your full legal name needs to be used on all the legal documents.
  • I need to quote the monitum before the vows.  This states the nature of Marriage in Australia and establishes my authority to officiate your wedding. The following is from section 46(1).
    • “I am duly authorised by law, to solemnise marriage according to the law.  Before you are joined in marriage in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses,  I am to remind you of the solemn and binding nature of the relationship you are now about to enter.  Marriage, according to the law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.
  • The Marriage Act 1961 also states that each person must say to the other, in the presence of the marriage celebrant and the witnesses, these words – Section 45 (2) :
    • “I call upon the persons here present to witness that I…………….. take thee ………….. to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband)”. – or words to that effect.
  • Both parties and witnesses sign the marriage documents.

Beautiful pregnant woman in wedding dress and her husband are holding pretty cheerful daughter in arms at a plank wall background. Concept of happy family.

Basic Building Blocks of a Wedding Ceremony

As mentioned above, to validate your marriage we must fit in the  legal requirements.  After that there are varied wedding rituals and elements of a wedding that people do.

Use this as a guide only.

These elements can be  moved around or omitted  according to the vision or style of your ceremony.  Other rituals or cultural ceremonies can be added into this format.

The Welcome:  

This is the opening of the ceremony and where friends and family are welcomed.

The Presentation of the Bride:

Traditionally this was where the Father would give the Bride away.

Bride and Father Arm in Arm With Groom
Bride and Father Arm in Arm With Groom
These days this is still very popular, it is also okay if it is your mother, children, or you can walk down the aisle by yourself if you like.

Marriage Journey:

This is where the values and views of marriage, love and relationship are mentioined.  It is also the place that we talk about your  relationship journey.  How you met, how you fell in love etc.


This is a good place to acknowledge the love and support of family, children or mentors, and to acknowledge loved ones who are deceased or who cannot make it to the wedding.


This is the monitum as mentioned above in the legal requirements. This must be said before the vows.

Reading (s):

A poem, reading, verse can be read by a family member, friend or the celebrant.

Parental Blessing:

This is often used instead of the traditional giving away of the bride or can be placed before the vows.  It is an opportunity for parents to pledge their support, love and commitment.  A blessing or prayer can be read or the celebrant can ask the parents to stand and ask if they pledge their love and support – they can even answer “We Do”.

The Vows:

These are the personal commitments that the couple make to each other.

Exchange of Rings:

Although this is not a legal requirement, it is a ritual that is commonly used world wide.  You do not have to use rings, you can use anything that is symbolic of your love and union.

Signing of the Marriage Documents:

This is where the bridal couple, the two witnesses and the celebrant sign the legal documents.  It is good to have a significant piece of music or reading happen at this stage.


This is the Declaration of the marriage and where the kiss comes in.  In thinking of the declaration, how do you want to be presented, as Mr and Mrs Smith, or as Mr Smith and Mrs Jones or Brad and Caroline?


This is usually where words of congratulations are given, a blessing or maybe a prayer.  This is followed by the recessional.  An upbeat funky piece of music that you walk out to and receive the congratulations of your family and friends.

Happy groom brings the bride in his arms from the registrar's office
Happy groom leaves with the bride in his arms.

My Interview With The Gordon

I was recently interviewed by The Gordon University in Geelong about my experience as a Celebrant.  They were so happy with the results that they published this as a blog post on their site to advertise the site.  You can go to the link here.  This was pretty exciting for me.  Hope that you enjoy.

Considering a celebrancy course?

Lisa has the low-down.

What does it take to become a celebrant? We recently caught up with Lisa Hunt-Wotton, one of The Gordon TAFE’s 2015 celebrancy course graduates to get her take on the course and life as a celebrant.

What course did you study?

I studied the full Certificate IV in Celebrancy to become a Commonwealth Registered Celebrant.

Why did you choose to study a celebrancy course?

I have an associate degree in Theology and had previously been working in a large Church in Melbourne for 10 years. However, I really wanted to become more available to the larger community. Transitioning to the role of a celebrant seemed like a natural progression for me and encapsulated my love of people and creativity.

Why did you choose to study at TAFE?

Even though I live in Melbourne’s Eastern Suburbs, I chose The Gordon because I found that they offered the most comprehensive course structure and they are appointed to deliver ongoing professional development for registered celebrants.

What did you enjoy most about the celebrancy course?

There were so many highlights. One was the course instructors; Amanda and Suzanne. It was obvious from the beginning that we were in very safe hands. They were extremely professional, engaging and covered every aspect of what it means to be a celebrant and run a small business.

Another highlight was the unit on funerals. This was completely unexpected for me but Amanda was so passionate and engaging about the funeral industry that it has become an area that I really want to excel in. Of course, the weddings that we had to prepare and conduct in front of the class were a highlight and although it was a little nerve-racking, they gave us invaluable insight, experience and feedback.

What have you been up to since completing your accredited training?

I immediately applied to the Attorney General and found out in the September that I had passed and been accepted.  Since then I have conducted a number of weddings and also a funeral, and I have 12 more weddings on the books as I write this. So I am working very hard at starting a small business as a celebrant and I absolutely adore it.

What key skills do you need as a celebrant?

You definitely need a love for people.  You are representing them on one of the most important days in their lives, whether it be a wedding or a funeral.  You need compassion and an ability to listen.  You are then able to accurately interpret their vision for the event and lead them in the right direction if they are confused or unsure.

You need to be self-motivated and have some basic organisational skills as you are running a small business and juggling dates and meetings.  You also need to be a good communicator.  You will obviously be doing a lot of public speaking so you need to be able to communicate clearly and confidently.

How did The Gordon prepare you for becoming a celebrant?

The course structure is designed so that you are completely prepared for the Attorney General’s exam and application, and you have absolutely everything you need to start a small business in celebrancy, even your own personalised paperwork.  After the course ended, I contacted my instructors many times asking questions and clarification on issues and they have always gone above and beyond to make themselves available to me.

What are the most exciting or rewarding aspects of being a celebrant?

One of the most exciting aspects is meeting new clients and hearing about their vision and heart for their event.  Of course, the most rewarding aspect is knowing that I have captured the essence of the couple or family that I am representing. Nothing makes me happier than executing a unique and memorable event.

What advice would you give to others considering a celebrancy career?

It is an excellent career path, particularly if you enjoy working for yourself and with people. Make good use of social media like Facebook and get a simple and modern website up and running as soon as you can.  These tools will be a great reference point for your clients as they will naturally want to find out as much about you as they can.

If you are choosing The Gordon you are starting on a great foundation.

Ritual: Warming of the Rings

This is a beautiful way to involve your wider circle of family and friends.

As your guests arrive to the wedding venue they are encouraged to take your wedding rings in their hands, hold them and give a prayer, blessing or good thought over the rings.  You appoint an usher to stand by the rings, give instructions to the guests before they  take their seats.


Before you take your seat

Please take a moment to participate in the warming of  

C&C wedding rings

Hold the rings in your hand for a moment.  

Warm them with your love and make a silent prayer or wish for the couple.   

One that will accompany them into a long and lasting marriage.

This is an example of this ritual in a wedding ceremony.

Rings and the Warming of the Rings

Celebrant:  May I please have the rings (Usher or appointed person hand them to celebrant).

Rings have been used for thousands of years to symbolise betrothal.  The circular shape of the ring came to symbolise the eternity of the couples love for each other.  From the earliest of days, rings have been given as a symbol of everlasting and eternal love an embrace with no beginning, no end.

  • Jeremy Taylor wrote that the marriage ring signifies both the union of the hands and hearts. 

So now we move to the exchange of the rings.

To the guests:

As you came in this morning you were alerted to the wish of Cameron and Carolyn to have you to participate in a ritual called the ‘warming of the rings’.

You, their extend family and friends, represent the wider circle of their love and support.  As such, Cameron and Carolyn value your blessings and good wishes upon the commitment of their new life together.

To Cameron and Caroline:

The celebrant holds the rings in her hand up high before the guests so that they can see the rings.  

Cameron and Caroline, these rings have been held with the warmth and love of your family and friends. They are saturated with good wishes, love, good thoughts and blessings.

You can now exchange these rings.

Cameron:  Caroline, I give you this ring as a symbol of my eternal love for you.

Caroline:  Cameron, I give you this ring as a symbol of the peace and eternal love that we share.

  • *Put the rings on each others ring fingers.

Celebrant: Blessing of  the Rings.

An ancient prayer blessing of the rings: (Adapted)

  • Placing their hands on top of each other.

Wear these rings as a symbol of the circle of love that now makes you one.

Knowing that the blessing and love of your family and friends goes with you and empowers you.

Bless these rings, which we here today also bless.

May they be a reward of your unbroken faithfulness to each other.

May peace and wisdom be also entwined in your mutual love.

Newly-married couple exchanges wedding rings.
Newly-married couple exchanges wedding rings.

Note: **This is an example of a poem that could be read out by a Grandmother before the warming of the rings ceremony.  The Grandmother would read the poem as she holds the rings in her hands.  She would then pass them to the celebrant for the ceremony…

Poem for the Warming of the Rings

Hands of Love

I hold these rings warmly in my hands

Hands aged by wear and care

Hands who have seen the passage of time

Who know what it is to give comfort

To sooth a troubled brow

Smooth your tousled hair

Hands clasped together

That pray for you to flourish

A life full of joy and promise.

Hold each others hands

Never let them go

Hold on to the blessings that these rings hold

As they pass from my hands to yours

May you know that you to are held and loved

by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

The rings are given to the celebrant by the grandmother.

What Makes a Great Wedding?

By Lisa Hunt-Wotton

What makes an amazing, heartfelt and memorable wedding that everyone loves?

Thoughtfulness and a Great Celebrant.

Today the proportion of marriage ceremonies performed by civil celebrants has continued to increase.  In 2014 registered celebrants performed 74.1% of all registered marriage ceremonies.  

Ceremonies today are done in the forest, on the beach, in churches, by waterfalls, in back yards by rivers and in gardens.  It is limited only by your imagination and creativity.  A good celebrant will quickly resonate with you, they will totally comprehend your vision for your wedding and if you are not sure yourself  of what you want, a good celebrant will dig for the gold in you both and bring out the best in you to make your day the best day possible.  

wedding car
Wedding bouquet on vintage wedding car
These are the most important elements that make a memorable wedding ceremony:
  • Your wedding is personal and reflects your character, romance and personality.
  • It is crafted to have moments of wonder and surprise.
  • It is unique.
  • Your friends and family are taken along on the journey with you.  The worst thing is when the audience feel awkward, uncomfortable or disconnected.
  • Transitions in the wedding ceremony are crucial.  This takes practice and skill but when done properly it makes the ceremony feel effortless and people are taken on a smooth and meaningful journey.
  • Well thought out, practised and communicated.  This prevents cringe moments or train wrecks and puts your nerves to rest.
  • Time management.  Nothing is worse that everyone waiting for 20 min for the bridal party to arrive.  I attended one wedding where the bride arrived first and no groom.  Eeeeekkk.  Panic and terror set in.
  • No alcohol.  Not only is it in very poor taste, the marriage can be contested or actually not legitimate if either party are drunk. The celebrant can also refuse to do the ceremony.
  • Your wedding doesn’t have to be elaborate to be successful.  It is all in the planning and execution.  Sometimes the most beautiful wedding are simple and sweet.  The main ingredient is authenticity.  It must accurately reflect who you are and the vision that you have for your lives together.

Lisa Hunt-Wotton

What Makes a Good Marriage?

What Makes a Good Marriage, a Good Friendship, a Good Partnership?

by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

As I sit here this morning with my coffee praying for my children, I reflect on their lives as young adults and the choices that they have made in their partners.

We have six amazing adult children.  Five incredible young men and one delicious daughter.  Two are married, one is negotiating a new relationship, one is in a long term relationship with a simply incredible young woman, our youngest boy is single and one of our middle boys is a week away from walking down the aisle with his exquisite bride.  I have the incredible privilege of marrying the two of them and I couldn’t be happier.

One common denominator stands out in the choices that my children have made in their partners.  ‘Kindness and Empathy’.  Well I guess that’s two but they are joined like twins.  At different times throughout their growing up I have written letters to them, had talks with them, encouraging them to make ‘deliberate choices’ in their selection of a partner.  I’m wishing I had a copy of the letters to share with you but the main tenant goes something like this which comes from a quote of Dr Gordon Livingston MD.

I maintain that a good marriage is easy provided that both people have been astute in the selection process.  If we choose a partner with ample reserves of kindness and a willingness to put us at the centre of his or her life, and if we have sufficiently cultivated those virtues in ourselves, we can refute the ‘hard work’ school of marriage, put down our picks and shovels, and partake of the endless pleasures of renewable love.

Here is the fundamental question about our readiness for marriage:  “Is it possible for us to love another adult as much as we love ourselves?    Can we truthfully say that we would never intentionally do anything to hurt them?  Are we our best when we are with them?

In these conversations with my kids I have talked about a list of characteristics and qualities to nurture in themselves and to look for in friends and lovers.  At the top of the list is kindness.  This is the top of the list because it is glued together with empathy and love.  Like any art form it is incredibly hard to define but we notice when its missing.

Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known. Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes. Joseph Wirthness.

You are valuable, your time is valuable therefore it is important that you know who to avoid.  You avoid those who are not worthy of your time and trust.  You need to protect your mental health, and avoid betrayal, meanness and people who are not transparent or willing to communicate in a healthy manner.  Selfish people can never be kind because kindness asks that we are able to put others first.

This is a list that I wrote out for one of my kids after they asked my opinion about a potential partner.  This was my response:

1: is he/she kind?
2: is he/she funny, because humour is the greatest form of courage that overcomes suffering and brings healing to the wounds of life.
3: does he/she believe there is a God – something other than their own small humanity?
4: is he/she patient?
5: is he/she open and willing to talk?
6: is he/she good at forgiving, because forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, it is anecdote to toxicity.
7: has he/she got a good work ethic?
8: is he/she truthful – honesty makes a solid foundation to build upon?
9: does he/she see women and men as equal?
10: would they hug a tree?

Number 10  is very important –
10 is the ability to see beyond the normal, to notice moments of wonder, to be a little mystical with a touch of silly – and very importantly it means that they are not afraid to laugh at themselves.

Ultimately each person is responsible for their own choices.  As parents we can only offer suggestions, collective wisdom and guidance.  We pray, we advise, but our greatest gift to our adult children is to let go and to trust the people that they have become.  I love my adult children, I love their company and I love who they have become.

The primary goal of parents, beyond keeping them safe and loved, is to convey to them a sense that it is possible to be happy in an uncertain world, to give them hope (Livingston).  We do this of course by example.  From the beginning we have been raising them to leave us.  Hopefully they find fruitful and loving relationships, built on kindness, honesty and trust that last the distance.


If you wish to read more about kindness you can follow this link to another blog post that I have written on Kindness.

Rituals and Ceremonies are Important

Every significant and special occasion in our lives deserves to be commemorated and  celebrated.  

Western culture has developed Rites of Passage for significant moments in people’s lives such as birth, marriage, death and graduation. There are also many other meaningful signposts and seasons in our life that need  tributes.  Rituals around ‘the coming of age’,  ‘the grief of Divorce’, menopause, retirement, return from active duty and renewing of vows.

Young couple enjoying their wedding anniversary with child and p

What are Rituals?

“ We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down.

We all need such places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn’t have the specific ritual you are craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet.”
― Elizabeth GilbertEat, Pray, Love

Rituals  and Ceremonies play a significant role in all cultures and help to define a society.  They are deeply important to human beings. Some say that ritual is what makes us human.

“Indeed, to truly be human, we must be connected to supportive, cooperative communities. Ritual is the mechanism by which we have always created those communities” (M. Rossano).

Tombstone and beautiful flowers - 3D render

“People have traditionally turned to ritual to help them frame and acknowledge and ultimately even find joy in just such a paradox of being human” (Michael Pollen ).

Woman mourning on Funeral with coffin

  Done well, ritual and ceremony provide a sense of

“before and after”

    and people come away knowing their lives have been

positively touched by the experience

Gail Peekeekoot

As a Celebrant it is a great joy and honour to participate and conduct Ceremonies and Rituals  to mark these precious and significant moments.

As a writer I work collaboratively to make your event completely personal.

I feel passionately about the need for ritual and ceremony in our lives and I take great enjoyment from writing and crafting moments of wonder and precious memories for people that last for ever.

Lisa Hunt-Wotton

Happy young family with three children celebrating the baptismWedding rings with roses and glasses of champagne

vasehands of an elderly woman lighting a candle