A momentous moment in Australian history!!

On 7 December 2017, the Australian Parliament passed the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 to change the definition of marriage and provide for marriage equality in Australia.

The right to marry in Australia will no longer be determined by sex or gender.

Marriage equality will commence on 9 December 2017.

But what does that mean for you?

On 9 December 2017, amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 commence to provide for marriage equality. The vows and monitum will change to reflect the new definition of marriage as: ‘the union of 2 people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’.

The ‘monitum’

As your celebrant, I am required to include a statement (the ‘monitum’) explaining the nature of the marriage relationship in all marriage ceremonies that I perform (section 46 of the Marriage Act).

From 9 December 2017, the monitum will change to reflect the new definition of marriage. This is so wonderful! Here is what I will say:

I am duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages according to 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 into which you are now about to enter. Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

Your Vows

Of course you can still say whatever vows you want to say, but there are a few words in there that you are legally required to say.

Subsection 45(2) of the Marriage Act sets out the vows  that you have to say if I am your celebrant. From 9 December 2017, the vows will change to reflect the new definition of marriage – here is what you will say (don’t worry, I will guide you on the day):

I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, A.B. (or C.D.), take thee, C.D. (or A.B.), to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband, or spouse).

This change allows marrying couples to make a personal choice about the terms to be used in their marriage vows that best reflect their relationship. The term ‘husband’ can refer to a male marriage partner, and ‘wife’ to a female marriage partner, regardless of the sex or gender of the person saying the vows. The term ‘spouse’ can refer to a male, female, intersex, non-binary gender or transgender person.

This is so exciting!!

Congratulations Australia!!

Writing your own vows Part 2

Want to get some inspiration and have a go at writing your own vows?

Try this…..Compile answers to these questions. This might be enough to inspire you, but, if you need a little more guidance, take the 3-5 most emotionally stirring answers and use them to structure your vows. Take one idea that really resonates with you, like Dreams for example – and use it at the beginning and at the end. Here is an example:
Before we met, I had the usual dreams for the future. But since I have met you, my dreams are much bigger. All the things in life that felt unreachable before now seem possible when I am with you. I knew you were special the first time I met you. You make me want to be a better person in every way.  I promise that I will always remember and honor the way I feel about you now, all the days of my life.  [Name], I promise you my unending love, unwavering loyalty and to always dream with you.

Here are the questions

  • How did you meet? What do you remember about the first time you met?  Little did you know then, that ___?
  • When did you realize you were romantically interested in them if it wasn’t at your first meeting?
  • When did you know you loved them?
  • What are three qualities you like best about your fiancé?
  • What do you see in them that no one else sees as clearly as you do?
  • Why do you love them?
  • What are three hopes you have for the future, big or small?
  • What good things do they bring out in you?
  • How are you better as a couple than as individuals?
  • How does their love make you feel in general?
  • How do they make you feel about yourself?
  • What hopes do they bring out in you?
  • Before meeting, what did you expect of marriage?
  • What do you promise to them?
  • What kind of vow would you love to hear from your fiancé? Write out what you would love to hear promised, specifically to you. Is that vow, what you would like to say to them?

Redefining the Wedding Party

Most same sex ceremonies dont necessarily fit with what we have become used to in weddings. I find this super exciting because we are in such a wonderful time when same sex couples entering into formalised civil partnerships will be redefining many of the age old traditions we are used to.

Nowhere else is this more evident than in the ‘wedding party’. In writing this, I’m going to stick to the gender neutral term “attendant”, but really – you can use what ever terms suit you and your wedding party. For example, you could have a best man, best woman, maid of honour, attendant, groomsman, bridesmaid, person of honour, best person, best people, man of honour, bestie, BFF or any other term. Additionally, these will not always apply to the genders we are used to, for example a groom may have a man of honour, or a bride may have a best person. Alternatively, you might choose not to have a wedding party at all.

When your planning your ceremony here are some things that you might want to keep in mind;

  • You don’t have to have the same number of attendants on either side.  It doesn’t have to be symmetrical.
  • You and your wedding party might not be comfortable with the hetero normative gender roles associated with wedding tasks.
  • You might choose not to have children at your ceremony or reception, this can include not having any flower children or ring bearer.
  • Many civil partnerships don’t have bachelor parties or bridal showers but then again – you might have a gigantic party like no other.
  • Most couples don’t ask their attendants to dance with one another – but your attendants might want to.
  • You might not expect or want your attendants to all wear the exact same attire. Female attendants aren’t expected to wear the same dress, if they are even asked to wear a dress at all.
  • There are often no formal introductions at the ceremony or if there are, it’s typically just the newlyweds.

The key to planning the ceremony of your dreams? Do whatever you like.

I can help you plan a wonderful ceremony taht suits you and your partner – and you can use old traditions and make new ones – Its entirly up to you.


New traditions – Same-sex weddings

Many people think that a same sex ceremony is the same as a ‘straight’ ceremony. And while very much is the same, people in the LGBQTI Communities may have their own traditions, their own dynamics and their own sensitivities and require a different layer of knowledge and sensitivity.

The date

If a couple you are working with has been together for a long time, they may want to have their ceremony on their anniversary date.

The Attendants

Many same sex couples will have only one or two attendants. This differs from many straight weddings in which the couple may have a large wedding party. It is also common to see female and male attendants mixed together on both sides of a same sex ceremony. That said, a significant portion of same sex couple will choose not to have attendants stand with them as they exchange vows.

The Wedding Attire

While most gay grooms simply stop by their local tuxedo shop, finding the perfect wedding attire is one of the largest hurdles lesbian couples might encounter. Lesbian couples may have both brides wearing a traditional gown, or have one bride donning a dress and the other bride sporting a chic pantsuit. That said, some lesbian couples both choose to wear suits – any opion is available. Each couple will be different, but it can be a very difficult time for for lesbian couples when deciding what they will wear.

Champagne Toast

It has its origins in America, but it is making its way here – Champagne or sparkling wine is frequently passed to guests (along with sparkling water) prior to a same-sex ceremony to take the edge off, convey a sense of celebration and introduce the Validation and Affirmation portion of the ceremony. Since same sex ceremonies are new to most guests, an immediate glass of champagne lets them know that this is going to be a very special event and helps calm nerves.

Validation & Affirmation

Many couples include an affirmation into their ceremony. Thisis when the officiant asks the guests to join in a community vow or toast of the couple using the champagne provided to the guests before the ceremony.  This is typically at the beginning of the ceremony, after the welcoming remarks, and makes use of the pre-ceremony champagne.

The term validation and affirmation came from the frequent comment by same-sex couples that seeing all of their guests supporting them felt very validating and affirming.


Walking Down the Aisle

Men and women choose different options for their grand entrance. Many gay grooms walk down a central aisle while holding hands. However, a lot of lesbian brides opt to walk alone down two aisles from different directions. Seldom do couples have a parent give them away, and typically the guests stay seated throughout the processional.  Some couples dont have an isle at all. Some couples choose to be mingling with their guests and then call everyone to gather round when they are about to start the ceremony.

Seeing Each Other Before the Wedding

Because the old school traditions have little meaning for same sex couples, they often don’t abide by them. In particular, is the old tradition of the bride and groom not seeing each other before the wedding. Most same sex couples choose to get ready for the ceremony together although women are more likely than men to want to savor the magical moment of seeing her bride for the first time as she walks down the aisle.


Honeymoon history

Nowadays we are used to planning a special get away with our newly beloved spouse. But honeymoons weren’t always so luxurious. Ancient Norse bridal couples went into hiding after the wedding, and a family member would bring them a cup of honey wine for 30 days — or one moon — which is how the term “honeymoon” originated.


To change your name or not?

Do same sex couples who have a Civil Partnership Ceremony generally change their names? It’s a good question. Like everything else, Name-Change (1)people are going to do what suits them. But in my experience, older couples / couples who have been together for a long time are most likely to keep their original last names. Same-sex couples who are younger are more inclined to changing their names – but its a very individual choice. 

I’ve seen hyphenated last names; non-hyphenated; one partner take the others’ last name; and sometimes couples make up entirely new versions of their names. I love it when couples invent entirely new names, some of which were not remotely similar to either of the old names.  That’s kind of fun – as they begin a new life together, they do so with a new name.




Old names: Caulfield and Stansberry
New last name:  Stansfield (merging Caulfield and Stansberry)

Old names:  Rush and Wood
New name:  Rushwood


Do’s and Dont’s at a Civil Partnership Ceremony

Since we have recently seen the implementation of the Civil Partnership Act in QLD, its time for a few Do’s and Don’t’s on the big day!

1. Don’t crash the event.

Let me say it again: Don’t ever crash a ceremony. Do not attend a ceremony for which you did not receive a personal invitation. Anecdotal evidence from a number of same-sex couples suggest that they are more than usually prone to being crashed — often by well-meaning friends of friends who have never seen a same sex ceremony and are curious. This is really not cool. You go because you care about the couple and want to support them.

2. Do use the couple’s preferred terminology.

People in non-standard relationships often have non-standard relationships with gender, and thus, with gender-coded words. Not every woman getting married is, or wants to be called, a bride; not every dude thinks of himself as a groom. Let the couple be the guides of the words you choose, and if you’re not sure, just use their names. Keep following this rule after the event – Not every married woman is a wife. Not every married man is a husband. Again, follow the example people provide — if someone always refers to her “partner,” do not say, “How’s your wife?”

3. Don’t use your card to express your reservations about same sex relationships.

Don’t write your political views about same ex partnerships in your card. If you do show up and take advantage of the open bar and the painstakingly curated playlist just shut your mouth and enjoy the celebrations.

4. Do find a card that reflects the couple’s genders and gender expressions.

Greeting-card companies have started to figure out that same-sex couples exist, which is great, but those cards tend to be really gender-normative – like, they say, “Here come the brides!” or have a picture of two grooms in top hats and tuxes or whatever. That may not be relevant to the couple you’re celebrating, and you run the risk of making them uncomfortable by projecting gendered assumptions onto them. If you’re not sure, find a card with a picture that has nothing to do with attire or gender — maybe something with bells or a cake.

5. Don’t ask when or how the couple plans to have kids.

This is so presumptuous and unnecessary! Not every married couple wants children, and among those who do, the decisions surrounding becoming parents are often intensely personal, not something anyone wants to discuss over cocktails with 25 drunk second cousins.

6. Do expect to see alternatives to traditions at a Civil Partnership Ceremony

A lot of what we think of as traditions are based on heteronormative gender roles that simply don’t apply to most same-sex couples (or many straight couples, for that matter). Be prepared for some changes to the script. Maybe no one will be “given away.” Maybe there won’t be a mother-son dance or a bouquet toss. Don’t be weird about it!

7. Don’t say, “I can’t wait until you can do this for real!”

In QLD, we don’t have marriage equality – so for the time being, you will likely be attending a Civil Partnership Ceremony. But the sentiment is real. The couple is making a real commitment to each other and having a real party with their real friends and loved ones. Don’t disrespect them by treating their celebration as lesser because the government denies them the rights they deserve. In fact, try not to bring up the legal battles surrounding marriage equality at all, unless the couple does it first.

8. Do let the couple know you’re proud of them and happy for them and that you support their relationship.

By the time someone gets around to having a same-sex ceremony, they’ve probably been through a lot — from coming out to weathering discrimination. Life can be hard, and a ceremony isn’t just an excuse to buy some really fancy shoes; it’s a time when we all show up and promise to help each other through the hard parts. The love and support of friends and family members, the knowledge that your community cares about you and has your back, is the most precious gift any couple could ever receive.

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Writing your Wedding Vows

Want to know what makes a ceremony go from good to the best ever? It’s when I leave an emotionally charged ceremony abuzz with love and commitment. Because at that point, all I want to do is celebrate how awesome and in love you are.

This emotional charge comes from that moment when you declare your love for each other, your wedding vows.

You will remember your wedding vows forever, but they can be hard to write. I’ve pulled together a few examples below to help you get started.

I love you as you are, loving who you are now and who you are yet to become. I promise to listen to you and learn from you, to support you and accept your support. I want to  celebrate your triumphs and mourn your losses with you as though they were my own. I will love you and have faith in your love for me, through all our years and all that life may bring us.

I love you unconditionally and without hesitation. I vow to love you, encourage you, trust you, and respect you. As a family, we will create a home filled with learning, laughter, and compassion. I promise to work with you to foster and cherish a relationship of equality knowing that together we will build a life far better than either of us could imagine alone. Today, I choose you to be my husband/wife. I accept you as you are, and I offer myself in return. I will care for you, stand beside you, and share with you all of life’s adversities and all of its joys from this day forward, and all the days of my life.

I promise you that I will laugh with you in times of joy, and comfort you in times of sorrow. I will share in your dreams and support you as you strive to achieve your goals. I will listen to you with compassion and understanding, and speak to you with encouragement. Together, let us build a home filled with learning, laughter and light, shared freely with all who may live there. Let us be partners, friends and lovers, today and all of the days that follow.

I promise to laugh with you, cry with you, and grow with you. I will love you when we are together and when we are apart. I promise to support your dreams and to respect our differences, and to love you and be by your side through all the days and nights of our lives.

I promise to always be your biggest fan and your partner in crime. I promise to create and support a family with you, in a household filled with laughter, patience, understanding, and love. I vow not just to grow old together, but to grow together. I will love you faithfully through the difficult and the easy. What may come, I will always be there, each one believing that love never dies. As I have given you my hand to hold, so I give you my life to keep.

I choose to stand by your side and sleep in your arms.  To be joy to your heart and food for your soul. To learn with you and grow with you, even as time and life change us both. I promise to laugh with you in good times and struggle alongside you in bad times. I promise to respect you and cherish you as an individual, a partner, and an equal, knowing that we do not complete, but complement each other. May we have many adventures and grow old together.

I take you to be my husband/wife from this time onward, to join with you and to share all that is to come, to be your faithful husband/wife, to give and to receive, to speak and to listen, to inspire and to respond; a commitment made in love, kept in faith, and eternally made new.

Today I will marry you, my friend, the one I will live with, dream with, and love forever. I take you to be my husband/wife. From this day forward I will cherish you. I will look with joy down the path of our tomorrows, knowing we will walk it together side by side, hand in hand, and heart to heart.




 Planning  Civil Partnership Ceremony?

Important Tips for Same-Sex Couples

Celebrations require a lot of preparation and sometimes same-sex ceremonies require a bit more. There are some things you will want to take into consideration when planning your civil partnership ceremony that you hadn’t thought of before. But before you start all your planning, take a look at these great tips…

Forget Traditions

When planning your ceremony, forget what you may think “weddings” should look like. When it comes to your big day, do it your way. You can both walk down the aisle together, or do it one by one. With the right venue set up, you can also walk down separate aisles simultaneously, joining one another at the front. You don’t even have to have an alter – you can both be there ready to go from the beginning.

When it comes to attendants, don’t think for a moment that there’s one right way! Whether you have an odd number of attendants, a best woman or a man of honour, or keep your party gender-free, your party should be made up of the people you most want standing there besides you when you say your “I do”s. Some couples choose to not have a bridal party at all. Its really up to you!

Have the Right People By Your Side

When you and your partner are planning your guest list, you want to be sure to invite only people you really want at your big day. First and foremost, invite those who are most important to you. You may feel pressured to include distant family or friends of your parents but you can decide who is on your guest list.

When creating your guest list, keep in mind your budget. The more guests attending, the pricier the celebration. If you want to keep your guest list small but budget is not an issue, you may also consider a destination celebration, however keep in mind that this may prohibit some of the guests you do want there from attending.

 Find LGBTQI-Friendly Venues and Vendors

When searching for your perfect wedding venue, I recommend making it clear from the get-go that you are having a same-sex ceremony. Disclosing this information right away will make it so that you don’t waste your time trying to coordinate with anyone who is not for marriage equality. If you have specific vendors you are interested in, approach them first. If you are starting with a blank slate, perhaps do research on some of the most loved LGBTQ-friendly vendors in your area and definitely check out my friends here on my site.

What To Wear

When it comes to what to wear for your same-sex ceremony, there are no rules. Whether you are on the hunt for two wedding dresses or none, the most important thing is for you to feel comfortable and beautiful on your big day. Some couples like to coordinate their attire even if they don’t see the other’s before the wedding. This could mean coordinating ties, dress styles, colour schemes or lengths. Like all couples, you will want to start shopping early. This is especially true for woman who opt out of wearing a dress because sometimes the perfect outfit can be hard to find in stores.

Hens nights and buck’s parties

Hens and bucks and wedding showers are hetero traditions – but they are also a bucket load of fun!  In my experience, same-sex couples who are more settled tend not to have these parties, while couples that are starting out (and of typical marrying age) often do. Do whatever suits you regardless of the heteronormative traditions.

When to Plan Your Celebration

There are several factors that may help determine when in the year to have your event. Your guest count, location and your budget play huge roles in this decision. While off-season venues tend to save a lot of money, it can also make it more difficult for all of your guests to attend. Of course, there is also the option of planning your wedding around your favourite season.


The most important thing when planning your wedding is that it’s you. Don’t worry about any traditions. Enjoy having your closest friends and family beside you as you share this very special day with your beloved.

vanderRiet Oosthuizen Hannes Uys Photography