Top 10 Unique Wedding Proposal Ideas

No matter how long you and your partner have been dating for, a marriage proposal is secretly, or not so secretly, on everybody’s minds. But maybe the bigger question to those who are planning on doing the proposing, is how do I make sure my wedding proposal is unique? 

From private to public affairs, extravagant and simple, the options for how to ask your partner are virtually endless.  Choosing a setting and scenario where you & your partner feel relaxed and happy is perhaps the most important criteria to get right - you want this moment to be a happy story that gets retold through the ages!

You don’t need to rewrite the rule book to create a meaningful and unique proposal.  Simply add your own particular style, likes and unique eccentricities as a couple to these top ten unique wedding proposal ideas. 

Top 10 Unique Proposal Ideas

1. On a bush walk

This first unique proposal idea is great for couples who include walking amongst their usual favourite activities. It might sound like a fairly ‘normal’ proposal idea, but there’s so many ways to add your own flavour to this one.

Choosing the right walk will be your first important decision.  Does your partner love to tackle an 8 hour grade 5 ascent that culminates in the pitching of a tent somewhere remote and sitting next to a campfire while the evening grows dark? Or are they more the casual meandering type?  Do they love oceanside walks that take in sections of beach where they can dip their toes in the water?  Would they love people to be around to witness this special moment, or prefer a secluded setting where you are left to revel together in solitude?  

Wedding Proposal Ideas
Unique beach proposal.  Image: Samuel White Photo 

Invite your partner to join you on a bushwalk, hike, or casual weekend stroll and surprise them by popping the question along the way. You can propose while at a lookout point, at the walk’s destination or at any random point along the way when your nerves have calmed and you can get the words out.

2. On a picnic

Everyone loves a picnic right? And there’s a thousand ways to take this simple, notoriously romantic idea and give it a unique-to-you proposal-ready upgrade. You can keep it ’tradish’ with a DIY rug and trusty wicker basket arrangement but amp it up on the location and food.  Is there a spot with special meaning to you both? The place you first met or a bucket-list location you’ve both been hoping to get to?  

This causal setting can be a private or public event depending on your location and whether you decide to invite some friends and family along to make this simple picnic proposal extra special. If you are torn between wanting to invite friends and family but still wanting it to be somewhat private, consider taking a small walk with your partner away from the group to pop the question in a more private moment before coming back to celebrate.

Unique Wedding Proposal PicnicsPlattier Food Artistry - Perth 

There are plenty of small picnic & styling businesses who will prepare a gorgeous setting in your chosen location.  Many will hire you rugs, arbors, low tables, dining tables, chairs, tableware and furnishings to create a truly one of a kind space that will give your picnic some serious wow factor.  They’ll set it all up and pack it down again, so all you need to do is arrive and do the asking.  Download a list of proposal specialists in your area.

3. At a photo shoot

There’s so many ways you can tailor this idea to create a unique proposal.  It’s also a great option if you want to keep the proposal a surprise until the very last minute.  Simply tell your partner you’ve organised a couples shoot for you both so you can put a picture of the both of you on your wall.  Or on Mum’s wall.  Or to send to your Great Aunt Audrey who lives in New Zealand.  Or simply for posterity. 

Choose a local wedding proposal photographer who will work with you to find a suitable location and plan.  Proposal photographers also offer the option of staying hidden out of sight, so you can capture the moment without your partner knowing. You can then surprise your fiance with the images on the morning of your wedding or in a slideshow at your wedding reception.  If you’re going for the hidden camera option, you could take your partner out for a day of taking pictures together at tourist spots or favourite places with your own camera.

Unique Surprise Wedding Proposals
Surprise Wedding Proposal - Photographed with Love 

If spontaneity is your vibe, nothing captures a surprised moment quite like a photo booth does. These vintage machines might be a little old fashioned but they’re super intimate and will produce the goods. Pull out the engagement ring halfway through your time inside and your reactions will be cemented in film until the end of time. 

4. Spell it out with your favourite photos

Sticking with the photo theme, this proposal idea is for those who love a creative project.  You’ll need plenty of time and a place to hide your project while you’re working on it.  

Grab some of your favourite photos and collate them into a photo album the kids and grandkids will love. You could even cut the photographs or shape them into the letters of “Will you Marry Me?” Alternatively, you could make a banner with the photos spelling out those famous words! This proposal idea is great for childhood sweethearts or couples who’ve known each other for several years.

5. A meal to remember

Those famous words “Will you Marry Me?” have never looked as good as they do when they’re delivered with your favourite edible goods.  And there’s no shortage of ways to turn this simple concept into a unique proposal idea.

In the food.  On the food.  In the drink.  Under the plate.  On the wine bottle…  You get the idea.  Write it, say it or bake it into - there’s so many ways to deliver the big question.

The where and who of this idea are the important things to decide.  Will it be a big dinner party with friends, family, parents and the neighbours?  Or a romantic candlelit dinner for two at home, at your favourite restaurant or the local lookout at the end of your street?

If you’re not a cook you can rope in some help with carrying out this one. Get an info pack about proposal organisers (how much they cost and what they provide) in your area! We guarantee your partner will love knowing that you’ve done something out of your comfort zone or skill set in order to propose!

6. Plan a scavenger hunt

This unique idea will appeal to fun loving, adventurous couples.  And you can dial the adventure up a notch by planning in a thrill seeking component that will get your excitement pumping before the main and final event.   

Lead your partner around your house, town or unique set of places that have relevance to your relationship.  Write clues and lead them along with questions, riddles, flowers and/or small gifts until they reach you or the final clue, containing the big question. 

Swap out the final clue for the ring. Or have the final destination on the beach with ‘Will you marry me’ written in the sand.  Or make the final destination a table for 2 at your favourite restaurant and make a crossword puzzle with the big question hidden inside to do together while you wait for your meals. 

Or go skydiving and propose in the air (if you’re a ninja) or when you land (if you’re a regular citizen). There’s no proposal idea quite as personalisable as the scavenger hunt. 

7. At a 'you' place

This simple proposal idea is memorable in the best kind of way. My Dad asked my Mum if she would marry him on a casual night out at a pub. It wasn’t memorable or special at the time, but now whenever we drive past it, my sister and I always remark to anyone and everyone that “that’s where my parent’s got engaged!” 

Is there somewhere you always go together?  Is there a place, or a sport or a hobby that you regularly enjoy together?  Anything that’s part of your together story can provide a great theme for a unique proposal that’s never been done before by anyone else.

8. With a nod to the arts

Unique Wedding Proposal
'Simple tends to be best with greater attention to fine detail.' Surprise proposal by Upside Down Events.  Image: In a Maze 

Attention readers, music enthusiasts, art appreciators, tv aficionados, movie lovers, poets and the like. Take inspiration from your art genre of choice and deliver a proposal that speaks of the volumes.  Think quotes, themes, famous scenes, voice impersonations, character parallels, tributes, innuendo and more.

For literature lovers, grab a copy of your partner’s favourite book and flip to a random page or it could even be a page with their favourite quote on it. Highlight the words or letters until it spells out the big question. 

Or memorise a favourite scene from a movie you both love and perform it for your partner.  Adjust the wording when you get to the climatic point and pop the big question in. Have fun with this one. Costumes optional.

9. At a big family dinner

If you and your partner are close with your families you may like to share this big moment with them by inviting them all around for dinner.

It’s up to you whether you let both families in on the surprise so that they all are ready for the big moment. Alternatively, you could leave the surprise for everyone to find out at the exact moment when your new fiancé does.

If a family event feels right for you and your partner, you may like to prepare not just the proposal for your partner, but a few words to engage everyone around the table.  Have the champagne on standby!

10. On a holiday or mini break

Unique Wedding Proposal Idea on Holiday
Unique Wedding Proposal with iconic backdrop Sydney Harbour - Photographed with Love

Some couples love to travel and if that’s you, what better, and more romantic time to pop the question?  

Your choice of timing and location is limitless.  There’s all the tourist places and activities like at a popular attraction, in a hot air balloon, at a famous landmark or in front of an iconic view.  Then there’s the intimate traveller moments like private dinners, sunset walks on the beach or atop an elephant in the jungle.

It doesn’t have to be an extravagant overseas holiday though, there are literally hundreds of spots that are perfect for a unique proposal right here in Australia.  It could be a weekend away up the coast or a road trip through your favourite country towns. If a destination wedding is a possibility, a proposal in that spot could make a wedding there that little bit more laced in meaning. The possibilities are endless!

Use these unique proposal ideas as a starting point for your own.  Popping the question is a very personal and intimate thing and there are an unlimited number of very simple ways to make it meaningful, special and unique to you both.  Choosing a simple idea from those listed above and injecting your personality into it will ensure your proposal is a moment you both treasure forever.

Cover Image: The Paper Fox 






12 Best NSW Wedding Destinations

Dreaming of a destination wedding with endless skies and cotton-puff clouds? An exquisite landscape as the backdrop to your special day? I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret secret: destination weddings don’t have to be far-off and exotic to be beautiful.

Your dream wedding destination might be right in our own Aussie backyard. Well, maybe not the backyard with the old Hills Hoist and the swimming pool. But the backyard with the wide blue sky and the blue-hazed gums and the exciting city-scapes and sparkling river ways. Oh, yes!

NSW is full of stunning locations for your destination wedding, from the sharp coastal glory of the sea and sky, to the sun-drenched regional inland towns, to the lush bushland and rainforests that stretch from one end of the state to the other. Whatever your style, whatever your preference, there’s a place to get married in New South Wales that will speak to your heart on your wedding day.

12 Best Destination Wedding Locations in NSW

1. Sydney

Sydney is a chameleon of a city, with a thousand locations and just as many moods.  It’s not difficult to find a wedding venue that offers all the good vibes and logistical ticks you’re looking for.  With plenty of nearby spots for wedding photos, the choices are huge.

Destination wedding location sydney
Wedding photos in The Rocks, Sydney.  Image: Florent Vidal Photography

Going for tradition and timelessness? The sandstone and waterfront backdrop of the Rocks is classic golden beauty. Want the gritty, funky feel of urban mod? Try one of the industrial, repurposed factories found hidden away on the city’s rim. 

Intimate and lively events can be booked in the many private rooms with views of the harbour.  There’s loads of private elopement and mini wedding venues in Sydney too.  Think historic pubs and award-winning restaurants. And if you’re looking for something a bit different there’s Luna Park or Taronga Zoo.

Sydney also has an excellent choice of eco-friendly, ethical, not-for-profit & pay-it-forward wedding venues. There’s all types of goodness in this grand and bustling city!

2. Hunter Valley

A mere two hours drive north of Sydney and close to Newcastle Airport, the Hunter Valley offers rolling hills, wide open green spaces and spectacular views across picturesque vineyards. 

Hunter Valley Destination Outdoor Wedding
Destination wedding at Bimbadgen Estate in the Hunter Valley.  Image: Cavanagh Photography

Wineries provide you and your wedding guests plenty to do.  Sample the fruits of the local land with a wine tasting tour on bicycles and enjoy the many world class restaurants on offer.  You can even explore the beautiful landscape from one of the region’s many hot air balloons.

There’s a huge choice of wedding venues in the Hunter Valley. It’s a great location for a long table wedding reception in the great outdoors and most farms and wineries have indoor options too.  Plenty of estates will offer a marquee wedding if you’d rather DIY or prefer to create a space in a less well-trodden location.

The region is familiar with weekend holiday makers and home to many international music & cultural events, so there’s plenty of private properties and other accommodation options available to house your guests before and after your wedding.  Find out more about Hunter Valley wedding venues.

3. Central Coast

The Central Coast boasts all the urban advantages of a city mingled with the softer, slower feel of the country. There’s some quirky destination wedding options here like the reptile park with native Australian crocodiles and Tassie devils for example. You can get married on a boat, at the beach, or in an old, converted factory.  The classic options are also available: restaurants, golf clubs, and hotels abound, and the garden gifted from the Japanese city of Edogawa is spectacular in any and every season. 

Central Coast destination wedding venue
Central Coast wedding ceremony at The Forest Chapel.  Image: IdleWild Creative 

A mere hour north of Sydney, the Central Coast offers the same long summer days and temperate evenings - without the urban price tag.  Accommodation is plentiful and affordable and your wedding guests will love the easy access to beautiful beaches.  There’s a great variety of wedding venues on the Central Coast and finding availability is often much easier than other wedding destinations.  

4. The Illawarra

An extremely popular location for destination weddings, the Illawarra region is all about fresh produce, farm life and the beautiful views out to the ocean.  There’s plenty of adventurous, fun, and active options for you and your guests, from hang-gliding down from Stanwell Tops to skydiving over the ocean. Kitesurfing and windsurfing are available for water-lovers and cyclists will enjoy the challenge of the Sydney-to-Gong ride. 

The Illawarra region features spectacular cliffside venues with ocean views, lush national parks, a vibrant food and arts scene, and the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere: Nan Tien Temple. Many wedding venues offer accommodation on-site, too, so your guests can celebrate through the night and sleep in come the morning. 

Popular wedding spots are Kiama, Gerringong and the area’s biggest city - Wollongong.  Make sure you enquire with wedding venues in the Illawarra early, as they book out months in advance thanks to the region’s gorgeous outlook and close proximity to Sydney.

5. Southern Highlands and Southern Tablelands

With over twenty townships in the region, the Southern Highlands and Southern Tablelands are two of the most popular places for destination weddings in Australia. These networks of small towns have spectacular old churches for your ceremony, all the classic venues for your wedding reception, and no shortage of accommodation or entertainment for your guests coming in from out of town. 

Destination Weddings Southern Highlands
The incredible Bendooley Estate in the Southern Highlands. 

Coffee trails, heritage trails, food trails, tucked-away museums about the region’s history, and art exhibitions will keep your wedding guests busy. Long Sunday drives are a popular event in this picturesque countryside which you can also enjoy with a cycling tour available through many of these tiny towns. It’s also a short drive to Kangaroo Valley, where wildlife-and-nature lovers will find some exciting wedding venues set in the native Australian bush.

Wedding venues in the Southern Highlands include some unique and fascinating properties.  There’s a book barn, farms, private golf course, heritage listed properties and places you can exclusively hire for the entire weekend.  Being an easy drive from both Sydney and Canberra, you’ll want to enquire with venues early - they’re regularly booked out 18 months in advance.

6. Riverina

Known as Australia’s Food Bowl, this destination wedding location is a must for foodie groups and wine-lovers. There’s award-winning wineries and breweries, locally-made cheese and chocolates and farmers’ markets bursting with fresh, local produce. The area is also an adventurous couple’s dream. The Murrumbidgee River runs through the region providing camping, fishing, hiking, and mountain-biking options for your entire guest list.

The largest town in the area, Wagga Wagga, has not only gorgeous gardens and parks for wedding ceremonies, but tranquil riverbank locations for you to exchange your vows. Just a couple of hours away lie the Snowy Mountains - Australia’s main alpine and ski resort - available for camping and stays through the summer. Accommodation is in high demand throughout the ski season.  

The beauty of the Riverina is guaranteed to provide an iconic Australian setting for your destination wedding. It’s also an affordable location and less busy than other holiday places in NSW.  Wedding venues in the Riverina tend to have better availability too, being slightly further afield from the larger cities.

7. Regional NSW

Regional Destination Wedding Location
Blue Wren near Mudgee has a beautifully modern, white canvas shed for your wedding reception + 5 bedroom farmhouse.

Head out west of the Great Dividing Range and NSW’s regional towns offer a broad spread of possibilities for your destination wedding. Bathurst has a cheerful and celebratory reputation from its Gold Rush heritage, aided and abetted by the yearly Bathurst 1000. If you enjoy car racing, Bathurst will certainly get your engine revving.  The town has several cute wedding venues and plenty of accommodation.

Orange is a quiet and dignified setting with crisp snowy winters and cool-climate wines. Mudgee is an international by-word for it’s wineries and farms. Meanwhile Tamworth revels in its title of ’Country Music Festival Capital Of Australia’, brassy-bold and full of laughter. Exchange your vows in the area’s world-heritage-listed Wollemi National Park, or at quirky boutique wineries. 

A short flight or a long and rolling drive from Sydney, Regional NSW offers a culture-rich wedding experience that will be enhanced in the knowledge that you’re supporting the much-needed tourism in an area that was not only badly affected by the bushfires of 2020 but also hit by the preceding years of drought. Following these events, regional areas were further affected when the Covid 19 virus put restrictions on travel and tourism. There’s a surprising number of great wedding venues in regional NSW should you feel inclined to lend these communities your support by bringing your wedding to town.

8. South Coast

Stunning beaches of endless white sand and cliff-top ocean views combine with bushland and coastal farmlands to provide a great range of South Coast wedding venues. Guests can kayak, snorkel, or scuba dive in the crystal clear waters around Jervis Bay, and animal lovers will delight in the opportunity to see dolphins, fur seals, penguins, and the annual whale migration. 

South Coast Destination wedding venues
Cupitts Winery & Brewery in popular tourist destination - Ulladulla.  Image: Translucent Photography

The area boasts all the choice in wedding venues you could ever want. There’s luxury resorts, glamping & festival-style venues, farms, wineries and boat houses. There are venues where you can book out an entire property for your wedding and DIY it all yourselves. There’s a great range of properties where your entire wedding party and guests can stay on location with you for the weekend. There’s small, intimate wedding venues for elopements and micro weddings. And there’s plenty of places where your international guests will love watching kangaroos in the early morning and late afternoon.

Whatever your pleasure, the South Coast has all the options.  Perhaps for this reason, it is one of the most popular wedding destinations in Australia.  Venues have limited availability 12 months in advance so if you want your pick of dates, you’ll need to enquire early.

9. Blue Mountains

Frosty air in the morning, magpies warble in the dawning,
Lookout ’cross the views: bush greens and sky blues,
Walking through Blue Mountains winterland!

World-famous for the Three Sisters, the Scenic Railway and Skyway, and the picturesque views off the long escarpment, the Blue Mountains region has opportunities galore when planning out your destination wedding. Hotels with hundred-year histories, private properties, quaint and quirky villages, and traditional pubs all provide venue possibilities, as well as activities and accommodation for your guests. For a truly unique destination wedding, a mere hour away from the main Blue Mountains township of Katoomba, you can be married in a stalactite-lined limestone cave.  Your guests can stay at the one hundred and twenty-three year old hotel nearby. 

Blue Mountains Destination for Weddings
Lithgow State Mine Heritage Park.  Image: Samantha Heather

The Blue Mountains is a popular tourist location so there’s no shortage of activities to engage your guests here.  They’ll love the bushwalking, mountain bike riding, birdwatching, shopping and learning about the rich history of the region - but beware! Certain times of year are considerably busier than others. Avoid from Christmas through to early in the New Year, as well as the Easter Long Weekend.

Wedding venues in the Blue Mountains include quaint restaurants, heritage listed buildings, state mine railway, Air Bnb’s and some fabulous spa retreats and resorts.  Winter weddings are likely to enjoy snow and the area enjoys beautiful evening temperatures in summer.  

10. North Coast

For the free-footed souls seeking a wedding destination that reflects their life style, the North Coast has everything from beaches of surf, sun, and glittering white sand, to walking trails through national parks that overlook the ocean.  There’s lots of beautiful private places for small and secluded weddings & elopements. 

If the great outdoors isn’t your style, there are luxury yoga retreats and eco-resorts, oceanfront and riverfront resorts, and plenty of venues tucked in the towns off the long and winding highway headed up to the Queensland border. Spot humpback whales off the coast from May to November, dolphins in the ocean in the spring, and koalas in the gumtrees all year round. 

Wedding venues on the NSW North Coast include several budget options that provide flexibility for DIY and BYO events. Demand isn’t as intense in some spots along the north coast so it’s a great place research waterfront venues.

11. Byron Bay and Surrounds

The easternmost region of mainland Australia has not only a fantastic ocean outlook, but a classy vibe - perfect if you’re a sophisticate looking for buzz and boutique. The warm weather lends itself to the glamour and romance of an evening wedding and the views make a dazzling backdrop to your wedding day. Whether you choose the long haze of the ocean horizon or the rolling hills of the hinterlands, you can not find a venue that doesn’t offer one of the country’s most beautiful wedding backdrops.

Destination Wedding Location Byron Bay
Beautiful views from Ardeena Events in the far North Coast region.  Image: Janneke Storm

Wedding venues in Byron Bay and its surrounding country towns include boutique hotels, weekend retreats and high end large AirBnB’s.  Kayaking, following coastal trails, shopping, dining, celebrity spotting and mingling down on the beach are highlights of this popular tourist haven. The area is a foodie’s paradise, considerate of vegans, vegetarians, and people with specific dietary requirements. 

12. Off the Beaten Track

And if you don’t particularly want to hold your destination wedding somewhere everywhere else has been, NSW is some 800,000 square kilometers of sun-washed land, and has any number of places to get away from the well-worn routes. Find an off-the-beaten-track wedding venue that suits you, whether an eco lodge deeply set in rainforest, a farmstay out beneath the sparkling night sky, or campsite out in the National parks.

Ultimately, NSW has plenty of stunning wedding destinations with world class views and excellent service. From high end luxury to affordable and fun, you’ll find a perfect destination wedding venue in NSW.  










Louder than words: The potent “hidden” messages your wedding ceremony can send

What will your wedding tell your guests about you? Your (Brilliant) Style. Your (Excellent) Taste. Your (Perfect) Day. This is why you are spending months and months planning The. Best. Day. Ever. 

As the saying goes, the little things are the big things. In weddings, subtle messages sent by both actions and words speak volumes about your relationship. Whether accurate or inaccurate, subtle “hidden” messages can influence the way your relationship is perceived and the marriage itself.

A wise person once said that the subconscious can’t take a joke. Messages we aren’t aware of do influence our expectations. And nowhere more true than when it comes to perception of who we can be and what we can expect to have in life, and in marriage. Traditional marriage ceremonies send powerful messages about power differences between the couple.

In everyday life, gender role stereotypes have been reinforced forever by messages that are subtle and hidden, until we become aware of them. We often fail to notice them. But when we do, Pow! It changes everything.

In a traditional wedding the messages are clear. It’s the bride’s day, but it is the husband’s marriage. However equal your relationship. However modern you are as a couple. That is the subtle message your guests will be getting, sometimes through body language and choreography, sometimes through the words your celebrant uses, sometimes through the words you use.

It doesn’t need to be that way. Without making any radical changes that will be obvious, you can send a very different message.

Disclaimer and Disclosure

This blog post is addressed to brides and focused on heterosexual ceremonies for one simple reason. Traditional wedding ceremonies reinforce husband-wife role stereotypes that were the way of the world way back in mediaeval times. Granted, in response to pressure from feminists, some churches have stopped making the bride promise to obey, virtually nothing else has changed. 

Whether you are two brides, two grooms, or a bride and groom, what follows is relevant. Even the choreography of the traditional ceremony is loaded.

Let me put that in context. Remember when you picked that a couple was on together before they’ve made anything public? You picked up subtle clues from the way they interact, perhaps the way they look at one another, or the way they talk to or about one another. You couldn’t put your finger on it. Your conscious brain didn’t process it. But you just knew. 

Your wedding ceremony sets the scene for your marriage.  It also sends subtle messages and cues about your relationship to your guests.  So let’s look at the various parts of a traditional ceremony and the simple changes that send instead, a message of equality.

Expressing your values in your processional

Your father walks you down the aisle, your hand lovingly tucked into the crook of his arm. You get to the top of the aisle, your groom steps forward, and shakes your father’s hand. And then your father takes your hand and puts it into your groom’s hand. Celebrants often refer to this as the handover. A transaction has just taken place. A clear message has been sent. She’s your property now.

Equality wedding ceremonies
I come to this marriage of my own free will.  Image: Daisy & The Duke

Rewind: Your mother and father walk you down the aisle. You get to the top of the aisle. You kiss both of them and then walk towards your groom, who has stepped forward to meet you. Together, walking as equals, you move into place to join your wedding party and your celebrant so that the ceremony can begin. The subliminal message is quite different.  Both of my parents support my choice. I come to this marriage of my own free will as an independent modern woman. Our marriage will be a marriage of equals.

Expressing your values in your parents affirmation of your marriage

The celebrant asks, Who gives this woman to be married to this man? And your father answers, I do. Implying property rights 

Rewind:The celebrant addresses both sets of parents by name, asking whether you come to be married with their blessing and support. This sends a clear message.

Expressing your values in your choice of music

Music plays a significant role in weddings. It sets the tone for the ceremony from the first note announcing the start of the processional. You only have to hear the first few notes of Here Comes the Bride (Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin by Richard Wagner to a) recognise it and b) sit up that little straighter for the entrance of the bride. Not that many couples choose it now. And that’s terrific. It has been done to death, so it sends the message that a predictable ceremony is about to follow. Heads-up to the guests to zone out! Given its popularity, as an instrumental piece you wouldn’t expect a hidden, negative message about marriage. But it is there in the words. In the opera it is sung to celebrate a very short-lived doomed marriage.

On the other hand, when the music is more contemporary, every now and then I stand up the front trying to keep a straight face. Just because it’s a favourite song doesn’t mean to say it’s a good choice. Please, please, please, listen to all of the lyrics and think about the message they will be sending about your relationship.

“It's a beautiful night, we're looking for something dumb to do … Who cares if we're trashed”. (Marry You – Bruno Mars) gets my top vote for unfortunate choice.

And then there is what I call the Stalker’s Anthem – Every breath you take (I’ll be watching you).

Expressing your values in your choice of readings

In a Christian marriage ceremony three readings are mandatory. All from the Bible. You must choose from a small number of preselected passages from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Epistles. Not difficult, but tricky if you’re a modern couple because you could be tripped up by embedded gender role stereotypes about wives being subservient. 

In a civil ceremony you decide whether you want to include any readings in your ceremony. You are free to choose from literally millions of poems and passages of poetic prose. You are not limited to popular readings, many of which are not great choices because they come across as a lecture about how to run your relationship or can reinforce outmoded ideas about marriage. 

What you choose speaks volumes about who you are as a couple, what your values are, and what you expect for and from your marriage. Your celebrant should be able to help you find the perfect reading with a contemporary take on marriage.

Expressing your values in your vows

Wedding Ceremony Vows
Image: Evernew Studio at High Church, Brisbane 

Most “guides” about writing vows stress that they should be funny and romantic and suggest that you write individual vows (and possibly keep them secret) but miss the point that your vows are your (agreed) performance targets for your marriage.

You read your vows. Groom first. His are short. He says a couple of romantic things and promises to take care of you and let you follow your dreams. Yours follow the guidelines you’ve read. You recount how you met, what attracted you, how he makes you feel. You promise. To always make him his favourite chocolate cake. To barrack for his team. And so on.

Rewind: As with everything else you’ve spent a great deal of time negotiating your relationship and what you both want for your marriage. So you’ve worked hard on creating a shared vow that expresses your commitment to one another and lays out your agreed blueprint for your marriage. Having each said the legal words that are required to create your marriage, in unison you make your promises. 

Expressing your values in your kiss

And now comes the high-point, the climax of the ceremony. 

The celebrant declares that you are married, turns to your groom, and says, You may kiss your (beautiful) bride. And he does. Of course, the subtext to that is never spoken. Whether she wants you to or not. A powerful message of power and ownership, has been sent, unchanged from the days when brides were traded for strategic advantage.

Rewind: Your celebrant declares that you are married and invites you both to seal your vows and celebrate your marriage with your first kiss as a married couple. You move towards one another to do so, sending a message about your equal relationship.

Expressing your values in the recessional

Wedding Ceremony Personal
The wedding ceremony recessional.  Image: Nak Photography

You’ve kissed, signed, and now you’re ready to make your way back up the aisle. Off you go at a brisk pace, followed by your bridesmaids and groomsmen. The guests follow, leaving your parents to exit last. It is quite a while before they can get close enough to congratulate you.

Rewind: You’ve kissed, signed, and start to make your way back up the aisle. You move first to greet your parents. Hugs, kisses, thank yous. You invite them to walk out immediately behind you. Your mother escorted by his father. Your father escorted by his mother. Bridesmaids and groomsmen behind them. You start down the aisle. You amble. You hug, kiss, high-five guests along the way. You pause in the middle of the aisle to share another kiss. The photographs capture you surrounded by happy guests with your parents visible behind you.

The Payoff

Once you are aware of the possibility, it is easy to identify where the messages your ceremony may send could be at odds with the reality of your relationship and your intentions for your marriage. They jump out at you. Making sure they are positive will make a world of difference.

This article was written by Brisbane based celebrant Jennifer Cram.  Cover image: Nak Photography

Jennifer Cram 



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