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 



Tales from a Covid-Bride

I’ve always dreamt about what my wedding day would look like. From a young age, I’ve had my Pinterest board adorned with white lace dresses, moody floral arrangements and almost too-good-to-eat cakes.

When I got engaged in January 2019, the dream became a reality and instead of pinning to my wedding board, I was able to start making enquiries and booking wedding vendors.

I’m a very organised person and like to know what’s happening at all times. So it only took my fiance and I a few months to lock in everything from the venue to entertainment, our photographer, celebrant and even my dress.

Ovollo Wolloomooloo Weddings
Ovolo Woolloomooloo - Dom & Florian's wedding venue (image by Fiona & Bobby)

And because I’m organised, I’d also already thought of what could go wrong in the lead up to, and on my wedding day. There were backup plans to my backup plan! But it’s difficult to preempt a global pandemic.

We were to marry on March 28th 2020. My fiance and I resigned from our jobs with exciting plans to move to Paris after the wedding. We would have our first year as newlyweds in the most romantic city in the world.

But March came around, and time started to tick by in super slow motion.

News of a flu-like bug exploding in China had seemed so insignificant to our wedding plans. But every couple of days, there was Scott Morrison appearing before us on our TV’s with news that Australia was not immune to Covid-19. We were told to brace for a total lifestyle overhaul.

I never thought an invisible bug would impact my wedding. Yet here we were. Our
prospects of achieving a wedding and moving abroad were getting slimmer by the day. My well laid plans in disarray. Cue random bursts of crying at the drop of a hat.

On the 20th of March, 8 days before our wedding, the Australian borders were closed to all international travellers. The announcement was expected so we already knew that some guests coming from overseas would no longer be able to attend our wedding.

Due to the travel ban, we had to chop around 20 people from our guest list. This meant having to reshuffle the seating plan and work with our venue to reorganise the space and catering.

The following day restrictions were set to 100 people - including venue staff and vendors.

Ovollo Woolloomooloo Wedding Venue
The Piper Room at Ovolo Woolloomooloo where Florian & Dom were to have their wedding reception. Image by Fiona & Bobby

Excluding our international attendees, we were expecting a total of 150 local guests. Uninviting 60 people was one of the most stressful and difficult moments of the entire wedding planning process. I come from a huge Italian and Spanish family. Invitees on my side alone were close to 100, plus all my fiance’s family and our combined friends. It was heartbreaking having to send out that message.

Our seven-piece band was stripped to a duo and we had to send one of the photographers home early. So many guests were incredibly understanding and some even volunteered up their spot to make more room. However, we did have a couple who weren’t impressed and haven’t spoken to me since receiving the un-invitation.

I lost count of the times I cut our guestlist and redid the seating plan. Over and over again, to try to make it work. Some days my fiance would come home to find me crawled up in the foetal position in different rooms around the house.

I was so frustrated about the entire situation and how helpless I felt in the middle of it all. I had looked forward to this day for my entire life and each week that passed saw that dream slip further out of reach.

I was annoyed at so many things I couldn’t change. I was annoyed at seeing photos posted to social media of those friends who squeezed in their wedding in the months earlier. I didn’t think I was a very jealous person, but the green-eyed monster made an appearance from time to time, leaving a path of hysterical crying and scrunched up seating plans in her path.

The week before the wedding saw the restrictions become even stricter with each venue requiring the square-metre rules enforced. With seven days between this new requirement and the wedding day, we decided our wedding was no longer looking like the day we had originally hoped or the one I dreamt of since I was a little girl. I don’t think I could have coped with the uncertainty looming over my head for another week so we made the call to postpone the wedding.

We informed our wedding reception venue and asked for available dates they had in
September for Fridays and Sundays (we knew Saturdays would have been snapped up
months beforehand). Once we were able to find a suitable date, we emailed our amazing wedding planner, Janet from J Event Design, who coordinated with our incredible vendors to lock in the new date.

J Event Design Florals Blue Room
Styling, florals & wedding planning by J Event Design

We had decided to get an on-the-day coordinator to ensure everything ran smoothly and found Janet through Wedlockers. I honestly can’t recommend a wedding planner/coordinator more highly. Janet became our go-to person, taking care of all vendors throughout this process. In hindsight, I’m not sure how I would have coped without a planner.

We had no issues reorganising with our wedding vendors. We didn’t want a refund from any of them because we planned to use their services, just at a later date. In the end, we only lost about $400 in the process, which came from the florist as she wasn’t able to cancel an order of imported roses. We had the roses delivered to our house to brighten up the place.

From the day we made the decision to postpone, it felt as if a weight had been lifted and I could finally think about something other than the wedding.

It’s funny when you find another couple who had to also reschedule their wedding as you both have a mutual understanding of the pain endured in the past few months. I recently had a job interview where I bonded with the interviewer over our shared misfortune and the heartache that we’d endured having to reschedule our wedding. I ended up getting the job!

I laugh when I hear of how stressful people found planning their wedding pre-covid, thinking I would plan three weddings in place of what I went through. It’s cute you were worried about your welcome sign, I had to get a whole new one! Complaining about the cost of posting thank you notes? Try sending out invitations twice!

I guess the most important lesson I took from all of this is whilst the wedding day itself is something so many dream of, more focus should be put on why you’re getting married in the first place.

My fiance was so incredibly supportive and loving during this time, wiping away tears and sending emails all over the place. It was a great exercise of throwing a couple into a high-pressure situation and seeing how they perform.

A message to all those Brides and Grooms who have had to reschedule - hang in there! We’re all in this together. One day we’ll have the fairytale wedding we’ve always dreamt of.

And for those who have friends going through planning during Covid, reach out and let them know you’re there for them. Offer to help or lend an ear for a rant or cry. These are unprecedented times and some days are harder than others, so a quick message checking in goes a long way.

As for me, I’ll be sitting with fingers (and toes) crossed that I can finally get married at the end of September.

You can follow Dom & Florian's wedding journey at The Girl From Sydney.

Cost of Styling Your Wedding

How much should you budget for styling your wedding?  Whether you intend to spend under $1,000 or more than $100k, there’s one sure way to keep costs under control, and that’s to understand the price of products & services up-front and where you can save money.

One of the most enjoyable parts of planning your wedding is nailing its look and feel. Poring over Pinterest, Instagram and Wedlockers will give you all the styling and theming ideas you could ever want - in fact, so many you're virtually guaranteed to be overwhelmed!

Will you have a boho wedding in a tipi? A destination wedding on a tropical beach? A VIP wedding in a museum? A rustic affair in a shearing shed? 

Planning your wedding style long before you have finalised your venue booking is the first step in achieving the look & feel you want for the budget you’ve got.  Because it is the venue that will determine the inclusions you need and the costs involved.

What does the wedding venue include?

Country wedding styling pricesIvory Lane Event Styling in country NSW.  Image: Feather & Birch Photography

A restaurant, hotel, function centre, resort or yacht/golf club will have the basic elements: chairs, tables, dance floor, table linen, table numbers, cutlery, crockery, and glasses. They may also have a range of centrepieces and/or vases, candle holders, AV equipment, and a podium, for example.

A dedicated wedding function centre may have all these items plus a chapel, chuppah, bridal dressing room, arch, signing table and/or aisle runner. They are used to dealing with couples: it’s their specialty. However, a wedding function centre may not offer much “wow-factor” or Instagrammability.

Why not organise a blank space venue?

A blank space venue gives you enormous flexibility and creativity to style the venue in whatever way you want. It’s unlikely your guests will have ever been there – and if they have, it will have been styled entirely differently. 

Imagine you want to get married in your parents’ garden in a marquee. A garden marquee wedding requires you to supply literally everything from the marquee and flooring and then everything inside, and outside as well (such as Portaloos and decking to protect your parents’ grass and your girlfriends’ heels from damage). 

An Indian-style Raj tent marquee for a 100-guest sit-down dinner costs $6,500 to hire on its own, excluding delivery and requires a perfectly flat grass lawn. The grass area needs to measure at least 28m x 4m or 14m x 8m to fit the marquee and its staked poles. Not many homes have that much garden space.

Warehouse wedding stylingWarehouse wedding styled by Upside Down Events in Sydney.  Image CJ Picture 

A "blank canvas" industrial warehouse provides the (concrete) floor and (exposed brick) walls and is inexpensive to hire - but again you need to bring in nearly all your event items. They are also located in, unsurprisingly, industrial areas. Consider if your guests (especially elderly guests) could be uncomfortable in a somewhat “gritty” location and the potential lack of taxis, Ubers, trains or buses.

Choose the best venue match for your wedding theme style

The ideal venue matches your style and offers many inclusions in the style you want. A mismatched venue requires more money and effort than one which is congruent with your style. 

It takes a lot of money and styling for example, to transform a surf club into a garden fantasy wonderland, to turn a city hotel function room into a boho escape, and to create a Hamptons style wedding at an Indian restaurant!

Your styling budget rises very quickly if you need to bring in furniture and structural elements to your venue to achieve the look you want.

Budgeting for event hire

Event hire and styling companies typically have very tight turnaround times (such as 60-90 minutes) to deliver, unpack and install your items before your wedding, and then very late return times of midnight-1am which attracts staff overtime rates.

You should include a delivery and installation fee of at least $1,000-$2,000 in your wedding styling budget.

Personalised Chairs wedding stylingPersonalized chair decals by Nikki Design Co.  Styled by Upside Down Events.  Image by Soul Made Stories. 

If your venue has generic function chairs (think grey or burgundy polyester oval-back chairs) which don’t evoke your theme – or no chairs at all such as with the garden marquee or warehouse venue – you will need to budget for chairs per guest.

The least expensive ones to hire are simple folding wooden chairs ($6-$8 per chairs). Glamorous Tiffany chairs typically run to $10-$15 each as do French bistro-style Bentwoods. You'll pay up to $24 per Victoria Ghost chair so if you have 100 guests your chair component alone can cost anywhere from $600-$2,400 excluding delivery.

Virtually all venues with existing furniture will have round banquet, or rectangular tables to make up communal tables. Both types are usually lightweight laminate-topped so they require tablecloths to make them presentable. However, table linen is typically restricted to white tablecloths and napkins; black table linen is less common.

Napkins provide a pop of colour and help theme your wedding. Coloured polyester or cotton napkins cost around $2.50 each while velvet napkins cost about $4 each to hire. Add around $250-$400 for napkin hire for 100 guests.

Centrepieces options

Wedding Styling and Costs
The Wedding & Event Creators at Secrets of Terara on the NSW South Coast.

Centrepieces are limited only by your imagination and your budget. They can comprise mercury glass compote bowls, mirror cubes topped with silver posy vases, crystal candelabras filled with coloured candles, glass dome cloches full of taxidermy, wooden troughs filled with pinecones, Moroccan star lanterns, blue and white Chinoiserie ginger jars, mini topiary trees, copper geometric terrariums, live goldfish in goldfish bowls, sunbleached driftwood, coral and shells, deer antlers, white pillar candles and foliage, potted maidenhair ferns, gleaming brass lanterns, glass trumpet vases with splayed white cherry blossom branches, infinity light glass boxes, amber fairy light cloches, gold cordless lamps – the list goes on and on.

On our 75cm deep communal wedding tables we had space only for submerged orchids in cylindrical vases. It’s a wise option for allergy sufferers (they can’t smell the florals’ fragrance underwater) and water creates an optical effect of enlarging the florals which gives you more bang for your buck floral-wise. Plain cylindrical vases, often hired as trios in tiered heights cost about $25-$30 per set. Allow for about $250-300 for a 10-table wedding excluding florals. 

Venues with towering ceilings, such as hotel ballrooms, require tall arrangements on guest tables to help absorb the space, to create drama and foster intimacy. 

You can hire gold metal stands (typically 100cm high at $35-$45 each) with florals arranged above, or faux trees of 150cm and taller ($400-$500 each). If you had 10 tables and wanted to alternate the tables, for visual interest and improving sightlines in the room, you'd be looking at $2,175-$2,725 before florals.

Centrepieces (including the florals) should measure under 30cm high or over 60cm. If centrepieces measure 30cm-60cm high which is eye level when sitting down, your guests cannot see each other across the table without leaning sideways. You don’t want your guests getting so irritated at their centrepiece they take it off the table!

Communal tables vs round tables

Event Hire Costs in MelbourneThis below-30cm-above-60cm centrepiece rule applies both to venues with round banquet tables and communal tables (including the bridal table).

There are advantages and disadvantages to using round vs communal tables. Round tables let guests speak equally with everyone on their table creating good feng shui (you’ll notice most Chinese restaurants have them) however they are more formal in style. Communal tables are faster for waitstaff to serve guests and easier for your photographer to shoot, however your guests are limited to speaking to those immediately opposite and adjacent.

Ensure your communal table is at least 100cm deep. With guests on both sides taking up to 40cm depth each for their plate (and charger plate if applicable), and water, wine and champagne glasses you have only 20cm for centrepieces. Typical centrepiece choices need to be narrow, such as a slim glass and mirrored trough filled with tealight candles, or a slender base such as the 100cm high x 100cm wide x 20cm deep gold metal frame which can be topped with candles, lanterns, vases, greenery or blooms well above the line of vision.

Allow about $5-$6 per guest for hiring gold wide stripe or glass beaded charger plates and $8-$10 per guest for hiring gold, iridescent, copper, black or rose gold cutlery (based on an entree fork and knife, dinner fork and knife and dessert spoon per guest). This will add $1,300-$1,600 for 100 guests.


M Event Hire StylingM Event Hire in Perth 

When are you getting married? If you specify non-seasonal florals, you will pay an exorbitant amount for flowers to be flown in specially. One option is to get acquainted with flowers that approximate each other in look. This gives you flexibility should Mother Nature decide not to supply your chosen blooms that week (which happened to me) and helps you achieve a similar style - sometimes at a lower cost. 

For example, the gorgeous, but overhyped (and expensive) peony, is available from October-November. Flowers which closely resemble the peony include the lisianthus and ranunculus (available year-round), and the David Austin Cabbage roses and Rosalind roses (available during peak wedding season which is October through May).

Chat with your florist about florals suitable for your venue. If you fear your summer wedding flowers could wilt in the heat, choose the hardy carnations, calla lilies, antheriums, amaranthus and phalaenopsis orchids.

If you're getting married outside, you may like to scent the air with fragrant tuberose, sweet pea or garden roses, all of which have the longest lasting scents.

Faux florals are generally cheaper than genuine flowers however you will be renting them from your florist so you will be charged for the hire pickup after the wedding.

For example, supplying peach and white roses, tropical foliage & green fillers, accompanied by white orchids & gypsophila for 10 guest tables, with a 10-person bridal table and a cake table, hiring 10 x 100cm gold metal stands for each guest table and 5 x gold metal cubes on the bridal table with a small posy for the cake table costs around $3,000-$3,500 while swapping to fully faux flowers and foliage costs $2,200-$2,700.

Your choice of venue will have a big impact on the cost of styling your wedding. A good venue choice can save you thousands, and so too can a great wedding planner & stylist!  Browse awesome wedding stylists and planners plus a huge range of wedding venues right here on Wedlockers.

This article was written by Elizabeth Hollingsworth from www.myeventdecor.com.au.  My Event Decor sell, hire & source bespoke decor for instagrammable weddings and other events in Melbourne. Cover Image by James Day Weddings











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