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 



64 Hunter Valley Wedding Venues

The Hunter Valley has a huge range of wedding venues and is one of Australia’s most popular wedding destinations.  From world class wineries, to picturesque farms, private acreage to exclusive retreats and luxury homes - whatever setting you envisage for your special day, there’s a wedding venue in the Hunter Valley that will suit perfectly.  Download our complete list of Hunter Valley wedding venues and start your search there.

Wedding Venues Hunter Valley

The Hunter Valley Region

The Hunter Valley is a well established wine region less than 2 hours drive north of Sydney.  It is well known for its lush vineyards, rolling green hills and peaceful countryside.  The picturesque area is a popular tourist hub all year round and an ideal wedding destination during any season.

There’s around 60 cellar doors in the region offering an impressive line-up of award winning wines to taste - and to serve at your wedding.   Wineries are the starting point of many things to do nearby, from sampling rare vintages to wine & cheese picnics, masterclasses, cooking courses, cycling tours, spa retreats and hot air balloon rides.  

An impressive calendar of local and international events are hosted in the Hunter Valley every year.  Popular annual events include Opera in the Vines, Jazz in the Vineyards and the Lovedale Long Lunch.  International musicians from a great array of genres frequent the region and there’s a regular line up of unique festivals from hot air ballooning to food, wine and weddings. 

Enzo Wedding Venue Hunter
Hunter Valley wedding venue Enzo.  Image: Popcorn Photography

The busy events schedule and fantastic facilities make the region well set up for destination weddings.  There’s a huge variety of accommodation available within close proximity to wedding venues.  Large weddings of 250+ guests are easily accommodated in the Hunter.  

Hunter Valley Weddings

There’s 60 wedding venues in the Hunter Valley that provide accommodation for couples onsite.  That means you can sleep at your wedding venue, get ready onsite in the morning and not have to travel anywhere after your reception.  About 50 wedding venues can also accommodate your bridal party onsite.  This makes the Hunter Valley a popular choice for weekend weddings, giving you time to relax and enjoy the company of your guests.

Because the area hosts many large international events every year there are wedding venues where larger guest lists can stay together in one place - onsite.  There’s 8 wineries and resorts that host wedding ceremonies and receptions that can also accommodate 80+ guests.  Another 12 wedding venues sleep from 30 to 60 guests. Some of these venues can be booked exclusively, making the entire property available for your private use.  

The Hunter Valley is an ideal destination for large and small weddings alike.  Around 40 venues provide intimate reception spaces that are suitable for micro weddings and elopements.  More than half of these wedding venues can accommodate your guest list for the weekend.


The Hunter Valley region is just shy of 30,000 square kilometers in size and offers a few different scenic landscapes.  Here’s a rundown of the region’s most popular wedding spots and the different backdrops they’ll provide for your celebrations.

Pokolbin Wedding Venues

Hunter Valley Wedding Venue Polkolbin

Pokolbin is the tourist centre of the Lower Hunter Valley.  Some of Australia’s most well known wineries and most impressive cellar doors are located along the scenic rural roads here.  Many transport operators provide bus and shuttle services in the area and you can also explore on hire bikes from tour operators.  Biking between wineries is a popular activity here and so some wedding venues also make bikes available with your booking.

There are 26 wedding venues located in Pokolbin and they cater for small elopements to weddings of up to 900 guests.  

Pokolbin has: 17 winery venues, 10 marquee venues, 5 BYO venues, 7 outdoor reception venues, 3 barn/sheds, 13 small & micro wedding venues and 20 venues that offer onsite accommodation sleeping from 8 to 100 guests.  There’s 8 properties that can be booked for your exclusive use that sleep between 8 to 80 guests.

If you’re looking for a wedding destination that offers easy logistics for you and your guests, Polkolbin is your spot.

Lovedale Wedding Venues

Wedding Venues Hunter Valley

Lovedale is famous for its wineries, ballooning, cycle and horseback adventures and the Lovedale Long Lunch - which is a two-day food & wine festival held every May.  The area is slightly quieter and smaller than Polkolbin and has more boutique style wineries where it’s the owner who provides the tastings and you’ll enjoy a more personal experience.

Fine food is an event to be enjoyed over and over again in this part of the Hunter and you’ll find cheese, olive and chocolate tastings at the various cellar doors.

Lovedale has: 6 winery venues, 5 BYO/DIY venues, a farm, 3 barn/shed venues, 4 garden venues and .  All Lovedale wedding venues provide accommodation onsite with most sleeping from 2 to 48 guests.  For larger weddings there’s the Crowne Plaza which has hundreds of rooms available.  

Lovedale is a pretty, vineyard dotted landscape with wide open green spaces.  It is best enjoyed from the air in one of the Hunter’s vast supply of hot air balloons or by a lazy horseback ride through the area’s many sprawling properties.

Broke Wedding Venues

Hunter Valley Wedding Venue Broke

Broke is one the Hunter Valley’s most tranquil pockets of countryside.  The air is fresh over the vineyards and kangaroos graze on the rolling green foothills of Broken Back Range - a world heritage wilderness.  Expect laid-back venues with spectacular views.  

Broke has 6 formal wedding venues and a number of private homes suitable for small weddings and elopements.  Broke venues include 3 wineries and 2 farms.  Three venues are BYO and 2 have suitable spaces for an outdoor wedding reception.

The average temperature from November to March is above 27 degrees.  The days can be very warm and the evenings beautifully balmy and perfect for enjoying your first dance as a married couple under the open sky.  The night air is perfectly clear here and the stars put on a spectacular show, and create a very romantic ambience.

Maitland Wedding Venues

Maitland is one of the Hunter Valley’s major centres with a population of 83,000.  It has a thriving food scene, some fabulous heritage buildings and a growing arts culture.  Maitland’s eclectic mix of historic landmarks and changing street murals make a fantastic backdrop for wedding photos and you’ll be afforded a great mix of shots for the album here!

Maitland has several heritage listed wedding venues (including a gaol) and some budget friendly options where you can BYO alcohol and catering.  It’s not as popular a destination for weddings as the other Hunter regions, but offers a fantastic background, moody DIY event spaces and is rich in culture and history.  Couples who get married in Maitland love the slightly eccentric vibe.  

Rothbury Wedding Venues

Hunter Valley Wedding and Elopement Venues
Hunter Valley Elopement Venue.  Image: Cavanagh Photography

Rothbury is a quiet country setting with abundant wildlife, native bushland and beautiful views of the Broken Back Range.  There’s plenty of accommodation in the area with Pokolbin and Lovedale not far away.

Rothbury wedding venues include 3 wineries, a barn, a marquee venue, garden settings for wedding ceremonies and onsite horse riding.  With a population of around 450 permanent locals, it’s a wonderfully peaceful and private location to get married.

Wollombi Wedding Venues

Wollombi Valley is often described as the gateway to the Hunter Valley.  It is a quaint little village with cafes, shops and a museum.  There’s also heritage listed churches, several wineries and cellar doors and a local pub.

Wedding venues in Wollombi include several DIY and BYO options with most venues offering Marquee style weddings and all providing accommodation for 12 to 30 guests.  Venues include a winery, 2 farms and 3 properties with barns or sheds.  Some venues are suitable for outdoor receptions and 4 offer complete privacy being well off the beaten track.

Wollombi is an adventure lovers ideal wedding destination with close access to dense and rugged bushland.  This is a place of unexplored wilderness, dangerous canyons, cliff climbing and abundant bird and wildlife.  Perhaps the perfect honeymoon destination for advanced bush walking enthusiasts.

Getting There

The Hunter Valley is an easy 1.5 hour drive from Sydney.  Trains can be taken to Maitland Station and flights land 30 minutes away in Newcastle which depart from many major cities in Australia. 

The Hunter Valley hosts many local and international events every year.  Concert dates can sometimes be announced less than 6 months out from the date and will consume a lot of the area’s accommodation.  So if you’re booking a wedding venue in the Hunter Valley, make sure your guests have their accommodation locked in well in advance.

Hunter Valley wedding venues are regularly in high demand.  You’ll want to enquire as early as possible (18 months in advance is ideal) to secure your preferred date with your preferred venue.  Start your search with our complete list of Hunter Valley Wedding Venues.  It’s free and includes venue capacity and onsite accommodation info plus a link to each venue for your convenience. Cover image: Margan Photography






Affordable Wedding Photographers in Sydney

There are plenty of affordable wedding photographers in Sydney, if you know where to look. As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for.  But wedding photography is a competitive industry and with a little hunting around you can get beautiful wedding photos without the standard price tag.

Let’s talk about what cheap means when it comes to wedding photography.  The average cost of wedding photography in Sydney and Melbourne is around $3,200 for 6 to 8 hours coverage and usually comes with a set of digital images.  Cheap wedding photography packages range from $500 to $3,500.

When searching for cheap wedding photography it’s helpful to know your budget, but also to clarify what style of product and service inclusions you’re hoping to get with your budget.  No two packages are the same when it comes to wedding photography.  Every photographer has a different style of shooting and produces different results.  They all have different packages too, so trying to understand what constitutes a 'great deal' is a somewhat inexact science.

Affordable Wedding Photographers Sydney

The two most important elements to consider when booking a wedding photographer is the style of their work and the service they will provide on your wedding day.  You want to love your wedding photos when you get them back so it's important to choose a photographer who produces images in a style that speaks to you.  The other part of the decision is whether you will enjoy spending your wedding day with this person, and whether you feel relaxed and happy around them. Because this will show in your images!  If you don’t like your photographer, there’s nothing surer than you won’t like your photos.

Instead of searching for a great deal, we always recommend setting a budget and then be flexible on the package inclusions.  Start your search by browsing images and shortlist photographers whose work you love.  Use our search filters to compare images side by side.  Then meet the photographers & identify which one or two you connect with best.  You can scale your hours of coverage up or down according to that photographer’s package prices.

Some couples find it helpful to consider the value for money they’re getting in terms of an hourly rate.  A high end photographer may create a cheap package of $2,500 for a client that includes 4 hours coverage.  Others may define a good value package as more like $2,500 for 12 hours coverage.  Our list of affordable wedding photographers in Sydney provides a good range of options at both ends of the hourly rate scale.

What’s a cheap wedding photography package?

Cheap Wedding Photographers in Sydney
Image by Sydney photographer Mr Wigley

With a budget of $1,000, the cheapest packages will include 4 to 6 hours coverage.  With $2,000 to spend you’ll find packages that include 8 to 10 hours coverage.  And if you’re looking for affordable wedding photography that isn’t bottom basement you’ll find some excellent value packages in the $2,500 - $3,500 price bracket.

For weddings on a tight budget, an option to consider is booking a ceremony + portraits package including just a few hours coverage.  There are plenty of wedding photographers that offer minimum packages of only 2 or 3 hours and for small intimate weddings, this may be all you need.

Deciding on a smaller photography package gives you a great choice of quality photographers in a more budget friendly price bracket.  You get the best of both worlds. 

Great quality at affordable prices

We’re lucky in Australia to have access to many internationally acclaimed photographers.  The ACT, central & south coasts of NSW, Sydney and Melbourne are particular hot spots for incredible wedding photographers.  

If beautiful imagery is important to you, and you’ve found yourself with a preference for high end photography but have a lower end budget, another option is to try enquiring with the high end photographers who reside outside of the main cities.  Their packages are often a little cheaper.  Explain a little about yourself and your wedding plans when you enquire.  Many of the country’s top photographers are motivated by great stories that they will enjoy telling through their lens.  You might find you can strike a mutually agreeable arrangement.

Bear in mind that top wedding photographers usually have a minimum package of at least 6 hours and sometimes require that their images are delivered in print.  This means that while you do get the digital files, you’ll also be required to pay for an album.  If your heart is set on having absolutely stunning images, you’ll need a minimum budget of $1,500 for limited coverage and $3,000 for ceremony + reception.  A budget of $4,000 opens up more options.

How to get a good quality wedding photographer for under $1,000

Affordable Wedding Photographers Sydney

If you’re getting married in your backyard and the total wedding budget is $5,000, you’re probably not wanting to invest in a ‘cheap’ wedding photography package at the $3,000 end of the scale.  Instead, you’ll be looking for the highest quality wedding photographer you can find for under $1,000.  

Wedding photographers are good peoples.  Not to generalise, but they tend to love a good love story and in particular - couples who struggle to keep their hands off each other.  As artists they enjoy challenging themselves to create stunning imagery and having an awesome couple with great chemistry and big smiles to work with, is a great start towards an awesome artwork.  You may find you have a little negotiating power.

Unlike large corporate businesses with fixed policies and pricing structures, wedding photographers often work alone and have more flexibility with packages.  Keep in mind that your master artist still needs to eat.  

You’ll find a couple of budget packages around $1,000 in our list of affordable wedding photographers in Sydney

Where to find cheap wedding photography

Affordable wedding photographers are often newly started businesses.  In Sydney, there are more than 1,000 wedding photographers operating at any one time.  The market is highly saturated and extremely competitive.  For new entrants into the market it can be difficult to find couples willing to entrust their wedding to them.  If photography isn’t your number one wedding priority, this could present an opportunity for you. There are always photographers looking for wedding experience who will offer you cheap, or sometimes even free, wedding photos.

If you’re thinking about booking a start up business, choosing a photographer with proven capability in another people-oriented genre may improve your chances of getting some great shots.  Sports and news photographers for example, may be a better choice than someone whose photography work usually involves static shots like real estate. 

Weddings are a unique environment and require a lot of quick thinking and reactive shooting.  If reaction shots are important to you (of your family and friends during the ceremony for example), you may want to opt for an experienced wedding photographer.  Ceremonies can sometimes be as short as 6 minutes so photographers must know what will happen next, when to move and where to be standing in order to capture the moment perfectly.  This requires experience.

Because Sydney is such a competitive marketplace for wedding photographers you may find that long-time established businesses offer excellent value for money.  Especially during periods of growth in the industry.

As new entrants come into the market with their shiny new websites and fancy social media accounts, demand can drop for established players.  These businesses have survived many ebbs and flows in demand by offering a consistently good product and service at reasonable prices.  If you find yourself on the receiving end of an offer from one of these photographers, it’s likely to be a deal well worth consideration.

To make your search easy, download our list of recommended affordable wedding photographers in Sydney.  It includes links to photographers who offer wedding packages between $500 - $2,500. You can also search all photographers on our website.  Use the filters to compare images side by side to find your favourites.

Cover Image by Mr Wigley Photography in Sydney.





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