Simple easy service by one of Canberra's most experienced celebrants. Your best alternative to a Registry Office wedding - all for $600.

05 November 2015

Welcoming the world to marry in Canberra

Hello, and welcome.
Jimena (born in Colombia, South America) and Luke (born in ACT Australia)
married on the second day of Spring  under the pine trees in Nara Peace Park,
then celebrated with a gourmet picnic.

It's a particularly glorious spring this year in our nation's beautiful capital. 
     Living in Canberra is like living in an enormous park. Even in the newest suburbs - and Canberra is expanding rapidly - advanced trees are planted in new streets by our nature-conscious local government, usually before the houses are built.
      You may be a local reading this and you may be wondering why I'm spelling out that Canberra is our nation's capital. It's a cause of surprise and delight for me when I see Google's analytics and notice how many people in how many different countries are reading this blog.
Gabby and Dan
mid-October 2012
     Mars and Jenny live in Shanghai in China. Their friends Dan and Gabby, who are living here in Canberra, were married in the Heart Garden in the spring of 2012. 
     Mars saw their wedding photos but also visited the garden's blog There's a menu there for twelve slideshows. They show how the garden looks in each month of the year. 
     Jenny and Mars loved the garden images and chose early October. October is mid-spring in our hemisphere.
     I've imported these links for monthly slideshows into my Pinterest account to make access to them easier. There's a Visit Site button top left on the cover photo for each month. Also, I've rekindled my interest in Instagram. It's been fun collecting beautiful images lately as I walk around the garden with my phone and quickly upload them to share.    
     Early last month, Jenny and Mars flew to Canberra to marry in the Heart Garden. The day before their wedding, we had a meeting together. The day after their wedding, they flew back to Shanghai. 
Jenny walks along the garden path to join her groom, Mars.
They have flown from China to marry in the Heart Garden.
How extraordinarily special is this?!
4 October 2015
Getting married in Australia
     There are no residency requirements for getting married in Australia. The Australian Marriage Act of 1961 applies in all states and in both the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
     Your celebrant (or church) does all the preparation for your marriage, not the government registry. (The exception here is for marriages that actually take place at a government registry office.) 
     In ACT we have no registry office weddings. Couples must choose a private civil celebrant for a simple registry-style wedding, or marry in church.
      Like all couples in Australia, couples coming from overseas must lodge their Notice of Intended Marriage with their chosen celebrant at least one month before the wedding date.
This can be done by scan and email. (Or by airmail.)
Mars and Jenny, married, 
and displaying with 
pleasure, their
marriage certificate.
     Documents proving date and place of birth must be sighted by the celebrant before the marriage can take place. As well, official evidence must be sighted of how previous marriage/s ended, if this applies. If a scan from overseas has been used for the lodging of the Notice, then the original must be given to the celebrant before the wedding.
     After the wedding, as with all marriages in Australia, the celebrant sends the paperwork to the local registry for registration of the marriage. No copies of private papers (such as passport scans) are kept by the celebrant, nor the Registrar. 
     A marriage in Australia becomes completely legal during the marriage ceremony and not with the signing of the certificates. This means that if anything happens to the paperwork, the legality of the marriage is not effected.
     There are three certificates of marriage altogether. Every couple takes home with them, a personal marriage certificate, which documents the details of the marriage that's just taken place. I always fill out this attractive certificate in a font that's been chosen by the couple during our meeting.
Just married.  Late October 2015
Extremely happy couple Jayne and Cameron with their
personal marriage certificate. It's been printed
in the font of their choice.
     The celebrant keeps one certificate and one certificate is sent to the Registrar in the local territory or state for registration. Even though the one to the Registrar is commonly called the 'official' certificate, all three certificates are of course, legitimate legal documents. 
     After their marriage, couples overseas, just like local couples, can apply online to the Registry Office for what's called a 'full marriage certificate'. This will record the information from the official certificate sent in by the celebrant. It will also have a registration number on it. (You will pay the Registry Office for this certificate.)
My first attempt at
an infographic has
been lots of fun. But way
too time-consuming!
(I used Canva. It's a free
design site.)
     When I refer to paperwork sent to the registrar by the celebrant after the wedding, I'm referring to the Official Certificate of Marriage and the Notice of Intended Marriage. If the couple needed an interpreter during the ceremony, as Jenny and Mars did, then the Interpreter's Certificate is also sent to the Registrar.
     Mars's good friend Dan was interpreter for him and Jenny. The interpreter does not need to be professional, however they must declare competency in both languages. In this case it was Mandarin (Shanghai-ese) and English (Aussie-style).
     Of the sixteen weddings already where I've been celebrant this spring, ten were hosted in my garden. The brides and grooms had many different origins - Australia, Malaysia, Ghana, China, South Korea, Scotland, the Philippines, India and France. My magical garden is truly a place for uniting nations!
Aussie husband Justin shares
another kiss with his lovely
French wife, Lolita.
16 October 2015
     In a recent facebook post, I uploaded photos of the wedding of Susana and Edmund, both born in Ghana. After a long pre-marriage visa process, they married as soon as Edmund arrived in Oz. On Friday October 16, Lolita from France married Justin who was born in Australia. A very simple ceremony was exactly what they wanted. (A simple service is printed on just one A4 page!)

     Simply beautiful 
     and beautifully simple . . . . . 
     This is my description of a wedding in my Heart Garden. If this style of wedding feels just right for you, you’ll be so welcome to marry in my garden. (There is no extra fee for marrying in the Heart Garden.)
     If you’d like a beautifully simple wedding in another lovely location, I’d be delighted to join you there.
     If you’d like a longer ceremony, perhaps with added vows and readings, then you may choose my full service. There’s a detailed PDF here. (If you have trouble opening this, please email or phone me and I'll send you a copy.)
     I’d love to help you craft a unique wedding ceremony that expresses your individual personalities, along with what you both want as a couple. As well as being a civil marriage celebrant, I'm a published writer. My degree is in English and psychology. I used to have a weekly column called 'Good Thinking' in a local newspaper and I’ve had several articles published online. (At ezine articles I’ve been granted ‘Expert Writer’ status in two wellbeing categories.)
Dolly (born in the Philippines) enters the Heart Garden with her son for her marriage to Alan.
Such a joyful wedding, in peaceful and private surroundings.
8 October 2015
Dolly enjoys the scent of  √álematis Montant √Čliza'beth
     Heart Garden weddings are for couples with eight guests or so, and are only held on weekdays. I'm available however for long and short weddings, at any location at any time, on any day, for any number of guests. I've been to weddings at sunrise and also at suppertime. And I'm happy to travel.

     If you’re planning to marry, my congratulations to you both!

     My fees are in my Wedding Pages, along with lots of other information about getting married. There's a collection of reviews as well. If you're reading this blog on your mobile, there's a tiny MENU button (or icon) above this post. It will take you to all my Wedding Pages.
     If you enjoy looking at wedding photos - as I do - there's an extensive slideshow in my sidebar, along with other features. You may need to look for this on a tablet, laptop or desktop as I can't see it anywhere on my android phone.
     If you’d like me to be your celebrant, I’d love to be there for you. With a booking, or simply an enquiry, please phone or text me on 0406 376 375 any day between 9am and 9pm. If I miss your call, it’s probably because I’m totally absorbed in working in the garden! I’ll call you back as soon as I get your message.
     Or you can fill in the email contact form here and I’ll soon respond by phone or email. Perhaps you'd like us to have a video chat on Skype before you make your decision? That's fine with me too. 
     I hope your final choice of marriage celebrant is me :)

The Heart Garden in mid-Spring 2015

01 June 2015

Canberra’s Top Ten Wedding Venues for 2014 – Guess What’s Number Five!

Tegan arrives for her marriage
with Steve
The Heart Garden
8 May 2015
Hello, and welcome
     Did you happen to see an article in the Canberra Times recently about the Ten Top Canberra Wedding Venues for 2014? And did you happen to notice which place came in at Number 5? My beautiful romantic Heart Garden! I was absolutely amazed, and absolutely delighted. It was ahead of the Hyatt, and St John's Church in Reid. There were more weddings in my Heart Garden last year than at Nara Park. Who'd have guessed it? Certainly not me.

Getting married in winter
     It’s the first day of winter in our nation’s capital and it’s a typical Canberra winter day already. Crystal clear, sunny and icy! 
     I didn’t really feel like going out into the garden from our snug warm house but then I reminded myself how very special today is for the couple who will come to marry in the garden at 2pm. (At their request, no mention of names.) Thinking of them made it easy for me to rug up and be out the door, ready to plant some new flowers and spend some hours sprucing the garden up to look its best.
     At this time of year, Heart Garden wedding ceremonies are often held in my green room, with the bride and groom standing in the bay window. Often the signing table’s in the green room as well, but if the weather’s sunny, still and warm enough, we sign in the garden. Celebration drinks and photos usually take place in the garden, with everyone warmly clad.
     Today at 2 o'clock the sun was shining and the air had warmed a lot. We had the ceremony in the garden, with bride and groom standing in front of a huge ‘guelder rose’ viburnum, still resplendent with golden autumn leaves. The winter-flowering apricot tree is in flower already and its pink blossom-laden branches stretch far out over the lawn.
Cindy and Billy married in the green room in July last year,
then had celebration drinks and photos in the garden.
Simply beautiful and beautifully simple
     I didn’t set out to specialise in small registry-style weddings, it just evolved that way. I set up this service in about 1997 when the ACT Registry Office closed its wedding room and moved to Fyshwick. Since then, registry-style weekday weddings in my large, peaceful romantic garden have become extremely popular. I enjoy the intimacy of these weddings. They’re perfect for couples who want to avoid a lot of stress and fuss. And expense. I describe this popular wedding option as 'simply beautiful and beautifully simple'.
Luke and Cassandra - happy newlyweds under the winter-flowering apricot
Friday 13 June 2014
Here are some circumstances for a registry office style wedding
  •      Bride and groom have been married before (to other partners). They just want a simple legal recognition and celebration of their relationship together.
  •      The couples has already created for themselves, a personal ceremony in which they made heart-to-heart commitments to each other, but it was not a legal wedding. For instance, they may have made their vows on a beach in Bali, or simply in their own home.
  •      The couple is having a big wedding overseas and getting legally married in Australia first (or after) is a much simpler option. I recall a bride and groom who had married in a huge, successful wedding in China with her family and community. They were planning another big traditional wedding in India in the new year, with his family and community. When they married in the peace and tranquility of the Heart Garden, with just one witness each, they looked so relaxed and contented. ‘This is just for us’ they said. They couldn’t stop smiling.
  •      Sometimes couples who have been together for a while, find they are being posted with work to a location where marriage is expected, such as Dubai. Even though they have a very low-key wedding, it’s still a memorable event. Each year from then, it’s still a cause for celebration.
  •      There may be a baby on the way and the parents want to formalise their relationship and have a celebration while they're still able to focus on a wedding.
  •      Sometimes people who love each other dearly simply want to elope. A private, secret Heart Garden wedding is the perfect plan.
     From my vast experience with small simple (but still special) weddings, I have worked out a way to streamline the pre-wedding process. I can also help couples marry exactly one month after they first make contact with me by phone or email. (One month is the minimum time required by law after lodging a Notice of Intended Marriage with any civil celebrant or church in Australia.)
Looking very pleased - Jacinda and Antonio married at
Redbrow Gardens in Murrumbateman on May 9 this year.
I love weddings, big and small
     I’d love to be your celebrant, whatever sized wedding you choose. I will travel to any location in the ACT or surrounding NSW (or further, if needed). I am available for weddings every day of the week. I’ve had a couple of dawn weddings and also some around supper time when the party was already underway. I’ve married couples in their family room, in their lounge room, sitting on their backsteps.
     I’ve been at grand formal weddings (like one in the Senate chamber of Old Parliament House) as well as casual parties, where I’ve been invited to stay and dance. I’ve had several weddings in balloons, flying over Lake Burley Griffin. You can tell from this I hope, that I'm really flexible with when and where. 
     Your wedding is your choice. There are requirements of the Marriage Act which have to be included. These are of course, important. They need to be taken seriously but they don’t need to be a feature. As a writer I can help you blend the legalities into your wording and still keep your ceremony very personal and unique. I will deliver even the simplest one-page ceremony with heart.
Nellie and Truong married amidst the roses
Old Parliament House Rose Gardens 13 April 2015
     You can contact me by email here, or with this email contact form. Or phone or text me any day between 9 and 9 on 0406 376 375. We can talk on Skype if you like, with or without video. I’d love to help you make your wedding plans come to life in just the way you wish.


18 March 2015

A special wedding place goes public and an old classic makes a come-back

First Heart Garden wedding for 2015.
Elyse and Romulus treasure their certificate.
Friday 2 January
Hello, and welcome
    In this post, I write about Fetherston Gardens for the first time and give the Hotel Kurrajong a new mention.

Fetherston Gardens is a large, generous romantic 1970s style garden

     Fetherston Gardens is a flourishing informal public park, comprising several gardens. It's in Heysen Street Weston, between the Police Services Centre and Fetherston Ridge, up near the Parkway. 
     This lovely local treasure has been a sort-of well-kept secret for the many volunteers who co-work with TAMS (Territory and Municipal Services) to make and keep these gardens beautiful. I am one of those fortunate volunteers. Three years of TLC have restored Fetherston Gardens to their former glory. They used to be a teaching garden for the CIT (then called TAFE). They are named after my wonderful friend, gardening teacher and art teacher, Tony Fetherston. 

Fetherston Gardens, Weston ACT  15 February 2015
     The word has spread. An Open Day in late February, organised by Defence Housing, which neighbours the gardens on Fetherston Ridge, brought many hundreds of visitors. 
     Just two blocks away from my own Heart Garden, this generous public venue is open seven days a week and it's free for all. I'm sure it will continue to get lovelier and lovelier.
     Fetherston Gardens has several settings suitable for weddings, from a small group to a large crowd. As yet, there are no covered areas or public toilets. Bookings can be made through TAMS. I'm really looking forward to being celebrant at weddings there.

The restoration of the Hotel Kurrajong in Barton
     My friend Christine Salins has a really interesting and wide-ranging blog about travel, wine and food. A recent post about Canberra drew to my attention: The restoration of the Hotel Kurrajong in Barton.
Hotel Kurrajong, TFE Hotels, where to stay in Canberra, best Canberra hotels, food wine travel, Christine Salins.
     I've been celebrant at several weddings at the Kurrajong over the years and always enjoyed its quiet charm.  I especially like the way they roll out the red carpet for the entrance of the bride.
     I haven't seen the renovation but Christine's blog talks of a thorough, thoughtful upgrade in the style of the hotel's glory days.
     This would be a superb venue if you're planning a retro wedding. It's not on the free list of course, like Fetherston Gardens (or my Heart Garden) but if the budget allows, it's a wonderful setting for hosting a modern-day or olden-day wedding in our nation's splendid capital. If the walls could talk, they'd tell so many stories I'm sure, of extraordinary events when politicians (including one prime minister) made this grand old place their home-away-from-home.

To marry in the Heart Garden
     During a long restful break in January, I actually got to spend many hours in parts of my glorious garden that couples and their guests never get to see, With several weddings booked in autumn, my focus is now totally back on making the wedding area look cared-for, colourful and welcoming.
     Would you like to marry in the Heart Garden?
Just married!
Alice and Aaron.
Wednesday March 11
       On the sunny lawn or under the shade of the wisteria pergola, you'd be so welcome to have your small weekday wedding in my garden. Like Fetherston Gardens, its style is rambling, rustic and 1970s romantic. It's peaceful and private, with a very friendly feel. Children are welcome.
Jessica and Michael married on
Wednesday 4 March.
Such a peaceful, happy day!
     Linger for celebration drinks and lots of photos if you wish. You bring the bubbly, I bring out the crystal glasses.
     The green room, with windows overlooking the garden in three of its four walls, is our wet day or fiercely hot day or absolutely freezing day, back-up plan. The green room can be cooled or warmed to make the environment for your wedding, absolutely perfect, regardless of the weather.
     'Your garden is more beautiful than it looks in the photos' is a comment I often hear. It's also the feel of the garden that touches the heart and makes this private wedding venue so charming and unique. 
     There are also several photos from recent Heart Garden weddings on my Google+ page

I have a new compliant sound system
     I've bought a new sound system. It's a MIPRO M101 that's completely compliant with new broadcasting regulations, specific to the ACT and surrounds. The new regulations were made law on the first of January this year.
     It's a small yet powerful unit with a cordless mike, which I take to larger weddings. It's portable and battery-operated. This means that I never need an electricity supply. 
     The amp has a great sound that's clear and true. It can also be used for wedding music when a phone or other mp3 player is plugged in. If there's a reader at the wedding, or two readers, I can take an extra microphone to be used simultaneously.
Lauren arrives with members of her family for her marriage to Adrian
at Four Winds Winery in Murrumbateman NSW.
A big happy gathering in a country setting like this needs 
a good sound system that's portable as well.
Saturday 7 March 2015
Adrian signing the register.
If you'd like me to be your celebrant at your wedding
     If you'd like me to be your celebrant at your wedding, I'd be delighted to be there for you both.
(All of my fee information is in this Wedding Page.)
     If you choose my full service, I'll give you lots of assistance in creating your own ceremony, perfect for you both. My other occupation is writer. You can read about my full service here.
     Or perhaps you'd prefer a simple, short registry-style wedding ceremony with a just a few wording choices of your own. Add more personal vows to the ones set by the Marriage Act if you wish. The choice is yours. 
     With me as your officiant, a registry-style ceremony will never be cold and strictly official-sounding. Even though your entire ceremony may fit on one A4 page (which I will print in the font of your choice) it will always feel like 'the real deal'. (Which it is!)
     Perhaps you need the simplest wedding for legal purposes. A basic marriage ceremony, either in my Heart Garden or in another location of your choosing, will still be a very significant occasion in your life together.

Please feel free to contact me
     There's an email contact form here or you can phone me on 0406 376 375 on any day between 9am and 9pm. Or text me, or email me directly. We can chat together on Skype if you'd like, with or without a video connection. Just email or phone me first to set up a time that suits you both.
     I'd like to help you any way I can. There are lots of ideas for you in my Wedding Pages. They appear to the right on a computer screen. On a smaller screen, you'll need to tap the Pages Menu. You can find a Search box at the top of this blog to help you get specific information from my previous blogposts on how to get married, good venues and so on.
     Please feel free to contact me with any other questions. From way over one thousand weddings, I have a massive amount of experience and I'd love to help you in any way I can. Remember that if you have a question, you may find the answer in one of my previous blogposts. Just check in the Search box. Also please remember that you don't need to hire me to get my help.
Thrilling moment for Tilly and Aaron, who married at the
Rock Garden Lawn, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra
Friday 27 February 2015
(Photo by Kerry Sleeman)
If you're planning to marry, my congratulations to you both.
     You may have looked at my videos on YouTube. They're a little out of date. The first one starts by saying that three celebrants have chosen me as celebrant for their own weddings but by now that number has doubled to six. These celebrants have chosen me above all our peers to be there for them on their own wedding day - this is my favourite testimonial for validating my good work.
     Being a celebrant is such a happy heartfelt privilege for me. I'd love to be the one you choose for your most amazing and memorable day.