Her wedding: Confessions of a celebrant

Laura Peppas

From accidentally being kissed by the bride to having a horse on the guest list, Canberra wedding celebrant Dr Alice Roughley has seen it all.

“A celebrant’s life is full of variety, and in my nine years of performing ceremonies, I have to admit I’ve never really had a dull day,” Alice says.

“Being a celebrant is more than a job; it’s making sure the ceremony runs smoothly and the couple have a fun, stress-free time.”

As part of our wedding series, we sat down with Alice and asked her to share some of her most bizarre, hilarious and heart-warming wedding stories. Enjoy!

Rainbow of tears and laughter

Alice says she receives many requests to conduct same-sex ceremonies. “I fully support same sex marriage and look forward to the day when gay and lesbian couples are treated equally under Australian marriage laws,” she says. “One particularly memorable civil union ceremony was between Justin and Greg, who beamed as they walked down a long aisle in the Botanic Gardens with their fathers on their arms. Among the guests, tears of joy flowed as they knew how much this moment meant to the couple. Many onlookers in the gardens were surprised when no bride arrived.”

Small is beautiful, too…

“Disu and Chin chose to be married in my beautiful garden courtyard – their wedding was intimate and special, with just a couple of family members and their beautiful daughter who was just 5 weeks old,” says Alice. “Many couples choose a small wedding like this to ensure a legal Australian marriage. Some will return to their country of origin for the larger cultural celebration. Disu and Chin’s wedding was every bit as special as a large formal wedding. I offer a special rate for small weddings at my home and the couple saves on venue costs. If your choice is to have a small intimate wedding, couples can consider my courtyard for their venue.”

Bride and groom Disu and Chin.

Bride and groom Disu and Chin.

You may now kiss the…celebrant?

“When I pronounced Margaret and Eric husband and wife, Margaret was so excited, she turned and kissed me instead of her new husband,” laughs Alice. “Everyone laughed. I then had to pronounce them again so the photographer could capture the couple’s kiss!”

Surprise vows and a selfie…

“What a surprise Danielle had when she arrived at the boat ramp at Lake Burley Griffin,” says Alice. “The music coming from the end of the pier was their favourite song – her husband, Daniel had organised the vow renewal for their 20th wedding anniversary. It was just them and their teenage daughter, Ruby. During the short personal ceremony Ruby snapped so many photos on her mobile phone. A favourite was her selfie. She told me, ‘I just had to take a shot of how emotional I was!’”

Danielle and Daniel during their vow renewal.

Danielle and Daniel during their vow renewal.

A horse on the guest list

“When it comes to weddings, nothing is too difficult,” says Alice. “For Patricia, it was important that she have her horse at the wedding, because he was like family to her. As he cantered along the fence line of the paddock his neighs and whinnies provided apt processional music, much to the delight of the bride and the amusement of the guests. Lots of people have their furry friends in the ceremony. It can add a lovely touch.”

DIY wedding and gumboots

Every bride knows there’s one thing you can’t control on the big day: the weather. “Kate and Sam, with great friends and family, had spent months preparing their wedding venue,” says Alice. “They had painted the walls of the shed, sanded and varnished old trestles, made flower boxes to hang on the walls, made place cards for the tables, created a guest book, a wishing well, a tree of life where guests were to put their fingerprints. They wanted the party at home, telling me: ‘We just want to be able to dance all night’. The rustic arch was up on top of the hill for the rehearsal the day before. The water view through the arch was spectacular. But sadly, the wedding day weather was wet and windy. That morning I sent a text to the bride with a pic of gumboots I had spotted – I asked the bride if she was interested. She was over the moon and said ‘get some for yourself as well, we’ll both wear them.’”

Bride Kate and Alice with their glam gum boots.

Bride Kate and Alice with their glam gum boots.

A Skype wedding

“Livana and Igor wanted to keep costs down so they opted to wed in my beautiful courtyard garden, where Livana’s family joined by Skype,” says Alice. “Even though we were just seven people, it felt like a big family wedding. Although I don’t get too many requests to use Skype at weddings, it is a lovely way for couples to include overseas family members who can’t make it.” 

“It’s a nice day for a green wedding…”

“David and Julie spend much of their time in the mountains, and many special touches ensured this wedding was simple and environmentally friendly,” says Alice. “The groom made the boys’ vests to mimic the gum trees. He also made Julie’s dress and she embroidered it. Guests wore walking boots with fine frocks and held up tarps with sticks for protection against the rain. It was exactly the fun, informal ceremony they’d hoped for.” Alice says “green” weddings are becoming more popular as couples are forced to decide between a big wedding and a home deposit. “A green wedding can cut costs by little touches like asking guests to share transport or cycle to the wedding, to bring their favourite dish to share as a wedding gift (instead of paying caterers), or buying second-hand dresses or dresses already in the cupboard.”  

David and Julie at their 'green' wedding.

David and Julie at their ‘green’ wedding.

Flamboyant romance at the Triangle

Alice says she has also presided over many elaborate weddings. “For instance, Liam and Chantelle ooze style and on the big day they didn’t disappoint,” she says. “Their 250 guests in the courtyard of Old Parliament House were treated to the best of everything but the atmosphere was still warm and friendly.”

Liam and Chantelle during their ceremony at Old Parliament House.

Liam and Chantelle during their ceremony at Old Parliament House.

A wedding can be simple, or elaborate or anything in between, so long as you have a wonderful day that meets your expectations. “The Canberra area is oozing with fantastic venues, such as PodFood for a small intimate ceremony and some of the many special public places such as our botanic gardens, the carillon, Old Parliament House, the arboretum, National Library, Nara Park… The list is extensive. It’s all about what’s right for the couple,” says Alice.

No matter the shape or size of your ceremony, Alice has a few important tips for choosing your celebrant that will make sure your wedding is just what you wanted.

Make sure your celebrant:

  • is genuine, flexible and is willing to incorporate all of your ideas and preferences;
  • has a great track record –check the testimonials;
  • makes the legal paperwork simple and straightforward for you, and
  • is professional with options and resources to personalise your ceremony- not a simple “one ceremony fits all.”

For more information on Alice and her services, visit her website aliceroughley.com.au.

This is a sponsored post from Alice Roughley. Read our Sponsored Post Policy if you’d like further information.


Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

  • Paddy McMuggins

    I worked in Canberra and enjoyed working with a pretty amazing bunch of men. When I’m not writing irreverently, I enjoy my passion for staying at home, reading (and watching movies) and avoiding shopping with a beer in hand.

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