About the ceremony by Ria Vandervis


What makes a great ceremony and what are the key components that a celebrant should create.

When actress Ria Vandervis is not playing Harper Whitley on Shortland Street, she also loves to wed couples! We caught up with Ria to find out why being a celebrant is one of her great joys – and for her tips and tricks to craft a beautiful ceremony.

“The energy surrounding a wedding is a very special one; there is so much excitement, anticipation and happiness, often a bit of stress, and of course there is so much love. Meeting the couples I work with and hearing their love stories first hand is a privilege that I do not take lightly – I count myself very lucky to be in this position.

As a celebrant it is my job to succinctly tell these love stories while capturing the essence of the couple and their hopes for their life together, and I love to have a few laughs too. Laughter really helps to relax both the couple and the guests, so that we can all sink in and enjoy the special time together.

Music is crucial. It punctuates the ceremony and sets the tone. It doesn’t matter if you have live music, a DJ, or someone playing it off a phone, it is just important to have something to create the sacredness of the space. So think about this carefully. A softer romantic song works really well for the processional, and a really upbeat celebratory tune is a great choice for the recessional, when the couple gets to groove their way down the aisle as newly weds!

When crafting a ceremony there are only a few rules that need to be followed, so there is plenty of freedom to incorporate any personal elements or ideas. The legal requirements are that I ask you if you have come together to marry each other, and you both need to say: ‘I (full name) take you (full name) to be my husband/wife’, or words to this effect. This is usually incorporated into the vows. We also need to sign the marriage license, and you will need two witnesses for this. And that’s it! The way the rest of your ceremony looks is completely up to you.

Some people love to stick to tradition which is great, however this is by no means mandatory. For example, traditionally, the bride walks down the aisle with her father who ‘gives her away’ to the groom who is waiting at the end, but I have officiated at lots of weddings where the couple changes this up entirely. Often brides (or grooms!) will arrive with both parents on their arms, or with their children, or alone, and many couples now choose to arrive together. While this does take a bit of the magic out of the groom (or bride!) seeing their bride (or groom!) for the first time in front of their guests, it signifies that the couple is entering the marriage as equals, as a united team, and this is a really cool and modern approach.

So relax and enjoy your ceremony. It is the reason for your wedding day and will change your life in the best way possible.

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