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By Gilda McKechnie, Wedding Celebrant

Trends in wedding ceremonies have changed a lot in recent years.

Once-upon-a-time you only had a church wedding, or, if you got past your parents, you exchanged vows in the town’s public gardens. There may have been the odd elopement, too.

Lately, I’ve seen an increase in civil marriage ceremonies and couples seem to prefer more intimate weddings in the Grampians Pyrenees…on a mountain top, in a country chapel, private home, under the stars in a marquee or a good old shearing shed.

Maybe it comes down to dollars and the couples wanting to keep things simple and stress-free for themselves and their guests. Or, maybe weddings are humbly taking the route of being more ‘relaxed and meaningful’ without all the materialistic bells and whistles.

In other words, your ceremony (and reception) are only limited by your imagination these days, but, as a celebrant who has been involved with a wide variety of unique and wonderful weddings in this beautiful part of Australia, I’d still urge you to consider these key points:

1.     Find your happy place

Think about what’s vital to you as a couple, because doing ‘your own thing’ is more important than what third parties want. Choose a venue that’s close to your heart and style it in a way that reflects your personalities. Make a space that you’re genuinely happy to be in. The Grampians Pyrenees is perfect for lovers of nature, food and wine.


Photo: Kerri Kingston Photography

2.     Work on the right words

When it comes to your official wedding ceremony and the exchange of vows, your celebrant will be only too happy to help you craft the words you want to say. A good celebrant will embrace your story and create a personal, warm and witty backstory.

3.     Don’t waste time

More couples are getting married in venues that cater for the ceremony, reception and has accommodation available. This makes more time with friends and family…even breakfast the next day if you want! There are also more weekday weddings. And why not? It’s a chance to use up some leave.

4.     Run away (…just for a bit)

Elopements are also trending for couples who want an intimate, highly personal ceremony in places like Halls Gap without the extravagant expense. Quite often, couples will host a party at a later date to celebrate informally with close family and friends.

Likewise, surprise weddings haven’t lost their punch, with sneaky couples inviting loved ones to celebrate a birthday, engagement or other significant milestone and then surprising their guests with a wedding ceremony, or announcing that they’d been married earlier in the day. The element of surprise certainly heightens the happy emotions of the day and, as a celebrant, I love being part of these exciting reveals!


Steam Punk: Linda and Darren Raeck got married on their Grampians property in Steam Punk style, thrilling their wedding guests and inspiring unique photos of the day. They also involved their much loved dogs.

5.     Be brave, choose a theme

Themed weddings are on the rise and really set a different atmosphere to traditional wedding formats. From pop culture themes to nostalgia filled affairs, offbeat weddings are fabulous fun! From arriving to your rustic country wedding on the back of a tractor or ute, to a full-throttle steam punk theme, with some smart planning and heads up for your guests, you can create a real day to remember!

6.     Make a statement

I am inclined to integrate views on same-sex marriage into the ceremony if the couple want that. Legally, a celebrant needs to state that marriage is between a man and a woman, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t follow that statement up with a disclaimer that you believe it should be for everyone as it should be an equal right in Australia.

7.     Embrace the moment

Often, before we start proceedings, I’m asked to request that wedding guests put away their cameras during the ceremony so everyone can relax and enjoy the wedding. Then, after the big day, guests are generally privy to an online account containing the professional photos. Some couples also request that mobile phones are not present at the ceremony. So everyone has the heads up about your wishes, you can subtly mention something on the invitation, or set up a cute sign like this.

8.     It’s not weird to involve your dog

There have been a number of times when the couple has wanted a pet involved in their ceremony, particularly their dogs.  I’ve witnessed dogs as the ring bearers, part of the wedding party, leading in the bridesmaids and bride – or standing with the best man. I’m pleased to report that there have been no issues so far!


9.     Commit to the planet, too.

There is a bigger focus on eco-friendly and sustainable weddings. Couples are choosing goods that are more environmentally friendly, like natural materials, second-hand or upcycled items, flowers from friends’ gardens or native flowers that are in with the Grampians area. With Instagram, Pinterest and other online styling resources available, you don’t have to be creative whizzes to pull off a green wedding. Just look for inspiration, ask around for ideas and make the local op shop your favourite hang-out!

Further Reading

10. Have fun!

There’s so much lead up and planning to a wedding that more couples are choosing to extend their time with family and friends pre and/or post wedding day so everyone can chill out and reconnect. Activities in our part of Victoria can include wine tours, barbecues, rock-climbing and bushwalking. It’s a great idea for travelling guests to really get the most out of their time away to celebrate your wedding.

It will be interesting to see the roll out of future trends as couples become more adventurous in the planning for their wedding. But, bear in mind that trends come and go, so plan a day that you can look upon fondly forever.

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Photo: Sunday Love Photography

By Luke Bourchier

There is so much amazing music around at the moment.  This makes it almost impossible to choose songs for your wedding day.  As long as it has a smattering of gooey love-y dove-y lyrics, you should be right.  Right?

Or, you know, you could choose songs you actually like; songs that mean something to you and your partner.  There are a lot of great love songs out there and some, it seems, have even been written with weddings in mind (Train – ‘Marry You’, The McClymonts – Forever Begins Tonight etc).  There’s also a lot of great songs with strong messages which aren’t quite as gooey, if that’s not your cup of tea.

Playing at a lot of wedding ceremonies and receptions, I’ve come across some incredible tunes.  Here’s the top 10 songs to consider for your 2016/17 wedding:

10) Have I Told You Lately, Van Morrison

This has been played at weddings for over 25 years and for good reason.  It’s still romantic and, despite having lost its shine a little, in the hands of the right artist, it can sound brand new again.

9) Five Years Time, Noah and the Whale

For something quirky, a little bit cheeky and a whole lotta fun, check out Noah and the Whale.  This optimistic song is all about the future.

8) In Your Arms, Nico & Vinz

Relatively recent, Nico & Vinz touch on some challenges that we all face, but then it’s all okay “when I lie down in your arms”.

7) Thinking Out Loud, Ed Sheeran

This has probably been the number one song in recent years and rightly so.  It’s jam-packed full of dreamy lyrics, the film clip looks like a bridal waltz and well, it’s Ed.  Need I say more?  Still worthy of being in the top 10, due to its ridiculous popularity, it has probably slid down the list a little.

6) Fly Me To The Moon, Frank Sinatra

This sweet little ditty was recorded by Frank Sinatra over 50 years ago.  “You are all I long for, all I worship and adore”.  Pure romance!

5) I Won’t Give Up, Jason Mraz

This is gooey love song at its best.  I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve performed this one at weddings.  As the only song on the list with 6/8 timing (technical music talk), I really wanted this to be higher on the list.  This song is gorgeous.

4) This Old Love, Lior

Here’s one from left-field, but it’s perfect for a wedding ceremony.  It certainly has a mysterious feel, but the melody is beautiful, as is the message.  Check it out.

3) Home, Philip Phillips

Perfect for a recessional (as you leave the ceremony), or a bridal waltz, ‘Home’ is not your standard cliché love song, but it’s very fun, with delicious harmonies all throughout.

2) Real Love, John Lennon / Regina Spektor

As one of the greatest songwriters of all time, John Lennon is right on the mark with this song.  The Regina Spektor version is particularly beautiful in all its subtlety.

1) The Luckiest, Ben Folds

Well, here it is.  This has quickly become my favourite song to perform at a wedding.  Well, to perform anywhere for that matter.  The lyrics aren’t like a pop song, with lines feeling unfinished, having unusual content, but it’s a song about growing old together in love.  This is the one you’ve been looking for.

Special Mention: The Way You Make Me Feel

MJ’s hit is a fun bridal waltz, if you’re not really into slow dancing.  Worth thinking about!

So there we have it. Ten great songs to consider having somewhere on your wedding day.  Some of these songs are more particularly suited to the wedding ceremony, but really could be played anywhere throughout your day. 

Have a listen, and you decide. If you’re still struggling to choose, get in touch.  In the end, like I said, there’s so much great music out there – it’s about choosing what is right for you.

To book Luke for your wedding, follow the link to Luke Bourchier.

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judith-burke-wedding-celebrant-stawellWarrnambool school teachers Mia Venema and Brett Easton were married recently at the Grampians Pioneer Cottages, followed by a magnificent marquee wedding reception.

They were attended by bridesmaids Amanda Sutton, Julia Thompson, Emily Venema and Kerry King and groomsmen Paul Easton, Phil Dennis, Michael Thompson and Matthew Perry. The couple’s Labrador, Karri was also part of the ceremony.

There was a personal touch to the day, with bouquet flowers collected from the garden of wedding celebrant Judith Burke and arranged by Mia’s mum, Tania. Friends of the bride Jess and Julie Ronchi styled the girls’ hair and Karen Crispe did the makeup.

The couple honeymooned in Robe in South Australia.

Celebrant: Judith Burke

Music: Tank Dilemma

Photos: Rebecca Luppino

Film: First Ladies Productions

Dress: Blossom Boutique

Suits: Pitstop Menswear

Food: Kirsty’s Cakes and Catering, Horsham

Beer: Steinman Brothers Brewery



Weddings AustraliaMELBOURNE couple Sarah Graham and Sam Duncan were recently married at Halls Gap Recreation Reserve, surrounded by majestic mountains and native wildlife.

Sarah, formerly of Hamilton and Sam, originally from Yarrawonga, gathered family and friends for a charming bush wedding ceremony and a stylish marquee reception.

The couple chose Halls Gap for a destination wedding, so family and friends could experience one of Sarah’s favorite childhood holiday spots.

The official wedding photos were taken on a clearing of land that capitalized on breathtaking 360 degree views of the Grampians ranges.

Celebrant: Tanya O’Brien

Bridal Gown: Designer Bridal Room

Bridesmaid Gowns: White Runway

Makeup:  Solace Beauty Lounge & Wellness Spa

Hair: Affair with Hair

Suits: Expedition Apparel

Flowers: Sugar Bee Flowers

Cake: Kristin’s Kakes

Photographer: Darkroom Studios & Alister Lor

Equipment Hire: Little Black Sheep Hire

Marquee: Blue Lake Hire

Event Stylist: Harper & Co

Accommodation: Blue Ridge Retreat

Catering: Dariwill Farm




Wedding cake Grampians

Halls Gap marquee wedding reception

Vintage wedding Halls Gap

Wedding flowers

Rustic Halls Gap wedding

Grampians Wedding Directory member, cake maker Sharon Frost has won three international awards in the past 12 months for her cake creations.

Sharon is one of 900 cake makers from around the world who are part of the ‘Cake Page Circle’, on online forum through Facebook where members share knowledge and expertise.

The group runs weekly competitions throughout the year, with different themes. Members vote on the cake entries, considering design, style, composition, skill and technique.

In August last year, Sharon won first prize in the ‘Female (Child) Birthdays 5 years and Under’ category for her three-tier mini cake and also came third in the ‘Male (Child) Birthdays 5 years and Under’ section for her 3D Yellow Minion cake.  And, in December 2014, Sharon won a Merit Award for her Snow Globe Christmas Cake in the ‘Blue/Winter Cake’ category.

“The competitions generate a lot of passionate, positive discussion within our very talented group,” says Sharon. “To be recognised for three of my cakes by cake experts from around the world is very exciting and encouraging.”





Seppelt WineryMore than 30 of the region’s top wedding vendors will meet with loved up couples this Sunday, May 25 May at the 2014 Seppelt Wedding Expo.

Engaged couples planning a wedding in the Grampians region will be able to meet with wedding celebrants, hair and beauty experts, cake makers, florists, wedding couture designers and many more experts from the local wedding industry!

Seppelt will once again treat visitors to refreshments and a highlight of the Expo will once again be the fashion parade showcasing the latest bridal looks.

The Seppelt events team will show people around the venue including accommodation, vineyard, grounds, cellar and underground drives – all providing amazing backdrops for a wedding ceremony, reception and official photographs.

The expo will run from 11am to 3pm at 36 Cemetery Road, Great Western.

Inquiries: Alli Fitzpatrick, 03 5361 2249 or email

Seppelt Winery

Didjun Skin and Body

Didjun Skin and Body has officially opened its doors at its new location at 24 Grampians Road, Halls Gap.

Open from Tuesday to Saturday and by appointment on Sunday, Didjun offers relaxing and decadent massage, facials and feet and body treatments. Beauty treatments include hair cleansing, airbrush tanning and waxing.

Business owner Amanda Stevens is an award-winning freelance make-up artist and hair stylist and is favoured by brides for her fresh, elegant and natural style.

With a strong environmental concious across all of its day spa operations, the team at Didjun also uses gentle, eco-friendly products including Aveda.

To make an appointment, please call the team on (03) 5356 4465.

Didjun Skin and Body’s Amanda Stevens of Pomonal has been expanding her experience by styling hair and make-up for a new music TV show being filmed in Adelaide called ‘Music Room’. This career break means Amanda can bring the latest styles back to her brides. Amanda’s also now a recognised MAC make-up artist and looks forward to ongoing training and development with MAC Cosmetics in Melbourne. Go Amanda!





The Didjun Skin and Body exhibit turned heads at the recent Seppelt Wedding Expo in Great Western, with professional make-up and hair stylist Amanda Stevens catching the attention of brides with her fresh and fabulous work on models Ashleigh Dark and Amy Brewis.

Didjun Skin and Body, Pomonal

Didjun Skin and Body, Pomonal

Around 300 engaged couples, their families and the who’s who of the local wedding industry turned out at the third annual Seppelt Great Western Winery Wedding Expo recently.

Around 40 exhibitors, including several newcomers, spent one-on-one time showcasing their products and services to couples looking at getting married in the Grampians Pyrenees region. Many enthusiastic couples even made bookings on-the-spot with various vendors.

Expo highlights included a bridal fashion parade with gowns from CAS Bridal in Ararat and suits from Fosters Mensland (Stawell and Ararat). Outside visitors could see beautiful wedding cars in situ and enjoy getting up close and personal with gentle giant, Jasper from Bellellen Horse Drawn.

Well done to Seppelt’s function coordinator Alli Fitzpatrick and her team for organising another fantastic event to inspire upcoming brides and grooms. And congratulations to the exhibitors who went all out to show how they can make your wedding dreams come true.

1892 Cellar Exhibitors & Guests


The 1892 Cellar was transformed into a stunning exhibition space.

Fashion parade models


The fashion parade models were breathtaking in their original designs by CAS Couture.'Jasper' from Bellellen Horse Drawn


‘Jasper’ from Bellellan Horse Drawn was even there to meet couples who love the romance of a horse-drawn wagon for their wedding.

Seppelt's official exhibit


Seppelt Events Coordinator Alli Fitzpatrick (centre) with Marissa Barber (right) and Chelsea Filcock from Horsham’s Schubert Catering had champagne and nibbles flowing aplenty for guests to try.