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The wedding ceremony is where the joy and solemnity of marriage meet. It also takes a wide variety of forms as couples, straight, gay and lesbian, of every ethnic group, religion and age and stage place their personal marks on it.
Whether it takes place in a church, synagogue, mosque, registry office, beach, home or garden, it's a time for dignity and elegance mixed with anticipation, warmth and celebration.
These days those officiating at the ceremony are aware that the format and style should be meaningful and appropriate to the couple's beliefs and situation. Couples should ensure that they discuss all aspects of the ceremony, including readings, music and soloists, with the person they have chosen to officiate. Some will wish to arrange premarriage courses (often run by churches) before the big day.
Most couples now either have major input into their vows or write them themselves, the presenting of them often being the most moving feature of the service. Just ensure that once written they read well, because sometimes written words sound strange when spoken.
Ministers of many church denominations conduct services outside their churches, while independent or organisational marriage celebrants can conduct both religious and non-religious ceremonies and if they so wish, civil union services and, since August 19, same-sex marriages.
If it is to be a ceremony in a registry office the registrar can be contacted at the Justice Department to arrange a date and time. Registry offices provide a personal service which meets the needs of couples in the areas they serve.
Churches and celebrants are in heavy demand at particular times of the year so once the date is set, make the bookings.
TIP: Some couples rehearse their vows to each other, while others prefer to keep their very special words until the big day to make them more meaningful.