Interview with an expert - Jessie Cacchillo, Celebrant to The Stars

You can (and should!) contact Jessie via her website http://www.jessiecacchillo.com/

Man oh man can things go pear-shaped quickly if you choose the wrong celebrant. It's a profession that for some reason attracts an unusually high number of "kooky" people (the majority of whom you wouldn't knowingly involve in one of the most important days of your life). We've seen them all - from super inappropriate comments, embarrassing name mispronunciations, awful outfits, jokes that fall totally flat or stories that go on. and on. and on. 

Luckily, if you do your research, there are also some super talented people who will conduct your ceremony flawlessly, leaving your guests

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with tears in their eyes and laughter in their bellies. And here, with answers to all your celebrant-related questions is the amazing Jessie. I've had the great pleasure of working with Jessie plenty of times, and she never fails to deliver. She's witty, warm, and knows how to conduct the perfect ceremony to leave people's heart soaring, not snoring. (Do you think she'll be cross that I put her picture up there next to the "kooky celebrant" rant?). 

Tell me, J-Dawg, how did you become a marriage celebrant?

When I got married, most celebrants didn’t have websites and you couldn’t stalk them on social media like you can today. So I chose a celebrant out of the Yellow Pages based on her location and her strange name. (Yes, a mistake in hindsight.) 

She gave my husband and I two very uninspiring ceremony templates to choose from. We were crazy in love and these random templates certainly didn’t reflect our feelings for each other, so we rejected both options and I decided to write my own ceremony which I really enjoyed. 

After the event I had so many friends telling me it was the most heartfelt and personal ceremony they had ever experienced. I had two engaged friends ask me if I could write and perform their ceremony (I have a background in acting). Combining my natural skill set of writing, speaking in public and performance with my love of learning I found my calling.  

(It also helps that I love to have fun with people I meet, and I come from a big Italian family which makes it easy to connect with people regardless of their age, culture or personal experiences.)

Just over two years after my own wedding I performed my first ceremony as celebrant for a dear friend and enjoyed every moment; and now eight years later I have turned hundreds of gorgeous lovers into husbands and wives. 

What common mistakes do you see couples making?

Often couples complicate things more than they need to because of pressure from others, or because they feel they need to keep up with the Joneses, which creates lots of unnecessary stress. 

You know in your heart what your perfect wedding should feel like. Stick to your first instinct and do it your way. Have the wedding that you and your partner want to have, not what you think you should be having.

What’s the best tip you have for a couple planning a wedding?

Keep it simple and trust your instincts.

Do your research: you can get a good idea of what a vendor is about initially through their website, social media and reviews; then meet with them to see if you are compatible. From there, let them do what they do best. 

Choose vendors that you relate to, from your celebrant to your photographer. I feel an affinity with most of my clients. We always agree that we have found each other - the laws of attraction have been at work.

Keep things in perspective throughout the process and especially on the day. We all want the perfect wedding day - we don’t want anything to go wrong. But remember a wedding is one day; a marriage is a lifetime. We get married because we want that lifelong commitment. 

Be over the moon that you have found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Be as organised as possible leading up to the day and then just go with whatever happens on the day. Most importantly, remember to keep smiling.

What should couples look for in a celebrant

It all comes down to communication and feeling comfortable. Meet with your chosen celebrant, talk, laugh, talk and talk some more. It’s important that your celebrant gets you, understands you as a couple and is able to communicate that through your ceremony. I pride myself on being very approachable, relaxed, creative and fun yet highly organised.

What questions should couples be asking their celebrant that they don’t know to ask?

To be honest, thought it’s smart to have questions for your celebrant, the right celebrant should be able to take you through the whole process and answer all your questions before you’ve even thought of them.  

You should mostly be asking yourself how a celebrant makes you feel. The right celebrant will make you feel relaxed, comfortable and excited about the process. You really need that connection and rapport.

To figure that out, ask your celebrant what they think are the important components of a ceremony; that way you get an idea about whether they’re on the same wavelength as you. To me it’s all about telling the couple’s story with a good balance of joy, warmth, sincerity and laughter. And with the vows, I try to encourage my couples to write their own, to create an honest moment from the heart. 

How do you obtain most of your clients? 

I am very lucky to say that most of mine come from word of mouth via past clients, people in the audience or wedding vendors that I work with regularly. That gives me an indication that I am doing good work.

My wardrobe helps too. ☺ I have a beloved collection of vintage frocks, and some clients will request a particular one they’ve seen in a photo or at a wedding. I do end up in lots of the photos after all!!


What’s the most unusual wedding you have ever performed?

I once had an underwater theme wedding, it was so much fun. The bride was dressed as a mermaid and the groom was an octopus. And the best man was wearing the best shark costume I have ever seen. 

I already had a perfect vintage blue-and-white bubble-patterned dress, which I wore with a sailor’s hat and fake sailor tattoos. I had written the ceremony to reflect the theme with lots of cheesy underwater references. Every time I looked out to the audience I would spot another great costume and I’d have to stop myself from cracking up. The bride and groom trusted me, they had a great sense of humour and the results were spectacular.

I have also been asked to perform a nude ceremony before but I hate the cold and wasn’t that comfortable bending over for the signing of the registry. ☺

What was the most memorable wedding you ever worked at and why?

I am so lucky, there have been so many. It often has nothing to do with the budget or size of the wedding but more about the love and the people involved.

It’s just so beautiful to witness two people so deeply in love and be a part of their journey, to witness the love flowing from their family and friends who are most important to them. I love that every couple is different, every story is unique and every love is their own.

What are your thoughts on marriage equality?

I think marriage equality will make the world a better place. Love is love, it is important that everyone gets the chance to live the life they want. For me it’s all about equal rights. It has to change and it will change and I can’t wait until the day that I am able to legally marry my friends who are in love and in committed relationships that have been denied this right for so long.

 

 

El + Haneefa | Porteño, Surry Hills

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El and Haneefa were wed at the British Consulate in Sydney. We went around the Botanic Gardens and Surry Hills for some lovely portraits. Afterwards, they kicked back and had a fun night with their friends and family at Porteño (at Cleveland Street).

We think El and Haneefa are a fun and awesome pair. If you read further, you'll see why we say that.

About El + Haneefa

We both work for a brand strategy agency, GalKal. 

El is a Qualitative Account Director, she does brand strategy and consumer research (i.e she runs focus groups). Haneefa is Qualitative Project Manager. She manages the fieldwork (i.e. she organises the focus groups).

We've been working together for a little over 3 years now in a boutique company set up in an old pub in Ultimo...working together for longer than a few months was never the intention, but it's showed us how well we work together as a team.

How did you guys meet?

Haneefa: We met through a mutual friend at a house party and again out and about in Newtown. It wasn't until El's housewarming party in Stanmore in 2011 that sparks really flew…

El: It should have been Haneefa's housewarming too really, given she never really went home after that night!

How did you know your partner is “the one”?

Haneefa: Early on, it always felt right.

El: In January 2012, Haneefa went to LA for a month but we missed each other so much she ended up coming home early!

When we asked them about the proposal...

El: As soon as I found out we could legally marry at the British Consulate, I knew I wanted to propose to Haneefa. We'd always wanted to marry, but assumed it wasn't on the cards until the AU government got its act together. 

I enlisted the help of a good friend, Natalie Kube, who is a Jeweller on NSW North Coast, to design and make the ring. I took Haneefa to a weekend away in the Hunter Valley, ensuring we made a pit stop in Hornsby to sneakily ask her brother for permission beforehand.

We rented a little cabin on a farm, it was called 'Cowboy Cabin' which I thought was a bit of a sign, given we always said we like calling each other our 'partner' because it makes us sound like cowboys.

I proposed out on the porch of the cabin on July 31st surrounded by fog, cows and kangaroos.

What does marriage mean to you?

Marriage to us is a commitment to always be each others' person... to support, love, and encourage the other to be their best and enjoy life.

 

Preparing for the wedding

El: The lead up to the wedding thus far has been fairly uneventful, Haneefa and I are in sync with a lot of things, so it's just been like a fun project we've chipped away at slowly over 6 months or so. Once the venue was booked and photographers found (hi guys!) it was all down hill.

What was the inspiration for your wedding?

We just wanted something simple and classy. We're having a 'city hall' style wedding and just wanted our reception to feel like a celebration dinner - good food, good wine in a nice building.

You undertook a DIY project together, right?

El: We made our table setting chart from Loteria cards (think Mexican bingo)... Mexico is my spirit home. I studied there in 2009, and Haneefa and I went to visit again in 2013, where she too fell in love with the country... so it felt right to have a Mexican touch somewhere.

Did you incorporate any family or religious traditions into your day?

El: Although Haneefa's family is Muslim, we haven't integrated any traditions... but most of the food is halal, and we've set up a prayer room upstairs in Porteno (probably not what that space is usually known for!)

Talk to us about your dress...

El: Haneefa's dress is from Lover at the Strand Arcade in Sydney. She worked at a chocolate shop in the Strand Arcade for 4 years, and every day she walked past that store and thought, "I'm going to get married in one of those dresses." About 6 months before the wedding, she saw that they were having a sale of their archive pieces. We hadn't tried on any wedding clothes yet. We walked in and she tried on three dresses.

El snuck a dress into the change room and that was the one Haneefa picked. It took 20 minutes.

Do you have any advice for other couples planning their wedding?

Elope! Ha! No, have a wedding. Take it one job at a time. There will be so much stuff you can do, but you don't have to do it. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you wont. Don't feel like you have to have everything. Some good friends of ours have told us that if you've got your family, your friends, your loved one, good food and good wine, you're going to have a great time no matter what, and you won’t even notice the other stuff.
 


VENDORS

Wedding Gown: Lover

Groom's Suit: MJ Bale

Wedding Rings: Natalie Kube Jewellery

Groom's Shoes: WALK

Bowties or Ties: T.M. Lewin

Hair: Sterling Apothecary

Makeup: MAC

Catering: Porteno

Celebrant: British Consulate Sydney

Billi + Paul | Royal Motor Yacht Club

Paul works in sports media. He's a producer at Fox Sports for soccer, while Billi is an architect. They actually met at training. They were in the same class doing a circuit running up a hill, and "he beat me up the hill - I didn't like it :)" Billi recalled. They're both competitive and sporty.

Paul and Billi celebrated their wedding with a Beddekin at Billi's grandmother's house. Their wedding ceremony and reception was held at the Royal Motor Yacht Club of NSW at Point Piper.

 

Getting ready

 

The Beddekin or Bedeken

The beddekin or bedeken ceremony is a Jewish veiling ceremony, where the groom approaches the bride and covers the bride's face with a veil just before the wedding ceremony. It was breathtakingly beautiful to witness Paul and Billi's Beddekin with their family and loved ones.

How did you know your partner is “the one”?

Billi says, “Because I don’t have to overthink anything or worry. It’s just easy.”

 

What vibe were you going for in the wedding?

They shared, “Just wanted it to feel like us. Relaxed and casual.”

 

What does marriage mean to you?

“It’s just another day of spending time with the person you love. Marriage is a commitment, loyalty and security. It’s just fun!”

 

WHat's your favorite detail or moment of the day (besides becoming husband and wife)?

"Just that we danced the night away. Sweating, no shoes, didn't care what we looked like. We just wanted to have fun with the people we love."

 

Talk to us about your dress, Billi.

“First one I tried on. Helen English is sensational in Paddington. She understood me straight away.”

 

What advice do you have for other couples planning a wedding?

"Just relax and be yourselves. Don’t try too hard."

We are absolutely ecstatic! The night was seamless. We didn’t have a wedding planner and on the night Paul and I weren’t thinking about small details but in the end all of the photos worked out beautifully.

A big thank you to the team for making it such a special night to remember and for capturing the atmosphere.
— Paul + Billi

VENDORS

Wedding gown: Helen English

Veil or Hairpiece: Helen English

Suit: Calibre

Groomsmen's suits: Calibre  

Bridesmaids’ dresses: Lover

Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo

Wedding rings: Jeff Einstein

Groom’s shoes: Florsheim

Hair: Joh Bailey

Makeup: Sam Simmons

Flowers: Neat Floral

Catering: Zest

Celebrant: Rabbi Kamins

Wedding cake: Laura Gluckman

Limo/Wedding Day Car: Intercontinental Transfer

Printer: Distillery

Music: Baker Boys

Chloe + Zach | Seacliff House, Gerringong

Chloe and Zach have been together forever - they met in high school. Their wedding is super laid back. They had a long weekend away with their closest friends and had their wider group of friends and family join them on their wedding day. 

Their style is pretty eclectic, using Chloe's skills as an events manager, Zach's skills as a handyman, and Chloe's family who owns a florist. There were touches here and there that were labours of love, and as Chloe said, "...that's the fun of it, right?"

 

Getting ready

Zach got ready with the boys at the Seacliff House, Gerringong, while Chloe got ready nearby in Gerroa.

 

How did you meet?

Chloe confided, "Zach and I have known each other since we were 15. Zach was my best friend’s neighbour. We were ratbag teens first. Regrettable hairstyles, ditching school, smoking in the park, and sneaking into pubs underage - all the usual cringey memories perhaps best not shared publicly in too much detail!"

 

How did you know?

We asked them how they knew that their partner was "the one." They told us, "We just grew together. Never one defined moment, but we've always just been at home with each other. We can scream and laugh and cry and never be worried what the other is thinking except that they will support and love you."

 

The proposal

There were two proposals.

The first proposal. Chloe asked Zach when they were 22 years old. It was about about 2:00am at the pub, with Chloe using a burger ring. "Suffice it to say no wedding eventuated," Chloe said.

The second proposal. It was 5 years later on their 9-year anniversary, Zach asked Chloe after dinner on the beach they live next to.

 

Their wedding photos

When we asked them about what they envisioned for their wedding photography, they said that fun is the most important part and biggest part they want captured on camera. "We aren't the type of couple to put our wedding portrait on our mantle piece at home. We just want an epic collection of photos of our friends and family that actually shows their different personalities (warts and all!). Zach and I aren't overly romantic. We prefer fun and laughter over everything else."

 

The inspiration behind their wedding

Lots of colour and eclectic. Pretty much anything they both liked - they threw in, "from homemade cushions, textiles and throws with Zach's mum and her friends, to Turkish desserts from my mum and sister. Crystals and salvaged furniture we have displayed in our house were all driven down to the venue to bring a bit of 'us' to the day.'" Chloe recounted.

 

Their DIY projects

Desserts were made by Chloe's mum and sister.

 

Favours were jewellery made by Chloe and her mum

 

Arbor was made by Zach.

 

Flowers were beautifully put together by Zach's mum Cathy and her amazing tribe of florist friends.

 

Cushions, throws, table linen - everyone chipped in at one stage. They're just beautiful!

 

Invites were David Bowie circa '71 inspired and made by Zach and Chloe. Other stationery were made by the couple (place cards, tags, etc.)

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Vendors

 

1. Wedding Gown

2. Groom's Suit

3. Bride's Shoes

4. Wedding Rings

5. Veil or Hairpiece

6. Makeup

7. Flowers

8. Catering

9. Celebrant

10. Marquee or Teepee

Thanks again so much for making our day so special! The photos you’ve sent already are AMAZING! Thank you thank you! You guys totally ‘got us’ and made us feel so comfortable. Super stoked to have such a cool pair of peeps take our photos.
— Chloe + Zach

Charlotte + Mitch | Doltone House Jones Bay Wharf

Charlotte is a stay at home mum, and Mitch plays soccer for the Japanese team Shimizu S-Pulse. She's English, while he's Australian. They currently live in Japan at the moment.

Getting Ready

The afternoon started with Charlotte and Mitch getting ready at Meriton Serviced Apartments at Pitt Street, Sydney. The ladies donned their matching lovely robes while getting their makeup and hair done.

Their story

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We asked them how it all started and how they met. Charlotte narrated, "I was working at a 5-a-side soccer centre (in a cafe) in Tuggerah on the Central Coast called Soccer5s, and Mitch was playing for the Central Coast Mariners at the time. After having small talk for about a year when Mitch would come in for coffee, he decided to message me at 3am in the morning, then the rest was history. We've been together for 5 years now!"

How did you know that your partner is "the one"?

Charlotte shared that before Mitch even messaged her, "he was 'the one,' but when he serenaded me with R. Kelly, how can a girl resist! Haha! He tried, and it worked!"

The proposal

"We flew to a little island called Okinawa, and Mitch took me to a waterfall. It was stinking hot, and a snake chased me on the walk to the waterfall (he just laughed!). On the walk to the waterfall, there was a little path in the rainforest, and Mitch got down on one knee and proposed! We got some amazing photos at the waterfall as his sister and brother-in-law were there too. And they were ready with the camera!"

Charlotte and Mitch had a baby together. Then they had to do the wedding organization - everything by email, as they were overseas, so Charlotte said that she had to be relaxed about it. "In the end, it was the most incredible day we could have ever asked for!" 

 

The wedding

We asked them what the inspiration was behind their wedding theme or vibe. They said, "We went with a light travel theme," as Charlotte's family and friends all came over to Sydney from England. "We thought it would make them feel welcome, and it went down a treat."

 

DIY Projects

Charlotte made all of the name places with mini white boards and photos of everyone! She said, "It took forever, but I'm so happy I did it. Also, I made all of the favours." As you can see, it was such a lovely personal touch to the wedding.

 

We asked if Charlotte incorporated any family or religious traditions into their wedding day, she answered, "I had a lucky sixpence stuck to the bottom of my shoe!"

“Marriage is our commitment to each other. Taking Mitch’s name has bonded our family, as we had our son too, when we were married. To be a wife and a mother is the biggest blessing!”
— Charlotte

 

The wedding dress

"My dress is from The Sposa Group in Sydney. They were absolutely brilliant! I rang up 2 weeks before the wedding as I hated my dress when I saw what it was like after the alterations. I cried in the car and didn't know what to do! A few close friends had recommended The Sposa Group, so I rang up and said I needed a dress as my wedding was in 2 weeks!

"They had the biggest selection to choose from and were absolutely amazing to me! They recommended me to an alterations lady and she was flawless."

To The Sposa Group, Charlotte extends her thanks, "Thank you so much girls for making my dreams come true!"

The dress looked absolutely divine on our bride, Charlotte! It's amazing it was just two weeks from the wedding.

 

Advice for other couples

We asked our lovely bride if she had learned anything or wanted to share some advice to other couples planning for their wedding.

Charlotte shared, "Don't rush into anything. Research everything properly before making a commitment. Don't jump into the first dress you like. Research your photographers and florists, etc. Make sure they have the style you absolutely love.

"Write down a list of all the photos you want taken, as the day will be such a blur that you don't want to miss any special moments or anyone important! Relax and enjoy the day. Try to take it all in."

We, as wedding photographers, do want to know what you have in mind for your wedding photos. It's really important to us.

We especially like what Charlotte pointed out, "Take a minute to yourself with your new husband in the evening to watch all your friends and family having a good time!"