Hanna and Chris Brown with their bridal party at Jervis Bay. Picture: Alex Marks Photography
Hanna and Chris Brown with their bridal party at Jervis Bay. Picture: Alex Marks Photography

How newlyweds are shunning tradition

MORE Australian couples are shunning religious wedding ceremonies than ever before, with nearly four-fifths choosing to be wed by a celebrant.

The figures that reveal a startling societal shift, 77 per cent of the 112,954 registered marriages that took place in the country in 2017 chose a civil ceremony, instead of a religious one - a rise of 12 per cent in couples choosing a celebrant to marry them in 2008.

And a senior Anglican minister has confessed the church has been complacent about church weddings at a time when church attendance is falling.

Anglican Marriage Minister Reverend Richard James said there are both practical and religious factors behind the decline.

"I think that the church is a bit behind the times, it used to be that everyone just went to a church and took it for granted, and so we never even thought about trying to get people to come to church to get married, it just happened," he said.

Alice Clavelli modelling the
Alice Clavelli modelling the "Jagger Jumpsuit", a bridal jumpsuit by J. Andreatta. Picture: David Swift

"Now, fewer people are going to church in general, and there's a whole bunch of reasons for that, so people don't naturally have a link with a church like they did back in my day, and I'm 60."

"A lot of reception places have cottoned on that they can make a lot more money if they provided the reception centre a beautiful place to have the ceremony as well - it's very practical," James said.

Sydney-based celebrant Glen-Marie Frost believes couples are increasingly choosing a civil celebrant so their ceremony can be a more relaxed, personalised affair.

"The difference is that while many religious ceremonies are a little more relaxed today than in the past, they are still religious services by their very nature, and the couple may wish for more flexibility in their music, personal vows, dress code, prefer no religious hymns and so on, and many Ministers today won't permit this in the Church," Frost said.

"As a celebrant, I become personally involved with the couple in creating a bespoke ceremony, spending time with them and writing their love story and including family and friends in the ceremony because I want the ceremony to be personal and memorable."

In another reflection of changing social mores, the amount of couples living together prior to getting married has also risen sharply.

Couples are steering clear of tradition in other ways too, as well as a 'big is back' approach to their fashion and wedding planning.

Carissa Lake from the Cupcake Princess with an alternative wedding cake. Picture: Richard Dobson
Carissa Lake from the Cupcake Princess with an alternative wedding cake. Picture: Richard Dobson

Editor-in-chief of Vogue Australia, Edwina McCann, is expecting "sleek silhouettes, simple features and unexpected hemlines" in 2019.

"Shorter hemlines are certainly having their moment and the non-fussy bride should consider a umpsuit or two-piece power suit on their big day," McCann said.

"Capes, colour and statement sleeves were also key trends at Bridal Fashion Week."

Big is back when it comes to veils with experts saying more brides will go for long, sweeping fabrics rather than subtle, simple headpieces.

Amy Parfett from online wedding bible, Wed Shed, said: "Flower crowns had their heyday and aren't as popular anymore and when it comes to veils this year, the longer the better it seems."

Carissa Lake from the Cupcake Princess, who has made cakes for Nicole Richie, Candice Warner and Jessica Rowe, said: "Gone are the days of the traditional fruit cake, peoples are now choosing different flavours such as red velvet, vanilla, chocolate and even carrot cake."

"The focus is coming back to the cake and big is back."

More than 80 per cent of couples are also now living together before taking the vows.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal that in 1997, just 67 per cent of couples getting married were de facto, but 20 years on, that has increased to 81.3 per cent.

Trends also show that fewer Australians are getting married, while the number of divorces is on the rise.


Statement florals are becoming popular. Picture: Milton Gan
Statement florals are becoming popular. Picture: Milton Gan


In 2017, there were 112,954 registered marriages and 49,032 divorces, however in 2008, there were 118,756 marriages and 47,000 divorces.

In percentage terms, 43 per cent of marriages ended in divorce in 2017, while just 39.5 per cent of them failed in 2008.

Brydens Lawyers Senior Associate and Family Law Accredited Specialist, Natalie Dadisho, outlined several reasons behind why divorce rates are rising.

"Divorce rates are now on the increase due to a series of factors including the sanctity of marriage being considered disposable in today's society, the decline in morals and beliefs, as well as one's selfishness and greed taking priority over the notion of marriage, being a lifelong commitment which requires communication and working through challenges."

"People are becoming more independent, particularly women who now have a stronger presence in the workforce. It is also an easy and quick process to file a divorce application," Dadisho added.

The figures also show there has been a slight increase in the age Aussies are when they wed.

Statistics from 2017 reveal that the average age males marry is 32 years old, while the median female age is 30. In 2007 men and women were getting married at ages 31.6 and 29.3 respectively. And in 1997 only 37 per cent of women and 49 per cent of men were over 30 years of age when they wed (need to explain this in context of the other figures).

Commenting on this shift, social researcher Mark McCrindle said: "With young people staying in the parental home later, studying longer, delaying the earnings years and unlikely to be financially ready for home ownership until later, marriage and the family years have similarly been pushed back."

Meanwhile, Anna Ferris from The Celebrant Society, who has been marrying couples 10 years, has noticed a rise in quirky locations being chosen for marriage ceremonies.

"At the moment, wineries, beaches, warehouses, non-denominational chapels and family farms are popular location choices with many couples opting to hold their ceremonies outdoors," Ferris said.

"However, we are seeing more and more unique locations, from hot air balloons to sunrise ceremonies on surfboards in the water - whatever allows the couple to effectively express themselves, their creativity, and the unique aspects of their relationship."