why this Greek-Australian marriage celebrant is overjoyed

I love a big fat Greek wedding. Hey, I’m a Greek Australian, so I’m a little biased. But I’m also a marriage celebrant, so you can give me any kind of wedding … a drum-beating, women-wailing Lebanese wedding, a lavish, days-on-end Indian wedding … or a modest ceremony in a park attended by as few as five people and an absolute maximum of 11 (including the couple, the celebrant and the photographer/videographer). And no reception afterwards.

Some couples have broken up amid the stress of having to constantly rearrange their weddings over the past 20 months.Because that, after all, is as big as a wedding can get in COVID-stricken NSW. And that’s a lot better than we’ve had it for the past couple of months, during which weddings of any description were outlawed in Greater Sydney and then across the state.

Sydneysiders Nina Miranti and Andrew Conduit take advantage of the new rules on Friday morning.

Sydneysiders Nina Miranti and Andrew Conduit take advantage of the new rules on Friday morning. Credit:James Brickwood

It is impossible to overstate the relief the lifting of this ban last Friday will bring to couples. While many will still postpone the date in the hope of a bigger, fatter wedding, I’ve already had calls from some who – eager to start their lives together – will proceed with a ceremony under these tight new guest limits.

It’s been devastating to witness the heartbreak of couples forced to postpone their marriage ceremonies. Since last year, we’ve had on-and-off-again limits on guest numbers. Don’t misunderstand me, I’ve supported the restrictions. We’ve needed to make sacrifices to keep safe, to save lives. And we still do.

However, in some of the saddest cases, I’ve become aware of couples who’ve broken off their engagements and walked away, such is the stress and emotional upheaval these conditions have placed on them and their families: the continual disappointment of planning and rescheduling celebrations, the sudden border closures prohibiting loved ones from making it. It’s painful to think a marriage thus abandoned might have stood the test of time.

I’m overjoyed though that some couples have called to tell me they are more than happy to forgo the trappings of a big event. They know it will be a meaningful ceremony, regardless.

For now, the legal minimum for their gatherings will be five people: a bride and a groom, a bride and a bride, a groom and a groom or whatever combination you can muster to formalise “the union of two people”, two witnesses and an authorised celebrant or minister of religion. The maximum will be 11 people: the five mentioned, five more guests, and someone to record the ceremony. Social-distancing will apply, except for the moment the couple kiss. Come on, they have to kiss! And it is legal.

The “after party” must wait for our post-lockdown life, when enough of us are fully vaccinated. And then, too, there’ll be wedding bells, drums, Zorba’s dance, the boom of Bollywood. Bring it on!

Angela Miller is a Sydney marriage celebrant.

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