This week, we're telling the story behind the story of Natalie & Matt's beautiful wedding, as seen on A Current Affair on Monday night. Today, we chat with the celebrant, Sarah from Engage Celebrants, who helped them write their vows and put together a ceremony that reflected them as a couple.
1. Why did you want to get involved with Natalie's Wedding?
One of the reasons I first became a celebrant is because I believe in the importance of celebrating milestones in our lives with those family and friends. Every day Engage Celebrants get to see firsthand the power that ritual and ceremony have in bringing people together. After hearing Natalie and Matt's story it was an easy decision to offer to tell their love story through their wedding ceremony. My best friend lost her battle with cancer two years ago, leaving behind her soulmate and their beautiful baby boy so I know how precious life is. Although a wedding and marriage won't cure her it does give Natalie and Matt an opportunity to celebrate their gorgeous love story and the important role that Emily plays in it. The generosity of Natalie and her family - to open up their lives to others at such a private time, all in an effort to raise awareness about ovarian cancer and prevent others having to experience it - continues to astound me and is a true reflection of their caring and love. It has been an incredibly uplifting experience for me to be involved in and getting to know Matt, Natalie and their family has been a joy. The cuddles from their chihuahua's during our meeting were an added bonus!
2. What service did you provide?
We worked with Natalie and Matt to create a wedding ceremony that was truly reflective of them. Of course this meant that Natalie's daughter Emily played a key role and there was a lot of laughter as well as tears. There are legal requirements which need to be met but civil ceremonies offer so much flexibility to couples. The ceremony is at the beginning of most wedding days and really sets the tone for what is to follow. It's a wonderful chance to for couples put their own stamp onto the words that are said and the promises that they make made. As the celebrant I'm usually only involved with the ceremony and often haven't met anyone other than the bride and groom before the wedding. This time however I spent a lot of time with Natalie's whole family. I also got to tag along to a dress fitting and discuss some of the other elements of the wedding with Natalie, Kerrieanne and Victoria Black which was a thrill as I'm a little obsessed with all things wedding!
3. What influences did you have in the way that you approached the ceremony?
It's important to us that each wedding ceremony is unique and our inspiration comes from the couple themselves - who they are, why they are getting married, who else is important in their lives and of course why they love each other. Most wedding ceremonies are strongly focused on the future but for Natalie and Matt their time together is precious and their future uncertain. It was important to them to find a balance between recognising Natalie's cancer and the way it has shaped them all whilst at the same time keeping the focus on their love for each other and for Emily. Their idea to play the song Emily wrote about her feelings on Natalie's cancer journey was a wonderful way to do this.
We met several times to discuss their ceremony and refine the draft. Their stories and ideas for rituals, like Emily and Matt exchanging half a Lego house each, came from these conversations. At Engage Celebrants we regularly marry couples who already have children either from the current or previous relationships so actively including them in the creation of the ceremony as well as on the day is something we encourage.
It was also obvious that there was a lot of laughter in their lives and we wanted to reflect this in the ceremony. Guests are often surprised at how meaningful and heartfelt a fun ceremony can be but the way people marry is changing and ceremonies are no longer the boring bit you have to sit through before you get to the party. Natalie and Matt wrote their own vows, giving everyone a little peek through the window into their love for each other (and completely using up my supply of tissues for the groom) and having their mums read a Blessing of the Hands meant so much to all involved. Just like their relationship, their marriage ceremony was a wonderful balance of happy and sad, hopes and dreams and above all love.
4. What was your hope for the outcome?
Natalie was so sick the week before the wedding that our main hope was she and Matt would be able to enjoy their day. Once we knew she'd be well enough I think everyone involved let go of that breath we didn't know we'd been holding. It was incredibly generous of Channel 9, Modern Wedding and all the suppliers to donate their time and services and there was a risk that although Natalie and Matt would be legally married, it wouldn't necessarily be something they felt connected with. It is testament to the professionalism and personal involvement of everyone that, although there were a few extra camera crews, this wedding really was all about Natalie and Matt, their love for each other and their commitment to spend their future together with their family, for as long as they possibly can.
5. What was your favourite moment on the day?
I don't think I could choose just one! Seeing Natalie when she first stood in the doorway and watching Matt's face as he saw her was a highlight. We weren't sure she'd even be well enough to walk but Natalie is a very independent and strong woman and she was determined to do it. When Matt got down on one knee to make his promises to Emily I think my heart skipped a beat and listening and Natalie and Matt shared their vows just gave me goosebumps. For me though the best moment was when Natalie stepped up onto that box (their height difference is a bit of a running joke with their family and friends) and they had their first kiss as husband and wife. They'd made it through everything the last few weeks had thrown them, they were officially Mr and Mrs Turner and they could get down to the serious business of celebrating with their nearest and dearest! You could feel the excitement in the air.
For more information on personalising your ceremony, contact Engage Celebrants www.engagecelebrants.com.au
All images courtesy Clarzzique Photography www.clarzzique.com