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That feeling you get when you make a mistake at a wedding

Embracing Imperfection on the “Perfect Day”

During a recent TCS catch-up in Sydney, we were swapping anecdotes over pinot grigio when Mary Vevers asked the group an interesting question: what’s something that’s gone wrong at a wedding?

One-by-one we revealed stories that we would perhaps prefer to purge from our memory banks. But in sharing these cringe-inducing moments we found comfort and camaraderie. Because here is the truth that everyone knows, but rarely wants to admit: everyone makes mistakes, and it’s rarely the end of the world.

Embracing Imperfection
In an age of carefully curated Instagram feeds where every celebrant seems like the most creative, most accomplished and most booked professional you’ve ever seen, it can be easy to lose perspective. The truth is, we’re all far from flawless, and that’s okay.

The pressure to be perfect on the couple’s “perfect” day is immense. They’ve invested so much time, money and emotional energy in their wedding, and you don’t want to be the one to ruin it. But as I’ve come to realise, it’s actually pretty rare that the mishap that makes us want to crawl into a hole has any real impact on the bigger picture. Often these mistakes will go completely unnoticed by others. After all, weddings are a celebration of life and love; and life and love can be delightfully messy.

A Non-Exhaustive List of Mistakes I’ve Made
We love sharing our triumphs and wins, but if we are willing to be a little vulnerable and talk about the times we messed up, it can bring reassurance to others, and even help them not make the same errors. I share the following list of blunders not to incite panic about all the things that could go wrong, but to acknowledge that in the beautiful chaos of a live event like a wedding, mistakes will occasionally, inevitably happen. And if I’ve survived all this, you can, too.

This is a safe space, right? In no particular order, I have:

  • Forgotten to sight the groom’s passport, only realising on the morning of the wedding
  • Left my high heels by my front door, so had to officiate the wedding in sneakers
  • Allowed the photographer to sneak away with the couple for photographs before the marriage certificates were signed
  • Let my iPad overheat by leaving it in the sun, forcing me to read the ceremony from my phone
  • Printed the wrong date on the Form 15
  • Misspelled the bride’s surname on the Form 15
  • Gave the groom the middle name ‘Ryan’ on the Form 15… he did not have a middle name
  • Failed to tell the guests to be seated until halfway through the ceremony
  • Created an awkward moment when I mistook the bride’s (new and young) stepmother for the bride’s mother
  • Forgotten to change the witness name in the online registry before submitting the paperwork
  • Called the groom by the wrong name during the ceremony (this one still haunts me)
  • Remembered the DONLIM needed signing only after starting the ceremony 
  • Bought low-quality AA batteries from the petrol station that did not work in my microphone
  • Played the wrong processional song
  • Played the wrong first dance song
  • Miscalculated the time needed to start getting ready by an hour (wedding-ready hair and make-up in under 7 minutes, anyone?)
  • And most recently, got trapped in the Sydney Opera House carpark for 40 minutes, eventually arriving 15 minutes after the ceremony was supposed to start

And you know what? I’m still here, my career intact and the couples happily and legally married. In almost all these instances, I still received glowing reviews from couples who couldn’t have been more pleased with my service.

Learning and Growth
We’re usually our own harshest critics. So if you’re kicking yourself over getting tongue-tied mid-ceremony or forgetting to check the best man had the rings, just know it’s because you care so much about what you do, which isn’t a bad thing.

As highly-awarded celebrant and TCS superstar Lillian Lyon told that group of celebrants as we munched on charcuterie (just after she shared a story about the gut-wrenching time she’d forgotten the couple had moved the ceremony to three hours earlier) “Mistakes can be wonderful things! They provide us with opportunities to learn, grow and be even better at what we do.”

So now, I ensure my kit always includes a fresh packet of high-quality AA batteries and a corded mic; I’ve traded high heels for wedding-ready fancy flats; and I’ve sworn off attempting to park at the Opera House ever again.

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Author Bio

Alison Pickel

Alison is a big nerd and she’s not afraid to admit it. When she’s not getting overly excited by s45(2) of the Marriage Act (how cool is it that it’s the couple’s words that actually make them married?!), she can be found puzzling in escape rooms or smashing the movie round for her pub trivia team.

Hailing from Marrickville in Sydney’s Inner West, Alison has a background in print and digital media. In 2018, she swapped deadlines for ‘I do’s, and has been hitching loved-up legends ever since. She is also a celebrant trainer, ceremony ghostwriter and the NSW Local Leader for The Celebrant Society.

Away from the arbour, Alison likes to eat dumplings, re-watch Schitt’s Creek (again), and take way too many photos of her rescue cats, Pancake and Barney.