Meet Annie Molenaar, a Marriage Celebrant, celebrant mentor, MC, DJ, Singer and creator of Unholy Matrimony. Annie shares with us all about how Unholy Matrimony helps couples break through the stereotypical wedding styles of today. Then we discuss how she’s been helping couples during the COVID guidelines in QLD.
My Celebrant business is Celebrant Lady Love, and began about 8 years ago with just me out on the wedding circuit, you know delivering ceremonies, and that was as far as it went, but over the years it’s developed and demand has grown for the Lady Love flavour.
So I’ve recruited a couple of other celebrants now, who work alongside me. I’ve got Sarah in Sydney she runs the Sydney end of the operation, and I’ve got Anna in Byron Bay and then I’m in the Gold Coast Brisbane Region. So we’re all Celebrants and we are all MC’s as well, so we can stay on to empty the reception.
The other part of the Lady Love business that’s expanded, is that it also offers music as well. So I am a DJ and part of an acoustic duo. Sometimes couples will asked me to stay on after the ceremony, and we’ll do 2 or 3 hour acoustic set. I’ll set up the decks and DJ until close and MC sometimes, as well. So those nights can be quite mental and they can be quite exhausting, but really fun as well, and I love DJing side of it. So there’s that, the music and the Celebranting and all of that sort of ties in with the Lady Love brand.
And then I run a magazine called Unholy Matrimony, which celebrates weddings that move away from the white wedding traditional expectations that are placed on people and that people find difficult to break away from, I think.
Annie Molenaar: So the magazine celebrates and showcases weddings that are brave enough and bold enough to be different. It leans very much into a darker ascetic. Lots of our couples, while wearing black instead of white or red or, you know, about lots of our couples still wear traditional colours, but they might do things on their day, which are untraditional.
We don’t have any kind of a mould or anything that we’ve set out that you have to look this way, or do this certain thing in order to be featured in our magazine, we just know we love couples who dare to be different and who are bold enough to embrace their own individuality and express themselves freely on their wedding day.
Pete The Celebrant: Well I remember when, I think Sheena and Tristen, one of my couples had at some point been part of Unholy Matrimony, and when we did their wedding, they wanted something big and different. If you meet Sheena her personality is big, she’s incredible. She’s not in your face, but she stands out when you meet her. She’s asked me if I can you wear something a little more darker, and I’m thinking sure, and I realize I’ve only got white shirts, so I had to go and buy a darker shirt, because there it’s very much for an expectation of this cleaner white wedding, I don’t know how to put it. But I love the Unholy Matrimony celebrates the other side, because that’s not everyone’s jam.
Annie Molenaar: Yes and I think the reason that I decided that the world needed, unholy matrimony was because I myself, needed it and I’d clocked up around 400 or 500 weddings when I sort of got to this point, and I realised that I was starting to feel a little bit underwhelmed. I just felt like everybody was sharing the same Pinterest board.
It wasn’t that I’d rock up to a wedding, and I’d be like, here we go again, rat on a wheel kind of thing. It wasn’t like that. I just couldn’t understand why everybody was doing the same thing. I was just like, why? Maybe there’s not enough inspiration out there for people, to know you don’t know what you don’t know.
So unless we show people another way, unless we say, hey, you actually have permission to do it this way. Your wedding can be different to this, you don’t have to wear white. You don’t have to be walked down the aisle by a parent. You don’t have to have a wedding party. You don’t need bridesmaids, you don’t need groomsmen. You can wear whatever you want, your wedding can look however you want it to look and it can feel however you want it to feel.
When I was arriving at each wedding, I was thinking that all of these weddings look and feel the same. I wanted an outlet for my own artistic expression and the magazine most certainly gives me that. It gives me the opportunity to write and to connect with couples on a different level. Outside of that, I wanted to give people license to step back from those societal expectations that are so often placed on them and to re-assess and work out what they really want, and if they see something and they don’t necessarily open the magazine and go, I want to wear a crystal crown and a black dress and do this. But they might just see one element of something, like maybe they’ll see a floral arrangement that they particularly like and they might never have considered to have those colours before.
Whatever it is, even if it’s small details or small ideas that are filtering through. There was this thing where couples would enter into the wedding market taped and gagged, and they all had this way that they were supposed to be, and it doesn’t have to be like that.
Pete The Celebrant: I feel like just the title taped and gagged, could be a great section for Unholy Matrimony. I’m sure they would have a section, therefore, that’s why you started it, it’s definitely something you wanted to say, you can do different. And for yourself, it was a creative outlet for other couples who wanted something different, it was to give them ideas, give them inspiration.
So when is the exciting issue 4 coming out?
Annie Molenaar: It’s coming, it’s going to be out for Christmas. So great little thing to put under the Christmas tree. I think issue 4 is, well, it’s the issue I’m most excited about because it’s so different. There are so many great stories in issue 4, we’re calling it the ‘Love Recovery Edition‘ with recovery of Covid19, it looks much better when in written format. So we feel like this is the issue, that’s bringing us out on the other side of Covid19.
Celebrating all of the love stories that still took place in the most difficult year, that I can recall in my own personal history and certainly in the history of the wedding industry. I’ve never anticipated in a million years that a pandemic could hit, and that I’d be postponing 60 couples from 2020, 60 weddings from this year into next year.
I don’t think that any of us could ever have fathomed, that that was even a possibility until suddenly, it was a reality, and there’s us, that exists on this side of that, and we’re running our businesses. You know, obviously the financial impacts of that, were heavy. But beyond that, the emotional impacts for our couples and in turn for us were heavier, I think. So, so many couples really hung on and fought to get married against all odds through this pandemic, and that’s what this issue celebrates.
It just really shows there were just the stand out couples for me throughout this entire process, with those couples who came to me and they said, we know we can’t have a wedding anymore, but we have to get married. We want to be married. And whatever parameters they had to work within in order to make that happen, it just said so much about love and about the whole reason why I do this job and the whole reason why I love doing this job. So yes, that’s what this issue is going to celebrate.
Pete The Celebrant: It would be good to mention, because you were mentioning to me, with the magazines, just the quality because you put so much into this. I really want people who are just even a little bit interested to really take a deep look in Unholy Matrimony, the quality of what people are getting, it could be a great gift as well for people.
Annie Molenaar: I can’t even measure the number of hours that I pour into this magazine, and that our Artistic Director Sophie pours into it, but it is a Fine Art magazine with the submissions that we accept are of the highest quality. The photographers that work on these weddings are artists. The stories that we write about the couples, it’s not like we send couples a questionnaire, and then the article is in a question and answer format, copied and pasted.
My other love is writing so, I spend hours and hours putting together articles that are actually interesting to read and try really hard to uncover the stories behind these weddings and the couples who are getting married. That’s the part I love about Celebrancy, writing people’s stories and the part that I love about putting the magazine together as well.
Learning about the stories of these people who are getting married and the circumstances that led them to that point where they were ready to do that and also with this issue, just the obstacles that they came up against in order to get married. So this issue is really cool, it’s so beautiful, the imagery is just like, I am so excited. It’s really the hardest part for me at this point is not leaking anything. We’ve got our Instagram page, which we do offer sneak peeks on.
So if you want to get little teasers and a little bit of an idea, you can find us on Instagram at Unholy Matrimony. Sometimes I would literally have to walk away from my computer and stop myself from sharing it, because images are so cool. People getting married in old abandoned jails, on the side of a cliff, down alleyways with masks on, with just two witnesses present in the backstreets of Melbourne or Geelong. There are just so many, because of the way in which these weddings were forced to take place.
For example, there was one that happened in Sydney in Lithgow, and it was at the State Mine, and originally, it was supposed to be this big warehouse party. But, because they couldn’t have a dance floor and the party vibe, they had a sit down thing. But then they had these amazing bands come and play like Ruby Fields played, and they just had this really cool like lavish, banquet style feasting with their mates and, then when you take away the party component of a wedding, suddenly the biggest and most important component becomes the actual marriage and the wedding.
Like the actual process of getting and being married and having your favourite people there with you, just to celebrate exactly that. The focus has shifted from the aesthetics, the reception, the party and the dance floor, to the actual ceremony and the event, of becoming a married couple. Everybody who is there is just happy to be there, just happy to be able to share in each other’s company.
All of the couples, just talk about how much love there was at their wedding, and how it was just such a celebration of family, closeness and community? I think that before Covid happened, we all took that kind of stuff for granted. When it’s taken away from you, and then you get it back, you just appreciate it so much more. I know for you guys in Melbourne, you’ve done it harder than anyone else, and I’m sure you can attest, being away from friends and family has probably been the hardest part.
Pete The Celebrant: Share with us about current restrictions (11th Nov 2020) and ideas for Wedding Receptions?
Annie Molenaar: We can have 100 people at weddings and 40 on dance floors and then from the 1st December, we can have unlimited numbers on dance floors, and I think that the numbers on wedding restrictions lift entirely then as well.
With regards to ideas, for those who are still in a situation where their ability to enjoy their day is impeded by restrictions we’ve really had to think outside the box. I think daytime weddings have become a really popular choice now. I’ve got a couples who are booking in to do 10 or 11 o’clock ceremonies.
And then they’re having outdoor lunches or picnics, you know really lavish style picnics with garden games and they’re partying and drinking throughout the day. So by the time it’s the evening, everybody heads home for tea and whatever, but the partying and everything happens throughout the day, and then the dance floor doesn’t feel like it’s missing because it’s been a daytime event, and everybody’s had the opportunity to sort of move around and mingle and play croquet and whatever.
So there’s that, and when most of my couples pulled the pin on the DJ thing and the music aspect of their booking with me, I did do 2 weddings where I stayed on after the ceremony and I did DJ and MC, and I guess those weddings were, I can’t really say that I was a DJ.
I very much felt like it was trivia night at the pub and I was running it, but I think that was cool. I think that if I hadn’t been there, the whole environment probably would have been a bit stale actually, because every at that point, everybody had to remain seated. There was no mingling, you couldn’t even sort of move around. You couldn’t have anyone on the dance floor.
It was very strict, and venues were really strict about it, because it’s their livelihood that’s at stake. Even if somebody gets up and has a little bit of a boogie with someone else, and someone films it on their phone and posts it in their stories and they tag the location, the next thing you know, that venue gets a fine. So one thing that I noticed was that the very presence of phones was reduced, and that was a nice thing to notice.
People were talking a lot more, because people weren’t dancing and getting so drunk and that there was less opportunity for people to just kind of film things that were going on. Everyone was just sitting down, so everyone was really engaged in conversation, but we did things like, I would take requests for songs on the proviso that whoever made the request would give an interpretive dance performance with the request.
So you were allowed to have one person, no dance floor but you could have one person up dancing. So we did lots of games like trivia, we did trivia about the couples, that I was marrying, and we did the shoe game and things like that. The things that I normally encourage people not to do at their receptions, because it cuts into their dance floor time, less formalities, less games, you just want to party. But in those times I was telling people the exact opposite. I’m like, you need this, you’re going to need something to entertain people. You need something for people to engage with and be entertained by, so games came back in a big way.
Also people are itching to have a bit of a dance. Everybody has got such a strong sense of longing to get back on the dance floor, and everybody needs it, we just need that release. I feel like that’s the best possible medicine that we could all have right now, is a bit of a boogie, couple of beers and a bit of a boogie. I’m really looking forward to the next wedding that I am DJing, because it’ll be the first one where people will be able to dance again.
So yes I’m really, really excited about that. That’s not to say the ones that I did previously without a dance floor, felt as though they were lacking in any way. They just felt different, it was a different kind of a celebration. Every single one of those couples came out saying it was the best night of their life, you know it was just celebrated in a different way.
Annie Molenaar – Celebrant, MC, DJ, Singer, Creative, Mother, Wife…what can’t she do!?
Pete The Celebrant: So some of the things like games, have been a big one, particularly for that role at the reception and it sounds like you are more an entertaining trivia host/DJ/MC.
I felt very much like a host, like I was hosting a big dinner party and going around and asking lots of questions and I really encouraged people to speak about the couple. I think in that sense, if anybody who’s considering dropping their MC for the reception is making a horrible mistake. I’ve MC plenty of weddings before but I’ve never had to really step into the role, so strongly as what I did during Covid.
We had our usual events take place, in terms of speeches and the cake cutting and things like that, but in-between those times when you know, at play music and everybody was sort of sitting down, it did feel like it needed something else and needed somebody to say, hey, this is what we’re going to do now, and in-between to lighten the mood with a story, with an anecdote. So in my role as a celebrant, it was extremely beneficial to have all of the information that I did about the couples, because I was able to draw on that.
You know, from the information that I collected from them through our conversations, and also through the questionnaires that they do when I’m writing the ceremony. So I had a lot of stuff that I could draw on and create with during that reception, and that was really helpful, and I couldn’t imagine that kind of a role being put on a guest.
I really couldn’t imagine, because it was a huge undertaking. By the end of the night, I was thinking and even going into it, I knew it would be big, but I don’t think I realised just how big it would be. Normally the MC part of the night is when I chill out, I kind of sit back and stand up and make sure that things are going well. I introduce people when they’re speaking, timekeep, you know just make sure that things keep moving, that they’re in the right order and that they move along nicely and in the correct direction. But with this, it was a whole different role. Yes it was hosting, it was being an entertainer and a host, as well as doing all the other things.
Annie in action
Yes it’s a great question. I wish they knew that they can do whatever they want. I wish they knew that they can break away from expectation, and they can celebrate the day whatever way they want. If they want to have a picnic, they can have a picnic.
If they want to have their ceremony at 10am, they can have it at 10am. If they want to just go off with just their parents and elope and then have a big party later on, they can. I think weddings become so stressful because there is such huge expectations on what a wedding should look and feel like, and people feel the pressure to live up to these expectations.
I just wish they knew that they didn’t have to and that there actually are none, and that all anybody wants to see is those two people happy and married. At the end of the day, that’s what everybody wants to see, and if that happens, in whatever way it happens, everyone will feel stoked for them.
By the Unholy Matrimony Magazine, Issue 4 coming out before Christmas, yes put it under the tree, I actually would say, hire great Celebrant, it really makes so much difference. And if you’ve never been to a good ceremony, I’m sure you can understand what I mean. But if you have been to a great ceremony, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Because a great Celebrant will transform your wedding day. They will not only make you remember all the reasons why you want to get married to that person, and why you love each other so much, but they will actually entertain your guests.
I actually see it now as not just this role, we’re a full melody, where a full melody takes place and boxes are ticked and legalities are signed off, and all of that. I see the role of a Celebrant now, as being the role of an entertainer and really putting everybody at ease and making them feel warm and welcome, and filling the room with a genuine and authentic sense of enthusiasm for what is about to take place.
Making everybody feel that elation that you get from seeing two people in love, but in a way, that’s transformative, because when you walk away from a great ceremony, you feel like you’re on a high, as opposed to feeling completely drained, which traditionally we saw that happening from ceremonies, so I would say hire great Celebrant.
But beyond that and I mean this, with utmost sincerity, spend the money on a good photographer, because the Celebrant can create all of those fields and create all of those amazing moments, but if you’ve got, Uncle Joe photographing it because he’s just bought his first DSLR, it can be pretty tricky behind the clicker. Yes, you’re going to miss it. I shouldn’t just say photographer and Celebrant, because there are so many components, but I would say investing in those two, in particular, will set you in good stead to have a fantastic day.
But invest your money in the things that are most important to you, and forget about all of the things that or the other little in-between things you know, really really work out what’s the most important to you, prioritize those things and put your money behind those things. If that’s music, then get an amazing band and pay the money for it. If it’s food, if you’re foodies, get great food. Whatever, have talked to each other about what’s most important to the two of you, and invest in that.
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