Community Driven Colourful Festival Wedding: Jo & Tony

Nic Duncan

May 8, 2014


Jo and Tony were married  by a small lake on a friend’s property in Denmark, on the south coast of Western Australia. The bride wore a dress from an op shop (she actually only decided the morning of the wedding what she would be wearing, after several changes of clothes!) and clear wellington boots! Tony wore an outfit also put together that morning from things he already owned or could borrow from friends. As you can probably tell this was the lowest of low key weddings!


“Originally there wasn’t really a set theme”, began Jo. “On the invites we asked people to be colourful and flamboyant if they wanted. A week out from the wedding we emailed everyone and strongly recommended gumboots as the weather forecast was looking grim and the ceremony site was outdoors around a small lake. If anything the theme was one of merging ritual and theatre. A marrying together of our different aspects, one of quiet sensitivity to ritual and acknowledging presence of spirit, and the other a desire to engage with the theatre of life and laugh loudly.”


“As a couple in our forties, and both community artists, we already had large established groups of creative friends who gave generously of time and expertise and who wanted to be involved”, she continued. “It was important for us that this was a community celebration with lots of music and madness. Our mutual friend Nic, a professional wedding photographer, announced she would be taking the photos and another friend is a celebrant and she offered to do the ceremony for us. A writer friend wrote a poem for us which she read at the ceremony and my 12 year old niece phoned and told us she’d found an old homemade carriage and that she would ride Jo to the wedding. Her pony was small, cantankerous and a renowned farter – of course we said yes.”


“A fisherwoman friend in Albany offered us a boat and decorated it so we symbolically rowed it across the small lake. Another friend drew up designs for bridesmaids’ dresses (her 2 daughters were in the gang of 6) then she and two friends made them. My daughter wrote a piece for violin which she performed at the ceremony and my nephew and Tony’s nephew both sang at the top of the rock looking down over the rock pool. We had a gang of musician friends – including children – who gathered to walk in front of the horse and buggy and sang me to the site – singing ‘Daisy Daisy!’”


“Two friends couldn’t make it so they had an early dinner for us and made us a small love heart chocolate cake. They then gave us the love heart tin with the recipe and said there’s your wedding cake. We gave this to five friends and each cooked a separate layer with my mother doing the final love heart top. Other friends contacted us with offers of doing flowers, hair, and decorating the marquee. We pretty well let people’s own creativity run wild with Tony and I simply making sure all the practicalities were covered.”


One of the most significant parts of the wedding was the ceremony. “We were interested in ritual and did a bit of reading around how other cultures create wedding rituals”, Jo explained. “As I had lived in China for some year’s I decided to try out a ritual I had been a part of in China. The groom-to-be comes to the bride-to-be’s house and has to convince all of the women of the bride’s family that he is worthy of her hand in marriage. Tony decided he would call in his male family members and best man to support him in this process. The best man was sent first to the house to begin negotiations. At some point my brother – so desperate for his sister to be at last married – rushed into the house and attempted kidnapping. Negotiations continued with my godmother doing the final negotiations.”


“The best thing about our wedding was that everyone was a part of the story”, Jo concluded. “We wanted a big celebration with family and friends – it was a party for them as well as our celebration. All of our money went on marquee, alcohol (champagne), and food. As we live in the country many people camped on the property so we had many people to feed before and after the wedding. A large breakfast was shared the morning after.”