Double Weddings are Fun, Budget Friendly, and Poised for a Comeback

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant (06/04/2020) Categories: | Wedding Ceremony | Wedding Planning |
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The Darcys and the
                        Bingleys standing at the altar for their double
                        wedding in the movie Pride and PrejudiceIt's no secret. 2021 and 2022 are going to be incredibly busy for weddings because couples who have had to postpone their wedding planned for 2020 will be vying with couples who have already booked venues and vendors for 2021/2022. It's going to be tough. It's going to require thinking outside the box.

I’m definitely all about you getting married when, where, and the way you want. I really enjoy putting on my best problem-solving hat to figure out how to make your off the wall requests happen. Thinking ahead, 2021 may well be the year the double wedding makes a huge comeback. While, a double wedding doesn't come without some challenges,  both for the couples and for their celebrant, double weddings can be tremendous fun, and best, of all, sharing the cost of your wedding with another couple will  save you money without having to compromise on the style of wedding you dream of. so why not give the idea some thought?

What is a double wedding?

A double wedding is a wedding in which two couples marry at the same time, in the same ceremony, and share the reception/celebration that follows.

Good idea or good compromise?

From the practical point of view, where there is immense competition for venues and vendors, having a double wedding may give you a much better chance of securing the date and venue of your choice without blowing the budget. While double weddings have usually been held where two sisters are marrying, and most of the traditions revolve around that assumption, there is no reason at all why two siblings of either gender, cousins, or good friends shouldn't also team up to share the wedding day.

Other benefits of having a double wedding include:
  • By pooling your money with another couple, both will be able to afford a much more lavish wedding reception.
  • Using a shared wedding stylist, photographer, videographer, flowers, and celebrant, will deliver a considerable saving. Though I strongly suggest that you ensure that both your photographer and videographer has a second shooter, because there will be moments in the ceremony where photos of both couples will need to be captured at the same time.
  • Shared family and friends who will need to travel to attend your wedding will only need to make one trip. Given that predictions are that air travel will be much more expensive when the borders open up again, this may be the difference between having them present for both weddings, only one, or neither, given they may not want to seem to play favourites.
  • To be successful, your planning, including planning your budget, needs to be formalised very early. This makes for much less stress overall. It minimises the risk of budget overrun, and it clarifies priorities.
  • Right throughout the process you have four people working on the planning, meaning that various tasks can be shared among you, reducing the work load and the pressure. You not only get plenty of help. You also have total support  because you have another couple who is working towards exactly the same goals.

There may well be things you need to reach a compromise on, but there is always a creative way to do that. For example, if you have different tastes in music how do you decide on music for the processional without leaving some of your guests feeling that they might be at the wrong wedding? The magic word is medley! Thanks to modern technology, if you're not using live musicians you can combine classical music with heavy metal.

The double wedding ceremony

There are two ways to have a double wedding ceremony. You can either have an integrated ceremony, or you can have one ceremony immediately following the other. Personally, I would strongly advise an integrated ceremony rather than have guests sitting through two ceremonies or being faced with the need to drastically curtail each ceremony. Even situations where each couple has different belief systems, styles, or tastes can be accommodated in a single ceremony
  • You can have a fusion ceremony, where both belief systems and/or cultural backgrounds are acknowledged and respected.
  • You can have two celebrants. If one couple is religious and the other not, it is perfectly legal to have both a civil celebrant and a clergy person involved in the ceremony. 
  • If you have radically different styles, those can be accommodated too. There is no requirement for both sides of the ceremony space to decorated identically, not for the couples to dress in similar fashion. All it takes is an accommodating stylists and a lot of confidence.
  • Integrating the ceremony doesn't mean that you have to say the same vows. You both do have to say the required legal vows, but when it comes to your personal promises it is no different to having a one-couple wedding. For your personal vows you decide what you want to promise and how you want to say your personal promises.
  • You can decide ahead of time which couple will go first for each element of the ceremony, but you can add fun by tossing a coin, or doing rock-paper-scissors, or pulling names out of a hat then.
  • In a double ceremony you only have to sit through the boring bits once. So the statement that your celebrant has to make before you say your vows (I am duly authorised by law, to solemnise marriages .... etc etc), together with reciting the legal definition of marriage, is only said once,because it covers both marriages
  • If you are stressed out at the thought of being the centre of attention, but still want a wedding, a double wedding is a great way of minimising that sort of stress.

A third option is to have two ceremonies on different days or at different venues, and then all come together for a shared reception. This could work well if each couple has married legally in an ISO ceremony while restrictions are in place. Elements of wedding ceremonies, such as exchange of rings can take place at a reception without having another ceremony, in order to share those moments with your guests. You could also share in some way the vows you made when you married.

Traditional advice on how to have a double wedding is big on who goes first, how to walk down the aisle, and the nuts and bolts of your wedding party. Whether there is one couple, two couples, or a whole mass wedding happening, there are no hard and fast rules. The logistics of any wedding ceremony can be changed to suit the people getting married. All it takes is a flexible, innovative celebrant and a few minutes to think outside of the box. I always suggest that we take the ceremony space/venue into account in order to right-size your wedding party and work out the logistics of how you'll walk down the aisle (if at all). How wide the aisle is, whether it is fixed or flexible, how large the space for the wedding party is, and whether the wedding party can be seated in the front will virtually make the decisions for you.

The double wedding reception

A double wedding reception can be immense fun without either couple feeling they are sharing the spotlight to the detriment of their own enjoyment. Integrating the more ceremonial and ritual aspects of the reception allows you to alternate speeches, cutting the cakes, first dance and so on, but also provides the opportunity for creative sharing. Cut both cakes at the same time, combine the speeches rather than just alternating them, and opt for a heavily choreographed first dance using your combined wedding parties as back-up dancers.

What you need to do to plan a double wedding

To ensure a successful and stress-free double wedding the four of you will need to agree on
  • budget
  • date
  • venue 
  • guest list
  • invitations
  • size of wedding party
  • ceremony type/style and celebrant
  • services you will hire vendors for, and who those vendors will be
  • anything you will DIY and who will be responsible

Many of these decisions will be influenced by your budget, so while the four of you should have some broad agreement on the where, when, how, and who, planning and negotiating the budget is an all-important first step.

Planning the budget for your double wedding

One of the major benefits of a double wedding is that you get to split your expenses. But there are multiple ways expenses can be split
  • you can go halves, splitting the budget 50/50
  • you can, divide those parts of the budget that are impacted by the number of guests proportionately, by the number of guests
  • or, to be scrupulously fair, divide you can while splitting the cost of items that are not impacted by guests numbers 50/50 (for example, photography, videography, celebrant, limos, etc)
  • or, having agreed on one of the above methods, you can assign any expenses that are specific to one couple to that couple. For example, if one of you decided on a much more expensive cake than the other, or decides on a horse-drawn carriage instead of a limo
  • You will also need a separate budget plan each for things that won't be shared, like what you wear, your rings, gifts to your wedding party, hair and makeup and so on.

To avoid what can be quite explosive financial disagreements down the track, write down the financial plan, formally sign it (all four of you), and make four copies, one for each of you. You will also need to agree on how the money is held and who will pay the bills. As each vendor is booked and each invoice arrives and is paid, update all copies of the budget.

Your combined guest list

A simple way to finalise your combined guest list is to follow a logical sequence in making your decisions
  1. Agree on family and friends you have in common
  2. Reach agreement on the total number of guests (bearing in mind budget and preferred venue capacity and policies
  3. Each come up with your list of your personal guests,
  4. Discuss, discuss, discuss
  5. If necessary trim both individual lists
  6. Discuss, agree, and sign off on the final list.

Choosing your venue

While, under normal circumstances, most couples choose their date and then go looking for a venue, it is not unusual, when you have your heart set on a venue, to find out when it is available and choose a date accordingly. With increased competition for venues next year, it might be well to choose your venue first if you plan to marry in 2021.  Many venues have both minimum and maximum numbers, both of which are critical to know. Minimum numbers are also linked to minimum spend. A venue will usually allow you to book for a smaller number of guests than their minimum numbers, but will charge you as if you have their minimum number of guests. One of the pluses of a double wedding is that, while there will be friends/family members common to both couples, each will also have their own list. By having a double wedding each couple can have quite a small guest list without jointly coming in under the minimum numbers for their chosen venue

Designing your double wedding invitations

Traditional advice is based on traditional design - portrait orientation and one column - and on the assumption that there will be two heterosexual couples marrying, and that the brides are sisters. So eldest sister goes first (unless they are twins, in which case in alphabetical order of names for some obscure reason), on the invitations, in the processional, and for the vows. Modern design poses no such restrictions. So you can use a the capacity to use columns and put the names of the two couples side by side.You probably won't an easy online template to just fill in, but any competent designer can help you out here, or you can tweak an online template.

Don't forget to have a rehearsal

Definitely have a formal rehearsal to make sure everyone is comfortable with the choreography of the ceremony, including the formal processional and recessional (entry and exit), and any part of the ceremony where someone has to move, present the rings, etc.

Thanks for reading!
Jenny xxx Let's talk soon about how you
                      can have the best ceremony ever
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