Image Credit: Allie Claire Creative

Celebrating Diversity

Weddings are the ultimate celebration of unconditional love that transcends most boundaries, and in today’s society, this has never been more prevalent. In 2017, Australia voted yes to marriage equality and since then, the Australian wedding industry has undergone a slow but significant transformation. Here, Melbourne Wedding & Bride’s Emily Axford sits down with civil celebrant Abigail Egan (she/her), owner of Married By Abigail, to discuss how a celebrant can play a role in ensuring inclusivity of different cultures, backgrounds and identities and making sure everyone feels welcome.

Abigail Egan describes herself as a “one stop shop for couples who want to engage a range of services from one vendor,” as she is an authorised marriage celebrant, MC, bespoke crown creator and will soon be offering rental floral arches and plinths. Egan officially launched her business at the Melbourne Wedding & Bride Expo in January 2024 after realising she was perfectly suited to a celebrant job with the ability to command a room well and land a decent joke. Another reason why she decided to become a celebrant is that she “wants to be part of the next generation of celebrants who unapologetically celebrate marriage equality every opportunity they get.” Egan went on to explain that “as a queer, disabled, neuro-spicy woman who grew up in country Victoria, I know first-hand what it is to be excluded and not know where you fit in.”

Including Everyone

As Egan simply states, “being inclusive is the basic social contract that we treat everyone from all walks of life with dignity and respect and expect the same in return.” This applies to all events, including your wedding, as it is good manners to ensure that all your guests can participate and enjoy your special day equally. As a celebrant, Egan always communicates her inclusive values to her clients and works with them to include language and scripting for their ceremony. “It is often small tweaks that can make a ceremony go from problematic and unnecessarily gendered to welcoming and modern,” Egan explains.

It is important to remember that your wedding day is for you, so finding a celebrant who puts in the effort to tailor your celebration to reflect your preferences and overall vision is important. “I try to write my ceremonies using ‘the collective voice’ of the couple – how they talk, their style of humour, their slang. Language is so important to get right in a ceremony,” Egan elaborates.

Including LGBTQIA+

Since the ‘yes’ vote to marriage equality, there has been a distinctive break from traditional weddings as they are often tailored to heterosexual couples. Egan emphases how important it is for a celebrant to be educated in order to offer their services to the LGBTQIA+ community as traditional wedding ceremonies are full of “unnecessarily gendered language or norms.” By doing this due diligence, Egan can offer to her client’s alternatives that might be more suitable for their wedding. “I just see it as doing my small part to celebrate love, pride and equality when I can,” Egan notes.

With all of this in mind, however, “if you are an inclusive, welcoming and respectful ally to anyone existing in a marginalised group, you don’t need to do anything extra or ‘go the extra mile’ to ensure a couple or guest from the LGBTQIA+ community feels comfortable and included.” Egan has found that even heterosexual couples who want to book her “want to acknowledge and celebrate the right for all people to marry as they are allies and often have friends and family who are in this community.”


Including Disability

“The world can be a very grim space for people who have access issues and so at an event that should be all about good vibes and love, you don’t want anyone’s mood or experience thrown off because you haven’t done your part as the host to make them feel welcome,” Egan notes on the topic of disabilities. You know your guests better than your celebrant, but celebrants are a great resource when it comes to wanting to accommodate people and being unsure on how to go about it. For example, Egan ensures that when she meets with clients it happens in a “quiet, climate-controlled space as people with sensory issues, particularly neurodiverse people, can become overwhelmed and exhausted from excessive noise or from being too hot or cold.”

She also encourages her clients to do the same at their reception so that people can have a space to feel calm or have a lie down if need be, so that they can go on enjoying the event. “These things may seem minor, but they make huge differences to clients and guests with access needs who want to be able to fully participate but need some accommodations to do so,” Egan explains.

Including Religion

Most celebrants are happy to incorporate any cultural or religious traditions you want to add to your ceremony, and Egan is no different. “I will bend over backwards to accommodate the cultural rituals and traditions that are important to a couple and their community,” she remarks. However, it is important to Egan to be her authentic self and abide by her own principles, so for couples who practise a faith that goes against this or feel strongly about being married according to what their faith dictates “I encourage them to do so by finding a celebrant that has a deep understanding of their faith and shares their values, as they would be able to provide more expertise in conducting a celebration in line with their religious law.” Egan elaborates on this saying, “I would never wish to disrespect any religious law by butchering an ancient ritual out of ignorance, and so there are many religious rituals that I don’t believe would be appropriate for me to perform as it would be inauthentic.”

If you think Married By Abigail would be perfect for your inclusive wedding, you can get in touch via her website, email or socials.

Image courtesy of Married by Abigail