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The last wedding in which Josh Withers unquestioningly included a few old-fashioned marriage traditions was his own.
In an intimate, outdoor ceremony officiated by a friend three years ago at the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens, Josh married the woman of his dreams, Brittany Snow, with 40 of their closest friends and family in attendance.
The bride wore a beautiful white gown, her dad walked her down the aisle and the couple exchanged traditional gold wedding bands.
“It was really lovely. We actually would have eloped but Britt found this beautiful dress that needed to be seen by everyone,” laughs the 33- year-old Gold Coast resident who, when his career in radio came to an end in November 2013, dusted off his civil marriage celebrant qualification and set to work.
Less than two years later, Josh is arguably one of Australia’s most sought-after wedding celebrants, making headlines with his convention-defying themed ceremonies, Twitter vows and creative pop-up wedding gigs.
Billed as the “official wedding celebrant of fun”, his business has flourished so quickly he has offices in Sydney and Brisbane, features regularly in the media, is a prolific blogger and travels throughout Australia and overseas to officiate at his personalised, one-off ceremonies.
“One of the reasons I became a civil celebrant was because I saw a few doing not greatjobs,” Josh says. “I thought that the wedding ceremony should be the best part and that the rest of the wedding should be a celebration of that.”
Which is why every wedding created by Josh is a unique celebration, no small feat when you consider he officiated at 30 ceremonies last month alone and has another 100-odd on the books across Australia and in locations as far flung as Hawaii and New York.
Eagle-eyed television viewers may also recognise him as the celebrant who officiated
at two of the four weddings featured in the controversial series Married at First Sight, which finished screening last week.
“Some people want their story told, many people don’t,” he says. “Some people want to have everyone involved because the 30 or 40 or 50 people there are their favourite people in the world and they want to celebrate with them, not just in front of them.”
Josh says he loves the quirky, weird weddings, such as a Halloween dress-up party and a Star Wars-themed ceremony in which the groom walked in to the Imperial March and his dad was dressed as Darth Vader.
“They’re not always overly themed though, there mightjust be something in the vows,” he says. “We had a Dr Seuss theme the other day where we made up these Dr Seuss vows which all rhymed and it was amazing.”
Alleys, burger joints, private gardens, beaches … the only limits to a possible wedding
location are legality and logistics, and Josh has already conquered cyberspace with a Twitter wedding he conducted for friends in Western Australia in 2010.
“There was this really odd, really strong latenight Twitter community in Perth at the time so this couple thought it would be remiss of us to not do their wedding on Twitter,” Josh says.”! was in Port Macquarie and I tweeted my stuff under #twedding and they tweeted their stuff and we had a ceremony like that. It was actually very cool.”
His favourite ceremonies are the nerd weddings, “not because of the comic books and Star Wars but because nerds are totally open and honest about who they are”.
“These are the people who have just really recognised who they are, they’ve got a selfawareness and they want to have a party to celebrate that,” he says. “They’ve been bold enough to say, ‘sorry Mum, sorry Dad, that’s not happening’.”
Although Josh has his share of detractors, shaking up the staunchly traditional wedding world is clearly resonating with today’s generation of wedding participants- largely the gen Y crew. He argues it’s not that old-fashioned wedding traditions are wrong, but why include them if they hold no relevance to the individuals wanting to marry?
“By the time Britt and I got married, I realised I was doing a lot of things for no reason. So many wedding traditions are not relevant to us todaythey have no context, but just kind of sit there in this completely unauthorised to-do list for a wedding that crazily doesn’t come from anywhere … it’s not in the Bible, it’s not in the Koran, it’s not in the law, it’s not in the dictionary.
“I figure if we’re going to have this most intimate of days, this day when two people stop being alone and start being together, let’s celebrate that in a really special and unique way.”