Jul 8, 2020
I Do Drive Thru is a worldwide wedding startup, helping couples get hitched in the middle of Covid19 while adhering to the restrictions and saving the partying for later. Since launching in Melbourne, it’s spread nationally, and has since popped up all over the USA. Melbourne wedding celebrant Mel (who also moonlights as The Ceremony Store) runs us through why it started and how it’s helped couples all over the world.
I’ve been a Marriage and Funeral Celebrant for 15 years and own the companies, The Ceremony Store, The I Do Drive Thru and The Last Time. I am also a Celebrant Trainer with Australian Celebrations Training, Furniture Maker, Writer, Mother and Wife but I have always wanted to be an Electrician.
I am obsessed with learning as much as I can in this lifetime, I am perpetually curious. I try one new task every year until I get good at it, then I move on: I have learnt lock-picking, languages, carpentry, metal-detecting, and written a book.
When COVID 19 became a part of our world I was given medical advice to isolate which meant I could no longer do weddings. The next day I gave away/rescheduled 17 weddings and it was, to say the least; devastating, not just for me, but for my couples. Not only that, I felt horribly guilty giving my weddings to other Celebrants who could possibly get COVID.
That night I lay awake thinking about how I could keep those Celebrants safe and keep working from home during COVID.
To digress, I have always been a bit obsessed with Vegas style weddings and in my early Celebrancy career, I used to ride my red postie motorbike to weddings dressed as Elvis. It just seemed pretty natural that Vegas-vibed drive thru weddings and getting couples to stay in their cars while getting married and keeping the Celebrant distanced was the answer to all of my problems.
The next morning I texted 3 of the most awesome Celes I know, said let’s start this business, and all of them said yes without hesitation and 8 days later, we had a business name, logo, website and a press release. On our launch day we had over 32 calls from the press, 10 enquiries and booked our very first wedding.
Just by chance, my co-founders Kate, Zena and Klara were the perfect combo to get everything going, and the main driver between all of us was the passion to continue working while this crisis was going on around us.
We all love what we do and while we all kind of felt like sitting around grieving for what we had lost, we forced ourselves to build something new to fit with the changed times. Our catch cry became ‘we will work that out later’ as the business moved so incredibly quickly.
I honestly believe that anyone can do anything they set their mind to, impossible isn’t in my vocabulary. Any skill can be learned, any work can be completed no matter what limits there are, so we worked 19-20 hours days for that first week and we pulled it off.
The most rewarding thing about starting the business was the instant gratification we got with the media interest, we knew that our idea was good and the public interest confirmed that.
My gorgeous co-founders put so much trust in me right from the get go. We organised everything via phone, zoom and email, we have only sat in the same space once since we started the business, which is pretty incredible.
On launch day, seeing Klara on the 6pm news launching our business was such an achievement and then to replicate that model in each state over and over and then in the US has been amazing!
We now have 21 Celebrants working Aus wide with us and 2 in the US.
Celebrants weren’t the only people affected by COVID, it’s also the photographers, venue owners, car hire companies, florists, everyone has been affected in our industry. We worked hard to create a model that could encompass as many of these suppliers in local communities as possible, so they could be involved too.
A huge benefit to our business has been that we managed to snag some of the best photographers in Australia to work with us and these artists have provided some of the most epic photos of ceremonies.
Having these professional images to share with potential couples so they can see that tiny weddings can be so intimate and beautiful and moving has been incredible, a professional picture really is worth a thousand words.
Bringing work to all types of wedding industry professionals, while they were feeling pretty down about losing their own work, has given us all the warm fuzzies.
Our couples really range in age, we have had couple in their 20’s to couple’s in their 80’s. The similarity between them is that they really want to get married, but feel like they don’t fit into the white wedding dress/getting given away by Dad/first dance scenario. We have had couples that have stayed in their car for the ceremony, gotten out and married under trees, created convoys so family and friends can come and watch and couples have arrived via cars, helicopters, motorbikes and bicycles.
My fave couple so far is a couple where the Bride recently became paraplegic and she is still getting used to navigating new places and feels a little self-conscious.
Her Fiancé just wanted to marry her, because in his words, ‘she is the most amazing woman in the world’. When they heard about the Drive Thru and she saw that she didn’t have to get out of the car and worry about wheelchair logistics, she cried, because this was the only way she felt comfortable getting married.
COVID is going to be here for a while. It’s not going to magically disappear, and I honestly think this will impact the wedding industry for years.
In the short term we have the uncertainty of not knowing when we can go back to booking big celebrations and it makes planning pretty impossible.
Then when restrictions are lifted then yes, technically, we can go back to bigger celebrations, but is it a celebration if you can’t hug your Nan when you walk back down the aisle? Is it a celebration if you can’t share a shot glass or eat bread out of the same breadbasket?
The effects of social distancing will continue to live on, especially when it comes to celebrating that way that we are used to.
A surprising side-effect to this whole COVID scenario, is that suddenly eloping isn’t taboo, eloping makes you responsible, kinda like a hero, you are protecting your community by having a small wedding and that shift in thinking has been kinda rad.
People have been eloping because there isn’t the stigma attached to it anymore, heck the government practically endorsed eloping when you were only allowed to have the marrying couple and two witnesses present.
My advice to couples during COVID has been to follow your heart and remember that there is a huge difference between a marriage and a wedding. (Check out Will and Jac for Melbourne wedding planning).
If you wanna get married, get married, do it, commit to your lover, that’s so important, don’t let COVID stop you. There is literally no better time to love and be loved than right now, having companionship during a crisis is what will get you through it.
When people ask what you did during COVID how totally romantic is it to say that you married your honey and then shacked up in iso together? (Side note – like this Blue Mountains Elopement).
If your heart is set on a wedding that encompasses family and friends, then wait, but wait until COVID is dead and gone and we can hug again. Have a huge wedding down the track, when you can handshake and dance, but you will have to be patient.
And for those that want both, do it! Have the most romantic, sweet tiny ceremony now and make it all about each other, then have a huge wedding party later on-best of both worlds.
Running a business during a pandemic is tough. Terms and conditions/your contract/Statement of Fees documents are everything. Mine was pretty broad but certainly never covered a killer virus!
I always say to other Celebrants be tough on paper, but soft in reality. You have to have your rules in place, but be flexible, don’t forget everyone is going through something and creating relationships, and word of mouth recommendations in this business is what it is all about.
I always rule with my heart and not my head, so I certainly don’t set the best example for other business owners, but I find if you treat people with kindness then that’s what you will get back.
I have always gotten more out of what I do for others, than what I do for myself, so to create a business that has helped so people feel good and have a bit of purpose during COVID has probably been one of the most rewarding things I have done for a long time.
To have your small Melbourne City elopement filmed by the best wedding videographers in town, check out Bottlebrush Films as they’re doing filming for overseas guests and relatives who can’t make it.
Jun 14, 2020
Until early 2020, thanks to Covid19, weddings are going to be happening on a smaller scale (or, straight up elopements). With that said, if there’s one thing i’ve noticed in photographing celebrations of all shapes and sizes, there’s always a certain brilliance in intimate gatherings that just doesn’t exist in larger ones, and having a small wedding in the short term still means you can have a larger celebration down the line, with less planning infrastructure. So while we have to wait a little while to have big parties and weddings again, here are some of my favourite small wedding venues in Melbourne.
Ahead of the curve in the small-wedding game, The Altar Electric has been championing the power of intimate weddings for years, and is the brainchild of The Wedding Anarchist, Sarah Dobson, and Anthony Cribbes.
One of the more characterful small wedding venues in Melbourne and nestled in the industrial back streets of Collingwood, The Altar Electric warehouse wedding venue can cater for weddings up to about 30 people, and right down to a cracking shotgun-wedding with just the two of you and your witnesses.
To top it all off, they just upgraded their space, thanks to the incredible styling handiwork of local design and party heroes, Good Day Club.
So whether you’ve got 5 guests, 20 guests, or 30 guests, this brilliant peach palace is a great place to get a fab ceremony done.
When Covid19 hit full-steam and we were locked down to having weddings with a maximum of 5 people in total, local genius Mel of The Ceremony Store came up with a hit concept that quickly spread throughout Australia, and right over into the USA: I Do Drive Thru.
I Do Drive Thru gets you married in a whirlwind ceremony from the safe confines of your car, or anywhere in a public space: just you two, and the very closest of your crew. Get it said, get it done, and get away to celebrate what matters: just the two of you.
Don’t be mistaken by the name: while I Do Drive Thru might sound like, it’s a drive-thru thing, that’s only one side of what it can be. I Do Drive Thru is a small wedding ceremony, done anywhere you like, in exactly any style of intimate celebration that you can imagine. From loud, to quiet, to classy to crazy, and everything in between.
Read more about I Do Drive Thru here, and reach out to them to see if they’re the right fit.
Tess and Sam, married on their family property in Australia’s Kangaroo Valley.
If larger wedding venues aren’t a part of the plan, sometimes it’s best to look inwards to what’s closest: our own family property. With some thoughtful catering and preparation, having a wedding at your home makes for an intimate experience, and something potentially more meaningful when you look back at your photos.
The only concern usually had around having a wedding on family property, is that of cleanup! But keep your crew small, keep the food simple, and it’s a great way to have a meaningful celebration where the only timeline you’re working to is your own.
An Air-Bnb has all the intimacy and timeline benefits of hosting it on your own family property, with the added bonus of being able to get married at any spectacular geographic location of your own choosing. Select a location with adventure nearby and a good kitchen within.
Here, Sarah and Simon had a beautiful small ceremony at an Air-Bnb in a spectacular piece of nature, before enjoying a beautiful afternoon with 4 of their closest friends, and an evening of home cooked meals and games.
Sarah and Simons Australian wedding was featured on the wedding blog Rock n Roll Bride, so head over there for more of their story.
While we’re dealing with only having small gatherings, many of Melbournes most incredible venues are able to scale themselves down to accommodate a more intimate wedding.
To discover a whole lot of other options, here’s a list of incredible alternative wedding venues in Melbourne.
Looking for a large venue? Check out their Indian wedding reception.
Jun 13, 2020
Looking for an alternative to the traditional registry wedding? Unfurrow your brow and cast your eyes over to Melbourne’s answer to the Vegas wedding chapel – The Altar Electric.
The gloves are off, and The Altar Electric, has overhauled their entire space in Collingwood.
Previously a rich blue and in a slightly smaller room, The Altar Electric has a new lease of life in incredible pastel peach colours, with explosions of floral colour courtesy of the inimitable Melbourne florist Bloom Boy, styling features from The Arbourists, and an entire vision executed by the wizard-folk at Good Day Club.
The Altar Electric have been leaders in getting couples hitched while we’ve all been sailing the perilous waters of Covid-19, providing shotgun-style weddings and a colourful alternative to traditional registry weddings.
Now, as isolation restrictions lift, the venue is opening up and moving towards it’s full capacity of 40.
The venue has the most incredible light draping through its industrial style windows at any hour of day.
BYO cardboard Elvis – but you can order the real deal via their in-house Elvis impressionist.
The space is littered with the hallmarks of Good Day Clubs’ intricate styling – a roof filled with disco balls and chains, and decadent knick-knacks from wall to wall.
No bridal snog is complete without the floral explosions of Bloom Boy behind it.
Schoolhouse Studios, 81 Rupert St, Collingwood VIC
Mar 21, 2019
Melbourne is full to the brim with unique and interesting wedding venues. When working out what the most unique wedding venues in Melbourne are, it’s natural to look through the lens of the big apple, as the flavour of much of our own city is inspired by the east coast.
New York is kinda like an egg. Ask 5 people for their favourite way to consume it, and you’ll get 4 different answers, and one who’d prefer a nut-based alternative. From the lush heritage upstate venues, to the impossibly enormous barns, to the Manhattan dives and industrial warehouse spaces closer to what we more commonly identify with the city, greater New York has variety of feels wider than it’s ever given credit for.
Here’s seven slices of New York, right here in our own Melbourne, that double as some of the most unique, alternative wedding venues in town.
The Substation has this classic “we’re just casually repurposed an industrial Brooklyn warehouse” written all over it, with staggering floor-to-ceiling windows (this criteria would be less staggering if, for example, the windows were in a hobbit-sized home but we’re talking a less vertically-challenged structure here), red statement curtains, and one end lined with more secret little rooms than you can poke a stick at.
With plenty of space to spare both in the main atrium and the rooms below, Melbournes alternative wedding venue queen Newport Substation can be mapped to nearly any configuration, including any furniture layout you can imagine, and an on-site burrito stand for guests to tuck into. Set up a band in one corner, hire a leading progressive florist like Good Grace & Humour or Georgie Boy to dress up one end with an impossibly wild installation (or leave it in all it’s all bare glory), and you’ve got a space that’ll be on the tips of the guests tongues for weeks. After they recover from their hangovers.
Check out Nicole and Dan’s incredible wedding at Newport Substation.
And thankful for it existing, we are. Separated into a Main Dining Hall, Conservatory, and Cocktail Lounge, alternative wedding venue in Melbourne king Rupert on Rupert takes the crown for classic modern New York bar vibes in Melbourne, and wouldn’t be out of place in any of the more recently gentrified areas of inner-Brooklyn: which is also code-word for gorgeously designed, thoughtfully laid out, with a level of subtle considered genius by a design team that makes the space grow on you like the third album from that previously favourite artist of yours.
Geographically tucked neatly away into the “local knowledge” category, pop into Rupert on Rupert on a weekend, and it’s jam-packed with folks who know what’s good.
Rupert on Rupert has three main areas, each of which can be repurposed as you need, and the menu is headed by (x) and a crack-team of friendly maestros who can cater incredibly for vegetarians and vegans alike.
I’m not saying to just get Aunt Jenny on her iPad taking the photos for the day, but I will say that with every inch of the interior so thoughtfully considered, you could probably point your 2002 Nokia at the urinal and still get an incredible image pretty much anywhere inside Rupert on Rupert.
But don’t do that, because it’s extraordinarily weird that you’re still using that phone.
For more inspiration check out Alix and Tim’s reception at Rupert on Rupert here.
These are a few things that you definitely won’t find at Panama Dining room anymore.
When stepping into this cavernous room filled with giant arch windows you might be forgiven that in it’s past-life as a music venue in the heartland of the pub-scene, the majestic gateways of Panama Dining Room looking into and around the city were completely covered up.
Since being exposed in all their glory, Panama Dining Room has staked its claim as one of Melbournes best open-bar, dining-hybrid venues, and if you gently squint, it’s easy to imagine yourself in the warehouse-loft of a pre-crash Wall St tycoon in the 80s.
So squint, dear friend, bring that cigar to the lips, and inhale that sweet, sweet smell of pre-2007 venue tobacco laws, while you imagine yourself in that steamy machine of systemic exploitation known as wall st.
Fortunately for those of the stamina variety, Panama did carry one little thing over from it’s days as a live music venue: a 1am liquor license.
So party on, dear aspirational Gordon Gecko.
The Panama Dining Room is located in the heart of Smith St, which places it in beautiful proximity to some of the most iconic and historical parts of Melbournes oldest suburb, Fitzroy. That puts it at arms length away from an incredible lot of great portrait opportunities that can be had even with just a quick little sprint away from the Panama.
As far as alternative wedding venues in Melbourne go, Panama is at the unique intersection of ticking every alternative box, while also being placed at the centre of the action.
Panama Dining Room website: www.thepanama.com.au
Venue size: Let’s run with “Sprawling”. 160 guests seated, 220 standing
There’s much to be said for nostalgia. It is after all, the reason why we fought tooth and nail for an (ill-fated, but I digress) Hey Hey it’s Saturday revival wayback when, and why the the whiff of a can of Lynx can suddenly remove two decades of time and space for those in the mid-30’s bracket.
The savvy folk at Showtime events and caretakers of State Library Victoria know the value of nostalgia, and so they know that once the lukewarm memories of higher education and it’s study pressures have faded into memory, there’s nothing more appealing than inhaling an Espresso Martini and double-stack of canapes in one of the worlds most extravagantly beautiful study halls.
Enter, State Library Victoria.
Thankfully to the mad hatters at SLV, there are a total of five separate, incredibly distinct spaces in which to host your wedding, that can cater from the intimate to over 500 guests. So whether you’ve spent your days as a cave dwelling misanthrope or have as many friends as Tom from Myspace, you’re probably covered.
The lay of the land at State Library Victoria starts at the obviously decadent La Trobe Reading Room, throws a curveball of art via the Cowen Gallery, and ends at the recently revitalised Ian Potter Queens Hall, with the glorious North Rotunda and Isabelle Fraser room in between.
The State Library of Victoria, as well as having a variety of rooms that would be the envy of a Labrynth-trotting Bowie, is smack in the heart of the CBD – lending itself to plenty of beautiful portrait opportunities, classic Melbourne laneways and beyond, and is one of the more left of centre alternative wedding venues in Melbourne.
State Library of Victoria website: https://venues.slv.vic.gov.au/wedding/
Isabelle Fraser Room: 156 Banquet 220 Cocktail
Ian Potter Queens Hall: 290 Banquet 500 Cocktail
La Trobe Reading Room: 520 Cocktail
North Rotunda: 60 Banquet 90 Cocktail
Cowen Gallery: 220 Banquet 350 Cocktail
Location: Melbourne CBD
Location: West Melbourne
5km out of the CBD, smack-against a bunch of shipping containers and an old-school automotive garage, it initially feels like you aren’t quite allowed to have all that room and calm all to yourself – but then you lean into it, and in return are gifted with one of the most unassumingly mighty warehouse experiences in Melbourne.
With the seasoned hands of Sam & Celeste and their hospitality empire at your fingertips, Gather and Tailor is a modular set of spaces, and the perfect blank canvas where you can call in as much or as little of the in-house styling as you need.
Check out Ash and Karan’s glorious Gather and Tailor wedding here.
Quat Quatta contains some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful interiors and exteriors around (check out Burnham Beeches for another), and the breadth of portrait opportunities on-site both inside and outside are unbeatable. A festooned outdoor area makes for a glorious intimate ceremony space, before the party is carried inside.
But, let’s just hold off on all the adjectives and hyperbole for a hot damn minute, though: because something about this venue in particular isn’t talked about nearly enough: the bridal suites.
These old heritage rooms at the wings of Quat Quatta, apart from being a pretty splendid place to get all that bridal-suite stuff done (application of bandaids, eating of cupcakes, necking of champagne, and whatever else goes on in there), are totally gorgeous and a way under-appreciated part of the venues makeup, and one of my favourite areas of the building to take portraits on the day.
Quat Quatta is a place of wild charm and a more traditional-looking outpost that holds more than it’s own with plenty of variety. Check out this Quat Quatta wedding for a lay of the land.
Quat Quatta website: www.quatquatta.com.au
Quat Quatta wedding gallery: Quat Quatta wedding
New-York-ness: 6/10 (only because it’s more of an upstate-New York vibe)
Venue size: Pretty big, mate. 300 seated, 450 standing (Across two physical spaces)
There you have it. Six of the best alternative wedding venues in Melbourne, that while well-set in their own charms, would make anyone lusting after a little slice of those New York vibes feel right at home.
Author: Briars Atlas
This made the list a little late, but be sure to also check out this Two Ton Max wedding. For unique wedding venues in new South Wales, check out this beautiful Sydney Theatre Company wedding. For a unique Mornington Peninsula wedding venue, you need to check out Tanglewood Estate. And I’d hate to leave this one out, but even though it’s well west of Melbourne, the Fyansford Paper Mill is out of this world.