After years of uncertainty due to the pandemic causing havoc for couples planning their nuptials, it might be time to finally lock in some wedding plans. For many Aussie couples, the idea of a wedding finally seems like something that might actually go ahead as planned! If you’re planning an Illawarra wedding in 2023, you might like to hear from one of our local wedding industry professionals.

Talking to an Illawarra wedding celebrant

Kylie Sharman has been a wedding celebrant, based in the Illawarra for over 15 years. Her full time job as a professional firefighter is very different to that of officiating a wedding.

In her job as a firefighter, Kylie is often dealing with people who are having a really bad time, possibly on their worst days, and she finds her work as a wedding celebrant balances this out as she gets to be involved with people when they are at their happiest. She meets them once, and the next time she sees them, they’re all spruced up on their wedding day.

Being a wedding celebrant doesn’t feel like a job for Kylie – it feels like more of a hobby or even community service. She must do a pretty good job too, as most of her ongoing bookings come via word of mouth.

kylie sharman illawarra wedding celebrant

What does a wedding celebrant do?

The job of a wedding celebrant is to guide the couple through their legal obligations. Surprisingly, there aren’t too many to navigate, but if you’re thinking of a shotgun wedding, make sure you’re planning it at least a month in advance!  Kylie says, “You must provide identification in the form of a birth certificate or passport and sign a ‘notice of intent to marry’ document that must be witnessed by a registered wedding celebrant”.

In Australia you have to give a month’s notice as a minimum, but once it is submitted, it is valid for 18 months, to allow a bit more flexibility. Statutory declarations must also be signed to make sure there are no legal reasons why the couple can’t get married. 

After all the legal stuff has been completed, you can get to work creating the ceremony itself – the fun bit! While there are a lot of “traditions”, there really aren’t many rules as far as the ceremony goes. There are a few paragraphs that the celebrant must say word for word, but the rest – vows, rings, “I Do’s” are all optional. The couple are only limited by their imagination!

Kylie brings all the gear necessary to perform her part of the ceremony on the day, but also packs an emergency kit to help deal with any unforeseen minor wardrobe malfunctions. Years of experience mean that her kit includes pins, gaffer tape and string among other things. The gaffer tape has been used to save the day when a shoe blowout occurred at a very inopportune moment. Her advice: “Something can always goes wrong – be ready to adapt and overcome!”

planning an illawarra wedding


Kylie loves how different trends come and go in the wedding industry. “We are seeing short, 15 min ceremonies that cut out all the fluff, readings etc. A lot more personalised about the couple and how they met, which is also evolving with modern times to include more and more ‘Tinderella’s and ‘Tinderfella’s.” (I had no idea this was even a thing!)

Part of the appeal for her is the fashions. Kylie loves the creativity of couples and the way trends are always changing. Gone are the days of hiring a function hall and sitting down to a 3 course meal … these days, lots of the venues let you do DIY decorating, and have the option of using the outdoor spaces for firepits and games.

One of her favourite weddings so far featured a few funny little details from the couple. They used paper/scissors/rock to decide who would go first, and a “his and hers” version of their meeting story. These were good friends of Kylies and threatened that she would have to wear an Elvis suit.

Another growing trend in weddings is lots of young couples who don’t have children yet, but want to have their fur-child involved in the ceremony somehow. Kylie recommends reaching out to Pam at Pets of Honour to involve your dog/s in your big day. Pam picks up your dog in the morning and gets them washed, groomed and dressed for the ceremony. She then transports them to the venue, and can assist with walking them down the aisle or giving them to the person responsible for this part of the ceremony. She can attend the photo shoot so you can get some special shots of your furry bestie. Pam then takes your dog home for the night so you can concentrate on having a good time.

illawarra wedding dogsitter
Image Description: Pam from Pets of Honour will help you include your furbabies into your special day.
According to the bridal bible, Brides, there is a shift towards bright, bold colours coming to 2023 weddings. The neutral, somewhat retro vibes of beige and greenery that have created some aesthetic masterpieces for the past few years are being swept aside for a pop of 80’s flair. Expect to see more splashes of colour including magenta and vivid pink in 2023 wedding decor, floral arrangements and fashion. Blue is predicted to be a big hit this year as well.
wedding planning in the illawarra
wedding venues illawarra

choosing a wedding celebrant

Kylie recommends meeting up with a celebrant if possible to ensure they are a good fit before you book them. Usually she has one in person meeting with the couple where they complete the necessary paperwork, then the rest is done via email to save time.

Kylie’s advice for couples planning their wedding is to think about past weddings you’ve attended and the things that you liked about them. There is a wide variety of celebrant styles, personalities and prices available. If you meet up for a coffee and a chat, you’ll soon get a feel for whether the celebrant is a good fit for you and your wedding vision.


There is a huge variation when it comes to price, so just make sure you’re clear about what you’re getting for your money. The cheaper wedding celebrants might simply be less experienced, but they are also more likely to have a standard script that they like to stick to, regardless of who’s wedding it is. With the more expensive ones, you’re paying for someone who is in demand and popular, often because of their strong social media presence. Some also really take their time to work with the couple to create a super personalised, bespoke ceremony.

Kylie feels like she sits somewhere in the middle. She meets with the couple in person to sort the paperwork side and then shows them up to 12 samples, to help narrow down  and get a feel for what they might like. They can use these as a template, mixing and matching different parts, or simply use them for ideas to help create something truly unique.

wedding venues in the illawarra and shoalhaven

There are lots of fantastic wedding venues available in or close by to the Illawarra. Kylie says most of the weddings she’s booked for at the moment are on the South Coast, Jervis Bay and in the Nowra / Shoalhaven River areas.

Kylie mentioned the Terara area on the Shoalhaven River has some lovely venues, featuring big houses with marquees set up, so you can get married by the water.
“It’s just lovely”.

Surprisingly, she says she rarely goes back to the same place twice.

“You’ve got all the wineries, and lots of properties through the Kangaroo Valley – so many venues available. Kangaroo Bush Retreat is another one I love. It features a natural outdoor amphitheatre in the rocks -it’s beautiful! You’re only restricted by your imagination”.

weddings in the illawarra

When is the best time to get married in the illawarra?

November, February and March are the busiest times for weddings locally. Kylie was officiating up to 3 weddings per week in November, as lots of people are trying to play catch up due to a backlog after the Covid lockdowns. Mid week weddings are also increasing in popularity as people try to overcome the hangover from the pandemic.


If you’re looking to become a certified wedding celebrant you need to complete a Certificate IV in Celebrancy through a registered training organisation like TAFE. After completing the course, there’s an online application to the Australian Government plus a $600 fee. Then there’s a legal questionnaire to make sure you can correctly answer legal questions relating to the laws and processes around marriage. The Registrar of Marriage Celebrants then assesses if you are a “fit and proper person” to conduct ceremonies. If you’re successful, there’s an annual $240 fee for registration. Some people go through this process as a one off to marry close family or friends – we love that kind of commitment!

a bit more about kylie sharman

Charity work is one of Kylie’s passions and she isn’t shy of putting in the effort to support many of the charities she believes in. She has been involved in the Firies Climb for MND, 400 in 4 Charity bike ride, Illawarra Convoy, Camp Quality, Starlight Super Swim Challenge, and the Stars of Wollongong Dance for Cancer. Kylie loves to support any childhood cancer charity, as her family have seen the good work that these charities provide first hand, “Anything that can make the time that sick kids are in hospital a little bit more fun … I have seen how the funding can provide better equipment and play nurses for kids. The Starlight Foundation granted my son a wish, so I want to help support them”.

Kylie is also a regular blood donor and encourages everyone to do the same. When her son had surgery he required a blood transfusion, Kylie saw first hand how important donating blood can be.

If you’d like to discuss your wedding plans with Kylie, you can get in touch with her via her Facebook page here.

illawarra wedding venues