“Registry weddings are usually conducted in an office, by a public servant,” says Sarah Dobson, a passionate and unconventional marriage celebrant. She’s partnered with two other likeminded celebrants, Anthony Cribbes and Dee Brinsmead, to form The Altar Electric.
“We saw an opportunity to bring energy and fun to registry-style weddings. Firstly by running them in a shit-hot venue, and then adding our upbeat selves,” Dobson says.
A custom-made neon sign reading “The Altar Electric” is key to this identity. The sign is easily transported and gives any room in town that Las Vegas chapel vibe.
“They’re little weddings, but they’re romantic and bloody rock,” Dobson says. “We want people to leave with those palpable electric vibes and so far the response has been incredible.”
The Altar Electric has run its speedy and fuss-free, $500 registry-style weddings at Ferdydurke since September 2017. Weddings take place upstairs, by the bar. The popular laneway venue stays open to the public during the ceremony, but the early evening timeslot means it’s usually pretty quiet, Dobson says.
On Valentine’s Day this year, The Altar Electric started working with a second venue: 1920s New York-inspired piano bar, Murmur.
Couples can book a time from 4pm onwards between Monday and Thursday. The Altar Electric operates on Saturdays from noon, before the three celebrants head to their more traditional wedding work in the afternoon.
The weddings vary greatly from couple to couple, according to personal preferences. “For one wedding, the groom arrived in a T-shirt tuxedo and the bride wore a leopard print T-shirt with jeans,” Dobson says. “It totally matched their personalities.”
Couples are asked to arrive half an hour before the ceremony to meet the celebrant for the first time. Working off the cuff, without scripts or longwinded legislation-speak, the celebrants riff on newfound information about how the couple met, their engagement story and what they love most about the other.
“Couples can bring in their own vows if they want or we can wing an impromptu, ‘repeat-after-me’ set of vows,” Dobson says.
Within ten or so minutes, the formalities are usually over and the party can kick-on and celebrate, with a convenient shuffle over to the bar.
At midnight on January 9, when same-sex marriage became legal in Australia, The Altar Electric married Teegan Daly and Mahatia Minicon for free to celebrate the historic moment.
“Marriage equality is something we’re so passionate about. People say words don’t matter, but they really do, and that night wasn’t just about the girls, but also about a community coming together,” Dobson says. “That symbolises what we’re all about at The Altar Electric.”
The trio is looking for other quirky CBD venues to partner with, plus more in the north – around Fitzroy, Brunswick and Thornbury especially.