When Kirilee Chapman and Michael Sargeant were planning their wedding, they considered having the ceremony at a comic con or even a zoo.

But when Kirilee, a history teacher at Mount Gambier in SA’s South East, heard the city’s Fantasy Medieval Fair was looking for couples interested in getting married at the event earlier this month, she was intrigued.

“We’re both a little bit nerdy and we both like the alternative sort of thing, so we decided we would give it a go,” she said.

The next step was working out what was involved in a wedding ceremony in the 1500s, including sage smudging and mead toast.

The couple’s ceremony included a mead toast.(Supplied: Amanda Lengyel Photography)

“We had a look at different ways people have got married in history, and it really stuck with us, the idea of tying the knot,” Kirilee said.

“We reached out to somebody in Scotland who makes traditional hand-fasting braids, and we decided that we would do a traditional hand-fast.

“What they traditionally did was literally tie the bride and groom together, so that’s what we wanted to do instead of an exchange of rings.

“It just tied in with our non-traditional idea of having a bit of fun with it and making sure that it wasn’t too serious and everybody got to have a nice relaxing day.”

Kirilee and Michael chose hand-fasting over wedding rings as part of their vows.(Supplied: Amanda Lengyel Photography)

A growing trend

Across Australia, the number of weddings performed by ministers of religion dropped from 47 per cent in 2001 to less than 20 per cent in 2021.

The popularity of alternative weddings could also be attributed to the steady decline of Australians who reported an affiliation with Christianity.

According to the last census, almost 10 million Australians reported having no religion (38.9 per cent in 2021, compared to 30.1 per cent in 2016, representing an increase of more than 2.8 million people).

At Mount Gambier’s Fantasy Medieval Fair, committee chairperson Tammy Flier was Michael and Kirilee’s celebrant.

She said the initial idea to hold a wedding at the fair came from other alternative ceremonies she had officiated.

“I think more people are just including what interests them,” Ms Flier said.

“I did a couple last year, and they had a gothic theme wedding … we just included different verses and poetry that meant things to them.

“They had darker clothes and their reception was done up in a Halloween theme … and it was just very them.”

Kirilee and Michael still needed some modern elements to make their marriage legally binding, including witnesses.(Supplied: Amanda Lengyel Photography)

Ms Flier said the costs of weddings were “absolutely” impacting how people chose to celebrate.

“Because it was at the medieval fair and because Kirilee and Michael knew there was going to be a whole heap of random people there watching, we were able to do it at a reduced price to what you’d normally pay,” she said.

“Cost of living is crazy at the moment, so every little bit helps.”

Some of Kirilee and Michael’s guests wore cosplay armour.(Supplied: Amanda Lengyel Photography)

Jesters and knights among guests

The medieval flair at Kirilee and Michael’s wedding went beyond just the customs, with the setting and costumes also taking inspiration from the time period.

“I wore a Florence dress by Desert Moon Bridal, and Michael has Scottish heritage, so he came dressed as Jamie from Outlander in the tartan,” Kirilee said.

“All our guests dressed up … We had some court jesters, we had some knights.

“The Hamilton Re-enactment Society sets up a medieval tent every year, and when Tammy said we had somebody getting married, they said … they would set it up however we want.”

With the event happening during the middle of the fair, there were plenty of onlookers watching the ceremony.

“The community outreach was so amazing … but it was also really relaxed and fun,” Kirilee said.

Kirilee and Michael’s wedding was the first held at the Mount Gambier Fantasy Medieval Fair.(Supplied: Amanda Lengyel Photography)

While Kirilee and Michael’s ceremony included plenty of medieval touches, Ms Flier said there were some elements the couple decided against, such as seating arrangements.

“Back in medieval times, it was more of a circle structure and then everyone would stand around you,” Ms Flier said.

“We just rejigged a few things like that so that their guests were going to be comfortable and going to be able to see.”

The happy couple say they will keep the medieval theme going through their honeymoon too.

“The plan is that we’ll go to Scotland at the end of the year … and spend some time in some castles and have a look around,” Kirilee said.

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