How a Bundy celebrant kept hearts beating in a pandemic
It's not every day you get a wedding celebrant with skills in IT.
Coupled with a pandemic, it's a skill set that came in handy right when it was needed.
Annie McGrath is a full-time celebrant - a career that put her at the forefront of innovation when the unexpected happened.
From hosting weddings in her own backyard to the detailed rules and regulations of social distancing, Mrs McGrath has done it all.
"Now we have to make sure everyone signs in at a wedding," she said.
"I created a QR code so guests can come to a wedding now and scan their phone."
It's not easy to keep track of rules, especially as they change, which is why Mrs McGrath wrote a covid-safe plan that she now shares among the community of Bundaberg wedding celebrants.
In the thick of it all, Mrs McGrath oversaw a wedding that was beamed to four different countries as well as across Australia.
As she says, love finds a way and "if people want to get married they'll get married".
"There were only 10 people allowed at the wedding," she said.
"Two-hundred people logged into the Zoom wedding and they were all dressed up and had food ready.
"It took a lot of organising and sound checks to make sure everyone could hear each other."
Mrs McGrath has heard many tales and walked side-by-side with couples and their dreams.
From crying brides who just want to get married, to quick-thinking solutions to very up-to-the-minute problems.
One couple's wedding had to be held off because of Covid, so they still collected the catering they'd ordered and dropped it off to all their would-be guests.
For some time, parks were closed to activities, leading to Mrs McGrath to truly innovate.
With her husband rushing off to the hardware stores for supplies, the couple created a romantic wonderland in their own backyard.
"Because the places for renovations were open, my husband brought bark and brought it back and I got an arbour and lights and we have a big mango tree in the backyard," Mrs McGrath said.
Six couples said "I do" in their backyard.
Mrs McGrath marries more than 50 couples a year, and says it's not just locals tying the knot here.
"Bundaberg has a lot of weddings," she said.
"I do 50 per year and there's another eight or so that do 30 or more."
The venues here are amazing, Mrs McGrath says.
She has married vacationing Chinese nationals as well as seasonal workers from Vanuatu.
Mrs McGrath has also used her IT skills to build her business website.
Mrs McGrath said it was important to keep up and improvise in her industry.
"The government had said weddings aren't a business, but for some of us that's our only income - but I do understand," she said.
Mrs McGrath said with many kisses and tears at weddings it made sense for restrictions to be in place when needed.
"We've had some incredible weddings this year, people have really thought outside the box," Mrs McGrath said.
"It's certainly been a journey I'll never forget and certainly learned a lot."
Helping guide couples through a pandemic was something Mrs McGrath said she never thought she'd have to do in a million years, but somehow, it all worked out for her and dozens of loved-up couples.
"They kind of become part of your family in a way," Mrs McGrath said.
Her best advice to those looking to tie the knot? Book in early.