Wednesday, 16 September 2015

All I Want Is You - Tom + Tess

I'm often asked what the best thing about my job is. Is it the champagne and cake? (I'm usually not there for that part!). Visiting beautiful venues and seeing couture gowns up close? (It is a privilege, I agree). Having an excuse to constantly refresh my wardrobe of cocktail dresses and jaunty heels? (A bonus, admittedly). 

No, no and no. What I love best about my job is the people it introduces me to.  The marrying couple, their bridal party, their family and friends and the suppliers they have chosen to help them create their ideal wedding day.

I end up working with many of these suppliers on a regular basis and it is so very satisfying to work with people who are not only excellent at what they do, but all round excellent human beings, too.

People you simply want to be around.

Tess Follett is one of those people.

Tess and I have worked on several weddings together and what struck me from the first time we met was her warmth. She is genuine; interested in not only the logistics of the ceremony but in who she's working with. She speaks about her clients with such enthusiasm and affection and this translates through to her images. They are breathtakingly beautiful, every single frame filled with emotion and authenticity. This experience is repeated every time I work with Tess.

So, when Tess asked me to conduct her wedding to the equally excellent Tom, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Being around already amazing people on an exceptionally amazing day? Count me in.

At our first planning meeting, Tom and Tess let me in on some joyful news – they were expecting a baby! At those initial meetings, I thought Tom and Tess couldn’t love each other any more than they already did.

Then precious little Edie arrived.

The love that Tom and Tess have for each other and for their darling girl is spine-tingling to witness. I have goosebumps just thinking about it.

A few months later, on a summer afternoon that would make Goldilocks proud (not too cool, not too hot - just right!), guests gathered in the serene Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens for Tom and Tess's intimate, family-oriented ceremony. The setting they chose, beneath a grand old cedar tree, is so naturally beautiful it had an almost dream-like vibe. 

Guests arrived in the hidden glade and helped themselves to refreshing drinks from an old-fashioned lemonade stand, greeting Tom with hugs and excited chatter. As the sounds of live jazz and soul rose amongst the ancient trees, guests couldn’t help themselves from dancing, adding to the fun and celebratory atmosphere.

When the time came for Tess’s entrance, Tom and his smartly attired groomsmen took their place in front of Prunella's lush and verdant floral arbour. A hush settled over the crowd as the the opening bars of the timelessly beautiful ‘Songbird’ filled the air, and all eyes turned with anticipation to the end of the aisle.

Edie was the first one down the aisle in the arms of her aunty. At that moment, Tom lost all his composure. Seeing this perfect little person that he and Tess created together seemed to bring all of his emotions to the surface; emotions that remained beautifully apparent when Tess made her way towards him shortly after, seemingly gliding on air in her gorgeous One Day Bridal gown.

Tom and Tess's ceremony focused on the things that matter most to them  - time spent with each other and with those they love. Appreciating the little things and realising that it's the little things that are the big things. Finding a way to laugh each day. Understanding, accepting and loving each other for who they are.
And, of course -  Edie.

Little though she may have been, Edie knew what was going on. Each time I mentioned her name, she gurgled happily in response to let us know she was listening!

Beneath that gorgeous arbour, Tom and Tess exchanged vows, their voices shaking first with pride and emotion, and then with giggles when Tom briefly forget how to answer a rather important question! (For the record, it's 'I do'!).

Their first married kiss was mesmerising to witness, Tom cradling Tess’s face with his hands. The photo below is one of my favourites. At that moment, there was no one in Tom and Tess’s world but each other. 

With vows made, rings on their fingers, rose petals showering them and the sound of laughter and cheers echoing through the gardens, Tom and Tess made their way back down the aisle with Edie in their arms.

On that day, it was as if all the love in the world was there in that glade with us. 

It followed me all the way home.

Tom and Tess, thank you for allowing me to share that most magical of days with you. 

Tess, I know how many celebrants you see each year and I am truly honoured to have been invited into your lives and trusted with your story. 

You two are incredible individuals, incredible parents and an incredible couple. 

May you always know the love and joy you were enveloped by on that glorious day. 

Tom + Tess
Photos: Dan O'Day
Film: Purple Ribbon Weddings - click here to see Tom and Tess's gorgeous wedding film
Flowers: Prunella
Celebrant: Koren Harvey

Thursday, 2 July 2015

A Midsummer Night's Dream - James + Fi

Shadows of giant oak trees spreading across a vivid green lawn, a gentle breeze off the ornamental lake. The sunlight shining off dozens of champagne flutes set out on starched white linen, ready for an occasion to toast.

This was the romantic setting I found myself in for James and Fiona’s late summer wedding at Ripponlea Estate.  The phrase ‘a Midsummer Night’s Dream’ has never been more apt.

The team from Weddings of Distinction set up the ceremony space to make the most of Ripponlea’s stunning ornamental lake. A white carpet and delicate arrangements of flowers in blush tones marked the aisle Fiona would soon walk down, while ducks glided across the mirror-still surface of the lake behind.

James and his groomsmen mingled with the beaming guests as we awaited Fiona’s arrival. The hum of excited chatter filled the shady glade we had gathered in, the sound of laughter and backslaps ringing out clearly.

And then suddenly the moment was upon us.

Fiona’s beautiful bridesmaids floated down the aisle in soft pink frocks, James shifting on his feet as each one drew nearer, knowing that their entrance heralded the arrival of his beloved.

When Fiona appeared from behind the gazebo on the arm of her Mum and brother, James lost all his composure. When he recovered it, a beaming grin broke out on his face. Fiona was a vision in her lace gown, a delicate tulle veil covering her face but certainly not her joy.

The moment James met Fiona at the top of the aisle is one I’ll never forget. He kissed her passionately, a gesture that he would repeat numerous times throughout the ceremony. This is a couple that loves, deeply, and aren’t afraid to show it – much to the delight and cheers of their guests!

It was very important to James and Fiona that we pay tribute to their loving mothers in the ceremony and I'm so, so glad that Tess Follett was there to capture the moment we did so. The look of love and understanding that passed between these two exceptional women was so moving.

We told the story of James and Fi's relationship and their beachside, hoodie-clad Californian engagement, highlighting the things that they’re proudest of and their hope that they will never, ever become too old for cuddles and kisses. Interspersed with all this was a poem that James had written for Fiona some time ago, shared beautifully by a good friend.

Tissues were in high demand during their emotion-charged and laughter-filled vows before a first, married kiss that was long, lingering and greeted with another excited round of applause.

After signing the register, the very happy newlyweds grabbed a glass of champagne each and didn't so much walk back down the aisle as dance it!

Tess’s beautiful images of this romantic summer celebration capture perfectly the love and joy that seemed to imbue every single aspect of the day, and the dance floor shots in particular fill me with the sense of one big party!

It was a pure delight for me to get to know and work with this couple who approach life with such a sense of fun, gratitude and openness. James and Fi, may you never grow too old to love, laugh and cuddle. 

James + Fiona
Venue: Ripponlea Estate and Gardens
Photographer: Tess Follett
Ceremony set-up: Weddings of Distinction
Flowers: Helen Dillon
Celebrant: Koren Harvey

Saturday, 27 June 2015

No union is more profound

News from the United States overnight ensured that I woke up with a smile on my face. The US Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law mean that same-sex marriage will now be legal in all 50 states. 

What a wonderful victory for love. 

When my husband and I married nearly two years ago, the moment that made the biggest impact on me was standing in front of all of those people (the people we love and respect most in the world) and telling them, ‘this is the person I choose.’ Just remembering that moment now gives me goosebumps.

You could argue that we didn’t need marriage to do that, but we wanted to be married. 

We yearned to be part of the tradition that had formed our own families for centuries. We wanted to make a public and documented affirmation of the way we feel about each other. We wanted to record our promises to love and support one another in the pages of history. 

For so long, these same rights have been denied to same-sex couples and I can't, for the life of me, understand why. I can't understand why, because I was born female and my husband male, our love is somehow considered more worthy of acknowledgement than that of another couple. When comprehension of that particular fact dawned on me, I cried.

This particular passage from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling eloquently expresses why the right to marry is so important:

Two people become something greater than once they were.

Such a little phrase and yet so true.

Marriage is a choice you make on your wedding day and continue to make each day thereafter. It is an acknowledgement that there will be tough times but that the best way through them is together. It is a resolution to support and love each other even on our most unlikeable days. It is an understanding that we are better together than we are alone and that with love, all things are possible. 

Through these vows, we hope for the best but promise to be there through the worst.

I eagerly await the day when marriage equality is achieved in Australia and all of my friends can, should they choose, experience that same rush I did when Dave and I were declared husband and wife. 

I want them to know the feeling of all-encompassing love and joy that we were surrounded with on our wedding day, from people who were simply happy that we had found each other. 

I want them to be able to proudly say 'my husband' or 'my wife' and have the world acknowledge the strength, love and support that lies within that single term.

United Kingdom Department for Culture, Media and Sport

The ruling overnight has given me heart. There’s still a long road to achieving marriage equality in Australia but I have hope that we’ll get there. 

With love, all things are possible.

It is so ordered.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

If Not For You - Robert + Linda

Dappled sunlight across a courtyard, the whisper of a breeze through the tall fir trees and the chime of happy voices. This was how Robert and Linda's wedding day began - and it only got better from there.

The elegant formal courtyard at Quat Quatta was the picture-perfect setting for their romantic early autumn wedding, although such was the weather, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was still summer. As guests arrived and began to fill the space, their voices formed a chorus of excited chatter, the volume growing as Linda's arrival drew nearer. Robert, full of nervous anticipation, paced the courtyard, eager to see his best friend and love of his life.

Linda arrived in classic style in a vintage convertible, her proud parents by her side. As her attendants fixed her stunning lace gown and whispered final words of love and luck, the smile on Linda's face only seemed to grow bigger. She exuded a radiance and grace that I had, through each of our encounters, come to know as pure Linda.

Her walk down the aisle on the arm of her Dad to an acoustic cover of George Harrison's If Not for You was greeted with sighs, oohs and aahs by friends and family and several few deep breaths (and perhaps a few tears) from Robert.

This is a couple that holds each other - and those they love - in the highest of regards. Judging by the way their family and friends reacted to the loving glances Robert and Linda shared, the love and regard Robert and Linda have for those around them is very much reciprocated.

Robert and Linda's ceremony was a personal and intimate celebration of the life and love they share, from their first meeting through to travelling the world and achieving major life goals together. Robert's uncle gave a reading composed of song lyrics from two of Robert and Linda's favourite artists and then it was time for the vows.

One of the best pieces of marriage advice I have ever heard is that love is a verb - a doing word. It is a choice you make on a daily basis and something you choose to keep doing. To thrive, love must be present in your actions.

Robert and Linda's vows embodied this philosophy. They spoke of love and appreciation, of acceptance and understanding and of celebrating small moments of intimacy.

Their first kiss as a married couple was long, lingering and seriously sexy - just as it should be!

It was my pleasure to stay on and conduct the formalities at their reception as their MC. It isn't often that I get to see the day unfold from start to finish and it was a delight to hear the touching (and hilarious) speeches given by their family and friends, to see the newlyweds take to the dance floor and to observe the loving glances that passed between the new husband and wife.

Best of all, though, was seeing the joy Robert and Linda so clearly felt reflected on the faces of those they love. Love, in all its forms, has such a powerful, contagious effect and it probably isn't a surprise to learn I didn't so much drive home, as float.

Congratulations again, Robert and Linda. What joy you gave me by inviting me into your lives, sharing your story and letting me share in this most magical of days. I wish you all the love and happiness your hearts desire.

Robert + Linda
Venue: Quat Quatta
Photos: Corey Sleap
Film: Lovely Day Films
Music: The White Tree
Celebrant: Koren Harvey