Tell us a little about yourselves, what you do, what you love, what is unique about you and your relationship…

We met volunteering for an organisation that houses young people tranistioning from State care toward independent living (called a Lead Tenant program). We ended up both volunteering and living at the same house through a mutual friend, and after several months started dating. Shan is a youth worker and I’m a social worker.

Tell us about your special day, was there a specific theme or style? Tell us a little about the setting, the styling and some of your favourite details…

A relaxed backyard feel was the way to go for us. Early on we envisioned a festoon lit backyard to enjoy the summer weather, good food and space to dance. While initially I imagined a sit down in the backyard, we changed to a free-standing grazing table so guests could help themselves and mingle. We didn’t feel pressured to stick to a cetain style and just invested in ideas we liked, and made alterations as we went along…which there we a few of!

Shannon got ready at the house we were renting while my Mum, sisters and I got ready at an amazing flat in a nearby suburb through Airbnb. We decided to meet before the ceremony to have photos together with the bridal squad and our immediate family. I’m so glad we did! We had beautful weather at Newport Lakes Reserve, a conservation park transformed from an old tip site. It settled us both seeing each other first.

The whole wedding was larely DIY, which did require more time and effort planning, like collecting glass vessels for months prior and so on. Family members graciously made flag bunting, jams as gifts for guests and sweets for the dessert table. I decided not to use a florist and instead sourced seasonal flowers and bought these directly from flower wholesaler, Tesselaar, choosing colours and textures she liked. We also did a bit of foliage foraging – peppercorn trees are pretty proliffic in the area we live, so we went out one night and trimmed a few local specimens.

A gifted creative friend of ours, Sarah Wood, lead a flower arranging afternoon the day before the wedding – it was such a joy to share this time and have everyone pitching in together. Since we used lots of the furniture available onsite, we used vendors quite sparingly. PepperSprout Hire provided additional tressle tables, folding chairs and festoon lighting. We hired an onsite coolroom for housing the florals overnight and for food (www.akcoolroomhire.com).

We were super fortunate to have Lorne, an incrdible chef we know through mutual connections available for our catering in Melbourne. Lorne created an incredible spread of cajun-style food which had people raving. Lorne also runs Pearl Of The Quarter, a food truck and event catering company based in Byron. We happily splashed out in specific areas – investing in photography was a big priority for us. Jakub is incredible!

Tell us about your main outfits:

Early on it became a goal to find a dress I felt comfortable in, but without the pricetag. I started with a $2000 limit for a wedding dress, quickly revised this to $1500, and still felt it possible to do for less. Stillwhite.com.au was a great help – for several months I scoured second hand dresses in this price range.

After having tried on multiple dresses around Melbourne without success I saw a Rachel Gilbert dress advertised through the website. It was covered it beads, sequins and completely unlike the dresses I had been looking at. It was also in regional Queensland. I gushed over it, so took the plunge and bought it online without having tried it on – at $700 dollars I was thrilled! I sat nervous but excited on my bedroom floor the day it arrived from its previous owner…it was even more incredible in person!

Originally I had imagined the bride squad would wear dresses they each chose in their own colour and style, but after us all going shopping together without luck I surprised myself by deciding to opt for a same-color, and then same-style of dress. I had thought this would be an impossible task, but we found beautiful Sheike cockatil dresses. Shan isn’t big on white shirts so wore a stunning emerald green shirt with grey chinos, and wore a special traditional Maori garment called a Kakahu during the ceremony.

What were some of the most memorable/unique moments from the day?

I actually don’t recall much detail of the ceremony, it was a blur from arriving to being announced as a married couple. I do remember Shan’s hands trembling and seeing the emotion on his face…it was surreal standing there together in that moment. It was pretty special to be married by our good friend Tim whom we’ve known for a long while.

Shannon was presented with a traditional Maori garment, a Kakahu, by his Dad during the ceremony, which symbolises connection and relationship with God and land. It’s traditionally given as a gift in significant ceremonies. I remember the reception clearly and loved taking my time speaking to guests without feeling rushed. Shan was the opposite – he remembers the ceremony perfectly but not as much after as he was busy chatting.

Any advice for other couples planning to spend the rest of their lives together?

We had such a great day – it was a significant celebration for the both of us and we’re grateful we got to share it with those we love. We also recognise it is just that – one day. We know our commitment to each other in life and support of family and friends is more lasting, but it did help us balance what we thought was reasonable when making decisions. We set a budget, and found ways to spend less in some areas that allowed us to invest in others we valued more, such as photography and food. I enjoy DIY but it does require more time investment, so consider the benefits and drawbacks of DIYing.

Be honest about what you are able to do and what you can hand over to others. We have great people around us who were willing to assist in so many ways. We also had over a year engagement so were in a position to take our time. Had it been shorter I imagine we may have relied more heavily on vendors! Be willing to compromise. Be okay to change ideas as you go. Accept not everything may go to plan. Check-in with each other. On the day, have fun together – make some time just for the two of you!

Photographer: Aparat Photography | Ceremony and reception location: Ascot Vale Church of Christ | Flora: Tesselaar Flowers | Catering: Pearl of the Quarter | Cake: Ferguson Plarre | Rentals: PepperSprout Hire, AK Cool Room Hire | Hair: Brides by Vanessa Jane | Makeup: Sylvia Ura | Wedding dress: Rachel Gilbert (“Selena”) | Bridal boutique: Still White | Shoes: Midas | Groom’s shirt, belt, and shoes: Aquila | Groom and groomsmen’s pants: Politix | Groom and groomsmen’s bow ties: Tinker Finca | Rings: Salera | Bridesmaids’ dresses: Sheike

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