Thursday, 12 January 2012

Our Wedding Story - Part 2 - The Planning

It has been amost a year since the happiest day of my life.  I've been wanting to write this ever since, but have not quite found the right time to sit down to put it on paper.  In a way, I'm glad I'm only writing this a year on, as it's given me time to reflect on all of the details that made it the amazing story that it is.

Our wedding story is not your traditional wedding story... there was no fairytale proposal, no months and months of the bride flicking through wedding magazines, dreaming up the most wonderful dresses, flowers and table settings, just a humble little story of two people in love, stuck on opposite sides of the world! 

The Planning
[get comfy and put your feet up - this is a long one!]

Obviously, we wanted our wedding to happen as soon as possible so we could get Ben back to the UK and to bridge the awful divide of being apart.  So first of all we had to tackle the logistics; where would we get married, what paperwork would we need to lodge and when would we need to lodge it.  We briefly looked into getting married in the UK, but this would be more of a nightmare and Ben wouldn't have been able to go back to work straight away, so Australia it was. 

We then had to decide on a date.  In Australia, you must lodge your Notice of Intent at least 4 weeks before you can legally be wed.  With our decision made in late November, it was looking likely we would be having a January wedding (also taking into account the Christmas holidays).  We finally decided on Friday 14 January!

 Ben and I had decided that we would be happy to have our marriage ceremony at a Registry office in Australia, perhaps with our parents present and then maybe celebrate with brunch/lunch/dinner and a bottle of bubbles afterwards.  Our decision was based on a few factors:  1. we were conscious that our decision to get married may seem a little hasty to some and we didn't want to turn it into a "show".  2. We wanted to get married as soon as possible, so we didn't have time to organise an elaborate wedding, and 3. we were not financially prepared for a wedding, so a big fancy wedding was out of the question.

However, and as most people who have walked down the aisle will no doubt relate, our families were not so keen on this idea.  I quickly came to understand that a wedding is not just about 2 people, but also about the people in their lives who have loved them, nurtured them and watched them grow into the loving adults they are today.

So we compromised - a small, simple wedding with our nearest and dearest.

As we hadn't spent much time together in Australia, and as our families live in different states, we would have to decide on the best location.  Just a couple of months before (when I had flown home for a short visit) Ben and I had spent a lovely couple of weeks in Noosa (a small resort town near where I grew up), which is my favourite place on this earth and was very special to me that I had shared it with Ben, who also fell in love with it.  It seemed logical that this would be where we would be married and where we would share the memories of our big day for the rest of our lives.

The hardest part of our "small wedding" compromise was the guest list, which I'm sure many people can sympathise with.  I had quite a clear idea in my head as to who I wanted present on that day - my parents, grandparents, siblings and 4 of my closest friends who have been a large part of my life (and have stayed that way regardless of me living on the other side of the world for four years).  Ben similarly, has a large family and had a little more trouble than I in deciding on his guest list, but after a lot of discussion and deliberation, we had decided on our final guest list.

We also decided that as we couldn't invite everyone we would have liked to on the day, we would have wedding "after-parties" to allow us to celebrate with everyone we missed on the day so we could still share our special day with them. 

Bear in mind, all of these decisions were being made with me in London and Ben in Australia - all of our wedding planning was done over Skype, email and phone - not an easy feat.

This is where I have to say that the internet has to be THE BEST invention of all time.  Once we started googling, we found almost everything we needed online, and the most beautiful and comprehensive websites with LOTS of photo's that made our life so much easier.

The next most important thing was to find a celebrant who was available for our wedding date.  This was quite difficult, as choosing someone to officiate your wedding over the internet is not quite the same as meeting them in person, to connect with them and decide whether they were the best person to play such an important part in your day.  I must say that we were incredibly blessed with our choice of celebrant, Jacqui Clarke, who was not only one of the loveliest people in the world, but who also helped us feel at ease planning within our short time frame and who also went above and beyond to help us with all of the "behind the scenes" paperwork, especially when it came to lodging the visa application.

I have always loved Noosa Main Beach, and even whilst Ben and I were there together on holiday previously, we had seen one of the spots along the shorefront being set up for a wedding.  We did some research on the council's website and found out you could hire any of the foreshore areas for Weddings (at a small cost and for a 2hr time limit).  Unfortunately, this was an area we needed a little extra help with - we wanted to make sure we picked the right one - preferably the most private, as after all, this was a public beach so we wanted to make sure we didn't have too many people staring at us as we exchanged vows.  So I sent my parents on a mission - unfortunately, the day they went it was bucketing down with rain, but they did confirm that the aptly named "Hidden Grove" area was the pick of them all, far enough off the main walkway to not have every passerby glaring at us, but also on the top of the dune overlooking the ocean - just perfect.

The bonus of this location is that it's just a short walk down the boardwalk to my favourite restaurant, Bistro C, where, as luck would have it, was able to accommodate our group of 36 for a late lunch on a Friday afternoon.  The best part about this arrangement was that we could order off the menu and not be locked into "per head" prices, which again helped to keep costs down.  I honestly couldn't be happier that everything was falling into place so easily.

So we now had a date, a venue and a celebrant.

Now for the fun stuff!

The Dress -  I already knew that I didn't want a big fru-fru wedding dress - in fact, I wanted a dress that wasn't a wedding dress.  Yes, I still wanted to look like a bride, but in an understated, classic and elegant kind of way.  Because we were in budget wedding mode, and because London has so many great stores, I made a bee-line for a few of my favourite stores and on the first night of trying-on, I found it.  A simple floor-length dress with a lace overlay, satin bodice and crossover straps - it fit like a glove and I fell in love - the perfect beach wedding dress.

The Rings - Obviously, after our decision had been made, Ben was straight on the case of finding a ring.  Unfortunately it would still be 6 weeks until he could officially place it on my finger, but regardless, it was a very important purchase.  We didn't just want to walk into any high street jeweller and buy something straight from the case, so he started looking around at bespoke jewellers in Sydney.  Ben had quite a good idea of what he was looking for and we spent a lot of Skype time making sure we were on the same page.  Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that due to closures in Australia over the Christmas holiday period, we had pretty much run out of time for anything to be ready in time for the wedding.  This made for an anxious few days of frantically trying to figure out how to get around this.  Then I had a brainwave - I work right next to Hatton Garden (London's diamond district) AND I also received a staff discount at a selection of these stores (perfect for our wedding budget).  So in yet another fairly UN-romantic notion, I went ring shopping with my best friend (the friend responsible for Ben and I meeting) and found our wedding rings.  And because London only closes down for a few days over xmas, we had plenty of time for the rings to be ready before I flew home.

The best of the rest...

Something that was quite easy to organise over the internet was our ceremony set-up.  After many an email exchange with First Class Functions, we had our chairs, aisle runner, registry table and ice tubs (for the ever important bubbly).  They were also happy to help with hanging our chinese lanterns in the trees, so we didn't have to worry about finding someone willing to climb up a ladder.  The other bonus with using First Class was that they have had lots of practice at setting-up and packing-up for a wedding within the 2hr time frame set by the council - these girls do it all the time and everyone was amazed at what a fantastic job they did.

As my parents own a local business in the area, we tried to keep as many things within the local business community.  One of those things that made sense was to order the flowers from the florist across the road from their shop.  There was no doubt that I wanted Lillies for my bouquet and also rose petals to scatter over the aisle runner for the ceremony.  Along with buttonholes for Ben, our Dads and my Pop, and a corsage for my Nan, the flowers seemed an easy item to tick off the list.  Unfortunately, this is one detail I should have been more concerned about as we did have quite a drama with these on the day (but i'll write more about that further on). 

Another member of the business community, who is also a close friend of our family, is Nancy, the beautician who owns the shop next to my parents cafe.  She ever-so-kindly offered to do my makeup on the day and it was really lovely to have someone I've known for such a long time, so eager to turn me into a blushing bride.

After more internet research, I found Deb from Beauty on the Move to do my hair.  Again, we came to know each other over email, so it was lovely to find her to be incredibly bubbly, friendly and helpful when we finally met for my trial a few days before the big day.

Enough about the bride, Ben needed a suit.  As he would be in Sydney until the week before the wedding, and not wanting to worry about travelling with a suit up to Noosa on a plane, he decided to hire a suit from a formal hire store once he arrived in Noosa.  Again, the store were ever so helpful and liaised with him to have as much detail as possible so once he arrived it would be quite easy for him to try-on and pick out a suit.  We did consider buying a suit, but Ben is not a big suit-wearer and again, being budget-conscious we were happy with our decision to hire.

A friend of my parent's, a pastry chef, had agreed to make our wedding cake.  Surprisingly, choosing a wedding cake was one of the hardest decisions.  As it was summer in Australia, we wanted something light, but still delicious and pretty and most importantly, not something that would melt in the heat.  Again, this was one element that turned into a drama, so stay tuned to see what happened...

Our Wedding Story - Part 1

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