It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing when a gorgeous wedding has been infused with heaps of the bride and groom’s personality, and we were definitely delivered that when Lara Hotz Photography shared Sophie and Gavin’s big day in Sydney. These two brought together their loved ones in incredibly decorated venues with the assistance of Ashdown & Bee, who created a lovely environment that blended Aleksandra‘s botanical arrangements with the overall industrial feel of their ceremony and reception locations. This is an amazing planning story to read about, and the pictures are just as wonderful!
From the bride, Sophie: So often a wedding is described as “the bride’s day.” Gavin and I wanted our wedding day to reflect both of our personalities in a celebration of love and joy with our nearest and dearest. Gavin and I have been together for seven years and were best friends for years before then. We used to (sub-consiously) give each other terrible dating advice, until we finally admitted we’d be better together than friends. Before we were even dating we’d explore Sydney together; visiting the latest hotspot restaurants, exhibitions at art museums, have drinks in the park on a beautiful day. We took inspiration from these pre-dating days and wanted to find a beautiful garden park ceremony and an intimate restaurant with interesting decor.
Finding the right venue is probably one of the trickiest parts about planning your wedding. I dreamed of a garden wedding, but with Sydney’s fickle spring weather, we didn’t want to worry about the possibility of rain or wind interrupting an outdoor ceremony. We decided to bring a garden-style ceremony inside and dressed a historical industrial-style venue with gorgeous floral garlands. We chose The Cell Block Theatre at the National Art School. It’s a grand historic space in the heart of Sydney CBD. Now a theatre space at an art school, in the 1820s it was the women’s wing of the Old Darlinghurst Gaol. As Sydney’s first permanent jail it held some notorious criminals and the original curved sandstone walls still have the markings of the female prisoners counting down the days — some of our guests remarked that made for an ironic wedding ceremony location! The historical industrial vibe flowed through to our reception venue at the Sydney Dance Lounge Restaurant, an original restored wharf house now a restaurant at the Sydney Dance Company. We fell in love with the original timber wharf floors, high ceilings and views of Sydney Harbour.
The ceremony is the most important part of your wedding day, but so often overlooked in the planning. Our celebrant was my godmother’s sister Robyn Kayes; my grandparents were friends and neighbours with her parents. It was so special for the day to be led by someone who watched me grow up. We asked Robyn if we could share a little piece of the ceremony that she said before she announced us husband and wife: (It makes me cry every time!) “Before I pronounce you married partners, I have one more thing I want you to do. Your wedding day is one that seems to fly. Many people remember how fleeting their own wedding day was. So I want you to take a few seconds to look into each other’s eyes. Think about the happiness that you’re feeling in this place, in this moment. You have chosen each other to live your lives together as husband and wife. Don’t allow your feelings to be any less than they are at this moment. You should always cherish the hopes and dreams that brought you here today.”
Family is so important to Gavin and I so we wanted to bring in something to our ceremony that symbolised the two families coming together and celebrated our heritage. We chose a hand fasting ceremony as Gavin is English and the hand fasting is often conducted in English and Irish weddings as a symbolic binding of the hands inspired by the terms ‘Bonds of Holy Matrimony’ and ‘To tie the knot’. We were so honoured to have family and friends fly into Sydney from England, Ireland, Japan, Brazil, and all over Australia. It meant the world to us that they would make the journey across thousands of kilometres to witness the joining of our two families. More than anything, we wanted our guests to feel relaxed, enjoy good food and wine, and for the dance floor to be full. And trust me, they could have danced all night long!
We took inspiration from the industrial venue, added elements of modern romance with soft lighting and classic furniture pieces, plus botanical garlanding to bring the garden inside. Navy, white, and mixed metallics formed our base colour palette for the bridal party, stationery and other styling elements. We gave our talented floral designer, Aleksandra, free reign to choose the floral colours and varities. It was breathtaking to walk into our ceremony space and see the vivid colours. We were so lucky to work with an amazing wedding stylist, Melissa from Ashdown & Bee, to help transform the historical ceremony space. She completely understood our industrial-botanical vision and helped bring all our crazy ideas into one cohesive vision. So many of her special little touches really brought a sense of modern romance to our day – like the flameless candles on the ceremony steps, strung up cafe lights and the champagne bar. Her husband Simon created the chalkboard welcome and seating charts. They’re a talented pair!
I would describe the day as joyful. My cheeks literally hurt from smiling all day! It was almost overwhelming to be surrounded by all your favourite people in one space. We’re a bit cheeky and like to have some fun, so we brought elements of humour to the day, like the wedding ceremony fans with ‘Yay!’ and ‘Best.Day.Ever’. The fairy floss cart (Americans call this Cotton Candy) was such a hit with our guests – the flavours we chose were Unicorn Poop, Mojito, and Pumpkin Pie. We had a fun surprise ourselves from the getaway car driver of the 1958 Chevrolet Impala Sports Coupe as it shot flames out the back as we sped away into the night!
If you know, what flowers were used for your bouquet and/or floral arrangements?
In the hanging garlands: flowering azaleas, delphinium, hydrangeas, garden roses, peonies, green foliages: maple, pin oak, magnolia, and trailing spring fern
In the bouquets: lily of the valley, lupins, sweetpeas, garden roses and fragrant David Austin roses, peonies, and mock orange
Any advice for couples planning their weddings now? Let’s face it, weddings are expensive. It’s so easy to get swept away in the pretty pictures on Pinterest and think you need to have it all for your wedding day to be perfect. One of the best conversations Gavin and I had early in the planning was to decide our top three must-haves and then focus our time, energy, and resources on making those areas amazing. For us, the most important things were food, florals/styling, and photography and so that’s where the majority of our focus went. Your wedding day is the celebration of the first day of your marriage. Your guests won’t notice if you didn’t finish that DIY project! A dedicated wedding email address is so helpful to organise your communication with vendors, collate RSVPs, and generally separate the wedding admin from your personal life. A personal note to the brides, you’ll probably be asked at some point by a well-meaning shop assistant or friend “Are you planning on losing any weight?”. I’m here to tell you that you absolutely don’t need to. Worries about your appearance can be all-consuming during the stressful times of wedding planning. Your guests are your biggest cheer squad and will not be concerned about how your arms look in that dress as you walk down the aisle; just the joy you radiate. Choose vendors that are passionate about their small businesses. They’ll have a fountain of information to share with you and it will make planning so much easier. Our photographer was the first vendor we booked as we feel in love with her style and booked her before we even had a venue! Lara Hotz gave us amazing advice during the early stages of planning that we took to heart to create our day like “make a backdrop behind your ceremony” and “think about the importance of soft lighting with candles or cafe lighting”.
Processional: “Glasgow Love Theme,” Craig Armstrong from the Love Actually soundtrack (Love Actually is one of our favourite movies that we watch every Christmas. When I told Gavin I was thinking of this song and played it for him, he cried! That’s when I knew it was the right choice to walk down the aisle.)
Recessional: “Celeste,” Ezra Vine
First Dance: “You Are The Best Thing,” Ray LaMontagne