Elizabeth and Geoffrey

When I’m asked how we select weddings, the best way I can describe it are weddings which take my breath away – it’s not always details, it’s the emotion between the couple, or the bride’s radiant face, because I want to inspire you to be true to yourself and create a celebration of your own. Elizabeth and Geoffrey did just that – they celebrated in a place that was special to them, they surrounded themselves with details like a beautiful geisha comb that paid homage to where they come from, they made their passions like food and wine important.

Elizabeth explains how she met her husband. “I was a long-term member of the Art Gallery of NSW and involved in the Contempo Volunteers group. Geoffrey knew one of the other Contempo Volunteers who’d suggested to him that he come along to one of the meetings to meet some new and interesting people. It was his first time to the Art Gallery and after a few wrong turns (ie turning up at the MCA) he eventually made it there at the end of the meeting where I must have caught his eye as he chatted to me for a long time before pursuing me to a later coffee date. It was only a few weeks later that he invited me to a movie in Cremorne and I had free tickets to a concert in Newtown in the evening. It was during the time between these two events that he took me down to Woolwich pier for a walk and it was here that we really opened up to each other and found ourselves falling rapidly in love.”

Photos today are by Milk & Honey Photography who have a softness and grace to their work. They capture moments and feelings so beautifully.

Elizabeth and Geoffrey incorporated a number of Japanese elements. “When Geoff proposed to me we were only a few weeks off a planned holiday to Japan. So still glowing with the excitement and anticipation of it all some of my shopping focus went towards the wedding. The main thing we purchased in Tokyo was a traditional style Geisha Comb in the soft pretty lemons, creams and light green with soft touches of pink. This comb would become the basis of the colour palette for the rest of the wedding to follow and it was also nice to know I had this unique little detail to help define our style. In Kyoto we had purchased an old style bamboo fan, originally I thought the green would be too dark to use for the wedding but as the other details pulled together and considering the colour of the landscape itself I decided it would be appropriate after all.” Elizabeth’s hair was styled by her good friend Richard Zalm from Zalm Hair who has been doing Elizabeth’s hair since she was a small child. Rosie from Rosie’s Beauty At Beecroft did a beautiful job on Elizabeth’s makeup despite being quite ill on the day!

The bridesmaids wore Japanese inspired gowns. “We bought a Japanese cotton print fabric from Tessuti Fabrics in Summer Hill and set about sketching up a comfortable summer dress for the girls to wear. A local dressmaker that Mum knew and trusted made this along with the Mother of the Bride’s dress made from Valentino silk material bought on a weekend trip to Melbourne. We looked at a number of retro 50’s and 60’s designs before settling on a cut that was reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn’s Oscar’s outfit.”

Rebelle Scheenen created the bouquets to Elizabeth’s specifications. “Rebelle was a friend of my mum who had previously worked as a florist before retiring to raise a family at home. With her years of experience in bridal and other floral arrangements and her friendship with my Mum she was the clear choice to do our flowers. As we trusted her a lot we were able to leave a lot of the decisions up to her based on what looked good and fresh in the markets the day before. I’d given her a magazine cut out of a bouquet I really liked along with a few suggested twists to reflect the style of the day and a list of some of my favourite flowers. The one clear direction I left her with was just lots of layered textures, nothing that all looks the same and boring, a plain bouquet of all white roses was never going to be something I’d want for my wedding.

The bouquets were beautiful, full of all the different textures I’d wanted. I also loved what she did for the natural jetty aisle, which was decorated with boughs of native leaves, orchids and ribbons. The other special touch was my Mum’s traditional English country trug that was filled with all the different flowers used and made an entrance statement to the venue.

Unfortunately for poor Geoff so many people were throwing their arms around him to offer their congratulations that his boutonièrre soon got very squashed and wilted.”

Elizabeth’s french lace wedding gown was designed and made by Sylvia Chan. “I think I’d already decided she was going to make my wedding dress before we were even engaged. Some time ago I fell in love with a beautiful red and black evening gown of gossamer silk panels with an intricate Chinese Brush painted landscape that was in the window of her Paddington boutique. Given my love of art and painting and that Geoffrey was Chinese Malay she was a perfect choice to create something for me that paid homage to his background whilst also reflecting my own passions.

I was very lucky to have found her as she specialises in alternative brides who are wanting something quite uniquely different and less predictable. We had lots of fun at all the fittings sorting through all the disparate ideas I’d been gathering together from my research. She helped me make sense of what I was looking for using a simple design with not too many flounces that relied on simple lace instead of glittering beading to create interest. So mum and I found some delicate French Lace that we loved and brought it over to Sylvia for her to work her magic into.

In the end the dress was perfect, something very different that hinted at something classical and vintage and hinted at the Orient and the relaxed river setting where it would be worn.” Elizabeth completed her look with a vintage Japanese parasol she found on Etsy.

Elizabeth’s parents played a significant role in the wedding. ” We did it all ourselves though probably my Mum and Dad could claim the most credit for making sure everything that needed to be organised was and that things ran smoothly. They both were fantastic in supporting my vision for things and making it happen. They were extremely generous to Geoff and I and I’d like to thank them again for their loving support to make this wedding the beautiful day it was”

The trip to the venue was one of the day’s highlights for Elizabeth. ” I left this up to Dad to organise and he picked out some nice vintage Bentleys for the journey. The journey itself was quite scenic tracking through the back semi-rural areas of Galston and then down through the bush to the river valley. It was just so exciting sitting perched up looking all special in my dress and hair and makeup with the bells from my comb jangling away in the wind. It was nice being there just with Dad as the anticipation and realisation that this was finally actually all happening, sunk in.

A sadder story from the day was that my elderly grandmother couldn’t make it to the ceremony and reception as she’d not been well. So that she could still see me all dressed up we stopped off on-route to give her a hug and we were all in tears.”

Elizabeth and Geoffrey held their ceremony by the river at Berowra Waters. “In Geoffrey’s culture it is seen as auspicious blessing of good luck to be married by the water. We had also fallen in love overlooking the water at Woolwich so it was clear we needed to choose somewhere by the water. Hawkesbury River has always been, for both of us, a place to escape to and spend a relaxing day wandering around. It is close to Sydney but far removed from the stresses of life. It was nice that our choice of venue would give all our guests this same feeling as they took time off on a Friday from work to eat good food and enjoy the beautiful natural scenery of the Australian landscape.”

Elizabeth walked down the aisle to the soft strains of a surprise harpist. “Having overspent on other areas in the budget we weren’t left with one for the music but with an extensive music collection I set about programming my iPod. As a surprise a few weeks before the wedding my parents arranged for a Harpist to play before and during the ceremony as guests arrived which I was thrilled about since as a small child I had always admired that particular instrument.”

A traditional Chinese tea ceremony topped off the ceremony. “In honour of Geoffrey’s cultural heritage we incorporated a traditional Tea Ceremony into the proceedings. This ceremony is performed amongst the groom’s family as a way of welcoming the bride into their family. The bridal couple serve tea as a sign of respect to the family elders who in return bestow red packets filled with gold and money to give the new couple good fortune in their lives together. Three of Geoff’s Aunts made the journey across from Malaysia to join us on the day so it was nice that they were included in this central element of the proceedings. We used three tea services, one that belonged to Geoff’s family, one that was a present from the bride’s parents and the third that was borrowed from Geoff’s mother’s friend who was leading the ceremony. It was a nice inclusion to the event and added another layer of gravity to the ceremony and exchange of vows.”

Geoffrey and his groomsmen wore suits from Just for Him, with a waistcoat made especially for the wedding. “Lisa and the team from Just for Him did a good job of helping the boys piece together their relaxed summer ‘lunch by the river’ look whilst still looking like they were there for a wedding. They ditched the formal look for smart casual pants, shirts and waistcoats. The groom’s waistcoat was cut in the same shape as the groomsmen but had distinctive flair due to the pure silk material used that was sourced in Cabramatta. It was a real gem of a find as the dragonfly motif was a great match for our river wedding and when I saw it I knew the colours would match in with my own dress.”

One of Elizabeth’s favourite moments was a secret getaway. “I loved sneaking downstairs after the ceremony. After the official ceremony, tea ceremony and family photographs were taken Geoff and I eventually managed to sneak downstairs to find some cool respite from the heat. With Peach Bellini in hand we were able to spend our first moments alone together as husband and wife before the photographers found where we were hiding and proceedings continued.”

A boat decorated with bunting painted by Elizabeth’s dad ferried everyone from the jetty at Berowra Waters to the reception at Berowra Waters Inn. Elizabeth recalls “My Dad  organised to make some small bunting flags that were used as bunting for the boat as well as on the tables using the bird painting from the RSVP card. This was a nice touch given his passion for flags and reputation as one of Australia’s leading vexillologists.”

Elizabeth, a graphic designer, put herself to work on the invitations. “The main DIY element would have to be the stationery. I worked on all the designs and then we just printed them at home on Mum and Dad’s printer. By picking good quality papers with a bit of colour and texture to them and using the highest GSM we could squeeze through it meant the final product looked very professional and most people were surprised to hear we printed them ourselves. I also hand lined all the envelopes with a translucent leafy paper I’d found in my local art supply shop.

This process was simultaneously enjoyable and stressful. It was enjoyable to sit down and paint an array of little birds and ducks and willow trees but it was also stressful as I knew people would be expecting something special from me given my career as a Graphic Designer. Early on I was swamped with possibilities and whilst I considered some sleek letterpress options we ultimately decided to go for a more handmade and rustic look (yet still stylish and refined).

The main invitation reflects the wedding venue of the river setting with a pair of ducks swimming past. In my family ducks swimming by were always seen as a sign of good luck and when Geoff proposed to me we were blessed by a family of ducks swimming up to us so this was an important motif for us to include. The RSVP card featured a pair of love birds that introduced the remaining colours from our chosen palette. We also included a map of directions and travel advice for the venue that was also created by myself.”

The reception venue, Berowra Waters Inn, covered all the bases for Elizabeth and Geoffrey. “Berowra Waters Inn is one of Sydney’s Top Restaurants and has made degustation dining its specialty. The building itself is also significant being designed by one of Australia’s most prominent architects – Glen Murcutt. When laying out the tables we decided on a sweetheart table arrangement with a table for two in the middle and the bride’s family and friends on one side and the groom’s family and friends on the other. This worked out nicely as we were able to have our private time together whilst still being close and connected to our family.

One of our shared passions is a love of food so picking a venue renowned for its great cuisine was also a factor in our decision making process. Berowra Waters Inn came to mind as a favourite place where we had previously enjoyed a tranquil Valentine’s lunch one year with amazing food. The setting is so peaceful and time just drifts away leisurely so it we thought it would make a relaxed spot to exchange our vows and celebrate with friends.”

Guests received chocolate favors. “Special thanks need to go to Alex and Fanny at Boon Chocolates. We have been long time customers at their shop in Darlinghurst so they were enthusiastic about making out bonbonierre. There was a very special chocolate that Fanny designed for us based on our favourite flavours – a bergamot infused caramel”

The place cards were beautifully incorporated into the wedding theme. “Mum has been a calligrapher for many years so despite struggling with her eyesight she hand wrote all the place cards onto assorted vellum leaf shapes.”

The two tier wedding cake was made by Sally Thomson of  Cake Magic. Elizabeth loved the work by Lori, a NYC cake designer, and explains, “What I loved about it that differed from all the other cakes being made locally was the array of gorgeous sugar flowers. There were many cake makers we talked to who just looked at it and said we can make copies of anything put in front of us but this amount of sugar flowers will cost you. We didn’t want a direct copy of someone else’s creative work but something that was created especially for us at a reasonable cost. We eventually found Sally who had just a small business based in her home making a limited amount of cakes. She got the point that I liked Lori’s work and didn’t want a rip off but something unique and inspired by our own theme and the Australian Bush setting so she took my inspiration palette and wove together this lovely laid back and elegant cake with its Australian native flowers.”

The speeches were one of Elizabeth’s favourite parts of the lunchtime reception. “It might seem obvious but I really enjoyed listening to the speeches from my father and my husband. It was nice just looking out at the tranquility of the river and letting their words wash over me. Both of them said such wonderful things and I did feel so incredibly special and lucky to have a devoted father and such a gorgeous romantic husband.”

“Both Geoffrey and myself love food so this was a top priority when planning. Berowra Waters Inn specialty is degustation dining so we had a five course meal plus little canapés and a few surprises as well.When we were talking through the menu options we were pleasantly shocked when they confidently informed us that we could have a white peach soufflé if we wished. It was definitely impressive that they could serve 70 perfectly high soufflés simultaneously.”

“It was always going to be special but it still managed to delight throughout. I loved the smirk on Geoff’s face as he tucked into his favourite oysters. I too was delighted and one of the best things was the pre-dessert amuse bouche. As this wasn’t part of the menu we selected but left up to the chef’s judgment then imagine my surprise to discover he’d created a pineapple and meringue dish that reminded me of one of my favourite and most requested birthday desserts growing up – frangipani pie!”

The first dance was a special one. “Our first dance was to Leonard Cohen’s “Dance me to the end of Love” which we discovered was actually a wedding rumba rather than a wedding waltz. The version we danced to is a cover by a local band, Monsieur Camembert, who we love and whose concerts we’ve frequently danced the night away too. Their upbeat gypsy spin on things made for a more romantic and less gravelly version of this beautiful song.

We also kind of had a second first dance as we had done the wedding waltz with other romantic songs between mains and dessert so after everything else was done we kicked things off again for a second time with a very fun and upbeat cha-cha called “Kiss me Twice” by Parov Stelar from the Hotel Costes Series.”

Congratulations on your marriage Elizabeth and Geoffrey! Thank you for taking the time to share so much of your special day with us on Polka Dot Bride today! Thank you also to Milk & Honey Photography for sharing today’s images with us!