gundaroo wedding photosJo and Ben

A trip to the country is always one of my favourite things to do, but when you couple it with a wedding? Well I think it might just make for the most splendid of weekends away! Jo and Ben chose Gundaroo for their country wedding, ironically because of the lower average rainfall. Rain did come down on their wedding day, but I think the dark clouds only add to the cosy, warm feeling of Jo and Ben’s beautiful wedding day!

But firstly, I want to know how they met! Ben says (from his speech): “Somewhat ironically after three years of undergraduate uni where I’d tried unsuccessfully to meet girls by picking female dominated subjects such as Spanish and Photography I met Joanna in a neuroscience class, which tends to attract a high proportion of nerdy guys who like to wear labcoats. When I found out she also shared a love for travel, good food and wine…and her dad had a large wine cellar I knew Joanna was the one for me.”

Jo’s version of the story? ” We met in our final year of undergad. I was pretty competitive at the time (I probably still am), and I was trying to get good marks so I could get into some post-graduate programs. So when I had to do a joint assignment with Ben I was a bit worried he would pull me down! Instead I found he was a lot of fun to hang out with and shared a love of neuroscience, food and wine (what more could a girl want?). It took us about 6 months to get together and ironically, it was at a mid-term celebration just before exams that we decided to start dating. After that studying together was not so successful but a lot more fun! ”

Photographs today are by Amanda Thorson of Thorson Photography who has a relaxed, natural elegance to her captures.

Jo wore a Hilde Heim gown from The Wedding Boutique and added family owned jewels to finish her look, explaining, “Ben’s mum gave me a set of beautiful opera pearls which I doubled over to create a multi-strand look. I wore my Grandmother’s pearl earrings and beautiful pearl bracelet that my Grandfather had given her.”

Jo and Ben chose Grazing at Gundaroo for their wedding, Jo remarking “Good wine and food are really important to us and have always played a part in our relationship, so it was really important to us that we had our wedding somewhere that was able to deliver that. We also wanted our guests to have a bit of a weekend away and so we wanted a venue that was out of the city and where we could have both our ceremony and reception. Grazing fit the bill beautifully. We first stumbled across Grazing while visiting friends in Canberra few years ago and were really impressed by their commitment to sourcing local produce and wine and thought that shone through in the clean fresh flavours in the food, and also the warmth of the service we received. Like a lot of people our age we dream of a bit of a tree change and getting married at Grazing was our opportunity to sample the country lifestyle for a day. They’ve recently built a beautiful big, light and airy function space adjoining the character-filled old converted pub (built in the 1800s) and overlooking the beautiful country veggie garden where we had our ceremony, so it was perfect for what we needed.”

Jo remembers, “My Dad drove the girls and I to the wedding. The girls had to squish the three of them into the back, and we were all pretty nervous so Dad put on the best of Celine Dion to listen and sing-along to on the way there -it definitely took an edge of the nerves. While we were pulling up to the ceremony we had “The Power of Love” blaring -it was pretty fun! ”

Ben remarks, “I think the song that Jo walked down to aisle to, Mango Tree by Angus and Julia Stone was very special to us both, it was a song that we’ve loved for a long time and as I grew up on a mango plantation on the Northern Territory it reminds me of that time and also of finding home or a place of belonging together ”

Jo recalls “We had a reading from Dr Seuss called ‘All the places you go’, which I think really encapsulated our attitude towards marriage, which is that it is an adventure that you go on together and there will be good times and bad times, but you’ve just got to stick together through it all. Both Ben and I are rock climbers and there is a great line at the end of the reading that says “your mountain is waiting, so get on your way” which really captured the feeling and had that personal relevance.”

Lorraine Bird married the couple, Ben recalling a funny story says “We were a bit unorganised so hadn’t managed to memorise our vows, so our celebrant Lorraine Bird had our vows written out for us on little cards for us to read. Unfortunately the order must have gotten mixed up because when I came to read my vows I almost told Joanna that I was taking her to be my husband, which may have confused a few people. Fortunately I realised just in time and was able to modify what I was saying.”

Jo’s bridesmaids wore Alfred Sung gowns in shades of blue.

There was plenty of DIY, Jo explains. “Given we’re both students we did a lot of DIY to save on cost and add our own personal touch to the wedding. We made our own invitations and place cards (with gorgeous paper from Amazing Paper). We also did all our own decorations for the ceremony and reception.

My grandmother has been collecting glass-wear for years and had a lot of old coffee jars, oyster jars, various condiment bottles and jars and the like of all different sizes and shapes and it was great to be able recycle those jars for the table decorations. We wanted a relaxed country feel so flowers were arranged in the jars on tables as though they had been freshly picked from the meadow and we had buckets of flowers scattered around the room. My aunt has a fantastic garden and pruned her agapanthus and hydrangea for us to use -they were beautiful whites, lilacs, blues with dashes of pink, we had enough to fill 10 buckets for the ceremony and reception! My mum also grows a lot of lavender and we took all the flowers from that to tie the place tags to with jute string. The rest of the flowers were picked up from Canberra flower wholesaler Capital Flowers.

Grazing was really lovely and let us set up the reception space on the day before the wedding, so my mum, aunt and the girls and I put all the tables and flower arrangements together on the Friday before the wedding. It was a great way to spend the day before the wedding. The boys came in the afternoon and put fairy lights and lanterns up to create a canopy in the reception space. It gave a really romantic feel to the evening. We also hung lanterns in the trees of the garden where we had our ceremony, it was a really great (and easy!) way to add a bit of colour to contrast with the greenness of the trees.”

There was no wedding cake, but something equally as delicious and worthy of making me hungry! Jo tells, “Ben and I aren’t really fussed on cakes so much, so we decided to do something a bit different for our wedding “cake”. We got these fantastic giant tarts from Silo Bakery in Canberra. We got different flavours (Mango creme brulee, chocolate and berry, rhubarb and custard, pear and almond), and they decorated one for us for cutting with impressive poached pears, strawberries, and other berries -it was delicious!”

Ben remembers, “The speeches that we had were all really great. It’s amazing how being at a wedding affects people. First up was Jo’s dad, who is a man of few words and an old-school very traditional straight-down the line kind of guy who keeps his cards pretty close to his chest. Anyway, the speech he gave was amazingly heartfelt and I think to see a guy who is normally so contained choke up a bit as he was talking about how happy he was that we were getting married was pretty special for me. My dad also gave a speech, which was also really touching and I think captured how happy my entire family are to be making Joanna one of the Smith’s. There was bit of a surprise at the end though when he decided he would present Jo and I with a rocking horse that he had hand-made as a bit of a hint that he wouldn’t mind another grandkid sometime soon, I’m not sure why he’s in such a rush, he’s already got a heap of them.”

For their first dance, Jo tells, “We danced to “Crazy little thing called love” by Queen. Ben and I are not really into ballads and wanted something that would reflect both our commitment to each other and also our personalities. We spent ages listening to songs, trawling websites and forums looking for a song that felt right, but really struggled. We realised Crazy little thing was the right song one night while I was doing the washing up. Ben had a bit of a tradition of putting on Queen’s “best of” album whenever we were washing up lots of dishes, so when he put the CD on this time about 3 months before the wedding and started singing along, it just clicked for both of us. We were a bit worried about the speed of the song and the fact that we would be learning rock’n’roll from scratch, but our dance instructor Galit was awesome. It was a lot of fun, and having dance lessons every week leading up to the wedding made sure that Ben and I actually spent time together despite how busy we were. The funny or ironic thing was I ended up getting the heel of my shoe stuck in my dress in one of the early spins! As a result we missed out on doing a few cool dips and moves, but it was still loads of fun!”

Congratulations on your marriage Jo and Ben! Thank you for sharing your story with us! Thank you to Amanda Thorson of Thorson Photography for sharing today’s wedding!