Mark and Kellee

Our wedding week in Fiji was nothing short of perfect!

The morning after, everyone kept coming up to me saying they’ll always look back on the day and pinch them selves that they were there.

Choosing to get married overseas was definitely not an easy decision, due to the family and friends that would inevitably get left behind, but after researching venues from Sydney, to the Central Coast & right up to Byron Bay, there was no place that could even come close to Maui Palms. We’d visited the boutique resort on Fiji’s Coral Coast 3 times before, and on our most recent visit, it became the place we got engaged. To say it’s special, would be an understatement. It’s like it was built for us. Christine and the staff have become wonderful friends over the years, and visiting now is like coming home.

Planning the wedding from Australia was a breeze too. Christine and I would chat over skype once a week or as needed to organise everything. It was so easy to have to deal with one person the whole way along, and not need to arrange all the different suppliers myself, especially when very few businesses in Fiji have a website.

As a wedding photographer myself, I found it a little difficult coming up with new ideas for the wedding as I somewhat felt I’d seen it all before. At the same time though, it was a blessing to incorporate little things here and there that I may never have thought of on my own otherwise. When everything came together, it was distinctly our day and unlike any wedding I’d ever been to.

We arrived in Fiji 4 days before the wedding, and after briefly catching up with all the staff, Mark and I spent about 20 minutes in our room quickly assembling the welcome bags we’d brought to say thanks to our friends and family for travelling such a long way to be with us.

Once everyone had made their way to Fiji, as another way to welcome everyone, we held a Lovo to introduce everyone to the Fijian food and culture.

This also included a Kava ceremony in our honour, and a blessing for our upcoming marriage.

The night before the wedding I gave each of our parents an embroidered handkerchief that I bought on Etsy from Deborah Babraskas.

Mark surprised me by organising a special breakfast for two in the pool hut to have some final ‘us’ time before going our separate ways for the getting ready process. It was so nice to be able to sit together and really prepare ourselves for the day to come.

He then spent the rest of the morning spearfishing with the local boys.

Our rings (from Blue Nile) were engraved with the phrase ‘au domoni iko’ which is Fijian for ‘I love you’.

I had not one, but 2 dresses made by the absolutely incredible Mandy Heng. I wanted something light, soft and flowy, that looked perfectly in place at the beach, while still glam enough to look like a bride. I had a second dress made specifically for the big finale at the end of the reception. It was a surprise to absolutely everyone, even my mother in law who came to every dress fitting with me. Mandy did an amazing job making the dress to be a perfect fit, even though I was never able to try it on. We’d come up with a bunch of code words to determine the length and fabric.

I had a custom hanger saying ‘I do…’ made by Hitched Hangers.

My something old was a brooch given to me by one of my grandmothers.

Something new, a clutch from Ellen Vintage

Something borrowed, a brooch from my other grandmother

Something blue, a garter from Art House Bridal

My earrings were a simple pair of large hoops from Angus & Coote

My dressmaker Mandy also made me a hairpiece from leftover pieces of fabric from my dresses

I alternated between a pair of Badgley Mischka silk flats and aqua Havianas throughout the day.

After struggling to find a makeup artist and hairdresser who would do my hair and makeup on site at Maui Palms, I decided to do my own makeup and to have my sister do my hair. I enlisted the help of Bonita from Your Big Day to give help me with makeup lessons in the lead up to the wedding. Her advise was invaluable, and after practicing weekly for about 4 months, I was relaxed and confident, knowing exactly how it would look, and how well it would wear through the day.

We wanted the day to be completely relaxed, and for everyone to feel comfortable, no matter how humid the weather may have ended up. Mark lead the charge by wearing a linen shirt (by Ben Sherman) with the sleeves rolled up, shorts (from O’neill) and a pair of thongs (from Billabong).

It was very important to me to have the ceremony and reception in one place, and for there to be no down time in between. We decided to have the majority of our portraits taken in the two hours before the ceremony. We’d arranged with our incredible photographer Beata English, for Mark to be waiting for me about 200m down the beach, with his back to me. He was to wait there until I tapped him on the shoulder, and we could share that first moment between just us.

We went our separate ways once again 10 minutes before the ceremony to freshen up, and spend some time with my Dad.

My nephew Charlie carried a custom sign from 4 The Love of Hannah to lead me down the aisle.

During the ceremony, we passed our rings around the circle tied to a starfish and asked that everyone make a wish for our marriage.

I also decided early on that I didn’t want anyone aside from Beata to be taking photos during the ceremony. Having such a small group of people, I wanted to look out to see only faces and smiles, not 20 lenses. I wanted to be able to connect with every one that was there, and have them in the moment present with us.

One of my favourite things about Fiji, is the group of serenaders in the airport who sing as you get off the plane. It’s instantly relaxing, and I really wanted to bring that atmosphere to the ceremony and through the cocktail hour.

We spent another 10 minutes having a few more just married portraits while everyone got started with the canapes.

My bouquet was a simple bunch of Red Ginger fresh from the local markets, wrapped in twine with both of my grandmothers brooches attached.

The reception was held on the deck between the villas, one long table, with several strings of fairy lights hanging between the trees.

Rather than a menu, we included a recipe of our favourite Fijian dish, Kokoda, which was served as an entree.

In the months leading up to the wedding, I made coconut scented soy candles to use as both seating cards and bonbonniere. (Supplies from All Australian Candle Making)

We also put together a relief station, to cater for all weather scenarios. Including pashminas for the ladies from Wendy Collection which came in very handy at the end of the night.

Our guest book was a series of note cards with prompts, that were pegged between a pair of palm trees.

The cake toppers are from Ready Go

One of my favourite things the whole day was the cocktails. As we had a bunch of family & friends flying over together, we purchased our alcohol duty free, including all the main ingredients for most cocktails, then hired a cocktail barman for the night. Our signature drink was called ‘au domoni iko’ (I love you) and was easily a crowd favourite.

Rather than traditional speeches, we went for an open mic, and gave everyone the opportunity to take the floor for 30 seconds.

Our first dance was to ‘Knock Three Times’ in honour of us living in the same building when we met.

I danced to ‘Looking out my backdoor’ with my father, a song we always sang together when I was growing up. He didn’t know what the song was going to be until it began playing, but everyone was convinced the entire thing was choreographed.

After the first couple of dances, we surprised everyone with a Polynesian fire dance show.

We brought all my photobooth props with us, and had a corner setup near the dancefloor.

We finished the night by diving in the pool fully clothed, catching everyone by surprise. We weren’t alone for long though, as half the crowd followed suit within a few minutes.

 Images by Beata English

Ms Gingham says: What a beautiful wedding with so many special moments!!! Congratulations to Mark and Kellee and thanks so much for sharing!

Kellee says: My name is Kellee Walsh a wedding photographer based on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, currently in the process of planning my own destination wedding. We’re having an intimate wedding at Maui Palms, Fiji in January 2013 with our immediate families & closest friends. It’s a place extremely close to our hearts, as it’s not only a place we’ve visited 3 times before, but the place we got engaged. You can read our engagement story here.