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SJ & Mark

SJ and Mark put so much thought into their New Years Eve country wedding – every element had to have a story and reflect their loves and their life together. Each part of the day was carefully planned and sourced to create their vision, all photographed by Tracy Beveridge Photography.

 SJ tells the story of how they came to be. “My good friend Lou and I had moved back from London about 9 months ago and since getting home, she had met her now husband – Rob. I was not looking for a relationship at all, very eager to spend some time by myself, yet Rob and Lou were convinced that I HAD to meet Rob’s best mate, Mark. A lot of events started popping up where Mark was going to be at, which I continued to avoid. There was one encounter at Customs House Bar where we did actually meet, where SJ was infamously known amongst friends to later tell Lou that she wasn’t ‘enamoured’.

As Mark said on our wedding website, the couple that couldn’t make a match in a match factory filled with pre-made matches, persisted with their belief that we could be brought together. Rob had his 35th birthday – for the ninth time. For reasons that are still entirely unclear, Mark and SJ were the only invites to the dinner part of this event, which now on reflection was clearly part of a cunning plan! Over dinner Mark’s inimitable charm and wit kicked into action and an everlasting relationship started after a dance off at the Boat Shed and a kiss at a Westpac ATM, with Mark uttering those immortal words ‘Am I pushing the right buttons’.”

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The day started just as relaxed as the bride had hoped, she tells, “On the morning of the wedding, my bridesmaids went back to their cabins for breakfast so I could get some sleep after a bad night’s sleep. 15 minutes after they left, my step mum sent a pic of my dad, brother and nephew having a celebratory champagne in the spa on their balcony with a breathtaking view of the valley. I put on my swimmers and a robe and ducked through the property to their cabin. By the time I got there, my brother and nephew had left but my Dad was all ready for a glass of champers. We jumped in the spa, surrounded by gum trees and overlooking the most perfect view, and chatted and celebrated the day ahead. My bridesmaids tracked me down an hour later, with a couple of champagnes under our belt.

My bridesmaid, Tash, who until now had worked to ensure I got a good night sleep, was hydrated and fed healthy food, realised my dad and I were a force to be reckoned with, so both girls put their feet in and we sat and chatted about the day ahead, about the world in general, and had another glass of champers. It truly was the most magical start to the day.”

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Of their photographer, SJ notes, “I have two words for Tracy- girl crush. I just adore her in lots of ways, partly because of her amazing talent, but also because she is a beautiful soul and she really was a support to me on the day. When we started looking for a photographer, we looked through quite a few and none of them fit, but as soon as I saw Tracy’s work I knew I had found ‘the one’. Her ability to capture natural, in- the- moment photos really struck a chord with both of us, so before we had even met her we had decided. After meeting her, her easy-going yet professional nature assured us that she was who we wanted.

She had arranged for my Dad and I to do a ‘first look’ so when my poor dad arrived at the time we had told him but I was only just getting started, Tracy was the one that looked after him. She arranged for my step daughters to give my Dad the gift I was meant to give him, and did things to ensure we weren’t even later. When we got to the venue, she was there with a bottle of water for me, to have someone take my bag so I could walk down the aisle. She went above and beyond. But also, her photos – amazing! We have had SO many comments on them.”

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“It was really important to me that I was able to bring in something from Mark’s parents’ wedding. Mark’s Mum, Olly, gave me some little trinkets that she had on the bouquet for her wedding, and our amazing florist Ash tied them on the ribbons on my own bouquet.”

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“As my Dad and I were walking down the aisle, he patted my hand. He told me what a beautiful day it was, how beautiful I looked, and how proud of me he was. That he “had a lot of time” for Mark and that he really really liked him and looked forward to spending more time with him, Sofia and Jasmine. As we got closer to where everyone was standing, he patted my hand more firmly and noted the beautiful breeze and how it was coming through the trees. He totally talked me through the long walk down the aisle.”

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Of her walk down the aisle, SJ remembers, “I chose the Emile Sand acoustic version of ‘Next to me’. It still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. When I first heard it, I just thought it was so perfect. I listened to others but it was the only one that felt so right and that brought a tear to my eye. Every. Single. Time. One day we were driving to Tocal to show Mark’s two daughters the venue, and I played it for them. When I played it with all of us in the car, I knew it was even more perfect. Mark isn’t just Next to Me, he is next to the 3 of us, all the time.”

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Tocal Homestead was chosen by SJ and Mark for their ceremony and reception, SJ noting, “While we live in Sydney, we wanted somewhere we could get away to, and was set amongst natural environment. We both had in our mind a renovated barn for the reception that we could have a big family dinner in, followed by a great party. We found Tocal Homestead through Google searches and had decided on it before we saw it ‘in the flesh’.”

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Victoria Langham performed the ceremony, SJ remembering, “We did our own vows, which no one knew we were going to do. We both started our vows with ‘I stand here today, the luckiest woman/man alive, ready to enter this marriage with my heart wide open’.

I vowed to ‘listen when you need to talk and give you time for silence when you need it, and gather my strength when yours is failing’. I promised that ‘When life gives you a lemon, I will be right next to you with tequila and salt. I will love you through sickness and health and care for you, but can’t promise my patience won’t waiver in times of man flu or if the sickness is due to too much tequila’.

Marks vows included, “You allow me to soar as high as I dare, yet dance to our beat. I promise to be the best that I can be, to provide you with the independence and support so that you can be your truest self and sing your own song.” More importantly though, he promised ‘I will always laugh with you and occasionally at you. When I do laugh at you, if it is in public, I will do my best to create the illusion it is with you’.”

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“Mark’s two daughters were our amazing flower girls and before we swapped rings, the celebrant gave them to the girls for a ‘ring warming’. They held them in their little hands, warmed them and thought of their best wishes for us. It was such a nice way to have them more included in the ceremony.”

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“When our celebrant Vicki announced us as husband and wife, that was the best feeling! I felt elated, I turned to my new husband and gave him a high ten – we were both really ecstatic!”

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“We celebrated our marriage on New Years Eve (2014) – it was the perfect day for a wedding. Everyone was in party mode and we were able to bring in the New Year as husband and wife. Our ceremony was under a beautiful giant Moreton Bay fig tree at the stunning Tocal Homestead in Paterson, NSW. Friends and family traveled from as far as the UK and NZ to share an amazing long weekend with us. We wanted to celebrate our marriage and welcome in the New Year in the same way we wanted to live the rest of our lives together – surrounded by our family and nearest and dearest friends, having a brilliant time!”

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“Because there are so many beautiful spots at Tocal, we also didn’t need to leave the venue for photos, which was a big plus – we took an hour out and got all of our pictures done amongst the barns and in the beautiful paddocks and could then get straight back to the party. The location made for the most stunning photos!!!”

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The Wedding Designer styled the wedding, SJ remembering, “Jess and her team are absolutely amaaazing to work with. They were booked up for New Years Eve but squeezed us in for a ‘full design package’, and they absolutely made our vision come true. They helped us to create a personal, ‘rustic elegance’ with New Year sparkle, theme. Monik in graphics nailed our vibe, Jess and Mac brought our style together brilliantly, and Ash’s flowers – wow. As a team, they were so fabulous to work with. Every time we met with them I would come away so excited, as they took our ideas or gave us their own, and pulled them altogether with so much style. Could not recommend them highly enough.”

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The Wedding Designer also created the floral arrangements for the day. “I gave Ash our budget and our vibe, told her my favourite flowers in the world were peonies, a couple of Pinterest pics and then gave her creative license to do what she wanted. The flowers that she ended up doing for us were better than anything I actually could’ve imagined. Even if I had given her direction, I wouldn’t have been able to describe what she did and I wouldn’t have been as happy. They really were absolutely beyond perfect.

For the reception she did similar flowers to our bouquets in a variety of different jars and vases. Knowing our blue, blush and gold theme, she then spray painted leaves with gold and hung them in bunches from the roof. They looked absolutely amazing.”

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As with everything at the wedding – dessert was in abundance with plenty of touches from SJ and Mark. “We had a dessert buffet with lots of jars of our favourite lollies, and then we each chose our fave dessert. I chose Hummingbird cake, Sofia chose lemon pie, Jasmine chose lamingtons, and Mark’s favourite is his Mum’s pavlova. We asked his mum to make some mini pavlovas for us, which we turned into a ‘pimp your pavlova’ bar so had bowls of berries, mint crisp, cream etc.”

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“Mark’s daughters had some little plastic animals that I found while I was cleaning up a cupboard, that I spray painted gold and covered in glitter. By the end of the project, I needed to be held back from spray painting our whole house gold. We used these on the tables as decorations, and spread through the lolly bar. I bought some glass jars that looked like the Roses marmalade jars, and asked family members to collect glass jars, which I used glue spray in and then also covered in glitter. They were used to put candles in on the tables.”

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“For the table plan, we had postcards for each guest that were on an old postcard spinning rack. On each postcard it had the guests’ name on the front, with an individual message to each guest on the back. It was one of those personal touches that our guests told us they really loved.”

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“After photos, everyone was in the reception and we were introduced as the new Mr and Mrs Hayward by my brother with Beautiful Day by U2 blasting. It was the most epic feeling walking into a room of your favourite people like that!”

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Eden Catering worked on a feasting style menu for the reception, SJ noting, “We wanted a family banquet feel, with share plates in the middle that everyone could get into. Spatchcock, slow cooked lamb, salmon, salads. The food was absolutely amazing, which was important to us as real foodies ourselves. We still get messages drooling about the food. They also did a great job of presenting it in funky pots, chunky wooden boards, etc- it really matched the theme.”

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“The speeches were really brilliant. My brother, Dave, was the emcee and did a really great job. Two of my friends from the UK had done a telegram video, singing ‘Love on Top’ by Beyonce between their best wishes message. Dave also helped my Dad with an ‘audiovisual speech’ where he finished his speech with a photo slide show to a song that Dave and I heard a million times as we grew up. There were lots of funny pics from my childhood through to awkward teens.”

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The speeches continued, “Mark’s daughters, Sofia and Jasmine, also did the most beautiful little speeches each. Mark had worked with them to do it- they welcomed each of my family members, and said why they were excited about me being their new step mum. Jasmine said it’s because I give her good cuddles and call her my blueberry crumble. Sofia said she can tell me anything and I won’t tell… cue tears.”

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Carlo From El Paso Dance Studio choreographed the couple’s first dance, SJ remembering, “As it was NYE we wanted to change the tempo after dinner to ring in the party and NYE celebrations. We elected to do a mash-up of Tarrus Rielly’s ‘Love Situation’ with Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel”, which combined a slow dance with a very upbeat ending.

We organised about 10 lessons (Mark needed a couple of extra to get his hips moving) from ‘Carlos’ at El Paso Dance Studio who made us a really fun dance that we surprised everyone with. On the day, Mark didn’t know I was going to do it, but I changed into a sparkly short dress. He was waiting anxiously on the dance floor as the intro played, possibly a little concerned that he’d be doing the dance by himself. As the intro played I ran onto the dance floor and we finished it without a hitch, doing the American Swing, twirling around the dance floor, and lifts and spins. It was the perfect way to bring on the NYE celebrations, because afterwards everyone just filled the dance floor and didn’t leave for the rest of the night!”

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Hunter Valley Videos captured the wedding film for SJ and Mark who remember, “I am so, so, glad we went for a videographer – we initially weren’t going to. I would’ve been devastated not to have those memories captured. The day is such a whirlwind and afterwards I had to sometimes pinch myself that it had actually happened. We have watched the 3 min video a thousand times already. I cannot recommend enough doing it – best money we spent on the wedding I think!”

Congratulations SJ and Mark! Thank you for sharing your stories with us! Thank you also to Tracy Beveridge Photography for sharing today’s wedding!