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Monica & James

Surprise weddings seem to be popping up everywhere lately and I can’t say I’m unhappy about it. Not only do I love a good wedding, but the faces of guests who are surprised by the seemingly impromptu nuptials? How could that be anything else than amazing? Monica and James surprised guests at their farewell party and chose Chloe May to capture it.

Monica kicks us off with the story of how she and James met. “We met in Beijing, in January 2011. James worked there as a sound engineer while I was there for a short, 2 month internship only. Plans however changed after I met James in a bar. He and I both joined the weekly meeting (in that particular bar) of the so called couch surfing community in Beijing. It may sound cliché but I did fall in love with James the moment he entered.

After that night, some Facebook stalking and more meetings at bars we both started dating. It was a bit difficult because I initially only planned to stay in Beijing until end of February but I couldn’t leave my new boyfriend behind so I found myself another job and used this as an ‘excuse’ to stay in China and with James. Seems like it was a good idea.”

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Monica chose a wedding gown from Grace Loves Lace , remarking “I started with Pinterest some time before I got engaged. I was looking for inspiration for a wedding cake. My friend was getting married and had asked me to make hers. Anyway, clever as Pinterest is, it started suggesting all sorts of wedding related photos. One was the dress, my dress and because I loved it so much I saved that pin. When my time came I remembered that pin and found out the designer is in Queensland. Coincidentally I was sent there for work so I thought I’ll just grab it. I popped in during my lunch break. Tried it on. It was very beautiful, simple but special. So I bought it.”

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Monica remembers, “We wanted to have a simple and easy wedding without social pressure, norms and expectations. We decided on a surprise wedding where all our friends thought they were coming to our farewell party. It was hard keeping the secret for so long but it was totally worth it.”

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The couple chose The Boatbuilders Yard  for their farewell party turned wedding, noting, “We were after a venue that does not give our surprise away at first sight. James initially said we could just get married in a pub but then I wanted something nicer than just the pub around the corner. The Boatbuilders Yard was perfect. Great location with Melbourne backdrop, they provided us with catering, drinks, waiters and sound system. That made things very easy for us. And none of the guests had a clue. Another important factor was the closing time as we did also want to have a little boogie and a party of course.

The Boatbuilders was one of the few places that let us stay until midnight, quite surprising actually that so many locations want you out at 9 or 10 p.m. We both would like to say how happy we were with our choice. The support of the staff before, during and after the wedding was absolutely amazing. I’d pick that venue again without any hesitation.”

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“My dad walked me towards James/ down the aisle. First I was only looking at our friends to see what their reaction was, then I looked in front and as soon as I saw James my memory is blurred. I was drawn to him like to a magnet. I can’t even remember when I let go of my dad but all that mattered was James and that I wanted to be there with him.”

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For her walk down the aisle, Monica and James chose “Bob Marley ‘Is This Love’. The morning of the wedding we still hadn’t decided on our song. We were in a cafe having breakfast when James asked “so, we still need to decide on the song…”, and coincidentally they played that song. I said we should just use that. It’s classic and chances are high we hear it somewhere from time to time and it will remind us of our wedding.”

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“When I walked down the ‘aisle’ everyone was truly happy and surprised. During the ceremony there were quite some tears of joy…so many people came up to us saying they never cry at weddings but they had to at ours. I think this was because no one expected the surprise and their emotions were stronger? Maybe we should ask a psychologist! It was beautiful to see our friends so truly happy for us and the focus was on having a great time and celebrating our bond.”

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Anthony Cribbes officiated the ceremony, the bride remembering, “As it was a surprise we obviously wanted everyone to be surprised and blown away. The ceremony was the main part where people had to digest the surprise and find out all about how we got engaged etc. The celebrant played a very important part. He talked everyone through how we met, fell in love and how we got to the wedding.

The feeling of the ceremony should be easy, relaxed, a bit of fun but of course also the seriousness such an occasion brings. Especially when we got to the vows it was very intimate and romantic. The celebrant Anthony had a good idea that we repeat each line after him. That way friends could hear him saying it, but we could look at each other and say it in a normal voice/ tone, without worrying that others can hear us.”

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Lux Bite created the cake for the day, the bride remembering, “My favourite part was choosing the cake, getting to try all different cakes was great. Thankfully I didn’t have to worry about my shape either because the dress was quite stretchy and forgiving.”

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“I was thinking a lot about decoration and DIY details. Sometimes I was stressing out about it because I couldn’t decide what I wanted and it could also not be too much as people would have expected something the moment they would enter the venue and this would have spoilt our surprise. Whenever I panicked or stressed James always calmed me down by reminding me that our wedding should not be about decoration, flowers, etc but about us, our love and the decision that we want to spend the rest of our days together and grow old together. That always put things back into perspective and I think it also summarises the theme of the whole night very well.”

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Of their photographer, Monica remarks, “Chloe, she was recommended by a friend of a friend. She is just fantastic, warm, friendly and obviously the most important thing; her shots are great! She also made us feel so comfortable when taken the more intimate photos (hugging and kissing). I was a bit nervous beforehand and thought it might feel awkward but she had a great way making us feel relaxed and comfortable.”

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Mary Mary Studio created the beautiful pink and yellow floral arrangements for the day.

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Monica remembers, “I forgot the dress at home. We got ready at home with my family (they knew about the surprise and came from Austria and Romania for the occasion). Anyway, we left a bit in a rush. It had started to rain and we needed a couple of taxis, we didn’t have enough Uber apps and so on. James left in the first taxi, I was 10min behind him, my mum came in the last one.

While I was walking in the rain to the venue I realised I did not bring my wedding dress. I called James but he had no clue either. My hopes were with my mum but unfortunately she didn’t bring it either. Thankfully we had time until the ceremony and my mum sacrificed herself to go back and get it. All this while it was raining. But she made it on time (had to change into her flip flops to run faster, ruined her hair, got soaked and missed out on appetisers) and all went well. Thanks mum.”

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Congratulations on your marriage Monica and James! Thank you for sharing your day with us! Thank you to Chloe May for sharing today’s wedding!