Kristen & Eric

Surprising family and friends with a wedding before the planned celebration? This surprise botanical gardens wedding from Caroline Chandler seems like the most beautiful way to spend a sunny Wednesday! Wanting a dear friend to marry them on their “planned” wedding day, they chose a casual pre-wedding picnic turned wedding, to cross off all the legal requirements for their ceremony and in turn, celebrated with two fun weddings in one week!

But before we get into how it all went down, Kristen shares how she and Eric met. “We met on day five of a school camp – I was the teacher and Eric the coordinator, getting married in the Royal Botanic Gardens and later the bush in Marysville was a very natural choice.”

Family gathered for a picnic, with Eric’s family having arrived from Canada to meet each other’s families for the first time. Kristen remembering “We picked a tree in the Botanic Gardens and lined this up in advance with our photographer, Caroline Chandler, and our celebrant, Georgia Mills. We had our families meet us there under the guise of a ‘let’s introduce all of our siblings before the actual wedding on Saturday’s picnic and then at 11 am we asked everyone to sit down on picnic blankets. We said, ‘we wanted you all to meet before we got married – so now that you’ve all met, we can get married!’ This was quite hilarious because we figured that would get things started – except no one got it. They just said, ‘Great! Looking forward to Saturday!’ Super awkward beginning!”

“We had a few readings between the two ceremonies – ‘Oh! The places you’ll go’ by Dr Seuss, and an old children’s book about friendship that I love called ‘I Like You.’ Eric and I actually did that reading because we couldn’t ask the family to do it, being a surprise. My brother and his partner were the only ones in on the surprise, and they read us Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem ‘Pathways’.”

Georgia Mills officiated the Wednesday wedding, Kristen explaining “Georgia Mills was a wonderful celebrant – she really made an effort to personalise the ceremony for us. She had us tell her things that we love about each other via email and she read them out in front of everyone (cue tears, lots of tears). We wrote our own vows and I’m so glad we did. We avoided reading sample vows online, too, in the hope that they would come out more heartfelt. Something I learned that no one has ever told me was how crazy fun saying your vows are. I figured I’d be a wuss (I was) but lots of laugh-crying happens and they’re actually super good fun. (We clearly enjoyed it because we did it all again with our friends on Saturday!). It’s probably because your favourite person in the world says all these nice things about you and you realise you get to keep doing that for a very long time.”

Of their photographer, Kristen tells “Caroline was incredible! She is so down-to-earth and calm, which is exactly what you want on such a busy day. Her style is clean, sharp images and they are very natural, avoiding that bridal stylised look. She does her best work when left to snap candid, natural moments throughout the day and not focusing on the classic posey-bridal shots that we didn’t want. She’s a total ninja – I’ve been to weddings where the photographer is bossing everyone around, but Caroline moved quietly and captured every moment subtly.

We were so thrilled with her photos and how fast she was in getting them all edited and back to us. We were so lucky having her to capture our big day(s)!”

At a scout camp in Macedon, Saturday’s wedding began.

For the wedding say, Kristen chose a Laure de Sagazan dress, telling “On the Wednesday wedding in the Botanic Gardens, I wore a hand-me-down dress from a girlfriend and a fake flower crown I found on Etsy. Since it was a surprise wedding, I had to save my actual wedding dress that I bought in France from Laure de Sagazan for the big post-elopement party on Saturday, or it would have immediately given it away to everyone! That was hard as I was completely in love with it, but it was so much fun dancing in it on Saturday. I found dress shopping in Melbourne quite demoralising – everything’s so expensive and overly bridal, which wasn’t what I wanted. I ended up Googling French search terms describing exactly what I wanted – knee-length, cap sleeves, silk and broderie Anglaise – and stumbled upon Laure de Sagazan’s magnificent dresses. I already had a trip planned so adding in a visit to her Atelier was so much fun.”

Van Wyk Flowers created the floral arrangements “We couldn’t have any flowers on Wednesday or it would have been a dead giveaway. But in the spirit of the village throwing the party which we really aimed for on Saturday, the mother of one of my students, Peggy of Van Wyk Flowers, did a beautiful job of our native bouquets and flower crown with queen proteas and silver dollar gum leaves for the Saturday.”

Kristen and Eric chose a good friend to perform their Saturday wedding ceremony.

Guests each partook in a special ceremony, the bride remembering “We borrowed a tradition from Eric’s sister, having the whole community bind their wrists with yarn and say a vow together to help support us in our marriage. They then left them tied for the duration of the camping weekend, although Eric and I are seeing if we can keep ours on until our first anniversary!”

“Being cheese fiends, I was adamant about having wheels of cheese cake with amazing cheeses making up the towers – I even refused to delegate its construction so at 7 pm on a Saturday night, Eric and I slipped away to put it all together without getting any of it on my dress! Nailed it. We bought our cheese from Bruny Island Cheese Co, Prom Country and our friend at Alexandrina Cheese Co made us an epic wheel of cheddar.”

There was plenty, and by that I mean plenty of dancing thanks to The Scrims. Kristen remarking “At midnight, my Nan was still toe-tapping with her cuppa in hand to their gypsy versions of everything from P.I.M.P. to Disney classics. That says a lot about their ability to keep the entire party on the dance floor for several hours.”

“When the clock hit midnight, our face-painting friend Steph cracked out the glitter and painted all the faces of the remaining dance floor bandits. We couldn’t get it all off for weeks, so it was a constant reminder of how much fun that dance floor was!”

Congratulations Kristen and Eric! Thank you for sharing your Two weddings with us! Thank you also to Caroline Chandler  for sharing today’s celebrations!