Steph & Michael

This job never fails to make me fall in love with humankind: the stories we get to share, the people we get to meet, the differences we get to explore. And for our first real life wedding for 2019, could we be any more excited? This pair did their first look in a junk bar, decorated their reception with candles printed with music icons Bowie, Prince and Kanye, held wedding speech bingo and kicked off the dance floor with a self-proclaimed “cheesy” first dance (they say cheesy, we say awesome). “We wanted it to be all about ‘us’, less about tradition and rituals, and more about celebrating us two weirdos being in love,” tells the bride. And that it was. With the talent of Todd Hunter Mcgaw behind the camera, we could not think of a better way to kick off a new year of beautiful weddings!

It makes sense that Bowie was part of the wedding of these two, their mutual love of the artist was one of the reasons they initially hit it off. Steph fills us in, “Michael and I met at a party in Brisbane and bonded immediately over a shared love of David Bowie, X Files, and absurdist humour. Michael had studied with my brother, who I’m quite close to, so we had discovered we had attended the same festivals, gigs and events as each other for years, without actually meeting until this moment – perhaps it was destined!”

The bride found her polka dot (ahhh!), tea length, wedding gown at Bertossi Brides and added a retro fascinator from Bouquets By Rosa Lauren to complete her look. She recalls, “It took me a while to find the perfect dress, but once I found it I knew it was the one. I wanted something vintage but custom made for my particularly shaped body, so I was looking for a bit of a needle in a haystack. Then I walked into Paddington Weddings and found the exact style I had in my head. My two girlfriends were there to give the thumbs up and it was sorted. Paddington Weddings did a fantastic job of tailoring it to my particular style and taste and I was ecstatic with the result.
I found my fascinator from an Etsy vendor ‘Bouquet by Rosa Lauren’, which I could custom design for a really affordable price. I knew I wanted ruby red shoes, to fulfill a childhood dream of owning Dorothy’s slippers from Wizard of Oz. Kitten D’Amour fulfilled that dream perfectly, and even my mum approved.”

The bride added Kitten D’Amour sparkly red shoes to her look.

Because there was nothing traditional about these two, they met at The Junk Bar for a “first look” and photos before their ceremony. The bride explains, “We decided to do photos early before the ceremony, so we had time to loosen up a bit before the formalities, and so that our guests could get straight into having fun afterwards rather than waiting around for hours between ceremony and reception. Therefore the Junk Bar was a perfect choice. It’s where we got engaged, and its ambiance kept in with the theme of the day. Todd Hunter photographers had also already shot there previously, and the photos were amazing, so we knew it would work well!”

Of their photographers, the newlyweds rave, “As we’d already seen Todd Hunter McGaw’s photography from previous shoots at the Junk Bar, we knew they were the exact photographers for us. After being completely wowed by them, no other photographer would do. Todd and Alyda just ‘got’ us instantly and seemed just as excited about taking our photos as we were. The Junk Bar and Boggo Road jail provided some beautiful locations for photos, and Todd knew exactly what kind of feel we were all about. We’d had lots of discussions leading up to the day about possibly doing some replications of our favourite album covers, and it lead to two of the most incredible photos of ourselves we will ever have the chance of owning. Quite narcissistic, but oh so hilarious, I still can’t believe that’s me and not Twiggy in the ‘Pin Up’s album cover. Words are not enough to describe how much Todd nailed it!”

There were SO many golden moments in this day that honoured not just the happy couple but their family. Steph tells, “One of the most beautiful moments was after our first look at the Junk Bar…soon after Michael led me onto the stage to give me a very special gift from his Nana, a beautiful diamond band. It was such a meaningful gesture, and I will hold it close to my heart, as we sadly had to say goodbye to her a couple of weeks later. I wear it every day to remind me of the beautiful lady she was, and how lucky I am to be accepted as part of his family.”

Music plays a huge role is Steph and Michael’s lives, the groom even serenaded the bride as he popped the question! “We had been together for five years and were about to embark on a move to Melbourne together so he could study medicine when he proposed to me,” shares Steph. “I love telling the proposal story because it’s so very Michael. He got me to arrive at the Junk Bar in Ashgrove, our favourite place to grab a drink, under the guise of meeting my brother and his partner for a pre-family dinner beverage. When I got there the bar staff escorted me to the Skukum lounge where Michael was sitting behind his organ on the stage, with candles and Champagne next to a seat designated for me. I cried and laughed as Michael sang me ‘Into My Arms’ by Nick Cave, ‘When You’re Smiling and Astride Me’ by Father John Misty and ‘Dreams Come True Girl’ by Cass McCombs. He then ended on ‘Be My Wife’ by David Bowie as he came over to me and got down on one knee. How could I say no? It was so perfect.”

Blooms of red from Brisbane Flower Markets adorned the wedding. The couple sat against an exposed brick wall. “We wanted a bouquet and buttonhole that matched the hints of red in my shoes and lipstick with succulents as a focus, and they completely nailed it,” says Steph. “We also sourced an arbour with flower arrangements from Arbour Events Design, and rose gold lanterns from Dianne Lynn Décor, all of which matched together perfectly.”

Guests were gifted potted succulents from Succulent Kisses as wedding favours.

Guests were welcomed to the venue with live music by Dave Gaylard. “Dave Gaylard was our pre-ceremony musician and he did a fantastic job catering to our particular music tastes – our friends remarked on how impressed they were!”

Steph and Michael chose the industrial setting of Factory 51 for their ceremony and reception, Steph tells, “After checking out a few venues around Brisbane, Factory 51 at Coorparoo became easily the number one choice. We loved the red brick, modern-yet-rustic look and the ability to keep the ceremony and reception at the one venue. We already knew the food at the restaurant was amazing. Matt at Factory 51 set up the decorations for us with my mother in law overseeing, so we didn’t have to worry about a thing. And they dealt with all my worries and constant questions as a typical bride beautifully!”

The most arduous task? Choosing the song for the processional! The bride tells, “Michael and I walked down the aisle together to Father John Misty’s “Chateau Lobby” after 18 months of painstaking debates. Since music is a huge part of our life it had to be a perfect choice, and I think we made the right one; a song of joyous fanfare and dedications of lasting love. Our procession included our parents, siblings and best friends walking down the aisle, then our flower girl, before we came in holding hands.”

The pair were married by the bride’s sister Maree Clare Fornasier with the help of Natasha Hill. The bride explains “My sister Maree Clare Fornasier was getting her celebrant license, but it didn’t quite arrive in time so we had the amazing help of Natasha Hills to do the formal parts of the ceremony and also mentor my sister through her first celebrant experience. As a result, it was utterly amazing. I didn’t want anyone else to marry us (informally!) as she knew us so uniquely, and I am so glad she did. Combined with ceremony speeches rather than readings, by our right-hand friends, and our own written vows, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Everyone said it was one of the most beautiful ceremonies they’d witnessed.”

“Since we’re not religious, we signed the registry with St. Bowie and St. Prince candles adorning the signing table. We finally kissed to “Lift Off” by Watch the Throne. It wouldn’t be us without a bit of Kanye in our ceremony.”

Shares the bride, “We loved celebrating each other just as we are with all the people we love. We feel it was a great display of who we are as people and how much we care about each other.”

“The style of our wedding meant replacing some of the usual traditions with things that were more ‘us’. We didn’t have bridesmaids or groomsmen, but rather important roles for our most loved friends and family. My right-hand gal Annie did a ceremony speech (and organised my hens), my best friend Anna did a speech for the bride during the reception, my bestie Heidy was my witness and her five-year-old daughter my flower girl. Michael’s two best mates Alex and Shaun shared speech and bucks duties, and his brother David was his witness.”

“We did end up DIY-ing a couple of things, luckily not too many to cause a huge amount of stress! The best DIY thing would be courtesy of my father in law, who set up a fairy light photo wall where guests could take Polaroids and hang for all to see (and take home if they were sneaky!) We also Photoshopped our own tongue-in-cheek invitations and signage.”

Forget traditional wedding speeches, these two had wedding speech bingo! Steph explains, “We wanted to make sure it was fun and the guests had a really good time. So our amazing MC, my brother’s partner, created and led a wedding speech bingo, which kept everyone entertained throughout the evening. There were quite a few family in-jokes in there, so it was really wonderful to have a friend outside of the family actually win the Bingo hands down! He got to take home a Kanye West prayer candle.”

There was a very unexpected surprise from the bride during her speech; Steph shares, “One thing I had planned was a little something special for Michael, that I had been perfecting for many months beforehand. After our speeches, I surprised Michael (…and the guests) with an “impromptu” lip-sync to Beyonce’s “Hello” dedicated to him (thanks to a quick secret word to our music man Richie). I included in my lip sync dance lots of skirt twirling and finished it off with a very terrible attempt at a death drop (it was more like a small kneel). Michael’s gobsmacked face and the guest’s reactions were one of my favourite memories.

Alongside wedding cake, a Vintage Ice Cream Cart made a delicious appearance. “We hired an ice-cream cart from Vintage Ice Cream Cart which was a huge hit with the guests, and they were so flexible when we had some timing issues!”

The newlyweds performed a fabulous choreographed first dance. In Steph’s words; “For our first dance, we had choreographed a cheesy dance to “Working Out” by Donny Benet, one of our favourite artists. It led to some older guests likely scratching their heads, but we wanted every part of the ceremony to be ‘us’, even if it meant confusing a few!
I feel silly because we practised so many times and I stuffed up a few moves, but of course, I’m sure no one noticed!”

A big thank you to Stephanie and Michael for so graciously sharing heir wedding day and its stories with us! Thank you also to the Todd Hunter Mcgaw duo for sharing the beautiful day with us.