Damon & Kaela
When it came to planning features for The Suit Issue, we wanted to find a groom who really rocked their wedding day suit, and by george, I think today we’d nailed that mission with the wedding of Damon and Kaela.
Meet Damon, you might know him from previous adventures like this modern city wedding of Hazeley and Simon, or even this post on some of your favourite dapper Melbourne celebrants and their groom style advice. But today? It’s all about a different side of Damon because today we get to share his very own wedding. And not only is it beautiful, but it’s filled with laughter, with love, and with the best kind of stories.
Captured by Kate Ballis and Tom Blachford, the wedding of Damon and Kaela was a long time coming. Some might say it was even set in stone from when they were young. “We met at school” explains Damon. “Possibly primary school but our first memory of each other is in Year 7. We got together in Year 12 after years of friendship.”
Damon popped the question, complete with a serenade at one of their favourite destinations – Phillip Island! He tells the tale “I proposed to Kaela down at Phillip Island, an area that is special to us both because our families have been holidaying there (separately) our entire lives.
I arranged for Kaela and me to spend a night sleeping on my uncle’s boat (whilst it was docked). I lit a few dozen tealight candles around the stern of the boat, we sat cross-legged amongst them, I sung her a song on the ukulele (‘A Bushel and a Peck’ from the musical Guys & Dolls) then pulled out a ring and proposed.”
Of course, we all want to know, what does a celebrant wear to their own wedding? Damon fills us in on his choice of a blue suit from Briggins and Declic bow tie.”I’m a professional celebrant myself – so I have been to many many weddings and seen many many suits. I didn’t want to wear anything that felt too familiar to me – or too much like work. In fitting with our dress code ‘colourful cocktail’ I knew it had to have a pop of colour. I was always interested in something that either had a light pattern or interesting texture. Basically nothing plain, nothing dark.”
Kaela chose a gown from British designers Needle & Thread. Damon sharing “Kaela wore a Needle & Thread dress – a brand she has been following and loved for a long time. She ordered the dress online within months of the proposal and had some small alterations. She was pretty sure of her choice and felt very much herself. Finding comfortable shoes that would manage the first dance was the toughest part of shopping!”
The day was filled with warm toned flowers, left completely up to designer Cecilia Fox. Damon explaining “Working with Cecilia Fox on our flowers was a great example of what can happen when you just book a really talented professional that you trust and then let them do what they do best. Other than giving Cecilia Fox some vague guidance on colour palette and mood we were really just excited to sit back and see what they came up with. They really are the best. We tried to stay out of it and were just blown away when we saw it on the day. The ceiling installation was out of this world.”
The beautiful (now closed Laurens Hall set the scene for the most epic of celebrations. “Laurens Hall was a massive old warehouse in North Melbourne filled with tall wood stacks, carpentry equipment, vintage signage and other nick nacks. It’s a big venue that we could divide with up with clever use of wood stacks to create a ceremony space, cocktail space and reception space. It’s industrial and quirky.”
Both the bride and groom mad a momentous entrance, Damon with his mother to ‘What A Man’ by Linda Lyndell (the song sampled by Salt N Pepa) and Kaela with both her mother and father to ‘You’re My Best Friend’ by Queen. Damon shares “It was important to me that I walk down the aisle with my mum. For as long as I’ve wanted to get married I’ve wanted that to be part of it. Most guys miss out on that. We wanted to get rid of those sort of gender norms and approach our wedding day as equals.”
So what does a celebrant do for his own wedding? Well, they planned something truly theme. Daon and Kaela chose Benny Roff to officiate their day. “As a celebrant myself, it was hugely important that we have a great ceremony” explains the groom. “I like to think I know what makes a good one and we needed to find another celebrant that is of the same mind. We did. Benny Roff. What a legend.
We loved working with Benny because he took the time to get to know us both (over some vodka shots) and made sure to personalise the ceremony with our story. He was engaging and enthusiastic and kept everyone laughing.”
“We didn’t want our ceremony to look or feel traditional. We didn’t have a bridal party standing up with us. We stood facing our guests. We made sure to walk into some fun upbeat music so guests were cheering and hollering and laughing from the first second of the ceremony.”
And what’s a wedding without a little Savage Garden? “We had a bit of a flash mob “reading” (a singalong). It was a surprise to Kaela. Two of her friends got up to do a ‘reading’ but then launched into singing Savage Garden’s ‘Truly Madly Deeply’ acapella. On each line of the first verse, a few guests in the crowd stood up and joined in until it was an all-in singalong for the chorus.”
“I’m a celebrant – so of course I really value the work that celebrants do. We are forever grateful to our celebrant Benny for taking the time to create a really personalised ceremony with us (and for putting up with me being a bit of a backseat driver with regard to the ceremony).”
While the newlyweds posed for photos, guests enjoyed cocktails and canapes, one of the favourite parts of the day for the groom. “I’m really happy about the way we used the space. Throughout the day guests progressed through three separate spaces within the one warehouse. There was a ceremony space at one end that then opened into a cocktail/canape space and later the guests were ushered around some wood stacks to the dining area and dance floor. I think it added a sense of excitement and theatre to things.”
That beer in Damon’s hand? Brewed by him! (but of course!) “I brewed a beer for the wedding – in secret from Kaela,” tells the groom “and called it a ‘Kael Ale’. I got the artist who designed our invites and signage (our friend Steph Hughes) to design a logo/label for it and had it printed on the bottles.”
Damon and Kaela both treasured the time spent on their wedding rings at Cushla Whiting. “Designing our rings (including Kaela’s engagement ring) with Cushla Whiting was a really special once-in-a-lifetime sort of experience. Cushla Whiting is a great team and we loved working with them.”
The couple chose two photographers, sharing “The photographers were our friends Kate Ballis & Tom Blachford. They usually work in commercial and artistic photography. They are both incredibly talented artists who have exhibitions around the country and around the world.
They used to shoot weddings earlier in their career and were nice enough to come out of ‘wedding retirement’ for us.”
Long tables were set with greenery under a giant canopy of foliage, The day styled and coordinated by the team at Dot Dot Dash.
Alongside custom brewed beer, the couple also worked to carefully curate their wines! Damon explaining “One of our favourite parts of planning was choosing wines with our parents! We put dozens of bottles on the dining room table and did blind tastings with scorecards.”
Being vegetarian, good, tasty food that aligned with their values was important to Kaela and Damon, so they enlisted the help of Fred and Ginger Catering. “Because we’re both vego we really appreciated working with such a collaborative and creative caterer as Fred & Ginger Catering” tells the groom. “They seemed genuinely excited to design a vegetarian feast for us – and took cues from our favourite restaurants and flavours. They went above and beyond. They didn’t just answer the brief they made suggestions on how to improve upon it (they served curries inside a carved out pumpkin, just for a bit of theatre and sourced special ice to serve at our whisky bar).”
The atmosphere, the vibe, was what was most important to Kaela and Damon. “The atmosphere is the most important of those things – we wanted it to be very fun and festive, we wanted the guest experience to be exciting, with a sense of awe and surprise at times. We wanted people to feel comfortable and relaxed, free to be themselves and get amongst it. The style of the wedding was largely dictated by the venue – it really has it’s own personality. It’s industrial, it’s expansive, it’s historic, it’s exciting and a little quirky. The way we separated the spaces kept everyone guessing. The dress code was ‘colourful cocktail’.”
So. Much. Celebration. in store for these two, who chose a firm favourite for their first dance. “We both love dancing so choreographed our first dance to ‘Uptown Funk’ by Bruno Mars. It was heaps of fun – both on the day and also the many lounge room rehearsal sessions in the lead-up” tells Damon.
Baker Boys Band played the dance floor all night long. “It was pumping and I can’t remember stopping for air. The Baker Boys were so good!” remembers the groom, not that the night stopped there, “our friend Diba threw an after party for us back at her house. The special memory is Kaela and I up on our friend’s shoulders in her crowded living room at 2 am all singing along to ‘Truly Madly Deeply’ again.”
Thank goodness for Tango Films, because if you want even more of this day? They were there filming every moment!