Deb & Zee

Sometimes, we just need a little glamour, and Deb and Zee’s big day? oh, it has fairytale glamour in abundance. From the bride’s three(!) beautiful gowns to the sparkling fairy lights that filled their reception. It’s fairytale glamour at it’s very finest and it’s a story packed with beautiful memories – all caught thanks to the ever-talented  Ava Me Photography.

It was an unexpected trip to JB Hi-Fi for Deb that first led these two together. She tells the tale. “I went into JB Hi-Fi intending to buy a GoPro Hero 5 in early 2017 as I was heading to Paris for a trip to visit my best friend (Chloe). Zandro (Zee) was the lucky staff who got to help me. I was trying to hustle Zee for a bargain. Though Zee couldn’t match prices that I was requesting, he did go low enough that I made my purchase. He was subtly flirting with me throughout the chat and I went along because this was going to get me the discounts. His end line was “Are you posting up these photos and videos? I’d love to see them”. He added me on Facebook and I had the option to decline, but instead, I accepted, sent a message to thank him, wrote in a customer compliment and the rest is history.”

In keeping with the unexpected theme, Zee’s proposal was a complete surprise. “Zee had organised a proposal at an escape room – Social Escape Rooms. Zee got in touch with Mark (owner), months prior, who was on board to make the proposal happen, even custom making some puzzles to represent and relate to our relationship. The escape room was conveniently, Paris-themed. Being seasoned escape artists, I was ambitious to get out in record time whilst Zee was trying to stall time as there were decorators, decorating another room in which the actual proposal was going to happen. Zee was trying to sabotage me from working out the puzzles so that he could give us more time. During this time, our friends/family were outside watching us on the cameras with the venue staff.

After we had finished the escape room, we walked out of the room, the lights went out and there was a trail of rose petals, fairy lights and candles leading into another room with more candlelights, rose petals and fairy lights where Zee proposed with friends/family just outside the room looking in. There were tears. Chloe & Nick (Deb’s best friend and her husband in France) was Skyped to witness it all happen.”

Amy Chan Hair & Makeup Artistry styled the bride’s hair and makeup. Deb sharing “Easy and down to earth throughout the entire process. Amy was flexible, her makeup application was flawless – even the false eyelashes she applied stayed on and I did not feel the need to rip them off halfway through the day. She even went above and beyond in lacing me in my reception dress when my bridesmaids had gone.”

The day’s festivities kicked off with a traditional tea ceremony at William Inglis Hotel. Deb shares  “I have a lot of extended family in Sydney and in Melbourne who were all present on the day. Though Zee does not have a large family, he has a group of friends who were the family he chose. A traditional home tea ceremony would not fit our 60+ guests. And we wanted something local. We also decided to book the Presidential Suite (bride) and the Executive Suite (groom) as our base to get ready for outfit changes, and to host our bridal party and our vendors during break periods. The staff at William Inglis were absolutely fantastic. The venue itself is quaint and charming, you wouldn’t believe you were in Sydney’s southwest.”

Deb notes “The Tea Ceremony was our special tradition. It was a traditional Vietnamese Tea Ceremony but with a twist of the groom’s Filipino wedding attire – Barong in BLUE (it is traditionally white, however, we custom made the barong in blue to match with my wedding colours).”

There is quite the story to Deb’s gown, she worked with Jazzy Bridal, who also custom made the bridesmaid gowns. “I had three dresses throughout the day. The traditional Ao Dai was bought off the rack at a store in Vietnam, some alterations were made by a family friend back in Australia.

I knew that the dresses in Australia could potentially blow out the budget, so had intended on going to Vietnam to custom make a dress. Jazzy Bridal was the dress designers who turned over the two white dresses in less than 14 days.

Going to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, there is a street famous for the amount of wedding dress shops for sale/rent/tailor-made called Ho Van Hue. Jazzy Bridal had its grand opening for about two weeks when we walked in.

I showed the girls some photos and also asked for their opinions on how it would look or turn out. After some chatting, we decided to go ahead with two wedding dresses with the ambitious promise of delivering before I left  Vietnam. The very next day, the girls went to source fabrics (Vietnam is famous for their fabrics) and constantly communicated with me to ensure that I was happy. It was an incredible experience.

To further the experience, I actually had custom ao dai’s and bridesmaid dresses tailored at different shops, however, both were very disappointing. Distraught, I went back to Jazzy Bridal and asked them to create new bridesmaid dresses and make alterations on bridesmaid ao-dais. All which fitted perfectly after.
My experience was nothing short of excellent. I felt that they listened to what I wanted, they did their absolute best to deliver me two memorable dresses in excellent time and perfectly within my budget. P.S – they recreated my reception dress (sparkly, off shoulder) and named it after me! What an honour! Rental gowns are quite common in Vietnam as not everyone can afford to buy one, besides, pre-wedding photoshoots are also very common and the bride and groom often go through several outfit changes for this, hence why bridal attire rentals are so popular.”

Zee surprised his future with a very special present “Zee surprised me with a 40,000 piece jigsaw puzzle (Disney Moments – Ravensburger) which is my lifetime goal of a puzzle.” she laughs.

Deb and Zee worked with Lil Elements on styling classic floral arrangements, Deb noting “I (Deb) wanted a whimsical, organic feel. I love the whites, beiges, nudes and pinks. I sent a Pinterest board to my floral stylist (Marie from Lil Elements) and trusted that she’d deliver the feel of what I wanted. And she delivered! They were beautiful and I was in love when I saw them. They were perfect. I am one who likes to trust a vendor/supplier, give them ideas and let them make the ultimate decision. This helps take away my responsibility and decision making (and potential stress). Find someone who is a wizard in what they do, then trust them, it’s what you’re paying for.”

Of her walk down the aisle, Deb remembers “I walked down the aisle to “Known” by Tauren Wells. The song’s lyrics speak of someone who knows they’re fully loved, pursued and ‘known’. It’s actually written about God (we’re Christian) who knows us and loves us. This song was also interpreted to Zee and I being known and loved by each other, and throughout our relationship, we’ve felt this intense connection being in sync and vibing on the same wavelengths – mainly because we’re both old souls and we know the depth of love and commitment that God gave us, and us for each other.

I walked halfway down the aisle alone and met my parents at the halfway mark, where they both walked me the rest of the way. This is what is generally done in the Filipino culture as they believe both parents raised you, and I absolutely loved the idea, so I decided to do it for myself. There was no way I was letting mum miss out on this opportunity, I am closer to her than dad.”

Zee and his groomsmen wore custom suits from Cooper Brothers. Deb explaining “We first saw Cooper Bros at a Bridal Expo in 2018 and loved the tailored idea from cuff to collar, from buttons to lining. We wanted the men to have a slightly more dapper look and was inspired by shades of grey. Each groomsman wore a different shade of grey.

Going with the dapper look, we decided that we wanted feather boutonnieres. I tapped into my inner DIY, bought a bunch of pins, twine, feathers of all colours, shapes and sizes and got the groomsmen to make their boutonnieres.”

Deb and Zee chose Hillsong Chapel for their ceremony. “We knew we wanted to be married under God and picked Hillsong Chapel for its beautiful sandstone walls, high ceilings, natural light, red carpet and abundant parking.”

Deb and Zee were married by Reverend David Clarke. “We’re Christians, ” explains Deb. “So it was really important for us to hold our ceremony in a church/chapel. We wanted a traditional ceremony with vows both under God and the law. We had a reading from the Bible – 1 John 4:7-19. We also wanted a fun ending and had our recessional to “Love Never Felt So Good” by Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake.”


Deb and Zee were thrilled with their choice of a photographer. “We stumbled on Ava Me Photography via Instagram and really liked his style. Moody, candid, beautifully framed captured moments.
Before confirming Joel he had agreed to meet us for a casual interview. At the end of the interview, we decided we were happy with Joel. We had no friends or family who had experienced Joel’s service before, but we threw our trust in him.
We had an engagement shoot with Joel and gave him an idea that was out of his usual style of work. We wanted an arcade with neon lights and us enjoying ourselves. Joel delivered.
On the day of our wedding, we had both Joel and his second shooter Miko. They were fantastic. They were friendly, smiles all day, enthusiastic and nothing was too much. Even our close family and friends loved their energy and friendliness. They were easy to get along with and Joel’s communication through emails was always prompt.
The turnaround of our photos was extremely and unusually quick and we were delighted to relive our wedding day again so soon. The quality of the photos was spectacular and we were both very pleased with all of our photos.”

“Start planning early, but not too early” advises Deb. “Only because there are so many things you could change your mind on as the wedding gets closer or ‘wish I went with that vendor instead’ moments. Thankfully we were very fortunate that most of what we wanted was available, even when we were months/weeks away from the wedding.

Be flexible! Whether it’s the budget, your favourite vendors not being available, things not going to plan… Adapting this flexible mentality makes it easier on yourself on the day of the wedding when things DO go wrong.”

After dark, guests gathered at Villa Capri Reception for a sit-down dinner reception.  Says Deb “The biggest complaints from family and friends is usually the reception being too far from home in addition to not ‘being full’ after a classic 3-course alternate drop. Our menu was a traditional Asian Banquet with 10 courses from suckling pig to salted duck egg lobster. The capacity of the venue at its maximum would be 400 which is perfect as it gave us a reason to not invite more than the venue could cater to (our guest list would be endless if we did not restrict it based on venue).”

Deb and Zee entrusted Tresor Trove Decorating to bring their wedding styling together. Deb noting “Through our entire conversation (mainly online) – Deb had given her ideas and photos and trusted her with the rest – this is huge as it was not only our tea ceremony decorations but our bridal table decoration too. Both of which were completely new designs for her. She had also decorated Deb’s bridal shower – AND was also part of decorating the proposal site. So Ayla has a special place in our heart from the beginning of our engagement right through to the wedding. She’s even joked about our baby showers next haha.”

Of their first dance, Deb shares “We danced to “Always & Forever” by Luther Vandross. We’re old souls at heart. We love old songs and we love to dance, however, we didn’t have time to choreograph a dance. So we slow-danced for the first half of the song and then got weird for the second half of the song.

We had picked our first dance song only a few days before the wedding and asked our band to just play it over the speakers via Spotify. However, we were both super surprised when they started playing it live and blew us away. We had no choreography so we just had fun.”

The band was a highlight for the newlyweds.  “Organised by Zee’s cousin Dominic Cabrera (drummer), we had a very special and talented band play and sing for us, including Ben Sekali (The Voice) and Fely Irvine (Hi 5/The Voice). They kept the crowd going all night and everyone couldn’t stop complimenting on how great the music was!”


Deb and Zee chose Pixelfish to capture a beautiful film of their day. “Most of the team came from the Philippines to shoot our day” explains Deb. “They were also our pre-wedding videographers and we teamed up to make a hilarious concept video of all the things we loved and defined us as a couple. They worked tirelessly from the crack of dawn and pumped out our Same Day Edit. Eman and Yvette were a pleasure to work with. Extremely creative souls and incredibly helpful. The team knew all the right angles and knew what insecurities Deb had on the day to ensure that they only captured the good angles.”

Thank you for sharing your story with us Deb & Zee! What a delight! thank you also to Ava Me Photography for today’s beautifully captured images!