We love a formal occasion as much as the next soul, but you know what we love more? A wedding that is so very “yours” and for Mel and Jay, that’s exactly the day they planned. The pair, who already have two sweet girls together, met before their ceremony for a pre-wedding drink. They decided to marry with the vineyards behind them celebrating their marriage with fireball shots (!), a cocktail reception and a family first dance. And my favourite part? Every detail as filled with colour and joy. Luckily for us, they invited the talented Courtney of With Love From Near + Far along to capture it, so we can share every moment!

It was over rugby that these two first met, Mel sharing the story. “I met Jay in June of 2012. Jay was in Vancouver competing in a Wheelchair Rugby Tournament at the Richmond Olympic Oval and as fate would have it, I was one of the event organisers. As the competition came to a close, the after-party began, drinks flowed and the celebrations had begun. Thanks to Jay’s teammate Josh inadvertently playing cupid, Jay was introduced to me at the bar, we hit it off instantly and by the end of the night, numbers were exchanged which started a flurry of texts, phone calls and video chats lasting three months until we next met – for our ‘first date’ in Hawaii in early October.”

And the proposal? Over a country picnic lunch, with daughter Dakota! “Jay suggested a fish and chips picnic with our daughter Dakota in our local regional park ‘You Yangs’. We drove to the You Yangs and found ourselves sitting at ‘our bench’ enjoying our lunch when it started to rain sideways! I took our daughter to the car and went back to the table to assist Jay with the clean up of lunch… meanwhile little did I know an engagement ring was burning a hole in his pocket – It must have been as Jay removed the ring and blurted out “will you marry me?!” Of course, with no doubt in my mind, my answer was “YES!” Although I believe it came out as “you better put it on me first!!” ”

The bride found her Made With Love gown at Bluebelle Bridal. “I chose this dress as after shopping around a bit I knew I didn’t want a typical white bridal dress but rather something a bit more fun and relaxed. I purchased my dress at Bluebelle Bridal in Melbourne. I had a few fittings which were all met by friendly staff and great customer service.”

As Daisy Does styled the floral details of bright and beautiful blooms. Mel noting “I chose As Daisy Does in Newton, Geelong as I wanted to support local and they have stunning flowers. I had two simple requests, Autumn colours and native flowers – they did the rest. I felt 100% comfortable giving them full creative consent.”

This was a day that was all about being relaxed, so for Mel and Jay, they met beforehand. Mel remembering “Pre-ceremony Jay and I met for a first glance at Bennett’s, a nearby vineyard followed by drinks and causal photoshoot at the Whiskery with our wedding party.”

Jay and his groomsmen wore pieces from Connor. Mel telling “Jay also wanted to have a relaxed feel and we decide on casual shirt and pants. We added a bow tie which made him stand out from his groomsmen who had the same shirt and pants. Jay also wore a boutonniere.”

Mel and Jay added a few special touches. “We had DIY signage throughout the venue and gardens as well as photo board to allow guests to take Polaroid pictures and caption what thoughts or feelings they had at the moment. This replaced a guest book.”

The Bellarine venue, Harvester Moon, played host to this beautiful outdoor wedding, Mel notes  “We had passed Harvester Moon a few times and a friend of mine had been to a wedding there and from what she described it seemed like it was the right fit for us. As soon as we began a dialogue with Charlotte & James it was clear that their venue would be perfect. It offered the opportunity for a cocktail style reception with a stage to get the party going. Not to mention a beautiful outdoor ceremony area with eclectic chairs to boot fitting right in with the Boho feel.

Harvester Moon was perfect for the numbers we had, it also allowed us to bring in our food vendor which was amazing as we had our eyes set on a food truck! The venue truly allowed us the freedom to plan our day how we wanted it – a party to celebrate amongst friends and family!”

Tristian J Ross performed “Here Comes The Sun” by The Beatles live as Mel walked down the aisle with her father.

Mel and Jay chose Jessie Belle to officiate their ceremony, overlooking the vineyards.

This ceremony? It was truly inclusive, with the couple’s children and guests both playing a special, (if not unexpected!) role. Explains Mel “Our celebrant Jessie Belle did a great job of including our girls (we gave them a bracelet each) into the ceremony as well as our guests who all toasted us as Husband and Wife with a shot of fireball whiskey….”

“Jessie’s words “Friends and family, we will now take a moment to sign the marriage certificates. In true Mel and Jay style, they have come up with their ritual today and they would like each of you to be part of it if you choose to do so (and no pressure to do so). They invite you to join them in a shot of their favourite Canadian whiskey called Fireball, a drink they’ve often shared especially in their earlier days. We will be handing these out during the signing but please hold off drinking it just yet as we will all have a toast to them altogether after we’ve signed the certificates.”

And then it was time to eat! Guests enjoying a spread catered by Sticks and Bones BBQ. Mel noting  “All our vendors were outstanding but one vendor who deserves a big shout out was Sticks and Bones BBQ. Nicole Morrison put together an amazing spread. Everyone loved the grazing table and there was heaps of delicious food for our guests, we only wish we had stopped to eat more!”

“It is clear that our friends like to party as Harvester Moon notified us that they sold the most amount of spirits ever at a wedding that they hosted!” laughs Mel.

As for a first dance? Like everything else on this special day, Mel & Jay did it their way. “Jay and I didn’t want to have a formal first dance but instead opted to have a family dance with our girls (Dakota, 3 and Ashlyn 9 months) to ‘Good Times’ by INXS and Jimmy Barnes – the girls loved it and the song got the party started!”

Mel and Jay adored their photographer Courtney, sharing “We can’t speak highly enough of Courtney she has a beautiful relaxed manner which we noticed from our first meeting. Courtney somehow managed to be everywhere that day capturing so many candid moments of not only us but of our guests! Courtney helped us heaps with our planning, she was able to help us structure our day by providing a timeline of events as well as suggesting great locations for photos.
Courtney was extremely patient with us and easy to work with.”

Congratulations to you both Mel & Jay! Thank you so much to sharing your stories! Thank you also to With Love From Near + Far for sharing today’s celebration with us!