Louisa & James

While it is Louisa’s dress that is the sparkling star for this addition to The Sparkle Issue, I can’t help but think, sparkle is not as much about wearing sequins and adding glitter to your day, but it’s something that comes from within. It might sound a little woo woo for you, but I think, that after reading the story of today’s beautiful couple, Louisa & James, it is something you might wholeheartedly agree with. The day beautifully captured by Studio Something.

Louisa and James’ paths first crossed at a bar. “We met the old fashioned way: at a bar! ” laughs Louisa. “Our mutual friend Dini introduced us at a night out. James was keen from the get go, but I was more coy. I actually was moving to Melbourne the following week and that night was my farewell. It seemed like we were destined to not be together, but then while I lived down there we kept in touch and slowly grew to know each other from afar.

We both felt a huge connection over the following months but James was going on a seven month trip to Europe. When he went we spoke or messaged every day. I flew to meet him on his travels and we spent a month together travelling around the USA. Considering we had only spent 18 days together face to face, this was a make or break moment for sure. But we had such a dream trip and it really solidified how we felt about each other. We were in love!”

And the proposal? James planned it for an entire year! “James is a very organised man and had planned the proposal for over a year. It was my birthday weekend and I had gone down to visit my parents at Wombarra, a beachside suburb in the Illawarra region.

James came down the day after me, and arrived looking very dashing with a picnic basket in tow. He told me it was a birthday picnic and off we went down to the beach. I actually had the thought he might be proposing as we walked down, but quickly put that out of my mind. It was just a birthday picnic after all! We had a beautiful picnic on the beach with champagne and a cheese board.

Then when it was wrapping up James got down on one knee and proposed. I was crying so much with joy I barely could say yes! We did a happy dance and the surfers on the hill cheered us on from afar. We walked back to the house, excited and ready to tell my parents what had happened. As we walked down the driveway out jumped a crowd of people yelling “Surprise!!” James had arranged for a group of friends and family to be there for the proposal, and we proceeded to have an impromptu party all night. My parents and his parents were in on it all along, and some friends and family had travelled interstate to be there. It was a magical night. James even brought me a dress and makeup because he knew I would want to look good at our engagement party! He definitely knocked the whole proposal thing out of the park.”

James was dressed by Robot Menswear says the bride. “James’ dad Dean owns a mens wear store called Robot at the MetCentre in Sydney. He put in so much effort to make James look absolutely awesome. He wore a black suit with a satin lapel which made it a little special. James isn’t afraid of patterns and chose a paisley tie that toned with the bridesmaids’ colours. Since my dress wasn’t white we needed the shirt colour to tone well. Finding the right coloured shirt was a challenge, so Dean got the shirts made specially for James and the groomsmen. We went fabric shopping to find the perfect colour. He even got buttons dyed to match! He went above and beyond and it was a really special gesture to style the boys so well. If you want personal service with a smile go check out Robot for your groom and groomsmen suits.”

Louisa added special mementos to her look, beginning with this vintage purse. “I used my grandmother’s vintage Glomesh purse. It was a gift from my grandfather years ago, and she kept it in its original box all these years. When she passed away she left it to my aunty Mary who lent it to me on the day.”

Let us talk about that stunning silvery sparkling gown. It’s a design by Mariana Hardwick that the bride purchased at The Barefaced Bride. She shares “I wanted to wear something that wasn’t traditional and that reflected my personality. White doesn’t really suit my skin tone well and I always envisioned myself in something sparkly. I knew finding a dress might be tricky when I wasn’t going down a traditional route. However, I found the perfect dress at Barefaced Bride, a beautiful bridal store that sells preloved bridal gowns. I am a lover of vintage and second hand clothes, and being able to give a wedding dress another day to shine was special to me. I went to the store with my mum, not expecting to walk out with a dress. As soon as I tried on the Mariana Hardwick blush sequin gown I knew it was the one. The colour toned so well with my skin and the matte sequins, low back and train made it feel bridal while still being modern and unique. I fell in love and bought it on the spot! On the day I felt like a movie star. So elegant and glamorous!

I got it altered at Surpassed Alterations in Alexandria who I can highly recommend. She did an amazing job at such a good price! It fit like a glove.!”

Louisa and James met before their ceremony, to ensure they had plenty of time for photographs. “Studio Something were a dream to work with. We chose them because the style of their photography was so natural and effortless. We wanted to have two photographers on the day to capture it and they offered that in the package. We really trusted them to do a good job and boy did they deliver! Philippa was pregnant at the time but that didn’t stop her climbing onto chairs and getting into the action for the shots.”

Louisa and James chose Observatory Hill for their marriage ceremony for its stunning views and proximity to their reception venue.

Louisa remembers “I walked down the aisle to Hiatus Kaiyote’s song Nakamarra. It is a song that is really special to James and I, sung by a band we adore! Both my parents walked me down the aisle, tearing up as we went.”

Don’t worry – amongst the tears, there was plenty of laughter! Louisa remembering “The number one comedic moment has to go to my nephew Louis. Louis, who was 5 years old at the time, is a very independent character and wasn’t so keen on the wedding ceremony. As our celebrant was warming up the crowd she said, “This is going to be a great afternoon”. Louis, who was hiding under the chairs, yelled with all his might, “No it isn’t!”. The whole wedding group burst into laughter. It was perfect comedy timing and the best ice breaker.”

The vibe of the ceremony was very important for these two, who chose Amy Watson to officiate. The bride explaining  “We wanted the ceremony to be fun, relaxed and really speak to who we are as a couple. We wanted to get the crowd laughing and the crowd to feel part of the action. We were so lucky to find our celebrant Amy Watson. She created such a warm and fun ceremony for us. Guests at the wedding thought she must have been a friend of ours because she was so personal and friendly. Working with her was a dream and it was the best wedding ceremony I’ve ever witnessed, not biased at all.

We chose two readings for the wedding. My sisters Shelley and Tess read “Union” by Robert Fulghum, trying to hold back the tears. Our friend Aime read “You are the Bubbles”, a sweet poem that captured our relationship so well.”

“Amy Watson, our celebrant was just amazing. I could gush about her forever. She brought such warmth and joy to the ceremony. We loved her process in prep for the wedding. She invited us to her house where she interviewed us about our relationship and ourselves to craft the ceremony script. It was the best loved up therapy session ever and we both left feeling so giddy and happy. It made such a difference to the day because Amy really knew our story. She was the upmost expert and we felt like we could completely trust her.”

This wedding? It wasn’t without its hitches! “After a season of bushfires and drought, the week of the wedding in January was forecast for rain! Our outdoor park ceremony was looking rather bleak. Luckily the park had a large rotunda that we could use, but we didn’t know if the 125 guests would all fit. After a lot of stressful weather forecast checking, my parents helped organise some large market umbrellas for around the rotunda and a bus to drive guests down to the reception if it was raining. We figured some guests could be out of the rotunda and some inside.

We just had to put our trust in my family to organise on our behalf and see how it turned out on the day. As I walked around the bend and down the aisle I saw that all of the 125 guests were in the rotunda! They all squeezed in there. That meant that the ceremony felt so intimate. Everyone was huddled close and felt connected. It worked out so well. And in the end it barely drizzled!”

“We each wrote our vows secretly so hearing them during the ceremony was the first time. We had a structure we both followed but the content was secret. What was so special and heart warming was that our vows had similar themes and some parts were almost identical. A friend couldn’t believe we hadn’t written them together! We are big old cheese balls and the tears were flowing for sure. The happiest tears ever.”

“Decide on the things that really matter to you and make those the priority” advises Louisa. “You don’t have to do exactly what’s been done before! We didn’t have a bridal table because we wanted to sit with our families. We did the photos before the wedding so we could go straight into party mode. Whatever rules you think there are can be broken. Make the day you want, not what you think has to be done.”

“We had a long engagement – 18 months! We are both super organised people so we had things planned well in advance. That meant seeing things progress and slowly come together was really nice and validating. Some details you can’t really control 100% but it all worked out.”

The couple chose View by Sydney for their sit down dinner reception, sharing “James and I wanted the venue to really sing ‘Sydney’. James also had a strong desire to feature the Harbour Bridge. We never expected that to come up but he really wanted it to be featured on the day! I joke that he was secretly marrying the bridge….We went to quite a few harbour side venues but when we saw View by Sydney in Walsh Bay we both knew it was the one. The space has such character with the large wooden beams throughout and the rustic decor. It felt warm and inviting straight away. We loved the view of the Harbour Bridge from the terrace area.”

A special nod to family was included at the reception. “We featured pictures of our parents and grandparents’ weddings at the reception. We set up the photo frames on the guest book table as a nod to our families and their special days. Most of our grandparents have passed away so having a piece of them there was nice.”

Drooling over that cheese wedding cake as much as us?  It features cheese from Formaggi Ocello and was one of the first decisions Louisa & James made for their wedding. “Before we had made any real wedding plans we had already decided on the cake: a cheese wheel tower! We both love a cheese board and having a cheese wheel tower as our ‘cake’ was a given for us.”

The formalities of the evening remain one of Louisa’s favourite parts of the day. “The speeches were all top notch. We had five speeches which was a lot but they were so touching, funny and unique. It was a blast having Dean’s band play which still gets talked about by friends and family now. Having all our friends and family there was super important to us and everyone made such an effort to be there, and also make it to the after party! The main thing that made it special was celebrating our love! Getting to gush about how much we love each other and make a commitment to one another was huge for us. The happy tears were flowing and we were so excited about saying ‘I do!'”

The newlyweds did their first dance their way, the bride explaining “James and I love to dance, but slow dancing is not something in our repertoire. We chose Chateau Lobby #4 by Father John Misty. It’s actually a bit of an anti-love song, a bit of a sarcastic take on love and marriage. If you listen closely to the lyrics it gets a bit racy in the middle there. But we love the song and it was a fun little secret for us, knowing that most of the older guests have no idea what the lyrics say. We did practice a bit the week before the wedding, using a handy Youtube tutorial for inspiration. There was a lot of swaying, some ‘fancy tricks’ as our Youtube guide taught us and a freestyle solo section in the bridge. The crowd was loving it! Lots of whoops and cheers.”

And then the dance floor got started, with a little help from the groom’s dad! Louisa explaining  “James’ dad Dean is also in a cover band called No Frills Honey with some of his extended family members. They play at weddings and events so we knew we wanted them to play at the wedding, but didn’t want them to ‘work’ it necessarily. We asked them to play five songs to get the dance floor started. The crowd went wild! They did two encores because we didn’t want them to end. I think it’s the best crowd they’ve ever played for. Seeing Dean up there rocking out was a highlight for sure.

“James most fondly remembers the dance floor watching the band, with his dad on the bass, absolutely kill it. The whole crowd was having the time of their life and it was pure fun! Watching everyone sing along to the classics and see their smiling faces was simply the best.”

Congratulations to the newlyweds! Thank you both for sharing your story with us. Thank you also to Studio Something for sharing today’s beautiful day with us!