Sparkly, pastel, and oh so whimsical , Janelle and Ben’s two-part wedding, is such a sight for sore eyes. “Ben isn’t a fan of being the centre of attention, and always wanted a small, intimate ceremony (he would have had us elope given the opportunity, however, I wanted our families around us at least). Having a large ceremony for me wasn’t a deal-breaker, all I wanted was a massive party to celebrate! So we settled on the ceremony on a Sunday afternoon and our reception on the Saturday of the following weekend.”

What followed, was a week full of wedding celebrations – from the private, at home ceremony in the backyard of Ben’s family home (aptly this seems to be the venue always chosen for family celebrations!) before the newlyweds celebrated with their guests a week later in a cocktail reception. Doing your wedding your way? Perfection. Doing your wedding your way with a cocktail reception? Just what we need to inspire the fun of  The Cocktail Issue. This beauty of a day, in both of its parts, captured by Elinlights Photography.

This was a love story founded on friendship, says Janelle. “We were friends for a while before we got together. We have the same circle of close friends and would see each other a lot at parties and gatherings. We would go to lots of gigs and festivals together, and after one gig, we ended up stealing a goodnight kiss, and our relationship kind of went from there! After a few awkward messages, we went on our first date, and everything after that was just so easy – like it was always meant to be. We kept it quiet from our friends at the very beginning, probably because we were both very shy about our feelings at first, but once we were ready to tell everyone, they were all so supportive and happy for us”

And the way these two became engaged? Over a casual morning coffee! “Much like any Saturday morning, we went out for a coffee, but this time came back engaged! It was the weekend before my 30th birthday, we went to our favourite coffee spot in Collaroy, and for some reason Ben wanted to walk the long way home – along Collaroy headland. It was cold, windy and wet, and I wasn’t sure what had gotten into him and why the fishermen were all of a sudden so interesting! Next minute I turn around, and he is nervously handing something to me.  Thinking it was a dirty tissue as a joke, I recoiled. Turns out, he was asking me to marry him, to which I cannot remember saying yes, but I do remember bursting into tears and asking him if he was serious.

It was all very awkward, funny and clumsy, but very ‘us’. Collaroy is also such a special place for us – it’s where both Ben and his Dad grew up, and I also lived there for a few years in my early 20’s before moving into Ben’s family home – so it was the perfect setting. Ben had also not told a single soul (which is so him – he is a locked vault and you can trust him with your deepest, darkest secrets), so it was a lovely surprise for everyone when we got home.”

Janelle chose a stunning silvery gown by designers Rat and Boa. “I wore a light gold, metallic silk, kimono style dress from UK label Rat and Boa. I always knew I wanted a wedding dress that wasn’t a ‘wedding’ dress, and I didn’t really see myself wearing white either. I went to one boutique to try some wedding dresses on for fun, and then spent the rest of the time trawling the internet for all sorts of different styles and colours. At one point I was pretty set on sequins, so I initially purchased a silver sequinned, off-the-shoulder number from Asos , which I ended up changing into for dancing at the reception.
A few months later, my sister sent me the link for the Rat and Boa dress and I knew instantly it was the one. I hand made my headband with fabric from Tessuti Fabrics in Surry Hills, which I lined with the floral fabric of Ben’s pants (this ended up being one of my favourite sneaky details). My shoes were Giuseppe Zanotti from consignment website The Real Real, and my earrings were my ‘borrowed’ piece from my dear Work Wife. And lastly, my rings were a mixture of salt/pepper and white diamonds and an emerald, set in rose gold.”

And the groom’s look? A jacket from Gazman with handmade floral fabric pants. “Ben knew he wanted to wear something fun and untraditional. He is known for his party shirts, so this time, he opted for party pants! Nothing in the shops or online were really suitable, so we purchased the fabric from Spotlight and had them made. I cut him a pocket square with the leftover fabric. Ben’s pants were paired with a crisp white shirt, linen jacket from Gazman and RM Williams shoes and belt which I gifted him during our first look. His ring is a round, black opal set in silver.”

Janelle and Ben met before their ceremony for a first look, the bride explaining “For the day of the ceremony, we made sure to include the first look. I was extremely nervous before the ceremony, so when I saw Ben before walking down to the rest of the family, I instantly relaxed, took a deep breath, had a cuddle and everything was ok.”

Janelle and Ben finished their first look by exchanging gifts. “Our first look and the gifts we exchanged were one of the most special parts of the day” notes the bride. “A 40-page book about our love story including avatars of ourselves and our Ernie as well as a framed print of the constellations at Collaroy on the night of our wedding day.”

Festivities kicked off with a backyard ceremony. “Our ceremony was held in the backyard of Ben’s parent’s property in Collaroy. The property is particularly sentimental as it is where Ben’s dad, Dave, grew up and has celebrated every milestone there – his own 18th, 21st, 30th, 50th, as well as both the kid’s milestone birthdays – now a wedding can be added to the list!”

Janelle and Ben chose  Daymade Event Co to help them bring their day together, Janelle remarking  “All our vendors were a dream, but particularly Ash from Day Made. Ash and her husband Barry are parents to twin toddlers who were nine months old at the time, but worked so hard to make our special days so easy! Ash has such a great eye and did an amazing job of pulling together all the crazy design details that I wanted and made it all cohesive and beautiful. Ash looked after all the florals, the furniture and bumping in and out on both days. Because both venues were very DIY, there was a lot of problem-solving, but Ash had it all sorted!”

The bride walked down the aisle with her father  “Can’t Do Without You” by Caribou.

Janelle and Ben were married by Georgia Fletcher Celebrant. “Our celebrant was the beautiful Georgia Fletcher, who was amazing throughout the lead-up and the ceremony itself – her energy and joyfulness are contagious. Ben’s mum (also named Janelle), read a passage from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, by Louis de Bernieres that starts “Love is a temporary madness; it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides…”. Ben’s dad was the ring bearer and our sisters were the witnesses. Lastly, we wrote our own vows which were important to both of us.”

The couple opted out of a wedding party. “Our ceremony was small and intimate with family only,” explains Janelle. “So we didn’t have a wedding party per se. But we incorporated our ‘wedding party’ in other ways – our sisters were our witnesses at the ceremony, each of our best friends said a speech at the reception and another was our MC who did a fabulous job.”

Janelle’s advice for those yet to marry? “Do whatever you guys want to do! Want a day full of tradition? Go for it! Want to turn tradition on its head? You boos’ do you! Whatever you choose, just be true to yourselves and your relationship. During the planning stage, look to the talents and advice of friends and family – our friends who also had a DIY wedding were a wealth of knowledge; our stationery, signage, hair, makeup, DJ and venue styling were all done by our wonderfully talented friends, and the cake was baked by Ben’s mum.”

The gorgeous blooms? Also by Daymade Event Co. Janelle noting  “Our talented friend Ashley from Day Made Event Co. dreamed up our absolutely gorgeous florals (as well as bumped in/out and managed a lot of the lead-up and both days). I love love love textured florals, and with the help of my just-as-talented Work Wife (Ash’s sister), gave Ash the mood and colour palette of both days, as well the colours of my handmade streamer wall, and we went from there! We went for dreamy and soft but textured, with touches of metallic for the ceremony, and them some brighter pops of colour for the reception. We were absolutely thrilled with how it all came together – my bouquet was absolute perfection.”

“Eli from Elinlights Photography was seriously the best!” says Janelle. “It was difficult to find a photographer who was able to do both days (and was within our budget). Eli fit all that criteria and had the most amazing photos. The look and feel of her work were exactly what we wanted for our special days. We met over face time, I showed Eli the property over the phone and sent through photos of Long Reef and Warriewood and we went from there. On both days, Eli was able to capture some amazing shots, was super efficient to ensure that all the special moments were captured, but also made us feel as comfortable as possible (neither of us is big photo people!).”

The “Wedding day” ended with photos and a private lunch. “Ben and I had our portraits taken at Long Reef (another sentimental location for the both of us) then everyone headed to Limani in Narrabeen for a boozy lunch. The staff at Limani were amazing – so attentive on the day, and so accomodating during the lead-up, and the food as always was exquisite.”

The following weekend, the newlyweds celebrated their marriage with a wedding reception at

Warriewood Surf Life Saving Club.  Janelle telling  “For the reception, we always knew we wouldn’t do a formal sit down dinner, so the guys at Brazilian Barbecue Catering were perfect for the vibe we were after, and we paired this with a selection of DIY cocktails with cute names. Cocktails were a must – Ben loves making them, and I love drinking them. Finally, in terms of styling and the overall look and feel, everything was based around the streamer wall, the neon signage, and the disco ball.”

Janelle’s favourite detail of the day? “Our dreamy florals which paired back perfectly to our outfits; Ben’s pants and its fabric lining my headband; our first look; the fact that we spread our love-day over an entire week so we could take our time soaking up the happiness and joy – by ourselves, with our families and then with our friends; our MC starting the night with a poem he wrote about us and our love story; all the speeches; the cheeky quotes on the DF and the bathroom; and finally all our vendors who during that difficult uncertain time when COVID was just about to blow up, did everything they possibly could to make the week happen.”

This was a wedding where not everything went to plan, and yet Janelle and Ben embraced it all. “The whole week leading up to the ceremony it poured and poured. Our plan B was to have the ceremony on the undercover deck, but it just wouldn’t have been the same. It rained on the morning of the ceremony and cleared up just as Ash and Barry arrived to set up. It stayed like that for the entirety of our ceremony and photos, and then poured down again once everyone was seated for lunch at Limani! It was literally like the universe held off just for us.
On the day of the reception, me being forgetful me, I forgot to print out my speech. My sister (the real MVP) sat there and hand wrote my entire speech on spare pages of our guest book as my eyes are too crappy to read off my phone!
Above all this, we had the uncertainty of COVID looming over us – things were changing sooo quickly every single day so at times it was quite stressful during the week in between. It ended up being the last hurrah for everyone before lockdown and we were so unbelievably lucky to have pretty much all our overseas guests (except for 2) attend.”

These two opted out of a first dance, but the dance floor did not! “Neither of us really wanted to do a first dance, or like being the centre of attention, so we skipped it.. However, we had a song to kick off the dancefloor – “One More Time” by Daft Punk (however the DJ got the timing a bit off and it didn’t quite work the way as planned), and there is video footage of us well into the reception, dancing together in the middle of a circle and then on guests shoulders while Horses by Daniel Braithwaite played. Classy.”

A big congratulations to you both Janelle and Ben! What a joy it was to share your story. Thank you both and thank you to Elinlights Photography for sharing today’s gorgeous celebration with us!