Lauren and Henry’s wedding was filled with the things they love and successfully paired vintage styling with an Asian twist! The couple, who tied the knot at Nurragingy Reserve in Western Sydney, were also super lucky to sneak in their nuptials and celebrations, as the COVID lockdown came into effect the very next day. Below, Lauren shares her and Henry’s story, their wedding planning process and how their fun-filled, beautiful day (snapped by Mr. Wigley) came together.
It was on April 8, 2019 that my long-time partner, Henry, finally proposed. We were holidaying in Melbourne to celebrate our 10-year anniversary, which had occurred a couple of weeks beforehand, and the last stop on our itinerary was a love-themed exhibition at the Melbourne Immigration Museum. At the end of the exhibition, Henry managed to fumble his way through a proposal, and by the time we were on the plane back to Sydney that evening we’d already picked our ideal wedding date (March 22, 2020, our 11-year anniversary) and started drafting a guest list.
Since we’d been together for so long, we were confident that we could inject something of our own personalities, tastes and experiences into the wedding. We could have gone for a theme that was influenced by our favourite TV show, Doctor Who, but we felt the novelty value of such a theme ran the risk of overshadowing the significance of the occasion. Then, one day Henry suggested that we recruit a ska band to play at the reception – ska being one of the few music genres that we both enjoy equally – and that helped inform our vintage theme.
Henry also wanted the wedding to acknowledge his Asian ancestry, as his dad is from Hong Kong – and so our colour scheme of black, white and red (with a hint of gold) was born. In the end, this theme probably helped us finalise our venue selection, as we visited several venues but only one had its own Chinese gardens! This was Nurragingy Reserve in Western Sydney, which had multiple wedding gardens to choose from (we chose the Jannawi Garden for its understated elegance) and an onsite reception centre (the Colebee Centre), which impressed us with its fairy light backdrop and large dance floor.
Styling proved to be the most challenging aspect of the wedding planning process for us. We had hoped to simplify things by recruiting an all-in-one stylist/florist/prop supplier, but in some aspects we weren’t sure what we wanted, and in others we (i.e. Henry) had some very specific requests that couldn’t easily be met. We ended up contacting and meeting with several stylists. These meetings gave us a few ideas, and in the end we utilised several different suppliers – and purchased a few items ourselves – to accommodate all our needs.
Here is a list of just some of our styling elements:
- A vintage-style felt letter board – purchased from Kmart
- Red silk Chinese lanterns – purchased from My Event Decor
- Asian trifold room dividers – purchased from Ishka
- Gold backdrops – hired from NPM Events
- Vintage couches – hired from Sydney Prop Specialists
- A full-size TARDIS prop – hired from the Doctor Who Club of Australia (we couldn’t resist)
We created our own table centrepieces comprising a satellite arrangement of red roses in bud vases, placed on a bronze mirror base (these supplied by Bloom Mountains Designs), surrounding a small stack of vintage hardback books tied in a red ribbon. The books were a suggestion of Henry’s librarian mother – many of which she purchased on our behalf from secondhand book fairs – and doubled as favours for the guests to take home. We even made our own place cards out of old library catalogue cards, also provided by Henry’s mum.
As part of the vintage theme, we encouraged our guests to find outfits that contained nods to yesteryear – ideally something from the back of their wardrobe or from a charity shop – and this extended to our own attire. I wore my late mother’s wedding dress, which only needed some minor alterations to fit, and paired it with a pair of black-and-white heels that I found on eBay (perfect for the theme!). Instead of a bouquet, my maid of honour and I would both carry Asian-style fans and wear corsages (supplied by Bloom Mountains) on our wrists – one of the fans was purchased by Henry’s parents in Hong Kong, while we found the other at vintage clothing store Retournez Vous on the Sunshine Coast.
Henry wore a navy blue suit that he already owned, but purchased a dark red waistcoat from eBay featuring an elaborate dragon pattern and had black-and-white shoes custom-made by Morena Dancewear. Accessories were selected that were associated with each of Henry’s grandparents – a tiger eye brooch made by his maternal grandfather for his maternal grandmother, and a tiger eye ring that had belonged to his paternal grandfather. Meanwhile, the engagement ring and wedding bands were crafted by Linda & Co Designer Jewellers by breaking up a diamond ring that was originally owned by Henry’s paternal grandmother.
After eleven months of planning, we just had a couple of last-minute things to take care of in the week before the wedding. And then… COVID-19 hit Sydney. Suddenly, new restrictions were being announced every couple of days, and we were genuinely concerned that the wedding would be called off. We emailed our guests informing them that we aimed to go ahead, but they could drop out if they felt unwell or uncomfortable in the lead-up to the day. In that last week, around 30% of our 100+ guest list pulled out – which ended up being a blessing in disguise, because it brought us under the headcount required for the reception to go ahead in compliance with public health restrictions. We spent a good chunk of that week double-checking our suppliers’ availability (our wedding car was replaced at the last minute with Evoke Limo), rearranging our reception tables, and corresponding with the Colebee Centre – one of the few reception venues to stay open during this time. We ended up just dropping those last couple of tasks, as they suddenly didn’t seem all that important.
The Big Day
On the day itself, we were amazed to find that things more or less ran like clockwork. Our celebrant, David Lang, delivered a light-hearted ceremony that was influenced by our love of the theatre – complete with theatrical-style bows at the end. It was also a beautiful sunny day, which made for some gorgeous wedding photos courtesy of our photographer, Mr Wigley Photography – all delivered in their signature eye-popping visual style.
Our decorations meanwhile looked just as good as we’d hoped – particularly the TARDIS, which doubled as a photo booth and ended up being a real hit with the guests. We had a blast performing our first dance – a medley of four different styles, choreographed by our friend Stevie to four different versions of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’. Then the band, Blue Mountains-based group Ska’d 4 Life, kept the dance floor alive as they played their set.
Later on, the reception staff would inform us of Scott Morrison’s announcement that Australia was going into lockdown as of midnight that night – but for those few precious hours, all our worries about life, the pandemic and the wedding planning process had melted away. That’s the thing I think I’ll take away most from this experience – by all means do your research, visit the expos and interview your suppliers, but by the time it all comes together, the most important thing is that you’re able to enjoy yourself. And after all we’d been through, we couldn’t stop smiling.