If we’re excited about anything in 2021, it’s sharing the weddings that happened, in spite of the world being swept up in a pandemic. Of the stories that were the weddings that went ahead anyway, the plans that shifted and changed, the redos, the instead of, because somehow? These are the weddings that forced couples to celebrate what was most important to them. And that is where the personal tales, touches and moments really come to life.

Today’s blissed-out newlyweds- Claire and Sammy, chose photographer Damien Milan Photography (read on for how these two landed the photographer of their dreams second time around!) had planned a grand celebration, but with COVID-19 in their way, they had to rethink everything.

Claire tells the story. “Like most other couples, our wedding plans were significantly impacted by COVID-19. We had planned a big church ceremony at St Mary’s Cathedral followed by a dinner reception with all our friends and family in Australia and overseas. We had to postpone our wedding from December 2020 to December 2021.

Having been engaged and planning our wedding for two years, we couldn’t wait another year to call each other Husband and Wife so we went ahead with a very intimate civil ceremony followed by a small dinner with only 14 of our nearest and dearest. So for a while then I was planning two weddings (one big in 2021 and one small in 2020) which should be illegal (haha). Sadly my parents are based in Hong Kong and couldn’t attend in person, but nonetheless they were present virtually via Facetime on an iPad. In light of the ongoing international border restrictions, we have very recently decided to cancel our 2021 wedding. We didn’t expect our micro-wedding to be the only wedding we’ll have, but it was so beautiful and everything we’ve ever hoped for (minus my parents’ absence of course).”

The pair met wile they were studying, remembers the bride “Sammy was studying Medicine and I was undertaking my Masters in art curating, both at University of Sydney when we met in 2014. I still remember what Sammy said at the end of our first date, “I’m glad that you were late, otherwise you’d be too perfect”. Many dates and 6 weeks later, we moved in together; and 6 years on we are happily married.”

The groom wore a P Johnson Tailors suit. “Sammy wore a tailor-made suit by P Johnson from when he was a groomsman a few months back” explains Claire. “We opted to match the suit with a polka-dot bowtie and personalised socks with our dog’s (Charlie’s) faces patterned on them so he could be with us in spirit.”

Claire found her beautiful gown at Bardot and had it altered by My Private Tailor. She tells “It was a cheap readymade dress I found on Bardot and beautifully tailored by Tamara at My Private Tailor. I love the puffy sleeve design and how simple the dress was. I’ve asked Tamara to add the tulle lapels to make it look more ‘formal’. Since this dress was for my ‘back-up’ small wedding, and I had already spent a fair bit commissioning Mariam Seddiq to tailor-make a big wedding dress for me (which is now cancelled), I didn’t want to splurge on yet another dress for this small affair. I was incredibly proud that I was able to secure a beautiful wedding dress under $200.”

The relaxed nature of the couple’s chosen photographer, meant the day was stress free, remembers Claire “After scouring through tons of instagram posts and websites, I was sure that Damien Milan is the photographer I want. Everything he does is magical and emotive. So I reached out at the early stage of wedding planning in 2018 and unfortunately he couldn’t commit that far in advance due to personal reasons. When the time came for us to plan our smaller, second wedding six months out, I thought it couldn’t hurt to reach out to Damien again to check his availability and miraculously he was available on 12 Dec 2020! I couldn’t be happier! Some would say ‘everything works out in the end’.

I love Damien M and his partner Nastia. They are just the most beautiful people to work with. We felt very at ease which is rare for camera-shy people like us.”

Advice from Claire to you dear reader ? “Do whatever you will! Whether it be big or small, rustic or opulent – it’s your wedding, your call! Invest in a photographer and a videographer you love. Finally, prepare a list of names and rundown for the photo call (efficient and you don’t have to worry about missing anyone!)”

Beautiful harbourside garden- Wendy’s Secret Garden was just the place for the intimate ceremony, says Claire. “We’ve always loved the idea of a secret garden wedding with a lush green leafy backdrop. Having worked in the art industry for the past 10 years, I’m familiar with Brett Whiteley’s work and the beautiful garden his partner Wendy has poured her heart into over the years. Wendy Whiteley’s secret garden remains special to us – a little known heaven that is perfectly intimate with a glorious backdrop of the bridge and Sydney Harbour.”

The lush florals for the day were styled by Kiko Design. “I opted for a coral, peachy tone for my bouquet, Sammy’s buttonhole and our dinner tablescapes” says Claire. “Kiko Design did such a wonderful job putting together the most beautiful colour and floral combinations. The bouquet was everything I’ve ever hoped for and more.” The couple finished their look for the day with customised Nike sneakers.

Although the day was intimate, Claire and Sammy made sure they welcomed guests with special touches. “We prepared hamper baskets for the ceremony to designate our spot at Wendy’s Garden as well as for guests to enjoy and take home. Each hamper includes a personalised fan with a rundown, flowers and a selection of my favourite snacks.”

The DIY elements? Not necessarily recommended by this bride! “I handmade our vow booklets and hand-lettered the calligraphy on the cover. I also did my own makeup, which I honestly would not recommend to any bride– it was nerve wrecking!”


Sammy and Claire chose Coral Kortlepel to officiate their ceremony, which they livestreamed to absent friends and family. “We wanted our ceremony to be simple yet monumental, intimate, casual and candid. All we wanted was for our loved ones to witness our commitments to each other. We wanted to forgo the complex layers of wedding traditions and put forth what really matters to us – each other and the people present.

We asked my bridesmaid Nikki to recite a poem titled ‘Sammy & Claire’ written for us by a busker Angelina Stanton in Melbourne in 2019. Our celebrant Coral Kortlepel selected a beautiful excerpt from The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White for our final reading.”

“During our ceremony I was trying really hard to compose myself and tried not to cry. I thought I was doing quite well until I started reading my vows and I could hear very loud sobbing from the crowd, then I cracked and cried uncontrollably. All these pent-up emotions just gushed out of my eyeballs. Then the very witty Sammy joked and said to the crowd ‘I’m really not that bad, trust me’, which made everyone roar in laughter.”

Claire’s parents dialled in via Facetime to catch the wedding live.  

Sammy and Claire celebrated their marriage with an intimate, candlelit dinner at The Restaurant Pendolino. “We adore the dark, intimate ambience of the private dining room. The food was delicious and the service was perfect” remembers the bride.

Claire describes the day as “Simple yet monumental, adorned by sparks of heartfelt and candid emotions. A pared-back secret garden ceremony. My favourite part of the wedding planning was knowing that it wasn’t a big, lavish, formal affair so it took all the stress out.”

This really was a day filled with heartfelt, special moments says Claire. “During our dinner reception, my maid of honour Tammy told me that she had something special for me. She passed me her phone and there they were, heartfelt videos from my beloved parents and my best friends (the other bridesmaids) from overseas. It was the most wonderful surprise and gift.”

A big congratulations to you both Sammy and Claire! Thank you for sharing the stories of your day with us, and thank you to Damien Milan Photography for sharing today’s beautiful celebration.