Twenty years ago in London, today’s groom Obi, managed a bar. Once a day, Jen, today’s bride walked in to start her job as a bartender. “Obi being the manager who did the rosters, would roster me on the closing shift so the two of us would be alone together chatting as we closed up after work. Obi was in a relationship at the time, so we were never in a relationship back then but we knew we had a connection, a spark” remembers Jen.

Australian born Jen would frequently return to London over the next few years and made a special point of making sure she visited Obi each time. The pair’s path kept crossing, and nothing ever happened, until eight years later, when Obi made the trek to Australia. “We both felt the attraction & enjoyed seeing each other tremendously but I was a single mum with my then four-year-old & Obi was still living the same life & our worlds felt far apart” explains Jen. “So I cut contact ’cause I couldn’t see how it could work.”

“Another 10 years went by and Obi spontaneously visited again with his sister on an impromptu trip in July 2019 and we saw each other four times in three days and Obi met my daughter and I met his sister and after that visit, some home truths were shared and we decided to try and make a go of it! We spoke on the phone every day for six months till Obi came back in Jan 2020. What was supposed to be a three-month visit turned into a 12-month stay due to covid restrictions. After 20years that spark never died and love won in the end!”

So you’d have to agree, that it was always meant to be for Jen and Obi, and it was COVID and its endless restrictions, and the fact that their story had been over twenty years in the making, that finally meant these two decided on forever. Laughs Jen “We knew we wanted to be together and we weren’t going to let covid or the border restrictions stop us and so we made it happen!”

Planned in just four weeks and with their mates The Beautiful Collective behind the camera, this epic long lunch backyard wedding? It’s like chicken soup for the soul. It’s sunshine-filled, food-filled and most of all love-filled. because there is nothing we love more than when a love story finally comes together. It’s a special, beautiful kind of magic. So grab your cup of tea and settle in for this beauty!

This was a wedding all about community. Each one of Jen and Obi’s family and friends pitching in to make the magic happen. “The wedding was very much a collaborative creation” explains Jen. “Obi took a lead in organising the event, he really went to the effort of making it beautiful, renting the white chairs and dresser for the signing, putting tulle and fairy lights everywhere and the dining setting, ensuring every detail down to the rosette napkins for every person and glasses etc.

My sister and her husband helped tremendously by sharing her home, beautifying the backyard and patio area, and supplying almost everything we needed! The whole family helped set up, looking after technology, speakers, music and helping everything run smoothly! My friends Nectar, Helen & Tony helped make absolutely delicious food which everyone raved about. My friend Basia did the flowers. My friend Patricia helped with clothing adjustments. My friend Alicia’s mother helped out with alcohol and drinks. My friend Pippa took a home video for us. Everyone chipped in offering to help and this also made this day so special!”

“My dear friend Basia (Basia Podwarska) is a florist and she did the flowers” explains Jen,  “I trusted her. My only request was for the flowers to be bright, colourful, loose and for some peonies! And they turned out beautifully!”

You know how much we love a backyard wedding, and for Jen and Obi, it was Jen’s sister that offered hers up. “Again with 4 weeks to organize, it is very difficult to find a venue in that time frame. We were wanting to do it in a park in the city but we couldn’t have a little reception in the park with all the covid restrictions and my sister very kindly offered her backyard and it turned out to be really lovely. It rained a great deal in the week before and we didn’t know if it would stop! But the sun came out strong that day and I even got burnt! So the grass was lovely and green and her bougainvillea was a stunning backdrop for the ceremony!”

Jen’s daughter Aretha was the sole wedding party member. As maid of honour, she chose her own dress “an off-white dress with a blue flower motif” shares Jen.

Obi’s choice of attire for the day? “Obi wore a striking blue suit with tan shoes and blue tie with cool Japanese wave socks, with a could’ve been pink shirt but was asked to change to an off-white shirt to match the bride…bad decision!”

Says Jen “Our ceremony was relaxed and intimate with only a couple dozen guests in person …oh ….and quite a few more on Zoom on the other side of the world!”

“Well we had a lot of mishaps which made it funny, ” admits Jen “with someone not showing up in time for their reading, with the celebrant not printing our vows as she said she would, and everyone looking for my handbag in the middle of the ceremony to find my vows, my sister pulling the clothesline closed in the middle of signing the certificates, to everyone looking for the rose petals before we ended the ceremony, but all of that really didn’t matter…. cause everything else was just perfect! The sun came out in full force and there was so much joy and love…it really felt like everyone joined together to help make this beautiful thing happen and we were so grateful!”

Ever embracing the casual vibe of the day, Jen found her dress, by chance, at an op shop. She tells the story “With four weeks to organise a wedding… and me being kind of a no-frills kind of girl… I had no idea where to look and was asking my friends/family for help… I found an awesome white suit in an op shop…but knew Obi would probably want me in a dress…
My sister found a whole stack of wedding dresses that a bridal shop had donated to her local op shop and so I went in there the next day and the shop assistant said they didn’t have any. I called my sister and she confirmed I was in the right place and I went back in and asked again. This time the manager overheard the conversation and came over saying that the wedding dresses had been bought in bulk that morning. She saw the look of disappointment on my face and took pity on me, saying “Well they haven’t gone yet. I guess one missing won’t make a difference..” So she was very kind to let me have a good look and try a few on. I knew I just wanted something super simple.

So I bought a brand new dress with the price tag still on for a total bargain! Let’s say my dress cost less than my shoes! And my dear friend Patricia who came with me is a seamstress and adjusted it for me! She was an absolute star! ”

For their backyard, first dance, Jen and Obi chose “In Love With You” by Erykah Badu & Stephen Marley.

With a day so much about family and friends, it makes sense the couple’s choice of photographer was also friendship based too! The pair explaining “Our dear friends Haley Richardson and Darren Van De Wint from the Beautiful Collective were our very special photographers! Haley has been Jen’s friend since they were 14 years old and so it was extra special to have them take photos as Haley knows Jen’s family from years ago. It just felt so relaxed and so lovely to have Haley & Darren take our shots and celebrate with us and indulge us with so many exquisite photos! We had so much fun running around at the beach nearby later too! Haley is not only a fabulous photographer but a fabulous friend to boot!”

Ever the planner, Jen wanted a warmer option, for when the chill hit – of course, she also found her wedding suit at an op shop! “As the days got closer to the wedding the weather prediction was getting worse- cold and rain…so I went back to that first place where I saw the white suit…thinking if it is still there I will buy it and change into it straight after the wedding so I will be warm- and it was!!! Again- another bargain! I was definitely being looked after!”