“Our aesthetic could be described as ‘maximalist’ – more is more! ” Venetia and Conor went all out on their wedding day. The couple choosing the stunning, historic (and dramatic) venue of Sydney University for their wedding day that was filled with flowers, touches of gold and everything they adored! “We love to build our eclectic collection of things, with a penchant for anything old, weird, and wonderful, and we incorporated this into our wedding styling in every way we could. We were especially inspired by the floral paintings of the Dutch masters and tried to emulate that wild (and somewhat chaotic) beauty in our styling.”
And as the flowers came to life, the bride’s unique wedding gown embroidered with moody toned flowers was sewn and the plans were laid, the spell was cast. The couple waking to a stunning Sydney Autumn day. “Autumn is such a beautiful season in Sydney with its mild temperatures, stunning colours, and dramatic light”, photographers Birch & Wattle behind the camera and wedding planners Girl Friday Weddings at the ready. This was a day of dreams.
Tinder first led their paths to cross, the pair hitting it off over their love of a good drop and good music. “We met the new-old-fashioned way (Tinder). Our first date was at Mary’s in Newtown where we bonded over fine wine and loud music. We are both academics (though Venetia is also a wedding celebrant) so we already had something to talk about but the conversation came naturally and from the first night we met we became nearly inseparable. Today, our lives can get really busy and there are days and nights where we sometimes get little more than a quick hello so we really love having some time when we can ‘cocoon’ ourselves from the outside world and be just for each other.”
And of course, if you get the impression that nothing Venetia and Conor do is traditional, you’d be right, the pair becoming engaged by mutual agreement, and matching tattoos! They tell “A conventional proposal was never going to be part of our story. Discussions about what we wanted for ourselves and our future led to a mutual decision that we wanted to be together forever and to celebrate our love and commitment with a fantastic party and all our favourite people.
To mark this decision, we got matching tattoos of blue-banded bees (Venetia’s only tattoo, but one of many for Conor). We chose bees because they have been a motif throughout our relationship, and we have a shared love of nature, plus the blue-banded bee is native to Australia, adorable, and has no sting! We used the image of the bee on the wax seals that closed the envelopes of our wedding invites and made sure they popped up in a few other locations on the day such as a groom’s men’s tie, in decorating artwork, on the menus, and on the beautiful necklace, Conor gave Venetia on the day. We also gave out miniature jars of honey as our wedding favours!”
The groom’s glam look started with a patterned jacket from Jack London. He tells “I wore a jacket by my favourite brand Jack London that we got on sale for an absolute bargain. Black velvet with a satin collar, and a subtle rose pattern with burgundy highlights. This was teamed with a crisp white shirt with burgundy buttons, a black waistcoat, white pocket square, black suit pants, and black brogues I picked up on a trip to Rome. A simple black tie was embellished with a vintage tie pin Venetia gifted me with the Claddagh design (two hands holding a heart with a crown on top) which symbolises love, loyalty, and friendship and honours my Irish heritage.”
“We were lucky to have so many wonderful people at our wedding party. Conor’s brother Adam, his oldest friends Jake and Ali (Ali flew in from the US especially), and his great mate Vander all wore matching Jack London jackets in black satin with a subtle rose pattern to the fabric, similar to that on Conor’s velvet jacket. Ombre burgundy ties and socks teamed with our general colour scheme.”
Venetia wore the most incredible gown, a stunning floor length frock by Helen Forster adorned with embroidered flowers. She shares “I always knew I wouldn’t be getting married in white, but other than that I had never spent much time thinking about wedding dresses. When it came to shopping for one I was at a total loss! It soon became apparent that I would be getting one made, and had my maternal grandmother still been around, I know she would have made me something spectacular – she made my mother’s wedding dress and sewed incredible costumes for me and my sister when we were children. Unfortunately, we have not inherited those skills, but I was lucky to find the wonderful Helen Forster while I was living in Wellington, NZ who helped me design and create a magical dress with fabric my mum found in Paris – blush with embroidered flowers of burgundy and gold.
I was inspired by the elaborately embroidered fabrics of Indian sarees, styles of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and designers like Ziad Nakad and Elie Saab. Helen and I hand-beaded floral appliqués on the gown and added sparkles and sequins for extra dimension and drama. I used the leftovers to create a matching headpiece modelled on the Russian kokoshnik. Hand beading floral appliqués for my wedding dress and headdress was a nice way to stay creatively connected to the wedding planning process while I was living in a different country! I like to craft but this was a new experience – I think I was still hot-gluing some final touches while my hair was getting done on the wedding day!”
“Venetia’s sister Billie wore a wine-toned velvet gown, and her bridesmaids Julia and Annabel wore chiffon gowns in a matching shade. Her bridesman, Michael, had a Jack London jacket in black velvet with the same tie as the groomsmen. A few months later Michael and Annabel welcomed their beautiful son into the world!”
The couple shared a first look at QT Hotel Sydney. Says Venetia “Conor got ready in our hotel room at the QT in the city and Venetia got ready at her family home in Balmain. We love the art and architecture of the QT hotel and its surroundings so we chose their lobby for our ‘first look’.”
Venetia and Conor held their wedding in various locations around The University of Sydney. “Our ceremony was in the MacLaurin Hall at the University of Sydney, our cocktails and canapés served on the Botany Lawn, and our reception was in the Great Hall. For Venetia, who was a student and an instructor at the University of Sydney, this was a bit like getting married at work, but the gothic architecture of the University’s quadrangle is truly enchanting. It was also a nice way to acknowledge both of our academic careers, and create new special memories in an historic location.”
“Our whole wedding party got a chance to walk the aisle! Conor and his groomsmen came down to Albinoni’s Trumpet Concerto in D Minor and Venetia and her party walked to The Flower Duet from the opera Lakmé by Léo Delibes. It was a wonderful touch to have the classical music and opera performed live. Conor’s first time meeting Venetia’s parents was at the opera, and it has become a family tradition, so it was a full-circle moment for one of our favourite pieces, The Flower Duet, to be sung live as the bridal processional.”
“We had to plan a lot of our wedding from separate countries. Venetia had taken a short-term job in New Zealand, but Conor had to return home to Australia to help care for his terminally ill father. This made the experience of planning the wedding truly bittersweet – we wanted so much to have Conor’s father Brendan there for our special day, but sadly he passed away a few months prior. As difficult as it was, it spurred us on in a way as a reminder that we must celebrate the love we have in our lives while we can, and to appreciate every moment we get to share with those that matter most.”
Venetia remembers “A lot of our guests still talk about the way a beam of light shone like a spotlight on us during the ceremony. People even asked if it was intentional, but I can guarantee it was not – it was shining right in my eyes so I was squinting for most of the ceremony! However, in the photos, when you can’t see me squinting, that shaft of light does look breathtaking.”
“The ceremony was beautiful and touching. Looking out at the smiling faces of our friends and family at such an emotional moment was elating.”
Venetia actually wrote the ceremony herself! The couple chose Ben Ager to make their vows official. They tell “Venetia had just become a registered marriage celebrant around the time of our wedding and so she was really excited by the opportunity to write her own ceremony! It was important to us to have our family acknowledged as part of the ceremony, especially since the absence of Conor’s father was felt so strongly. Conor’s mother, and Venetia’s mother and father gave an affirmation and hugged both of us at the start which was a lovely shared moment.
We had two readings, one was a poem by Johnny Cash, and the other by J.R.R. Tolkien.”
“We were so lucky to have clever, skilled, and generous friends around us to help us make our wedding that much more special. At the last minute we had people driving all over Sydney, picking up ice, photos, printing – whatever we didn’t have time to get ourselves, and without them we would have been lost! We had friends and family travel across the world to be there – from America, England, Sweden, New Zealand – we were so touched (and lucky to be having our wedding pre-pandemic!).”
These two loved the photography duo they chose. “They did a great job at being both non-intrusive at the right time and providing direction when it was needed.”
The couple gives you this advice. “Weddings, whether big or small, are work! And, no matter how hard you try, there are always things that may not work out. At the end of the day, all that matters is that the two of you have each other. However, it does not hurt to have a professional organiser take some of the pressure off!”
“We included many nods to things that were special to us throughout the day which perhaps no one else would have noticed! We’re not-so-secret nerds so we had a poem written by J.R.R. Tolkien, written for his wife Edith, as one of our ceremony readings and our entry song for the reception was the “Cantina Song” from Star Wars because it’s great and so is Star Wars.
Our cake cutting song was “Slice of Heaven” because we are also massive dags and love this song to death. A wee acknowledgment of Venetia’s Scottish heritage came in the form of our friend Gordon playing the bagpipes to lead our guests from the ceremony space to the Botany lawn for cocktails and canapés.”
Don’t get them wrong, these two still made sure to add their own handmade touches! “Venetia’s mother Fran is an exceptional amateur party-planner and played a major role in making our day everything that it was. She even picked up extra plinths and vases so that we could have even MORE flowers! Totally worth it.
Two of our mates helped construct a tripart foldable wall for us to hang family photos from. We ordered a wallpaper of a Dutch still life floral painting and they sealed it onto a hinged set of three panels which we could then hang photos from with some fairy lights as the backdrop to our signing book.”
To help bring their day together, Veneita and Conor hired wedding planner Girl Friday Weddings. The bride counting it as the best decision of the day. “Sarah from Girl Friday Weddings was a last-minute addition to our vendor list but probably the most necessary! It was a huge relief to have her on board to help organise the event and to have such a cool-headed influence close by to make sure all the moving parts of the day worked together!”
The couple hired in plenty of pieces to bring their reception vision to life. “The MacLaurin and Great Halls at Sydney Uni are the kind of venues where you need to bring in everything so we had to hire tables, chairs, knives and forks, the whole shebang! To fit with our aesthetic we hired the stunning vintage crockery and glassware collection from The Vintage Kitchen for our reception dinner, with banquet tables, chairs, lounges, candelabras and other props from Divine Events. The table settings, with our Dutch-inspired florals, autumnal fruits, electric candles, and vintage tableware were a fantasy come to life!”
I know you will agree flowers are one of the most breathtaking parts of this day, the couple choosing Trille Floral. “We wanted to bring some of the worlds of the still life Dutch masters into our own floral arrangements, though this is technically impossible – the masters would paint arrangements made up of flowers that could not, in fact, all be in bloom at the same point in time! But we love flowers, and the way this tradition throws together prized tulips and elegant roses with wildflowers, wheat, weeds, and the odd vegetable is so striking and perfectly imperfect. Our wonderful florist, Cara from Trille, did an amazing job at bringing this to life with large and small fruit and floral arrangements in mixed-cut crystal vases on the tables. The colours of the unique blooms Cara selected complimented the beautiful stained glass in the Great Hall in a way we could not have envisioned! We also had Dutch florals on our wedding stationery (invites, menus, seating chart).”
A Maximalist wedding requires not one, but three cakes. “The delicious custom cakes were made for us by a family friend and founder of Aplenty Catering, Michaela Johansson.”
The bride slipped into a shorter, brilliant red dress for the first dance. “Helen made me a 1950s-style party dress for dancing from some merlot taffeta we had lying around but in hindsight, this was not an ideal fabric – as soon as I raised my arms for our first dance the taut material ripped!”
The pair twirling on the dance floor to a serenade by one of the bride’s dear friends. “We love to dance but it turns out this does not translate into a well-coordinated, romantic, and impressive first dance… we took lessons for weeks, trying out different songs but some of the higher energy classics we loved were a little too challenging! We ended up choosing “My Baby Just Cares for Me”, a jazz standard that was perfectly performed by one of Venetia’s oldest friends, Miriam Waks, who came all the way from New York to serenade us!”
It was the moments together with their guests that really made the memories of the day stand out for Venetia and Conor. “The ceremony was beautiful and touching. Looking out at the smiling faces of our friends and family at such an emotional moment was elating. Getting on the dancefloor with the same people took it to the next level! The photos and footage of our guests busting moves while our band The White Tree went off are truly excellent. By the end of the night, a few of our guests even got on the mic and treated us to an impromptu song or two.”
A big congratulations to you both Venetia and Conor! What an honour it has been to share your special day. Thank you both and thanks to the photography duo Birch & Wattle for sharing today’s celebration with us.