Remember the lovely Renee from her handy COVID wedding planning tips post? We just knew you’d want to see the end result of their chaotic & amazing wedding planning skills to squeeze in their nuptials right before a lockdown set in! After planning their wedding twice already, when they got the news that a lockdown was going to yet again interrupt their day, the couple went into overdrive to get married right before restrictions prevented them from finally saying “I Do!” with their nearest and dearest. Sesame Ellis zipped in to snap their gorgeous wedding!

When Dean proposed back in February 2020, the world really hadn’t heard of COVID. We still went out for brunch, social distancing wasn’t a thing, and no one really wore face masks. Although it’s only just over 18 months ago, it seems like a different world. When we started planning, we knew our day would feature my teenage daughter and our dogs. We spoke about wanting an intimate wedding, where our guests would know how much we appreciated each of them. We wanted people to feel like they were part of our little bubble, celebrating with good food, good music, and good wine. A romantic and luxe vibe.

We set about sourcing a venue, and upon our first meeting with the team at The Farm, Yarra Valley we knew we’d found the place. A mid-size venue, with a luxury feel, but not overly fussy. We had visions of being married overlooking the river, with our dogs and daughter by our side. As COVID hit, we knew we’d probably have to change some things, and international guests were likely out of the question. However, with a date set for 29 May 2021, we really thought we’d be far enough out to be able to hold the wedding we’d dreamed of, and set about locking in vendors.

First up, we engaged Rachel Devine of Sesame Ellis. Rachel and I have been friends for years. Her photography style is relaxed and documentary – she rarely does weddings. But for us, she made an exception.

Between lockdowns in Melbourne, I sourced my dress and accessories from Raffaele Ciuca Bridal, found our celebrant, Love Leah, and booked our florist, Sassafras Weddings  The team at I Do Paws were to be our on-the-day dog whisperers, entertainment was booked through Unplugged Entertainment, and we started working with Pip Poppit on our design suite, which included all the graphic elements from invites and stamps to signage for the day.

As May drew closer, we added Always Eventive and the Photobooth Girl to help us bring our vision to life. Hair and makeup were booked with Justine O Make-up Artist, and accommodation for the bridal party was organised with the newly opened Sebel Ringwood. We ordered matching robes from Ada and Lou for the wedding party, and worked with Mad Alice on custom-designed Adidas sneakers for us to wear during the reception. We arranged some personalised face-masks, almost as a joke – a nod to the year that had been. The small details were falling into place.

Dean and his wedding party visited the Suit Concierge, ordering navy suits paired with forest green velvet bow-ties from Otaa. They also worked with his grooms-woman, to design a matching fitted suit, which she planned to pair with heels and a whole lot of sass. We ordered bridesmaid dresses from Velvety, opting for forest green maxi dresses in luxurious linen.

Like all couples, there was a certain amount of nerves as it got closer. But in our case, it wasn’t because we were getting married. We had watched COVID shut down our beloved city again in February, and as cases started to rise again, we were worried that we’d be impacted. By the Thursday before, we knew we’d be unable to have our wedding on Saturday. The news felt so unfair. So cruel. Not only could we not have our day, but we also couldn’t even commiserate with friends, as we all went back into lockdown. While we fully supported the reasons why lockdown had to happen, it was still devastating to have to contact everyone and let them know we couldn’t go ahead.

Our vendors were amazing. While the past year has been incredibly difficult for them, it’s made them well practiced in managing it with grace. We worked with them to lock in another date in June and we hoped for the best. A short pause. We could manage that. Unfortunately, our June date came and went, with weddings still not on the cards – so again, we hustled with the vendors to move everything out. We picked a date 6 weeks from our original one, in the hope that we’d be in a ‘sweet spot’ after this outbreak had been wrapped up, but before there was the chance for another one.

In early July, we were looking good. Our ever-patient designer had all our signs re-printed with the new date, and our venue updated our seating plan, as border closures impacted the guest list. I worked with two local dressmakers; Ginger Pins to do final alterations on my gown, and Claire’s Sewing and Embroidery to make a jacket with hand-sewn Swarovski pearls. We were hopeful. Confident, even, that this was it. This time, we’d be getting married.

And then the week of our third attempt, COVID came back. It felt like we’d be transported back in time 6 weeks. A bad joke. The worst kind of deja vu. Cruel and in-discriminatory, COVID didn’t care whether it was our wedding or not. A lockdown hadn’t been announced, but it was looking more and more likely. By Wednesday night, we had started to discuss the option of moving the wedding forward. It seemed like an unachievable task, but we reached out to some of our vendors, just in case. By Thursday morning, we knew we had to make the call. Either pull it forward and know it wouldn’t be perfect, but at least we’d be married. Or wait. At 11 am we made the decision. We were doing this TODAY. And we sprang into action, dividing and conquering to speak to each of the vendors. Every single one of them dropped whatever it was they were doing, and leaned into the challenge; pulling out all the stops to make sure we could have as much of our dream day as possible.

By early afternoon we were en-route to the hotel, and guests across Melbourne were leaving work to rush home and get ready. The next few hours were complete chaos, as we moved through hair and make-up, finalised plans for the ceremony and reception, and juggled calls from panicked guests, all while the clock ticked down.

We realised that we were going to be late, but our incredible team was all over it. They organised extra candles and festoon lights, as the sun went down. Our guests were served champagne, and our celebrant entertained them. Our florist managed to get a floral arbor up in record time, and the scene was set as we arrived at The Farm at 6 pm.

We wanted romantic and luxe. We wanted our guests to feel like they were in a bubble of love. It wasn’t how we planned it. It wasn’t what we dreamed of. But as I followed my daughter, my bridesmaids and our dogs down the aisle towards Dean by candlelight, surrounded by family and friends, just as the first drops of rain were falling, it was completely perfect.

As the rain came down in the dark, our guests were handed umbrellas, and our celebrant altered the ceremony on the fly, focusing on the vows we shared with each other, and our daughter. The important bits. Every person there – and many who weren’t – were sending us love and good wishes. Knowing the effort they’d all put in to make it happen, made it all that more special.

Afterwards, we dashed back into the warmth of The Farm, and partied as if we were about to go into lockdown. Funnily enough. We feasted, sipped cocktails, captured the fun in the photo-booth and danced the night away under our ironically appropriate neon sign. We face-timed my sister, who was stuck interstate due to border closures, and she managed to deliver her speech virtually. We did the nut bush, because some things never change.

At the end of the night our guests sent us on our way under a sky full of sparklers, and a shower of love,  just in time for the clock to strike lock-down. It really was the wedding that COVID couldn’t stop…

Renee & Dean, what an effort! We are SO happy that you, your loved ones, and your amazing vendor team came together to pull of this stunning wedding. And thank you to you both, and to Sesame Ellis, for sharing it with us.