We met on our initial Naval officer training course. We got to know each other over about 6 months in beautiful Jervis Bay, NSW before committing to many more months ahead of long-distance across the country and out at sea due to our postings. Whilst it wasn’t easy, we always maintained that we’d rather be together and physically apart than not together at all – pretty topical during this current COVID context! From even early on, despite the distance, the relationship and bond just felt right. It was only a matter of time that we needed to be in the same place and same time to have a wedding!

Patrick planned all the elements for the proposal out on an Excel spreadsheet! We went for a little afternoon hike, nearly derailed by me rolling my ankle on the way to our picnic spot. Patrick set up a little picnic and then popped the question as the sunset! Immense joy masked the aching of my swollen ankle as we hobbled back to the car!

Patrick had two outfits for the wedding! He wore the ceremonial Naval summer uniform for the ceremony and switched to a Ted Baker tux for the reception. The Navy is a big part of our lives and wearing the ceremonial uniform for the ceremony really reinforced the significance of our marriage. (Also he looks very handsome in uniform!). He switched to a tux for the party!

My dress was by Aire Barcelona from Eternal Bridal in the Strand Arcade. I didn’t really know what I wanted initially, but after trying a few styles, I knew what I didn’t want though I could appreciate that so many of the dresses I tried were beautiful masterpieces in their own right – just didn’t seem to suit me! I chose my slightly fitted, wide strap, v-neck, fully beaded dress because I liked how it was simple but the beading made it feel special. I was told to make sure the dress doesn’t wear you, and you wear the dress – and I did feel this way about my dress. It was also comfortable and I could dance in it! In the end, mum help me choose between two final options – she agreed that this one was just right! They were all fantastic. Nichole Lee did our hair and make-up – assisted by Natalie. She had such a relaxed and funny energy that made us all feel at ease on the morning of.

We let Kat from Petal and Fern take creative license with the flowers! We gave her a brief of elegant, yes to natives but not too rustic, a simple colour palette of mainly white and yes to greenery – and she was amazing! Ultimately Kat knew the venue and when I met her once in person, she was so receptive to the ‘I don’t really know what I want!’ and was so helpful, it was a sense of relief to entrust her! Kat ran with the brief and let us be fairly hands off, she was easy to communicate with and just a lovely person too!

I walked down the aisle to Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”. We chose a Catholic ceremony and the solemnity really enforced the gravity of the commitment we were making to each other. As a Catholic ceremony, there was a lot of tradition and structure. It was celebrated by a close friend of the family, Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen, who I have known from childhood, and readings were done by family members. Whilst there isn’t so much ‘creative license’ in a Catholic ceremony, the following traditions and blessings bear sanctity and significance to us.

The chapel at HMAS Watson overlooks the cliff at Sydney Heads. It’s a beautiful spot in Sydney and which had sentimentality to us, so it was the perfect choice for our ceremony.

As our ceremony was at the HMAS Watson Chapel and reception at Athol Hall the Sydney Harbour ferries played an important part in getting us between the two!! We were just very keen to take the ferry across from Watson’s Bay to Athol Hall and the ride was so special and a wonderful part of the day. We love Sydney Harbour and being on the water, having the wind in our hair, and rushing around was really fun!

Our photographer Oliver Smith is a magician! With so many amazing vendors out there, it’s hard to choose, but Oliver was the first person I spoke to over a video call, and he was so friendly and warm. He had confidence and it was great to just entrust him with the task at hand and he was super excited and on board with our ferry idea! We thought it’d be awkward having intimate photos taken but Oliver made us feel comfortable – the best third wheel ever!!!!

It’s very very hard to pick a favourite photo from the day! Some of the ferry ones, with a backdrop of iconic Sydney, would be up there!

My maid of honour was Denise – a close friend from uni and a fellow dentist. Denise and I were often mistaken for sisters – something we see as a compliment! The best man was Marc – a long-time friend of Patrick’s with whom mountains have been climbed together – literally!

Athol Hall overlooks beautiful Sydney Harbour. Set in the National Park, there’s a relaxed grounded vibe. We chose it because it had the relaxed elegance we were after and we thought it would be especially beautiful for overseas guests to take in the view…unfortunately they weren’t able to come after all!

Our invitations and signage were created on the app Canva and printed out on Officeworks! My veil was secondhand off Facebook Marketplace (my something old!) and Nichole (my makeup and hair artist) cut it to length and pinned it on the day!! My mum also made little cookies for post-ceremony which were delicious, and she also made her famous traditional fruit cake for serving!

It’s really hard to pick my favourite part from the day. The whole day was quite special! Seeing everyone so genuinely happy with and for us was really heart-warming. Patrick says his favourite part of the day was, “Just Jess in general… and her Mum’s cookies were also delicious!”

We think our wedding was quite an elegant but relaxed affair. Getting to the reception and the reception itself was lots of fun – it was so nice to have so many of the people we loved there, smiling and having a great time! That was really important for us, that everyone was well fed and enjoyed themselves! While we joked many many many times about eloping, it was so lovely to have everyone celebrate our love!

We loved our first dance! We did 10 lessons with Rhiana and Kevin from Just Dance Cairns, a dance instructing couple here in Cairns, in the lead up to the wedding which was a fun reprieve away from day to day life stress! We chose a cover of Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” by Anderson East – a fun upbeat version! We did a whole mix of dance styles with some spins and lifts and dips – lots of fun!

There was also a lot of hemming to be done on my dress and it had a raw edge…consequently, as I was lifted and spun throughout our first dance tiny beads were literally flying off!! It was a bit funny but also slightly unnerving. It didn’t affect the overall look of the dress but the floor did feel a bit crunchy….

Invest in some dance lessons if you can – it’s really fun to work on something together where you can concentrate on just you both, and hard to procrastinate if you have it booked in.

Don’t stress about the small stuff – whatever you pick is going to be beautiful! Trust your vendors and don’t forget to enjoy your day! Don’t think too much about what will make others happy, they are there to celebrate you and they will be happy if you are!

The couple’s stunning wedding film was captured by Soulmade Stories.

Thank you Jessica & Patrick for sharing this magical day with us! And to Oliver Smith for the breathtaking images of their wedding.