It was amid the pandemic that caused endless lockdowns, uncertainties and changed plans, that today’s blissed-out couple Aileen and Nick, decided to go for it, and tied the knot in a surprise wedding, in their haven from the outside world – home.  “We loved that our wedding  was in our home,” tells Aileen. “So I’m always reminded of what we’ve done together. It was just about us and those who mean the most to us.  It was with people who helped shape our relationship, and were role models for us.”

The pair, who met while working at the same company, and became friends, took a few more years, of random bump ins and after-work events, to realise there was a solid connection.  Aileen remembers “Then, on a starlit night at a mutual friend’s farm, while trying to photograph the night sky, Nick tried to kiss me and I said… no. Our courtship began then. For our first date, we went to Art after hours at the Art Gallery of NSW.”

Fiona and Bobby Photography join the merry celebration, which featured deep red peonies as a nod to Aileen’s Chinese heritage, and just in time for The Polka Dot Issue, a glorious polka dot wedding gown. This story? With the expressions on the guests who thought they were arriving for an engagement party, is a must-see!

Nick popped the question, disguising his plan as a birthday surprise. “It was the week before my birthday, and Nick had set up a romantic lunch date at Chiswick at the Gallery” tells Aileen. “After we ordered, Nick brought out my birthday present, a little Tiffany box. I honestly thought it was earrings, we had spoken about getting married, but as Nick is divorced he wasn’t too keen on the idea and maybe lost faith in the institution a little bit. He was saying very sweet things, and I thought that was all normal. So you can imagine my surprise when I opened the box and it was an engagement ring and Nick asked me to marry him. I closed the box and asked him if he was serious!

I was told later on that a seaplane was involved but due to the torrential rain he had to cancel. I’m still waiting for my seaplane!”

The location? Aileen and Nicks’ very favourite place – their home! Aileen explaining “Our backyard was an oasis for us during lockdowns. It serves (and still does!) as a verdant background to a lot of our online meetings, including calls with family. It is a large outdoor space where friends and family could gather within the household visitors limit and still feel safe.

While I was looking for a larger venue, Nick and I decided one day that with all the uncertainty surrounding openings, closings, and isolation that we just take the opportunity where we know we wouldn’t have to rely on others to remain open. The best thing we did was hire Taylor from Airtasker to come and assist us, and luckily she is also a film tutor at a local university, and she set up the altar, aisle and video camera.”

Aileen shares “We DIY’d mostly everything! On Canva, I designed some stickers that were going on the confetti, the invitations, thank you cards and signage. Etsy was a great resource to get custom things made like candles for gifts and rose petal confetti. I’ll be honest – I hated wedding planning! All the little details seem insignificant when all you want to do is spend the rest of your life with your person, and just have a day when you make those promises to each other.”

Says Aileen “Our favourite part was the surprise on everyone’s faces as they walked in and realised it was our wedding. Nick’s dad didn’t register the signage and when asked, what do you think of the wedding? He said, ‘what wedding?!’. I was hiding in our bedroom getting ready, so I missed a lot of this and loved looking through Fiona & Bobby’s photos. They really captured the emotions on people’s faces.”

“Nick’s attire was very much Nick” notes Aileen. “A linen blazer, white cotton shirt, black chinos and his RM Williams, a gift I gave him for his birthday when we first started dating! He also had an orchid boutonniere, and his son had a matching one. Understated and elegant.”

You know, already how much we adore Aileen’s polka dot wedding dress. She found it at Rat and Boa. “I wore an off shoulder, polka dot dress from a brand called Rat & Boa. I agonised over this very non-traditional decision, but at the end of the day, we were having a very non-traditional wedding. I didn’t want anything fussy or over the top since it was a simple backyard wedding, but I also wanted something with impact and I would be comfortable in. Due to the lockdowns, I couldn’t get the dress hemmed up so I wore extremely high platform peep toes from Armani that I already owned.”

And for the finishing touch? A “something blue “To give a nod to my family overseas who couldn’t be with us, I wore my grandmother’s aquamarine ring, which also served as my something old and something blue.”

Aileen chose Robbie Cavanagh’s “Godsend” for her walk down the aisle, telling “We were running through our favourite songs and we loved the sound and the lyrics. My stepfather walked me down the aisle, he has been part of my life since I was very little and raised me as his own.”

The couple, who were married by Pauline Fawkner, wanted their ceremony to be as relaxed as the rest of the day. “We wanted it to feel like a family BBQ” tells the bride. “We wanted a really simple, easy ceremony promising to love each other and try our best to make our relationship the best it can be, accountable to our families and closest friends.

We made sure we included Nick’s son, my stepson in our vows so that he would know we would be a family and he is very much part of that.”

The couple only chose a few vendors, so it was important the ones they did choose, were a perfect match. Aileen telling of their chosen photographers “Fiona and Bobby were so warm and lovely – and that’s hard to do in emails! I loved the moodiness and drama their photographs have and it brought something special to capture the memories from such as simple day filled with so much emotion.”

“We didn’t have many vendors, but the ones we did use were such lovely people that they almost felt like part of the family by the end of the day. One detail I didn’t think about is where people would stand, and Pauline, Fiona & Bobby, and our Airtasker friend Taylor set up an aisle and a little program for the ceremony so people knew what to do.”

Aileen shares this advice to you. “You are a team, in everything that you do. From doing the dishes to big life decisions.”

Aileen’s beautiful deep red bouquet was styled by florist Rose & Co Florist. “Rose & Co florists were absolutely lovely and got what I wanted quickly. Peonies were always my choice for a bouquet. My family has Chinese heritage, and peonies symbolise a happy marriage and prosperity. Peonies also only bloom in November, so I thought that was a great way to be reminded every year of our wedding. The dark red peonies were surrounded by smokebush, something I had never seen before but really brought a sense of drama to the bouquet.”

The biggest of congratulations to you both Aileen and Nick! What a joy it was to be able to share your story. Thank you,  and thank you to Fiona and Bobby Photography for sharing today’s celebration with us.