There is no doubt in our minds, that the wedding of Valarie and Jeff had one very important thing at its core – family. Because this is a day where their family, their friends, and their favourite people enveloped them in love, and it is evident in every single beautiful image captured by Lilly at Dawn.

The day itself? A laidback, tropical seaside vibe, and a mood that was utterly relaxed. A last-minute venue change (COVID, but of course) still managed to reflect the vibe they wanted to create. “We wanted a wedding that was friendly and fun” explains Valarie. “We requested that guests dress in ‘smart, casual’ attire to reflect a warm and comfortable atmosphere.”

The couple’s story begins on a spontaneous Fiji-turned-Yamba holiday. In Valarie’s own words “Lee-Anne (Jeff’s sister) and I were looking forward to a holiday in Fiji but unfortunately, this did not eventuate. Instead, Lee-Anne suggested we travel to Yamba, where her mother and brother live.
Jeff invited Lee-Anne, his mother and me to dinner at his house. Whilst Jeff was pouring me a glass of sparkling, our hands accidentally touched. I recall that a feeling sprang deep within me.  Upon returning to Sydney, I did something quite out of character and that was to seek Jeff on Facebook…this was the beginning of our romance.”

The proposal, beautifully romantic, honoured the life they have built together. “We began building our dream home in May 2020 on one of the canals in Yamba. On the morning of the house being surveyed, I returned to the car and found an envelope on the passenger’s seat. Thinking that Jeff had written a card to congratulate us on starting the building of the house, I opened the envelope and found a card with a rainbow on the front. Then I read the following message inside: “This is my short love story. I love you from beginning to end. Will you marry me?” A gasp followed and then through some happy tears, I said, “Yes!”.

Let’s kick off the attire details with Jeff! He wore pieces from Tommy Bahama. “With an easing of Covid restrictions, we were able to shop at the Sydney Tommy Bahama store for Jeff’s outfit. The brand was a perfect choice to fit in with the relaxed, smart casual vibe they were wanting for our wedding. The final choice of outfit included: a floral linen shirt; blue and white pinstripe trousers in a seersucker fabric; a cream-coloured jacket in a linen and silk blend material; and tan shoes by Sperry.”

The party started early! “One of our favourite moments of the day was a gathering of family and close friends at our home before the ceremony. The photographer Bonnie Sevil from Lilly at Dawn captured this intimate affair beautifully. She moved about unnoticed to capture many memorable moments of people talking; laughing; drinking, and enjoying themselves. Later, some formal photos were taken in the courtyard area of our home. We felt overjoyed that so many of our family and friends made a huge effort to travel to Yamba to witness the marriage. Most family and friends stayed on for a few days following the wedding to continue celebrating.”

Valarie wore a beautiful pale blue Camilla dress with a matching headscarf. She tells “Due to the Covid lockdown at the time, the search for a wedding dress had to be done online. At her niece’s suggestion, I looked at the Camilla website. There were many gorgeous dresses in various styles and fabulous prints. A maxi, off-the-shoulder dress in the Fraser Fantasia print was chosen. The fabric was of the softest silk with a floral print in muted tones on a very pale blue background. Crystal embellishments were scattered on the dress. It was the perfect choice for the relaxed atmosphere we wanted for our wedding.”

Valarie and Jeff held their ceremony and reception at Yamba Golf & Country Club. Tells the bride  “Originally, we wanted the wedding to be held at our waterfront home, however, Covid restrictions precluded this idea. Fortunately, we were able to secure the Deck at the Yamba Golf and Country Club. This newly renovated club area was ideally suited to the relaxed atmosphere we had envisaged. Eryn Hammond, the Functions Coordinator, worked closely with us to ensure we had the wedding had wanted.”

Valarie was walked down the aisle by her daughter, to the sounds of “Annie’s Song” by John Denver, arranged by Vikingarna.

“Walking down the aisle with the bride was the ‘ring guy’ Harrison (Jeff’s 6-year-old grandson); Tania and Lionel (the bride’s sister and brother-in-law); and accompanying me was my daughter, Veronica.” members Vanessa.

“Harrison’s outfit was from the Industrie Kids brand and was purchased from Myer and David Jones in Sydney. He wanted to be dressed “just like Pa”.  Tania wore a gorgeous one-shoulder jumpsuit by Camilla in the Tree of Life print. Lionel was dressed in a pink shirt by RM Williams; his maroon-coloured shorts were by The Original Lizzard Brand Co; his cream-coloured jacket was by Double Oak Mills and his maroon coloured shoes were by Sperry. Veronica wore a white linen shirt; slim style, tartan print pants by Dangerfield; and black Dr Martens boots with red detailing.
Accompanying the groom were Kerrie and Brad, Jeff’s friends for over 50 years from high school. Kerrie wore a pretty floral wrap-around dress and Brad was dressed smartly in light-coloured trousers and a white linen shirt. Alison, Jeff’s daughter, was dressed in a blue shirt; black shorts and a brown, flecked jacket.”

“The celebrant we chose was Meg Dougherty of Married By Meg. Meg’s input was greatly appreciated by us” remembers Valarie. “From the outset, we wanted a fun and relaxed wedding. Meg’s friendly yet professional manner ensured that everyone felt at ease.

There were two readings during the ceremony. The first was “Love is a Temporary Madness” from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres. It was read by my sister Tania. The second was “The Chaos of Stars” by Kiersten White and it was read by my daughter Veronica. These readings were chosen by us as the sentiments of the words closely describe our relationship.

Whilst we were signing the register, the guests were entertained by Alison and her partner Sarah. They sang beautiful renditions of “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse and Flame Trees by Ian Moss. Alison is a singer in the cover band South Street Trio.”

As with every role of Valarie and Jeff’s day, even the ring bearer role was an important one, Valarie explaining “The wedding rings were carried down the aisle by our ‘ring guy’. This was Harrison, Jeff’s 6-year-old grandson. Harrison performed his duty seriously and carefully not faltering at all when he was asked to present the rings. We, and of course, & his mums, were very proud of him.”

The floral arrangements, Australian natives, were put together by Yamba Florist. “I wanted the bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres, and arbour arrangements to be made up of a mixture of natives and proteas.” explained Valarie, “Debbie May of Yamba Florist did an excellent job of creating beautiful flowers.”

Time for cake? Valarie and Jeff chose Cake Me Away From Here to make theirs! Telling “Alice did a marvellous job of  baking a delicious cake and decorating it as we wanted.”

Valarie and Jeff loved the work of their photographer Bonnie. “We looked at various websites and chose Bonnie because we felt that she would be able to reproduce the fun and relaxed vibe that we were wanting for our day. Jeff, who has some knowledge of photography as he has completed many courses was very impressed with Bonnie’s skill at capturing light in her photographs. Some of the outdoor photos of us in the latter part of the afternoon are our favourite and feature on the cover of our wedding book.”

The bouquet toss and garter removal? Some of the funniest moments of the day. “Every moment of this part of the evening was captured by the photographer and features across four pages of the wedding book that Valarie has put together. From beginning to end, the guests were cheering and laughing as Jeff proceeded to remove the garter with his teeth! Valarie also could not stop guffawing! When the garter was thrown to all of the single males (most of whom were under 10), Harrison was the lucky one who caught it and then wore it as a headband for the rest of the evening.”

The first dance plans? Rather last minute! “We had never danced as a couple before practising in their home on the morning of the wedding! It turns out that Jeff is a very good dancer. We chose the song “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole and Natalie, and to the cheering and clapping of our guests, the newlyweds had their first dance.”

A big beautiful congratulations to you both Valarie & Jeff. Thank you so much for sharing the stories of your day with us! Thank you also to Lilly at Dawn for sharing today’s beautiful celebration.