Get ready friends, because Mel & Chris’s wedding is split into two beautiful parts! A traditional Cambodian blessing, and a western ceremony (with ALL) the colour! And at the centre of it all, was an honour, and a moment, to pay homage to absent family and friends through carefully thought out personal touches throughout the days – says Mel “We had a lot of personal touches at our wedding which made everything so special. Having these special touches is what made the wedding day/s so meaningful to us and our guests. It had been a pretty emotional lead-up to the wedding with the loss of my dad in May 2022 and then a very close family friend only three weeks later (we got married in November 2022); we felt the absence of Chris’ parents too. The way we were able to acknowledge the people we were missing but still celebrate and bring our most important people together was magic and something neither of us will forget any time soon.”
Nikola Janev captured the two days of celebrations, which included plenty of culture and tradition. but also plenty of colour, fun details (a tower of Portuguese tarts anyone?) and those carefully thought out, moments of honour. This is a wedding full of layers, of stories, and of so much love.
After meeting at a gig in 207, it was an instant match for these two. “Mel’s friend Louis Valentine, from primary school, is the lead singer and Chris’ friend Lachlan was playing bass guitar in the band, The Golden Age, that night at a pub in Abbotsford.” And the best part? Louis Valentine even performed on the wedding day!
The proposal was a bit of a long time coming, remembers Chris “I had been carrying a ring for a while, looking for an ideal moment to propose, but didn’t want to force a moment until it felt right. A weekend away in Sydney presented some opportunities, but the weather was working against me. Taking advantage of a gap in the rain, I convinced Melissa to accompany me to the Harbour Bridge viewing area at the Sydney Opera House from the safety of our undercover restaurant area. While she was concentrating on the wonderful view, I managed to fumble the ring from my pocket and take a knee. After “Are you serious” and “Are you joking?” a “Yes!” emerged!”
Mel’s story of the proposal goes a little something like this. “We had a weekend away to Sydney (from Melbourne) planned; I had booked the flights and accommodation and thought it was just an exciting weekend of exploring. We went to The Grounds of Alexandria for brunch and it was grey and raining but we still walk around a bit before sitting down for our meal. Chris was being remarkably patient with my photo-taking and snooping around The Grounds! After this we went to the Opera Bar and watched from under the comfort of an umbrella and with a drink in hand, a couple of groups climb The Bridge in the rain wondering what they could see in the weather! Chris hadn’t seen the Opera House close up so as the rain subsided, we walked up the steps and had a perfect view of the bridge. I took a few pics and then heard a “Hey Melissa” and I turned to see Chris on one knee with a cheeky smile, holding a ring in a box. I immediately asked if he was “being serious” and then double-checked with a “are you joking?” before a definite “yes” and a bunch of tears! Engagement sealed with the ring on the finger and a big smooch! It was certainly a surprise.”
The celebration began with a traditional Cambodian blessing at Mel’s mum’s house. “My mum is Cambodian and it was important to Chris and me to acknowledge this culture and heritage as part of our celebrations. The Cambodian ceremony was a special tradition with monks chanting and wearing traditional clothes. The Cambodian ceremony was very special and a day we will never forget. To be able to include this element of culture was magical.”
The couple both wore traditional Cambodian dress for the blessing says Mel “I wore a beautiful pink/red gold flecked ankle length skirt with a yellow top and gold sash and jewellery. The top and skirt are wrapped and folded in a special way and takes several people to help dress you.” And for Chris? “The Cambodian outfit was entirely organised by my wonderful extended Cambodian family, with materials brought over especially. Quite possibly the largest traditional outfit ever made (I’m 194cm). Many fitting sessions were necessary.”
Mel and Chris were over the moon with their choice of Nikola as their photographer, a choice they made based on his experience and knowledge of cultural ceremonies says Mel “We chose our photographer, Nik because in the search he was the only photographer we found that had captured other traditional ceremonies.
Nikola Janev was amazing. We warmed to him immediately when we first met and very quickly developed a connection in the lead-up to the big days. Nik’s communication was regular and easy. On the wedding day(s) he just fit in seamlessly with the guests.
He spoke/wrote openly on his Insta and website about how much he enjoyed the opportunity to capture the traditional ceremonies and how important he thought it was to do so. When we met Nik for the first time, he was so warm, interested and welcoming we felt an instant connection. His enthusiasm and energy were so encouraging and engaging, Chris and I walked away knowing we had found the right photographer for us.”
For the western wedding, Mel worked with designer Tiff Manuell. “For the Saturday festivities, I also wore a skirt and top. The skirt was a beautifully hand-painted piece of art by Tiff Manuell. Tiff is an artist based in Adelaide and is mostly known for her colourful and unique clutches, wallets, purses and bags. I had seen that she also painted tulle skirts and I loved the idea of not wearing traditional all-white (I’ve never worn all-white in my life!)
I had a girls’ trip planned to Adelaide which just happened to be good timing – the two girls I was going with were the two I wanted to ask to be my bridesmaids. They thankfully said yes and I told them about Tiff and the tulle skirt and they were on board straight away! We went to Tiff’s studio to have a look at the skirts and get an idea of what they could look like. I left the studio pretty chuffed and sure this was the way I wanted to go so after looking at a few other options when I got home, I got back in touch with the team at Tiff and we went about deciding on the colours and what my vision was.
I provided some colour inspo and a bit of guidance on the type of brushstroke I liked (based on her other skirts) then handed the reins to Tiff to work her magic; about 6 weeks later I received my stunning, one-of-a-kind skirt!
I left choosing my top to the last minute – I struggled to find what I was looking for because the spring fashion hadn’t quite come out. I eventually, about 2 weeks out from the wedding, found the perfect one-sided silk top from Manning Cartel. They look so good together lots of people didn’t realise I was in a top and skirt! I found the most fabulous silver glittery shoes from Edward Meller and then had a pair of raspberry cut-out Rollies for the dance floor.”
Mel added special jewels from her mum and her father’s ring to finish her look.
For the Saturday wedding, Chris opted for a stunning green suit found at MJ Bale. He shares “I was wanting something with texture, and something other than black/grey. M.J. Bale provided a tailored green suit, with a simple white shirt. No tie! Pocket square and socks by Peggy & Finn, shoes from Windsor Smith.”
Day two celebration kicked off at Mel’s mother’s house with a first look in the garden. “The Saturday started at my mum’s house and we also did the first look here. This allowed us to have a pretty relaxed morning and capture some great photos with my mum, aunt and the wedding party at home. Chris and his groomsmen got ready at Breanna’s (my bridesmaid) place.”
A bright and beautiful wedding calls for bright and beautiful blooms, Mel and Chris hired Babylon Flowers. “They were recommended by our venue, Jamsheed but we didn’t lock them until we saw a wedding they did at Jamsheed on the socials. I liked the simplicity and clean lines. We visited their studio/shop and spoke about what we were looking for. The only instructions: “nothing too fragrant as I suffer from terrible hayfever”.
Kylie from Babylon was so easy to deal with and the flower arrangements she provided we beautiful. I shared the colour inspo and then once my skirt arrived, I sent through a photo for the colours and then Kylie worked her magic. To be honest, we let Kylie run with it.”
“After the first look, we took some wedding party photos by in some gardens close by and then Chris and I went to one of our favourite bars, Otter’s Promise, for photos and a drink. This is our local and they were so excited to see us on our big day.
By stopping at Otter’s Promise for a drink before the ceremony, it meant we could have some time together before the ceremony, just the two of us. And their reaction when we walked in was fantastic!”
Mel and Chris chose a favourite venue, Jamsheed, for their wedding. “Our wedding ceremony and reception were held at Jamsheed Urban Winery in Preston. Jamsheed holds a special place in our hearts and I think we both just knew that’s where we wanted to celebrate us. We used to live around the corner from Jamsheed and Chris discovered it only a few days after they opened in November 2019. We have since become quite friendly with the owners and it’s always a pleasure to visit for a wine; their food and wine are excellent!”
Mel walked down the aisle hand in hand with her mum. “Our friend Louis Valentine (from the band) played his guitar and sang “Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens/Yusuf. I chose this song because it’s the song my Mum to walked down the aisle to when my parents got married 35 years ago”
“We are pretty low-key and I was very happy to hand the reins over to the professionals once we had agreed on a vision or shared some guiding ideas. They’ve done this lots of times and the right vendors for you will give you the right advice/direction.”
The couple were married by Janine De Paiva. Mel telling “We wanted our ceremony to reflect us as a couple – low-key, fun and not too much waffle! We could feel the warmth and love from our guests as we exchanged vows and rings.
Chris’ brother, Jon, read Union by Robert Fulghum and our friend James, read The Beauty of Love by Anon. We like the messaging around these two readings talking about love and the future.”
“Our immediate families are quite small so it was important to us to have as many of our friends (chosen family) around us as possible. We were missing several very special people on the day, including my Dad and Chris’s parents, so it was important to us to capture a moment and find a way to symbolise the two families coming together. We had a little candle-lighting ceremony and it was perfect.” And do you spy that tower of Portuguese tarts? The couple opted to have Casa Nata whip up a tower of sugary delights over a traditional cake, and it remains one of Chris’ favourite parts of the day.
Even the first dance had Mel & Chris’ mark on it! “Our first dance was an original written and played by Louis Valentine (from the band). The Song is called “Can’t Stop Loving You”. It was perfect.”
Other fun parts of the night? 10 pm cheese toasties and a very special guest book. “We didn’t have a guest book, instead opting for polaroid selfies to be pinned on a board and we had a very cool neon sign “The More The Merrier” which we will treasure forever!”
Remembers Mel “I really loved that we had so much colour for our two days of celebration. And the moment I got behind the microphone for our speech to thank everyone, seeing all their faces – it really filled my heart and I could feel the love and joy from their energy.”
Mel’s advice to you is all about time and making it. “If you can, book an allocated time to talk all things wedding! I would say to Chris “we need to talk about XYZ and I’m booking your time tomorrow at 6 pm for an hour to talk about them” meant we didn’t feel we were always talking about the wedding. As we got closer to the day and had several decisions to make we would have a “date Sunday” and this helped avoid those bitsy, here and there conversations that can be difficult to keep track of.
It’s true what they say, the day flies by! Highly recommend carving out some quiet time with your partner throughout the night where you can. We had about 25 minutes after the ceremony but before the first dance and speeches, to a sit together, eat some food and have a moment. Our wedding party then joined us for a cheer which was unplanned but one of my favourite moments, and it was back to the party!”
A big, beautiful congratulations to you both Mel & Chris! What an honour to be able to share both of your wedding days. Thank you both and to Nikola Janev for sharing today’s beautiful celebration.
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