Michelle, a Hong Kong native who moved to Australia with her family in primary school, and Trent, a proud Kamilaroi man born in New South Wales, celebrated their love amidst the natural beauty of Dwellingup Forest in Western Australia. The couple’s desire for a wedding that felt intimate and reflective of their backgrounds was woven into every aspect of their special day. The native florals in shades of sage, burgundy, and blush pink, chosen for the décor, perfectly captured the essence of their natural surroundings. The wedding festivities, including a tea ceremony and door games, were a celebration of Michelle and Trent’s cultural heritage and personalities. The couple’s down-to-earth sensibilities were evident in the small luxuries and thoughtful details that made their wedding a true reflection of their love for each other. Their day was captured by Nick Thake Photography, and Michelle tells us about their love story & divine day…
Like many modern-day couples, we met through a dating app, back in April 2016. We instantly connected over our love of food and dislike of country music. We didn’t spend too long chatting on the app and set up a date pretty quickly so we could get to know each other in person. Though it was hard to set up our first date since Trent was working irregular shifts and I was regularly working overtime, we managed to meet up for after-work drinks at Bobeche on a Thursday night. Predictably, I was hungry so we stopped to get chips at Grill’d first. We soon fell in love and moved in together less than 9 months later. We have since gone on many wonderful adventures together.
After 4 and a half years, Trent proposed at the Old Barrington Quarry. I was convinced that Trent would propose during our road trip to Exmouth – I even had my nails done before the trip just in case and when I got back called one of my best friends to talk about how disappointed I was. Little did I know, Mel already knew that Trent had been secretly planning the proposal for months – and had arranged it for the week after the trip.
Trent organised a whole day treasure hunt, having crafted clues that led me across Perth meeting my friends and family along the way (including a picnic lunch at Kings Park). The final destination was a place where we had our first hike together, and we walked together to the lake for the proposal. Trent put together the perfect combination: intimate and private during the proposal but still involved my loved ones in the process.
It was important to me to have a tea ceremony to be officially accepted into each other’s family and pay respects to our elders. Trent’s family was unfamiliar with the tradition and very nervous! To make things easy, we had lai see envelopes ready for them to use and left out the Guo Dai Li 過大禮 betrothal ceremony.
We didn’t want the tea ceremony to be too formal and held it outside under a gorgeous tree, though we did keep the kneeling tradition. My mum decorated and made the tea which included dates and lotus seeds for fertility and a “sweet” marriage. My siblings ‘hosted’ and tagged teamed to ensure tea cups were washed with hot tea ready for each set of family members receiving the tea.
I was also gifted traditional gifts of gold bangles and a pig necklace (symbolising prosperity, abundance, and fertility).
Tim is one of our close friends and generously agreed to take photos for us at the tea ceremony as we only had Nick for the Sunday. Tim’s expertise is actually in videography, and he took the videos of the door games.
I used the first present Trent ever bought me which was a pair of pearl stud earrings from Tiffany & Co and I DIY’d the drop portion with another pair of earrings I already had and wore them on Sunday.
Our wedding weekend was on 23-24 April 2022, at Noble River Estate in Dwellingup WA. 23 April 2022 was an auspicious day for a wedding in the Chinese calendar so it was important for my parents to have the tea ceremony on that day. It was a perfect autumn weekend, clear skies with temperatures in the mid-20s and a light breeze. We were extremely lucky with the weather! It had been raining the week before so we panic-bought 24 umbrellas which never ended up being used (not complaining!).
Trent knew he wanted a tuxedo with a subtle twist. He chose a midnight blue tux and bowtie from Peggy and Finn with native flora motifs and cufflinks with Aboriginal art (both in navy) to pay homage to his Aboriginal background. For the tea ceremony, he chose a grey suit with red accents to compliment my red qun kwa. Both the tuxedo and suit were custom-made by InStitchu.
In addition to the tea ceremony we also had door games. This is usually done before the tea ceremony, but there wasn’t enough time to pack everything into one day, so we decided to have it as the lead into the first look. Door games are a Chinese wedding tradition that is essentially a set of games or challenges set up by the bride’s wedding party for the groom’s party to pass in order to get to the bride.
My party had a lot of fun making Trent and his team take part in challenges including: carving shapes out of dalgona cookies (inspired by Squid Game), twerking ping pong balls out of a tissue box, choosing the correct Chinese characters, walking in heels with a full glass and balancing a book. If Trent’s team failed a challenge they would have to take a shot of something sweet, sour, bitter, or spicy, which symbolises the 甜酸苦辣 – or ups and downs of marriage. There were definitely a few bribes to get out of the punishments! Also, Tiffany made an amazing ‘sedan’ that I hid behind so Trent wouldn’t be able to see me, but I could still see the door games unfold.
I had 3 different outfits! One for the tea ceremony, one for the civil ceremony, and one for the reception.
For the civil ceremony, I wanted to have a pre-loved dress but was torn between and fitted dress and an A-line dress. After trying on a few different styles at salons with my sisters, I narrowed it down to an a-line dress with modern floral lace and tulle. I had been keeping an eye out on Still White for months beforehand and the Madi Lane “Hadley” gown ticked all the boxes. Whilst trying on dresses, I was inspired by a dress with tulle shoulder detail and wanted to add it to my dress, so had my seamstress Michele Berwick from In-Stitches Alterations custom make a shoulder sash than flowed into a shoulder veil so the dress was truly unique to me.
For the tea ceremony, I initially got a floor-length high-neck red gown with a lace panel on the shoulders with the idea that it would be reflective of my Chinese and Western upbringing. However, about 6 months out I changed my mind and wanted something more traditional and went with a qun kwa 裙褂, which is traditionally worn by Cantonese brides in the Guangdong region, where my family is from. I am really happy I made that choice since I felt like a princess in it!
For the reception, I saw a qipao jumpsuit online a long time ago and it never left my mind. I also wanted something I could dance in and re-wear. To get it made, I bought a qipao and jumpsuit in the colour and fit I wanted and asked my seamstress to put it together. Michele did an amazing job!
The first look was important to us because we wanted to be able to say a set of extended and more personal vows in private and get the crying out of the way. It really settled our nerves to see each other before the civil ceremony and didn’t take away from the ceremony at all. I still cried again at the ceremony!
Our photographer Nick Thake has a relaxed and cheeky style that let us be ourselves and just enjoy the moments. He knew when to be the life of the party and when to blend into the background. He got along with everyone at the wedding and really added to the atmosphere. We loved the variety of shots he got, including drone shots and nighttime shots.
We had our civil ceremony amongst Karri trees and grass trees and it was magical. It started at 4 pm and sunlight perfectly filtered through the trees. The natural setting was important to us. Being on Wilman, Nyoongar land we made sure the celebrant started off with an Acknowledgment of Country.
We had contacted so many celebrants but didn’t find anyone that gave off the feeling we wanted until we met our celebrant, Gemma Dingle. She brought the perfect mix of sincerity and warmth to our ceremony. Our guests laughed and cried (and raved about how great she was afterward).
We gave our florist Sarah Lenz a couple of inspiration photos, colour scheme and said that we wanted natives. She blew us away with her work, we wish we had more time to look at them! We had a beautiful centerpiece on the arbour at the ceremony with small pieces on the aisle chairs and signage, and greenery on the long tables at the reception. The bouquets and boutonnieres were also perfect. We didn’t want the flowers to go to waste so donated them to a local nursing home the day after the wedding.
We did all of the décor ourselves and most of it was DIY or sourced second-hand. For the ceremony, we made the overhead bunting, reserved seating labels, and hand-punched confetti using eucalyptus leaves from fallen branches we found. It took us (well mostly Trent) over 100 hours in the 6 months preceding the wedding. Pro-tip: keep the punched confetti in the freezer so it doesn’t start fermenting in storage. We learned this the hard way! We also made the cones for the confetti.
We wanted an elevated ‘bush wedding’ – a venue set in nature that had enough space to cater for the multiple events and accommodation on site for most of our guests since it was over a weekend. Noble River Estate was the first venue we visited and we went to 2 others after that and stopped as nothing could compare. What drew us to it the most was the beautiful forest track that could be used as a ceremony space. Hiking and being in nature are very important to us so we wanted a ceremony space that would be reflective of this and the natural landscape of the region we live in.
The reception was on a veranda, undercover but still open to the fresh country air. It was the perfect canvas for us to create a moody intimate dinner setting.
Our wedding party was Trent’s siblings, Shannon (older brother) and Janarri (younger sister). Originally I had my sisters Bianca and Tiffany (both younger sisters) but Tiffany got covid 3 days before the wedding so there was a last-minute scramble to reorganise a few things. I ended up asking Warren (my younger brother) and Mel (one of my best friends) to be part of the wedding party. Yes, it took 2 people to replace Tiffany! She was sorely missed. Most of the wedding party lived out of state or internationally so we had to have a few video calls and extensive run sheets in planning.
One of my favourite details was that despite having very different fashion styles, my sisters and I all own the same Doc Marten boots. Since we were going to be walking around the grounds on rough surfaces, it made sense to wear matching boots! Since Tiffany couldn’t end up coming, she lent them to Mel and luckily they fit (with the help of some thick socks). Now whenever I wear my boots in my daily life, I have the beautiful memory of the wedding to go with it.
For the reception, we made the fringed sage cheesecloth runners and Trent designed and set up the tulle ceiling and greenery installation with glass baubles the night before with the help of the family (it took hours!). The candles and vases for the table setting were obtained second-hand.
Trent made the wooden arrow signs out of recycled pallets and I painted and designed all of the signage including the welcome sign, arrow signs, program, seating plan, and wishing well. I also made the menus and wax seals with the double happiness symbol on them. To put them together Bianca and Warren came over and we had an assembly line – I cut out the menus, Warren folded the napkins and Bianca tied them up with jute string and sealed them with the wax seal.
Since we were having family feast-style dining, we bought wooden planks and baskets to set up ‘risers’ on the long tables to create more space for shared plates to be placed in the middle. We chose this style of dining because it reflects the way we prefer to eat – whenever we eat out we always order multiple dishes to share!
One of Trent’s favourite details was that he brewed 2 different beers for the occasion (an Amber Ale and a Pacific Ale) and bottled them to drink at the reception. To top it off, he designed the beer labels, complete with a logo and background story of what went right and what went wrong during the brewing process.
It took a lot of planning but the venue looked exactly how we wanted. We are so grateful we had family and friends to help out. We had to bring so many things that we had to hire a truck and our friends Mel and Tim drove it down for us. While I was getting ready, one of my best friends Crystal made sure the reception area was set up the way we wanted.
We wanted a fun and upbeat dance and decided to do a swing dance for our first dance. We practiced at home for months watching youtube tutorials (neither of us had any dance experience!) then took a handful of dance lessons with Azza from Swingtopia in the few months leading up to the wedding. We ended up doing a lift at the end and had so much fun. We danced to “This Will Be (an everlasting love)” by Natalie Cole.
For dessert instead of having cake, we had Chinese red bean dessert soup which is one of my favourite desserts and a tradition for Chinese weddings. My cousin owns a restaurant and made it for us, which we are very grateful for. It also had the added bonus of warming everyone up – the night got cold quickly and everyone was wearing the blankets we provided!
When we set out to plan the wedding, we had the ultimate goal of making sure our wedding reflected us, and that our guests felt comfortable and had fun. This helped us focus our budget. We also made a new email for all things wedding-related that we both had access to and used Trello to project plan.
Wedding planning was an enjoyable experience for us – initially, there were a few arguments but once we came together and communicated as a team it set us up for our partnership going into marriage and beyond. Also, don’t be afraid to cull things in the week leading up to the wedding, we got rid of so many things on our to-do list that were unnecessary and it took lots of stress off us.
The entire weekend was amazing but when it comes down to it, it was having our family travel from afar to come to celebrate with us that made us feel so special and loved. Out of our initial guestlist, ~50% lived outside of Perth, and out of the guests who made it ~30% lived outside of Perth. In ‘normal’ times we would already be grateful but at the time of our wedding there was also the added difficulty of WA state borders being closed a month before the wedding so the commitment and effort everyone made was even more special to us.
Their wedding video was also filmed by Nick Thake.
Most of our guests could stay on-site in the cabins at the venue which made logistics a lot easier for everyone. For the recovery breakfast, we had family and friends helping out in the kitchen and packing up. Trent brought down his espresso machine (he is a bit of a coffee snob) and made so many coffees he knows he never wants to be a barista! It was nice to see everyone in the morning before we headed off.
We had a minimoon straight after the wedding and stay at Empire Retreat in Yallingup for a few days. We did nothing but eat and relax and it was a well-needed rest! We will be going on our honeymoon in February 2023 to Finnish Lapland to see the aurora borealis, Barcelona for carnival and meet up with some friends, then Hong Kong to meet Michelle’s family (most of whom couldn’t make it to Perth), and have tea ceremony no. 2!
Thank you to Michelle & Trent for sharing their glorious wedding, and to Nick Thake Photography for sharing their beautiful images from the day.
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