The days of autumn can hold so much within them for weddings. While the skies are grey, and the rain can pelt down, they also hold the rich stunning tones, the warmth of crackling fires, of hot chocolate and mulled wine, of coming together in cosy spaces to celebrate love stories. And really what could be more romantic?

With all the photographic evidence captured by Hilary Cam, romantic is the name of the game for Martie and Luke, who chose the beautiful Southern Highlands for a wedding that honoured the country colour palette but also honoured everything that mattered to them both – their culture (they kicked the day off with a traditional Chinese tea ceremony) and all the well-overdue post-Covid celebration. “Our engagement happened after the first lockdown, our engagement party happened after the second lockdown in October, and then our wedding was pretty much the first big family event we were able to have after 2 years of separation” explains Martie. “We’re a close (but big!) family that is used to having festivals and celebrations like Chinese New Year together every year, but we haven’t had one for so long thanks to COVID. So when our wedding came around, it was such a joyous celebration because friends, and family all haven’t come together like this in such a long time. You could feel the energy, and goodwill every moment of the day despite the absolutely torrential rain. We felt very loved.”

Let’s start at the beginning though, Martie and Luke’s story starts on Grindr. “At the time, Luke lived at home in the Central Coast but worked in Bondi Junction” explains Martie. “When he got to Milson’s Point station, he pulled out the app, we matched and started chatting because I was at home in Kirribilli. Because Grindr gives you location/distance, I thought it was so weird that the more we chatted the further away he got… as if he was already running away from me!”

Luke was the one who popped the question, with Martie admitting that they both knew it was a possibility. “I did say that I wanted to be the one proposed to because I make tend to make most of the decisions in the relationship, I wanted him to make just one: to decide to spend the rest of this life with me.” He remembers “The proposal happened actually at a family getaway in October of 2020. The family trip of over 10 people was to celebrate and spend some time again together after the first COVID lockdown, and we missed hanging out with each other.

We booked a long weekend away to Mudgee. He picked the trip to propose because it was when I least expected it. It turns out the whole family was already in on it, and in every place we went to, they checked Luke for signals if THIS was the proposal spot. He got nervous the first day, so it didn’t happen, and by the second day, he still hadn’t proposed but kept looking for a nice location. When the day’s tour/wine tastings finished, we came home with the family and he immediately told me he wanted us to go somewhere to take sunset photos. Later he told me he knew he HAD to get me out as soon as we got home because otherwise I would change into my comfy trackies and he knew I would hate to be proposed to in my comfies… and he’s 100% right! Anyway, we went back to one of the wineries we visited during the day to take photos (we’re both photographers) at sunset. As I was figuring out the best angles to take photos, I turned around and there he was with a Tiffany’s ring box, asking me to marry him. It was very lovely, and definitely took me by surprise! We drove home to the whole family and house in happy tears, with champagne waiting. I couldn’t be happier.”

Martie and Luke kicked off the day with a traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony. Explains Martie “A lot of Chinese / Western couples may have two weddings: A western style ceremony & reception, and then a Chinese dinner another night. We combined the two by having a tea ceremony for our Chinese family and extended family on the morning of the wedding day.

This included a “games day”, where the groom (in this case, Luke) has to pass several challenges to be allowed to collect the bride from the family home. They are all in the spirit of fun, like “how well do you know your partner” quizzes, food challenges (eating sweet, sour, bitter, spicy food, symbolising the groom is willing to weather the good and the bad together), and even a singing challenge (that one is just for fun). For this, we even had matching Chinese outfits made specifically by our tailor from materials we got in Ashfield – her work was incredible!”

The couple had newlywed friends Nicollette (of Nicollette Klöver) and Astin style the blooms for their day.  “Our gorgeous friends Nicollette and Astin, who recently got married themselves, are wonderful florists, so we were very lucky we could lean into their expertise. This was lucky because at the time there were also lots of floods, so some flowers – white in particular – were rare. We had gum leaves, paired with some pretty unique flowers like Easter Daisies and Queen Ann’s Lace. So gorgeous.”

For the “western” ceremony, the grooms wore deep green jackets with beige trousers, telling “We’ve always dreamed of getting married in bespoke designer suits – perhaps a Tom Ford or Gucci. But when we looked at suits, we got the idea that instead of just having one suit, we would have an outfit change for the reception and change into Tuxes. That allowed us to have a more “day” look of a suit jacket and chinos, and still look sharp for the reception. Ultimately we realised that by getting good suit-tailored and personalised looks just as fresh and with half the price tag, we got to have a little more fun with our look!

Given the eucalyptus theme, we had some fun with our wedding suit, wearing a darker green jacket and bow tie, cream chinos and a white shirt. Bendooley also has such beautiful grounds, we wanted to compliment the outdoor setting. Even the flowers we picked were mainly pops of white.”

Opting out of a wedding party,  Martie & Luke instead chose to crown their team the “Groom’s Crew”. “Our close friends were our “grooms crew”; being a same-sex wedding, we got to redefine the setting and format of a wedding, without the shackles of tradition. That’s why our groom’s crew weren’t just a single sex: we both had two girls and a guy in our party and our “best person” were both women. This then made our “wedding party” dress much more interesting too – with the women and men all in matching suits contrasted with our wedding suits. This means a blazer and chinos for everyone, and their individual personalities and individuality got to shine through by picking the white tops that best flattered the individual. It was such a fun twist.”

Martie and Luke chose the beautiful country venue Bendooley Estate for their venue, the couple falling in love with the venue well before they were even engaged. Says Martie  “We chose Bendooley Estate because at the time we booked it, it was after the first lockdown, and things still felt a bit uncertain. With Bendooley, we could have a beautiful outdoor wedding, either in the rose garden, by the lake, or even in the winery if the weather (as it did) turned out to be very wet. We also stumbled on the venue together almost 8 years ago after a trip down to the snow with friends, and we wanted to add in a couple of days just by ourselves. We stayed at the accommodation there without knowing anything else about Bendooley, and on a morning walk, we discovered the book barn and fell in love. We have only just begun dating then, so I only just locked it away in my mind as a “maybe”, so when Luke proposed, it was at the top of my list to check out and see if it would work out. Lucky for us it did!”

One of the very special details of the day for Martie? “The fact that we could incorporate all of our nieces and nephews in the ceremony somehow. Growing up, we never saw same-sex couples allow to marry, so even though Luke and I have been together for over a decade at this point, it was really important to me to have a wedding. Not only because I love a party, but I also wanted to be able to show the next generation that our love is equally worthy of celebration and joy – like every other relationship they know.”

The grooms walked down the aisle hand in hand to a very special song. “There’s a society in New York called the Story Corps, which records real peoples’ stories and animates them. One of the most touching things I’ve ever watched was a story between Danny and Annie. Here is the clip and fair warning, it is a real tear-jerker anyway, one of the most memorable lines from this is “You walk in with me, you walk out with me”. Watch the video and you’ll see why that’s so beautifully heartbreaking. During the ceremony, we had a simple, acoustic vibe provided by the amazingly talented  Lauren Azar who sang acoustic versions of some of our favourite songs as we walked down the aisle. It was magic.”

Outside of that though, Bendooley is a pet-friendly place for the ceremony, so we had was our 10-year-old caboodle that we had together since day one be our ring-bearer. It was so adorable, she had a flower collar matching our flowers and the flower girls, and she had a little pouch with rings around her neck!”

Jo Booth., our wonderful celebrant created the perfect mood we wanted for the ceremony.” Shares Martie, “It was a celebration, it was fun and off-the-cuff, but it had the right moments of gravitas too because we wanted to make sure that it was also a serious commitment to each other. It was just perfect.”

There was music aplenty, tells Martie,  “I’m in an acapella group called Soulfood a cappella, and I was so grateful to have the 40-strong group come down and sing and be a part of the reception after the ceremony too.”

“Hilary and Nicola were incredible from day one” remarks Martie of the couple’s chosen photographers. “Not only are their portraits stunning, but their attention to detail and the way they captured the entire day from our items and outfits (the shots look like they are ready for an ad campaign, they’re so good!), through to the tea ceremony with our family, through to the ceremony and reception. They were a joy to play with every moment of the day, and the photos speak for themselves. Absolute legends. Luke and I have also photographed our share of weddings, so to know that they were a couple themselves and see their dynamic being similar to ours, it was a no-brainer hiring them!”

Martie’s wedding day advice is a must-read, and so important to print out and remind yourself of the daily. “It could rain. Your best person and dear aunt could get COVID and have to isolate two days before your wedding. Your flower girls may forget their flower crowns. But none of that matters, because at the end of the day, you are surrounded by your close friends and family and all the people you love – and you’ll stand there with THE one you love the most with you every step of the way. And it will be the most joyous occasion no matter what. Enjoy every second of it, because all you will remember is that you are loved. Nothing else matters.”

Martie was in charge of hand folding hundreds of paper cranes. “Given the space within Bendooley, it would take a lot of flowers to fill the ceiling space. So we had the idea of adding in something that was easy but stunning to add depth to the space. I ended up folding over 800 origami swans, made with pages from old books and love stories, and hanging them in the space. It turned out exactly like we hoped and we also popped them on the tables to tie the design in. Some guests and my nieces loved them so much they took it home to decorate their rooms and over a year later they still have it hung up around, it’s so sweet.”

Luke happily took over the decor and styling of the day. “He made sure there was a touch of green or contrast on absolutely everything from table settings to the invite from day one…” laughs Martie, “he even made a logo for the two of us and found a company that did custom neon lights. This is now a piece of artwork in our apartment! A fun tie-in he made with this logo is on our red envelopes. Because in Chinese tradition, it is good luck to give the new couple a red packet as a blessing, he HAND MADE red packets (including choosing the stock) and ordered a custom embossing stamp with our L&M logo to stamp on. We now have this stamp and use it on all our red packets and stationery! So lovely.”

These two give all the gold stars to every single one of their vendors. “I think of a successful wedding like the Avengers. Every single superhero has a specialty and focus, but by working together they are so much more than the sum of their parts. I feel like that’s what happened at our wedding. Every single vendor: from the venue to our performers and DJ, to the photographer and even our tailor really pulled out all the stops to create a Chinese outfit from scratch and helped make all our grooms’ crew look SLICK on the day. Everyone put in 120% and we couldn’t be more grateful. Oh, and a big shout-out to Alison from Tea Cup Events, who spent the afternoon setting up our delicately wrapped origami swans and hung them in the venue while we had our ceremony and enjoyed cocktails and canapés!”

Congratulations Martie & Luke! Thank you for sharing your beautiful day with us. Thank you both and to Hilary Cam for sharing today’s stunning day with us.