The one thing Celia and Ioane were sure about when it came to their wedding was the inclusion of Ioane’s Samoan culture. The accidental part of their wedding? The complete botanical theme, from venue to flowers to decor – their wedding took on a form of its own, and they couldn’t have been happier.

These two love birds didn’t need the help of Tinder; they met the old-fashioned way – by chance at a nightclub. Ioane was the security guard at a club Celia was visiting and met through Ioane’s colleague before running into each other again months later and hitting it off.

Their proposal, on the other hand? It was anything BUT chance. Ioane had set up a beautiful surprise beach proposal! “We went away for the weekend to Avalon and decided to go for a walk along the beach one night before dinner. I wanted to take the most efficient route along the beach towards dinner, but Ioane insisted we take the longer route. As we walked along the beach, I saw lights laid in the sand up ahead and two little girls playing around them. I assumed it was locals enjoying Saturday night on the beach. As we got closer, I commented on how nice it looked, and Ioane suggested we go to have a look. As we got closer, I saw the lights were in the shape of a heart and had the words ‘marry me’ laid out above it! I turned to Ioane, and he was down on one knee!”

Fiona & Bobby took charge of the photography for this wedding, with cinematography done by CloudHerd Film Co.

Ioane had always known he wanted to wear a suit that shined brighter than everyone else’s and knew from very early on that he wanted it to be maroon. The other thing he was sure of? That he would be incorporating traditional Samoan accessories. He had this immaculate suit custom-made by Brent Wilson in Sydney. “The experience was very smooth, and the staff were excellent.”

His wedding party included five of his cousins and one of his friends. They were left on their own to coordinate themselves, with the instructions to incorporate maroon and Ioane’s Samoan heritage into their outfits.

Celia wore this beautiful gown by Christina Rossi in Leichhardt. “It was the second shop I went to with my mum, and this dress was the third or fourth dress I’d tried. When I had it on, it felt light and comfortable and complimented my body shape. I wasn’t sure about the sparkles at first, but after trying on a similar dress without the sparkles, I knew I needed the sparkles,” she explained. “To make sure it really was the one, I went to another shop a few days later but didn’t find anything I liked better. I did discover that I liked a one-shoulder dress, so I had the dress modified to have only one shoulder. The experience was very smooth and quick, after visiting only three shops! Although the wait for the dress was a bit stressful because it was during COVID, it arrived on time with no issues.”

Within her wedding party, Celia had three of her close friends, all wearing these silk cream gowns from Shona Joy. She was meant to have four bridesmaids, but unfortunately, her best friend of nearly 20 years was stuck in London because of COVID.

If there was one other thing Celia and Ioane knew about their wedding, it was that they wanted to be married outside under a tree – which is why the Sydney Botanical Gardens was the perfect venue. “We actually ended up with an accidental botanical theme for our wedding. Other than that, our main goal was for our family and friends to have a great time and to feel the love and joy we were there to celebrate.”

Willow & Bear were in charge of flowers for the day, creating beautiful neutral florals that Celia loved. “I decided on my florist fairly early as I’d seen their work on Instagram. We didn’t have a colour theme for our wedding, but I found a bouquet Aimie had done previously that was neutral colours, greenery and a touch of soft orange, and I asked her to create our flowers around that,” she described. “We wanted to repurpose as many of the flowers from the ceremony to the reception as we could, and we had limited time at the ceremony location; so we couldn’t have an arbour. Instead, we had flowers in oases on the ground, which were then repurposed for the entrance to our reception. The flowers at the reception were simple, with table arrangements, repurposed flowers at the entrance and flowers on the cake.”

Celia walked down the aisle with her father to an acoustic rendition of “Holding You” by Stan Walker and Ginny Blackmore. “We had a Baha’i ceremony, which involved a number of readings of our choice. This really allowed us to involve our family and close friends, which we did. It was a short and sweet ceremony but really lovely.”

The detail Ioane remembers most about the day was just how so many of the guests were happy. “As we’ve said, we really wanted everyone to have a great day, and we feel that we really achieved this.”

After the ceremony had concluded, guests made their way to the reception venue while the wedding party took off with Fiona & Bobby for their portraits. “Fiona and Bobby were amazing. Not only are they lovely humans, but the work they do is fantastic. We really loved their style and knew they would be a great fit for us. Once we’d met them (for a coffee catch-up well before our wedding), we knew we had picked winners,” they explained. “And how can I pick just one photo?! Fiona and Bobby did an amazing job, and we love all of our photographs.”

They ran into a slight issue once the photos were finished – and needed to call the ranger to come and save them! “We took our bridal portraits inside the Botanic Gardens but didn’t know the gates closed at 6 pm. By the time we wanted to exit to go and join our guests at the reception, we found we were locked inside the gardens. We had to call the ranger to come and rescue us. Then, as we approached The Terrace, we could hear a fire alarm, and someone had set off the fire alarm at our reception! Videos of our bridal party entrance show the flashing red light at the front door. Fortunately, there was no fire!”

Since the wedding was at the Sydney Botanical Gardens, they wanted to find somewhere nearby so their guests wouldn’t have to run around all day getting from location to location. “We also wanted to have the ceremony and reception at the same place or very close by so that our guests didn’t have to leave and go elsewhere. We looked at Centennial Park first but found that The Terrace on the Domain is a great wedding venue. The Botanical Gardens have beautiful options for wedding ceremonies, so it all came together really nicely. We went to look at the Harbour View Lawn and another location but settled on Harbour View because the fig tree is beautiful, and the view of the harbour is perfect. We had a number of guests coming from outside of NSW, and we knew they would enjoy the view. The lawn is just a short walk from The Terrace, so it fits our vision perfectly. Coincidentally, The Terrace has botanical wallpaper and greenery hanging from the ceiling! Accidental botanical theme.”

With a wedding so jam-packed with love and culture, it’s no surprise that Celia and Ioane can’t pick just one favourite moment. Instead, they had this to say. “There isn’t just one – the whole day was filled with so much love and joy, which was exactly what we wanted. We still get comments two years later about how much people enjoyed themselves, and this was really the goal of the day.”

One of the most special details about their accidental botanical wedding was the incorporation of Ioane’s Samoan culture. “This was done through Ioane’s outfit, the signing at our ceremony, the entertainment at our reception and our dancing at our reception. Celia performed a traditional Samoan Taualuga (dance) called a Siva (this can be seen in the red and white outfit), and this was a surprise for many of our guests.”

Their first dance was choreographed by Ioane himself to a Tokelauan song, “Iuliana” by Te Vaka. For this dance, Celia wore a Samoan Pule Tasi.

Congratulations, Celia and Ioane, on your beautiful botanical Samoan wedding! And thanks to Fiona & Bobby Photography for capturing and submitting this incredible wedding.