What better way to celebrate the Autumn season with a love story where every detail is inspired by Halloween. Max and Branagh’s fun Halloween inspired wedding at The Tea Room QVB, captured by Azayda Photography, actually took place on Halloween day. We love all the special personalised details, from the pumpkin centrepieces, to the signage and even the apple pie cake! As bride, Branagh states, “Our style could best be described as a Victorian aesthetic with a sprinkling of gothic Halloween touches. We wanted everything to have an air of fun and to be very us. We aren’t particularly traditional, so we were able to inject our personalities and interests into all aspects of our day.” Branagh shares all the details with us below.

I first noticed Max quite a while before we spoke for the first time. And while that sounds romantic, this isn’t your typical love-at-first-sight story. I was sitting 5 or so rows back in our lecture hall waiting for the lecture to start.
Max strolled in, carrying a briefcase, sporting button-down shirt and suit trousers and shoes. He sat in the front row, directly in front of the lecturing podium. I thought he was our guest lecturer! As the lecture began, I quickly realized he was just a pretentious student… What a teacher’s pet!

Max apparently first noticed me as I walked into a lecture too. I had just finished my shift at the university bookstore and had to run to my lecture. By the time I got to the lecture I was a few minutes late, I was puffed, and my face was red. It was like a scene from a cringy teen movie, I opened the door and every face in the room turned to look at me, I wanted to melt into the ground. For context, I had just purchased my textbooks for the semester, so I had a large backpack that weighed a ton, I was growing out a red pixie cut so my hair was crazy, and my work uniform was a way oversized bright yellow t-shirt. Maybe not the best first impression either! Hahahaha!

Soon after this, our programme convener, Stuart, sent out an email asking for first-year student representative volunteers. Being who I am as a person, I immediately responded asking for the role and outlining my experience in various other student rep and committee roles. I was so pleased when I got that position, and equally annoyed that Stuart had also given it to a couple of other students. One of those students really ground my gears, because he took over the role, he would send out surveys and put together reports without collaborating. Mind you he would send things through to us for our “thoughts” which we all know he didn’t really need. So, after a while, we decided to have an in-person student rep meeting at Bar on The Hill.

I waited on the veranda for this other student rep to arrive. As I was sitting there waiting, I see Max walk in, then walk toward me… “Oh god, the other student rep is pretentious guy!”

By the end of our meeting, I decided he wasn’t so bad after all.

Over the course of our degree, we became study buddies and eventually friends (though I always did want to one-up him with my grades… maybe it was motivating). At some point that acquaintanceship turned into a genuine friendship, and well, here we are!

For my birthday in April 2022, Max gave me a Christmas gift bag containing a lockbox and a series of clues. It took me over a month to decipher the code to the lock box and once I opened it, I found a cypher and a 50 cent coin. I eventually found the key to the cypher only to discover that the message was an anagram, yet another puzzle!

Max and I like to go on mini get aways and one of the locations we enjoy is the Fairmont Resort in the Blue Mountains. We decided to stay there for a Christmas in July getaway. On the first morning of our stay, I wanted to go to my favourite lookout, Sublime Point. As I stood at the lookout taking pictures, Max asked whether I had deciphered the anagram. He showed me how to read it. The message said, “will you accept this pebble?”

As I read it out aloud, Max knelt on one knee. I then realised what was happening and kept saying “like a penguin?!”

Our wedding was held on our favourite holiday, Halloween!

Our style could best be described as a Victorian aesthetic with a sprinkling of gothic Halloween touches. We wanted everything to have an air of fun and to be very us. We aren’t particularly traditional, so we were able to inject our personalities and interests into all aspects of our day.

When I was 12, I showed my Mum an image of a black and white wedding dress. I said to her, “Mum, one day, this is what I’m going to have.” She just smiled and said, I think your style will change by then. Cut to wedding dress shopping, I went to the boutique with a white satin ballgown in mind, but the first dress I saw was a black lace gown displayed in the centre of the room. It was meant to be.

Max and his guys had custom suits made at Woolcott St in Sydney. They chose a fully black look, with black suits, shirts, ties, socks, and shoes.

Max stood out with his world map suit lining, custom wolf head cufflinks and wolf head pin and suit chain made by Tom at Morpeth Jewellery Gallery, and his gothic blue vintage pattern embossed monk strap New Rock shoes. They were going for suave but edgy and in keeping with the Halloween theme.

The bridal party included my three older siblings, my maid of honour, Taylor Hender, bridesmaid, Paige Schoppe, and botanical boy, Daniel Hender.

The Groom’s party included Max’s closest friends. His university tutor turned best mate and bestman Jason Bridge, long-time friend and Groomsman Ian Chivers, and high school bestie and Ringbearer Mitchell Farrugia.

We had our ceremony and reception at The Tea Room, Queen Victoria Building, Sydney. I cannot recommend this venue highly enough. Gorgeous venue, excellent service, and planning in the leadup, fantastic food and drinks, and amazing staff! A great experience all around.

They provide everything from an on the day venue coordinator, all furniture and tableware and linens, staff, and catering and bar. They also coordinated our vendors for bump in and out and did the whole set-up and the pack-up at the end of the night. We had our photos taken inside Queen Victoria Building, and at Sydney Town Hall. The architecture truly lends itself to the photos.

Our ceremony was all about having fun. We had our guests laughing the whole way through. We personalised every aspect to suit us.

I DIY’d the signage. We purchased old mirrors, and I used chalk mirror markers. It was quite fun, and we now have them as décor in our home!

I also designed our invitations, menu, place cards, and other print items myself using Canva. We did not have a professional planner or stylist, so everything you see is a result of our own planning!

Max is not the biggest fan of cake, so we opted for wedding apple pie instead! Our guests really enjoyed it. We included a history of Halloween on the back of our menus, explaining the relevance and tradition of apples to Halloween.

We kept most of the details to ourselves throughout the planning process. One of my favourite aspects of the day was watching all my friends and family react to everything throughout the day!

The song I chose to walk down the aisle with was, “Skydiving (cliff recording)” by Lights. Lights is one of my absolute favourite artists. I discovered her when she featured on “Don’t Go” by Bring Me the Horizon in 2010. Skydiving is from her album ‘Skin And Earth’ which serves as the soundtrack to her comic series of the same name. The song ties into the story line of two of the characters but is essentially about jumping into love despite any risk because it’s worth it.

Max and his party chose to have their own grand entrance, coming down the aisle to Hallo theme “Mjolnir Mix.”

Our ringbearer pranced down the aisle to Lord of the Rings’ track, “Concerning Hobbits.”

Benedict Ager, our celebrant, told a dramatized version of the story of our relationship.

Our friend, and sensei, Damien performed a traditional Japanese tea ceremony to signify our equal servitude of each other.

We ended the ceremony with a quote by Robert Fulghum:

“We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone, whose weirdness is compatible with outs, we join up with them and fall in mutually satisfying weirdness – and call it love – true love.”

Max and I both wore rings from our grandparents who have all passed away. My aunty said it was a special moment for her when she recognised my grandfather’s ring while I was walking down the aisle.

I chose my flowers the day before our wedding! We did not use flowers for our décor, instead opting for candelabras, mirrors, ceramic pumpkins, and potted trees. For our bouquets, I went to La Petal in Martin Place, Sydney, and chose a variety of flowers that fit the vision I had. I wanted to pick up the colours of the pumpkins, so chose a variety of orange and blue flowers. The potted trees were teddy bear magnolias, and purely by chance my florist used teddy bear magnolia leaves for the greenery in the bouquets!

Our favourite television show is “Doctor Who.” Max is frequently told he looks like David Tennant and is a Doctor. So, when we re-entered our reception, the song we chose was the Doctor Who theme.

During our reception our DJ and MC had our guests play some wedding games, one of which was a kind of scavenger hunt whereby players would race around the room to acquire specific items before racing back to the dance floor, the last to return with the item was eliminated. As part of this game, players were told to swap their shoes with a member of the opposite sex! My Dad was a contestant, and the nearest seated woman was one of my closest friends, Sian. Dad ran to Sian to swap shoes with her, but his boots were stuck. He sat on her chair as she tugged at his boot trying to get it off. Sian discovered that night that she is quite strong because she gave his foot a good yank and my father went sliding off the chair and landed flat on his back! He had the wind knocked out of him, but Sian still managed to wrestle his boots off. It didn’t matter though because Dad couldn’t manage to put her shoes on. For context, Sian wears a lady’s size 6 and Dad wears a men’s size 13!

Most of our guests, including us, stayed at Swissotel, Sydney. Such a lovely experience. The interior decor is beautiful, staff were lovely. They kept bringing us chocolates and sparkling wine throughout the day. Also, food and drinks are always top notch.

We had Azayda Photography. Bass was amazing, an absolute pleasure to have with us throughout the day. He got our nearly 2000 photos back to us well within his suggested timeframe too. We love the mixture of candid and stylised photos. He really took our brief into consideration and did an amazing job of keeping this anxious bride calm on the day!

I really love the long exposure shot taken of Max and I while the Light Rail drove past us.

Our first dance was to “Darkness at the Heart of My Love” by Ghost. I choreographed the dance based on the Miss Mystic Falls dance that Damon and Elena performed to on ‘The Vampire Diaries!’

All our vendors were amazing. I’ll give a shout out to DJ Plus. Serge acts as a DJ, MC, informal coordinator and planner, and audio technician. Serge provided us with a comprehensive online form to complete that asks for song choices for everything, allowed us to select must play and do not play songs, and provide contact details for vendors and wedding party members. He checked in with us throughout the planning process and gave us great advice. Serge also surprised us with photos the next day and audio recordings of our ceremony and all speeches!

Five things, which made our wedding special:

1. Bringing our friends and family together. We had guests travel from as far as Canada! It was great to bring all the people in our lives together.
2. Personalising every aspect of our day made everything more special. We didn’t just want a pretty wedding; we wanted it to be our wedding.
3. Writing our own vows.
4. Getting married in the city in which we live, was a great idea. We go past our venue every day and it keeps the memories and magic of the day fresh in our minds!
5. Planning the day together. I know for a lot of couples, the bride and maid of honour do a lot of planning, but for us, we enjoyed planning together.

Advice for future married couples:

1. Throw all the rules out the door. Have fun with it and design a day that suits you and your partner.
2. Once you find your dress, venue, vendors, and decor etc., stop looking! I know so many brides who became anxious second-guessing decisions and who lost money due to changes of mind.
3. Make a “to do” list for each month leading up to your wedding. We stuck to our “to do” schedule and by the time the week of our wedding rolled around, all we had to do was drop off our décor to our venue and start celebrating!
4. Don’t stress the small details, relax, and have fun!

Some sound advice there from Branagh. Thank you so much Max and Branagh for sharing your beautiful wedding with us.