Words by Amy
We’ve been together almost 13 years now. We met while I was backpacking around Europe in 2006. We were set up on a blind date by a mutual friend, Jean, who I had met while in London. We hit it off immediately and there was an instant spark between the two of us, despite the fact I spoke very little French and Virginie spoke very little English – the Lonely Planet language guide was our most constant companion during these early days.
We spent the first 18 months of our relationship crossing the globe to snatch time with each other, and I even took a working holiday visa in France to be able to live and work there for a year and test the waters. Amy learned to speak French, studying intensive language courses and at the end of that year, with no great prospects of work in France we decided to move to Australia together at the beginning of 2009, Amy sponsoring Virginie on a partner Visa. Virginie has since become an Australian citizen, and we bought a gorgeous house three years ago that we share with two fat cats.
After marriage equality laws passed in France back in 2013, we were discussing the law changes while getting ready for work one morning. I was drying off after a shower and Virginie was brushing her teeth and said through a mouth full of foam, “we should get married, what do you think?” Such a romantic!!
We were engaged for five years before we decided to get married.
We wanted to marry much earlier on in France; however, family issues and restrictive paperwork requirements prevented us from getting married in France, so we decided to wait until marriage equality laws passed in Australia.
Planning a wedding through the marriage equality debate was an interesting time. My father is staunchly right-wing and probably voted no. He wouldn’t tell me at the time; he just said it was ‘nobody’s business’ how he voted. There were some ugly moments there but once the law passed, he congratulated us and even contributed to the wedding! He did come to the wedding and although it was clear he was very uncomfortable, I appreciated that he made it.
When people ask me about this dynamic, I often refer them to the great Australian Story episode about Christine Forster’s wedding, Tony Abbott’s sister – the look on his face throughout the ceremony was priceless. This is exactly the kind of relationship I have with my Dad!
When we were looking for a venue, we knew we wanted to be married in Fremantle as it holds a special place in our hearts and is also quite central for people coming from interstate and overseas, with lots of accommodation within walking distance. We considered four venues but decided Moore and Moore was the one best suited to our aesthetic.
The other attractive thing about the venue was that it already has a strong décor and theming that we liked, and they provide all catering and equipment as opposed to some other venues we looked at, which were ‘dry hire’ spaces, meaning we’d have to bring in everything (tables, crockery, catering, theming, etc.). The venue is not licensed, which allowed us to stock our bar, while the venue provided staff.
We are both into vintage styling with a European feel and wanted the wedding to reflect that while being special and relaxed. The West End of Fremantle is World Heritage Listed, so the whole area has a very old world feel about it – very ‘hipster’ and cool, a real vibe of relaxed vintage and eclectic boho.
I started to do some research on dresses about a year out from the wedding but nothing in earnest. I had a look around online as I knew I wanted something short-ish [not floor length] and hopefully vintage inspired. I did not want to spend a lot of money, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend thousands on a dress I may only wear a couple of times at most.
My little sister went shopping a few months after we booked the venue and found a dress she wanted to wear for the wedding at Review. She said they’d just released a bridal range and I should go in for a look as they were quite reasonably priced. I went in the next day and the dress I chose was the second one I tried on – when you know, you know. I returned the next day with my mother for her opinion and when I tried the dress on she almost cried, so I was sold. I did have to have one slight alteration made to the length of the straps [because I’m so short] but even with that, the dress came in at under $650!
At the wedding I had so many people ask me if it was actually a vintage dress or made to measure because it was just so perfectly me.
Virginie knew she wanted to wear suit pants and a vest but often has difficulty shopping men’s brands because the size and fit are never quite right. I had been a fan of Shane Ave’s work on Facebook for a while and love the androgynous style, so knew that’s where we should get Virginie’s suit made.
When I made inquiries with them about taking measurements over email it happened to be that they were doing consultations in all capital cities, so I made an appointment and Vivi got measured for her lovely suit. It was delivered to us a few weeks later.
It was important for us to choose all female and mostly local suppliers for our wedding, except Shane Ave, who are based in Sydney, but lesbian owned and run.
On the day of the wedding, Virginie and I got ready at our house with both of our mothers [Virginie’s mother had come all the way from France] and my two sisters. My mother made a platter of amazing finger sandwiches for us all to eat while having our hair and makeup done.
When it came time to get dressed, Virginie and I went to separate rooms and the photographer led us to our loft upstairs separately so she could capture our ‘first look’ at each other. This was a beautiful moment and it was nice to take some time out, just the two of us.
We took our ‘couples’ photos in the West End of Fremantle before the ceremony, and this worked really well as it meant we didn’t have to leave our guests for photos during the reception.
Our mothers walked us down the aisle and while we didn’t have a traditional ‘wedding party.’ Some of our close family members and friends played a part in the ceremony, and all wore buttonholes or wrist corsages to tie them into the wedding theme. We gave people a color scheme [our invite dress code was ‘smart casual – no black!’] but let them choose outfits they felt most comfortable in.
My brother and Virginie’s friend Jean [the one who set us up on a blind date all those years ago] were our witnesses.
We incorporated a handfasting ritual as part of our wedding vows and my uncle Nick and Virginie’s best friend from France, Mika helped us with placing the ropes over our wrists during the vows. My sisters helped with the venue setup and planning and ran the music at the ceremony.
We found the most amazing local celebrant who speaks five languages, so she helped us create a ceremony in both French and English. Virginie said her vows in French and Amy in English, with the entire ceremony translated by the celebrant.
After the ceremony, we ate and drank in the beautiful courtyard of the venue, before moving inside for speeches and dancing. We went with grazing tables and individual bowls for the catering rather than a sit-down meal as we felt it had a better flow and didn’t want people being stuck at a table talking to the same people all night.
I hate long and self-indulgent speeches, so there were only two. Virginie and I gave a speech thanking everyone for coming and mentioned almost everyone by name, which people loved. Amy’s mother Rebecca gave the most beautiful and speech about us as a couple and how proud she was of us both – there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. She’s so popular now we had requests from several friends for her to speak at their weddings, lol!!
Rather than gifts or money, I asked my family to contribute something to the wedding. My sister Naomi organized and paid for the gorgeous flowers, my sister Hannah the hair and makeup, my Dad contributed to the photography, my stepdad the bar, and my mother gifted us the gorgeous croquembouche we ate in place of a traditional wedding cake.
After speeches and our magical first dance, the night continued with an absolute love-fest on the dance floor. The love in the room was palpable and was one of the best experiences of my life.
We came home after the ceremony and tried to get a good night’s sleep as we hosted an open-house all the next day for friends and family from overseas and interstate.
I doubt being married will change a whole lot in our day-to-day lives. We’ve already been together for years, so it didn’t really change the dynamic of our relationship, it may just elevate the importance of our relationship in the eyes of others.
For us, the legal rights of marriage were very important, especially being recognized as a married couple in both of our native countries, in case anything happens to either of us.
Croqembouche Chez Jean Claude
Venue & Catering Moore & Moore Gallery and Café
Celebrant Susanna Bessell-Browne
Florist Floral State
Hair & Makeup TXC Collective
Photographer Jessica Josie Photography
Gown Designer Review
Suit Designer Shane Ave.
Flower crown Floral State