After 18 months engaged, Caitlin and Nadia had plenty of time to plan their outdoor boho-inspired wedding day at Suzarosa, Sydney.
Nadia proposed on the day that I submitted my Ph.D. thesis. She sent me out to celebratory drinks with a friend and faked tummy ache so she could set up an elaborate scene at home. When I got home, I found a path of candles and a string of notes detailing all the things she loved about me. After following the string through the house, I was led to the backyard, where Nadia had spread out a picnic rug, lit a fire, and was waiting down on one knee. I didn’t even notice she was holding a handmade wooden ring and immediately cried, “Yes!”
Nadia had spent endless weeks before this day perfecting the wooden engagement ring. I often worked late at university and didn’t even suspect a thing, and it was the best surprise and the most valuable thing I own.
We were engaged for eighteen months, and this long engagement gave us enough time to make all the items we wanted for our wedding. Neither of us had a preplanned idea of what our wedding day should be like, so we needed some time to decide on the look and feel of the day. This also gave us enough time to determine how we wanted to adapt traditional wedding elements into our wedding. For example, were we both going to walk down the aisle? Or, if we had bridal parties, how would we do it?
THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE WEDDING
It was essential that our wedding reflected who we are, through and through. We wanted to make sure that our wedding was a celebration of our love. We wanted it to reflect our combined aesthetic. The coming together of two hearts and two styles, if you will.
In the end, we wanted to make sure that our friends and family were welcomed to a wedding that felt like us. So it was like everyone came to a very elevated version of our house for a party that celebrated us, and that was perfect.
We made several of the elements ourselves, thanks to Nadia’s building skills and Caitlin’s handwork skills. In addition, we hired extra items to create a relaxed vibe with thoughtful and chic elements.
WEDDING DIY PROJECTS
We definitely undertook too many DIY projects! As a wedding gift, Nadia made a hexagonal arbor for us to be married under. She took her time making it perfect, creating several smaller-scale models to get the angles and measurements right before applying the saw to timber. Now we have mini arbors all over our garden!
We also worked together to make all of our wedding favors/name cards. We made small cement planters and propagated succulents from our garden (thank goodness we had eighteen months!). For the name cards, we burnt guests’ names into slices of salvaged branches from our garden.
Caitlin made the seating chart out of a repurposed picture frame, for which she made a knotted rope netting to hang the table lists. Caitlin also made rope chandeliers that we hung from the beams of the tipi. Which added a beautiful touch to the wedding. Even the candles we used were hand-poured!
THE WEDDING DAY
The most surprising thing about our wedding day was that it defied all the laws of time. Time went by so slowly while we were getting ready. It was also the only time we spent apart. However, once the ceremony was over, time just flew by! We both feel like we didn’t have enough time to talk to our guests even though we only had forty-five of them.
After the ceremony, the wind started to pick up, and we had to change some of our plans. The notion of canapes and lawn games went out the window, and we moved our guests inside the house. Luckily, we made the tipi warmer by lowering the sides that faced the valley so everyone could enjoy dinner. However, as the sunset just before dessert, it got much colder, so we decided to move back inside for cake and dancing. I’m not sure how it happened, but the next thing we knew, the sound system had moved inside, and the furniture was cleared for a dancefloor. While it wasn’t what we planned, it made for a perfect transition from dinner to dancing!
Nadia: For me, it was when Caitlin walked down the aisle. I was so nervous waiting to see her and couldn’t wait to make her my wife, she took my breath away, and I had to try my hardest not to cry. I think at that moment, I realized what we were about to do, and how lucky I was that I managed to convince this wonderful woman to marry me. From the moment we first kissed, I knew this day would come, and standing at the alter waiting for her, everything felt exactly as it should be.
Caitlin: I expected the reception to be my favorite part of the day, but it’s the ceremony that I really stood out especially Nadia’s vows. Nadia writes me sweet poems and love notes all the time, but her vows were different. Rather than saying something romantic with humor they were sincere, and I could tell the words truly came from deep in her heart. Thinking about it still makes me tear up!
THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE
We think there is an important distinction to be made between what marriage means to heterosexual couples and what it means to queer couples. We love Eve Kosofsky Sedgewick’s quote about how queer weddings are “entering old traditions from new directions.” This felt important to our idea of what marriage means. Queer people have historically been excluded from institutions such as marriage. So by forcing our way into these spaces, queer couples are proclaiming that they are just the same as heterosexual couples and have just as much right to be here.
In this respect, marriage for us means more than just declaring our love or each other in front of our friends, family, and the law. While this is undoubtedly an important element, our marriage is also a gesture of defiance to institutions that have excluded us. Our wedding might look different; two women, two dresses, but we have the same rights as everyone else.
WEDDING PLANNING ADVICE
In the lead-up to our wedding day, we had a handful of guests decline the invitation on moral or religious grounds. It was shocking and hurtful as these were people who had otherwise been supportive of our relationship. It took a little time to work through our feelings and contributed to the stress in the lead-up to the wedding.
In the end, if you are unfortunate enough to have this happen to you, just remember that those who can’t accept your love don’t deserve to share the day with you and your beloved. Vendors are pretty fantastic when it comes to last-minute disappointments like this. We were lucky, and ours were very flexible and accommodating.
We also think it’s important to make your own decisions; you should include others in your wedding only when and where you want them; don’t be swayed by what people expect or what the wedding means for them. This day is for you, so ensure you only have the best people around you.
From a financial perspective, purchasing your alcohol ensures that the supplier has a flexible returns policy. We were able to get refunds on every unopened bottle. We ended up spending a little more on food than we would have had we gone to a fully catered venue. But the food was such an important factor in the celebration for us and was absolutely delicious. Decide what elements are most important to you and be thrifty where you can.
Photography by Martine Payne Photography
Cake Georgia Bakes
Catering Almond Bar
Celebrant Karen Ainley
Decorative Elements Pretty Table
Dress Designer & Veil Grace Loves Lace
Engagement Rings Ainsley Fine Jewellery
Florist The Wildflower Workroom
Furniture Hire Walkers Party Hire
H&MU Weddings by Tania
Jacket Princess Highway
Lighting & Tipi Hire Matakata Tipi and Events
Sound Hire Penrith Party Hire
Stationery Greetings Island
Wedding Rings Penrith Jewelry Workshop