Written by Tone

How did you meet?
We have been together for 11 years. We met in 2003 at the start of High School. However, our relationship began in May of our senior year in 2008. We were friends throughout high school sharing similar subjects and being in the same sports teams. We grew much closer in our later years at school and realized our friendship was a lot deeper than we first understood. 

Jess plucked up the courage to make the first move and that’s how it all started. It was a deep love right from the start and those feelings of butterflies and excitement of seeing one another have never gone away.

Tell us about the proposal.
The proposal was epic and a complete surprise to me! In June 2018, we went to the Hunter Valley and stayed at Blair Athol Estate in one of their guest cottages. The occasion was to celebrate our ten year anniversary (which was really a month after our actual anniversary). The original plan had to be tweaked due to the sporadic weather throughout the day. So, the estate owners came into our cabin while we were out and decorated it with lace draping from the ceiling, flowers spread throughout, candles, a roaring fire, champagne, and a beautiful table setting for our private dining experience.

Our entrées were served, and Jess told me she had a present for me. 

I was surprised because we weren’t exchanging gifts as the trip was our gift to each other. 

Jess handed me a photo book she had created, which was a spread of photos of the both of us over our ten years together. After going through the photobook, Jess revealed she had another present. She handed over her iPad, which had a compilation movie of various video footage we had taken over our years together, which she had edited all together. 

After watching the movie, Jess stood up and said she had one more thing to give me. 

At this point, I still hadn’t clued on and couldn’t think of what else it could possibly be. 

Jess started saying all these lovely things about our relationship, and finally, she said: “you know I want to spend the rest of my life with you” – that’s when the penny dropped, and I realized what might be happening. 

The next second, Jess was down on one knee, asking me to marry her with my dream ring held out in front of her.

What was your vision for the wedding day?
We both had the same vision for our day – a country wedding on a property with a reception in a big beautiful barn.

Shortly after the proposal, Jess was out one night and fell down the stairs, breaking one ankle and spraining the other and needed surgery to put in a plate and pins. We didn’t let this slow down the planning process. Jess put on her very best pyjama pants– the only thing that would comfortably go over her cast, and we headed to the Hunter to check out Tocal. 

Jess wasn’t able to see the whole venue but I was able to walk around and check out all the grounds. Despite this, we knew it was the one and we booked it in straight away. 

We wanted a wedding that was a reflection of us and we both felt like this was just naturally our style and preference; using the natural beauty of the country and complementing that with stunning florals and foliage. 

For the vibe, it was just all about love and that came naturally by sharing the day with our nearest and dearest. 

Did you take on any DIY projects?
We didn’t. Given we are from Sydney, we thought it would just be easier to use all local vendors rather than try and create anything ourselves, which made it very stress-free!

Talk to us about your experience finding the perfect outfits.
I found my dream dress pretty early on and went against everything I told herself not to do. Determined to find something on stillwhite.com, I had a rough idea of the style and silhouette I wanted/thought would suit me. 

My method with the dress search was not to get fixated on one particular dress but keep an open mind, to avoid disappointment if “the one” didn’t fit or suit. 

Scrolling through, I saw this dress, brand new at half price, and when I saw it, I knew I had to have it. Fortunately, it all worked out. The dress fit and suited, and the seller was happy to sell to me. I went and picked it up and then hid it at my sister’s place for nine months, only needing minor alterations a month out from the wedding. 

Jess had been looking at dresses she liked online and came across Wendy Makin, a designer that had gowns that felt similar to what she was after. Jess went to Fashions by Farina on one of Wendy’s ‘designer days’ where she was in the store. 

Wendy helped her try on several of her dresses, asking Jess what elements of each she liked. Wendy then sketched up a design she thought would be perfect and told Jess she could make it for her in her studio. When Wendy sent the finished dress back to Fashions by Farina and Jess tried it on, she knew it was perfect and was even better than she could have imagined.

We want to know every detail of the wedding day.
Our day was perfection. We just had the best day, honestly. It was so much fun from the minute we woke up to the moment we went to sleep. 

Our biggest worry of the day came from staying in the same house and not wanting to see each other until we walked down the aisle. Thankfully with the help of our bridesquad of 10, our hair and makeup crew, videographers, and photographers – we managed to keep apart. 

We took different cars to the wedding and waited in different rooms in the homestead before walking down the aisle. Our ten bridesmaids walked out first; then, my Dad walked me down the aisle. Jess then came out of the homestead accompanied by her Dad. 

We are so glad we were able not to see each other during the day because my absolute favorite moment of the day was seeing Jess emerge from the homestead to walk down the aisle. 

Another favorite moment would be when Jess surprised me by organizing Delta Goodrem to send a message to us that was played at the beginning of our first dance song, which was her version of “I believe in a thing called loved.” We also cherish the speeches as these were all so heartfelt, honest, and entertaining. 

What does marriage mean to you?
Marriage, to us, means marrying your best friend and your soul mate. In means being all that you truly are and accepted in totality by your significant other. It is celebrating each other’s ups and helping each other through the downs. Marriage means living the rest of your life as your best life with your favorite person and not taking yourself too seriously. Laughing is an absolute must, and loving each other endlessly is a given. 

And, what’s your parting advice for couples who are planning their wedding?
Enjoy it! We found the process to be relatively easy because it wasn’t difficult to make decisions. If you have a conversation at the very beginning to get on the same page about everything, set out your expectations and discuss your vision for the wedding it will make the finer details as you go along far easier. Don’t get too caught up in it all and remember to enjoy the process. 

Also, make sure you book in the most important things to you, early. For us, we booked in our photographer as soon as we booked in our venue because we didn’t want to risk them not being available. When it comes to weddings, time is only ever an advantage. If you’re a procrastinator, time to kick it to the curb! Your future self with only thank you for it. 

It’s still early on, but we are so glad we got a videographer. Jess has always been a video enthusiast, and admittedly, we love ‘love’ and will often watch wedding videos online, so it only made sense for us to get one ourselves. I think when it comes to budget, this is often something that gets cut, but we are so glad we splurged on this and made exceptions in other parts of the budget. 

With ten bridesmaids, we also let them all pick their own dress. We knew that we wanted a range of Gold dresses, so we gave them all a different shade of gold and some inspiration pictures and let them pick their own. 

We were really nervous about having not bought them all together that they might not all go together. The night before the wedding, when we were all at the bridal house, we hung all the dresses up side by side and realized how perfect they all looked together.

Photographer Stories with Mel
Cinematographer Morelife

Bridal Boutique Fashions by Farina, Still White
Cake Sprout Catering
Cake Topper Etsy – Charming Wooden Gifts
Catering Sprout Catering
Event planner Aleisha Callinan (from Tocal Homestead venue)
Florist & Stylist Whimsical Fox
Gown Designer Nicole Spose & Wendy Makin
Hair & Makeup Taylor Beck MUA & Hair: Jess of the COCO Collective, Lisa Minnett and Julia Crowley
Rings Blue Nile
Signage Whimsical Fox
Stationery Digital Wonderland
Transport Sexton Bus Company & Peaks mini bus hire
Veil Fashions by Farina
Venue Tocal Homestead, Paterson