After a drawn-out chess game, Jess and Libby’s love for one another first grew. Two years on, and they decided to wed in a place that held significant meaning to them.
Although Jess, a tech-head, and Libby, a musician, had worked together for nearly 6 months, their paths had rarely crossed. Overhearing that Libby was looking for a chess player, Jess piped up to accept the challenge, thinking she would easily win. Their first chess game was at Libby’s tiny flat and went for over 8 hours. Libby won the game… and Jess’ heart.
Perhaps the game didn’t need to go that long or they simply wanted to keep playing. In fact, as Libby had just moved in, the power had not yet been connected. When it became dark, Jess suggested a Kmart run to get a battery powered lamp to finish the game. This would be the first of many chess games (mostly won by Libby) and marked the start of a great friendship, and timely romance.
On their second year dating anniversary, they had signed the lease for their new house, got the keys and tried out the local Thai for dinner. After dinner, Jess surprised Lib with a tiny package. Inside was a silver guitar pick engraved with “I pick you everyday. Marry me, Libby.” Libby was suitably surprised and responded with tears of joy.
In the spirit of DIY weddings, and connecting with the outdoors, Libby and Jess planned to get married at Riverwood Downs, in Barrington Tops, NSW. The venue held significance to Libby, whose late father often took the family on holidays there. After discussions about what things were important and what things were wanted, it was all hands on deck for the wedding preparations. Jess designed the wedding invites, whilst Jess’ family assisted with food and decoration preparation.
Jess also had another surprise planned for Libby. Inspired by the Marry-okes of YouTube, she decided to make one for Libby on the day of their wedding. She snuck the lyrics to a Bruce Springsteen song into the invite, along with instructions to the guests not to tell Lib.
Many family and friends choose to stay at Riverwood Downs for the whole weekend, with the wedding falling on a Saturday. On Friday night, everyone gathered for dinner and finalised the plans. Very early Saturday morning, the decorations were put up, and the natural parkland cordoned off by home-made bunting. With enough time to get ready, Jess and Libby returned to their cabin for a few quick photos and a cuppa. Once prepared (with a few hair styling tips from sisters), the brides were driven together down to the riverside, where family and friends had gathered.
Walking down the bush path to an acoustic version of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’, played by a close friend, the brides held their native floral bunches and each other’s hands. Another close friend conducted the ceremony, which had been written by Jess and her dad. With touching moments acknowledging those missing with a butterfly release and combined vows, many friends and family said it was the most genuine ceremony they had ever witnessed.
Wanting to highlight the importance of community to the couple, the officiant asked the crowd of their support and at the end of the ceremony, everyone collectively said: “We, your family and friends, now pronounce you married! You may kiss the bride!”
Leaving the ceremony to an acoustic rendition of The Pogues ‘Love You Til The End’, the newlyweds returned for a group photo before having some staged photos taken.
Meanwhile, guests entered the picnic lunch area and found out which “band” they belonged to. The band each received a picnic basket, filled with plates, cutlery, glasses, crackers and serviettes. Then, once the brides had rejoined, everyone was able to choose from two large tables of antipasto foods, catered by the family. There was generous amounts of sun-dried tomato, olives, fresh ham off the bone, chicken, capsicum, dips and no-one went hungry.
“I should have known, of course, that Libby and Jess aren’t opposites at all. They are, where it counts, identical. Both compassionate, both vibrant and free-spirited, both quick to laugh, both fiercely loyal and both utterly devoted to their family.” – Hugh, best friend speech.
After eating, it was time for speeches. Hugh, a close friend of the girls, gave a rousing speech highlighting the unlikelihood of their romance, and the power of true love. Libby was at a loss for words, whilst Jess read an excerpt from a letter she had written very early in their relationship. The cake was chess-themed and was lovingly made and decorated by Jess’ sister Beth. After a few photos, general dancing and good times were had. As a keepsake, Lib and Jess had made a custom soundtrack for everyone to take home.
As the day turned to night, Lib’s sister put on a sausage sizzle for anyone hanging around, and the night finished with sing-a-long and marshmallows by the campfire.
Early the next day, following pack up, the newlyweds headed home, Libby not knowing there was one more surprise. Jess had woken early and started piecing together the footage sneakily taken by family and friends during their wedding day. Once home, Jess played the finished product for Libby, who shed more tears of joy and happiness. She couldn’t believe it had taken place all around her (and including her) without her knowledge.
Following their wedding, Jess and Lib headed on an East Coast Roadtrip from Newcastle to Stradbroke Island QLD and the Glasshouse Mountains
Jess & Libby’s Vows.
Jess: I promise you, until my very last breath, to fight for life, for joy, for us, Libby: to never take your actions, words and kindness for granted,
Jess: to always speak the truth, in love and listen with loving ears.
Libby: I vow to grow with you and not apart,
Jess: to make my accomplishments, ours, and your challenges, mine,
Libby: I will always love you deeply and honestly, as your equal and your partner.
Jess: I fiercely want to grow old with you;
Libby: so we can sit on our front deck in the summertime,
Jess: and snuggle on the couch in winter,
Libby: and be always surrounded by family
Jess: and take pleasure in shared memories.
Libby: I vow that through it all, I will be yours and you mine,
Jess: so that when I am simply with you, I know that I am home.
Jess’s gift to Libby – their Marry Oke video:
Photography by Aidan Gageler