I had just returned from a year long overseas adventure and was spending a weekend at my parents house in rural Victoria, where I grew up. One sunny Saturday afternoon, we had a BBQ lunch during which I had particularly enjoyed the sparkling shiraz and was feeling a bit cheery. My brother Cameron, who still lived at home, announced that his friend Grant was coming over, to which I asked, "Ooooo... who's Grant?". Turned out this friend called Grant was a bit cute... later in the afternoon after a couple more glasses of sparkling shiraz I kissed him ... much to my brother's shock! Perhaps I have sparkling shiraz to thank for meeting my future husband?
Grant and I had a long distance relationship for over a year after that, with me living in Melbourne and he in rural Victoria. In that whole time, there were only two weekends we didn't see each other - we took it in turns to make the six hour round trip to see each other. It didn't take long to realize this was a connection into which we were both willing to invest a good deal of time and energy! It was tough. I never thought five days every week could feel so long. One day, after over a year of this long distance love, I was walking home from work and it was the first day you could feel autumn settling in - leaves were falling off the trees and I was feeling a bit sad that I was heading home to my one bedroom apartment. I was well and truly ready to have a 7 day boyfriend, not just one for the weekends. Then, Grant called me to say that he had decided on a date to move to Melbourne! He made the move and we moved in together. Joy!
Grant and I were together for about three years before he asked me to marry him. He told me to take a particular Friday and Monday off work but he wouldn't tell me why - he said it was a surprise - he knows how much I love surprises! One night, in the week leading up to the mystery weekend, I was on our laptop at home and I noticed in the search history, "Ballarat accommodation" and "Things to do in Ballarat". I had never been to Ballarat before - what exciting things could we possibly be going to do in Ballarat? Gold panning? Dressing up in Victorian costume?? I was a bit annoyed at myself for ruining the surprise but then became a bit annoyed at Grant for leaving the search history there. For the next two nights I kept on finding reasons to pass him the laptop to use, so he could see the error of his ways and delete the damn search history!
On the Friday morning of the mystery weekend, I had my bag packed and we set off in the car. Despite thoughts of being elbow deep in muddy water, sifting for flecks of gold and wearing a big lacy bonnet, I pretended like the whole weekend was a complete mystery to me. We drove about an hour along the freeway (with a couple of winery stops along the way) and then came to a cross roads. To the left, the sign read Ballarat. To the right the sign read - wow - Daylesford! We turned right. "I thought we were going to Ballarat!", I squealed. Grant told me that it was all part of the plan - he deliberately left Ballarat search results in the search engine so it would throw me off the scent. Cheeky!
We arrived at a gorgeous cabin just outside of Daylesford, with an open fire that was burning and a big ol' spa bath. We relaxed with a glass of wine then Grant suggested that we might like to go and get some chocolates from the Chocolate Mill. After we carefully selected our chocolates, he suggested that we might like to go down to the lake to eat them. It was cold and lightly raining (and I had just straightened my hair) so I said no - let's just go back to the cabin. Grant seemed adamant that he wanted to go down to the lake, which I found a bit strange but I was in such a happy-go-lucky mood with my chocolates in hand, I just agreed. So we headed down to the lake and on the bank, I sat there on a park bench enjoying my chocolates and Grant, an avid amateur photographer, was busy taking photos of various things around us - geese, trees, the sky. He then said that he would like to take a photo of me (again, he knows me well...) and he crouched down in front of the park bench and turned to his camera bag, which was behind him. He reached into the camera bag and turned back around with his camera in one hand and - a box in the other...
He put his camera down on the wet grass and just when I was about to berate him for not taking care of his expensive camera, I realized what was going on... this was THAT moment! The moment I had known would happen at some point but I hadn't expected it to happen right now! I started to shake and cry with the realization that this was one of those life changing, I'll-never-forget-this moments and after he said his piece and actually asked me to marry him, I threw my arms around him and sobbed, "Of course I will! Of course I will, you silly boy! You silly boy!" I'm still not sure why I felt the urge to verbally abuse him as well! Then my legs went weak and I fell back onto the park bench, tears rolling down my cheeks and probably a ridiculous grin on my face. I hope nobody was watching! Then Grant said, "Um - would you like to see the ring.?" I got so caught up in the moment, I actually forgot there was a ring on offer! And it was, and still is, the most exquisite antique art deco ring I have ever laid eyes on.
After much deliberation, we decided on a date that was nine months after I said yes – we had to get cracking on the planning!
I was never someone to fantasise about my wedding day, so I had never given it much thought until I was engaged. In fact, on the day Grant proposed – mere hours before he popped the question – I saw a bridal magazine in a restaurant in Daylesford and said, "Urgh", as I pushed it away. Thankfully that didn’t deter him! That attitude changed quite quickly, once I had a ring on my finger… when we returned home from our long weekend, the first thing I did was start researching weddings online – and signed up to True Bride!
We were very lucky, as Grant and I both had a very similar idea of what we wanted our day to be like. We are both very easy going people as well, which certainly helped! In that nine months, I don’t think a day went by without one of us sending a link or a picture or an email to each other from work, sharing wedding ideas. In the end we decided on a fun 1930s vintage theme wedding.
We even engaged in some DIY craft activities (much to my friends’ amusement), spending weekends and nights after work making decorations, painting signs, creating table numbers out of Scrabble pieces and hand stamping tags on our invitations and place holders – there were times we wished we’d never started that! We scoured countless op-shops and antique stores for 1930s vintage paraphernalia - well-travelled suitcases, old books, quirky vases.
We had three attendants each – Grant had his brother Dane and two of his closest friends, Josh and Tim and I had two of my closest friends, Kate and Janelle and Grant’s sister, Brooke. We did the conventional thing and spent the night before the wedding apart from each other and spent time with our attendants. They were all such a great support, help and endless source of fun leading up to, and on the day of, the wedding.
Also, the amount of time and energy put into our hens and bucks parties, especially by our maid of honour Kate and best man Josh (our best friends), was phenomenal! It was a three day extravaganza that neither of us will ever forget...
We wanted our ceremony to be something fun, unique and relaxed - not only for us but also for our guests! It was held in the garden of All Saints Winery, near Rutherglen and it was a perfect sunny autumn day. As the guests arrived, we had an acoustic duo playing a variety of songs we had selected. We had quoits and bocce set up on the lawn which guests, decked out in accordance with the dress code of "sharp suits and fabulous frocks", played before and after the ceremony, with Champagnes and beers balanced in hand. The string lanterns we created were hanging from the trees and we had some antique pieces of furniture decorated with a bursts of flowers. Our guests held the programs we had created - on one side was a playfully worded order of events, and on the other side was a word - either YAY, YIPPEE or WOOHOO - and guests were encouraged to hold them up at significant moments during the ceremony.
My bridesmaids, Dad and I arrived at the ceremony in big, black and grumbly 1930s hot rods. On the way to the ceremony, sitting beside my Dad in the backseat, I was waving at strangers on the street and they were all waving back – we couldn’t stop laughing. I was so excited and just wanted to get there – the drive seemed to take forever! Dad held my hand the whole way. At the ceremony, Dad walked me down the aisle to an acoustic version of Ben Folds' The Luckiest - and I have never seen so many of my favourite people in one place. It dawned on me that this was probably going to be one of the only times ever, when I am going to have 85 wonderful souls all looking at me. I could not stop smiling and laughing. It was such a thrill! I almost forgot about the pair of teary, smiley eyes beaming at me from the other side of the garden - eyes that belong to my favourite person and soon to be husband. When I reached Grant, we both laughed and were so enamored with what we saw. Our fabulous photographer, John Mitchell, captured that precise moment.
During the ceremony we had two readings, one read by my Nan and the other read by a good friend of ours, Wes. We had a "warming of the rings", where we asked our closest family to hold and bless our rings for a few seconds each, before we exchanged them with each other. Grant and I wrote our own vows, which we read to each other for the first time ever in the ceremony – I managed to keep my false eyelashes firmly in place, even with Grant’s line, "I promise to listen to the things you say – and even harder to the things you don’t".
Our guests cheered, clapped and whistled when the deal was finally sealed and we were Mr and Mrs Meredith! Yay, yippee, woohoo!
The whole day was an absolute flurry of laughter, Champagne and butterflies (of the stomach variety, that is). We were both overwhelmed by the intensity of the day - having so many of our favourite people there to wish us well and the culmination of so much excitement and planning - and thinking, almost to the point of obsession!
The reception was held inside the Great Hall at All Saints Winery, which had massive wine barrels around the periphery of the room. The air was tinged with the familiar and somewhat musty aroma of winemaking, which made us love it even more. We had plenty of candlelight (because we all look good by candlelight) and the tables were each uniquely decorated with various books and vases and succulents and moss. There was plenty of wine flowing and the food was sublime. We kept the speeches short and snappy and got them over and done with as early in the night as possible – that is of course, not to downplay how beautiful and hilarious those speeches were by my Dad, my maid of honour, Kate, Grant’s best man, Josh and finally his brother, Dane (who gave his speech, sans notes, that had the whole room in stitches!).
Then the party began! We had a five piece band, The Baker Boys, who by their own confession, are a party band guaranteed to get ‘em up and dancing! They lived up to that reputation, for sure… the tables were empty and the dance floor was bursting! A lot of the songs we grooved to had a jazz, blues or funk slant – with a couple of modern tunes thrown in to keep things interesting…
A highlight of the evening was my best friend and maid of honour, Kate, singing a song for us. She had a rehearsal earlier that day, while we were getting ready – our hair stylist Lauren from Zabuui, makeup artist Bianca from Pure Elegance by B and my gorgeous bridesmaids and I were in tears! When she performed for us during the reception, the guests were in awe of her gorgeousness – she gave me strict instructions not to look at her, for fear of crying! So, with my back to the stage, I danced with my new husband and listened and smiled.
We wouldn’t change a thing. Except maybe paid more attention to our bridal dance… after attending one dance class, I soon discovered that my darling husband to be has no sense of rhythm. As the dance instructor nimbly taught us the box step and the twirl, I could see the sweat beginning to collect on Grant’s brow and a flush of red that started to creep up his neck. As we drove home from the lesson, I said, "Let’s just wing it - we’ll just do something natural and heartfelt". I think Grant could have cried with relief!
On the night, we danced to Louis Armstrong’s version of Cheek to Cheek, which was gorgeously romantic – I think everyone expected us to do something amazing out there, with the spotlight on us… we moved and smiled and did the occasional twirl and dip… then I had a bustle malfunction and with that, came limited movement! So, we laughed and motioned vigorously for our bridal party to join us – they came running and the party continued! So maybe another thing I would change would be to have double checked my bustle!
The simplest thing to arrange was my dress. I had a vision of what I wanted – something with an elegant vintage silhouette, with some exquisite lace and a creamy blush colour to complement my skin tone. Lucky for me, I found a dressmaker, Liz Graham from Quiver Design Studio, who specialised in vintage styles and she captured my vision perfectly.
The hardest thing to arrange was where to have the wedding – our three non-negotiables were fine food, amazing wine and a great big dance floor. Originally the decision was Yarra Valley vs North East Victoria and North East Victoria won, as it was closer to our families. Then, we had the task of deciding which one of the many fabulous venues we would choose to create our day – All Saints was the place.
For our honeymoon, we went to Bali and stayed in a secluded villa for a week. We ate lots of amazing food, drank litres of refreshing cocktails and spent lots of time on adventures in the sunshine, including snorkeling, going into the mountains and visiting temples… but most of the time we just blissfully lay by the pool, in a post wedding heap!