Summer weddings are a hoot, and Tim and Alarna certainly embraced the sunshine with their Hamptons-style garden 'do in Sydney, Australia. The ceremony, held at at Vaucluse House's Lone Pine Lawn, was swathed in cheery cornflower blue, buttercup yellow and white, and featured a beautiful, flower-adorned wooden bridal arch. To help keep guests cool, white parasols were handed out for the ceremony, and a bar with refreshing concoctions awaited at the end of the solemnisation. Later, all the guests hitched a ride on a British-style red double-decker bus to the Watsons Bay Hotel, and were greeted by tasty cocktails and antipasto. Their reception – featuring nautical touches – kept everyone in high spirits, with mingle-ready sharing platters, a fun bingo session based on the speeches and, of course, plenty of no-holds-barred dancing. Read on as Alarna shows and tells all...
How they met:
We met on the dancefloor of a nightclub after being introduced by a complete stranger – an Italian good Samaritan felt we should meet each other after noticing we were the two tallest people in the room. We were inseparable for the next few weeks, before I went to Europe for three months, and then we kept in contact via e-mail daily.
The proposal was carefully orchestrated by Tim, and a complete surprise. As we were due to head to Europe for a holiday the following week, our friends were quietly taking bets that a proposal would happen while we were in Italy. So the thought of it taking place before wasn't on my mind during the night it actually happened.
After a beautiful dinner at Universal restaurant to celebrate our anniversary, Tim requested we drop into a friend's farewell at a nearby bar. Reaching the bar's rooftop, we discovered it was closed for renovations, but Tim suggested we make the most of the amazing view of Sydney's skyline before 'attempting' to call our friend and find out the new location of the party. There was no farewell, of course, but I hadn't realised yet.
Tired and keen to head home, I was so busy cursing my high heels that I didn't notice Tim had dropped to one knee, and was asking for my hand in marriage. I was speechless (very uncommon) and forgot to say yes... standing open-mouthed until Tim prompted me for an answer. Once I found my words and accepted, he pulled back a drop sheet to reveal a vintage champagne bucket and glasses. He'd been planning the proposal for weeks along with the bar staff!
The bride's outfit:
I've worked in fashion for over 10 years, and having been exposed to some incredible designers meant that I had a very definite idea of what I wanted, and what suited my shape. So I was a little more focused on the accessories, and found my Valentino shoes in Italy before looking for a dress. I wanted a timeless dress with a clean silhouette and a beautiful back, as this is what all guests will focus on during the ceremony. In the end, I fell in love with my corded, lace-edged veil before my dress. The soft and romantic edges of the cathedral-length veil was the perfect complement to the cleanlines of the Martina Liana gown I discovered not long after. I loved the drama of the full train and the kimono-style bow at the back, which could be detached to showcase the hourglass shape of the dress and the button details that ran from the waist to the floor. The detachable parts essentially gave me three dresses in one, and ensured easy movement on the dancefloor. I also purchased a silk, embroidered Anna Sui mini dress for dancing.
Hair and make-up:
Dewy, natural, and fresh – all held together with a great primer to combat the Australian summer heat! My hair was swept back in a softly-shaped classic chignon.
The groom's outfit:
He wanted a light colour, given Sydney's heat in January. We found his Paul Smith suit in The UK while on holiday, before I had even begun looking for a dress.
The wedding party's style:
Our wedding theme was a mix of Hamptons chic and a summer garden party. The groomsmen were in blue suits, with red and white ties and pocket squares for a nautical touch. We chose to carry the red hue on to the girls' dresses, which was a lovely contrast to the predominantly white, cornflower blue and yellow palette.
We wanted to show our international guests what we love about Sydney, and why Tim (originally from The UK) had chosen to make it his home for the past 10 years. Whether it was the ocean or the harbour, we've always wanted our wedding to be by the water, as it's how we live our life. It also had to be a fun and relaxed day with great food and wine.
Vaucluse House offered a picturesque garden setting, with the beautiful backdrop of the historic house. Watson's Bay Hotel's Sunset Room had been renovated just prior to our wedding with Hamptons-inspired styling – blonde timber floorboards, white wood panelling, gorgeous timber tables and woven chairs. It sits on the edge of Sydney Harbour, where you can see the sun set over the city, perfect for tourists and locals alike! We're huge foodies, so the food and wine was a huge priority when it came to choosing the reception venue. Watson's Bay had the most incredible selection of fresh seafood, slow roasted meats and desserts, so it ticked all our boxes.
We both agreed we wanted to capture the summery, beachside feel of our venue without it feeling too fussy or contrived. A Hamptons vibe became our compass, and we picked cornflower blue, buttercup yellow and white to reflect this. Relaxed elegance was the look our florist worked with, combining David Austin Roses, watery-blue hydrangeas and lush green foliage for the bouquets and our gorgeous bridal arch.
Cut crystal charger plates, printed linen napkins and small clusters of arrangements made up our table decor, punctuated by nautical-style rope knots that held the table names. We created personalised menu cards featuring a quote from a famous foodie or chef. The room was edged with rambling jasmine vines, silver mercury tealights and hurricane lamps. Candles gave off a soft lighting.
Tim and I love fresh, locally-sourced produce, and are particularly enthusiastic about prosciutto! So we told the team to incorporate this into the day. We began the reception with cocktails on the upper deck of the venue, overlooking the harbour, together with an antipasto food experience featuring a chef carving prosciutto.
For the reception, we deliberately chose a shared menu so our guests would interact around the food. The fresh seafood platters and slow-roasted meats were an overwhelming success.
We finished with mini apple crumbles and wedding cake, and then had a late-night snack of ice cream and cheese platters to keep guests going on the dancefloor.
We spend a lot of time attending gigs, concerts and music festivals, so we wanted live music where possible. The White Tree had a wonderful selection of musicians, and we were able to play to their strengths by using a guitarist and vocalist for the ceremony and cocktails, then switching to a larger band for dancing.
Etta James - "At Last" (walking down the aisle)
Elbow - "One Day Like This" (signing the registry)
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - "Home" (walking back up the aisle)
Pharrell Williams - "Happy" (first dance)
Tim and his friends traditionally take bets on the length of speeches at a wedding, so we thought we could play on this and make the speeches interactive with Speech Bingo. Each guest was given a game card (there were five variations), each with words we thought would feature heavily in the speeches, such as "tall", "British", "family" and so on. It definitely kept the energy up during some of the longer speeches, and guests got quite competitive.
Since our guests were coming from around the world, we asked them to leave us a postcard of advice for us to read on our first wedding anniversary. We sourced vintage Australian postcards and a classic metal letterbox for them to leave their messages in.
We also put disposable cameras on the tables to encourage guests to snap pics and surprise us once they're developed. Finally, we had a fancy dress box on the dancefloor, which our guests embraced with gusto!
Given that we had a late night dessert, we didn't see the point in giving away edible favours, so I decided to make linen napkins featuring our insignia as his or hers gifts. There were some late nights as I sewed all 128 napkins. The female guests had a quintessential Hamptons-style floral print, while the male guests had plain linen. They were so popular that some guests made the most of the dancefloor to collect an entire set!
I sewed and screen-printed the napkins, while Tim made made paddle fans that doubled as lyric sheets for the music played during the ceremony. We also made hand-embossed invitation envelopes, assembled the invites ourselves, packed bridesmaids survival kits to present to the girls the night before the wedding, and created personalised menu cards.
Alarna's wedding advice for brides to be:
1. It'll all be okay on the day. You've already conquered one of life's great challenges and found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, so a little bit of average weather is a small blip in the grand scheme of things.
2. There's no better audience for speeches or the dreaded first dance than a big group of family and friends. They'll be so happy for you and won't notice if you miss a step!
3. For your sanity, do a bit of planning and research each week, every week. Wedding admin dominated our lives, but we were thankful that we were so diligent. Although there were plenty of last-minute taks, we managed to mitigate the pre-wedding panic.
4. Plan to sneak away together for five minuted during the day – just the two of you and a little champagne. The whole day passes by so quickly, that having a few minutes to soak it all in together and compare happy moments is a memory you'll have forever.
5. If you feel you won't be able to relax on the day, and will be tempted to monitor the logistics, hire a wedding planner or wedding day engineer. They can oversee the day and you can focus on enjoying yourself.
Number of guests: 128
Ceremony venue: Lone Pine Lawn, Vaucluse House, Vaucluse, Sydney
Reception venue: Sunset Room, Watson's Bay Boutique Hotel, Watson's Bay, Sydney
Bridal gown: Martina Liana
Reception dress: Anna Sui
Jewellery: Jan Logan
Veil and hair accessories: Pronovias (veil) and BHLDN (silk flower)
Hair: Barney Martin
Make-up: Becca Gilmartin
Groom's suit: Paul Smith
Groom's shoes: Bally
Groom's accessories: Herringbone
Groomsmen's outfits: William Cheng & Son
Bridesmaid's outfits: Zimmerman
Bridesmaid's accessories: J Crew
Pageboy outfit: J Crew
Wedding planning and decor: Handled personally by the bride
Florist: Floreat Floral Design
Cake maker: Hello Naomi
Food and drinks: Watson's Bay Boutique Hotel
Entertainment: The White Tree
Transport: 7th Heaven (bridal cars) and BritStop (guests)
Photographer: Lara Hotz
Videographer: The White Tree
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