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Gillian & Brad’s Hawaiian Destination Wedding

by | Honeymoons, Inspired Destination Weddings, Inspired Weddings, Location USA,


Polka Dot Bride

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Gillian & Brad

What happens when you’re both from different countries? And all of your family and friends want to celebrate your wedding with you? You meet in the middle like Gillian and Brad did – that’s what! Gillian comes from Canada, Brad Australia and together they chose a Hawaiian destination wedding to celebrate their nuptials. The happy couple worked with photographer Krista Fox Photography  and planner Crystal Adair-Benning to plan their tropical celebration.

The newlyweds share the story of how they came to be. “It must have been in the stars! A fortuitous string of events had to line up for us to even be in the same place but it happened like this in 2010. Gillian, a Canadian teacher, had been working in Australia for three years in the outback mining town of Kalgoorlie, WA. She had just returned from a holiday in Canada when she was invited to a colleague’s house under the guise of planning for the upcoming term. Little did she know her colleague was also playing Cupid.

Brad, an Australian living in Perth who was originally from the south coast of Western Australia was visiting his best mate, the husband of Gillian’s colleague and from this meeting, the story of the two together started where two hearts would be joined for a lifetime.”

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Gillian and Brad chose Maui Gardens  for their wedding, remembering, “Maui Gardens was the most breathtaking spot for a wedding! It was private, intimate and on a cliff, on the north shore of Maui. Our ceremony and reception was all in the one spot- ceremony by a waterfall and our reception was steps away on a higher terrace. Although it was a drive from Lahaiana, where our guests were staying, when they arrived, they were just in awe of the beauty that surrounded them.”

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The wedding ceremony, officiated by wedding planner Crystal Adair-Benning was described as, “Personalized and inspired by Hawaii. We wrote our own vows and let Crystal, our wedding planner add special touches – lei ceremony, message in a bottle, ukulele player.”

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“We had our vows as messages in bottles and Brad hurled them into the ocean.”

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Of their photographer, Gillian tells, “We were so thrilled to have Krista Fox as our photographer. She was so nice to work with and is amazing with what she does. We constantly feared for her life as she took bold moves to get the best positions for shooting pictures from rocky cliffs to being in the rainforest. Krista was so dedicated and researched spots and the best times for lighting for our day after shoot. We can’t thank her enough for capturing our day!”

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Stemz styled tropical arrangements for the day, the bride remembering, “Our florist had pretty much culled the entire island for particular flowers she wanted and handmade leis for all our guests.”

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The couple worked with wedding planner Crystal Adair-Benning who not only planned and styled the wedding, but also officiated it! The bride remembers,”Crystal took great care of us and our guests. She’s a wedding extraordinaire! Crystal always took the time to source things for us and consulted us along the way to ensure that our day was perfect! And we mean perfect! Even though she was in Canada and we were in Australia, we held Skype dates and messaged each other leading up to the date. Crystal was a lot of fun to work with and she had an idea for everything! We were really pleased to have her plan our big day.”

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Guests were in for a festive treat, says Gillian. “Instead of a cake, we had a giant pineapple piñata with our wedding favours inside – Ray-Ban sunglasses.”

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“We had hula dancers and guests got up to hula as well. Our guests were also entertained with fire dancers.”

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Congratulations Gillian and Brad! Thank you for sharing your special day with us! Thank you also to Krista Fox Photography and  Crystal Adair-Benning for sharing today’s celebration!

Photographer: Krista Fox Photography / Wedding Planner/Coordinator: Crystal Adair-Benning / Bridal Salon: Pearl's Bridal / Bride’s Shoes: Georgie's Bridal Shoes / Groom’s Attire: Ben Sherman / Groom’s Shoes: Florsheim / Groomsmen Attire: Ben Sherman / Bridesmaid Dresses: Alfred Angelo / Hairstylist: Stemz / Invitations & Stationery: Paleterra / Venue: Maui Gardens / Ceremony Officiant: Crystal Adair-Benning / Ceremony Musicians: Hugh Elstone / DJ: Hugh Elstone / Favors: Ray-Bans / Catering: Maui Gardens / Wedding Rings: Tiffany & Co.

A Mini-Break In Sunny LA

by | Destinations, Honeymoons, Location USA, Reviews


Anika Reynolds

Hollywood Sign

From the Hollywood hills to the palm-lined boulevards and the quintessential Californian beaches, Los Angeles is a sprawling city of contrasts. Encompassing A-list glamour, relaxed beach vibes, urban hideaways and cultural fusions, there is so much to see and do, no matter what you and your partner enjoy.

I have selected five of my favourite ways to experience the city of angels. So, set aside a few days on your US honeymoon and start planning – California here we come!


Explore Hollywood and the Hills

Sometimes you have to surrender to being a tourist – otherwise you miss part of the experience! This is definitely true of Hollywood – yes it’s crowded with sightseers, but it’s also a must-see for first-timers to LA.

Wander along Hollywood Boulevard browsing the Walk of Fame, say hello to the celebrity (and superhero) impersonators and check out the world-renowned theatres, including the celebrity handprints at the TCL Chinese Theatre. Music buffs will enjoy taking a detour a few blocks over to the Guitar Centre to see some epic instruments, memorabilia and the Rockwalk – handprints of guitar heroes from today and years gone by.

Walk of Fame

Million Dollar Listing fans simply must take a Starline Movies Stars Homes tour. It’s a great way to get your bearings and travel around some renowned LA neighbourhoods while also admiring some super luxe real estate.

Beverly Hills is another essential stop on your LA layover. People watch on Rodeo Drive, wander along the cobblestoned European-style mall Two Rodeo Drive, and see the famous Beverly Hills sign at Beverly Gardens Park.

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Beverly Hills Park

Hike the canyon

For a holiday workout with a possible celebrity sighting, take a trek up the canyon. Runyon Canyon is a 130 acre city park situated at the east end of the Santa Monica Mountains and is easily accessible from Hollywood. It has a range of winding trails, loop tracks and steeper ascents to tackle depending on your fitness level, and its lofty position provides great views of Hollywood on a clear day. This is an ideal way to experience nature in the heart of Los Angeles and mingle with the locals! 

Visit the markets

LA locals love their fresh produce, making a visit to a farmer’s market an authentic experience. The Original Farmers Market is a delicious culinary stop, brimming with epicurean delights.

This market mainstay has everything; from meat and seafood stalls, to cosy restaurants and bars, fresh produce, decadent desserts and specialty stores. Foodie couples will easily spend a couple of hours here exploring, sampling and tucking into a good meal!

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Take a beach day

There are plenty of iconic stretches of sand near Los Angeles that are well worth a visit. Begin your coastal sojourn at the legendary Santa Monica Pier, and enjoy a throwback-style date with an OC vibe. Take a spin in the Ferris wheel and spot sea lions frolicking at the end of the pier before playing some old-school arcade games and grabbing burgers at Pier Burger – a must do!

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Continue along the coast to Venice and cruise the boardwalk, watch the skaters and snap a photo of the chilled neighbourhood’s famous hanging sign. A little further along, you will find Venice’s remaining canals. This historic locale provides a fantastic photo opportunity and is bursting with charming and quirky homes.

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Stay at an icon

For an elegant accommodation option that oozes old Hollywood glamour, check in to The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel situated in the heart of the action. This stately 1920s Spanish-style hotel has hosted countless soirees and was once a go-to for superstars like Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable.

Its sparkling palm-fringed resort-style pool is a frequent VIP venue and as guests you might just snaffle an invite to an event during your stay. Be sure to also drop into The Spare Room for a drink. This dimly lit bar features leather couches and boardgames – plus a vintage bowling alley! Perfect for people watching and classic cocktails.

The Hollywood Roosevelt Pool

All images by Anika Reynolds

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Ms Chinoiserie Says: With so many things to see and do, LA is such a fabulous spot for a stopover; the food markets and Hollywood Boulevard look like so much fun!

About Anika: I’m a freelance writer with a love of weddings and creatively styled events. I have a penchant for pretty stationery and perfectly put together cheese plates, and a never-ending sense of wanderlust!

Romantic Staycations At The Mansion Hotel and Spa At Werribee Park

by | Honeymoons, Location Australia, Reviews


Polka Dot Bride

Werribee Mansion Panorama

Late last year, with our working commitments coming to an end for the Polka Dots, Mr. Polka and I set off for the weekend to kick-start the festive season with a weekend in the country. Our destination? The Mansion Hotel & Spa at Werribee Park. A place we were both so familiar with through photographs, bridal shoots and weddings but one that we have never had the pleasure of visiting ourselves.

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Werribee Mansion Hotel Entrance

The quick hour drive from Melbourne city took us past working farms and wide open fields – it was clear a relaxed weekend escape was on the agenda. The atmosphere and feeling of the weekend was only enhanced as we entered the long winding driveway to the mansion itself, past the giraffes and rhinos in the neighbouring zoo. The road to the hotel, private from the rest of the park, is lined with leafy trees and is akin to driving up to the Australian version of a beautiful old English mansion.

We’re greeted at the door by the very dashing Cedric who whisks us through the beautifully decorated hotel lobby, past Joseph’s Restaurant and bar and through the long corridors to our suite – all the while telling us the history behind the beautiful estate.

Werribee Mansion Hotel Lobby

Werribee Mansion Hallway

With 91 guest rooms, The Mansion’s two wings marry old and new, with the heritage rooms being renovated students’ rooms while the newer rooms, located within close proximity to the spa, are newly built with all the luxury one would come to expect from a fine hotel. The building maintains historic features – arched doorways, elegant wooden balustrades and picture rails; the details are as rich and as fine as an episode of Downton Abbey.

Our room, a junior suite, is located in the Spa wing directly over the spa (for easy access!) and looks out over the stunning trees of Werribee Park from our private balcony. Our enormous king size bed (complete with pillow menu) takes centre stage with a well stocked mini bar, flat screen TV, coffee machine, lounge area, working desk and closet and bathroom with enormous spa bath (and Appelles toiletries, including body sponges, scrubs and body wash).

The finishing jewel in the crown of course was the bottle of chilled French champagne with handwritten note welcoming us to the hotel – the perfect way to kick off our weekend staycation.

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Werribee Mansion Bathroom

I always think an amazing hotel like this can only be made into a complete weekend experience if there are good facilities, and the Mansion Spa is a winner. Located in the spa wing of the hotel, the Mansion Spa comes complete with couple treatment rooms (perfect for a honeymoon treat or a girls’ weekend away). Adding to the luxury experience, they’ve partnered with leading skincare brand Guinot – a true treat for your skin. Our candle-lit spa room with fresh flowers set the scene for an afternoon facial lulling us swiftly into relaxation mode for the afternoon ahead.

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We couldn’t visit Werribee Mansion without seeing the actual Mansion, so in our slightly dozy state and with glowing faces we wandered in the sunshine to the historic building. Part of the perk of being a hotel guest is free entry to the house as many times as you like during your stay. The majestic building holds a multitude of stories within its walls and was decorated for Christmas on our arrival. The dining room table set with a richly toned Christmas feast, a grand Christmas tree twinkling in the corner of the living room. Garlands and wreaths hanging from the stairs and balustrades among the beautiful paintings and art.

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My favourite part of the house though was the sunlight filled salon with its blue and gold trimmings, the vintage glamour of which left me dreaming of bands and balls and dancing the night away. This is truly a mansion of grandeur.

After enjoying a glass or two of champagne in our room, with the doors open, enjoying the soft breeze from the eucalypt trees, we made our way to onsite Josephs Restaurant for dinner. The restaurant, with its expansive windows, overlooks the gardens of the hotel and is situated right next to the hotel bar. Boasting Australian cuisine with an extensive Australian based wine list, we kick off our three course meal with dukkah-crusted lamb and perfectly cooked scallops as we sip on the beautifully toned Lindenwarrah Pinot Noir. For mains, we choose the special of the day – a chargrilled rib eye steak complete with crusty potatoes and salad (adding French fries is our favourite), the shared style of digging in together becoming a highlight of the meal.

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Josephs Restaurant

Chocolate and olive oil cake and a cheese platter filled our bellies ready for an evening treat. Tonight, the local Wyndham carols by candlelight are booked in front of the mansion. We get front row seats as we wander across the lawn and sit on the hotel side of the lawns, watching the Mansion light up and listening to the sweet tones of Christmas tunes drift across the gardens.

Werribee Mansion Carols

It becomes clear that the Mansion is the focal point of the hotel, and the next morning after we’re full from the delicious and freshly prepared buffet breakfast (offering delights like freshly blended smoothies with colourful paper straws, pastries, cheeses, fruits and the usual cooked and cold breakfast fare) we wandered out the door to take in the view. The Mansion sits proudly amongst the perfectly manicured lawns, the bright colourful blooms popping from the gardens, the glasshouses and the lake. I think this is my favourite time at the Mansion. The morning peace before the general public is allowed in the door, we have the gardens practically to ourselves in the cool morning air.

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Werribee Mansion Hotel and Spa

Some people love to get away and do absolutely nothing on a weekend break, while others love adventure and activity, and Werribee Mansion offers the rare combination of a tranquil, stunning surroundings with plenty to do. Hotel guests not only have access to the spa, indoor pool and gym, free entry to the Mansion and roaming of the grounds before they open to the public, but they also have free wine tastings at neighbouring Shadowfax Winery.

With the Werribee Open Range Zoo and State Rose Garden close by, it is easy to see how a weekend here could easily turn into a week without running out of things to do! The Mansion complex makes it the perfect way to spend a honeymoon at home, or a weekend away or even a wedding – the hotel housing the beautiful recently opened Refectory as well as the classic library theatre, Josephs Restaurant and pavilion for wedding receptions. With endless garden settings and on site accommodation, you and your guests can check in on Friday and stay the entire weekend with everything right at your fingertips.

As we check out, Cedric tells us that later in the day there’s to be a jazz concert on the lawns. A day on the green before an afternoon in the spa almost tempts us to stay in a haze of pampered relaxation. Our life calls us back to reality – but this hidden haven will call us back soon, for another weekend that only an hour away from Melbourne, feels like another world.

 Polka Dot Bride stayed at Werribee Mansion as a guest of  the Lancemore Group for editorial consideration in accordance with our disclosure policy.

Images by Polka Dot Bride.

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