Brad and Mechelle
Brad is a Chef and I am an Emergency Nurse. We met when we were introduced through mutual friends on a camping and four-wheel driving trip. We instantly felt a connection but fobbed off potential feelings for another three years while we developed a close and playful friendship. Eventually we made the inevitable relationship official at the 2009 Royal Easter Show.
Always one for ‘big’ ideas Brad planned his proposal for months. He knew I’d always wanted to ride a horse on the beach, as I grew up and lived less than an hour from the Far North NSW Coasts most beautiful beaches and never had the chance to take my own horses. The morning started off with a guided horse ride on Stockton Beach, NSW, with Sahara Trails Horseriding. We rode through some beautiful scenery and had a few canters together on horseback along the dunes. It was perfect!
Following the horseride he drove his four-wheel drive along the beach as we often had (one of our favourite spots to four-wheel drive together) to a pre-prepared picnic. He and a few of his chef mates had made a platter full of amazing fingerfood; pastries, pies, salmon and cream cheese pinwheels, sushi rolls, and my favourite, chocolate dipped strawberries! After dining he whips out a hand drawn ‘treasure map’ and with a twinkle in his eye suggests a ‘treasure hunt’. So I follow his hand drawn map to two potted palm trees he had planted in the sand earlier that morning and proceeded to dig in the sand for my ‘treasure’. Buried in the sand I found a brown wooden treasure chest and inside was a handmade copper rose on a handmade white cushion. (The rose even had rosewater perfume sprayed in the center of it petals!)
As I opened the box Brad bent to one knee and asked me to marry him. Of course I said yes!
We had a long engagement because Brad was fulfilling his childhood dream of Four Wheel Driving his way around Australia with his best man and a few of the other groomsmen for ten months! This gave me plenty of time to form a sizable ‘ideas’ folder on my ipad.
I have never been one to see the practicality of a veil, and wanting to continue with the vintage feel I opted for a beautiful bridal hat. Once again I had no success finding exactly what I had in mind in the shops so I had the hat hand made by one of my mothers friends and sewing classmates, Margo Reily. Beautifully decorated, with vintage doilies and white emu and peacock feathers by Leonie from ‘The Old Romantic Shack‘, Clunes, NSW.
For the flowers I wanted pops of rustic autumn colour amoungst Australian natives and gum-nuts. I had the bouquets and button holes and centerpieces made by Sue from Gloucester Flowers.
My mother and I went dress shopping on several different occasions, only to come home disappointed at how rare a lace long-sleeved gown was proving to be. On one shopping occasion in Sydney, I tried on a magnificent Roz La Kelin gown in their flagship store in Sydney. I loved the dress, but it was strapless and I was looking for a gown with lace sleeves. Also the bodice was quite fitted over the hips and I wasn’t sure I would be able to comfortably sit in the gown! (An important detail, as I wanted to ride a horse down the aisle!). At home I researched Roz La Kelin gowns on the internet and found an older style very similar to the dress I tried on but with an A-line skirt and more lace embellishments. I LOVED it, it was perfect, except it was no longer available. Determined, I called stockists, to no avail. Eventually, I was ‘googling’ the style name one afternoon to show a friend, and I found a Trading Post advertisement for the dress, second-hand, in my size! After a few more inquiries, I bought it for a fraction of the price I had budgeted for the dress! It fit me perfectly! We found the same beautiful lace that’s on the bottom of the dress in a tiny fabric shop in Cabramatta, and my mum made long lace sleeves for me.
The boots were bought in Tijuana Mexico a year before the wedding, and at the time I hadn’t really thought of wearing them under my dress. I knew heels weren’t going to be practical or safe as I was going to be riding a horse. I knew I wanted my bridesmaids to wear boots so it made sense for me to wear them too, and they were so comfortable! My talented mother made the bridesmaid’s gowns. I love the colour theme chocolate brown and cream and used the flowers and hair accessories to provide pops of colour.
The invitations were all hand typed onto recycled cardboard with a vintage typewriter. One of my bridesmaids father, (and close family friend), generously gave up his afternoon to hand type all 60 invitations for an unmistakable charming vintage look. The paper doilies were bought in bulk from a kitchen/catering warehouse, and then stained with brown ink, and fastened with florist twine. Guests were instructed to dress ‘Country Charm’ (boots and all).
We both wanted our wedding to be a weekend celebration event with an outdoor ceremony, and a rustic woolshed reception complete with a bush dance. We also wanted to have lots of comforting, ‘homemade’ qualities and the welcoming feel of country hospitality. We chose to hold it in Autumn (28 April 2013) for the perfect temperature and all the beautiful autumn deciduous, natural ‘rustic’ colours.
We knew of the perfect venue to cater to our dreams, and it had plenty of memories for us as a couple as well. A campsite Brad’s family and I had been camping at regularly for many years. Riverwood Downs Mountain Valley Resort, Monkerai Valley NSW. It was the perfect compromise for our family and friends, as Brad’s family mostly live in Sydney and my family live in parts of Northern NSW and Queensland, so a ‘destination’ style venue, made it fair to all who were travelling. Riverwood Downs also had the appeal to offer accommodation to cater to every budget and camping style, from riverside powerless camping, to four and half star stylish resort accommodation. It also had the ‘country’ feel and beautiful rustic features we were looking for and a perfect woolshed for the reception – all on site.
Our friends and families all arrived the Friday night 26 April 2013 and we spent time with everyone relaxing and chatting by campfires all of Friday evening and Saturday and had a combined BBQ Saturday night. We wanted a relaxed weekend where we could spend time with all of our guests casually before topping it off with the wedding on the Sunday. We had been to many weddings where we felt we only got a brief word with the happy but busy bride and groom on the wedding day before travelling home again and we wanted ours to be a bit more personal for our travelling guest’s sake.
I am a horsey girl! I grew up riding horses on our family farm, and have photographs of me still in nappies on the back of a horse. I was never a pony club rider and never had formal lessons, just learned from hours and hours on horseback, often with no saddle. Naturally I wanted horses to be a feature somehow in our wedding. My ultimate dream was to ride a horse down the aisle, with Dad leading me. I had almost given up on the dream, as my own horses were too far to ship to the location, and other horse farms in the area didn’t have any suitable quiet horses available, keeping in mind most horses have never had a huge flappy white dress on their back!
Three months before the wedding I sent out some last ditch attempt emails to various horse studs advertised around Stroud and Gloucester. Two stud farms wrote back that they had no horses suitable. At last Linda Broadbent owner of Saphukai Spanish Horse Stud and Rylo Park Equine Assisted Therapy responded. She could offer me her stunning Spanish Andalusian Stallion, ‘Dominquez’ to ride. I was over the moon! He was perfect for a bridal horse! Spanish horses are often ridden in shows with spectacular spanish dresses, so he was used to crowds and used to a big dress. Linda was so easy going and accommodating, and Dominquez, (known as ‘Dingo’ his paddock name) was jaw droppingly beautiful. I have often said he out-staged the bride on the day! He was better than I had ever dreamed of!
The Ceremony was held beside the river under a beautiful big willow tree. The guests sat on hay bales covered with colourful patchwork quilts up along the bank that is shaped naturally like an amphitheater. The Bridesmaids arrived in a hessian decorated trailer towed by a tractor. The ceremony ‘aisle’ was lined with long strips of hessian and my Grandmother ‘Noni’s’ preserving jars with lace and candle inside.
While I was researching styles and ideas for our Australian bush wedding, I was desperate to find some old preserving jars to use. I looked in op shops and garage sales. I mentioned my plans to my dad one afternoon and he got a twinkle in his eye and said “come with me”. He took me to an old shed on the property and opened the double doors of a huge old Kelvinator fridge and revealed racks and racks stacked neatly with my deceased grandmother’s (‘Noni’) ‘Fowler’s Vacola’ preserving jars of all different shapes and sizes! I was amazed! So we used them to put candles in to line the aisle. We also made some ‘Chandeliers’ with them, used them in the willow tree at the ceremony and also re-used them in the woolshed for the reception.
Images by Levi Gardner Photography
Ms Gingham says: I’m loving reading all about this wedding! Thanks Mechelle for sharing so many details with us! I’m excited about part two this Wednesday!
Mechelle says: “I love the outdoors, horses, four-wheel driving and everything else that encompasses rural Australian life.”