Claire & Erwin
I love weddings when they get back to nature, when you tumble upon them in beautiful hidden bush settings, where family pitches in, there’s story behind every detail and really? It’s a whole lot of fun! And such is the wedding of Claire & Erwin.
Claire tells the tale of Claire and Erwin, the meeting, greeting and proposal. “It was June 21st, 9 years ago – mid-winter. I was living in Melbourne and headed to Apollo Bay with two of my sisters to escape the city for the weekend. Heading out to the local pub that evening to see Ash Grunwald play, a tall Dutch man wearing wooden clogs plonked himself down beside me. And this is where the curious case of happenstance began.
I’d landed in Holland at the beginning of travels through Europe a few years before and fell in love with the place. The bicycles, the canals…. and all those tall people dinking each other around the cobblestone streets drew me in and I ended up living there for the next two years. But in my time there I’d never seen anyone actually wear clogs…. until this night in a sleepy seaside town, mid-winter on the Victorian coastline of Australia. Curiouser and curiouser.
It unfolded that the two years I’d lived in Holland, Erwin was in Australia, both returning to our own countries at the same time. Hmmmm…..the stars obviously hadn’t aligned properly that time around. Well…. here we both were. …same time, same place… and it seemed a jolly good idea to fall head over heels in love and move in together two weeks later. It was during this whirlwind that I secretly (or maybe not so secretly because I told my sister) thought….hmmmmmm….. I think this might be the man I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. And so it was.”
Photographer Eric Ronald had captured today’s wedding with the whimsical, candid captures I have come to love his work for!
Claire recalls “Our hair and makeup was done by Jenna Grundy, a mobile hair and makeup artist who services the Great Ocean Road. She was absolutely fantastic. I’d had a trial with her and she was really relaxed but super efficient. I was keen to look like myself on the day….. a slightly more glamorous version befitting a wedding day, but not unrecognisable to the man waiting for me at the end of the aisle either. She did a great job with no fuss and no stress and was fun and lovely too! My floral hairpiece was put together with various fabric flower clips I’d collected, little spotted pheasant feathers and pearl sprays (usually used for floral arrangements).”
There are stories behind everything at Claire and Erwin’s wedding, even Claire’s wedding shoes. She explains “As I was on a shoe-seeking marathon with my older sister, the sage words of advice from my dressmaker echoed in my ears…..’finding the shoes is just as important as finding the fabric’ she told me as I turned up to each dress fitting sans shoes. I was looking for something mid heel (as there would be a little hill to navigate down to get to our forest wedding location) and it was becoming very clear that sky-high stacked stilettos were the shoes of the season. Woops. It was only as we pushed our weary selves to one more hour of shopping, that we stumbled across a cute pair of ivory peep toe’s with a bow detail across the toe. Simple. Vintagey. Perfect. The dressmaker would be pleased.”
Claire found a local dressmaker to make her wedding gown. “I had my dress made for me by a dressmaker known to a family friend. She began making wedding dresses when she was a young girl….in the days when new frocks were stitched up just for a night of dancing. I knew she would make something lovely for me and she did. It was an ivory backless halter-neck dress with lace overlay, pearls hanging down my back with the ties and a lovely train to swish about in. I’d never really thought about a ‘dream’ dress nor imagined I’d wear anything traditional, but as I began to think about and plan our wedding, all things romantic took over and a lovely lace dress to swan around in felt just right.”
The car was a little bit of a surprise for Claire and sourced from a local. “We hadn’t really considered having a ‘special’ wedding car, but a couple of weeks out from the wedding, Erwin spoke to a local he knew in town who had an old car. I could not believe my eyes when the most magnificent restored Buick made its way to the top of the hill on our wedding day. She was all red leather seats and so beautiful. Again, it was another thing that happened last minute but all just came together beautifully. Living in a small community, lots of lovely things like this happened along the way.”
Claire and Erwin were married at ‘Paradise’ Picnic Area, Apollo Bay. Claire explains “Our ceremony was held in a rainforest picnic area in Apollo Bay alongside the Barham River. It is aptly named ‘Paradise’ and is a place we often visit for a splash in the river on a warm day, a picnic or a little quiet contemplation. The trees create an incredible natural amphitheatre and the canopy of tree ferns adds to the whimsical, magical feel of the place. Deciding to get married here was easy, and although we knew Apollo Bay’s weather is less than predictable, we decided to just go for it. Although it rained throughout the day, the moment we walked down the ‘aisle’, the sun shone, the river flowed and the forest was fresh, green and glistening with raindrops. We felt so contained within the space and the love and joy buzzing within it. It was an incredible feeling.”
Decorating the spaces was one of the biggest jobs for Claire and Erwin, Claire recalls “‘Thankfully we had help from our families in setting up and packing up and friends also went to the forest before the ceremony to hang big paper pom-poms and lanterns and set up the wrought iron furniture and carpets. We used my Dad’s garden setting in the forest and he made us a matching candelabra for candles.”
The music was whimsical and beautiful Claire notes, “We walked into the forest to ‘The Butterfly Waltz’, signed the marriage certificate to ‘A Walk in the Forest’ and hugged and squeezed our family and friends at the end to the very sweet ukulele version of ‘Over the Rainbow’.”
Erwin found his suit overseas. “Erwin had booked a trip home to Holland over Christmas and with the general tall-ness of Dutch-folk, decided it would be easier to find a suit over there…which he did. He arrived home with a beautifully made blue-black suit (and a pair of red lady beetle clogs for me!). He looked very dapper on the day….(and the clogs became a quirky nod to his culture at the reception).”
The bouquets were made by Claire with blooms from Soho Rose Farm. Claire recalls “I decided I wanted roses that were big blooms and looked like they’d just been picked from Granny’s garden. I stumbled upon ‘SOHO rose farm’ in Drysdale who grew exactly this….with stunning full blooms and the most amazing perfumes. I ordered a variety of pinks and ivories and picked them up by the bucket-load with my sister the day before the wedding. I arranged my own bouquet the morning of the wedding, combining a variety of pale pink, dark pink and ivory roses with little buds from the ivy growing by our house and another spot of greenery from the garden. Wrapped up with a pink ribbon and finished with a piece of lace, I was delighted with my bouquet…. even more-so knowing I had made it myself. The remaining roses were used to decorate the tables and the hall for the reception.”
Claire and Erwin were married by Nettie Hulme from Otway Celebrations. Claire explains “Our celebrant was a local woman – Nettie Hulme from Otway Celebrations. I had met Nettie in passing once before, and when realising she was a celebrant, knew she would be wonderful. She was so lovely and re-assuring on the day…she made the ceremony heartfelt and genuine and brought us all together in the space. When she started the ceremony, her lovely calmness made us collectively exhale and enjoy the moment.”
There was, of course, the littlest member of the bridal party. Says Claire “Having our dog Spike in the wedding was funny. He’s part of our little family and although there were no doggy tuxedo’s or ring cushions to wear upon his head, we wanted him there all the same. He sat at our feet the entire time….until he got bored and chased his tail and tried to kill a stick. But all in all, he was very good and looked smart in his red polka-dot tie.”
Of their photographer, Claire says “Our photographer was Eric Ronald. I had been chatting to a friend that I wanted photos that were a bit creative and weren’t too traditional. That night she was perusing the ‘Meet Me at Mikes’ blog and forwarded his name to me. Photographer found! Eric was fantastic on the day. He was fun and relaxed and just fit in with whatever was happening. He was great with all the kids too and captured some really amazing shots of the day. When I look at the photos it feels like a real account of the entire day. Awesome photographer and just a really lovely guy.”
Claire loved everything about their wedding day, including “Sharing it with kids! Although kids are often not included at weddings, it was so beautiful to share the day with them. They were so wide-eyed and excited by the whole day and we couldn’t imagine the day without them all.”
The couple even added personal touches to their wedding photos, Claire remembers. “In November 2011, Erwin and I found a sweet little old style beach house for sale in town and decided we’d try to buy it. We were madly jumping about at the beach with excitement one Saturday morning … and it was here that Erwin popped the question. It was a cute, simple and spontaneous moment. Four months later, Erwin had been overseas, we had planned the wedding, gotten married, renovated and moved house. Not stressful at all !. We asked Eric to take some wedding photos at our new place…wheelbarrows and all… to record the whirlwind.”
The reception was held in the couple’s backup plan, Mechanics Hall, Apollo Bay . Claire says “Originally we had planned to hold our reception in a large shed at the top of the hill where we lived. We had been enjoying sunny days and lovely balmy evenings and imaginings of frolicking around, playing lawn bowls and dancing on the lawns looking out to sea. Two weeks out from the wedding, some wild weather whipped up (and was showing no signs of leaving) and the need for a change of venue became clear. We settled on the beautiful old Mechanics Hall in town, which in the long run was absolutely perfect. We decorated the hall with bunting made from fabrics that had belonged to my mother, white paper lanterns, and all sorts of vintage-y finds, pieces of furniture and items of interest. There were old china cabinets, chandeliers, an old piano accordion that had been in a cupboard in my family home for years…whatever we could find, we used.”
The decoration of the reception was a family affair. Claire explains “I sourced decorations wherever I could…some things belonging to us, some things from my family home, and bits and pieces I found along the way. It was amazing to walk into the hall on our wedding day to the smiles of the people we love surrounded in the vision that began in my mind a mere three months earlier. Candles twinkled, lanterns shone, bunting fluttered and it was the perfect complement to a beautiful wedding day that was personal, meaningful and really reflected us.”
A special cultural wishing tree decorated the reception. Claire says “Our wishing tree (a dutch tradition) was an apple tree placed in a pot at the reception. We provided pink luggage tags and a ball of string, allowing guests to write their words of advice or their wishes for us and hang them on the tree. Reading these after the wedding was sweet and often hilarious. There were wishes of ‘more tools’ for Erwin & ‘weekends away’ for me, and some blank wishes thrown in for good measure (which we’re yet to cash in). We planted the apple tree in the front garden of our new home.” The red ladybug clogs Erwin bought in Holland when he purchased his wedding suit were also on display.
The wedding was catered by Going Gourmet. Claire remembers “I stumbled across a Prahran (Melbourne) based catering company called ‘Going Gourmet’ who were so fantastic right from the very beginning. It’s owned and run by a young chef named Glenn and he was brilliant. He and his team were personable, easy-going and produced absolutely incredible food. The waiting staff were so lovely and so many of our wedding guests raved about the quality of the food and the catering team. We were so happy with the choice we made. We wanted to maintain an informal feel to the evening but still sit down together to share a meal. Glenn suggested wandering canapés to begin, a seated main meal and then a tower of mini desserts that guests could help themselves to as they wandered about throughout the evening. It worked perfectly.”
Guests received paper bags filled with treats handmade by Claire. Claire notes “I handmade our invites with rose embossed paper, vintage print paper and lace. The ‘extra information’ card inside the invite was wrapped in paper lace doilies and this was also used to decorate the envelopes. I also hand-made the paper features for the ceremony and reception – brown paper ‘sweets for our sweets’ lolly bags with name-places and paper ‘happily ever after’ wraps for our linen napkins. I also made pretty paper cones with doily detail for the rose petal ‘confetti’ that some friends had collected and dried for us. Hand making all of these things was quite a lot of work, but in the end I loved that it was all personal and made with love.”
Claire’s childhood friend made the wedding cake, a new tradition in Claire’s circle of friends. “Our cake was made by the mother of one of my oldest friends from school. Annmaree used to always say she’d make our wedding cakes for us when we got married. True to her word, she made a masterpiece for each and every one of us from our friendship circle. Not only this, she has travelled to each wedding location to deliver and set-up the cakes. I met up with her a few weeks before the wedding with a few ideas of a tiered pink cake with a vintage feel and embellishments of pearls and lace. She took it from there and I was absolutely blown away when I saw the cake on the day. It was so beautiful….. all pink, pearls, roses and lace….two-tiered with chocolate mud-cake for the young-ens and fruit cake for the oldies. It was clearly made with love and I still can’t believe how beautiful it was when I look at photos.”
On of the decorations paid homage to the history of the couple’s families. Claire explains “We pegged up gorgeous old black and white photos of Erwin’s grandparents and relatives in Holland and my parents wedding day photos in the reception hall. It was a lovely personal touch that included them in our day.”
Claire notes, “One of my favourite photos is the one of all of our guests seated and raising their glasses for a toast. It looks like one big happy dinner party and completely captured the feel of the evening.” One of Claire’s favourite memories of the day was, “Some unexpected speeches: At speech time, our two gorgeous nephews (and pageboys on the day) rushed up to us and asked if they could do a speech for us. Of course we said yes and couldn’t believe how articulate and gorgeous they were. It was a very sweet moment in the evening.”
For their first dance, Claire remembers “We danced to The Carpenters song ’Close to you’. It was a very sweet moment and if we were in a story-book, there would certainly have been little love hearts floating around in the air.”
The couple hired a Melbourne gyspy band for their reception. Claire explains “As soon as I began to think about reception music, I knew I wanted a live band with gypsy flavour. Erwin and I love, love, love to dance, so this was an important part of making the night fun and ‘us’. After searching high and low, a friend put us onto a fantastic gypsy band called ‘Rapskallion’ from Melbourne. They were absolutely incredible! As a band who tour all over the place, we felt so lucky to have them travel along the Ocean Road to share their talents with us on the day. Best ‘non-wedding band’ wedding band ever!!!! We kicked off our shoes, kicked up our heels and danced all night. It was the best party I’d ever been to.”
Congratulations on your marriage Claire & Erwin! Thank you for sharing your wedding day with us! Thank you to Eric Ronald for sharing today’s photographs with us!