After Mark proposed, Mark and I knew right away that we would have an engagement party so that we could share our joy with the important people in our lives. I had spent years planning for our engagement and wedding in my mind, but the realisation that all I had to show for it was a collection of 3000 pretty screenshots soon dawned on me after Mark asked me to be his wife.
Planning our own party, with our own budgets, had me facing challenges that I had not imagined. As a natural perfectionist, some things were hard to compromise on, and maintaining control over every minute detail is not practical. Planning something with your own money, which you want to be as extravagant as you dream, but also meaningful was so much more complicated than throwing the corporate events I am used to!
After Christmas, Mark and I started planning quickly, and we managed to turn around a DIY marquee engagement party in two months. Our engagement was held at my parents’ home. Our background is Greek and Macedonian, and it is customary to have the engagement party at the woman’s family home. I love tradition, but the challenge of fitting everyone in to a backyard was starting to hit home. The only way around it was to keep our list tight, and we had to limit our numbers to approximately 90 people.
We got to work designing our invitations, started ordering in styling elements and assigning little jobs to our families. We wanted a sit-down black-tie party that was ‘us’, without the formality of designated seating . We did the catering ourselves (our Mums were fantastic, and Mark’s grandpa is a chef) and although we realised it wasn’t going to be easy, we didn’t think how complicated catering for 90 people would be! We wished for a warm summer night – and we got one with a 38 degree day and a “sweltering” night as described on the news. We even got a 15-minute thunderstorm that added to the humidity for extra pleasure!
In the lead up, Mark and I spent every weekend shopping around for styling pieces. We sourced vases from IKEA, lighting from online stores as well as charger plates, glassware and cutlery.
When I couldn’t find the cake stand or champagne holder I was looking for, Mark made them! My parents, who spent weeks preparing the house, were so fabulous, supporting all of our crazy plans. Mark and his Dad constructed the floor, and Mark (being the creative one) did an amazing job decorating our beautiful coconut and lime cake that we had made by the wonderful Vanessa at Cakes by Vanessa with flowers; all I gave him was an inspiration picture and he created a work of art!
Come the day of the party, I was running to one of the florists to pick up flowers for centrepieces whilst my sister-in-law went to another florist for the cake flowers. We had aunties, uncles and parents constructing everything at the very last minute to avoid everything wilting in the heat. My Dad and sister were helping me clean and trim the rose stems and arranging the centrepieces right up to an hour before guests were arriving! It was more manic and more work than I had expected, but as soon as the champagne started flowing, the stress of it all was soon forgotten.
I couldn’t find the ‘perfect’ dress off the shelf, so I bought a designer gown and worked with Linda Jane Doble to deconstruct it and create exactly what I had in mind. Linda was just amazing, she made the whole process so simple. I did my own makeup, I freelance and found the process of doing my own makeup so calming on the day. My hair was styled by Silvana at House of Luxe; I was amazed it withstood the heat, and Mark was dressed by Prinzi Collections.
The Orthodox engagement service was performed by our priest. It is a religious promise that we make to one another, and includes the blessing of our engagement rings.
Another important Greek engagement and wedding tradition is the offering of sugar almonds which are considered to represent happiness, health, wealth, children and long life.
Mark and I and our families, including grandparents, also took part in the traditional exchange of gold jewellery.
The wrapping up of speeches was the cue for another surprise from Mark – a show from three Brazilian dancers (one of whom is going to be one of my gorgeous bridesmaids!) The show well and truly kicked off the party, followed by lots of Greek dancing, plate smashing and celebrations that kicked on until the early hours of the morning.
Our wonderful photographer, Grant Williams did such a fabulous job capturing the feel of our party. We wanted our photos to be real, and to capture moments that we were likely to miss; Grant was able to do that with such grace.
The craziness of planning the party was intense, but it completely paid off. It was a true reflection of who we are as a couple, the love that we have for one another, and for our families.
Ms Chinoiserie Says: Congratulations Stephanie and Mark; what an amazing DIY engagement party; your attention to detail was perfect; the cake decorated with flowers is just beautiful!
About Stephanie: I am a 25 year old office manager, working for a data analytics firm in Melbourne. I have a love of glamour, makeup, fashion, wine and food. I have organized some corporate events before but nothing could have prepared me for the whirlwind of planning that has been our engagement party – and upcoming wedding!
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