Ilana and Nathan’s Sentimental Travel Themed Wedding

by | Inspired Weddings, Inspired Weddings, Weddings,


Ilana Haseltine


We met one night out at my favourite go to pub, after I’d had one too many drinks. I describe Nathan as a ‘one night stand gone wrong’. Then we went on to a ‘temporary fling’ because I had a one way trip to Central and South America planned. After a long time of “it is what it is”, the decision was made that Nathan would jump on board and we’d go overseas together. I knew then I had deep feelings for this guy and if we could make it through six months of being in each others pockets for 24 hours seven days a week we’d make it through anything. Yes, we had our ups and downs through this time but we came out of it stronger and I believe from here, we both knew we would spend the rest of our lives with each other.

Now we’re back home, and both lead busy lives (with a nursing girl’s shift work and busy builder) we love to spend as much time together as possible. We both love food, and love the freshest food we can get our hands on. Nate has the green thumb and I do the cooking. We love our dog Frankie and together we are a little family. Let’s not also forget our love of travel. Now I’d travelled to a fair few countries prior to meeting Nate (13 in fact!) and this number doubled after our trip and now it just continues to grow, and even better, it grows together!!




Palenque – Mexico


Chichen Itza – Mexico




Mendoza – Argentina


Our little family

I’m half Filipino and we went over to the Philippines for our yearly visit. It fills my heart with joy that Nate loves the Philippines as much as I do;  he loves it so much he calls it his “happy place”. Just before we left for the Philippines we found out my Dad (Pop) was sick in hospital. Nate and I were on the verge of cancelling our trip when the doctors convinced us to go and enjoy ourselves as much as possible and ensured us that he was in good hands and Pop was on the mend (this story will continue!)

Our proposal is a bit of a funny one, we had a joint birthday celebration planned with lots of traditional food, wine, sun, beach and karaoke. Before we began to eat, Nate wanted to say a few words. Nate stood there and nothing came out! It was so silent that you could hear a pin drop! Then Nate literally said “I have stage fright “. My best friend Tim and his girlfriend had joined us on this trip.

Tim being the good mate he is tried to save Nate by interjecting, “what I think he’s trying to say is thank you for the food etc”. Nate tried to interrupt saying, “no that’s not what I wanted to say.” Tim kept on going “the seafood is fantastic, you’re all such wonderful people”, Nate again tried to interrupt. This went on about four times, then suddenly Nate just yelled out “we’re gonna get married”. Everyone screamed, laughed, clapped, and it was honestly one of the best feelings. No ring, not even a question, but I was with the people who matter to me the most and I will never forget it!


Not long after this, unfortunately we found out that Pop was a lot sicker than we thought. He had a mass on his lungs, and the cancer was spreading quick through his body. The doctors gave him two months to live. He was so happy that Nate and I were going to be married and we were hopeful he would still be around in six months when we had set the wedding date. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case; Pop passed away three months before the wedding.


Nate had my ring made by a friend who makes jewellery, Leroyandi. I remember the night when he gave me the ring, Pop kept whispering to everyone else in the house and couldn’t talk to me. I honestly had no idea because I thought we had made the agreement to just have wedding rings, and I kept thinking what is going on. Little did I know that while I was out picking up groceries for dinner, Nate and Pop were having a heart to heart and Nate asked Pop officially for his blessing to marry me. Nate asked me to come outside with him and knelt down in front of my favourite lavender bush (this bush reminds me of home; since I moved to Sydney, every time I came home I would pick some lavender sprigs and keep them in my car till the next visit) with a beautiful one carat white gold princess cut ring that Nate had designed himself with Leroyandi.

Looking back, it feels so surreal. Just like one of the best dreams you’ve ever had merged with a nightmare. I don’t know how I planned a funeral as well as a wedding, just months apart. It’s like something you read in books.

Both Nate and I wanted to be as involved as each other when it came to the wedding planning. We both had the same vision and we were determined to work as a team to make it happen. We decided to get married in the Newcastle region in the hopes Pop was alive and so he wouldn’t have to travel far.

After looking at a few venues Rafferty’s Resort in Cam’s Wharf was the place for us. They had a beautiful arboretum which resembled for us the land and bush where Nate grew up riding dirt bikes and the area over looking Lake Macquarie where I grew up. It is also only a short drive away to Catherine Hill Bay which was perfect because we both spend every summer day we can at the beach. Raffertys were very accommodating and helpful with anything we asked, and because we had guests from near and far it was the perfect place for everyone to stay.


Choosing our vendors was easy! We have been so fortunate to have friends in all kinds of professions that you need for a wedding, and our desire to keep it as personal, local and ‘in the family’ so to speak made our decision so much easier.

All of my pre wedding preparation was easy as my high school friend Mel Charters owns a beautiful little salon called Melissa Jean Beauty At The Junction. With her help, my bridesmaids and I looked wonderful; our skin was glowing, our tans were the perfect shade, our nails were beautifully manicured and our eye brows were in perfect shape. When planning a wedding it’s easy to forget these things and my bridesmaids and I were so fortunate to have her help.

My hair was done by a friend from high school who has been my hair dresser since we left school – Nikea Jones. She did an amazing job with all our hair, it looked better than the pictures!


My make up artist was one of my best friends from school – Jake Ross. Having one of your best friends as your make up artist come more in handy then you would think. After our first kiss as husband and wife (because I wore a bright red lipstick), it rubbed off on Nate. It was hilarious, and Jake was right there for touch ups also.


Our videographer was another school friend Jarrad Pye who has made some amazing short films for Through Pyes Eyes. If Jarrad wasn’t able to film our wedding video, we honestly wouldn’t have had one. The way Jarrad works with the footage he collects and the song words is amazing. It’s a little left of centre but so creative and unique and it was just the type of video we were after.


Unfortunately we didn’t have any photographer friends. I looked online at a lot of different photographers but just didn’t fall in love with the pictures. After a week or two of online searching I came across Little Black Bow Photography and I was hooked. Dea’s beautiful candid pictures was just what I was after. I rang her that day and I swear we were on the phone for over an hour just laughing and talking like I had known her for years. Dea went above and beyond as a photographer, she even came around to have a cuppa with Pop and took some pictures of us in case he didn’t make it. I’m so glad she did, because these photos are my favourite and it was honestly a wonderful thing to share with your wedding photographer. We had a sneak boudoir shoot a few days before the wedding and she made everyone feel so comfortable on the day we didn’t even know we had someone following us around with a photographer.


Image by PhotobomberBOOTHS

Our celebrant, Robin Burbidge, was actually one of Nate’s school friends. We were so fortunate to have our celebrant also as a guest who travelled almost seven hours to be there on our special day! He wrote a beautiful poem of our love story, full of travel themed puns! It was really personal and unique. Robin did an amazing job and it was more than we could have asked for. I haven’t laughed and smiled so much – my cheeks were hurting! So many people commented on how different, and how personal our ceremony was, and that is exactly what we had envisioned. A ceremony that just draws a picture of past, present and future for all our loved ones to hear, see and be a part of.


For music we decided to mix it up a little. We had Nick Saxon who was a member of my favourite local band, Benjalu, throughout my university days. I emailed Nick and was ecstactic that one of the original members of the band was to play the song I had always wanted to walk down the aisle to Little Darling. Nick played for about three hours – before, during and after the ceremony.


A friend of a friend recommended Ryan Meredith from Mane Events as a DJ. Ryan was absolutely fantastic! He was so helpful with everything. I had a few odd requests and he went above and beyond to make it all run smoothly. The dance floor was always full, and he even set off the smoke machine during our first dance which made for some awesome pictures!

Ever since high school I wanted a short wedding dress; when the time came, my mind had not changed. I looked up pictures online of different short dresses and took these dresses to True Love Bridal Couture where they hand make all of their dresses and they did such a wonderful job with mine! I did try on a few traditional long dresses in different styles but they just weren’t me. I’m so happy I stuck with my ‘non traditional’ choice of the short dress. I felt so comfortable and so me! A lot of our guests were surprised at my choice in dress, just because it wasn’t the traditional long dress but everyone knew that it was just me.


For my bridal bird cage veil, I bought the material and watched a YouTube video on how to make a bridal bird cage; it was honestly one of the easiest and quickest things I have done! My earrings were Nate’s mothers earrings that she actually wore to her wedding which was my ‘something borrowed’. I wore a blue feathered hair piece as my ‘something blue’, my ‘something old’ was my Pop’s briefcase that he used to keep all his important documents in and we used this for our cards. My ‘something new’ I figured was my wedding dress.


Choosing my bridal party was easy! Of course I had to have a man of honour! Yes Tim who tried to save the day when Nathan wanted to propose in the Philippines was that man. We have been best mates since our early teenage years and I just couldn’t imagine going through such an incredible milestone in my life without him by my side. I didn’t even have to ask Tim  – he knew straight away. My other bridesmaids were my best girlfriends (Alana, Sarah, Amy and Britney), all whom I love for different reasons, all who I couldn’t live without and my little step sister (Ashley) who I asked to be my junior bridesmaid. The girls wore lovely dresses we bought from Review with a faux fur stole. They bought their shoes from Novo.


We had two flower girls, and there was never a question of who they would be. Nate’s eldest niece Mia, and Sarah’s daughter Aria; I  was there the day she got home from hospital. Our flower girls wore little tulle dresses and ballerina shoes hand made by Precious Lil Things and faux fur stoles by Marcs and Spencer.


Nate and I wanted to really show our appreciation to our bridal party for being a part of our lives and big day! Nate hand made wooden boxes we filled with goodies – the girls had perfume (Daisy), a dressing gown to wear the morning of the wedding, mini bottle of champagne, hand made hair pieces and their jewellery for the day. All this with a personal hand made thank you note.


The boys had personalized socks, a Cuban cigar and cigar cutter, and a bottle of Johnny Walker, with the exception of my man of honour; I filled his box with cologne, mouth wash, fish oil (personal joke) and personalized socks. All the boys were Studio Italia suits without the jacket, with Julius Marlow shoes, and Industrie shirts. They each had hand made button hole pieces with a flower made from maps. Nate was the only one who wore a tie and it was the same material and colour as the underlay of my wedding dress.


When we spoke about marriage even before we were engaged, we both knew we wanted a wedding that was different, unique and personal. Then along the way the idea of a ‘Travel Themed’ wedding came up. We loved it, it stuck in our brains and when the wedding planning began there were no hesitations that our love for each other, and love of travel would be brought together in the best and one of the most important days of our lives!

My bouquet flowers were made out of maps and I went to the flower markets and added some beautiful natives to break them up a bit.


Our centre pieces were small wooden logs Nate had cut from a fallen tree. We had odd sized jars that I wrapped with some lace and filled them with paper map flowers and natives. Each table was a different airport gate number and country with a home made candle and a laminated copy of a postcard that I had sent to Pop from ten different countries we had visited on our Central American adventure. We both love to cook so we decided for our thank you gifts we would make some home made tomato relish, pickles and some marvellous tasting South Coast of NSW honey (where Nate is originally from).


Instead of a guest book, we decided that we would have guest globes and a DIY ‘In Flight Travel snacks’ candy bar. Everything had a travel theme to it, down to the bunting on the bridal table that said ‘Travelling from Miss to Mrs’. The photo booth even had a ‘Passport Photos here’ sign in front.


Our wedding cake was a beautiful four tiered cake made by Cakes by Emma J who makes beautiful cakes from her own home. We knew what type of cake we wanted but didn’t have the need to have all four tiers of cake, so we decided to have two fake tiers and two tiers of actual cake. You couldn’t even tell the difference and it tasted delicious.


Nate made a lot of carpentry pieces which put a beautiful touch on the day, including a ‘You Are My World’ sign with photos of iconic places we had visited together, a country stand and our seating plan that was a beautiful recycled wooden pallet that included a sepia world map which Nate had made. I made the table baggage tags that had the gate number, country and guests.


Our MC even got into our theme and dressed as a pilot and was our Captain for the night for flight #HasLawWedding2016. Before we made our bridal party entrance, two of my friends dressed as flight attendants and they performed a small ‘safety message’ that they had put together, like they do on every flight prior to take off.


We wrapped the formalities up with brilliant speeches from my man of honour Tim, Nate’s best man and brother Matt, a pre recorded speech from Pop which had every one in tears and our parents. As a surprise, which I had been holding in for SIX months and rehearsing non stop in the car, was my speech which I finished with serenading Nate with a Meaghan Trainor song ‘Dear future husband’.

It’s a Filipino tradition to serenade your partner on big occasions like an engagement or wedding but usually it’s the male. I knew Nate wasn’t aware of this tradition, but I had to do my bit and keep the tradition going. Nate had no clue! His face was priceless, he was in shock, his reaction has been imprinted in my mind forever. I was so nervous and I couldn’t eat for weeks prior to the wedding. I hadn’t sung since my HSC finals in high school and in front of a crowd of 100  – oh dear! But after I started, every one started clapping along to the music, and I just kept my eye on Nate and listened to the music and got into it. There are no words to describe what I felt afterwards, and I am still in awe that I pulled off such a big surprise in front of all of my guests and husband!


Our first dance was a bridal salsa. We had four salsa lessons prior to our wedding at Dance Central in Surry Hills and danced to ‘Mi Tierra’ by Gloria Estafan to keep up with the travel theme. Last but not least, we asked all our guests to go outside for a ‘night photo’, and then kaboom! We had a five minute firework display over the lake by the amazing Kaboom Fireworks team! Nate being a pyromaniac couldn’t get this out of his head, and he worked several extra shifts to pay for this!


I could keep talking about our day, all day. We both could. It was honestly the best day of our lives so far. We look back and still can’t believe how perfect it was. Everything fell into place, down to the rain holding off right up until the last photo before we headed to the reception. To have everyone that has made an impact on your life in some way all in one place to celebrate the love you have found in another person is honestly so special and something words can’t explain. But we are so fortunate that for us it is reality.



Ms Chinoiserie Says: Such a beautiful love story Ilana and Nathan; your wedding was such a wonderful reflection of the love you have for each other.


This post features the following wedding vendors. If you've been featured below, we'd love to get to know you. Click here to join Polka Dot Bride.

  • Makeup Artist
  • Jake Ross
  • Videographer
  • Jarrad Pye
  • Ceremony Officiant
  • Robin Burbidge


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