Harley and Kristen’s Elegant Queenstown Wedding

by | Inspired Weddings, Inspired Weddings, Weddings,

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristen Smith
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Harley & Kristen

Harley and Kristen’s wedding was held at The Winehouse in Gibbston Valley, just outside of Queenstown, New Zealand on Friday 15th December 2017. The vibe of their wedding was classic, understated, a little edgy and bursting with deep love, and the day was made all the more special experiencing it with their young son, Oscar. Harley and Kristen weren’t fussed by the bells and whistles that couples can often lose themselves in, and Kristen could draw on her career in PR & event management to pull off planning their NZ wedding from their home in Melbourne. The photos were captured by Brooklyn, NYC based photographer Elliot Ross and the words below are written by the bride. 

Through pure serendipity, Harley and I met at a gig in Auckland. I didn’t have a ticket, but my best friend and roommate at the time, Masako, had tickets for her and a friend. About an hour before it was meant to start Mas called me to say her friend had pulled out and would I go with her. When we got there we positioned ourselves near the back and nestled in with a drink. I noticed Harley and his friends walk in, and a couple of times over the next hour or so we made eye contact.

Eventually, Harley walked over and struck up a conversation – next thing I know he’s pulling me into the crowd (read: mosh pit). It was a pretty intense rock scene, and I wasn’t too keen on the head-banging, so after I handled as much as I could, I told Harley I was leaving to get a drink. At that point he asked me for my number then kissed me on the cheek. We didn’t go on our first date for another 2 weeks, but the rest they say, is history.

In terms of style and theme, our wedding was very classic and simple. We got married in Queenstown – one of the most picturesque parts of New Zealand, so we wanted nature’s setting to be the backdrop. Harley and I didn’t get caught up in the finer details, we really wanted to focus on good food, good wine, good music and just having an epic party.

I had a customised Alex Perry dress that I bought direct from the boutique in Sydney. Prior to finding the dress, I went to a few local bridal boutiques in Melbourne and didn’t have a great experience, so I decided I’d rather get something off-the-rack and make it my own. I have really particular taste and knew I wanted something quite classic that suited my personal style and aesthetic.

The dress I chose was very minimal – with a slight edge. I knew right from the start that I wanted long sleeve, fitted, plain ivory crepe silk with a fluted skirt and train. I basically found that in an Alex Perry dress, but with sleeves that weren’t quite my style. I took it to a seamstress that Alex Perry works with in Melbourne. She took the original sleeves off and created newer, simpler ones for me. She also custom-fitted shoulder pads – for a touch of drama – as well as tucking and hemming it to fit perfectly. The end result was incredible. I absolutely loved my dress.

Harley was adamant on wearing a quality woollen suit. He ended up finding a beautiful dark grey merino blend suit from TM Lewin. He matched it with a white linen shirt, black bow tie and his favourite RM Williams black leather boots.

Harley and I only had one person each in our bridal party. Again, we took a really low-fuss approach to our wedding and with this in mind didn’t see the necessity in having a big bridal party. My bridesmaid was the aforementioned Masako, we’ve known each other for nearly 20 years and she’s one of my closest friends. Harley’s groomsman was his younger brother Jesse. There was also someone else special in our bridal party – our beautiful three year old son Oscar. Oscar walked down the aisle with Mas and was our ring bearer. He literally stole the show.

For the bouquet, because my dress was simple, yet elegant – I wanted the flowers to complement it. I had three large off-white peonies, encased by eucalyptus foliage. The result was stunning. I think the florist manually opened each peony, petal by petal to give it more grandeur and dimension.

For the floral arrangements at our tables, we went with a more colourful and eclectic approach. We had three long tables for our reception and down the centre of each was a mix of brass vases and candelabras. Each vase was full of roses, poppies and peonies of varied reds and pinks, with yellow craspedia, and green foliage.

Our venue was The Winehouse in Gibbston Valley. It’s located about 20 mins drive north of Queenstown. We chose this place for a few reasons. Harley and I used to live in Queenstown before we moved to Melbourne, and whilst there we fell in love with the idea of buying land in Gibbston Valley – safe to say it’s probably Harley’s favourite spot in NZ. A little out of our price range we settled for some land further north but when it came time to plan our wedding, there was no question that if we were to do it back in NZ, as opposed to our new home of Melbourne, it would be in Queenstown, no less Gibbston Valley.

The Winehouse was everything. Essentially it’s a historic homestead nestled privately amongst gardens and vines. We were married on the croquet lawn, which is has this amazing backdrop of the rugged Kawerau gorge beneath the Crown Ranges. After the ceremony we had champagne and canapes in the gardens with all of our guests. Then, Harley and I were whisked away for about 45 minutes to take some pictures. The best part was that because the venue has such stunning surrounds – we didn’t have to go offsite for our photos.

The reception was held in the pavilion attached to the house. It’s a big permanent marquee off the side of the house surrounded by the gardens and nested beneath the mountains. It was a really romantic set-up, with an outdoor fireplace and loads of candles to set the scene. After dinner and speeches we had drinks in the garden while the sun set, before heading into the house for dancing and dessert.

The venue was perfect. All in the one location, our wedding never lost momentum. What I thought was quite smart about the set-up is that it’s small and intimate so whether you have 50 guests or a 100, it still maintains that romantic and fun ambience.

I walked down the aisle to Tash Sultana’s ‘Notion’. A song that still gives me goose bumps whenever I hear it. Our ceremony was personal, and very emotional. I don’t think we were prepared for the emotion. Both Harley and I cried throughout, however right in the middle of it our son Oscar and his little cousin Teddy had to have a cuddle, which was a nice and very cute distraction that made us laugh and relax.

We actually didn’t decide until the week of our wedding that we would do a first dance! So it was quite impromptu on the night. We danced to Kim Carnes remake of ‘Betty Davis Eyes’, we lasted about 30 seconds before we gestured for the guests to join us.

Living in Melbourne it was quite hard to DIY much. We were adamant, however, to do our own music. We spent months curating a playlist to take us through the ceremony, cocktail hour and the dinner. Then we got a local DJ to come and do the party. The best decision we made, he was epic and I STILL have the remnants of deep blisters on the soles of my feet three months later. There were also a few elements which I designed myself then had custom made for the day, our invitations, my veil and my shoes.

At the risk of sounding cliché, I can’t pinpoint one favourite detail of the day. It was all incredible!

But I think the overall atmosphere was a highlight – everyone was ready to party. Harley and I toyed with the idea of not having a ‘traditional’ wedding given neither of us like to be centre of attention, but, we both love a good night out (or in) with our friends – featuring good food, music and plenty of whisky – and we couldn’t resist the pull having a party with all of those things with our favourite people…

So with that in mind, once we had our first dance, the dance floor antics and whisky drinking continued right until the end.

Favourite photo… There are so many pearlers from the dance floor, particularly one of Harley’s little sister after she lunged for, and won the bouquet throw. Elliot captured some very special candid shots of us with Oscar, which we’ll undoubtedly cherish forever.

Another favourite of mine is when Harley and I were coming back from our photo session by the gorge, and Elliot had gifted us this bottle of Kentucky Bourbon (there’s a side story about his and Harley’s friendly debate on bourbon vs single malt), because we tucked into this bottle during our photos, Harley needed to make a pit stop in the bushes. Elliot got this moment on camera with me in the foreground sneaking up on Harls, holding the prized bourbon.

Happy hearts, sore feet… At the end of our wedding we had chartered buses to take our guests back to Arrowtown and Queenstown. Harley and I were staying at Millbrook Resort and after the bus dropped the Arrowtown consort off he told us he could drop us at the entrance of Millbrook, but because it’s a golf resort with vehicle restrictions, he couldn’t drive the bus right inside. It’s a good 600m plus from the entrance to the reception. Harley and I made a start, but I gave up about 2 minutes in – there was no more walking for me, I had danced my feet into oblivion. Harley ended up running to reception and getting one of the concierge to come pick me up, they found me star-fished on the driveway… in my dress.

Forget-me-not… The worst part, Harley forgot to pack our next-day shoes in the overnight bags for Millbrook so we both turned up at breakfast wearing our wedding shoes – mine bright red velvet heels and Harley in his RM Williams boots with his denim shorts – we looked ridiculous.

Our photographer was Elliot Ross, he’s phenomenal. Elliot is a photographer from the States, he actually specialises in portrait, lifestyle, travel and documentary photography and his work has appeared in the likes of National Geographic, The Guardian and Vice.

Elliot happens to be my sister’s boyfriend, so we conned him into doing our wedding. It was so nice having someone familiar behind the lens. My friends would laugh if they read this, but neither myself nor Harley like having our picture taken and we weren’t keen on too many of the posed photos. Although we did a few after the ceremony, Elliot was great at capturing the natural moments throughout the night. I don’t think he put the camera down until 20 mins before the end, he shot the whole thing – so for us it’s awesome to look through and see heaps of photos of everyone on the dance floor.

Vendor appreciation… The Winehouse as a venue, and the manager Sam really stood out for us. As mentioned, the venue was breathtaking and we couldn’t have picked a better spot. The suppliers they work with were also all amazing. For starters, the food was incredible, and, there was plenty of it – which was really important to us. We took a serious gamble on this given we live in Melbourne and couldn’t just pop over for a menu tasting. But it paid off.

All of the wine was locally sourced either from The Winehouse select vintages or from surrounding Gibbston Valley vineyards. The beer and cider were all brewed onsite. They also allowed us to bring our own collection of whisky to serve nightcaps.

Five things to love about your day…

  • All of our friends and family who made a concerted effort to be with us on the day – we had a somewhat ‘destination wedding’ so virtually 99% of our guests had to travel and that is something we couldn’t be more grateful for, a very humbling notion and an absolute highpoint.
  • I married my best friend, soul mate and the father of my child.
  • Oscar could share this day with us.
  • It felt like a party. Formalities aside, Harley and I really let loose and made the most of the night. We danced right up until the last minute – we didn’t even stop for cake.
  • Harley’s aunt and uncle who live in the area put on an incredible day after recovery barbeque, it was epic! They have this beautiful property on the outskirts of Arrowtown and all of our guests joined us the next day for lunch, fun and relaxation which lasted well into the evening. There was an industrial sized slip-and-slide, tennis, table-tennis, loads of food and drinks.

Advice for engaged couples planning their wedding…  Try not to get too caught up in the detail. I think I spent a total of 30 hours planning and mapping it all out (I probably wouldn’t recommend that approach to everyone) I could afford to do this having worked in events, but because we live overseas, have a toddler, both have demanding jobs – the wedding kind of fell off the priority list. BUT, it meant that we didn’t have any deep-rooted expectations of the day. We just went with it and it was awesome.

Ms Zigzag says: There is something so very special about the love Harley and Kristen share. It feels so genuine and this picturesque NZ wedding was such a great tribute and testament to their beautiful union. Thank you to Harley and Kristen and their incredible photographer Elliot Ross for sharing the day. 

Photographer: Elliot Ross Studio / Bride's Dress: Alex Perry / Bride's Shoes: Shoes Of Prey / Bridesmaid Dresses: Miss Crabb / Makeup Artist: Beauty on Demand / Groom's Attire: TM Lewin / Ceremony Officiant: Philippa Cook / Venue: The Winehouse / Catering: In 2 Food / DJ: Mountain Beats / Flowers: The Flower Room
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