Ben & Chris
The romantic wedding of Ben and Chris in at Quarantine Station, Manly was nothing short of amazing. Tying the knot was fun, romantic and a commitment to their future as a couple. Having met overseas, they chose to come home together and have lived in Adelaide and Sydney, travelling whenever possible. Their day was filled with laughter, friends and family and they together tell the story of fairytale, the wedding and everything else in between!
Travel has been the most pivotal part of our relationship and it’s probably the thing that we are most passionate about. We lived in Thailand for a couple of years together and have travelled all around Europe, Asia, Canada, USA, South America, New Zealand, Fiji, and more.
Japan would have to be the most special milestone. For years Chris had been raving about Japan and how amazing a place it is, but it wasn’t until 2016 that we finally went together, travelling with our friends Pete and Kamini. We had the most wonderful time, but the very special moment came at a Ryokan hotel up in the hills of Hakone, near Mount Fuji, when we were all together enjoying a few drinks, and Chris proposed to Ben – very much out of the blue, and to Ben’s very great surprise.
It took him 24 hours to believe that I actually meant it, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that Ben was pretty happy. And of course, he said yes!
We handed over the keys to the ceremony to our brothers and sisters in law – they all got together and planned out the details, all of which were a surprise to us on the day. This included a wine ceremony, and the crowd singing all you need is love during the signing. A pretty magic moment when it happened!
We decided not to have a bridal party, as all of the people who we wanted at our wedding were equally special. We didn’t want to have to choose ‘favourite’ friends – so we ditched that tradition and instead let people who really wanted to pitch in and help take over parts of the wedding, so not one person (including us) knew all of the details of what was going to happen during the day!
Our meeting is bit of a fun story, and a few people in the audience were there (and involved!). We were both working for Flight Centre in the UK – Ben in London, and me (Chris) in Brighton. In 2007 Flight Centre held their Christmas Party at a hotel at Heathrow Airport on 24 November (note the date, exactly 11 years before the wedding date) – the stars aligned and we were both there.
In true Flight Centre style, the party was fancy dress – something to do with dressing like someone famous from a global destination. Ben’s team went as the Village People and so Ben was dressed up in a Naval officer’s outfit, and my team went as ABBA and I was dressed as Bjorn. Yes there are photos.
At some point during the night, where my flatmate, Jes Hegley met Ben and took a liking to him. In fact, I think we can be fairly clear of her intentions, as she had Ben practically pinned up against the wall as they chatted!
Ben adds, she literally had me pinned up against the wall, both of us with a cigarette and a drink – it was a welcome respite from the dance floor! In the course of conversation, Ben mentioned that he was from Adelaide, and she was quite excited to tell him that her flatmate (me) was also from Adelaide. In fact, when Chris walked past us at some point, Jes introduced us – we said a polite hello, but he could see that he was interrupting our romantic conversation, so he left us to it and wandered off to dance.
Not long afterwards, I broke the news to Jes that she was a little too much woman for him. After a moment of heartbreak, Jes quickly recovered and bounded off to find Chris and let me know that her Adelaide boy might in fact be a better match for him.
Jess said later she’d learnt a new form of rejection that night! I don’t have any recollection of the first introduction, other than trying to evade Jes’s highly evolved, locked on man-sensors. When I dropped the news that she wasn’t really what I was looking for she exclaimed (in typical drunken Jes style) ‘Oh my god my flat mate is from Adelaide, wait right here and I’ll go and get him’.
Considering I’d just escaped Jes’s highly trained man woo-ing clutches, I made for a swift, quick exit – chuffed at myself thinking I’d made a clean getaway.
Fast forward to the dance floor some time later, and Ben and I bumped into each other. I opened with the charming line “Hey Adelaide boy” and then offered to buy Ben a drink. Chris’ recollection (which is denied by Ben) is that Ben said no, but then must have changed his mind, appearing next to Chris at the bar moments later.
Ben responds, this is quite the fast forward, and at this point the party was in full swing – dancing on chairs & tables, lines deep at the bar – everyone feeling the music. There’s surely some bad video kicking around of us behaving in extremely career limiting ways, but I do remember rocking up to the bar line waiting to get a drink, and at that point Chris offering to get me a drink. I can only guess that my extremely good dancing, which obviously involved gyrating in such a way that I don’t recognise who was talking to me at the time had somehow impaired my recollection – perhaps it was whiplash. I guess everyone present was witness the terrifying spectacle later in the night!
From there we stood outside chatting for a good couple of hours about anything and everything, while being continuously heckled by our respective colleagues. At one point, when I went to the bar, my friend and manager Jess Anscombe (who was also at the wedding) approached Ben and asked him threateningly: “What are you intentions with my assistant manager”. It’s nice to have people watching out for you!
This is quite a literal explanation – our colleagues and managers were leaning up against a mini-bus, in the smoking area heckling us as Chris and I were having quite the in-depth conversation – probably solving the world’s problems.
As the evening came to an end, we said good night to each other and called it a night. The following Tuesday I emailed Ben with the subject line “Hey Adelaide Boy”, and the conversation led to Ben chucking a sickie to come down to Brighton that Wednesday to hang out a bit more.
The rest, as they say, is history. 11 years of history.
For our flowers, we went directly to Sydney Flower Markets and our friend Kamini from Blask Design designed and put them together for us!
It wasn’t love at first sight, however it grew pretty quickly I’d say. Who wouldn’t love spending time with that cute, cuddly bear, Chris? We’d both been out enjoying our lives and weren’t really sure where things would go, but I definitely loved spending time with Chris, even though it meant driving (or catching the train) to Brighton from London or vice versa.
We pretty quickly found our groove – and before long it was hard to imagine life without him.
I’ve always had a love for urban exploration, and in particular like how nature reclaims what man has made. There’s a real beauty when that happens. As a photographer myself, when I came across Joel, it was immediately obvious he has a keen eye for nature and rustic settings.
As our photographer, he was open to what I wanted to get out of the photos, and open to experimentation – I wanted to capture some of the urban exploration style images mixed in with his rustic style. He’s been such a brilliant person to work with all the way through the process – I can’t recommend him enough.
Of first impressions, Chris says, Ben was gorgeous. How could you not love that face immediately, especially when he was standing there in a navy uniform! He was a little quiet and shy, which was sweet, and I could tell he had an adventurous spirit and a good heart.
Ben remarks, Chris makes such a great impression on everyone he meets – it’s one of his most endearing qualities. His kind soul and genuine demeanour make all those who meet him throw caution to the wind and engage – so how could I have left that night without wanting to know more about this gorgeous guy? Even though he’d apparently been turned down on the dance floor!
Chris had taken the initiative to look me up on the company chat, and by the time I took the trip down to Brighton for our first real date, he had well and truly piqued my interest.
Discussing their relationship trials and milestones, Ben states that six months in, things were getting pretty serious, and a trip to Cornwall had more or less highlighted that whatever this was, we both wanted more. We’d started to talk about future goals and plans – Chris had been in the UK for quite some time and while he’d often thought about moving back, he’d not given it any serious thought. I was pretty keen to get out of the UK, something about the constant grey skies and drizzle had me craving a sunnier climate, so we’d started to talk about the move home.
In September 2008 – after a year together – we decided to move back to Australia together (after 7 years in the UK for Chris, and 2 years for Ben). It was a pretty emotional time and we had to say good bye to some amazing friends, but we boarded the plane and headed for a 2-month backpacking adventure around India on the way back to Oz. An amazing experience!
Prior to landing in the UK, I’d been travelling around the world for over a year, and had had such a magical time in India that it was a natural stop on the way back as I’d wanted to share some of the special places I’d found with Chris.
We spent two months on an extremely tight budget, travelling thousands of kilometres across the best and the worst of India. It was a massive shock to travel from there to the Maldives, before heading back to Adelaide.
We initially moved in together in the granny flat out the back of Ben’s parents place in Adelaide for a couple of months, before moving up to Sydney and renting our first apartment together in Kirribilli. In fact, our friend Gavyn Milton, who was at the wedding, actually found the rental listing in the paper while we were at a café in Newtown together, and we went to inspect the place together.
We bought our first apartment together in 2010, a small, run-down 2-bedder in Wollstonecraft. When we did the final inspection we were horrified at what we’d bought, and realised we were going to do some pretty quick renovations! We did just that and spent a couple of years renovating the place and turning it into something pretty special.
In 2014 we then bought our current place just around the corner in Wollstonecraft, a gorgeous 3 bedroom penthouse apartment, which was quickly dubbed “Poof Palace”. It’s been a great place, hosted many great parties, and hosted some very special tenants for a couple of years (Chris’ sister and her fiancé lived there while Chris and Ben lived in Thailand for a few years).
I think we probably knew fairly early on in the relationship that this was different. Like most couples probably do, we had a few wobbles in the early years but we got past them, and they probably made us stronger, and realise that we can get through anything.
I think we were both thinking the same thing reasonably early. I had the feeling that whatever this was, I had met someone that in whatever capacity, he would be an important part of my life, whether that be as a close friend or a partner.
I think that’s been a pretty foundational part of what makes us work. It seems we both have the sense of something larger. It’s been an amazing journey working out what this is – and I think it’s fair to say that we’ve found a real ‘life partner’ in each other. That’s something that holds weight & isn’t said lightly!
I’d also like to touch base in the ceremony on the intrinsically programmed, foundational shame that all gay people feel about their relationships – especially in our generation and older. We’ve finally had validation in Australia through marriage equality, but there are people who still don’t believe that LGBT people should be able to get ‘married’ (specifically that phrase), and some of the older generation haven’t quite released the thought that our love isn’t a perversion or a choice.
When asked what they love about each other, Chris says, apart from being gorgeous, Ben is an adventurous spirit with a heart of gold. He’s so loving and caring, and is always there with a hug and a tickle when I need it. In fact, he’s often there with a hug and a tickle even when I don’t need it! We are so in sync with our obsession with exploring the world, and love to go on big adventures together.
Ben is also keen to explore a slightly different side of the world, and pushes me to do fun and interesting things that maybe I wouldn’t have otherwise done – like a drain, an abandoned building or the “Tokyo Metropolitan Urban Drainage Tunnel”!
Ben replies, there are so many things that make Chris special, it’s hard to know where to start. Probably the biggest thing is his heart – he’s such a lovely person to everyone he meets, and always assumes the best in everyone. Chris’s assumption that everyone could be your next best friend really brings out the best in the people around him and brings them closer.
Life with Chris is a party with your best friends and sun baking on a remote tropical island. His adventurous spirit is an enabler for our mutual love of travel, and together we’ve travelled much of the globe. I love that life with Chris will always be an adventure and we both push each other in different ways to try new things.
I love that our knowledge of the world is complimentary as well, so I’m always able to learn something new from him, and (I think), him from me. Most of all though, I just love to hang out with him. He’s my best friend and I love everything about him.
We wanted to get married and have a ceremony to show our commitment to our relationship with all the people we love. Plus, who wouldn’t want an excuse for a cracking party!!
It’s a statement of intention, to publicly acknowledge that we are both committed to making our relationship work in the long term, and to pay homage to where we’ve come from and where we want to go together.
But also, In a way, our getting married is an act of rebellion, protest for validation and equal rights in as much as a statement of our love and intention. What we hope our marriage will do, is contribute to breaking down the stereotype that our love is somehow lesser, has some caveats, shame or that there was in some way, a decision made by either of us to choose to be gay.
There are so many great photos it’s impossible to pick just one, but the one with Farrah being thrown up high at the impromptu pre-dinner dancing is definitely high on the list as a favourite.
The only significance to where we got married was only that we both loved it – it’s a gorgeous property with loads of history, and we think it’s a great place to show off the best of Sydney to people who are visiting from around the world.
I’m a massive fan of Sydney’s industrial & cultural history, and this property has both of those in spades. It’s also very unique! We also thought it kind of funny that the gays should be married at Quarantine station.
Of their shared passions, they note that travel is the key one.
We are both a little obsessed with getting out and exploring the world – the bucket list just grows and grows every day! Other than that, we both love our families and friends, playing cards and board games, massages, eating amazing food, and enjoying a great bottle of red – or scotch. And, of course, it’s even better when you can combine all of these things!
Our families mean the world to us, they are the most important people in our lives.
We‘re so grateful to our parents for giving us the most wonderful upbringing, and continuing to be an inspiration for us. They are always there for us, our biggest supporters, great friends, and people we rely on for advice, enjoy having a drink and a laugh with, and we love them more than we can possibly say.
Chris says, I’d also like to wish mum and dad a very happy wedding anniversary on 24 November. Thank you for allowing us to share our anniversary with you from now on.
Our siblings and their partners are also just the most awesome people, and we love every moment we get to spend with them. We couldn’t be happier that we are all so close and spend so much time hanging out together as great friends. We were so grateful we were at Sunday & Jeff’s wedding and Michael & Emma’s wedding, and can’t wait to celebrate with Carolyn & Rob on their special day in January.
We’re also very lucky to have amazing cousins, aunties and uncles who all joined us for the wedding.
Most of all, I think we need to recognise the little people who are some of the most important people in our world to us. Our nephews/nieces Jackson, Sterling, Farrah and Vida make us so extremely happy. We love them so very much and appreciate every second we get to spend together.
Their advice for future couples? Don’t stress about the small stuff, just have fun on the day – and make sure you take the time out to enjoy the details and all of the people who have come to share your special day with them!
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- DIY from Sydney Flower Markets