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Melinda & Andrew

There are few things more guaranteed to get everyone into a celebratory mood than a beachside holiday and for Melinda and Andrew, with the bride from Germany and the groom from Australia, there seemed to be no better occasion for their family and friends to come together, than for a destination wedding by the sea where the dress code was strictly “”No suits, ties or shoes”. With Maria Shiriaeva Photography capturing every moment, all you need to do is kick off your own shoes, grab a cocktail and settle in for the story!

The pair met far from the bride to be’s home, Andrew telling the story. “Melinda had only been in Sydney, Australia for one month on a working holiday visa when she joined her uncle at the 10th-anniversary party for Australian surf/motorcycle fashion brand Deus ex Machina. When I saw Melinda eating the birthday cake from a plate I cheekily asked if he could have a piece, to which, Melinda responded yes. With my first swipe of the spoon, I took all of the icing from the cake. Melinda was shocked because she was “saving the best for last” while I pontificated “but you never know if you’ll make it to the end so eat the good stuff first.”

And with that life motto in hand, it was over pizza that Andrew proposed sometime later, in Melinda’s words “While sharing pizza and wine one night in Amsterdam we discussed our beliefs on what marriage is and isn’t. We found that we didn’t need to compromise our values so agreed that at some point we should get married. Then, a week later while taking a post-dinner walk on a beach in Ericeira, Portugal we both felt that this was the moment. Andrew walked behind me sneakily trying to find a shell that could be a makeshift ring. When I stopped walking Andrew had to give up searching through the shells. He then gave me a cuddle from behind. At this moment I turned around, with some kind of telepathic knowledge of what was coming, and said: “Yes, I do want to be your wife.” And then Andrew asked me in my native German “Willst du mich Heiraten?””

Andrew customised his look, choosing to have pants made from traditional Indonesia batik fabric, purchased on the couple’s trip to Bali two years earlier.

The bride found her beautiful boho inspired Tara Lauren gown at White & Ivory Bridal. “”My dress was an ivory open back, long dress, beautiful and unique lace, waistband knotted in the back” she tells.

Melinda and Andrew married at the beautiful Puri Dajuma Resort “Bali is a special place for both of us, Melinda has family there, and it’s somewhat in between our home continents of Europe and Australia. We chose Dajuma because it was inline with our sustainability values, it gives back to the community, we could book the entire resort for at least 3 days, and the resort and area were not just gorgeous but also affordable for people who had spent a lot to travel there. People often say “don’t worry about the food, no one remembers it” but we still have guests tell us about how good the food was. But the best thing was the service.”

And there was much gushing from Melinda and Andrew about the service they received from the team, Melinda continuing “We need to emphasize how great the resort is and how wonderful all of the staff are. Rondy, the manager of the resort was so helpful and paid great attention to detail. He and his team exceeded our wishes in every way possible. The resort itself is now 17 years old but the facilities and rooms are incredible and the fully matured garden is majestical. This was only the 14th wedding they’ve hosted so all of the staff, from the management to the gardeners knew our names when we arrived. From day one, all of the Puri Dajuma wait-staff delivered the best service we’ve had anywhere in the world. They made us feel so special and knew all 70 of our guests by name.”

The bride walked down the aisle with local music, Melinda remembering “The resort suggested having some live Balinese music while guests waited. Some of the local kids were excited to be part of the ceremony so they joined Melinda in the procession.”

The newlyweds escape to the beach for photographs right after their ceremony, while guests enjoyed rum from coconuts, on the sand, these stolen moments remaining one of Melinda’s favourite memories of the day.

Of their photographer, the bride can’t rave enough. “We loved her ability to capture moments of joy, and the warmth that her photos have. She was very professional and managed to salvage what was left of the natural light before sunset.”

After dark, guests gathered for an outdoor vegetarian BBQ feast under the night sky (with plenty of twinkling lights of course!).

The holiday vibe was embraced by the guests, who adhered to the couple’s dress code of “No suits, ties, shoes. Feel comfortable, fun, and sexy”.

Andrew’s speech as one of the definite highlights of the night, not only was it backed by a soundtrack he’d sourced earlier from guests, it also included a very special guest. The couple explaining “A surprise saxophone player that had secretly been organised by some guests and brought all the way from Denpasar (3-hour drive) just to interrupt the groom’s speech. The Saxophonist appeared from the shadows playing the solo from George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”.”

As the stars shone, a bonfire on the beach was the perfect way to keep warm. Andrew and Melinda inviting guests to write wishes for the couple or themselves on slips of paper and throw them into the fire.

The dance floor was like no other – a soul train, guests who were DJs with an amazing appetite for dancing setting the scene for a long night of dancing. Andrew remembers “Seeing 40 people shoeless on a dancefloor squatting down under the direction of the DJ then jump up as the chorus kicked in for Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” which was the final song of the night. Then the pair of us being carried off by guests to be tossed into the pool.”

A big congratulations to the newlyweds! Thank you so much for sharing the stories of your day with us! Thank you also to Maria Shiriaeva Photography for sharing today’s beautiful celebration and imagery with us!

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Polka Dot Honeymoons Directory Mid Banner

Image via Tourism and Events Queensland

We shouldn’t say it, but sometimes we secretly think that the honeymoon is the best part of a wedding! Yet with hectic social lives, family to look after and high-powered careers to contend with – let alone the cost on top of the wedding celebrations themselves – we don’t wonder why some couples are forgoing their honeymoon completely or opting for a mini-moon a.k.a. shortened honeymoon. If you’re short on time, we’ve created a sweet mini-moon itinerary for you to tropical Port Douglas and The Daintree region. After al,l tropical weather and chilled out vibes are always welcome on any honeymoon. Not so welcome: passports, checking lines and super long flights!

Thala Beach Nature Reserve by Polka Dot Bride

Our schedule is for a quick three-day honeymoon. This trip is designed to be a little lazy. So you’ll have time to nap, sun-bake or swim in your nearest pool or safe harbour. Seriously, check for wildlife warnings before you dip in your big toe up here!

Image via Flagstaff Hill by Tourism and Events Queensland

Day 1: Breathe in fresh sea air, stretch your legs and spread your newly married wings… 

  • Hire a car. You’ll want to be mobile and there are several car rental places in Port Douglas itself. Otherwise, there are heaps of options in Cairns if you are starting there. Protip: the Skybury coffee at the airport is sourced from the local Atherton Tablelands and is a quality surprise, should you need a pick me up post-wedding festivities!
  • Take a morning drive meandering along as much of the Great Barrier Reef Drive as takes your fancy. Between pristine skies, wild bush-land and azure seas accenting the coast from Cairns to Cape Tribulation, you may spot colourful hang gliders and para-gliders. Keep an eye out for human made rock piles along the way. Don’t forget to bring your wedding playlist for road-trip music. Or to enjoy that dreamy ‘windows down’ weather.

Image via Great Barrier Reef Drive by Polka Dot Bride

  • Now to a different kind of cruising as you’re probably itching to get up close and personal with the regions’s famed waters. Sailaway offers afternoon cruises to the Low Isles where you can snorkel or sunbathe, then soak up the sunset. There are no kids allowed, so the only babies you’ll see are adorable baby sharks. Alternatively, they also command shorter, sophisticated luxury sunset sailings, where the only thing that gets wet is your whistle as you float upon the Coral Sea. You could even book an entire cruise just for two if budget is no object.

Image via Sailaway by Polka Dot Bride

  • Alight your vessel and you’ll easily spy your dinner spot for the evening: Hemingways Brewery. This gastropub boasts views of gently bobbing yachts in the Crystalbrook Marina, set underneath a canopy of glinting stars, if you manage to nab a table outside. Grab a beer tasting paddle to share as you debate ordering their 1kg flank steak with all the trimmings, designed for a greedy twosome.

Image via Hemingway’s by Krista Eppelstun

Day 2: Time for a little indulgence…

  • Sleep in! Or go shopping in Port Douglas. The choice is yours. If you can be bothered getting out of bed we recommend hitting up the whimsically-named Lemonade and Sparkles for amusing printed shirts and a caffeine hit. Try Tahitian Lime for vivid, locally-designed swimwear (and good karma: they donate a chunk of sales to animal charities) or Barbados which is a luxe island style bar where everything from the furniture to the coasters are for sale! There’s also Deep Whole Foods for nourishing picnic supplies or sneaky midnight snacks and Ahoy Trader for artistic bohemian wall hangings and homewares.

Lemonade & Sparkles by Polka Dot Bride

  • Next you’re off to a late brunch at Salsa Bar & Grill. Should their colourful, globe-trotting menu prove too much to contemplate give it up to fate with the chef’s selection tapas plate. You know you’re splitting the souffle made from Daintree Estates chocolate anyway.

Salsa Bar & Grill by Tanya Snelling

  • If it’s not too hot, work it all off with a stroll along the Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail. This 3km(ish) round trip nature walk from Rex Smeal Park to Four Mile Beach looks out over the Coral Sea, Low Isles and the Daintree Rainforest. Definitely time for some more honeymoon snaps!

Port Douglas Lookout by Krista Eppelstun

  • The evening holds upscale cocktails that taste of the tropics and an undoubtedly romantic seafood dinner amid the cosily-lit Mediterranean interiors of Zinc. Must orders include the ‘Four Raw Tastes of the Sea’ and their local tiger prawns with mango salsa. If you’re lucky, you might spy the odd cute curlew bird hunting for its own dinner between your table legs.

Zinc by Polka Dot Bride

Day 3: Quiet moments interspersed with things that make your heart flutter (not including your new husband or wife!)

  • Head out north from Port Douglas to the Daintree Rainforest area. Keep an eye out for cheeky cassowaries in the bushes along the way.

Cassowary by Tourism and Events Queensland

  • There’s always room for ice cream! Floravilla make their many flavours with organic cream, and local fruit, eggs and vanilla where possible. They have exotic tastes like dragon fruit, goji berry or black sapote and luxurious ones involving ingredients such as chocolate liqueur, Guinness and lush Ironbark honey. But there are more treats to come. Daintree Ice Cream Co, set nearby on 22 acres, including organic orchards and tropical gardens, grow many of their own ingredients. Try seasonal ice creams made with Davidson plum, soursop, jackfruit and a bellyful more.

Image By Ilona Couleur

  • Whether you do this part of the itinerary before or after your ice cream treat is up to you…and your stomach’s individual fortitude. You’ve already taken the plunge. Now take another with Jungle Surfing. It’s zip-lining on a harness through the ancient canopy of the Daintree Rainforest from platform to platform. There’s ups and downs and trust involved as most of the journey is taken side by side and – let’s be honest – there’s a fair bit of yelling; sounds just like marriage to us!

Jungle Surfing Image via Tourism and Events Queensland

  • Don’t forget to pack a rug or a couple of beach towels. Your late lunch will be a picnic where the rainforest meets the sand at the laid-back and peaceful Thornton Beach (maybe don’t sit too close to the water’s edge though; crocs have been spotted here). You don’t even need to pack your own feast, as CJ’s Bar and Cafe is right there ready and waiting by the beach. Naturally with these sea views, we recommend their fresh fish (cooked just as you like) and chips. Do you have time for a hand-in-hand stroll down the beach?

Image via Tourism and Events Queensland

Your mini-moon is complete. Now you just have to return home and begin your new lives together!

Image via Tourism and Events Queensland

Where to Stay – it’s just not a honeymoon without a plush room for two…

Port Douglas and Daintree have a myriad of accommodations to suit your style and budget. But here are just a few standouts if you’re after something extra special!

Niramaya Villas & Spa by Polka Dot Bride

  • Niramaya Villas & Spa: The luxury, Balinese-style, stand-alone villas at Niramaya boast a breezy open-air lifestyle, lush private gardens, including a pool for each space. The entire place feels like a fancy spa with self-contained accommodation options for just a cosy two or your whole bridal party. Don’t miss the the superior hotel breakfast at Chapter One restaurant here (do order the moreish flatbread with labne, cauliflower and hummus if it’s on the menu).

Niramaya Villas & Spa by Polka Dot Bride

ReNewell at Newell: For ultimate privacy, Executive Retreats has dozens of tropical residences in their portfolio for you to enjoy. ReNewell, an architectural home set right on Newell Beach, is just one of them. It has an indoor/outdoor vibe, a designer pool overlooking the ocean as well as views across to Port Douglas township. And you can still get spa services!

ReNewell by Polka Dot Bride

  • Thala Beach Nature Reserve: The stilted suites and forested surrounds of the eco-friendly Thala Beach Nature Reserve make it seems as though you’re sleeping in a rather deluxe tree house. Here you can bird and butterfly watch to your heart’s content. Or why not star gaze or meditate to the rhythm of the waves? Their beach – complete with hammocks and coconuts to order – is so isolated you’ll feel like castaways in a romance flick.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve by Polka Dot Bride

Ms Zebra Says: I can’t imagine how much you’re craving a holiday post wedding! This mini-moon is a great way to take a breather after the all the celebrations are over and you’re in need of some one-on-one time!

About Ms Fleur De Lys: Aside from being Ms Polka’s Editorial Assistant, Ms Fleur de Lys is also Polka Dot Bride’s Melbourne correspondent so you’ll see her running all over town finding wedding inspiration. As both a lifestyle journalist and cocktail aficionado, Fleur appreciates the power of words whipped up as deftly as a good martini.

If there’s one thing that really sets the scene for your big day, it’s your choice of ceremony and reception venue. Whether eloping or embracing the whole big, white destination wedding thing, tropical destinations are popular for obvious reasons (hello, sunshine!). But a toes-in-the-sand wedding is certainly not your only option. On arriving at a place like Port Douglas Daintree, you’ll find a myriad of memorable venues beyond the beach. From sophisticated to super chilled-out spaces, there are locations to suit whatever your wedding day style may be. We’ve rounded up 8 memorable places in which to get married around the Port Douglas Daintree region to help with your dream wedding venue hunt.

1. You + Me Upon the Sea

Your something blue? The ocean will certainly do! We know that sailing off into the sunset together is meant to happen at the end of your wedding, but why not make it the wedding itself? Sailaway‘s French-built luxury catamarans can host up to 40 guests on private charters. You can stop off on a deserted island to exchange your vows or simply keep on sailing. Plus, once you’ve taken the figurative plunge, you could literally take the plunge and have a lovely swim. Champagne, sunsets and the deep blue sea sound like the making of a pretty sweet wedding to us.

2. Goin’ to the Chapel and we’re…you know how this one goes.

If you’re travelling to a tropical destination to get married, you don’t want to waste it by saying “I do” amid any old church or chapel. St Mary’s by the Sea is not your average chapel. It’s heritage listed, non-denominational and inclusive. And – frankly – it’s adorable with its rainbow stained-glass windows, beachy visage and altar with view out to the Coral Sea. After the ceremony, you could sit down to a breezy reception feast at Salsa Bar and Grill just across the road or dine on a romantic seafood banquet with cocktails at Zinc, just a short stroll away.

3. Gimme a little Sugar

It’s easy to see why the Sugar Wharf is one of Port Douglas’ most popular wedding venues. It’s as close to the water as you can get with out getting wet. It has a rustic industrial vibe that can be played up or dressed up for hundreds of guests or smaller occasions. It has indoor and outdoor options and sunset views. Plus it just looks darn cool. Built in the early 1900s, Sugar Wharf was once an active dock and storage shed, then it became a shipwreck museum, now it’s a community venue.

4. Love Shack, Baby

Herbie’s Beach Shack – while not an actual venue as such – makes a fitting backdrop for weddings on Thala Beach Nature Reserve. The rusty corrugated shack acts as a charming bar to keep your guests happy with refreshments – straight from the coconut if you so wish. Offering serious castaway vibes, the private beachfront is dotted with palms and hammocks. Envision walking down a sandy aisle defined with coconut husks! As a happy bonus, the Thala Beach eco-resort’s lofty honeymoon suite ‘Sandpiper’ is mere steps away.

5. In Love with Luxe

Niramaya Villas & Spa is a luxury, Balinese-style resort accented by soothing waters and tropical greenery. Tie the knot on their manicured lawns surrounded by lush, jungle-esque gardens. Or, there are also pool-side cocktails and classic receptions to indulge in at the Chapter One restaurant on-site. But we especially like the idea of a super-intimate ceremony and reception within your own villa for just your nearest and dearest (or perhaps just the two of you and your witnesses). Each villa boasts its own kitchen, pool and bbq so you can make the occasion just as cosy, relaxed or indulgent as you wish.

6. A Toast to the Happy Couple

Every celebration deserves bubbles. But those bubbles don’t have to be Champagne! If your style runs more towards craft beer, Hemingway’s may be just the place for your wedding. A working brewery and gastropub, Hemingway’s can host up to 600 people across the entire venue, if sprawling onto the marina deck out front. If you don’t want to invite quite that many people, they also have a function space upstairs with a private bar and balcony offering fab views of the yachts and boats floating just outside.

7. Sky High Romance

Want something really different for your wedding ceremony? This one’s for couples who like either a little thrill in their relationship or like to get back to nature. Or perhaps you just want a good excuse to not wear a fluffy dress or stuffy tux? Jungle Surfing takes you on zip-lining tours of the Daintree Rainforest. Basically you’re taking a flying-fox tour through the canopy. They have a new platform that’s a bit more spacious than the rest. You’ll unclip from the line and enjoy stunning views of ancient trees right through to the sparkling ocean in the distance. The only thing is, you’ll need to convince your celebrant and witnesses at least to come with you (it’s more fun if you don’t tell them they could simply climb up).

Alternatively, Thala Beach Nature Reserve‘s Curlews Lounge has similar panoramic views with no safety checks required: it feels a bit like an upscale treehouse peeking through the canopy to Cairns and beyond.

Photo by Matthew Evans

8. Home is where the Heart is

For the ultimate in privacy at your wedding, you simply can’t go past a private residence. Executive Retreats has more than a dozen properties scattered from Port Douglas to the Daintree available to hire for weddings and associated accommodation. One of their properties, Renewell at Newell is set on the beach and opens right up to feel like a natural part of the great outdoors. You’ll need a private chef or two like Port Douglas Catering to take the task of feeding everyone off your mind. They’ll come to you to create a gourmet family feast tailored to your exacting tastes. Now the only thing to decide is whether to kick off your reception on the deck or by the pool.

Wedding ceremony and reception sorted. Now to the fun part: the honeymoon! This and this should help to spark honeymoon inspiration.

Photography: Port Douglas Weddings (header), Strategic PR (Sugar Wharf, Hemingway’s), Matthew Evans (Renewell), Queensland Tourism & Events (footer). All others images by Polka Dot Bride or supplied by respective vendors.

Ms Zebra Says: What better destination than a tropical paradise such as Port Douglas to say ‘I do’?! From sandy beaches to seaside wharves, there is truly something for every couple. Thanks Ms Fleur de Lys for these great venues and ideas!

About Ms Fleur de Lys: Aside from being Ms Polka’s Editorial Assistant, Ms Fleur de Lys is also Polka Dot Bride’s Melbourne correspondent so you’ll see her running all over town finding wedding inspiration. As both a lifestyle journalist and cocktail aficionado, Fleur appreciates the power of words whipped up as deftly as a good martini.