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Rooms Hotel, Kazbegi. Image by Design Hotels

Georgia

Earlier this year, my husband and I booked a trip to Georgia – the country, not the US state – for our wedding anniversary. Before we went, we were the picture of Homer Simpson’s ignorance when he hilariously discovered Uruguay. We knew it was a former Soviet state. We knew that Joseph Stalin was born there, as was Katie Melua. We’d heard fantastic stories about awesome wine and giant pork dumplings called khinkali. After consultation with an atlas, we found out the Caucasus Mountains formed the Northern border and the Black Sea the Western. We knew very little else.

Our trip was for a little over a week and we decided to stay in two places: the capitol city Tbilisi and a little mountain town called Kazbegi during European winter.

Tbilisi

Located smack bang on the border between Asia and Europe, Tbilisi is an extraordinarily vibrant and eclectic city populated by peoples of diverse backgrounds living peacefully side by side. It really is a place where East meets West. The history is unreal and immediately apparent during the drive from the airport into town: giant, soulless Soviet apartments soon give way to mazes of cobblestone streets and centuries old buildings, which in turn give way to ultra-modern architecture and public artworks on the river. It seems almost like a child of Singapore and Prague. But the youngest, least pretentious child. The cool one with nothing to prove and that all the cousins like most.

Image by Caz Pringle

We checked into our AirBnb near Liberty Square (or Freedom Square depending on the map), just outside the Old Town – the place to be for tourists and locals alike – and walked the streets. The Old Town is an unintelligible tangle of old buildings and narrow, winding streets chock-full of wine bars, pubs, quaint restaurants, art galleries, hotels and guesthouses.

In Tbilisi, one figures out pretty quickly that Georgian beer, wine and vodka – a happy remnant of the country’s Soviet past – are quite simply delicious. The wine (both white and red) comes in either sweet or dry and is made using the Georgian technique, whereby large clay pots of wine are buried underground during the fermentation process. All of the wine bars, pubs and restaurants in town have a good selection of each and many also have great food. Having said that, everybody has favourites: Ours were Café Le Toit – great cocktails, awesome balcony, weird and wonderful décor; Kakha Bakuradze’s Movement Theatre – good food, good booze, great music and live performances in one place; and Zoestan – the friendly lounge room you wish you had, but with much better bartenders!

The quality (and quantity) of the food is also a source of great pride for Georgians and something to truly savour for visitors. Ridiculous amounts of soups (in particular kharcho, khashlama and chikhirtma), stews (try the chanakhi, chakhokhbili and chashushuli), salads, breads (especially khachapuri), the aforementioned khinkali and deserts (mmmm gozinaki) are washed down with Georgian wine, good local beer and vodka. Our favourite eateries were Sakhli N11 – a classy and somewhat high-end affair a street away from Liberty Square; Ezo – simple, home-cooked, “farm to table” local food in a beautiful courtyard; and Pur Pur – cosy, quaint and traditional with live music and grandma’s décor.

View from Mother of Tblisi. Image credit: Caz Pringle

Image by Caz Pringle

Tbilisi also has plenty to offer besides eating and drinking. Walking through the Old Town or along the river and seeing and feeling the history is worth the trip alone. There are loads of old buildings and churches to see, including The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi (or Sameba) – a massive Georgian Orthodox church that towers over most city structures – and Narikala Fortress, the ruins of a 4th century castle high on a ridge overlooking the city. We recommend walking the Narikala tourist route: starting at the Mother of Georgia statue on top of the ridge, exploring the nooks and crannies of the wonderful Narikala Fortress (free entry) and finishing at the entrance to both the Old Town and the wonderful Tbilisi Botanical Gardens. Also, check out the Flea Market in the park next to the Dry Bridge for an extraordinary collection of trash and treasure – jewellery, old maps, rugs, Soviet relics, electronics, chess boards, artworks and even Joseph Stalin fridge magnets.

Image by Caz Pringle

Kazbegi

After a few days of culinary and sensory delight in Tbilisi, we headed deep into the Caucasus Mountains to Kazbegi, a small town about 5km from the Russian border. The official name of the town is Stepantsminda, although most call it Kazbegi after Mt Kazbek, the 5000-metre-high mountain that dominates the landscape. The drive was three and a half hours of incredible mountain scenery (and some white knuckled wet roads) and included a few stops: at a lake, a monastery and at a ski resort (called Gudauri). We hired a driver in Tbilisi through our AirBnB host for 150 Lari – dozens of travel offices in Tbilisi can arrange this at short notice.

Image by Caz Pringle

Kazbegi was simply breathtaking: a beautiful, valley town on a rushing river surrounded by high, steep, snow-capped mountains (including the impressive Mt Kazbek). Restaurants, cafes and bars litter the town and livestock – sheep, goats, horses and cattle – seem to roam the streets free of any concerns.

Gergeti Trinity Church in Summer. Image by Transfers Georgia

The main attractions are skiing, horse-riding, white-water rafting and hiking, the latter of which we couldn’t recommend highly enough. One particular hike up to Gergeti Trinity Church – a frighteningly isolated, 14th century monastery (complete with solitary monk and monk’s dog) on top of a mountain that overlooks both the town and Mt. Kazbek – is a bucket-list, must-do kind of adventure.

Image by Caz Pringle

The church itself is stunning, the views are otherworldly and the feeling of being on top of the world is indescribable. Cars can take you there from town for around 20 lari, but the walk is well worth it. One can take the long (9 kms) trail along a stream, follow the winding road through a forest (6 kms), or bush-bash (3.5 kms) straight up the mountain amongst the trees and the snow. We chose the latter and had an absolute ball.

Locals on the road. Image credit: Caz Pringle

Image by Caz Pringle

We stayed in a guest house run by a friendly, energetic and interesting lady called Ketino that included breakfast and dinner – enough to feed a small army – for 60 lari a night. It was awesome, but if you want to something a little more luxurious, check out Rooms Hotel – a luxury, five-star hotel with the best views in town. Even if you can’t stay there, head there in the afternoon for a cocktail on the enormous deck or some soup by the fireplace. The drinks are great, the food is delicious, the vibe is warm and friendly, and the views will knock even the thickest of socks off.

View from inside Rooms Hotel, Kazbegi. Image by Ski Georgia

Elsewhere

Georgia is a small country, but has an unrivalled variety of different terrain and climate zones. Everywhere is within about eight hours of Tbilisi and you can easily organise a car and a driver from any of the travel offices in town for a modest fee. Below is a short list of a few places we plan to check out next time we’re there:

Vardzia – a 12th century cave monastery that was definitely built by fairies in the South of Georgia, about 4.5 hours from Tbilisi.

Martvili Canyons – located approximately 4.5 hours to the West of Tbilisi, caves, canyons, waterfalls, clear-blue water and epic greenery await.

Batumi – a stylish city on the Black Sea right near the border of Turkey. Batumi is about 6 hours West of Tbilisi and is Georgia’s second largest city. It is warm, sunny and beachy for most of the year (apart from the winter months).

Tusheti – in the Northeast of Georgia, 4 hours away from Tbilisi lives Tusheti, where trekkers, horses and adventurers go to frolic in glorious mountain meadows.

Svaneti – a collection of small, medieval towns in the North West of Georgia, right in the heart of the Caucasus Mountains. About 8 hours from Tbilisi you’ll find quaint villages, alpine meadows and really, really ridiculously good-looking mountains.

Ms Zigzag says: Happy anniversary to our resident world adventurers Caz and Louis. Thanks for (virtually) taking us to Georgia, a country at the intersection of Europe and Asia, that many of us have not had the pleasure of visiting in person! 

About the author Caz Pringle: Caz has been in the Event Management industry for the last decade, producing events for the likes of Rolex, Revlon, New Balance, Jeep, The Australian Open, Peroni and Alfa Romeo. After running her own events company for three years, she now lives in Antalya, Turkey with her husband where she remotely works as a copywriter and digital content producer and teaches Boxing and Yoga. She also writes the blog www.shecanpunch.com about boxing and women’s empowerment, you can follow it on Insta @SheCanPunch.

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Our journey together

We met 15 years ago in Auckland, when our mutual friend ‘Abi’ spontaneously decided to set us up, we connected immediately and have been inseparable from day one. We will always be grateful for her matchmaking skills so we had a wooden sign made which we brought with us to show our gratitude.

During a trip to Europe Jamie booked a weekend getaway to Rome, we spent the day exploring the sights, before returning to our hotel room. We were stood by the shutter windows when Jamie dropped to one knee and popped the question, it was completely unexpected and a beautiful moment.

We married 5 years from the date we met, on a secluded beach in Australia, on an island off the coast of Brisbane.

With an intimate gathering of 32 close friends and family, most of whom travelled all the way from the UK and New Zealand to celebrate our day with us.

For our vow renewals, we envisioned a relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable day to celebrate 10 years of marriage surrounded by the crystal-clear sea.

Attire

When it came to what to wear, after seeing how good Jamie’s looked in his Urbbana suit jacket and chinos, I decided I needed something a little more special than what I had originally planned.

As this wasn’t an actual wedding, I decided against wearing white, and instead opted for a long sparkling champagne sequin gown, with a small train. Vanessa from When Freddie Met Lilly was fantastic, combining 2 of her dresses to custom make my gown all in a very tight time frame, I am so grateful to her and love my dress which was so comfortable to wear.

As our vow renewals took place in the Maldives, we went with the venues recommended Photographers, Digital Photography & Video Maldives. We followed each other on Instagram a year earlier so we got to know their style, and they got to know us a little too so when we met for the first time on the day of the wedding, we all felt so familiar with each other and we were instantly relaxed and at ease around them.

We had so much fun making our way to the ceremony together on a golf buggy with clattering coconut shells tied to the back.

En-route to renew our vows

When we arrived we walked through arches of plaited palm leaves, which was completely unexpected and we felt so special.


Our ceremony took place at the over-water wedding pavilion at Four Season Landaa Giraavaru, it truly was a dream destination wedding location! We sailed to the over water pavilion in a traditional Maldivian Dhoni boat, it was such a picturesque way to arrive and we were giggly with excitement by the time we arrived at the stunning over-water pavilion.

Our Vow Renewal Ceremony

On arrival the island’s band played the drums and sung a traditional song. We felt so special as we made our way up the clear glass aisle together which beautifully showcased the sparkling ocean beneath, then we turned to each other and joined hands.

Admittedly, our Celebrant hats went on for a moment as we both ensured we were perfectly centred before the ceremony commenced.

Our fantastic Wedding Coordinator Raneesh, did such an amazing job with styling the over-water wedding pavilion with white vendella roses and orchid arrangements throughout the pavilion shipped in from Sri Lanka especially for us. We brought our own custom-made sign for our wedding backdrop with the words ‘We Still Do’ which was placed with the ceremony backdrop floral arrangement and tied in with the ceremony wording, that being Celebrants, we authored.

Our ceremony wasn’t so much about renewing our original vows, it was more about celebrating our relationship and our marriage, recognising the challenges we’ve faced together over the past decade and celebrating the triumphs and how we’ve continued to grow together.

Being a Celebrant, I (Cara) couldn’t resist writing our own ceremony which reflected on our journey together and how we’ve continued to grow both individually and as a couple. I managed to keep this a surprise from Jamie who heard the entire script for the first time on the day, which made our ceremony even more special and a little fun too, with giggles, and spontaneous fist pumps!

For our vows, we agreed on 8 ‘sentence starters’ which we completed separately and shared for the first time during the ceremony. Needless to say our words to each other were very much in tune, we spoke each vow in turn and aww’d and giggled at the similarity of the words we’d each written.

The ceremony was both meaningful and at some points pretty damn hilarious, we looked in to each other’s eyes with love, we laughed, we fist pumped and we didn’t stop smiling. It was such a special moment. As we had no personal guests attending, we kept our ceremony fairly short and sweet and once we were re-pronounced as husband and wife, we had a Champagne toast, which was perfect.

Here is an extract from our ceremony:

“Cara and Jamie, 15 years ago today you met when you were introduced through a mutual friend Abi, who ‘spur of the moment’ decided it would be a good idea to set you up with each other.

You instantly connected and became an item, quickly becoming inseparable, falling more in love with each other, each day that you spent together.

During a visit to Europe, Jamie proposed in Rome and 5 years from the day you met, you married on a secluded beach on an island off the coast of Australia on a perfect summers day, surrounded by a small group of family and close friends.

You have experienced challenges and hard times, but your strength and support for each other has made those challenging times easier.

You describe your marriage as being about laughing together, sharing new experiences, creating beautiful memories, like today, and supporting each other as you smash your goals and chase your dreams.“

Following the ceremony we danced to the beat of the traditional island band.

Our Wedding Dance

10 years of love

After our ceremony we headed to the sand spit beach for sunset photos, the team of Photographers asked us to stand facing them and walk backwards towards the sea, walking backwards felt really unnatural, so I began to politely protest saying “this feels weird, isn’t it going to look funny” and the Photographer insisted, “No it won’t” so we just rolled with it.

With a drone hovering above us, we took a few steps backwards as instructed, then the Photographers all yelled “turn around now’, thinking they were just giving us direction, we couldn’t believe our eyes when we turned to see huge words dug out in the sand reading ’10 years of love’! It was such a special moment! We love how beautifully the drone footage in our highlights film captures this special memory.

Brisbane City Celebrants Wedding Vow Renewal Highlights Film

 

Jamie had briefly crossed paths with one of the beach staff earlier that day and had mentioned our vow renewal ceremony, and he subsequently spent much of his afternoon digging out the words to surprise us! We absolutely loved it and we just couldn’t believe how all the staff on the island would consistently go above and beyond like this to make our time even more memorable.

Reception

Four Season Landaa Giraavaru went above and beyond arranging for a boat to take us to a floating wooden deck in the sparkling lagoon. It felt so romantic and private and it was just amazing to watch the sun slowly set in it’s breath taking dramatic Maldivian style, lighting up the sky. We knew this was a once in a lifetime experience and we consciously savoured every moment. Our mid ocean dining experience included a delicious 4 course meal accompanied by chilled champagne, with the waiter returning by boat to serve each course.

A new tradition

We loved this experience so much and we would love to continue the tradition and renew our vows every 10 years, which I guess means we have 10 years to start planning our next vow renewals! We feel our own first-hand experience of renewing our vows has really equipped us better for writing genuine and authentic vow renewal ceremonies. It also allowed us to explore new ways of writing ‘vow renewal vows’ which we are so excited to share with our vow renewing couples.

Ms Zigzag says: We are so thrilled to share this wonderful occasion with our readers! Thank you to our special friends at Brisbane City Celebrants, Cara and Jamie, for sharing your “We Still Do” vow renewal ceremony with us. Congratulations on 10 years of love and we wish you many, many more! 

About Brisbane City Celebrants: Brisbane’s most highly recommended Marriage Celebrant duo specialising in modern, simple, meaningful, sweet, happy weddings. With a choice of an experienced and passionate female or male celebrant, our couples describe us as warm, friendly and calming. You can find Brisbane City Celebrants on the Polka Dot Bride directory here.

 

Photographer: Digital Studio Maldives / Guest Writer: Brisbane City Celebrants / Ceremony Design & Wording: Brisbane City Celebrants / Bride's Dress: When Freddie Met Lilly / Bride's Shoes: Christian Louboutin / Groom's Attire: Urbanna / Venue: Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru / Signage: Brisbane Wedding Decorators

Kelly & Mick

It’s always easy to see why Thailand is a hot spot for Australian couples as they plan their destination weddings and today? We’re off to Koh Samui for the beautiful destination Thailand wedding of Kelly & Mick. Captured by White Shutter Photography, the couple wanted a day that was intimate, full of love and most of all – full of family. Their beachside ceremony was filled with only their favourite people, celebrating with guests at a tropical sit down dinner before they danced under the balmy Thailand sky.

The couple met at work, telling ” There was always something between us but maybe the timing wasn’t right. We stayed friends for many years until finally, we kissed on Kelly’s birthday. Thinking back, both of us had a thing for each other well before we got together.”

Kelly and Mick chose Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui for their wedding, the resort taking care of every detail- from the planning to the florals, legalities and styling. Kelly tells “The entire wedding took place at the stunning Four Seasons Resort in Koh Samui. We booked a beautiful villa for the day of the wedding and the night after. The resort is stunning and has amazing beaches and is surrounded by beautiful lush rainforest. It was so much more amazing than we ever expected it to be. The staff were so attentive and caring making sure our day was absolutely perfect and ran smoothly.

Worawan was a blessing in disguise. She is the wedding planner for the Four Seasons and took such good care of us in the lead-up and on the day. Nothing was too hard for her and she was extremely well organised.”

The bride found her strapless ballgown online, telling “I was after a fitted strapless gown that reflected the relaxed beach atmosphere of our wedding. I ordered my dress online because I didn’t want to spend thousands on my dress as this was not the most important detail for me. Getting married in a tropical and luxurious location was far more important to us.”

The bride was walked down the aisle by her eldest son and the couple’s two children to KC & Jojo’s “All My Life”.

Of the ceremony, the bride remembers “We chose to have only our closest relatives with us for the entire day. We wanted it to be very personalised and wrote our own vows. It was honest, heartfelt and incredibly emotional.”

“I love the fact that I got to marry the man of my dreams in such an amazing place! Dream wedding to my dream man really.”

Stunning orchids with pink centres were included throughout the day, Kelly told “I chose Phalaenopsis Orchids in white and purple in a cascading bouquet. I felt this was a great choice for the exotic, tropical and luxurious feel we were aiming for. The groom wore a single Phalaenopsis Orchid in the same colour with a small touch of greenery.”

“Where do I begin!” says Kelly when asked about her photographer. “Anne is not just a photographer but an amazingly talented lady who captured the real us on our special day in Koh Samui, Thailand. She goes outside the square to create images that are like no other. Everyone comments on the waterfall pics & we are so glad we went in the water. Thank you, beautiful lady, you are truly one of a kind.”

The couple’s children were at every part of the day, including the intimate dinner reception. “The one thing that was most important us was that our children were included in the celebrations” explains the bride.

The couple danced to the tropical breeze. “On the lovely balmy evening overlooking the ocean, we danced to the acoustic version of Everlong by Foo Fighters. Our children joined us for the second half of the song and we shared our first dance with them” remembers  Kelly.

Congratulations Kelly and Mick! Thank you for sharing your beautiful day with us! Thank you also to White Shutter Photography for sharing today’s celebration!