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Melissa & Phil

“It was us, we did it our way,” says Melissa, and this should be the motto of all weddings ever! Melissa and Phil created the perfect wedding for themselves, their family and their friends. Filled with surprises for young and old, as well as fairy floss, face painting, a Prosecco wall, a tarot reader and Event Nannies to look after and entertain the kids, Melissa and Phil’s day unfolded and its own pace with a focus on fun. There to capture the festivities and merriment was Sigrid Petersen Photography. Below, Melissa details all the hard work that went in to this magical event.

We married on March 7, 2020 at Gilwell Park in Gembrook (a scout camp). We wanted a venue that had accommodation on site so guests could stay over for the evening. I was raised in Adelaide and my family still live there so there were interstate guests and we wanted somewhere the kids could sleep while the adults continued partying. I had attended a scout camp wedding as a nanny and thought it would be a good option for us. I went for a site visit to Gilwell Park and fell in love. It wasn’t too far from our home in the Dandenongs and it was perfect for a festival.

The style we wanted was vintage boho vibe with lots of pops of colour. It was Family Friendly Festival Wedding. We wanted our wedding to be more of a party than a traditional wedding. Before we had kids we loved going to festivals so wanted to create a mini one for our friends and family. We wanted the kids to have just as much fun as everyone else. We hired nannies and provided entertainment for them so that the adults could also enjoy themselves. The nannies meant that the parents for relax a little.

I DIY’ed all of it! I op shopped for a year to collect vases, furniture and lace table clothes. The rest of the furniture we hired from the High Tea Mistress. I had vintage frames scattered with love quotes from some of our favourite songs. The florist created some bunches of flowers the rest we placed in vases in the morning. I created all the children’s activities and bags.

Myself and my coordinator (Kiri from Tiger Lily Weddings & Events) went to the venue the day before the wedding to start setting up. It rained all day so a lot couldn’t be completed ’til the wedding morning. I was up at 5am setting up and Phil arrived earlier than planned to do final bits and pieces. There were a few things bits that were forgotten and little details that I didn’t have time to do but no one knew. DIY is definitely the harder option. I hired Kiri and Emma from the High Tea Mistress to help on the day and I am so glad I did. I honestly don’t know how I would have done it without them.

Making the wedding as eco-friendly as possible was important to me. We hired what we could and sourced a lot from op shops. We hired a keg bar from Boss Bar Hire to reduce waste with cans and used glasses. I limited signage and used cricket bats for our directional signage with stick on vinyls that can be reused. Phil is a huge cricket fan and I wanted to incorporate touches of him in the wedding! ! We also used a cricket bat for our guest signing and autograph bats for our smash cake.

The fairy floss cart was an exciting treat for everyone when they arrived and help set the tone of the day. We also hired a Prosecco wall.

Phil wore a navy suit with grey waist coat with a Peggy and Finn bow tie and pocket chief. Our boys had a navy suit and cute little bow tie to match.

I ended up with two different dresses. We decided to have our family photos before everyone arrived, this was so our children would be more cooperative. We also wanted to see one another before the ceremony to calm the nerves a little.
I went to a few bridal stores but neither had what I was looking for. I wanted something slimline and I was always pushed into something else that was nothing like I was searching for. I know my body shape and I didn’t feel heard. I searched online for the style dress I wanted and found Bariano had exactly what I had pictured. Due to the affordable price I was able to have two! Dressmaking and Such did some alterations and added sleeves to the white dress for extra coverage.

Phil always wanted ‘All I Want Is You’ by Barry Louis Polisar (the song from Juno) as the song his bride walked down the aisle to. A lot of people knew this and it made a few of his friends quite teary.

We had a non-traditional ceremony. Our ceremony was 90 minutes after people arrived, we greeted everyone, had some photos and then I snuck off to get changed. The ceremony took place in the centre of the naked tipi, everyone stood around us in a circle.

I surprised Phil and arranged for Formal Dogs to chaperone them to the wedding just for the ceremony.

Julia (of Julia’s Celebrant Agency) conducted a legal-only ceremony and we made five promises that we each had to promise to agree to. We had three serious and two funny ones to add humour to the ceremony.

We decided to do our first dance straight after the ceremony and signing to get the party started. We chose ‘You’ve Got the Love’ by Florence and the Machine, sung by Brendan and Sabrina.

Our wedding photographer was Sigrid Petersen. Sigrid is a mum local to me, she was our family photographer for my youngest newborn and maternity photos. We love her natural relaxed style and had a relationship with her so she was naturally our first pick.

For my bouquet, Allie from Classic Bouquets was amazing. She created exactly what I had envisioned. I asked for colourful wild flowers, whatever was available and in season. I gave her full creativity. She also created the garland around the tipi, which looked beautiful.

Having time as a family on the white jumping castle with our boys was very special, they absolutely loved having that moment with us. Hirestyle offered to create one for us and it was perfect.

Our cake was a little out of the box. We had a smash cake by Smash Cake Melbourne. This cake was made entirely out of chocolate filled with lollies. No one knew, people thought we were smashing a real cake. After the kids realised what had happened they swarmed us.

Wandering Events (who arranged our tipis) were great to deal with. We needed to have a weighted system and they are the only company in Melbourne who offer this. They were extremely helpful and created just what we wanted.

The face painter and tarot reader attended after formalities. Both were extremely popular with the guests and they didn’t have time to get through everyone. We regretted not having them from the start of the day!

All our vendors were amazing. My nanny was also worth every cent. I believe more in the Event Nannies services now more than ever! Parents were also commenting on how great the team where with their children and keeping them entertained.

My advice for soon to be newlyweds? Do it your way. If you are DIY’ing, I recommend having a coordinator. You need someone to help on the day. Parents who are getting married, hire a nanny. You won’t regret it! If I didn’t have a nanny my day would have been very different.

Ms Floral Says: I loved it all… the fairy floss, the Prosecco wall, the festival feel, the way you cared for an entertained all the children attending your wedding. It was clear your day was filled with a lot of love, joy and FUN. Congratulations on your marriage and creating a day that I’m sure your guests are still raving about.

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We’ve gone treasure hunting this July to bring you The Vintage Issue on Polka Dot Weddings.
Vintage: adjective: denoting something from the past of high quality, especially something representing the best of its kind.

Call it old, call it retro, call it pre-loved, can call it what you will. But here at Polka Dot Bride, we call vintage – spectacular. We’ve been exploring vintage looks from, dapper suits to festival boho, art deco and old Hollywood getting and getting tangled in gran’s vintage lace heirlooms. We’ll be chatting vintage-inspired hair and makeup, old-world cars and the best hotels around the world to soak up vintage vibes. After all, like a fine vintage wine, some things simply get better with age.

Old is the new New on Polka Dot Weddings this July.  Follow along here.

There are many different types of introverts, and I fit into the sensitive closet type. In essence, I have a proclivity toward feeling and thinking that resulted in a tendency to process things on a deeper level. Every wedding I go to, feeling the deep connection of a couple, having connected conversations with people are much more important to me than the decorations of a wedding. Hence from early on, I wanted an intimated small wedding with only a few close family and friends.

My partner is an introvert too. However, his proclivity is toward tradition, order and structure. Hence, he wanted a traditional wedding with a big group of family and friends to witness the next stage of his life.

After we decided to have the big wedding my partner dreamed of since he was a kid, I set out to look for tools to create a comfortable ambience and avoid being overwhelmed on my wedding day. Here are some tips I used that might be helpful.

Set the intention, and develop a clear vision of the emotional state you want to be in on your wedding day
After hearing many stories about wedding couples getting hung up on small things, I decided to employ the Japanese Wabi-Sabi philosophy (accepting your imperfections and making the most of life) when it comes to wedding planning. It kept me holding a healthy perspective before, during and after the wedding!

Seek help and inspirations

Being so different in our wedding visions, my partner and I couldn’t agree on the basic wedding format for over a year! The issue was we were focused on the wedding format over our feelings and attachments towards weddings. Luckily, we have friends who were able to act as councillors to help us reframe our mindset.

Priya Parker’s book, The Art of Gathering: Create Transformative Meetings, Events and Experiences, was another great tool that reframed my view towards the big gathering. The book provided a few examples and tools that could jazz up human-centric connections even in big crowds.

Write down your wishes and feelings

On top of Pinterest wedding day mood board, I used a journal to record how I want to feel on my wedding day – being grateful and feeling blessed. The exercise became a positive energy deposit and built up the feeling on the day. I was able to bounce back to gratitude and blessings very quickly, despite a few unwelcome surprises from some guests!

Pick decorations that have meaning to you and create a comfortable environment from it

For example, I love the style and philosophy of ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arrangement). Despite it not being a traditional wedding flower choice and I couldn’t find any florist who advertised their ikebana skill, I contacted NSW Ikebana Association to seek help. Luckily they introduced me to a wonderful ikebana artist with lots of wedding flower experience. The meaning and connection with the wedding flower meant I was able to externalise my inner connection to the outer experience of the wedding.

Protect, equalise, and connect

Priya Parker introduced the key to a successful human-centric gathering with the idea that the host creates an environment that protects, equalises and connects his/her guests.

We wanted to create a worry-free environment for our guest to let their hair down. Based on Pyria’s concept, we protected our guest by not inviting children under 12 (except my partner’s two nephews) to allow our friends and family to be themselves over being a carer of a child.

We also planned our logistics based on guest comfort. For example, the ceremony location was a five minute drive to the reception to minimise guest travel, and all formalities were finished by 9pm to cater to my early-bird guests, so they could leave whenever they wanted to afterwards.

We also made sure every guest had more than one person they knew at the wedding. Not only did that equalise and connect our guests,  it also meant we didn’t feel obligated to entertain 150 people personally!

Have a small bridal party you trust
So planning a wedding and getting ready together doesn’t feel so hectic!

Create an energy surplus time slot
Asian weddings usually starts at 5am with jam-packed activities. I insisted on a three hour break for a ‘lunch nap’ instead of long photos shoots in the afternoon like most Asian weddings. At the end, I was only able to nap in the car for around 10 minutes. But it was enough for me to stay up for the after party! Also, the quiet time with just my maid-of-honour to debrief the first half of the wedding day was valuable to help me re-centre myself and regain my energy. I was able to show up much more thoroughly for everyone in my life!

Share your vision and fear with the team and lean on them

My vendors and bridal party were my team. They were my most prominent advocates. In fact, many provided valuable recommendations. My vendors were professional, flexible and able to sort all the small hiccups on the day without worrying me. Also, my day coordinator Leisa from Windwood Events was a blessing! She was the best investment for my wedding planning process.

Carry an emotional anchor or create a trigger to your desired feeling

Another tool that elicits a desired feeling is having an emotional anchor that you can carry with you to calm your nerves. Some people use a gesture such as thumbs up, hold a crystal, or use essential oils and perfume. I connect my feelings and presence with what I wear. When I feel overwhelmed, I looked at my dress. The beautiful and romantic tulles would trigger the romantic and beautiful emotion I experienced when I first saw the dress.

Bonus tip: how to connect with a large amount of guests

With all the efforts I placed on the wedding, it was fun, memorable and had lots of positive feedback. Yet, I feel I didn’t get to connect much with my guests and it seems to be a shared experience most couples feel if they have a bigger weddings.

After more inner soul searching and research, the ’15 toasts’ idea from Priya Parker might offer a solution. The premise of this is to gather 15 people and ask them to each share a story around a common theme. And each story should end with a toast.

My suggestion is to request all your guest to bring a story based on a theme. You can set the topic and mention it on your wedding invitations. At the beginning of the reception, ask all guests to share their story with people on their reception table, then each table should nominate a person to give a toast to the wedding couple based on the shared stories of the table.

The trick to this, Pryia says, is to create a space where attendees feel safe enough to share stories that aren’t all positive and light.

All the best to the introvert brides and grooms out there!

Ms Floral Says: Thank you for sharing these incredibly thoughtful and helpful tips. They are sure to bring peace of mind to brides and grooms who are having similar feelings in the lead up to their weddings.

Polka Dot Dream Team...

The below wedding vendors made this magic happen and are an approved part of the Polka Dot Directory. Visit their portfolios to learn more and enquire about their services!

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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.