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James and I met through a mutual friend and instantly connected over our shared sense of humour. I always joked that he “knew my every reference”. Whilst we enjoyed a great friendship, the stars would not align until three years later when in 2005 and James finally confessed his feelings in a crowded St Kilda nightspot and we’ve barely spent a day apart since. James proposed in 2008 and we began planning our 2010 nuptials.

One night whilst poring over the details for the grand event it suddenly occurred to us that what we really wanted was just to be married in an intimate ceremony surrounded by our closest family and friends and to celebrate with beautiful food and wine. We realised that we could simply invite guests to my 30th birthday which fell conveniently on a Saturday in 2009 and we could be married at the same time. And so the surprise wedding birthday plan was hatched, with the promise by James that I would never have to receive a combined anniversary/birthday present! He happily agreed as this meant only one date to remember.

We designed the invitation ourselves and it was produced by graphic design studio Qube Konstrukt. Hidden in the text box were the words “James and Nicole Wedding” and these words were then highlighted on the thank you cards.

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The theme was Old Hollywood Glamour, black, white, silver and a touch of hot pink in keeping with the venue’s beautiful pink curtains. Immediate family and the best man and maid of honour were in on the secret and helped us throw other guests off the scent.

The day started with the myself, my maid of honour and mother getting ready at the home and studio of makeup artist Julie Dammery whilst James woke in his childhood home and shared a brunch with his father, brother and best man.

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Two black Chrysler C300s (1300 Limo now) then collected the bridal party and we posed for photographs at various locations before arriving at the Prince Hotel suite where everyone relaxed and chatted while waiting for the guests to arrive downstairs.

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Guests arrived at the bar from 6.30pm while James, his best man, groomsman and our celebrant and photographer waited in the dining room.

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I waited nervously upstairs with my father and maid of honour. James and I both sent sneaky text messages to guests complaining of traffic and suggested that they head into the dining room to be seated while they waited for us. Once there, the celebrant announced the surprise and the photographer brilliantly captured the moment as people realised they were actually attending our wedding.

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The ceremony then commenced as my father walked me down the aisle to the ‘Love Actually’ rendition of the Beatles’ ‘All You Need is Love’.

Our ceremony included a reading (The Art of Marriage) by James’ brother and I brought some of my father’s Jewish heritage into the ceremony by including the tradition of the breaking of the glass by the groom, which serves to represent the fragility of marriage. James’ father gave a toast, which included an old Scottish blessing in honour of his family’s Scottish heritage.

My vows were both sincere and a little humorous as I promised, amongst other things, never put sultanas in James’ food (he thinks they are unexpected bursts of flavor, like hidden food mines I guess!) and to never schedule activities that clash with a F1 Grand Prix.

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James invited guests to then sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me as I had almost forgotten it was my 30th birthday with all the wedding excitement.

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Once seated I slipped on some Peter Alexander pink satin slippers to ease my tired tootsies!

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We enjoyed our first night as husband and wife in the King Suite at The Prince Hotel and joined close friends the following day for a debrief over Yum Cha.

As we were due to settle on our first home a week after the wedding and then I was starting a new job the week after, we had a “mini-moon” of 10 days at Kudos Villas in Hepburn Springs where we indulged in massages, spas and plenty of delicious food and wine.

Our best man and maid of honour also organised post wedding hens and bucks events for us the following month.

We are so glad we changed our plans as we had the best surprise wedding birthday ever!

Venue: Circa Private Dining Room, St Kilda, Melbourne.

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Dress: Baccini and Hill

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Inside the dress, my mother suggested that my late grandfather’s St Christopher be sewn in as my ‘something old and borrowed’.

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Hair Flowers: Alannah Hill

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Photographer: Adrian Tuazon

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Celebrant: Jason McCheyne

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Favours: Personalised Pink and Platinum M&Ms imported from the US (James and I always shared M&Ms during our early courtship)

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Personalised Guest Book by Bookbinders Design

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Flowers: Flower Flower (which included to my surprise my favourite white peonies which were kindly sourced by the florist from The Netherlands due to them being unavailable in Melbourne at that time of year)

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Hair and Makeup: Julie Dammery of Beautique Creative

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Rings: Janai Jewellers

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Shoes: Steve Madden “Something Blue” Collection (a silvery blue as the bride’s ‘something blue’).

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Cake: Babycakes By Design –  flavours were first tier chocolate, and second tier, raspberry and white chocolate.

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Groom’s Suit: Soho Workshop, 407 Chapel Street, South Yarra, Melbourne. Phone: 03 98261990

Ms Polka Dot says: The gorgeous surprise wedding today of Nicole and James. Everything about this wedding screams ‘elegance’ but with a more than the usual element of surprise and delight! Congratulations Nicole and James and thank you for sharing your wedding/birthday with us!

Nicole says: Melbourne based, married to Mr F and new mum of one particularly gorgeous baby S, I love my boys, all things wedding, travel, food, my cat Chloe and of course all things Polka dot!

Visit  Nicole’s blog here Bumps Bubs and Stuff I Love

 

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.

  • Wedding Cake
  • Babycakes By Design

Dan proposed 20 months after we started dating and the day before his 29th birthday. His original plan hit a ‘natural disaster’ kind of bump and instead we had a quiet engagement followed by a dinner with our families. Our theme for the wedding morphed from all white into white and bright after the shoes I fell in love with only came in cherry red or grey. I decided to go with the red and the other colours just seemed to fall in place.

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My wedding dress happened by chance and was actually picked by my mum-in-law. Julie saw the dress (Trono by Manuel Mota from Pronovias) in the bridal shop window and said to me ‘I know it’s everything you said you didn’t want. But I think it would look great on you.’ I tried it on and I cried and so did Julie. The dress was picked! I fell in love with stationery from Tear Drop Weddings – a Canadian based company. They make the characters look like you! I loved that this was the first hint of our wedding day that our guests got. It was unique and fun and we had so many brilliant comments about them!

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We got married at Anderson Gardens along side their Lotus Pond. It was a beautiful setting, with the whole wedding fitting under the shade of a large tree. I walked down the aisle to ‘It feels like home’ by Chantal Kreviazuk sung live by Elle Graham. I thought it was funny the way everything seemed to fit – as my shoes had become known as ‘there’s no place like home’ shoes. It was really like Dorothy’s wedding over the rainbow! A special moment for me was having both my parents give me away. I thought it was just me trying to hold back the tears when Dan met us at the end of the aisle but as I went to kiss mum on the cheek her eyes were tearing up. I said to her ‘Don’t start or you’ll make me cry!” Only to hear my Dad’s voice behind me say ‘Not before me.’ I looked to him as Daniel took my hand and his face was red and his eyes wet but he was beaming his big smile.

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During the ceremony Dan accidently said ‘with this wing I thee wed’ It was perfect! We burst into giggles and the celebrant had him say it again!

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My cocktail hat and bridesmaid fascinators were made by local Townsville Designer Katherine Falco Designs. She’s fantastic and so talented (and patient)!

Our photos were taken by the magnificent Andrew Rankin. I can’t thank him enough for being so supportive and positive with all my ‘big’ ideas. To quote Andrew when discussing transporting our giant balloons to our photo locations he simply said, ‘You’ve seen that movie Up haven’t you?” I knew we had a winner then.

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The reception was held at our local RSL, which holds a personal connection for my family, as well as Daniel. Instead of traditional bonbonnieres we decided to place moustaches on sticks (made by us) on each table. We were hoping this would act as a possible ice-breaker for guests who hadn’t met and another incentive for guests to have some fun in the photo booth. Our photo booth tied into our photo guest book with guests asked to sign a page, to which we would later add their photo. It’s one funny and precious momento!

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Our wedding cake was made by the talented Leoni from Happy Cakes. It was a 3 tiered white cake with multicoloured ‘sugar confetti’ tumbling off it. It had 3 flavours in each tier; of peppermint, white raspberry-choc, and chocolate – so that when you cut a slice it was white, pink and brown and oh so yum!

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Another personal touch at our reception was the fact that Dan’s dad’s band played for the evening! It was especially lovely to have them play ‘Say hey I love you’ for when the bridal party walked in – only to stop and change to ‘I’m yours’ by Jason Mraz for our surprise first dance before we’d even sat down! I made a surprise dress change after the formalities; into a 1950’s swing dress. My god-father and I had learned to rock and roll when I was 21 and as I still love it, we teed up a little dance to ‘CandyMan’ by Christina Aguilera. We had a blast and from what we hear, so did all of our guests.

Ms Polka Dot says: Such a fun and happy tropical wedding for you today, with bright pops of colour, lots of humour and lots of personal touches! Don’t the photographs just ooze fun and happiness? Congratulations Paula and Dan – and thank you for sharing your wedding day with us.

Paula says: I’m 24 and live in Townsville, North Queensland with my new hubby Daniel, and our dog Zeus. My favourite cocktail is a Starburst! It’s like a liquid starburst – yum o !

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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.

Once the champagne had been sipped, the families called and we had stopped looking at each other at random moments throughout the day to squeal “We’re getting marrrrrriiiiiieeeeeeeed!”, Buzz and I set about finding our venue.

Bertie tries to snag the shinyshiny

Above: my little cat Bertie tried to pounce on the shinyshiny while I was trying to take a photo of it! He is a cat of very refined tastes.

We knew we wanted somewhere beautiful, historic and, most importantly, indoors! Having set the date for August – month of blustering squalls, pounding rain and icy chill –  we knew there was no point in pretending that we could have an outdoor wedding. We wanted to have our ceremony and reception all in the one cosy place so that guests didn’t have to be rained on or venture out in the cold dark between venues.

Treasury Restaurant

Above: The imposing, glowing doors outside Treasury Restaurant, Melbourne. Must be fierce competition for this shot – hope I don’t have to boot any other brides out of the way. (Photograph from the Treasury Restaurant website).

Another element that was a make-or-break for us was the ability of the venue to offer a vegan menu. Although Buzz is omnivorous, I am vegan and we had already agreed that we wanted to serve an all-vegan menu – and for some people this may be the first vegan meal they had ever eaten, so we want to knock their socks off! I was heartened and very impressed that all four venues we visited were more than happy to work with us and their chef to create a suitable menu, which I think is a good indicator of the sophistication of venue catering in Melbourne.

We visited four venues, all historic and gorgeous buildings with lovely staff and their own special charm. But our decision was really made at our first venue, to which we couldn’t help but compare all others.

Treasury Restaurant, interior

Above: Treasury Restaurant, interior ground floor. Will you just look at those chandeliers. Sigh. (Photograph from the Treasury Restaurant website).

Treasury Restaurant, formerly the Bank of Australasia, was built in 1874 in the Renaissance Revival style and has been brought up to date as part of the Sebel Hotel. It is warm and intimate whilst spacious enough to hold all our guests without cramping their ability to throw down some serious dance moves – a must at any wedding! We loved the nods to history with the retention of the old bank teller windows lining the central hall, along with beautiful restoration work and plush modern furniture. After our ceremony our guests can gather on the mezzanine for pre-dinner canapés while we brave the dark for our photos, and we will all re-assemble downstairs for dinner and dancing. At the end of the night, Buzz and I can simply hop in the lift and be taken up to our own suite, suitably exhausted and exhilarated.

I am dreaming of walking down the aisle, under chandeliers, past bank teller windows and in the presence of history, family and friends, to see Buzz  at the other end, waiting for us to become husband and wife.

Treasury Restaurant, mezzanine

Above: Treasury Restaurant, mezzanine level. Excellent position to throw your bouquet from to the gaggle of single ladies below. (Photograph from the Treasury Restaurant website).

Miss T’s Top Three Tips – Venue Shopping

1. Start early. 12 months is fine for off-peak but if you’re planning on peak season between about October and March, and  especially on any high profile days like St Valentine’s Day or 11/11/11, make sure you get in as early as humanly possible. And with that in mind, prepare to compromise. You may not be able to get the anniversary date of your first kiss or your grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary, and you will need to weigh up whether you want your wedding to be at your perfect venue or on your perfect date. My advice is that the date will be special to you regardless, and always will be, whereas all of your guests will benefit if you choose the venue you love most.

2. Think about the type and size of event you want and choose venues to inspect accordingly. There is no point wasting time to drive to Tullamarine to look at a 500 person capacity venue if your dream day is a cocktail party for 70. Likewise, if your guest list is sky high, don’t pretend that you’ll all fit on to the Eureka SkyDeck.

3. Make sure to read the venue’s contract details very, very carefully. It’s one of the largest expenses and you need to be across what you are committing to. Be sure to discuss it with your venue before signing. Before. That’s before signing. Not three weeks before your wedding.

3a. And I know I said three, but this one’s important: you must love it. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but you do need to love it.

Ms Polka Dot says: Miss T is back (follow her journey here) to share with us her wedding planning journey –  this time the all important task of choosing the venue. With some really great tips to keep in mind!

Miss T says she is: ‘Organised to the max; fan of all things sparkly and organic; vegan (but no hemp or dreadlocks); proud mama to a Chihuahua princeling and two snooty cats; drinker of beer; and thrilled to her little cotton socks to be marrying the sweet, silly, smart and snuggly Buzz.’