Sarah Nalder of Photography by Sarah J is all about capturing wedding days exactly as they are. She believes the best moments can’t be constructed and instead happen naturally when bridal couples are given the space to relax and be themselves. As a patterned lady of Polka Dot Bride who spends many, many hours scouring submissions to find those feel good and real moments, I adore and applaud this approach. Today we chat to Bendigo-based Sarah about her photography style, how its changed over the past 14 years she’s been shooting weddings, and her favourite part of documenting days that are all about love.

You’re based in Bendigo What do you love about the area?
I love that it’s central. I’m from Swan Hill originally and I feel like it’s between there and Melbourne. It’s also a stunning and super chilled place to live.

What are the best photo spots around Bendigo?
I actually find this changes all the time. I’ve never been one to just pick a spot and stick to it. I love finding new places and mixing it up as much as I can.

Do you work closely with any other Bendigo based vendors?
Not really, I’m based in Bendigo but have always found the bulk of my work is all over Victoria and beyond. Mainly because I love the variety that comes with new places, so working with the same people doesn’t happen for me a whole lot. I love running into people I have worked with before, but I also love that I get to meet lots of new businesses through the travel aspect of wedding photography.

How long have you been a wedding photographer?
I have photographed weddings for 14 years. Photography by Sarah J started up after I had done four of those years.

How would you describe your photography style?
Documentary, real, creative.

How has you style and approach to weddings changed since you first started out?
So much has changed in the photography world since I started, so I guess as this changes it changes how you do things yourself. When I started in my late teens along side my mum and her business we were in the last years of weddings being shot on analogue/film. In those days you would take around 12 rolls of film (give or take), drop them in to be developed and you’re done! Then digital arrived and with it editing. So new trends came with this, it was totally unexplored territory which provided a whole new way of photographing weddings and I think ultimately this began shaping how I photograph today. Whether you realise you have one or not every photographer has a style. As for me, I’m sure my work looks a lot different now to when I began. But it’s been an amazing growth adventure so far. In my work I have found out a lot about myself and how I see others. It’s never been about taking a photo. It’s about how you see the day when you’re planning, the moments that happen spontaneously on the day, how you capture them and even the way you edit them. Each photo has its own elaborate story and the difference in how I tell it compared to how others might I have always found fascinating.

Tell us about your studio…
I have an at home studio. At one point or another I toyed with the idea of having a more commercial space. But I really only photograph weddings and that’s all on location, so having my work space at home just made sense. I’m in great company with four cats and coffee, coffee and more coffee. I know many photographers find the editing side of things a bit of a stretch but I really enjoy that side of the process and the creativity that comes with it.

How early should a couple book you in?
It depends on the time of year you are wanting to have your wedding and where. In Victoria we have “wedding season,” which is generally spring and autumn. Summer can also be popular but it’s like playing weather roulette in Victoria, you could end up getting married in a sweaty 40 something degree day. Least popular is Winter, which I don’t understand because I love winter! So the earlier the better for the peak months, we are talking 1-2 years in advance. Mostly it’s a bit of a lucky dip.

How do you make a connection with your couples? Why is it so important?
I feel like the initial connection is probably one of the most important. I’m talking about brides or grooms who connect with what they see in my work (usually) online. It’s so important to have that connection between the work and the couple because this style is going to be similar to their own wedding story. I love having people recommend me but honestly, it’s about the connection with the work first.

Do you do engagement sessions?
Yes! I love engagement sessions. They have so many bonuses! For one thing you’re getting the couple as they are, day to day, which is a wonderful thing to have record of. You’re also getting to know them really well in lots of ways which not only makes it easier for me on their wedding day but also for them.

What are your favourite weddings to shoot?
The ones where people aren’t afraid to go a bit rogue and splash their personalities all over the day.

Are there parts of the wedding day that stand out – that you particularly enjoy photographing?
Of course every photographer loves the shoot time, probably because of the creativity attached.

Are you available for destination weddings?
Heck yes!

Where in the world have you travelled as a wedding photographer?
Thailand. I have also had requests for Scotland, New Zealand and Canada. Though none of which I could squeeze in during the busy Australian seasons.

Best wedding venue you’ve visited lately?
I keep thinking of a hilltop wedding/reception which was between Kyneton and Castlemaine earlier this year. It was incredibly stunning and had a glorious sunset. Not a listed venue, more of a private property. But just gorgeous!

When you’re not working, where would we find you?
Volunteering at Connect Church in Bendigo. These guys are my family and super fun! I do the media, photography and graphic design for Connect Church and have the best time doing it.

Thank you Sarah for sharing your words and work with us today. Your documentary style is so beautiful in its honesty and realness. To find out more about Sarah and the packages she offers for weddings and destination weddings, head on over to her website or check out Photography by Sarah J on the Polka Dot Directory!

By the sea, and under the sun… Tess and David promised each other their forever love in front of their dearest ones at Dunbar House on the shores of Watsons Bay in Sydney. Embarking on a new chapter of their relationship, with the gentle sounds of strings in the background.
Celebrating in one of Australia’s oldest heritage homes, this special day marks only the first of many to come. With bubbles in the air and champagne in their flutes, they toast to a life filled with laughter, imagination, friendship and, in the words of Nat King Cole — L-O-V-E.
Lovereel’s videography team was there to capture the vows and kind words of those who travelled near and far to witness the warm welcome into each other’s families and the traditions cherished on film.
Ms Tweed Loves: David’s dapper white tuxedo jacket with his monogram on the lapel. What a gorgeous detail. The entire black tie style wedding is so elegant and formal and yet has a relaxed and fun feeling to it. Congratulations Tess & David.

Lovereel business description:
About Lovereel: With various wedding film options to choose from and all the raw footage at your fingertips, Lovereel offer an affordable yet highly professional wedding videography experience.


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Photography by Kacie Herd Photography; Venue: Armatree Hotel; Florals by Flourish on the Plains; Arbour by The Rural Bride; Makeup by Donna Maree; Hair by The Studio Gilgandra; Brides Dress by Storybook Bridal; Suit Jacket by Harry’s for Menswear

For a while now the narrative told about “the bush” is that it’s all drought and despair. While yes, drought is destroying our primary industries and taking an immeasurable toll on rural communities, it is not the true tale of the bush. Have you ever been to a country wedding? They are always EPIC! We at The Rural Bride can guarantee that a country wedding will showcase what the bush is about far more than a drought story. You cannot beat a country wedding and here’s why!

1. The Venue!

A lot of the weddings we coordinate are on private property and this is event GOLD! Being on private property means no closing time, no noise restrictions, no limit to the number of guests and unique venues. We’ve attended and worked at weddings in wool sheds, gardens (think the stereotypical Aussie homestead lushness), marquees, fields of wheat and show ground pavilions.

It doesn’t matter how many marquee weddings we do, they are never the same! Why? Probably because they’re in a different location each time that hasn’t hosted hundreds of weddings with the same tent, same seating layout and same styling. Each venue is truly unique.

2. The Styling!

Never have I ever seen two country weddings styled the same! It’s true! Yes, there are definitely some trends that you see over and over but the overall wedding styling is never replicated at another. If you’ve ever driven anywhere in “the bush” you’ll have noticed gum trees are plentiful and so it’d be rude not to incorporate gum leaves where possible.

This FREE and STUNNING foliage can be played up in hanging installations and floral arrangements or played down with a simple twig and leaf on a place setting. Actually, one of my favourite trends is the fully adorned circle arbour which looks breathtaking when a mixture of native leaf foliage is used with scattered flowers. Us country folk are a little clever too, we don’t pay for the arbour to be used just once. No, after the ceremony we use it again as a photo wall, frame for the wedding cake or backdrop feature.

I was coordinating a wedding on the October long weekend in Barraba NSW and the maid of honour had used foliage and flowers from her garden to make ALL the floral and foliage arrangements. Country people are just the best because I know a lot of venues in larger areas that only allow florists to do installations in their venue. This wonderfully talented woman, on the weekend had made, and this is no exaggeration: 8 bouquets, 8 button holes, 12 flower jars for the aisle, 2 huge arrangements for the arbour, 3 large urn arrangements, a hanging installation on a ladder in the centre of the tent and a long arrangement along the back wall of the marquee! Again, no two weddings are ever styled the same but they’re always stunning!

Photography by Sam McGrath Photography; Flowers by New England Flower Co.; Cake by Cupcake Dreams; Brides Dress by Goddess by Nature; Stationary by The Rustic at Heart; Styling by Boho Sisters; Makeup by Shannon Hope Makeup; Model Lindsay Kotmel; Jewellery by Stephanie Browne

3. The Freedom!
The freedom of a country wedding is what makes it memorable! What I mean by this, is that there are no rules. Guests can be bussed to and from the party, BYO swag and camp or with all the wide open spaces the hosts can arrange for guests to book glamping tents on site so they can party all night!

Speaking of partying all night, there are no restrictions on the drinks. At a country wedding the couple hosting have not had to choose which drinks package suits the guests best, they’ve actually had the freedom to choose each variety of wine, champagne and beer. This means you won’t get stuck drinking a random craft beer the venue has an affiliation with, you’ll enjoy the bar and have better memories of the day.

Some party people even allow their guests to grab a bevvy before the ceremony and enjoy one during the ceremony, again how freeing! Oh the dance floor! They always go off! Inside a tent or outside it doesn’t matter – they are epic! No one will tell you to put your glass down, you can dance the night away while charging to the couple at every song, be as loud as you like and dance as poorly as you do. In the country it is far easier to get a permit to set off fireworks which means you can end the night on a BANG!

Obviously, there are thousands of other great aspects of a country wedding that make them, in my opinion, far more memorable and special than a wedding in the city. But what it really comes down to is the people who you choose to celebrate your day with. You can stand in a dusty paddock surrounded by 10 friends and still have just as special a day as someone who has 100 friends in a CWA worthy garden. Each to their own.

The Rural Bride is all about delivering you your dream wedding day in a rural setting. We believe that the best weddings are country weddings and the best brides are rural brides. See our Instagram or website to stalk through our hire items and coordination services.