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Images 1 & 2 via Bell Street Bridal

One of the most exciting parts about getting engaged is choosing your wedding dress, but it’s not always easy to find the right gown to fit your style, body type and budget. This week on Behind the Door I’m thrilled to head to a bridal gown store with a difference, Bell Street Bridal.

Owner Ali tells me that the idea for Bell street came quite organically. “I made my first wedding dress back in 2009 for my cousin, after we had a bad experience trying to shop for a wedding dress”. After making that dress, Ali had a couple of friends ask her to make dresses for them and she realised it could be a business.

Ali had been previously trying to start up a handmade clothing label (also called Bell Street) and decided to change direction and focus entirely on bridal dressmaking in 2013, after loving the experience of making her own wedding gown.

Image via Christine Mcnally

Ali started running a custom bridal gown business from home and tells me she liked that custom wedding dresses already have a wearer before they’re even made, so there is less waste. The idea for Borrow from Bell Street, her hire business, crept it’s way into Ali’s head about two years ago, after she had a few brides who decided at the last minute that they were worried about being cold on their wedding day.

“I thought it would be a good idea to have a little collection of cardigans and faux fur jackets for brides to borrow for the day” says Ali  “That little collection expanded into a shop full of beautiful vintage cocktail dresses and evening wear that people hire for all sorts of occasions and I’ve had the shop open for one year now”.

Image via Bell Street Bridal

Bell Street Bridal is located in Marrickville in Inner West Sydney and Ali tells me it is quite a large area in comparison to other inner west suburbs, and you can get pretty much anything you need. “Most of the shops and restaurants in Marrickville are small businesses and the locals are really keen to shop local and support everyone.

Whether it’s the older family businesses that have been in the area for years, or newbies like me” says Ali, “The Cook’s River is a lovely place to go for a walk and feel like you’ve left the city, and there are so many small bars and micro breweries for a really fun night out.”

Image via Shu Yeung

The store has a beautiful big shop window, displays of headpieces, veils and dresses to hire with some fantastic vintage furniture adding to the eclectic vibe. Further in are the change rooms and Ali’s studio where she creates her gorgeous gowns.

“I love working with lace as there are so many different kinds and I like how the design of the fabric can guide me on the design of the dress – it will tell me what it wants to do!” says Ali, “I am also addicted to sparkle and love doing intricate hand sewing, beading and embroidery and I especially love using these methods to include little pieces of a bride’s personality in their wedding look.”

Image via Ann Marie Yuen

Ali tells me sustainability is a really important part of Bell Street and at the very heart of her business. “While I love making wedding dresses, I personally had a lot of issues with the amount of waste created in the wedding industry, and Borrow from Bell Street was my antidote to that”. Brides can now borrow almost everything they need for their wedding – dress, veil, petticoat, bridesmaid dresses, and something to keep warm on the day.

An unexpected perk is that Ali has found a huge market in wedding guests who love being able to wear a “new” dress to every wedding they attend. “When it comes to making custom wedding dresses, I try to be really economical with fabrics and use vintage materials wherever I can”. Such a fantastic option for brides who care about sustainability and it sounds like the dresses speak for themselves!

Image via Daisy and Duke
Ms Zebra Says: It’s SO great to hear of people using incredible vintage fabrics/laces and creating a space where the aim of the game is to reuse! Well done to Ali on an amazing business.
About Amelia Waddell of Moonstruck Bride: I’m a proud bridal store owner with a love of exploring creative spaces. Whether it’s an office, event space, workshop or retail store I love seeing how other wedding businesses create their own special magic. When I’m not fitting brides I love immersing myself in everything wedding, in the name of “research” of course.

 

Credits

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Image via Nina Hamilton Photography

It is often assumed that an eco-friendly wedding entails a compromise in style, yet it’s actually the opposite! Eco-ethically focussed suppliers are usually small businesses, creating by hand and with love, or with materials that aren’t available on a larger scale.

Farmer-Florists may grow heirloom flowers that aren’t ordinarily available. A sustainable dress designer might work with unique vintage fabrics, silks and laces. Ethical jewellers will create bespoke pieces by hand, and can even recreate old family jewellery into a new, one of a kind piece.

Yes, green and gorgeous do go hand in hand. So why not plan a wedding that is uniquely you, feels aligned with your values, and at the same time, doesn’t cost the earth?!

Here are some of Less Stuff – More Meaning’s favourite eco-wedding ideas:

  1. Simplicity and substance:

Laura and Chris aligned their values of living simply into every aspect of their wedding. They planned a day using the things they already had, to celebrate their love story in an environment which evoked their full sense of life and love in its most authentic and natural state.

“We avoid single use plastics, we buy second hand, we always recycle and up-cycle before we ever consider a purchase for something new, we juggle only having one car and buy our produce as locally as we can. We couldn’t justify spending our life savings on a “one day memory”.

Laura wore her late-Mother’s wedding dress, paired with a second-hand dress from Gumtree, and Chris wore op-shop shoes, and a custom made jacket. As lovers of nature and looking after the planet, the couple chose a caterer who grows their own veggies to reduce food miles, and composted on site. Tables and chairs laid out on the lawn meant the atmosphere stayed relaxed, community focused, and natural.

The newly weds wanted to give back to their local and global community as much as possible during their day, and were able to give back through their celebrant Zena Lythgo’s practice of donating 5% of the celebrant fee to SisterWorks, a nonprofit organisation.

Image via Laura & Chris

  1. Eco-friendly Bridal Wear

An eco-wedding for Alex and Rohan meant that if something new was needed, it had to be either reusable, long-lasting and/or sustainable. And wow did they knock it out of the park! Alex’s dress was designed and made by Hobart-based Sue Hall of Shall Design. The fabric was a vintage linen table cloth, and their 1 yo daughter had a smock and bloomers made from the same fabric.

Whilst Rachel incorporated the fabric of her grandmother’s wedding dress to be re-fashioned into her unique gown, which had all the feels!

Images 2-6 via Ona Janzen 

Images 7-8 via Nina Hamilton 

  1. Local and Seasonal Florals

Amber and Bridget took a low-key approach to their wedding florals. They bought their flowers direct from Woodbridge-based flower farmer, Lisa Kingston, who has a stall at Salamanca Market in Hobart on Saturdays. They arrived at 6.30am and picked a number of small bouquets of mixed flowers ($7.50 each!), larger bouquets of mixed flowers, and mixed green foliage/natives on the spot.

The wedding was on Sunday, and the flowers were still amazing a day later. Friends of the girls found driftwood and used the green foliage to make the beautiful hanging arbour for the ceremony as a wedding gift.

Image via Nina Hamilton

  1. Giving back

We love the idea of looking back fondly on your wedding day as having brought joy to others, and Kate and Pat took this to next level by paying it forward through their wedding. They asked their friends to choose from a selection of three favourite charities via bottle top vote, and then donated $10 per vote in lieu of wedding favours.

Pip and Tom did something equally as rewarding by planting trees on their property Mountain Ridge Wines on the South Coast, putting a whole new spin on lawn games!

Image 10 via – Sandra Henri Photography 

Images 11-12 via Jon Harris

  1. Memory making experiences over stuff

Kate and Pat wished to affirm the role of community and the web of love and connection that their union had created for everyone present. Celebrant Sarah Tolmie crafted a ceremony that included a memory making ‘Circle of Love’ around Kate and Pat. All their guests were instructed to surround and encircle them, reaching out to the person next to them and in front of them, connecting everyone back into the centre of the circle. Then they had to hug their way out. Fun!

Images 13-14 via Sandra Henri Photography 

You’ll find lots more tips and inspo in the Mindfully Wed E-Guide. Here’s what Tanya, one of our readers had to say about the guide:

“What a refreshing approach to planning weddings. I had already come back to it a few times when I felt overwhelmed with options or unsure about what I want. It allowed me to focus on what matters, leave the unnecessary ideals that are not relevant to us, and most importantly, to remind me that I am not missing out by opting out of certain traditions. We just had our surprise wedding this past weekend on Sunday. I re-read the guide the night before the wedding to help me focus on what matters and not get swept up in all the stress.

The best thing I did was renting pot plants with baskets instead of getting floral arrangements. No waste, less cost and looked amazing! We also got people to take leftover foods and desserts home (which turned out to be great wedding favours!).”

 

Ms Zebra Says: To round out our Green Issue, it’s a great reminder to add small pieces and make a difference, rather than overwhelming yourself and giving up! Thanks Sandra for another great piece on things any couple can do – and not trade in the beauty of a wedding to be eco-friendly!!

About Sandra Henri of Less Stuff – More Meaning: Sandra has been a wedding and family photographer for more than ten years, now specialising in small, intimate weddings. Through her time in the industry, Sandra has witnessed a trend towards consumerism and extravagance that she feels has detracted from what’s truly important – both in marriage and the world at large. Meanwhile a mid-life “opportunity” took hold, leading Sandra to fulfil a long held dream of volunteering in Africa as a photojournalist. Unsurprisingly, Sandra returned from her experience in Malawi with a whole new lens and life direction. The stark contrast between these two worlds stirred Sandra’s passion for social change. Inspired by couples who were scaling back and giving back through their weddings, Sandra felt drawn to inspire a new wedding culture around eco-ethical weddings.

Over time, and with countless contributions from others, her philosophy of Less Stuff – More Meaning has grown into the development of Australia and New Zealand’s first eco-ethical wedding hub.

Here at Polka Dot Bride, we love telling stories. This goes beyond writing pretty words. We actually jump up and down with excitement when images tell a couple’s wedding day story, with all the beautiful details intertwined. We also relish in the small, quiet, often unnoticed moments. A look. A touch. The tears. The laughter. Lindy Yewen of Lindy Yewen Photography is all about these elements of storytelling too. Her images are so moving because of their simplicity and honesty. Her work is so touching that clients often have trouble deciding what images to print! As one couple put it, “they [the images] are so beautiful and have captured our day as it was, relaxed and casual.”

Today, we hear from Lindy what it’s like to be a wedding photographer for 18 incredible years, how weddings have changed during that time and how she makes that oh-so important connection with her bridal couples.

You’re based in Noosa. What do you love about the area?
My parents moved to Noosa when I was six years old. It’s grown so much over the years but it still has a pretty laid-back vibe. I also love that we are surrounded by some of the best beaches on the east and have gorgeous green rolling hills to the west.

What are the best photo spots around Noosa?
We are spoilt for choice as far as beaches go but Sunshine Beach is a fave! It offers a variety of different backdrops including the greenery of the National Park headlands, the ocean and the rocks. I also love to shoot at less popular spots like the old post office in Tewantin and throughout the state forest walking tracks that cross all over the Noosa Shire.


Do you work closely with any other Noosa based vendors?
I’m on the board of the Noosa Wedding Organisation. It’s a group of Noosa wedding suppliers that was formed 10 years ago to promote Noosa as one of Australia’s best wedding destinations. I work with a bunch of fantastic vendors from celebrants to reception venues.

How long have you been a wedding photographer?
I photographed my very first wedding in May 2001, in a gorgeous church in the hills of Berry NSW. So 18 years this month!

How would you describe your photography style?
Timeless, honest and fun with a film like edit. I love to capture the small moments and take photos that will tell a story that couples and their families can look back on in years to come.


How has you style and approach to weddings changed since you first started out?
My images are more candid, capturing moments as they happen rather than stiff, posed images. Wedding albums were the in-thing so shooting lots of the small details was important to be used as fill in, background images. These days it more about the couple and their families and friends… with people being spread apart with great distance it can be the only opportunity to capture images with everyone together.

How have weddings changed since then?
When I first started the whole focus was on the couple only and their schedule. This often meant that after the wedding ceremony guests would have to just wait around for a couple of hours before the reception began. These days couples are more considerate of their guests and this often sees them going off aboard a boat cruise along the Noosa river while the couple are off doing their main photos. The whole day has more of a party feel than the traditional seriousness of years gone by.

Tell us about your studio…
My studio has evolved from an entire room with dedicated lighting and backdrops for portraits. This then downsized to an office with two Mac monitors setup for editing and now I’m moving to a laptop so that I can edit/work anywhere, anytime. My entire setup is automated online and it’s rare that I actually meet with a couple before their big day (although I still love to). I think that is because the majority of my couples come to Noosa for a destination wedding and live elsewhere. Most of our communication is via email, text messages, Facebook messenger and Instagram messenger.


How early should a couple book you in?
2020 is going to be a massive year for weddings so couples really need to start booking in now. Having said that I shoot a lot of little elopements where the couples are happy to go with any midweek dates that I have available and these tend to be booked last minute. Generally, most couples book six to 12 months ahead of the wedding.

How do you make a connection with your couples? Why is it so important?
Most of my couples are from interstate or overseas and head to Noosa as a destination wedding. We mostly communicate online and I usually only meet them on the day of the wedding for the first time. It shows what a great deal of trust my couples place in my work as we don’t meet beforehand and that feels pretty amazing.

Do you do engagement sessions?
Yes and I love them! It’s a great opportunity to not only get some stunning couple photos but it gives an idea of what to expect on the day. I would love it if more couples would include them.


What are your favourite weddings to shoot?
Adventurous couples! The ones who think outside the square and choose to marry on the side of a hill, on a sand bar at low tide, in the woods with their nearest and dearest. Elopements and small intimate weddings are my favourite.

Are there parts of the wedding day that stand out – that you particularly enjoy photographing?
Definitely the couple on their own after the wedding vows are done and before the reception starts. It’s a quiet moment out of a crazy day that is entirely just about the two of you.

Are you available for destination weddings?
Hell yes!!!


Where in the world have you travelled as a wedding photographer?
You will often find me travelling between Brisbane, Byron Bay, Sydney and Melbourne to shoot weddings but I also went to Florida in the USA in 2014 and it was incredible!

Best wedding venue you’ve visited lately?
In Noosa we have some absolutely stunning wedding venues that overlook the ocean and rivers, but the ones I’m really loving are the non-traditional wedding venues. A tipi set up in the hinterland, a long reception table under the starts, a party in an old barn. Mobile caterers and bars in vintage vans are so in and will take your reception to the next level!

When you’re not working, where would we find you?
With my family – hiking the Noosa trails with a camera in hand, sitting beside an open fire while camping, fishing along the Noosa river or taking my border collies for a run at the beach.


Thank you Lindy for sharing your story and your gorgeous work with us today, and a huge congratulations on 18 amazing years as a wedding photographer! Your couples are so lucky to have your knowledge and talent available to them. To find out more about Lindy and her photography packages, head on over to the Lindy Yewen Photography website.

Images and headshot courtesy of Lindy Yewen Photography