TRENDING - Surprise Weddings

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Celebrant

“We're newly engaged and considering a surprise wedding.  Can you tell me if there's anything we should consider from a planning perspective and if there’s anything we need to know from a legal standpoint?”

Given that I receive enquiries like this several times a year, I feel that the subject of surprise weddings well and truly warrants a blog post.

Surprise weddings are fabulous! There's nothing quite like the roar that erupts immediately after guests learn that they've been unwittingly invited to a wedding. The thrilling cacophony of squeals, applause, laughter and odd cry of “I knew it! I knew it!!”, never fails to make me smile. The atmosphere is always electric.

The Pros and Cons of Surprise Weddings

If you’re considering a celebration that doesn’t conform to the norm, allow me to take you through the pros and cons of surprise weddings.


  • The vibe is fantastic. When guests realise that the’ve been invited to a wedding they tend to get really loud and really excited very quickly. They’re usually a few drinks in by that stage, so by the time the ceremony begins they’re ready and willing to involve themselves and actively participate. I love this.

  • Savings (well, in theory anyway!). You can still end up spending large on catering, clothing, styling and so on, however surprise weddings tend to be a little more casual than traditional (i.e. disclosed) bells-and-whistles ones. The opportunity to combine your engagement party with your wedding is a definite cost saver too.

  • Less stress. Given that you won’t be fielding questions from well-intentioned loved ones about your reception menu, choice of band, wedding party and colour palette, there’s no expectation to conform to expectations held by others. You have so much more freedom to do it your way.


  • You can’t discuss your plans with anyone other than suppliers. This means no water cooler conversations with work colleagues about finding your dream dress, and no counting down to the big day on your Facebook page!

  • Parents, siblings and besties may be offended if they aren’t privy to the plan. And fair enough. When you think about it, your parents have probably thought about your wedding day for longer than you have. Though they can certainly be involved in your celebration, you may have deprived them of their opportunity to contribute to the planning process, including preparing a heartfelt speech. For that reason you might want to give some serious thought to letting the VIPs know. ONLY the VIPs!

  • You’ll probably miss out on a hen’s/buck’s/huck’s night.

  • Guests may arrive after your ceremony has taken place or they might even miss your wedding altogether. The latter particularly applies to overseas or interstate guests. Often logistical and financial constraints cause long-distance loved ones to skip your so-called engagement party in favour of your future wedding - the wedding they might miss.

So, if you feel a surprise wedding is the way to go, here are a few tips to ensure the surprise element plays out perfectly.

  • Unless you're absolutely certain that your work colleagues won't see your work emails, use a personal email address for correspondence with suppliers. (Nothing ruins the surprise like an email from

  • Don't note the name of your celebrant, photographer or dress designer in your work diary/calendar.  Again, work colleagues may recognise a wedding supplier, as was the case with a surprise ceremony I was hired to conduct. One of my former brides arrived at the so-called “engagement party” certain that it was a wedding after having seen my name in her boss’ diary.

  • Don't tell anyone! (Have I stressed this point enough?) I know how tough this can be, however trusting people to keep such a big secret is a risk!  If anyone queries whether your engagement party or child’s first birthday bash is likely to double as your wedding, don't feel bad about telling a white lie.  It makes the surprise so much better! Keep in mind that if everyone’s in the same boat, guests are less likely to be offended. Issues usually occur when 20-odd people are in on the secret and the remaining 50 realise they weren’t deemed as trustworthy as the others.

  • Consider how the surprise will be delivered.  Will your celebrant pose as a singer in the Baker Boys Band (yes, I've done that!), or as the venue's emcee (that too) and make the announcement?  Will your fiance and yourself welcome guests and announce the ceremony yourselves? Will guests arrive to a huge “Welcome to our Wedding” sign? You’re only limited by your imagination.

  • Consider whether or not your celebrant should remain well hidden before the big announcement. When I know that my former couples will be attending, I think it’s best that I stay in the back room until show time. Otherwise, they’ll figure it out rather quickly.

  • Give some thought to what happens immediately after the big reveal. Will your ceremony begin immediately or will you need five minutes to change your outfits and put a few chairs in place? Will you announce the names of your official witnesses and wedding crew and invite them to come up and stand with you? You’ve gotta have a plan!

From a Legal Standpoint

For an Australian marriage ceremony to be deemed legally valid, the surprise element can only extend to official witnesses and guests. In other words, the ceremony cannot come as a surprise to the marrying couple. A ‘Notice of Intended Marriage’ (NOIM) must be lodged with a celebrant at least one calendar month prior to the “surprise” marriage ceremony (unless a shortening of time is approved by the relevant authority) and the celebrant must be satisfied that both parties understand the nature of the relationship they intend to enter into and that they are doing so voluntarily and without coercion. The celebrant must also have sufficient time to establish the identity of each party to the marriage.

And for the record… it is legally possible to surprise one of the consenting parties to the marriage with the date, time and location of the marriage, as long as intention to marry has been lodged within the required one calendar month timeframe. For example, a bride and groom could lodge the NOIM with their celebrant but agree to leave all the event planning (date, time, venue and so on) to the groom. The bride would therefore be surprised in that way. It’s not commonly done, but it is legally permissible.

If you’ve any questions or stories to share, feel free to comment below.

Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

Looking for a little inspiration? Take a look at Nicole + Saul’s surprise wedding.

MADELEINE + DANIEL - Morning Micro

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

Madeleine and Daniel flew from Brunei to Australia to be married in the morning sunshine at Zonzo Estate in Victoria’s Yarra Valley. They spent time among the vines with their photographer Suzie Potter of London Ivy Collective and then married before a small group of family members and friends.  After their micro ceremony (and a quick costume change) the newlyweds made their way indoors to The Stables, a stunning light-filled space, to enjoy a celebratory lunch. 

Madeleine and Daniel’s low-key celebration was a wonderfully unhurried and intimate one. Further proof that micro weddings can be just as beautiful, meaningful and enjoyable as the large-scale variety.

Related Blog: What’s a Micro Ceremony?

Celebrant: Sally Hughes for Signed and Sealed

Photography: Suzie Potter of London Ivy Collective

Ceremony Venue: Zonzo Estate

Flowers: Sugar Bee Flowers

Madeleine’s Dress: White Runway

Daniel’s Suit: Zara Man

TRENDING - Rose Petal Recessionals

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

Rose petals are making a comeback, folks! And it’s thanks to pictures like these that couples are opting to bring back the tradition.

The tradition of showering newlyweds with small objects dates back centuries. It’s widely believed that rice and grains, precursors to petals, were thrown as a way of symbolising rain; a sign of prosperity, fertility and good fortune (i’ll be sure to mention that to couples when downpours are imminent!). Coloured paper confetti then became all the rage until dresses became stained and venue operators became tired of cleaning it up. Petals came next, but like all trends, their popularity declined somewhat. Again, venue operators played a role here because, like paper confetti, coloured petals stain carpets and tiles too. However I have noticed that some venue operators will now allow white or freeze dried petals.

Anyhow, enough of the history lesson. Petals have made a comeback! When thrown well, they look great in photos and they inject a little fun into the recessional. EVERY couple laughs while their friends take aim - and these photos prove my point.

A few tips for rose petal recessionals:

1. Have your Celebrant instruct guests to throw petals above you, not at you. While it is rather funny watching a couple cop a face full of blooms, it won’t be the most pleasurable experience for them. And the photography and footage will suffer.

2. Ditch petal cones. Guests don’t want to balance a cone of petals on their laps during the ceremony. And those in the standing section should be hands-free so they can applaud your extremely witty and hilarious Celebrant and wipe their tears during a sentimental exchange of vows. A bowl or basket of petals is all you’ll need.

3. Distribute petals during the signing of the certificates. No one wants to hold a handful of petals for more than a few minutes. As per point 2, guests should be hands-free during the ceremony, so just ask a friend to walk up and down the aisle to distribute during the signing.

4. If petals aren’t your thing, consider glitter cannons, sparklers (provided fire bans aren’t in place), pom poms, leaves or bubbles.

ZOE + DAN / Katie Harmsworth Photography / Coombe Yarra Valley / Tori Allen Events

ZOE + DAN / Katie Harmsworth Photography / Coombe Yarra Valley / Tori Allen Events

AMANDA + MATT / Lost In Love Photography / Zonzo Estate / Sugar Bee Flowers

AMANDA + MATT / Lost In Love Photography / Zonzo Estate / Sugar Bee Flowers

FIONA + PAUL / Stewart Leishman Photography / Immerse / Debbie O’Neill Flowers

FIONA + PAUL / Stewart Leishman Photography / Immerse / Debbie O’Neill Flowers

TAYLA + TODD / Sigrid Petersen / Coombe Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

TAYLA + TODD / Sigrid Petersen / Coombe Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

AMI + MATT / Michael Briggs Photography / Zonzo Estate, Yarra Glen / Sugar Bee Flowers

AMI + MATT / Michael Briggs Photography / Zonzo Estate, Yarra Glen / Sugar Bee Flowers

AMELIA + WILL / Blossom Daisy Creative / The George Ballroom / Floretta By Grace

AMELIA + WILL / Blossom Daisy Creative / The George Ballroom / Floretta By Grace

ANNALIECE + ALEKS / Michael Lean Photography / Dayne Robinson

ANNALIECE + ALEKS / Michael Lean Photography / Dayne Robinson

CAROLYNE + MARTY / Robert Hock Photography / Coombe Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

CAROLYNE + MARTY / Robert Hock Photography / Coombe Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

EMILY + CAM / Warren Photography / Stones of the Yarra Valley / Red Earth Flowers

EMILY + CAM / Warren Photography / Stones of the Yarra Valley / Red Earth Flowers

JEN + JARMON / Shot From The Heart / Lyrebird Falls / Sassafras Flower Design

JEN + JARMON / Shot From The Heart / Lyrebird Falls / Sassafras Flower Design

BETH + JUSTIN / Dijana Risteska Photography / Zonzo Estate / Sugar Bee Flowers

BETH + JUSTIN / Dijana Risteska Photography / Zonzo Estate / Sugar Bee Flowers

LIV + NATHAN / Beck Rocchi Photography / Coombe Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

LIV + NATHAN / Beck Rocchi Photography / Coombe Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

KATE + STEVE / Katie Harmsworth Photography / Stones of the Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

KATE + STEVE / Katie Harmsworth Photography / Stones of the Yarra Valley / Sugar Bee Flowers

CHLOE + ED - Truly Madly Deeply

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

Chloe and Ed were married on the Harbour Room rooftop at the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron during one of the most relaxed and interactive ceremonies I’ve ever had the pleasure of presenting. The laughter, the unscripted banter, the spontaneous applause… the sheer willingness of everyone to get involved, made for such a great ceremony.

As the genetically blessed pair stood together that warm and sunny St Kilda afternoon, I spoke of the strong bond they have with their family, of the many close friendships they’ve forged (involving quite a few people as I did - and gee they played along well…) and of the relationship that resulted from a shared cab ride one rainy evening in South Melbourne.

The ceremony concluded with an almighty roar, cocktail hour commenced and Chloe and Ed ventured downstairs with their wedding crew to see their precious Staffies, Opie and Bo, and hang out with their very chilled and very talented photographer, Daniel Milligan.

Photo by guest

Photo by guest

“I’ll be your dream, I’ll be your wish, I’ll be your fantasy.

I’ll be your hope, I’ll be your love, be everything that you need…”

The Savage Garden classic was the song of choice for Chloe’s processional. Several guests and I may have sung along…

Love Note

“Sally was absolutely incredible!!! From the first meeting until the big day Sally took so much stress out of the whole ceremony process for us by guiding us through everything. Her level of professionalism is outstanding and she was a friendly, enthusiastic and fun person to have as part of our important process. Our guests completely raved about her following the ceremony where everyone gave her a round of applause at the mention of her name later on during the reception. Sally was an absolute godsend and we could not be more thankful for having found her.”

Chloe and Ed

Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Photographer (excluding photo 2): Daniel Milligan

Venue: Harbour Room at the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron (Managed by Food & Desire)

Ceremony Musicians: James Howlett and Bron, AKA 'Le Bron James’

Reception DJ: Ian Henton

Florals: Melbourne Event Florals & Flowers In Hand St Kilda

Wedding Dress: Jane Hill

Suits: My Tuxedo tailored by Looksmart Alterations

Bridesmaid Dresses: Nookie

Hair: Rhiannon at Ayana Hair Design

Hairpiece: The Luxe Bride Co

Make up: Rachael Amy

Rings: Parker Diamonds

Cars: Always Classic Cars

CAROLYNE + MARTIN - Say 'I Do' at Coombe

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

I absolutely love Yarra Valley weddings. I love cueing up a TED Talk and driving along long and windy roads, passing rows upon rows of grapevines, paddocks of cows and hay bales and arriving at beautiful venues. When Carolyne and Martin’s enquiry arrived in my inbox, the old “Oooo, I hope I’m available for this one” thought most definitely entered my mind.

And that’s because Carolyne and Martin were married at Coombe Yarra Valley - one of my favourite Yarra Valley venues. Bordered by a ten metre high cypress hedge, the estate boasts magnificent oak trees, lush green lawns, stunning architecture old and new, delicious food and wine and, importantly, superb service. It’s no wonder this venue, opera singer Dame Nellie Melba’s former residence, has established itself as one of Victoria’s premier wedding venues. It’s a dream venue for couples and Celebrants alike.

Add to this location a couple as funny, kind and easy going as Carolyne and Martin and a fabulous afternoon is assured.

The moment 100-odd guests made their way from the cellar door to the ceremony space - many with a drink in hand (I love the way they do things at Coombe), I knew Carolyne and Martin’s ceremony would be an interactive one. Without doubt. They were laughing, they were loud and they were keen to play along with my pre ceremony warm up. I absolutely love couples who invite people like this to their ceremony.

Carolyne and Martin were married on Melba’s former tennis court under blue skies. Carolyne and her bestie arrived in a black mustang ten minutes prior to our scheduled start, allowing us ample time to talk through their entrances, admire Carolyne’s stunning Maggie Sottero wedding dress and soak in the pre ceremony excitement away from the gaze of guests.

Lark Music provided the sound track to the processional, nailing John Legend’s Stay With You, and four year old Mila almost stole the show, walking some 50 metres on her own (her pre ceremony run-through with her mother and I while dozens of supportive guests cheered her on must have helped). Carolyne’s bestie Alyssa followed, looking gorgeous in maroon. Her bouquet in hues of pink, red and burgundy was one of many stunning Sugar Bee Flowers arrangements on display that day.

But then it was all eyes on Carolyne as she took her brother’s arm and walked toward Martin.

(Side note: Isn’t it lovely to see a distinct absence of cameras and phones in the processional images below?)

And so began a ceremony that included an emotional processional, a light-hearted reteling of an eight year-long relationship story, a few highly romantic moments and fair smattering of guest interaction. OK, a LOT of guest interaction! I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome for this gorgeous pair. It really was a ceremony that had it all.

Love Note

“Sally, thank you for everything that you did for our wedding. You went above and beyond our expectations and made it a seamless journey for both of us! All of our close family and friends have expressed how fabulous, easy-going and kind you were on the day and how fantastic the ceremony itself was! People have said to us multiple times how lovely and kind you are, so thank you from us and everyone else.”

Carolyne + Martin

Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Photographer: Robert Hock

Venue: Coombe Yarra Valley

Videographer: Iconic Pictures

Flowers: Sugar Bee Flowers

Music: Lark Music

Wedding Dress: Maggie Sottero

Suits: InStitchu

What's a Micro Wedding?

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

‘I’m sorry, but what do you mean by micro wedding? Is that a new thing?”

Put simply, yes! (well the term is, anyway). And you’re not the only person to wonder what on earth they’re all about.

The micro movement has been around for a few years, however only in the past twelve months have I noticed a significant growth in its popularity. So what’s it all about? Essentially, a micro wedding is a wedding that has all the big ticket items of a regular wedding, but on a smaller scale. So, yes, there’s a ceremony and a reception that follows, there’s a fancy wedding dress and/or suit, rings, flowers, music, photography and videography. The main difference is that the guest list is significantly smaller than what we’ve come to expect from a regular-sized wedding (think 20 not 120).

And the motivation? There are a few, however I believe the major motivator is to reduce costs. With only 20 odd guests to feed and hydrate, only 20 ceremony chairs to hire (or not) and a photographer whose presence is only required for a few hours, there’s usually a significant saving to be made (and perhaps a home deposit left untouched).

Another reason to go micro is to provide an arguably better experience for all involved. The overall spend might be the same as a large scale wedding, however the experience might be more, shall we say, discerning. With fewer guests, a couple could book out a private estate for a weekend, hire a celebrity chef, special entertainment, and/or provide accommodation for all. Alternatively, they might book a private dining room at a fine dining restaurant like Vue de monde (take a look at Brian and Nicholas’ micro below).

And then there’s the vibe of it all. When you can eyeball every single guest at your ceremony, when you can hear every giggle, every sniffle and every comment that is made, the experience is quite different. I find that micro ceremonies are a little shorter than those I present at large scale weddings, but they’re just as meaningful, just as interactive (perhaps even more so) and just as enjoyable. Couples feel every bit the Bride and/or Groom, regardless of the number of people gathered around them.

So, if you feel inclined to jump aboard the micro wedding train, get in touch! I can point you in the direction of some great venues and talented industry folk who love a small scale celebration as much as I.

Oh, and a quick tip! If you host your micro between Monday and Thursday, minimum spends are lower and venue availability will be far greater.

TING TING + KENNETH - Married in the Valley

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

Ting Ting and Kenneth met in Hong Kong and relocated to Australia as young adults. Within a short space of time they not only mastered the English language, they earned university degrees, established admirable careers and adopted two fluffy white pooches. Though they’ll return to their homeland for a big wedding next year, they wanted their legal marriage ceremony to be a low-key affair, conducted in their adopted country.

Within minutes of my first conversation with Ting Ting, I was drawn to her bright personality and her sentimental nature. Though she had indicated that she and Kenneth wanted a simple “Legals Only” style of ceremony, I sensed that they might enjoy making a little more out of the occasion. And so I suggested that they dress up, ditch their backyard for a beautiful, wide open space and hire a professional photographer for an hour. They loved the idea!

Ting Ting & Kenneth eloped at Zonzo Estate, a stunning wedding venue, vineyard and restaurant in the Yarra Valley. Their parents flew over from Hong Kong to witness the happy event and to keep a close eye on pooches Christmas and Pinkie, Joanne from Lily Infusion Weddings acted as our official interpreter and the incomparable Rick Liston captured it all on camera.

Celebrant: Sally Hughes for Signed and Sealed

Photography: Rick Liston

Ceremony Venue: Zonzo Estate

Ceremony Interpreter: Lily Infusion Weddings

CHRISTINA + WARREN - Seaside Elopement

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant




run away secretly in order to get married.

Christina and Warren were married before four friends on St Kilda Pier in what was one of the happiest and most heartfelt ceremonies I've conducted.  While most of the world was busy going about their working day, time seemed to stand still for Christina and Warren.  They looked into one another's eyes and reflected on the decisions that had led them to each other. They spoke of their love and admiration for each other and of their gratitude for the relationship they had cultivated.  They laughed, they cried, they grinned as their friends gave impromptu speeches and then, we all drank spicy margaritas!

Warren+Christina6 (Marie-Luise).jpg
Warren+Christina40 (Marie-Luise).jpg

JESS + ROB - Glasshaus Nuptials

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant




  1. the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Jess and Rob met briefly while traveling through Europe.  Serendipitously, a year later they met again at a local football match.  The following week their paths crossed yet again at, of all places, at an ATM in the city and then, when Rob asked Jess to join him at a party the following week, they discovered that Jess was invited too.  And so it would seem that the universe was conspiring to unite these genetically blessed humans.

Jess and Rob were married at The Glasshaus in Cremorne - a garden nursery by day and event space by night, situated in a quiet street just off the hustle and bustle of Swan Street in Richmond.  It's a venue where fiddle leaf figs the height of giraffes adorn the walls and where ferns are suspended from timber ceiling rafters en masse.  It's one where the last rays of the afternoon sun filter through from directly overhead, creating magnificent opportunities for photographers and stylists alike. It really is a space unlike any other in Melbourne.

And so it made absolute sense that Jess, one half of the popular wedding photography duo  Flash 2 Flash Photography, and her Rob, chose this unique space to be married.  It also came as no surprise that they assembled a team of industry superstars; I Got You Babe & CoBelinda Fitzpatrick Events , Enriched Productions and Made With Love Bridal, to style, co ordinate and capture their day.

Jess and Rob's ceremony was informal, interactive and often humorous... oh and rather loud too (especially when their well-meaning Celebrant delivered a recap of their vows - a recap that several guests interpreted as a double entendre!)

Their reception followed nearby at Rupert on Rupert, another non-traditional wedding venue, where funny speeches, dancing and some clever DIY wedding dress alterations ensued.

Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Photography: I Got You Babe & Co

Videography:  Enriched Productions

Venue Styling, Florals & Event Co ordination: Belinda Fitzpatrick Events

Ceremony Venue: The Glasshaus

Reception Venue:  Rupert on Rupert

Jess' Gown: Made With Love Bridal

RENATA + NICK - A Wedding of Distinction

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant


Meet Renata, a Director at Weddings of Distinction, a premiere wedding and special events company based in Melbourne.  I’ve seen Renata style and manage some epic events, so I knew that when the time came for her to marry her Nick, their celebration would be beautifully styled and managed with the precision I have come to expect from WoD. I knew Renata and Nick would bring together a very large team of Melbourne’s most sought after suppliers too, industry professionals I very much admire.

And so you can image how thrilled I was when Renata and Nick asked me to conduct their marriage ceremony at The Glasshouse in Melbourne. 

Not surprisingly, Renata and Nick decided to do things a little differently to the norm.  They wanted the transition between ceremony and reception to be a seamless one and so decided that the spaces would be one in the same.  They envisaged a formal and traditional ceremony, one that would incorporate humour, theatricality and elements of their Russian and Greek heritage.  I couldn't wait to get started.


While guests enjoyed pre ceremony cocktails and canapes, Renata and Nick met for "first look" photos at the stylish Crown Towers.   

They then made their way to The Glasshouse together and waited in their bridal suite for their guests to enter the room.  When the doors opened, allowing family and friends to be seated at their tables, I lost count of the number of "oohs and aahs" I heard.  The room looked nothing short of spectacular.

Before 200 guests, all seated in the round, Renata and Nick stood under a magnificent suspended floral chuppah (which, to the delight of the crowd, slowly descended from the ceiling as Renata entered the room) to celebrate a relationship that came about as a result of a Groupon voucher, a rather persistent matchmaker and a touch of Facebook stalking.

Renata & Nick ceremony resized.jpg
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Not withstanding the jaw-droppingly beautiful floral arrangements, the many crystal chandeliers and candles, the perfectly placed table settings in gold and crystal, the cigar and cognac station, the champagne and dessert bar, the chilled vodka carts, the fantastic live music, the exceptional sound and lighting design, the motorised ceiling installation and the highly courteous and impeccably dressed staff, it was the love between two people and the strong sense of celebration in the room that impressed me most that evening.

Renata and Nick, thank you for inviting me to play a role in your big, fat, theatrical, romantic, joyful, loud and utterly beautiful Russian / Greek wedding. I wish we could do it all again (says the person who didn't spend countless days and nights planning it!).

Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Photography: Warrenphotography

Videography:  C2 Films

Venue Styling: Weddings of Distinction, Lulu Bird

Venue: The Glasshouse / The Big Group Melbourne

Decor: Weddings of Distinction, Place Settings, Complete Function Hire, Harry The Hirer, Dann Event Hire

Sound & Lighting - Prolight and Sound

Ceremony & Reception Music: Rumours Band

Cars: Always Classic Cars

Renata's Gown:  Leah Da Gloria

Renata's Make Up: Beauty By Julie

Renata's Hair: Frankie Salon

Nick's Suit: Hugo Boss

NAT + PETE - A Rooftop Elopement

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant


I have long admired Nat’s work as a stylist. On countless occasions I’ve seen her transform ceremony venues into jaw-droppingly beautiful spaces. When I met her many years ago, I was equally as impressed by her warmth and humility. When Nat and Pete asked me if I would conduct their elopement ceremony, I felt so very honoured.

Nat and Pete were married on a warm Autumn afternoon on a rooftop terrace in Sandringham.  Nat entered the rooftop with her mother to Evermore's I'll Never Let You Go  wearing a sheer lace gown she designed and made herself. She even assembled her own bouquet of white O'Hara roses.  She's seriously clever!

With the brightest of blue skies above them, Nat and Pete stood before their parents, grandparents and siblings to celebrate a relationship that began on the slopes of Mount Baw Baw some fifteen years prior. 

Nat and Pete’s ceremony unfolded in such a relaxed way.   Their small gathering of guests (including their good friends John from Warrenphotography and Marcus from C2 Films) involved themselves throughout - laughing, crying and commenting without reservation. Their love for Nat and Pete, their unrestrained displays of emotion and the strong sense of celebration is something I shall always remember.

"My thoughts go out to you my immortal beloved, I can live only wholly with you or not at all. Be calm my life, my all. Only by calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together.  Oh continue to love me, never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.   

Ever thine. 

Ever mine. 

Ever ours.”

(Ludwig van Beethoven)

Congratulations Nat and Pete and thank you for inviting me to share in the beauty and excitement of your intimate celebration.  I sincerely loved every moment spent with Team Jordan!


Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Photography: Warrenphotography

Videography:  C2 Films

Venue styling: The Bride - Natalie Jordan

Nat's gown:  The Bride - Natalie Jordan

Nat's hair: Dani North Wedding Hair

Pete's suit: Peter Jackson


OLIVIA + NATHAN - Kisses in the Rain

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

Liv and Nath shared their very first kiss in the rain.  Six years later, in the Italian Garden at Coombe Yarra Valley, history repeated itself (fortunately to a far lesser degree) as they shared their first kiss as Mr and Mrs.  

When Liv arrived at the beautiful Yarra Valley estate and stepped outside her black Mercedes wearing a Pallas Couture gown, I wasn't the only person to gasp.  She looked absolutely breathtaking.  She beamed as she stood with her bridesmaids, dressed in classic white, excited to be marrying the man she had known for over a decade.

Liv, her proud father Vincent and six attendants entered the Italian Garden to Little Buster Brown's evocative rendition of Angels by XX.  Vincent warmly embraced his beautiful daughter and future son-in-law before Liv and Nath together walked toward the magnificent green hedge.  They stood before a white screen (made by the Father of the Groom), artfully decorated with the classic combination of white and green flowers and foliage by Sugar Bee Flowers.

And so began Liv and Nath's romantic, sentimental and joyous marriage ceremony. It was a ceremony that honoured family and friendships and the very deep love and respect they have for one another. We sighed and laughed interchangeably as I told the story of a friendship that began in their teenage years, the bond that was strengthened during university study dates and the romantic relationship that they were destined to realise.  The story of Nath's well planned Royal Botanic Gardens proposal was particularly well received.  It was a proposal which included both a surprise performance by an acoustic duo the moment Liv said, "Yes", and photographer friends hiding in bushes.... until an oh-so-excited Nath outed them!

Midway through Liv and Nath's ceremony distant rumblings of thunder sounded and spectacular bolts of lightning pierced through the clouds.  Fortunately, we only experienced a few drops of rain so decided to continue as planned.  Liv and Nath exchanged vows and rings; rings that were contained in a wooden box carved by Nath's Nunnu, blessed by immediate family and brought forward by a rather charismatic Best Man!  And then, to a tremendous cheer, Nath and Liv were declared to be husband and wife.

Given the likelihood of rain, we decided to move the marriage certificate signing to a sheltered area after the ceremony.  While guests happily made their way to the cellar door for canapes and refreshments, the bridal party, parents and grandparents gathered under the canopy of tall trees to witness Liv and Nath's final step toward newlywed status.

Liv and Nath by Beck Rocci 27.jpg

Liv and Nath, the relationship you have is so very special. Your kindness towards one another and the importance you place upon family is clear to all.  It was an honour to share your day with you. Congratulations Mr & Mrs L. 

Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Photography: Beck Rocchi Photography

Venue: Coombe Yarra Valley

Flowers: Sugar Bee Flowers

Chairs: Feel Good Events

Screen: David, Father of The Groom (Contact me if you'd to hire it.  I'll connect you!)

Musicians:  Little Buster Brown

Olivia's gown:  Pallas Couture

Nathan's suit: Herringbone

SARAH + JARRYD - An Elegant Garden Wedding

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

I remember this wedding as though it were yesterday.  The setting for Sarah and Jarryd’s black tie garden ceremony was perfect.  We were blessed with sunshine, blue skies and lush green lawn as far as the eye could see at the elegant Rippon Lea Estate.

As Jarryd took his place before a white metal arbour adorned with cascading white roses, orchids and lilies, 160 guests turned to observe Sarah’s four bridesmaids, all dressed in white, enter the private garden to ‘Higher Love’. Jarryd greeted each attendant, before taking his place with his four groomsmen, awaiting Sarah’s entrance.  


And then, on the arm of her proud father, Sarah appeared.  Dressed in a custom One Day Bridal gown designed by the incredibly talented KYHA, she looked breathtakingly beautiful.  Her dress softly billowed about her as she walked the long grass aisle toward Jarryd.   After her father raised her veil and gave her a kiss, Sarah then took Jarryd's arm and together they took their places with their bridal party of eight.


Hand in hand, the beaming bride and groom stood as I told the story of their first meeting at the Inverloch Esplanade Hotel on New Year’s Eve, their intimate Sunday afternoon engagement and the many qualities they’ve come to admire in each other.  Sarah and Jarryd then exchanged self-penned vows.  Observing Jarryd encourage Sarah as tears welled in her eyes was a touching moment. Jarryd’s Best Man and Hawthorn teammate Jordan presented the rings and then, to a very loud cheer, Jarryd and Sarah were declared to be husband and wife.

Sarah and Jarryd, thank you for inviting me to work with you to create your romantic and laughter-filled ceremony. I thoroughly enjoyed working with a couple as kind, easy going and humble as you. Congratulations Mr and Mrs Roughy!


NICOLE + SAUL - Surprise!

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

Surprise weddings.  Whenever I receive an enquiry for a surprise wedding ceremony, I always feel a little ping of excitement as I head to my calendar to see if I'm available.  This is because surprise ceremonies (ceremonies that are a surprise to guests, not the couple) are most often the loudest, liveliest and most adrenaline-filled ceremonies to conduct. 

Nicole and Saul were married at Little Henri , a popular cafe/restaurant in Thornbury, during what began as an engagement party.  When Saul’s dad Michael stood high on the steps in the courtyard to welcome guests, no one seemed to notice that Nicole had slipped away to change into a stunning Sherri Hill tulle-skirted gown. When Michael finished his welcome speech with “because tonight we’re having a wedding!” the crowd well and truly roared. Guests literally descended on a beaming Saul, offering congratulatory hugs and kisses, while several men exchanged high fives and many women held their hands to their faces in shock.

Bench seating was swiftly brought in and within minutes, to the soundtrack of Ben E King’s ’Stand By Me' the very beautiful Nicole entered the courtyard on the arm of her very proud father, Peter.

Together Nicole and Saul stood alone, until one by one, I invited wedding party members to come and stand beside them. The cheers that ensued after each surprised member was announced (OK, perhaps the bridesmaids had a heads up), were priceless. In keeping with the surprise element, I invited Saul’s siblings to act as official witnesses to the marriage, before Nicole’s father stood to offer his blessing on behalf of their community of family and friends.

Unrestrained cheers, laughter, applause and comments ensued as I told the story of Nicole and Saul’s on-campus meeting, the osteopathy study group that gave Saul the opportunity to both impress and distract Nicole, the relationship they kept quiet in order to avoid wolf whistles on campus and Saul’s very romantic and well rehearsed Byron Bay proposal - complete with a ring that Nicole, despite her best efforts, couldn’t find prior.


One year on and I still recall this lively ceremony and this sweet-natured couple so clearly. 

Nicole and Saul, you are two of the nicest people I have had the pleasure of meeting. You have such warm and kind souls and I feel so very privileged to have been entrusted with your very happy of secret.  Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos - the one below still sits on my desk.

Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Images:  Dijana Ristevska Photography

Venue:Little Henri

Nicole's dress: Sherri Hill

Make Up: Magical Makeovers


GEORGE + JACK - Loud and Laughter-Filled

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

One year ago today I presented one of the most lively and interactive wedding ceremonies I’ve ever known.   This was due not only to the fact that George and Jack are hilariously quick witted and clearly well-loved by many, but because they are actors.  And many of their guests were too.

When dozens of actors, dancers, musos and other creative types enter a ceremony space, the energy level rises dramatically.  Without fail.  At George and Jack's ceremony, it went through the roof!  I recall laughing as I tried to hush the crowd in readiness for George’s entrance.  I knew there was no way I’d be able to temper the excitement in the room.  Instead, I’d embrace the sense of celebration and encourage guests to "play along".

George and Jack were married at Lot Four Studio in Richmond. Guests arrived to discover old-fashioneds, Pimms and martinis being served from the coolest of vintage caravans and a studio space decorated with festoon lighting and shiny confetti wall decals (and if you scroll to the end of this blog you'll see my favourite decal).  Everything shouted, "Be yourselves and have fun!"

The cheer George received as she walked toward Jack and the minor delays that occurred in getting her to the end of the aisle (her unashamedly excited father couldn’t resist shaking hands with guests) made for the happiest of beginnings.

I loved telling the story of George and Jack’s post-show meeting at the Portland Hotel, Jack’s earnest attempts to woo George, their Don Don’s first date, their love of board games, poker and road trips and George’s Scrabble-inspired proposal.   With every story (or toot from a passing train) came either a roar of laughter, a light-hearted heckle or a cheer.  Usually all three.


George and Jack, one year on and I still remember your ceremony vividly.  The combination of your playful styling, your “colourful cocktail” dress code, your talented friends Ben Abraham and Shannon McDonough's performance of 'I Belong To You’,  your lively crowd and your happy and easy-going personalities made for an unforgettable ceremony.  Oh, and your post ceremony 'Horns of Leroy’ lane way procession was fabulous too!


Happy anniversary George and Jack.  I hope your first year of marriage has been as laughter-filled as the day you danced and said "I do" on the lot.  xx

Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Images: Warrenphotography

George's dress: Remake of a vintage dress by Lucy Slater at Era Vintage Bride.

Musicians: Ben Abraham & Shannon McDonough

Styling: By George, the bride herself.

Image: Celebrant's own.

Image: Celebrant's own.

CHANNARI + SHAUN - A Perfect Processional

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

The most stirring processional I have ever witnessed occurred on a Saturday afternoon in October at The Dome at 333 Collins Street. For those of you unfamiliar with the venue, it's one of Melbourne's most breathtaking landmarks.  Built in the late nineteenth Century, the building boasts Baroque-inspired pillars and grand arches, a beautiful mosaic tiled floor, a very long aisle (brides-to-be, I've measured 97 steps) and at its centre, a most grandiose domed ceiling.

My heart well and truly began to race as I watched Shaun and his father stand at the top of the long aisle together, their backs to the guests, awaiting Channari’s arrival. I couldn't help but draw parallels between the pair and the way Princes Harry and William stood awaiting the-then Kate Middleton's arrival at the altar.  

Several metres away seven groomsmen, dressed in suitably British morning suits, took their positions under the clock by the entrance to the chamber.  And then the most arresting music filled the space.

One Republic’s ‘Secrets' as realised by The Piano Guys was a perfect choice for the elegant venue - and I insist that you click the link and play this music at full volume before you read any further!  I had chills running the length of my spine as, one by one, the groomsmen swiftly escorted the bridesmaids along the cream carpet aisle. The sense of drama rose to a perfect climax as the final attendants took their places with Shaun. And then, as silence descended upon the grandiose space, all eyes were fixed on Channari at the end of the long annex. 

At that point Shaun's Dad shook his son's hand, told him that his bride had arrived and encouraged him to turn around.

Slowly and gracefully Channari entered to Daniel Jang’s interpretation of John Legend’s 'All Of Me’.  As I looked at Shaun, who fought back tears, I wondered if I would shed one too. The perfect combination of the elegant venue, the arresting music and this beautiful couple, made for a very emotional processional.    And that was just the beginning!

After I had introduced the “cast of thousands” standing alongside Channari and Shaun, we were treated to the most animated rendition of Edward Monkton’s 'A Lovely Story’ (complete with character voices and gravelly dinosaur growls!) and a sensitive interpretation of Robert Fulgham’s ‘Union’. I continued with a mix of humorous and romantic relationship stories and shared some of the loveliest relationship reflections I have ever received from a couple.

With tears in their eyes, Channari and Shaun exchanged intimate vows, offered each other the gift of a ring and then received the loudest of cheers as they were declared husband and wife.  Arm in arm, the newlyweds danced down the aisle to Pharrell Williams' 'Happy', prompting all guests, their celebrant included, to join in.  The sense of celebration was undeniable that day.

Congratulations to the very kind and very accomplished Channari and Shaun.  Thanks for the Skype chats from London, your hospitality in Melbourne and for such an emotion-filled afternoon.  I consider myself privileged indeed.

Celebrant:               Sally Hughes
Photography:         Jonathan Ong     (Excluding Image 5, taken by Sally Hughes)
Ceremony Venue: The Dome
Channari's Gown:  Annasul Y
Suits:                      Favourbrook London

SHAN + PAUL - Love, Laughter and Pineapples

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

When my dear friends Shan and Paul asked me to conduct their wedding ceremony I was truly humbled.  Not merely because Shan's a very popular and well respected Celebrant at Cloud9 Celebrations, not merely because I knew that the who's who of the wedding industry would be there, but because of the beautiful people they are. 

Shan and Paul are compassionate, generous and thoughtful souls - the type of people who delight in  surprising loved ones with unexpected and quirky gifts and helping those less fortunate than themselves.   They're also fun and active - the outdoorsy type who can dive and surf like pros.  In short, they're impressive people.

Shan and Paul envisaged a structured, yet fun and casual ceremony, one that would celebrate their deep love and respect for each other, their close relationships with family and friends, reflect their love of the beach and their personal passions.   

It came as no surprise that they chose the rooftop of the beachside Encore St Kilda for their ceremony.  With palms and pineapples, green turf and blue skies and a bridal party in royal blue and eye-popping orange, the rooftop was completely transformed into a colourful oasis.

As I recall Shan and Paul’s ceremony, I can’t help but smile.  It was simply wonderful watching my dear friend and fellow celebrant assume the role of bride.  Shan happily trusted in her suppliers and simply enjoyed the day as it unfolded around her - something I know we both urge our couples do.  

She looked absolutely radiant in her exquisitely beaded One Day Bridal gown and when she entered the rooftop to No One Knows’ rendition of 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow', the crowd collectively gasped. Paul, who cut a very handsome figure in his royal blue Briggins suit grinned as his bride walked the white carpet on the arm of her proud father.  The two most important men in Shan's life shared a private moment, before Paul offered Shan his arm and led her into position by the stunning tropical arbour created by Botanics of Melbourne.

Flanked by a bridal party of ten, Shan and Paul stood hand in hand as I shared the story of their new year’s eve meeting at Train Trak Winery, their first impressions of each other, their long distance courtship and Paul’s perfect proposal at their favourite stretch of beach. I shared the qualities they’ve come to admire in each other, their shared passions and their hopes for their future - zinc smothered nippers and grommets included.

As very proud Wish Granters for the Starlight Children’s Foundation, Shan and Paul invited their special friend Josh and his sister Mia to share their thoughts on love and marriage.  With observations such as "Love is sharing… like when there is only one ice cream left and you let the other person have it....even though you really, really wanted it.  Love is patient….like Paul plaiting Shan's hair everyday in Bali so it didn’t get knotty in the surf”, the adorable duo brought smiles to every face and reduced quite a few people to tears.

After a romantic exchange of vows and rings Shan surprised Paul with a beautifully written speech. Following the line “ can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf them”, she presented Paul with a custom made Al Merrick surfboard - a board that would, moments later, double as their signing table.

To the loudest of cheers, Shan and Paul embraced in the warm afternoon sunshine and together walked down the white carpet to greet their large gathering of guests. 

Celebrations continued on the beach side terrace below as the newlyweds were whisked away in a Kombi to spend some time together on the sand. 


Congratulations to the #latestpairofjeans!  Shan and Paul, thank you for the honour of composing and conducting your ceremony and for the honour of your friendship.  May you continue to surround yourselves with love, laughter and pineapples... today, tomorrow and forever. xx

Watch the highlight reel by C2 Video - Today, Tomorrow & Forever

Celebrant: Sally Hughes
Photography: Red Butterfly Photography
Videography: C2 Video
Ceremony Venue: Encore St Kilda
Floral Styling (Ceremony and Reception): Botanics of Melbourne
Shan's Dress: One Day Bridal
Suits: Briggins
Bridesmaid Dresses: Seduce
Ceremony Musicians: No One Knows
Reception Musicians: Soltribe
Cake: Cherrytree Bakehouse
Car: Kombi Celebrations
Other Ceremony Suppliers: The Wedding Zone

BELINDA + DAMIEN - A Love That Is More Than Love

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

I met Belinda, of Belinda Fitzpatrick Events, at a wedding industry event. While I found myself captivated by her styling that evening, it was her address to a room brimming with brides and grooms-to-be that impressed me most. Like the other suppliers, Belinda introduced herself and spoke about her business, however, unlike the others, she then shared a little of her personal life.  She spoke of her recent engagement, her close relationship with her family and shared images of her family’s recent trip to Italy to celebrate her parents’ anniversary.  Afterward, as she returned to her chair at the back of the room, I observed her greet her fiance Damien with a huge smile and a tight hug. She's stylish, talented and so darn likeable!, I thought to myself.

When Belinda and Damien asked me to be their celebrant, I was thrilled. I loved the way how, at our first meeting, tears welled in Belinda’s eyes as she spoke of her relationship with Damien and how important their ceremony was to them. No doubt, their venue would be beautifully styled with impeccable attention to detail, however it was clear to me that the commitment that Belinda and Damien would make to each other and the sense of celebration among their much loved family and friends would be most important to them. The pair offered me the warmest of hugs and I left that meeting knowing that their ceremony would be a joyful, romantic and deeply meaningful one.

Belinda and Damien were married under blue skies and sunshine on the perfectly manicured grounds of Campbell Point House in Leopold.   Belinda looked stunningly beautiful in her delicate Silvana Tedesco Couture gown and was a picture of happiness as she and her proud father followed her attendants from the pool house by the lake, along the wonderfully long aisle to meet Damien.  To Blue Pocket's version of Beyonce's 'XO', Belinda and Damien together climbed the steps and turned to face their many guests and the beautiful Lake Connewarre below.

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As they stood with their impeccably dressed bridal party in hues of gold, cream and blue, I told the humorous story of Belinda and Damien's meeting in the back seat of a taxi, the text message that Damien sent Belinda the following day that read “I think I love you”, and the friendship that blossomed into romance. 

I spoke of the many memorable times the pair have shared, most often with their families, of Damien’s romantic proposal, the qualities Belinda and Damien most admire in each other and their thoughts about their relationship.  Their reflections were some of the most romantic I have ever shared. Their conviction that "if something was to happen to either of them, the other would be left with absolutely no doubt about how much they were loved and admired”, caused me to pause.

I love you with a love that is more than love.  

Inspired by the words of poet Edgar Allan Poe, Belinda and Damien exchanged romantic vows, before their adorable Ring Bearer ascended the steps, calmly searched his pocket for some time and eventually produced their wedding rings.

Guests presented readings and blessings, some with tears in their eyes, some with huge smiles upon their faces, before Belinda and Damien were declared to be husband and wife.  The roar from the crowd as the newlyweds sealed their commitment with a kiss was nothing short of wonderful.

Congratulations Mr and Mrs Fitz. Thank you for your warmth and kindness and for the honour of standing with you on a day that held so much meaning for you. I consider myself very fortunate indeed. 

Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Ceremony Venue: Campbell Point House

Photography: Flash2Flash Photography  (Excluding photo 2, taken by Sally Hughes Celebrant)

Styling: Belinda Fitzpatrick Events in collaboration with Ambrosia Floral Designs & Lauren Skorsis Design Studio

Musicians: Blue Pocket (Dan & Rex)

Belinda's Dress: Silvana Tedesco Couture 

Belinda's Jewellery: Samantha Willis Bridal

Damien's and Groomsmen suits: Country Road

Bridesmaid Dresses: Sass & Bide, Camilla and Marc, Swish Clothing, Trenery & Seduce Clothing

Hair: Simoney D Hair & Make Up

Make Up: Littledollface

Cake: Cake Ink

Baked Treats: Cupcake Occasion

Instagram Live Printer: Social Playground

DANA + MICHAEL - Colour Them Happy

By Sally Hughes, Melbourne Marriage Celebrant

Meet Dana.  She's one of the most gracious, humble and happy people I've had the pleasure of meeting.  If that's not impressive enough, she's also a soloist with the Australian Ballet. Her most recent performance in their production of Chroma was outstanding.

Speaking of impressive people, here's Michael.  Happy, super friendly and, like his bride, also very talented.  This German-born groom spent two years as a documentary photographer in post-war Kosovo.  Now you'll most often find him shooting weddings for Blue Robin Wedding Photography

Dana and Michael's brief was clear. They wanted a ceremony that was casual and fun-filled, one that would reflect their loving and excitable personalities. They wanted to include a large number of loved ones and were adamant that the sense of celebration should be established from the outset, and not withheld until their reception.  Oh, and in honour of Michael's heritage, they also they wanted me to present, in part, in German.  I loved their brief and fortunately my training in German opera many moons ago meant that I knew a little German too.  I couldn't wait to get started!

Dana and Michael were married in The Fitzroy Gardens on the last weekend of daylight savings.

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As expected, Dana was the embodiment of grace and beauty.  She wore a knee-length dress with delicate lace overlay and the most amazing cut out back, bright blue heels and a small posy of blue hand woven pom poms.  Her striking Matron of Honour and “Leading Ladies” were each dressed in magnificently bright block coloured cocktail dresses of yellow, fuchsia, jade and red.  They looked magnificent against the green lawn and garden beds of pinks, oranges and reds.

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As Dana made her way around the winding path and toward her husband-to-be, Michael couldn't resist reaching for his camera and taking a quick snap of his beaming bride.

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I loved the way Dana and Michael laughed and cuddled one another throughout their ceremony and the way their guests reacted openly and energetically to their relationship story and to the many and varied guest presentations.  


Though Dana and Michael exchanged rings and romantic vows with utmost sincerity, such was the sense of joy that they shared, they simply couldn't suppress their delight.  Their laughter was utterly contagious!

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To Gotye's In Your Light the interactive ceremony drew to a cheerful close.  Dana and Michael remained in the gardens afterward, chatting to their guests over pretzels and refreshments in the early evening sunshine...

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... before stealing a little post-ceremony time for themselves.

The newlyweds continued their lively and colourful celebration a short distance away at Fortyfivedownstairs.

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Chair dana.jpg

Dana and Michael, I will never forget your ceremony, nor will I forget the fun we had planning it.  I couldn't help but smile in your presence as your kind and generous spirits and your joie de vivre made every interaction a thoroughly happy one. Herzlichen Glückwunsch zu Ihrer Ehe.  Herzlichen Dank!  xx


Celebrant: Sally Hughes

Ceremony Venue: Fitzroy Gardens, Lawn 20

Ceremony Venue Decor: The Wedding Zone

Photography: Tom Franks Photography

Ceremony Bouquets: Dana's own creations

Reception Flowers - Cecilia Fox

Reception Venue: Fortyfivedownstairs

Dana's Dress: Andrea Gorrie