Real Wedding – Claire & Michael, Richmond VIC
Combining two distinctly different styling preferences meant that Michael and Claire’s Day was a unique concoction of vibrantly vivacious hues underpinned with elegant modern timelessness. Michael prefers a more monochromatic, sleek vibe, whereas Claire is all about bright maximalism. Like the best unions, their differences make for a sweet coalescence of choices foregrounding a truly epic party.
Boldly whimsical florals in tones of neon vermillion, sunflower yellow, sweet apple green and soft cornflower blue tie in with Claire’s non-traditional floral print gown. A wedding party in chic black and white bring a contemporary edge to a timeless tradition.
As the sun sets on the dream day celebrations, the party heats up, with every moment from dance floor magic to personal portrait captured to perfection by photographer Nikola Janev.
Scroll on for all the brightly beautiful details.
Introduced by a mutual friend (groomsman Paris) in 2014. Claire saw Michael in the background image of Paris’ laptop in a contract law class and requested an intro! They first locked eyes when out at a bar in May 2014 with separate groups of friends. After some nagging, Paris organised pre’s for our end-of-exams party in June 2014. A hard sell to get Michael along to a random law school event, made a bit easier by the generous bar tab. We got together that night and have been together ever since!
Michael: The moment I definitively knew Claire was the one was when I saw Claire hold Bodhi (our friends’ son who came to our ceremony) for the first time in 2018. I remember seeing her smile and this beautiful baby on her shoulder, and it all clicked together for me. My mind went to the idea of a future with a house filled with laughter, kids and a beautiful woman (Claire).
Claire: My grandma was OBSESSED with Michael. At the end of her life, she wasn’t able to talk much, but she always had words for him. One day in November 2015, I felt a strong urge to drop in and see her. We didn’t stay long, but as we left the nursing home, Nan waved to us and said just one word, Michael. It was the last word I ever heard her say. She died that same night. I knew that that was her way of telling me that Michael was the person I should and would spend the rest of my life with.
Michael had gone out to get the ring on the Tuesday morning before Christmas in 2021, telling me he had to go into work for an hour or so for an urgent in-person meeting. I absolutely lost my mind and tee’d off at him for a fairly sustained inning – Covid was pretty rife at this time, and most people were exclusively working from home. “How can you be so selfish? How can you even consider going to a face-to-face meeting this close to Christmas? You’re going to get COVID and ruin our first Christmas in our new home,” etc. Ever patient and calm, Michael just copped it all on the chin.
Michael’s parents hosted both of our families on Christmas Eve. I had organised all presents except for my own for Christmas Day, but Michael’s Mum decided we should exchange presents on Christmas Eve when just close family were there instead of at the bigger gathering the next day – the first and last time we’ve done this! Worked for me, not so much for Michael, who had to organise a decoy present for me with two hours’ notice and all the shops shut so he could go ahead with his original Christmas Day proposal plan.
On Christmas Eve, he gave me a Mister Zimi voucher, which he sent to my phone. I did think it was weird at first because he always says gift vouchers for your partner aren’t very thoughtful! I hadn’t even seen the fact the time stamp on it was two hours prior at this stage because I have no idea how he would have explained his way out of that. He said he wasn’t sure what pattern dress to choose because there were so many he thought I’d like. I guess I bought the decoy! We still call the dress I bought with that voucher the ‘decoy dress’.
Early the next day, Michael woke me up asking, ‘Do you want a coffee?’. I don’t think he’d slept much. I said yes, but I really wanted to keep sleeping!
He came back upstairs in a collared shirt he had hidden in the laundry with a bottle of champagne and flowers he’d bought the day before and hidden in the garage overnight. I did think the collared shirt was a bit much five hours before our guests were arriving, but it made more sense when the flowers and champagne came out.
I’m still salty to this day that when he proposed, he looked very put together in a collared shirt while I didn’t even have my brows done or a bra on!
I cried so much that I didn’t say yes for about 60 seconds, and Michael didn’t get to finish what he wanted to say when he asked the question (ever economical, he saved the words for our wedding day!).
It was very special that my parents were staying with us at the time and that we got to share the news with them in the morning and with our extended families at Christmas lunch.
I started planning about 48 hours after we got engaged! We started by making our guest list and knowing it would be between 120 and 130 people and picked a venue from there. We tossed up between city, country, winery and coast venues. While we’re wine lovers and love spending time at the coast, we thought it was only right to get married in the city that was the backdrop to our love story – Melbourne!
A guy I work with had played a gig a few weeks before at a venue he described as a quirky little walled green courtyard and warehouse space off a laneway in Richmond. I knew we had to check it out. After locking in Butler Lane for 12 March the following year in Feb 2022, I started on the rest of the prep.
While Michael was very keen to assist, I told him it was all under control. I knew my dress was going to be non-traditional, and a lot of the day would be built around it – to keep it all a surprise, I had to keep him largely in the dark in the planning process.
I really enjoyed planning our wedding and DIYing so many of the elements. It was magic to see it all come together on the day and see Michael’s reaction to it all.
Michael and I have quite different tastes that we needed to balance in our styling. Michael is very much timeless, classic, monochrome, and minimalist. I am very much colour, non-traditional, quirky, and maximalist. Our styling had to be a seamless combination of timeless as well as vibrant and fun. We both agree that we achieved that!
How this worked on the day: although my dress was made of non-traditional fabric, it was a more traditional style, and our bridal parties wore very classic monochrome looks. Our linen, candles, plinths and vases were all white tones, while our florals, stationary, and roof hangings were vibrant and colourful.
Our celebrant was a primary school friend of Michael’s, and I got to know her as well when we both lived in London in 2019. The ceremony was so special because it was a dear friend telling the story of our relationship from our perspective as well as in her words as a friend who had witnessed our eight-year-plus journey to our big day – it felt authentically us.
For the most part, it felt as if it was just the two of us and that no one else was there, even though we were in a courtyard full of people.
Our vows touched on similar themes even though we had written them completely independently, making them even more special.
The tip kiss we had practised in the lead-up to the big day went off (twice! – see below) without a hitch, and we walked up the aisle as newlyweds into a burst of confetti that I had collected and dried from our own garden.
Michael: As the traditionalist of the two of us, me wearing a colourful suit was never going to happen, despite Claire encouraging me to go for a green or a white jacket. The men’s styling was more traditional than the rest of the styling. I had always wanted to wear a classic black tux with a bit of flair. The groomsmen also had a traditional touch wearing a cummerbund under their tuxedos, which ended up being their favourite part of the outfit.
Claire: The dress found me! A couple of days after we got engaged, I saw my dress on Instagram, suggested to me via the algorithm by a Canadian dressmaker. I knew straight away it was the one, despite the limited images and footage I saw of it. I saved the posts and looked at it almost every day until I finally ordered it about five months later, in May 2022, having never tried it on. When you know, you know!
Michael: The ceremony was spectacular, but one of my favourite moments was the photos we took with just the two of us afterwards. This felt intimate, relaxed and fun. Nik and Alex (our photographer and videographer) were just amazing to work with. For the most part, we just walked around having a chat and a laugh, reflecting on our ceremony with the odd direction from the guys here and there.
Claire: it’s pretty tough to pick just one, but if I had to, it was the few moments where my bridesmaids were popping things in the bridal suite, and Dad was having a last-minute pit stop before walking down the aisle, that I got a moment alone to see our reception set up in the most magical afternoon light with no one else inside. I was just amazed at how it had all come together – a hundred times better than I expected.
Meaning of marriage.
Michael: I view marriage as the formalisation of a promise I had already made but not said aloud. The promise to turn up every day for one another, whether you want to or not. To laugh together and at each other, to push when they need to be pushed, support and comfort. To be there to create and share memories, both joyful and sorrowful. Above all else, have fun and enjoy each other’s company on the journey.
Claire: My views on marriage have been shaped extensively by my parents’ incredible marriage, an enduring partnership (35 years this year) built on mutual respect, trust, devotion, affection, hard work and gratitude that has been the foundation of our home, my brother and my childhood and all of the best things in our lives. It is also the benchmark and standard that I will hold Michael and my marriage to, although I think we’ll be well on our way if we even have 50% of the happiness Mum and Dad have had and continue to share. To be married is to promise to play the role of cheerleader, shoulder to cry on, listening ear, and companion on ordinary and extraordinary days and to give and receive the same in reverse.
Bridal entry: Making Memories of Us by Keith Urban, played acoustically and sung by our talented friend Matt Preuss. (I can’t listen to it without crying.)
Recessional: Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Stevie Wonder.
Reception entry (wedding party): the Friends theme song I’ll be there for You by the Rembrandts
Reception entry (bride and groom): This Will Be by Natalie Cole
Cake cutting: How Sweet It Is by James Taylor (we did our cake cutting as the first order of business – I had always wanted to have dessert before dinner.)
First dance: Something Like This by Coldplay / Chainsmokers (learnt in our lounge room from YouTube!)
Funny stories or near disasters.
I stored my bridesmaid’s dresses in my old bedroom at Mum and Dad’s house so they’d be ready to go on the day (we got ready there). A couple of weeks beforehand, my maid of honour wanted to double-check the fit of her dress. She came over to try it on and found that a cockroach had made a home in it, leaving black marks all down one side. We both absolutely flipped out. Mum saved the day and worked some magic on it, and thankfully it was as good as new!
Michael: I was quite hesitant knowing Claire’s love of colour when she explained her vision for our wedding styling. However, I’m still blown away by how seamlessly the more traditional elements of the day, like our suits, blended with the not-so-traditional elements of the dress pattern, vibrant florals and venue.
Claire: I have never considered myself to be a particularly artistic or creative person, but this side of me was unleashed during the wedding planning process. I thoroughly enjoyed making our invitations, welcome and seating charts, menus, place cards for the ceremony and reception, confetti and designing our custom neon and vases.
Words of wisdom.
A couple of pearls of wisdom from our experience:
Don’t bring your bridal party along for your portraits! You heard us! You will be far more efficient, agile and in the moment with your partner if you don’t! We did ours in 15 – 20 minutes while our bridal party got to unwind with their partners and families at the cocktail hour. Your photographer will still get shots of you together!
Assign seats for your ceremony, and tell people that they will have an assigned seat at the ceremony. Saves the mad rush to fill the seats before your ceremony starts, the uncertainty around if it’s acceptable to take a seat and ensures no empty seats in photos.
Look at the talents within your own friendship and family circles (friendors) before you reach out to any vendors!
If you know them, love them and can afford to, invite the parents of your bridal party. They all had the best time watching their kiddos looking all glammed up and standing by our sides.
Sounds cliché, but make your wedding whatever you both want it to be and don’t let preconceived ideas limit you. The people that love you will get around whatever you put in front of them if it reflects you as a couple.
Claire’s wedding ring. I was struggling to choose a wedding ring when Mum and Michael suggested I take a look at my Nan (Mum’s Mum)’s rings. Nan’s three-stone engagement ring was purchased at Catanachs in the early 60s. Mum and I took the ring back to Catanachs to have it resized and set lower to sit under my engagement ring. It was such a special experience to share with my Mum, and I am so thankful she gifted me this ring. My grandparents had a long and happy marriage, and Nan loved Michael so much. It is the most perfect symbol of our marriage.
Dad’s bow tie and pocket square. I deliberately bought my dress three sizes too big so that Lisa could make Dad a pocket square and bow tie from the same fabric as my dress. We kept my dress a surprise from Dad, and I gifted the pocket square and bow tie to him after I did my dress reveal on the day – a special gift to thank him for walking me down the aisle and for showing me the qualities to look for in a husband and father.
Dried flower-fetti. About four months out from our wedding, I began collecting and drying flowers from our garden and from generous friends to make the flower-fetti for when we walked down the aisle as Mr and Mrs. My home office became a flower-prepping room! Being showered in the confetti I had worked so to create was such a beautiful moment.
Our first kiss – twice over. We did our first kiss twice! While we had practised our ‘tip kiss’, we had obviously never done it in our outfits. My shoes (pink Valentinos) were hidden under my dress for our first kiss, and Mum was not having a bar of this, having gifted them to me. So, she heckled us to do it again from the front row!
Your wedding venue can impact every aspect of your day – from styling to guest comfort and (definitely not least importantly!) the fun-factor. So, to narrow down the list, check out some of the wedding venues we are loving in 2023, here on the blog.
CLAIRE & MICHAEL’S VENDORS
Ceremony & reception venue: Butler Lane, Richmond (a Peter Rowland venue). We think that this venue might be one of Melbourne’s best-kept secrets! It truly has it all – greenery, a lovely outdoor set up with wine barrels and festoon lighting, exposed brick for a rustic vibe and a warehouse-style interior, with exceptional food, beverage and service to top it off. It’s a blank canvas that anyone can make their own. Staff in the lead-up and on the day were exceptional and catered the entire menu around my severe food allergies to eggs, nuts and seafood.
Celebrant: Our incredible friend Elysa Watson. We couldn’t have imagined anyone else marrying us! El’s ceremony was the perfect length and the perfect balance of lighthearted laughs and more meaningful sentiments.
Photography: Nikola Janev. I came across Nik scrolling Insta one Sunday evening on the couch. His work looked beautiful. He was doing a giveaway, and I entered, thinking it would be a lovely way to celebrate our engagement. We hadn’t done much to celebrate our engagement (Christmas 2021) as everyone was still a little gun-shy coming out of lockdowns, and Covid was still fairly widespread. We were so honoured to win Nik’s giveaway, and he came to Rye for the most amazing sunset session with us on the beach, where we spent so much time with my family. Nik came ahead of time and met with my parents and us; it felt like he was a friend we’d known forever. We were instantly comfortable in his presence. We loved that Nik allowed us to be authentically us and capture those more goofy moments as well as the more artistically directed pictures! We adore both for different reasons. The results were incredible, and there was no doubt in our minds Nik would photograph our big day. Working with Nik before the big day meant we knew what worked and what we liked, made it feel like we were hanging out with a friend on the day (as opposed to someone we’d just met!) and allowed us to get our Bride and Groom portraits done (with epic results) and to get back to the party in 15 – 20 minutes!
Videography: Alex Naughton. Alex is a super-talented filmmaker who was the year ahead of Michael at school. While he doesn’t usually do wedding videos, we fell in love with the one he did for friends back in 2019 and begged him to do ours. Thankfully, in and around a massive schedule, he agreed! Alex and Nik were honestly the most amazing fit for us and for each other on the day. Alex nailed the brief of a non-stuffy, upbeat wedding video featuring all the people we love most.
Styling: Claire and Canva. Bangin’ Hangings – roof install.
Florist: Rebecca Warner – Party Plants. Bec was three years ahead of me at school. I have always admired her work. She has done flowers for a diverse array of events and themes, from beachy boho to Positano vibes to vibrant pastel palettes. Her posts always brighten my feed, and I knew that she would nail our whimsical, colourful brief! I loved how excited Bec was to work with the bud vases I had custom-made. While Michael was very keen to meet with Bec during the planning process, I couldn’t let him come, as our florals were based around my dress, and I couldn’t ruin the surprise!
Hair: Claire: on the day – Shannon Brache via Tonic Agency. Shannon nailed six different hairstyles on the spot with inspo pics for reference and even made time to do my brother’s hair! My up do stayed in for 48 hours even through dancing and sleeping on it! She is the loveliest person to get ready with on your special morning. In the lead-up Chiara at Chi Studios. Michael – Ace of Fades.
Make-up: Katia Amerena. I met Katia through a friend. She did an incredible job on the day of making us all feel super comfortable and gorgeous in our own skin; tailoring looks for each of our hair colour, eye colour and skin tones and needs. My Mum and bridesmaids aren’t massive make-up wearers, and some had never had their make-up professionally done. Katia talked them through each product and the process, and we all had an amazing morning in her chair!
The dresses: Ceremony gown – Frascara Designs customised by Lisa at Sewbizz. Lisa has altered and customised so much clothing for me in the past few years and knows me so well. She was the only person I trusted to re-model my dress (go down three sizes, shorten the dress and remodel front detailing into a bow on the back over four fittings, as well as work on my veil and pieces for Dad). She is extremely talented, dedicated, creative in her suggestions, fairly priced and just has a huge heart. She also made alterations to Mum’s dress and one bridesmaid’s dress. Dancing – Nadine Merabi. My disco hen dress (feathers and sequins) found thanks to the ‘gram. UK-based brand. DHL tracking told me that the dress shipped to me via the town where my Grandma (Dad’s Mum) used to live (Derby, UK) – it definitely felt meant to be.
Earrings: Kenneth Jay Lane (a gift from my brother for my 30th birthday)
Rings: Claire – Catanachs. Michael – Cartier. I had always thought the Cartier Trinity (three interlocking rings) Collection was so cool. Michael was trying on a few traditional wedding bands when I suggested that he try on the white gold and ceramic Trinity Ring. He fell pretty instantly in love with it. It is such a cool wedding ring.
Bridesmaid dresses: Shona Joy – the girls all wore the Luxe Tie Front Cocktail Dress in Ivory, which had adjustable shoulder straps and waist tie.
Suits and ties / bow ties: P.Johnson. Close friends of ours had gotten married six months before, and they had got the suits from P.Johnson and raved about the experience. It was perfect for us as they also have a showroom in London, and were happy for our London-based groomsman to go and have his measurements taken as well as his fittings there while we did ours in Melbourne. The guys in the showroom are really knowledgeable and helpful. A couple of drinks during a fitting is a pretty good way to start your weekends in the lead-up to your wedding too!
Catering & bar: Peter Rowland Group.
Favours: We gave out our stunning flowers at the end of the night! Guests also took home Polaroids taken during the evening.
Cake: salted butter peach sponge made and decorated by our lovely friend Maddy Larkin. For a peach cake, we, of course, needed a peach-themed topper and settled on ‘Life’s Peachy’!
Cake topper: custom from Candy Bar Sydney.
Stationery / signage: Claire and Canva
Entertainment: DJ Sax by Jaaz Tobias-Quigley. We met Jaaz at a friend’s wedding and thought he was an awesome guy who created an epic d-floor. He gets everyone involved and amongst it with the Sax. Plays a range of classics and newer stuff to cater for everyone!
Transport: Claire: I work for Mercedes-Benz Australia and was lucky enough to be lent two lovely cars for the day, which I did not share with Michael and the boys and kept for Dad and me and my girls. Work perks!
Décor: Vases – Butler Lane has very high ceilings, so I wanted the florals to attract the eyes upwards. I also wanted florals at varying heights on the tables to add a playful element to the evening. A real pain point for me at an event is having florals at a height and density that make it impossible to see and chat with others at the table, no matter how pretty they are! My goal was to ensure that our guests could talk along and across the table and see all of our formalities framed, not blocked by our florals. Nik and Alex captured some incredible visuals of this. To achieve this, I worked with a supplier in India to custom-make our bud vases. We have a casual 100 of them!
Candles – Our friends Katie and Tom were generous enough to gift us candles from their own wedding day to light up our reception tables.
Hire: Harry the Hirer for tables and linen.
Honeymoon: Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas
Nails: Buff Studios Camberwell
Fragrance: Both from Mecca’s new fragrance emporium at Eastland, selected together on a sweet Friday night Christmas shopping date in 2022. Claire – Diptyque Eau Plurielle (yes, it’s a room spray – but it works wonderfully as a perfume, and you get SO MUCH of it!). Michael – Tom Ford Ebene Fume.
Claire tan: Bali Body
Claire’s robe: Peter Alexander
Wedding breakfast tea: Fortnum and Mason
Girls getting-ready glassware: La Palm Home
Champagne tower: Ikea
Michael’s getting ready venue / our accommodation on the night: Loft at Crown Metropol
Claire’s gift to Michael on the day: Omega Speedmaster, because I love him to the moon and back and from alpha to omega.
Michael’s gift to Claire on the day: Van Cleef & Arpels Malachite Vintage Alhambra bracelet, because it’s timeless (first piece in the VCA Alhambra collection was a malachite piece) like her, green for her green eyes and to remember getting married in front of the lovely greenery wall at Butler Lane.