Real Wedding – James & Sarah, Merrimu VIC
For a wedstival wedding with knockout style and the happiest vibes, check out the epic celebration of James and Sarah (AKA Quinny).
These two shared with us some of the hilarious, heartfelt stories behind their wedding day, and we are so here for it. From overcoming all the challenges of planning a wedding from overseas, to leaving the groom’s ring behind in China, these two took every challenge in their stride and created an incredible festival-style party.
Beautiful Quinny was welcomed down the aisle by a gorgeous gang of flower kiddies, and the look on her face as she stopped to take in the effect of all her friends and family cheering and dancing as she entered is incredible, only topped by James’ expression as her took in the vision of his gorgeous bride-to-be.
Amazing Aussie venue Camp Sunnystones provided the perfect setting for a three-day party; decked out in bright boho-disco style by Here Comes the Truck, with guests dancing into the morning under Tipi’s from Tipkata.
As James and Quinny put it, one of the best moments of the whole weekend was taking the time to go for a walk together at sunset, and look back at their closest friends and family partying together.
The legend behind the lens was Kinship by Kristy, who captured every moment with authentic artistry.
We met on teaching rounds; we were both student teachers placed at the same school. James was sitting in the PE office, and remembers walking in and seeing that all of the staff in the office were all 50-60 year old females and he thought ‘well, I’m going to learn a lot’.
Quinny then came into the office and introduced herself as another student teacher. It was almost like the teachers supervising us hadn’t worked out what they would do with us on that first day so they said ‘You can teach the first lesson of Grade 7’s together and we’ll help if you look like you need it. James came up with a game using a rubber chicken called ‘chuck the chicken’ and the girls were super competitive and loved it.
James had a funny situation where he’d organised a bucks weekend in Byron Bay for a guy at his work, and all the other guys working there were coming to celebrate together. At the last minute, the buck’s wife wasn’t impressed by the idea of the boys all disappearing up to Byron Bay and said the buck couldn’t go, so James and all the other guys came up to Byron anyway to use the house for the week.
Quinny was living in Byron Bay. James knew this, and hence that’s why he’d organised to have the bucks weekend up there. James vividly remembers Quinny walking through the door and at the time she was nannying so had two kids; one in each arm and a third kid holding onto her leg. James says he remembers instantly thinking ‘this woman can handle kids with ease and is beautiful with them too’.
We played in the pool with James’ teacher friends and the kids for the rest of the day. Quinny took a bit longer to come around to the idea of James as her ‘forever guy’. Since the Byron Bay adventures, we’d moved home and embedded one another into each other’s lives, friendship groups and families, and it all makes sense.
We were in Byron Bay and taking a morning walk along the beach at sunrise. As the sun was rising, we sat on a washed-up tree branch and James popped the question. Quinny gets super antsy about staying still when the sun’s coming up because she loves watching it from so many angles.
The sun was scheduled to rise at 6:47am, and at 6:42am Quinny was getting cagey and wanted to keep on moving, so James got down on one knee a couple of minutes early – we still got to see the sunrise and keep moving!
It was just the beginning of a three month holiday, so we spent the remaining week in Byron celebrating with family and friends at Blues Fest. After that, we went on a trip to Spain and walked 990kms across the Camino for 33 days and then rented a van and beach hopped the southern coast.
In the 18 months leading up to our wedding day, we were living in Beijing, China. So, all our planning was done online via emails and FaceTime calls. This was actually super difficult because China has an incredibly hard firewall that’s imposed by the government and doesn’t allow Google, Facebook, etc. We already had VPN’s on our devices to get around these issues, but it made everything take three times longer to do the most basic things – looking up numbers, venues, info, etc. After scouring the internet for venues, we came across Camp Sunnystones, which seemed to be the perfect fit for us and our guests.
In our searches, we came across Here Comes the Truck, and made contact with Catie and Pia and their event management team. We knew we were in good hands, and from that moment forward they helped guide us through many of the decisions involving vendors, logistics and styling for the day.
Catie was relaxed, we were relaxed, and we started saving any images or ideas we had into shared Pinterest boards – this was literally what we did for six or so months leading up to the wedding. We didn’t meet Catie and the team from Here Comes The Truck until two days before Christmas (less than a month before the wedding).
We wanted relaxed, fun, comfortable and festival all mixed into one. James has been running offsite programs for schools for some time, so the thought of having a wedding at a school camp was on the cards; however we weren’t sure of the quality of the venues available.
We really wanted to be able to spend quality time with the guests and hang out. Heaps of people who’d gotten married all said ‘The day will fly by. If people have travelled from far be sure to make the time to speak to them and you can catch up with other people that live in Melbourne after or before the wedding”. We then decided to book the venue for two nights/ three days, and everyone could come as they pleased. We decided it would be called ‘Camp Kelly’.
People arrived on the Friday afternoon, went for runs, walks and exploring round Camp Kelly. On the Friday night we rented a space at the pub in town and put on drinks for everyone. About 80 people joined us for the Friday evening.
Camp Kelly had about nine or ten rooms with bunks in them for school groups which all our friends brought bedding and sheets for. We drew up a huge room plan with guests in rooms on a whiteboard, had room leaders, cleaners and all our friends got hold of the whiteboard markers and started to add in room names, change the room leader around and other funny instances which we’ll look back on and laugh about for years to come. We kind of thought that the Friday night would be a quiet catch up with everyone and people would be getting some rest for Saturday.
When we were in China, we got 130 white cotton bathrobes with the words ‘Camp Kelly’ embroidered into the back. These were a pain to bring home and weighed as much as a boxing bag which James had to carry through security everywhere. We folded these onto each of the beds for gifts to each of the ‘Campers’ when they arrived, had toothpaste and toothbrushes for everyone, soap, water bottles, hydralite and all other things people would need when camping at a wedding.
When we arrived home from the pub on Friday evening, thinking it would be a quiet evening, all of the guests had put on their Camp Kelly robes and were out dancing and drinking wine with one another. All our favourite people, from all the different walks of life, wearing Camp Kelly robes and dancing with one another. Quinny got taken home at 20:30 from the pub by her family as they all knew she would’ve otherwise been right up there dancing with everyone till the ceremony the next day.
I find it hard to choose what to wear to go for coffee, so the wedding dress was always going to be a tricky decision for me. Especially doing the dress search from Beijing.
After looking online at every white dress ever made, I ended up purchasing one online and had it shipped to me in China. It ticked the boxes, it was bridal, it was pretty, and it fit me, but for some reason it just didn’t feel like me. I had a guy at work cut, alter and change it for me – and he did an AWESOME job but it still felt funny to be wearing it.
With less than a week until the wedding without telling anyone, I bought a backup dress online, a two-piece white lace set from Two Sister the Label. Not as traditional or glamourous but completely me. I absolutely loved wearing it. It’s such a fun set.
On Sunday night we caught up with a lot of the bridal party and enjoyed sampling some of the leftover wines from the wedding. Later in the night a lot of the girls had turns at trying the wedding dress I didn’t wear on and walking down the hallway of our friend’s house as if it was the aisle at our wedding, with all their different wedding songs.
Taking a moment together and walking down the hill to take a look back at the day we had created. All our friends and family on the hill under the sunset skies enjoying themselves.
Meaning of marriage.
We both think that life is one big adventure. We can’t know where or what it will involve but we love being on this adventure together, supporting each other and dreaming up the next big idea.
Aisle – flower nieces & nephews and bridesmaids: Move On Up (Extended Version) by Curtis Mayfield
Aisle: This will be an Everlasting Love by Natalie Cole
First dance: September by Earth Wind and Fire
Funny stories or near disasters.
We had a big send-off from all of the friends and staff in Beijing the day before the flight home to Australia for the wedding. We’d packed most of the bags, got everything in order and weren’t too stressed about having a fun afternoon with friends the day before flying out.
The next day we both woke up feeling horrendous and got our things together at a very slow pace. At the airport all was going well, we boarded our plane and got into seats and fell straight asleep. In Melbourne, we were greeted by Quinny’s beautiful parents, and one of the first things they jokingly said was ‘Have you got the rings?” which we did not – because we’d been so ill we accidentally left James’ wedding ring behind on the television.
James had a silly idea to start a tradition at the wedding and for the week before the wedding went on a crazy search around Melbourne to find a sword to cut the cake with which would be passed down to our children as a tradition at all the weddings.
He went to martial arts stores, antique shops, theatre companies and more, but wasn’t able to find a thing. His sister had been calling and calling constantly asking how she could help, so James called and said ‘find me a sword’.
James went to the police station down the road and asked about all of the legalities of having a sword, etc. and the police said he’d need to get a firearms licence or an official pardon for the use of a sword in a religious ceremony or wedding. Somehow, James’ sister found a sword which didn’t fall under this category of needing a license or pardon and resembled something out of a knighting ceremony – think like what the queen would use when knighting someone in London.
On Friday night at the pub James’ nine-year-old nephew ran up so excited with this box that looked like a baseball bat with a big ribbon around it. The guests were a little shocked the next day when we pulled out the sword to cut the cake, but everyone loved it and what other day in your life can you use a sword to cut a cake other than at your wedding?
Flowers – we’d always loved the outdoors but never had to choose flowers. Names, colours, etc. were not things we’d thought about. Luckily our florist was awesome and had total fun with it all. Quinny even said she wanted a disco ball with foliage around the balls and they made it happen.
Words of wisdom.
We decided from the moment we wanted to have the wedding that the people who have done this before are the experts and we are not. From that initial idea, we adopted the saying ‘you guys are the experts, have as much fun as you want with it. We’re easy.’ And this meant we enjoyed ourselves, didn’t stress the small stuff (and also didn’t have to think about as much!).
One of James’ favourite things about the entire day was seeing it all come together because it was really a big surprise – we hadn’t been married before, we’d given basic ideas and then seeing all of your nearest and dearest exploring, enjoying and being in this setting was unforgettable. It really was such a fun weekend that we’ll cherish forever.
Loving Quinny & James’ wedstival wedding? We’ve pulled together some of our favourite bohemian style real weddings for your endless inspiration, here.
JAMES & SARAH’S VENDORS
Ceremony and reception location: Camp Sunnystones, Merrimu
Celebrant: A dear friend and wonderful celebrant Emma Newnham.
Photography: Absolute wonder woman Kristy Visscher, Kinship by Kristy.
Styling: The dream team at Here Comes the Truck.
Florist: Geraldine Micallef
Hair: Jessica Kovacs
Make-up: Grace Evelyn Make-up
Rings: Darylle Kelly
Bridesmaid’s dresses: Bridesmaid’s own
Bar: Here Comes the Truck
Favours: Made by our mates in China!
Transport: Mum drove us everywhere!
Décor: The Table Station
Hire: Tipis – Tipikata
Honeymoon: Bali – we got stuck in Bali when the pandemic hit. Our nine-day honeymoon turned into a 47-day honeymoon and was epic fun. We stayed at Suarga Padang Padang.