Real Wedding – Shannon & Stephen, Melbourne VIC

Real Wedding – Shannon & Stephen, Melbourne VIC


Shannon and Stephen developed a new mantra for their wedding planning and celebration and that was ‘YOMO‘ (you only marry once).

Taking this attitude they set about creating a day that would not only be memorable for them, but also their much loved guests. They wanted to steer clear of the usual wedding trends and instead opted for a style that would resonate with them both and so their colourful, black tie, modern art deco with a touch of Beyonce style celebration was born – and boy was it a beauty!

They started with incredibly personal vows during the ceremony that had their guests in tears of emotion and laughter and ended with a reception that wowed from start to finish – there to capture all the fun and frivolity was Tess Follett.


In Stephen and Shannon’s words…


The meeting.

It’s a modern-day love story really. It was New Year’s Eve 2012/2013 and someone called Stephen Gilham from Sydney started liking my Instagram pics. I lived in Adelaide at the time so didn’t really think too much of it until he messaged me on Facebook (before Instagram introduced messaging). As he recalls it, “I thought I’d see if you were going to move to Sydney.” Well as fate would have it, I was. After that we became Facebook Messenger pen pals for about 5 months before he plucked up the courage to finally ask me for my phone number. The asking of the phone number turned in to the asking of a first date and then to moving in together 3 months later.


The ‘one’.

Stephen – I knew Shannon was ‘the one’ pretty early on after a few dates. I remember getting that warm fuzzy feeling on our second date. I think that’s what falling in love feels like. We developed a special connection very quickly because we both shared the same values, hopes and dreams for the future. I learned that Shannon was very focused and driven to succeed in her work life, which I really admired and respected. I also learned that we shared strong family values as well as honesty and openness.

Meeting the parents definitely sealed the deal though. I met Shan’s parents when I visited her family home in Adelaide. I remember feeling very welcome and comfortable amongst her big family (Shan has three sisters, one brother and three step brothers), soon after meeting them. Shan met my folks when I was playing at GWS. The first time they met was at the best and fairest and she hit it off with them like I knew she would. After a little while, she also won over my brother Andrew.

Shannon – I knew we were going to be serious from the get-go. We had this deep connection and everything was so easy. The cat’s out of the bag now (since it was announced at our wedding) so I don’t mind sharing it but on the night of our first date, I had a dream that Stephen and I were dancing at our wedding – so crazy!


The proposal.

Stephen – I knew I was going to marry Shan soon after we moved in with each other. I asked Shan’s Dad if I could marry her during a round of golf in October 2016. I was nervous and didn’t ask him until the 18th hole but I knew I would have his blessing and sure enough he gave it. I planned to ask Shan to marry me when we went back to Adelaide a couple of months later for Christmas with all her family and friends present but when her Uncle passed away just before Christmas, I decided it wasn’t the right time. I wanted to make the proposal special and so the next opportunity was on an upcoming trip to the US for our good friends, Sam and Troy’s wedding. I had the ring but I wanted it to be somewhat of a surprise so I decided to carry it at the bottom of my backpack around the US, until the time was right. I didn’t want to propose until after the wedding so that meant either at Coachella or in NYC. My initial plan was to propose during Beyonce’s set at Coachella because she loves Beyonce more than anyone – she even happy cried when she found out she was having twins. Well when Beyonce pulled out of Coachella because she was pregnant (cue the sad tears), I had to change my plans.

For about two and a half weeks I stressed about the ring and how I was going to propose but when we got to NYC (the last stop on our US trip itinerary) I knew it would be there. We spent our first full day exploring the city before heading to The Book Of Mormon with friends that night. After being out all day we crashed on the bed at our hotel for a quick rest before having to make our way out again and I knew this was it. This was the moment. We had the best day exploring and we were finally on our own in our luxurious hotel room in Soho (we stayed at the Soho Grand Hotel – absolutely tops!) and we were about to go out with our friends. I asked Shan to close her eyes and come to the end of the bed whilst I dug into my trusty backpack to find the ring box. I pulled it out and got on one knee. I started to talk about how this was something I’d wanted to do for a long time but I was just waiting for the right moment. I said that I loved her and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. Shan was emotional and very teary when I asked her to marry me. She obviously said yes so I put the ring on her finger and jumped up to give her the tightest hug. We rang our parents and family and went to meet our friends on Broadway. We were on the biggest high. That night we partied into the early hours of the morning at Employees Only (in the Lower East Side, highly recommend) and stayed on cloud 9 for the rest of the trip.

Shannon – I hadn’t known about Stephen’s intention to ask me to marry him on our trip to the US but looking back on it now there were signs…

  1. When we were packing to go to the US he’d given me his brand new bag to use that he’d especially bought for the trip because I didn’t have a bag to take on the plane (so thoughtful). At the last minute I decided not to use it so handed it to him to use. When he didn’t change bags and used his old backpack, I thought it was weird given how much he loved it.
  2. He would constantly make sure his backpack was alright.
  3. He was obsessed with the backpack and took it in to every room we slept in.

Obviously my ring was in the backpack.


The process.

The planning process was actually a dream. Being some of the last couples to get married out of our friendship groups, we’d become quite accustomed to the whole wedding scene so we knew exactly what we wanted, exactly what we didn’t want and exactly how we planned to go about it. Because of this we didn’t really have any dilemmas or moments of ‘should we, shouldn’t we?” and as cliché as it is, we just went with it with a YOMO (you only marry once) attitude.


Style inspiration.

The style inspiration came from parties we’d been to, things we liked, music we enjoyed and our reception venue. We wanted to steer clear of the usual trends and opt for a style that resonated with us and so was born the pink, modern art deco, bright flowers, tropical, black tie with a touch of Beyonce wedding of our dreams that the girls at Creating Beautiful absolutely nailed!


The dress.

I only went to one dress designer, Sonia Cappellazzo of Cappellazzo Couture. I’d followed Sonia and her designs for so long and loved everything about her beautiful creations. As soon as I met her I felt like she just got me from the dress designing process to her creative brilliance – it was all just so seamless. I didn’t have my Mum, Step Mum or bridesmaids in Melbourne to come with me to fittings which sucked a bit but when Sonia noticed I wasn’t myself, she quickly snapped me out of it with a chat on the couch, a lovely gesture or by saying something to completely take my mind off of things. Needless to say, my dress was exquisite and I was so happy. I’m actually going to get it altered so I can keep wearing it because I love it that much.


Favourite moments. 

For us (and as silly as it sounds) our favourite moments were like a mullet. The entire ceremony was all business at the front of the day and the reception was all party at the back. We wanted our day to be memorable not only for us but for all of our guests. The ceremony was full of love and laughter, especially as we customised our own vows to be as unique to each other as possible. Stephen’s included tid bits about how he’d kill all the creepy crawleys at home for me and how he’d let barrack for my football team, Port Adelaide, only when they weren’t playing Hawthorn (his team). And mine included ways about how I can be better at putting washing away and comparisons of our relationship to Hugh Bowman and Winx.

The reception started with cocktail hour for the guests while we had photos. Soon after they were seated though, out reception entries commenced and set the scene for the whole night. Stephen’s a big horse racing guy so we decided to do something a bit different and write our own mounting yard excerpts for each couple as well as selecting music from the 70s/80s/90s genre. Everyone loved it. We left our intro up to Shura (our MC) to put together and it was insane (more Winx mentions were made which Stephen loved).


Meaning of marriage.

To us, marriage means loving each other perfectly as we are. The bond we have is based on a mutual understanding and appreciation of us as individuals and us as a partnership. Getting that right from the start has meant that our relationship pre-marriage, set the best foundation possible for our marriage and the rest of our lives together.


Wedding soundtrack.

Aisle: XO by Beyonce (performed by Lillian Albazi & Henry Davis)

Registry: Little Things by One Direction (performed by Lillian Albazi & Henry Davis)

Processional: Love on Top by Beyonce (performed by Lillian Albazi & Henry Davis)

Reception entry: Another One Bites The Dust by Queen – We both love Queen and we especially love this song. The deep bass opening chords and Freddie Mercury’s voice had every absolutely up and about from the get-go.

Father/daughter dance: Dreams by Fleetwood Mac

First dance: Sonnentanz Sun Don’t Shine by Klangkarussell & Will Heard – We had a slow piano version to start the song and our DJ, Jonno Haze, mixed in the original version to get the dance floor going.

Reception exit: Killing Me Softly  by The Fugees – My maiden name is Softley and Stephen’s last name is Gilham (pronounced ‘gill-am’) so our wedding hashtag was #GilhamMeSoftley. It was only fitting to leave our wedding to this song.


Funny stories (or near disasters).

The only thing that happened on the day (and to be honest, this is clutching at straws) was a mishap with the aisle song timing. My Mum was the trigger for our acoustic set, Lil & Henry, to start with the aisle song (Beyonce, XO). Well Mum forgot that she was the trigger and when we rocked up she was just so eager for it all to start and bolted to the ceremony venue like a horse out the gate. Of course when Lil and Henry saw Mum, they started playing. My sister and bridesmaid Maegen sent a late guest to find Mum and restart the song so we could start the walk. Little did I know that poor Stephen was sweating bullets because Mum chatted to our celebrant, Shura, and then ran off down the aisle. People started to talk thinking I wasn’t going to rock up but then down walked Maegen and we were on.


Planning surprise.

Weddings are exy.


Words of wisdom.

If you want something, have it. If you want to spend a little bit more, do it. If you’re hell bent on doing something in particular, do it. It’s your day and YOMO.



Rebecca and Will celebrated in perfect Portsea style under a magical marquee, check it all out here.




Ceremony venue / location: The Royal Botanic Gardens, Nymphaea Lily Lake West, Melbourne


Reception venue / location: Metropolis Events, Southbank – The Metropolis Team were as outstanding as the venue. Our night was so special because of them and we were so fortunate to have had the privilege of having our wedding at Metropolis.


Celebrant & MC: Shura Taft – Shura was incredible. It was so important to have someone marry us that we had a connection to. Stephen’s known Shura for years so naturally he was the right man for the job. Shura was also our MC and transformed the ceremony from that day to the reception that night flawlessly.


Photography: Tess Follett Photography – Tess is a moment capturing genius. The entire day was an absolute breeze because of her and the photos she produced are out of this world. She’s a lot of mutual friends’ weddings and everyone I know sings nothing but praises for Tess (including us).


Videography: Humdrum Films – I knew from the very beginning that we had to have the boys from Humdrum, Jared and Jacob, shoot our day. I think I watched every one of their masterpieces so when it came to deciding on videography we contacted them immediately to seal the deal.


Styling & Flowers: Creating Beautiful – Bree and Felicity are phenomenal. They’re seriously the absolute best in the biz. Nothing was ever too much to ask for and they just nailed the colourful, black tie, modern art deco with a touch of Beyonce brief. Our day was that much more special because they were part of it.


Hair: Hannah Softley (Oria Hair Studio, Brighton SA) – My beautiful sister, Hannah, owns a salon in Brighton, SA; Oria Hair Studio. All along she told me that she’d be taking care of the hair on the day and I’m so thankful that she did because she’s beyond brilliant at what she does.


Make Up: Amelia Webb – Amelia is one of the loveliest, talented people I’ve ever met. I’ve loved her work for so long so as soon as it came to deciding on a makeup artist, I only contacted her.


The Dress: Cappellazzo Couture – Sonia made my dress experience wonderful. She’s magic at what she does and understood me and my style completely. I’ll be forever grateful that I was able to wear one of her custom creations.


Veil: Cappellazzo Couture


Earrings: Ryan Storer – I wore a pair of Ryan Storer embellished jewel ear cuffs that some friends had given me for my 30th birthday. They were different to anything I’d seen before so naturally fitted the day perfectly.


Bride’s Shoes: Saint Laurent


Bride’s rings: Anton Jewellery – The Anton Team at Chadstone were such a pleasure to deal with. My engagement ring and wedding band were both specially made by Anton and I’m obsessed with the design and detail.


Bridesmaid’s dresses: Bec & Bridge


Groom’s suit: Custom suits by Dom Bagnato – Stephen’s known Dom Bagnato for a few years now so when it came to his decision on what to wear, he always knew he’d go and see Dom because no other suits fit him better. Dom created two signature looks for Stephen – a traditional black tux for the ceremony and a white dinner jacket for the reception. I had no idea what Stephen was going to wear as he wanted to keep it a surprise but I absolutely loved what he chose.


Groom’s shoes: Aquila


Groom’s ring: Custom-made black titanium band


Groom’s watch: Tag Heuer Carrera (Anton Jewellery, Doncaster) – I knew Stephen always wanted a Tag Heuer Carrera watch so I surprised him with one on the day of our wedding.


Groomsmen’s suits: Dom Bagnato (Myer, Melbourne)


Favors: Gif booth and pictures by Jimbo’s Amazing Photobooth – I can’t recommend Jimbo enough. He was so courteous and professional to deal with and allowed us to incorporate the Beyonce lyric theme that we had as part of our reception in to the gif booth without any hesitation. Our guests absolutely loved Jimbo’s booth, and so did we.


Cake: Licked by Ray Ray – Ray Ray created a cake that far exceeded our expectations. Our two-tiered vanilla with lime butter cream frosting cake included macaroons, golden chocolate chards and black marbled frosting.


Stationery / Signage: Creating Beautiful


Acoustic Set: Lillian Albazi & Henry Davis – Lillian sang and Henry played the guitar at our ceremony and during cocktail hour at our reception. My Mother in Law, Sharyn, worked with Lillian and had told us so much about this beautiful singer from work. Well Lil’s voice is beyond beautiful, it’s angelic. No song was too much to ask for and if Lil and Henry didn’t know it, they learnt it. Their rendition of the aisle song (Beyonce – XO) went for much longer than anticipated (almost 10 minutes!) because of a little aisle timing mishap I mentioned before and even though that happened they were absolute champions and none of our guests suspected a thing.


DJ: Jonno Haze – Jonno was recommended to us by one of our guests, John, or our Music Director (as he referred to himself). Jonno nailed the music and our dance floor was epic because of him.


Transport: Star Chauffeured Cars – The team at Star Chauffeured Cars were so professional to deal with and our chauffeurs on the day were great. We chose transport that allowed us to travel together and opted for two Mercedes Benz Vianos and a Mercedes Benz Sprinter.


Hire: Harry the Hirer (through Creating Beautiful)


Honeymoon: At the end of June we’re heading to Europe for 4 weeks to really make the most of the European summer – Paris, Barcelona, Amalfi Coast and Santorini.

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