Real Wedding – Stefanie & Stephen, Albert Park VIC
From the beginning Stef and Steve had a clear vision of how they wanted their most special day to play out.
Set at Carousel in the romantic lakeside location of Albert Park, they used their venue as their style inspiration – minimal, modern and oozing elegance.
Stef was always going to be a vision when it came to her wedding gown, particularly as Steve’s family has been in the bridal fashion game for many years.
Making her way down the aisle to her happily-ever-after, there was hardly a dry eye and their celebration the followed was rich in both love and Italian tradition – from their first dance, to their favours, and the many small but heartfelt touches in between.
It was during cocktail hour that Stef and Steve stood side by side and took a moment to catch their breath and take it all in, it was very clear they had executed their dream day to utter perfection. Tess Follett was the lady behind the lens and her images are absolutely magic.
I’d actually known Steve for about a decade before we started dating – We mixed in the same social circles and we had a lot of mutual friends. That said, our encounters had never really extended beyond a smile or a bit of polite small talk. That was until one fateful summer night in early 2015 when we struck up a conversation in the courtyard of The Continental Hotel – I don’t recall what we chatted about but I remember leaving the chat thinking “Wow… how have I never really spoken to him before in all these years!?” After a few more spontaneous meetings and my very best flirting, Steve asked me out.
I knew instantly that Steve was special. I remember thinking that he exuded such warmth and kindness. But as I really started to get to know him, I realised he was a bit of a dork… a lot like me! We just clicked and his positivity always brought out the best in me. I think that’s how I realised he was “the one” – he made me want to be the best version of myself.
Steve popped the question while we were having a well-deserved week away in Byron Bay in October 2018. We’d just arrived at the stunning Elements of Byron and I was welcomed to our beachfront villa with rose petals, champagne, the ring, and an antipasto platter… how could a girl say no!?
Our planning process was quite lengthy and felt constantly busy! I think this was largely on account of me being very particular about my vision for the big day. I was set on a summer (or more specifically February) wedding – I love lucky dates and lucky numbers so very early on I inspected the calendar to see if any February 2020 dates were particularly special – You can imagine my surprise when I saw that the Leap Day was going to fall on a Saturday. That sealed the date for me – Saturday 29 February 2020! We were able to secure our venue on exactly that date, and shortly after that we secured some other big-ticket items (church, stylist, band, photographer). We then relaxed for a few months and only really got seriously into the planning at about 11-12 months out.
Though constantly busy, our planning process was significantly aided by the help of our stylist, Eliska from Ruffles and Bells. She was absolutely amazing and really guided us and advised us on all aspects of styling – including giving us a really honest view of what elements we’d be better off spending money on and what wouldn’t have as big an impact. All our vendors were total professionals who were so easy to deal with – especially for large weddings, having faith in and trusting your vendors is extremely important and I can’t say enough good things about ours. Everyone we used aligned with our vision and we felt completely confident that they would execute what we asked for without us having to constantly check in with them.
We took a lot of inspiration from our reception venue, Carousel, with its minimal, curved architecture and modern, rendered exterior. We wanted a light, airy space and an elegant but relaxed setting for our guests. Noting that our wedding fell on the last day of summer, we wanted the colours and tones of the day to reflect a late summer, almost autumnal vibe – nude, sand, toffee and ivory. We were also greatly influenced by nordic minimalism – on this basis, we incorporated wishbone chairs, ceramic vases, a timber top bridal table, and unstructured, free form florals.
We really wanted to play on a juxtaposition between minimal, Scandi-inspired design and overwhelming gorgeous florals – on this basis, the central element for the wedding was a floral installation which hung over the dance-floor. Our amazing florists, Ivy and Eve, spent many hours assembling it and the final product really looked like a work of art! I understand they used wire to give the impression of the whole installation having really fluid movement, and this extended to a large arch (welded by the groom!) which served as the bridal table’s backdrop.
My now-husband’s family own two bridal boutiques in Melbourne called Raffaele Ciuca Bridal – They have been operating for in excess of sixty years and over that time they have dressed many, many Melbourne, interstate and international brides. Marrying into a family who are so ingrained in the wedding industry and have such a rich tradition of bridalwear was extremely special for me.
I tried on a number of beautiful dresses at both Rafaelle Ciuca’s Brunswick and Armadale boutiques, and ultimately decided upon a Leah Da Gloria gown. I wanted a gown that would make a statement, and hopefully, was something unique that people hadn’t seen before! It was a sheath gown in a blush/nude, almost iridescent colour. It was completely covered in beading and crystals, had a low plunging illusion neckline and an overwhelming, multi-layered overskirt. I felt beyond amazing in it.
While the day was filled with many memorable moments, one of my favourite moments would have to have been mingling with our guests during cocktail hour before our reception started. It was a gorgeous, balmy night and everyone was enjoying canapes and cocktails on Carousel’s sprawling deck, high in anticipation for the night which was about to get underway. It was really one of those moments where I looked around at our whole vision which had come to life and almost had to pinch myself that we were finally there!
We incorporated a few Italian traditions into our day…
The Ribbon/Steamer Dance – This is a tradition whereby the bride and groom dance and are simultaneously tied in ribbons or streamers by their bridal party; the idea being that the bride and groom are now tied together for life! This tradition was really popular in the 80s and 90s and I remember being absolutely mesmerised by it when I attended weddings as a little girl. It was very special and very funny to be a part of, though I was very happy when we were finally cut out of the metres and metres of ribbon.
Sugared Almonds/”Confetti” – Another tradition we incorporated into the day was tying sugared almonds (known in Italian as “confetti”) to our wedding favours. We imported the almonds from one of the oldest and most famous confetti companies in Italy called Pelino. They’re based in the town of Sulmona, Italy which is actually where a lot of Steve’s family come from. Traditionally, you give your guests five almonds, which symbolise health, wealth, happiness, fertility and long life.
Meaning of marriage.
To me, marriage is unconditional love, trust, patience and acceptance. It’s a partner for life – for ups and downs, success and failures, joy and grief. It’s a way to seal and affirm your commitment to one another, and it’s a new beginning – having someone to laugh with, confide in, and work together with for a common goal.
Aisle: Can’t Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley
Reception entry: September by Earth, Wind & Fire
First dance: How Deep Is Your Love? by Bee Gees
Ribbon/Streamer dance: Love Is In The Air by John Paul Young
Funny stories (or near disasters).
Probably one of the funniest stories (and maybe a lesson in biting off more than you can chew) was the preparation of our wedding favours. I had an idea that a really useful wedding favour (and also one that greatly reflected both Steve and I) would be giving all our guests homemade chili oil. Particularly if you’re Italian, chili oil is a kitchen staple which you can add to almost any food to give it a bit of a kick.
While this sounded good in theory, the actual execution involved sourcing 15kgs of bird’s eye chilis, cutting them all, cooking them with extra virgin olive oil and funneling this spicy mixture into 300 jars. We did it all in one weekend about three weeks out from the wedding, and we had a lot of help from bridesmaids and immediate family. While I think the hot fumes in the kitchen almost caused me to choke a few times, I’ve never laughed as much as I did over that weekend! In the end, we tied the sugared almonds to the jars one by one and our stationery supplier prepared some gorgeous custom labels which said “I Get a Kick Out of You”. They looked gorgeous and they were a hit – I received so many messages in the weeks following the wedding from friends who were using the chili oil for their cooking or as a condiment. We’ve even been asked for the recipe a few times! A wedding favour that people actually use is quite rare, but I think we hit the nail on the head, and it was totally worth the effort!
I think the aspect of planning which really took me by surprise was how important timings are for the day and how crucial your final run sheet becomes to the success of the event. Once you actually start allocating time for meal service, speeches and other formalities, you become acutely aware of how quickly the whole evening is going to go! Taking the time to really plan your run sheet will ensure so you have plenty of time for dancing, the speeches don’t drag on too long in one lengthy block, and your guests will constantly be entertained in one way or another. Thankfully, both our MC and venue coordinator were fantastic in this respect, and provided a lot of assistance and advice with respect to our run sheet. This really helped the flow of the evening and is a key reason why I think the night was such a success.
Words of wisdom.
Get creative! This is a golden opportunity for you to express yourselves and host one hell of a party that is entirely your style and your vision. Take risks, do something different (for e.g. as opposed to a photobooth, we hired a caricature artist) and don’t be afraid of anything which might seem like a mammoth task (i.e. the chili oil)! Everything and anything can be done – It just takes a bit of effort! The juice is worth the squeeze.
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STEF & STEVE’S TRIBE
Ceremony venue / location: St Ignatius’ Catholic Church, Richmond
Reception venue / location: Carousel, Albert Park
Celebrant/Officiant: Bishop Terry Curtin
Photography: Tess Follett
Videography: Ryan Lee Adams
Styling: Ruffles and Bells
Florist: Ivy and Eve
Hair: Harlen Hair
Makeup: Cassandra Lusi
Veil / head wear: Leah Da Gloria
Jewellery/Accessories: Jennifer Behr
Shoes: Jimmy Choo
Bridesmaids dresses: White Runway
Menswear: Prinzi Collections
Favours: Homemade Chili Oil
Cake / Cake topper: Miss Ladybird Cakes
Stationery / Signage: Studio Silva
MC: Paris Zachariou
Transport: RSV Limo
Minimoon: Margaret River, Western Australia (with the intention of Europe 2020… now Europe 2021!)
Dance lessons: You Can Dance Studio, South Melbourne