Archive | November, 2012

My fiancé is a snappy dresser.

30 Nov

Yes he is.

Because it’ll be the height of summer, Mr Big has settled with a lighter-coloured suit. Most of the wedding will be under cover, but during photography, we’ll have the sun beating down on us. Mr Big has since told me that he doesn’t intend to wear a suit jacket because of this, of which I agree wholeheartedly. The jacket will be a prop – something to sling over his shoulder during photography. The fabric that we’ve settled with is cotton – which is light and breathable in the heat. It’ll hopefully negate most of the heat. He’ll also be wearing a vest over his custom-tailored shirt (more on that later!). The guys won’t be wearing boutonnieres (bouts) but we’ll be getting some for our father-ofs.

grey_groom-smen

Like this! But without the boutonnieres and ties. / Image via Swann Soirees, Weddings and Social Events, photography by Bauman Weddings.

When we first started thinking of the groom and groomsmen wear, I was stumped! I’ve never been very good at fashion and men’s fashion is completely out-of-my-league, so I was completely out of my depth. Mr Big, however, is very good at knowing what to wear with what. When we went shopping at the local “supermall” back in November 2012, Mr Big was explaining what would look good with what and what he wanted.

He knew what he wanted to go for and it impressed me. I always knew he had a good eye for things, but seeing it in action during shopping was awesome.

Unfortunately, that trip didn’t yield much in the way of results. We basically jumped from store to store, tried a few things on, grabbed some ideas, and left for dinner with Mr Big’s Auntie Pen and Cousin Em who were visiting us from NZ. However, 6 months later, during a trip to DFO (Direct Factory Outlet) with my family, we were searching for the perfect suit for Papa Bighorn.

During this trip, we came across a huge menswear store – Connor. Connor is a franchise of menswear stores spotted all over Sydney. The store at DFO were having a sale, and being in the market for new suits anyway, Mr Big and Papa Bighorn checked it out.

Now, early in our relationship, Mr Big had expressed dissatisfaction for all things Connor.  The shirts were for smaller men, the suits were for smaller men, the customer service he experienced was utterly crap-tacular, etcetera and etcetera. So it was puzzling when Mr Big paused in front of this store. I figured, however, that he was doing so for my father, whose build is rather small.

However, Mr Big came across a suit that he thought would fit himself and his groomsmen. Enter the Grand.

GRAND_three-piece-suit

The three-piece Grand slim Suit. Image via Connor.

It’s a nice slate grey with a maroon lining.

It’s not too formal for the wedding and because there’s a vest, they don’t have to wear that suit jacket all day. He tried on some jackets at the DFO store, and after losing a lot of weight at that point, the suits fit him nicely. He talked with the friendly clerk there who gave him more information about wedding party purchases and Mr Big then proceeded to text all of his groomsmen.

A few weeks later, we got all the sizes for the groomsmen and we headed off to our nearest Connor store (thank goodness for franchises). We talked to the ultra-friendly 2IC there, who went through all of the options, including ordering sizes one bigger and one smaller just in case the sizes that we were given weren’t correct.

After a few weeks, the orders came in, and I snapped this picture!

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A happy, but loaded-up, Mr Big! / Personal image.

During our whirlwind New Zealand holiday/ e-session trip, we took all the suits over to the Kiwi guys and hit a small bump in the road. I won’t go into specifics, but you can say the Bighorns thanked their lucky stars that, (1) the 2IC ordered one size bigger on all the suit parts, and (2) a big department store in New Zealand sold Connor suits so the guys could get their true sizes in slim-cut suits.

Back in Australia, we picked up the correctly-sized suit pants, grabbed a coffee, and voila! All we have to do now is ship across the correct suits so that the groomsmen in Kiwi-land can get their alterations done.

PHEW!

And before you guys go away, yes, Papa Bighorn did get himself a suit. Wanna see?

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Told you he has a smaller frame! / Personal image.

My dad’s suit has since been altered and fits him nicely! Next up, I’ll tell you guys about the shirts!

Did anyone else find themselves turning to a retail store you didn’t expect? Who else has a fiancé(e) who had their own ‘vision’ of their wedding suit?

 

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Shopping with the Girls, Part 2: Would you rather be ignored, or noticed in a very bad way?

27 Nov

Again I say to Mr Big, I love you but,

you shall not pass

Image via AllPosters.com.

Last we left off; we had all clambered into our cars and driven to another bridal store, Sweethearts Bridal Boutique.

When we rocked up into Sweethearts Bridal Boutique, I’d like to tell you we got smothered with attention but we weren’t. The attendants were too busy with another bridal party who were more, how do you say, looking for a purchase.

So when I was able to get some attention, I went to the counter, forked over $AU40 (to ‘try on dresses’), and then went to try on dresses. Their bridesmaids’ selections weren’t really that great, and my only reason for going there was to try on “Katie”, since my bridesmaids wanted to see me in it.

Unfortunately, Sweethearts didn’t have “Katie”, but they did have “Mollie” (or Molly).

Mollie_brides desire

“Mollie” (or “Molly”), by Bride’s Desire, Wendy Sullivan.

Mollie, however, was a size 8 or 10. I can’t remember. All I know is that it didn’t fit me. So they put me in another dress and then lay it over me and told me to pretend I was wearing it. It looked great on me… except that it wasn’t really on me.

Unfortunately, Mollie was a lot of moola and I didn’t want to spend too much on her. Plus, MoH M&Ms and Groom’s Homie Oddball were like this:

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ZZZZZZZ…

So after we shook them awake, we departed.

Now before I continue, I’d like to get this out in the air. As a warning to readers out there, I had a very bad experience at a local bridal store. I name it in this post, because I don’t think I should ignore the fact that the ladies in this shop were extraordinarily rude to me. I was met with constant audible sighs, rolling of eyes, derogatory remarks, and disparaging comments. I had never felt uglier in.my.life until I had gone into that store.

I should also mention that this shop went into liquidation October of this year. So I should also be glad that I had a bad experience here, or else I’d be part of the 70 or so brides who went through hell trying to get the dresses they were promised with some even failing! Luckily, Australian designer, Henry Roth, offered to give brides dresses below cost price. So with that said, our next and final stop was at another local bridal shop, “Bridal Vision”.

I explained to my girls that right underneath was a great place for bridesmaids, and that was where I wanted to go. Friend N pointed out that we may as well go to the bridal store too.

We visited Bridal Vision too, but after being met with extremely rude customer service (including being talked down at and constant rolling of eyes), I bid them adieu and literally dragged my girls away and to the formalwear shop below. I was shaking by the time we were in Classics, but hid it from the others. I didn’t want to ruin the day by having a gorramn breakdown!

And so, off we went to Classics Formal Wear. They have a huge selection of gowns, and I was able to see all of the girls in different styles and colours. By this point, however, we had already settled on blue, but it didn’t hurt to look!

I cheered up as I saw my girls looking at the racks-upon-racks of gorgeous dresses. The customer service here was so much more attentive and friendlier.

Again, I’m a terrible blogger and didn’t get any pictures. Plus, it was getting late, and I was still shaken up by Bridal Vision, blugh! We ended the day, however, with a cup of coffee as we sat in the food court of a local shopping centre. Apart from the debacle in Bridal Vision and the lack of attention at Sweethearts, it was a pretty good day and I got to spend it in the company of very good friends.

Did anyone else experience horrible customer service from bridal shops? Who else has crammed a dress-shopping spree in one day?

Shopping with the Girls, Part 1: The bridesmaids try on dresses and we eat slippery noodles.

26 Nov

Hello all you lovely people out there!

Before I continue on with this post, let me first start by saying that, Mr Big, you are the love of my life, but…

you shall not pass

Image via AllPosters.com.

Now, where were we!

In my last post, I mentioned that the sort of dress I found myself drawn to flowed from the bodice and draped beautifully to the ground. For those who need a refresher (or just like dress porn!), these were the dresses which I loved:

flowy_dresses

(1) Annie, by Etsy shop Red Doll; (2) Daphne, by Shop Ruche; (3) Katie, by Bride’s Desire, Wendy Sullivan; and (4) Olivia Wilde in Reem Acra / Image via Elizabeth Ashleigh.

Though I ultimately decided that I wanted to get my gown custom made, I wanted to, at the very least, go on a shopping trip with my girls. The shopping trip was mainly to see what kinds of dresses would look fab on my girls.

You see, my girls are all different sizes and shapes, so I wanted to make sure I chose something that would suit all of them. They also had their own criteria: no strapless dresses. Fair enough. If I don’t want to be pulling up my dress all night, they sure as heck wouldn’t either!

With that, we went shopping on a glorious Spring weekend. It lasted basically all day and we visited three bridal stores. Unfortunately, when I went shopping, we didn’t take many pictures, but I will put up the pictures we did take!

Our first stop was a local bridal store, True Love Couture in Cabramatta. I’ve been in there with Mama Bighorn before, but we didn’t get to try on dresses. This time, however, we were up for some dress-shopping! And let me tell you, hive, their dresses are phenomenal.

true love couture bridal shoot

A styled shoot by Fifteen Photography with a dress from True Love Couture. / Image via Style Me Pretty.

True Love Couture basically makes, well, couture dresses. So if a bride wanted a gown that she could customise they could go there. The prices are reasonable too! In Australia, a couture gown would go for something like $AU10,000, but at True Love Couture, you can get a relatively unique dress for $AU2000.

During our appointment there, some of my bridesmaids were late but I wasn’t at all fussed by it – parking at Cabramatta is difficult at the best of times! Plus, our attendant was fantastic and patient and made an effort to accommodate for us.

While we waited, I checked out the dresses and discussed some options with both MoH M&Ms and Groom’s Homie Oddball*. Oddball didn’t have much in the way of preferences, but M&Ms seemed to want something that hid her shoulders. When the other girls finally got there, with Friend N in tow(!), I asked if they could pick out dresses they liked.

At the same time, Friend N dragged me about True Love Couture and requested I pick out some dresses that I like. I agreed, because heck why not, and went around picking and choosing dresses which looked stunning on the mannequins. I only really found two dresses that suited my flowy, hugging-bodice, slightly-blingy and lacy criteria.

Before my girls tried on their dresses, they wanted me to try on some. And I obliged!

Again, I have no pictures in any of these dresses (sad!).

The first dress was ok, but it needed a crinoline and it was poofy. I stand at approximately 150cm (5’0”) and big, ballgown dresses look like they’re swallowing me. So, I gave that one a pass.

The second dress was more like the Katie (third picture in the line-up above), so it was more the style of dress I had tried on at the bridal store mentioned in the previous post. It cinched in my waist and gave me a sleek hourglass figure. However, the fabric was heavy; as in, it hung-off-me-like-limp-seaweed sort-of heavy. I got a few ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ but it wasn’t really working for me.

The attendant then suggested that I try on a particular dress which she described as “lighter” and wasn’t currently on display. She disappeared as I got out of the last dress and re-appeared with a gorgeous frock. There was delicate lace on the bodice with beading woven between it and the straps (yes, straps!) were lace as well. At the waist it then flowed out in gorgeous soft chiffon.

I was instantly enraptured.

The attendant then placed the dress on me but unfortunately, it was a tad small. I’m not the typical “bridal size” (and I was a lot heavier back then), so the attendant then went out to the back and fetched a similar dress being tailored for another client of theirs. She slipped the dress on me, and though it only had the lace in patches and wasn’t completed yet, it.looked.stunning.

I walked out to a collective gasp from Friend N, and BMs Cupcakes, Superhero, and Proper. I knew this was the dress I wanted.

Alas, it wasn’t within my budget. I got some information about the dress, but decided to give the floor to my girls.

By the time I was done trying on dresses, it was about an hour into our appointment and other appointment-ees were flooding in. The dress shop was a buzz of activity. However, I requested if my bridesmaids would be able to try on some dresses, and despite the fact that the shop was super busy, our attendant was able to accommodate us. With that said, my bridesmaids chose dresses which they liked and tried them on.

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MoH M&Ms, BM Cupcakes, BM Superhero, and BM Proper wearing lovely chiffon dresses.

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Groom’s Homie Oddball! I tried to get her to stand straight, but she’s incredibly awkward (and adorable).

The dresses looked splendid on all of them. I really wanted to buy these. Unfortunately, I’ll be buying my bridesmaids their dresses, and they were much too much out of my price range. But it did give me an idea regarding the sorts of dresses they’d look good in, especially for an Australian summer wedding.

Once my bridesmaids redressed, we bid the attendant adieu and went to lunch. And what was for lunch, dear hive?

It was pho.

But what is pho? Well, it’s basically a soup with noodles and your choice of meat. I usually go for the raw thinly-sliced beef, which when dunked in the hot soup provided with the meal, is cooked through.

pho

Pho with thinly-sliced beef and rice noodles. Image via Wikipedia.

It’s a Vietnamese dish, and I seriously recommend it! It’s also not too awful for you and extraordinarily filling!

We all ate pho that day and it was BM Proper’s first time eating it, which was hilarious to watch. She’s not a chopstick-user, so she was struggling to eat her lunch with a fork and spoon spaghetti-style. We’ve tried to teach her the art of chopsticks but she’s since given up. She ended up trying to twirl the rice noodles on her fork which – if anyone’s ever eaten pho – is hard to do because the noodles are just so slippery!

It was amusing to watch and a good meal too!

After lunch we then all clambered into our cars and drove to our next destination: Sweethearts Bridal Boutique.

Did anyone else find a dress they loved but was out of your price range? Did anyone else combine bridesmaids dress-shopping with wedding dress-shopping? Who here’s tried pho?

* “Groom’s Homie” Oddball is actually my junior bridesmaid. However, she and Mr Big have a super close connection where they call each other ‘homies’. Hence, she’s the honorary “Groom’s Homie”!

Let’s talk…

21 Nov

Wedding stuff.

Bet you didn’t see that coming.

GP and I have been getting more active with the wedding thing (and the domestic thing – the garden is looking MUCH better). We’ve been going through the early wedding things: invitation, guest number and information, etc., and it’s going pretty good. So in this post, I’ma mass-list all the things we’ve talked about/started 🙂

Let’s talk…

Invitations:

Through the help of a friend, let’s call her Miss S, we have our invitations designed and all pretty. We’ve gotta wait until we have addresses from all of our guests before sending them out, but they’re looking marvellous. Most might think it’s too early to be sending out invitations this far out from the wedding (more than a year) but since we’re having it in the Hunter Valley, we want out guests as much time as they can to decide on whether they want to attend and book accommodation. We’ve also got a tonne of other things we want to do for the guests which means specific numbers, so early invitations are a good thing.

The invitations turned out beautiful and I can’t wait to print them out and start assembling them (with the help of my bridesmaids!). Our invites will have inserts/enclosure cards with more information (accommodation, the ‘treasure chest’, etc) and we’re juggling on whether or not to seal it with a sticker-like wax-imitation seal. All good things to ponder.

Photography:

There was a post before where I was agonising over this little tidbit. Photography is something that ALL brides and grooms need on their wedding, but the prices are usually very hefty (and for good reason – who would want to lug around equipment for a measly fee?). We have, however, found the perfect photographers. They’re Sydney-based and go by the name of StudioSomething (www.studiosomething.com). They’re a quirky, awesome bunch of easygoing, friendly people who’re just so easy to talk to (which is important, because I am socially awkward). We’re getting them for (what I think) a really good price. We’re in talks with them now, but GP and I are certain we’ll be using these guys.

Videography/Cinematography:

Ah, cinematography… the elusive one. GP and I are STILL trying to find a reasonably-priced, but awesome, videographer. We had four in mind: 1) Paper Cranes, 2) Memory Road Media, 3) White Designs, and 4) MMG Photo+Cinema. We’ve ruled out MMG simply because we have to use both photo and cinema and it blew out budget into smithereens. They’re so, so very good at their jobs (seriously, look at their Facebook page), but my gosh we just didn’t have that sort of money. Paper Cranes is another major expense and puts a huge dent in our savings accounts, though their cinematography is just MIND-BLOWING. Memory Road Media is more within our price range, and Dave (the owner) has even said he would waive the travel fee to the Hunter if we were to use his all-day packages. I just found out about White Designs and have contacted them. Hopefully I get a response tomorrow.

Makeup, Hair & Beauty

Just as an FYI, makeup and hair will be done on 7 people – my momma, myself, and my 5 bridesmaids.

Now to begin – I am stunned at the fact that some of the people I’ve contacted are already booked out on our date. It’s more than a year and they’re fully booked. I was shocked! I’ve so far got three others who’re on my option-list, but one of them is taking the lead due to the fact that her services are so inexpensive and she comes highly recommended by former Hunter brides. She’s also SO accommodating to the fact that I have sensitive skin and is giving me the option to have a touch-up service between the ceremony and reception to freshen my face, which is just fantastic for my stupid-ass skin.

I also have to start thinking about facials, manicures and pedicures. I’m thinking manis and pedis get done a few days before the wedding, so that shouldn’t be a problem. A facial, however, is best done as early as possible to make sure my skin doesn’t react badly to it. I just have NO IDEA where to go! Seriously, where do you go for one of these? I’ve NEVER had it done before! I know I want to get a facial at least 6 months before the wedding as a sort of trial run. That way, come wedding day, I’ll know whether or not to have one. I’m not too sure about the cost of these things either, so I guess I should start looking around…

Flowers

There were a few basic flowers I wanted:

– Roses (duh!)

– Tulips

– Orchids

– Flox

I’ve now added the Lotus onto the list, but I don’t know what to do. I guess the first thing to do is contact a florist, but it’s still pretty early in the game. I’ve read that orchids are pretty expensive flowers, so I might not be able to use it. The good thing about flowers is we’ll only need it for a few things, since GP’s not going to have any button-holes. I’m thinking of giving two of my bridesmaids parasols too, but this is still up in the air.

And finally,

Cakes

I haven’t got much to say about this but that the cake shop we were hoping to use might not be making wedding cakes any more! 😦 No matter, there are heaps of other places we can look at. We just hope that they can make cookies and cream flavoured goodies.

And that’s it kiddoes. I’m sleepy.

Night all!

— .the eichanist

The Obligatory Dress Post

11 Nov

Hi hive!

I’ve basically yammered on about the venue, traditions, and The Bighorn couple (I’m really not that vain, I swear).

Well, here’s the “obligatory dress post”.

So before we continue, I love you Mr Big, but…

you shall not pass

Image via AllPosters.com.

Now, where were we?

Oh yes, dresses!

Like all girls, when I got engaged, I started thinking about the kind of dress I wanted to wear. Unfortunately, unlike most girls, I had no idea what I liked!

I had never dreamt about, fantasised, or even thought about my engagement and consequent marriage up until Mr Big put a ring on it. I was never the ‘wear a dress’ girl, and had only really begun to wear dresses when I was with Mr Big (he made me feel more feminine, if that’s even possible!).

As such, when I decided to go looking for dresses, I was effectively overwhelmed by choice.

Empire, A-line, Princess, Mermaid, Ballgown, Trumpet, Lace Overlay, Satin, Chiffon, Floor length, Brush length, Chapel Train, Strapless, Halter-

You understand, hive, I was suffering dress overload.

I stopped looking for a little bit and started from the basics, like length. I knew I wanted it to be down to the floor. Did I want a train? Yes, a short one. How about the shape? Apparently, the A-Line was the most flattering.

Embellishments? Sure! I just don’t want it to cost an arm and a leg. How about lace? I love lace, why not!

By asking myself little questions and then researching all the things I managed to narrow down my choices. I loved lace, wanted a bit of embellishment, believed A-line would look the most flattering on me, wanted a small-ish train, and didn’t want my dress to be strapless.

So then what? Well, pictures are always nice!

I turned to Pinterest and the Internet at large.

In my search for the dress, I came across these beauties:

Annie_Red Doll

Annie, by Etsy shop Red Doll.

daphne_wedding dress

Daphne, by the wonderful Shop Ruche.

olivia wilde_reem acra

Olivia Wilde in that stunning Reem Acra dress! Image via Elizabeth Ashleigh.

So it seems my fondness for loose, flowy, gorgeous dresses outweighed the thought that the A-line would be better for my more curvaceous figure. So what’s a girl to do?

Well, I went and tried on dresses!

And, didn’t get any pictures.* (Sorry guys!)

I wasn’t able to try on these dresses specifically but I did get to try on the Katie. The drop waist absolutely flattered my figure. I had hips people! And my girls were feeling fantastic! I also loved the lace overlay and the chiffon fabric! But it was much more than I was willing to pay, so I didn’t end up purchasing the dress. Plus, I wanted to shop around a little bit before dumping a whole lotta moola on a dress.

I did get the details of the nice sales consultant and Mama Bighorn, MoH M&Ms, and Groom’s Homie Oddball and I decided to head home.

As I agonised over whether or not to pull the trigger on the Katie, Mama Bighorn recommended a local dressmaker, Mandy Heng. Now Mandy is not just a dressmaker, but she’s also a family friends’ daughter. I didn’t want to feel like I was swindling money from her because of that fact though, so when I contacted her, I made no mention of that connection.

We chatted over the email, I sent her some inspiration pictures and gave her some ideas, and we set up a consultation. At the same time, I decided I wanted to try on more dresses to really make sure that what I really wanted was what I really wanted. I also wanted to know what kinds of dresses my bridesmaids would be wearing because, (a) they’re all different heights and sizes, and (b) I want them to look as beautiful as I do on the day!

So with that, my bridesmaids, myself, and Friend N planned an outing before my first initial consultation with Mandy. Next up, a day of changing dresses, eating Pho, and finding a dress that completely blew my mind.

Was anyone else drawn to different dresses that you had completely no idea you would like?

*I was about 15kgs/33lbs (perhaps more!) heavier back then, so I hated pictures of myself, especially in beautiful white dresses.

It starts!

7 Nov

Hey guys!

The past week has been very exciting! Wedding planning is underway (finally) and we know what two sites we want for both the ceremony and reception.

We went to the Hunter Valley last Saturday (3 November) for the Matchbox 20 concert and decided to also check out the Sebel Kirkton Park Hotel and have a guided tour around the Hunter Valley Gardens. We were supposed to head up to the Hunter Valley early morning (around 6AM), but after the late night the night before – dinner party with friends followed by my freaking out about my very last assignment – we ended up sleeping at about 1AM. We also lost our second driver because she had work, so we ended up starting the day at 9AM. By the time we got the Hunter Valley, our 10AM meeting with Kelly at Hunter Valley Gardens had passed, though I had told her earlier that we wouldn’t be able to make it. We did, however, make out 1PM meeting with Ruth at the Sebel Kirkton Park Hotel.

Ruth was a lovely girl and she showed us around the Hotel grounds. The hotel is very Colonial and has really nice views of the Brokeback Mountains. It rests on rolling green hills and a lot of the ceremony location onsite sit atop these hills, looking over the view. GP was impressed, even though he went in there just to please me. Ruth showed us both reception rooms, and to our pleasant surprise, both rooms were set up for weddings. The smaller room – the James Busby – is nice, but very small. It fits a maximum of 100 people, so we’d have too many people for the wedding. The bigger room is the Hunter-Rothbury room which fits a maximum of 150. The dancefloor is a moveable parquetry dance floor, with the room covered by carpet. There are a few smaller rooms which offshoot the bigger one which can be use as a children’s play room or a lounge area. Unfortunately, there’s only two access points outside, so you can’t really transition seamlessly from outside to inside. Overall, Sebel Kirkton was a place that we really liked. The rooms are opulent, the ceremony locations are beautiful and you get a discount on accommodation.

After our tour about Sebel Kirkton, we decided that we had time to check out the Hunter Valley Gardens. A phone call later, we were at the HVG meeting Kelly, their Wedding Coordinator. Kelly showed us around the HVG by buggy (a golf cart). We told her what we wanted – two ceremonies, one location – and she was willing to accommodate us! 🙂 We confirmed the booking and just need to put down a deposit and – voila! – ceremony location solved. We’ve decided on two locations: the Waterfall Outlook for the civil ceremony and the Oriental Pagoda for the Chinese tea ceremony. Everything seems to be provided by the HVG for the civil ceremony, but we’re not too sure what will be provided at the Oriental Pagoda. I’ve sent an email requesting this information and am waiting for a reply. Hopefully we get one in the next few days.

After touring about the HVG we decided to venture into Tamburlaine unannounced to see if a wedding was set up. Despite the fact that they were both busy planning a wedding that night, they let us into the Member’s Lodge to have a look around. It. Looked. Beautiful. GP and I have always loved Tamburlaine, but seeing it set up for a wedding was a different perspective entirely. After drilling Lou with a 1000 questions, we decided in the car on the way to the concert that Tamburlaine would be it. I’ve called today, asking for a contract to book the place, and am still waiting for it. I’m hoping we get it by tomorrow. I’m anxious! If we don’t, I’ll have to call up and remind them…

Now, I’m looking up invitations. My dad is worried that we won’t have enough people coming to the wedding, so we were initially thinking of having e-vites to weed those out who won’t be attending. After all the RSVPs from those are in, we can send the paper invites. I’m not sure if we will be doing that. I’ve gotta discuss the logistics with GP.

It also looks like the wedding website is out the window. I will request that we have a wedding email for RSVPs though. It makes it much easier than having to write down both emails on the invitations.

So yes! I am very excited. It’s almost surreal to think that a month ago, we had nothing done. Now, we have two confirmed locations for the wedding!

Yay!

– E

A Bow to Tradition

6 Nov

Hive, you may have guessed that Mr Big and I are an interracial couple. Mr Big is a Kiwi with a Dutch background. He feels a strong connection with his Dutch roots as his Oma (Mr Big’s maternal grandmother) imparted him with a love of Dutch foods. And I’m a Chinese girl whose parents migrated over to Australia from Indonesia.Our wedding, therefore, is a melange of different customs, cultures, ideologies and ideas. As such, we’ll be having two ceremonies: a Chinese tea ceremony and a civil ceremony!

A civil ceremony, as most of you may know, is the typical ceremony without the religious overtones. Mr Big is an atheist, and I’m a Buddhist, so we believed it fit with us best. As for the Chinese tea ceremony, that may take a bit more explanation. For those of the hive who have followed past Bee blogger, Mrs Peony and Mrs Toucan, you may recall them having a Chinese tea ceremony as a part of their wedding day. They each explained the tea ceremony in great detail, with pretty pictures too!

Unfortunately, for the Bighorns, our tea ceremony won’t exactly be the usual.

As previously mentioned, we took one look at the Oriental Garden and did this:

This never gets old. Taken from College Times.

We wanted, nay, needed to have the tea ceremony at the Oriental Pagoda. It was perfect. And hence, we had to change our plans!

Now traditionally, in Chinese cultures, the tea ceremony was essentially the ‘civil ceremony’. Elders would be served tea by the soon-to-be husband and wife to honour and respect the family. Because Chinese society was very patriarchal, the ‘true’ tea ceremony only included the groom’s family being served tea, as the bride needed to please her future husband’s family in order to be accepted. She would serve tea to her family in the privacy of her parents’ home, as a ‘thankyou’ for raising her.

To me, however, a modern-day girl with a fairly traditional upbringing, the Chinese tea ceremony is about respecting my elders and honouring the families on both sides. To me, it’s beautiful. I love my parents; they raised me to be the person I am today. Mr Big shows the same love for his. And this tradition allows him and I to physically show them the respect and love we have for our parents. I also get to show some of Mr Big’s family my culture and they get to experience something new and exciting!

Most of the Kiwi (and Australian!) guests have commented on how excited they are to see the tradition.

In a typical, modern-day Chinese tea ceremony, the bride is picked up by the groom at her parents’ house. During this time, a Chinese tea ceremony takes place in which the bride’s parents and elders (great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, married siblings and cousins) are served tea. The groom then takes the bride from her parents’ house to the groom’s parents’ house where another Chinese tea ceremony takes place to respect the groom’s family (parents, great-grandparents, grandparents, etc.).

led out of house

A bride being taken from her parents’ house to her in-laws’ house by her groom. Image & Photography via Kellee Walsh.

Unfortunately for the Bighorns, the Chinese tea ceremony could not be performed in “typical” fashion, even before we saw the Oriental Garden. This was because of several problems:

  • Mr Big’s parents’ house is in Christchurch, New Zealand, located two hours flight from Sydney.
  • My parents’ house is located in the greater area of Sydney, Australia, two hours’ drive from the Hunter Valley.
  • Our wedding is in the Hunter Valley

Normally, these sorts of problems are resolved by either, (a) having the Chinese tea ceremony performed “properly” either the day before or the day after the wedding, (b) having the Chinese tea ceremony at the bride’s parents’ (or, if the case may be, groom’s parents’) house, depending on accessibility and location of the wedding, or (c) having the Chinese tea ceremony at the hotel on the day (a la Mrs Peony) before the greater parts of the wedding take place.

We Bighorns, however, really wanted to get the Chinese tea ceremony ‘recorded’ through professional photography (Mr Big loved the photos I showed him of past Chinese tea ceremonies), so option (a) was out. Option (b) wasn’t viable unless we did it in conjunction with option (a), so that was also out. That left option (c) which was going to be the plan until our venue-hunting threw this beauty at us:

oriental_pagoda_sunset

The Oriental Garden and Pagoda at sunset. Image & Photography via DC Images.

So, with the decision made that we would have the Chinese tea ceremony at the Oriental Pagoda, we decided that the Chinese tea ceremony will follow the civil ceremony. Because the tea ceremony will be in one location, Mr Big doesn’t need to ‘take me away’ from my family home and to his.

Instead, we’ll be serving our elders all at once during the ceremony. For those interested, I’ll give you a basic rundown!

The Order of Service

In typical Chinese tea ceremonies, the groom’s family is served first. However, as Mr Big’s parents and family aren’t well rehearsed in the way of the tea ceremony, my family will be going first.

The first in the order of service is always the parents of the couple. Therefore, in our ceremony, this will be:

Miss Big’s Parents

  • Papa Bighorn & Mama Bighorn

Mr Big’s Parents:

  • De Papa Big & Mumma Bighorn

Following the parents is usually the elders from the groom’s side starting with the paternal family and then moving on to the maternal side. “Elders” comprise of grandparents, uncles and aunties, and married siblings and cousins. Again, due to the nature of our tea ceremony, my family will be going first, and as I have a rather large family, the order of service will be:

Papa Bighorn’s family:

  • Uncle B and Auntie D
  • Uncle L and Auntie C
  • Uncle D and Auntie S
  • Cousin D and Cousin D’s Wife Y
  • Cousin L and Cousin L’s Husband P

Mama Bighorn’s family:

  • Mami & Papi (my godparents!)
  • Uncle Fung & Auntie Pin
  • Auntie Soo

Followed by Mr Big’s side of the family:

De Papa Big’s family:

  • Auntie Pen

Mumma Bighorn’s family:

  • Ado Big (Mr Big’s only uncle from his mumma’s side!)

My family is pretty big in comparison to Mr Big’s! Normally grandparents on both bride and groom’s sides of the family go before the aunts and uncles and after the parents, however, Mr Big and I have grandparents who are either deceased or unable to make it to the wedding. We will, however, commemorate them in our civil ceremony.

 

How to Serve Tea

Just like in a civil ceremony, the groom stands on the right and the bride on the left. When serving tea, the bride and groom usually kneel in front of their elders and offer the tea cups with two hands, a sign of respect. However, some couples just bow upon giving the tea to their elders. The elders sit in chairs facing the couple, and when receiving the tea, take the tea cup with both hands to reciprocate that respect.

After each elder receives and drinks their tea, it is typical to gift the couple with either monetary or non-fiscal possessions like jewellery. Monetary gifts are often received in ‘red envelopes’ or ‘angpao’. The red envelope is always offered with two hands and received with two hands as a sign of respect. Often times, gifts of jewellery received by the elders are adorned on the couple immediately upon gifting.

gifting the couple

The newlyweds accepting gifts from their elders. The top two images depict gifts of jewellery. And the bottom image depicts the gifting of what is commonly called a “red envelope”, or “angpao”. Image & Photography by Kellee Walsh.

Decorative Elements

The Chinese tea ceremony has a few bare essentials such as the Chinese tea set, and an altar or table to display photos or candles in recognition of the two families.

praying to ancestors

Top left, the altar to worship the ancestors; top right, praying to the ancestors; and bottom, the tea set for the Chinese tea ceremony. Image & Photography via Kellee Walsh.

This recognition can come in the form of family photos or a ‘unity candle’ with the dragon and phoenix, the symbol of the male and female in Chinese culture, respectively. Other things that can be placed on the altar are: white flowers, fruit and wine offerings, and burning incense.

The tea set is usually gifted to the couple by the parents of the bride as part of the “dowry”. In the case of the Bighorn wedding, my parents didn’t know about this tidbit, but Mama Bighorn was more than happy to purchase a tea set for Mr Big and myself. When we went looking, Mama Bighorn and I found ourselves in a shop that sold Chinese wares, from incense pots to statues, scrolls to tea seats. We eventually found some a few tea sets lying haphazardly near the door.

They were in different colours: blue, black, white, and red. After rummaging through, I saw a red and gold tea set with pretty patterns and good-sized cups. They were $AU30 each but Mama Bighorn managed to get it down to $AU25.

Want to see the pretty?

Chinese tea set!

Personal photo.

As for the tea itself, it can be served as either a sweet tea (for example, longan tea) or a standard tea (such as traditional green tea or jasmine tea).

lotus and date tea

Tea served with lotus seeds and red dates, symbolic of the newlyweds bearing children quickly and often. The sweetness of the tea is also supposed to invoke “sweet relations” between the families. Image via Are You Gonna Eat That?. Photography via Pelaez Photography (out of business).

Other things that can be used to decorate the Chinese tea ceremony are the ‘double happiness’ symbol, the dragon and phoenix motif, decorative firecrackers, and lots of red and gold which symbolise luck and happiness.

double-happiness

The Double Happiness Symbol. Image via Tumblr.

Some people even do lion dances (a la Mrs Toucan!).

lion dancing

Two lions holding a banner which, according to Mrs Toucan, reads “100 years of happiness together”. Photography via Robert Mirani Photography.

What to Wear

Traditionally, the bride wears a qipao, qua or a cheongsam, traditional Chinese dresses. Oftentimes these are decorated with embroidery of the dragon and phoenix or flowers.

the qua

Mrs Toucan in her qua. Photography via Robert Mirani Photography.

Grooms also have traditional formal attire, which consists of a Mandarin jacket and matching patterned pants. Although some grooms have updated that look:

traditional clothing

A groom in a traditional Mandarin jacket with knot-buttons and a classic mandarin collar but with black slacks. Image via Alante Photography.

However, in this modern age, some brides have taken to wearing the white dress to the tea ceremony and many grooms have taken to wearing the tuxedo or suit that they’ll be in all day.

Originally, I wanted to wear the traditional Chinese dress as I’ve never ever worn one, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. This is because, 1) it’s difficult to find an off-the-rack Chinese gown in my size (I’m petite but curvy with a little bit of chub – read: not “standard Asian size”), and 2) it would’ve been difficult to change from my white gown into a traditional red dress with the Chinese tea ceremony after the civil ceremony and at the same location. Therefore, I’ll be wearing my white wedding dress, but have incorporated some red into it to honour my Chinese heritage.

As for Mr Big, he’ll be wearing his suit, although he’s keen to wear his schmick silk black Chinese brocade jacket he bought in China. We’ll have to see what happens on the day!

All-in-all, I’m excited to have this as a part of my wedding. It’s a good nod to tradition and I love the meaning behind it. I’m super bummed that I won’t be able to wear a traditional Chinese dress, but honestly, I have no idea where to get one in Australia that isn’t mini-sized!

What do you guys think about the tea ceremony? Does anyone know where to get Chinese dresses in Australia!?

A Place to be Married

5 Nov

I’ve gone through the search for our reception, but I haven’t talked to you guys about our ceremony!

Mr Big isn’t religious at all and I’m of the Buddhist-persuasion. As such, our ceremony won’t be held at a church or a place of religion, but it’ll be a civil ceremony. Furthermore, due to cultural and traditional purposes, we’ll be having two ceremonies at our wedding: a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and a secular civil ceremony.

Our initial plan was to have the tea ceremony at the hotel, before we got ready for the big day, and the civil ceremony would then be held in a nice vineyard somewhere. It sounded simple enough, but alas, things did not go according to our initial plan.

And here’s why:

oriental_pagoda_sunset

The Oriental Garden at sunset. Image & Photography via DC Images

The Oriental Garden: an absolutely stunning location for a ceremony located at the Hunter Valley Gardens, or HVG.

In my previous post, I talked about the HVG and how it didn’t really make the cut for the reception space, despite the fact that it was a beautiful location. However, Mr Big and I just couldn’t let go of it as a place for our ceremony. The grounds of the HVG are stunning, and it’s really no wonder.

hvg_cavanagh

Absolutely stunning. Image & Photography via Cavanagh Photography.

Bonus? When you have your ceremony at the HVG, you get to have a 2-hour photography session. Which is great! The HVG itself has about 10 different mini-gardens to explore. They’re great for photography purposes, such as the Storybook Garden:

hvg_storybook

Image & Photography via Creek Street Photography.

As for the ceremonies themselves, of the 10 mini-gardens, four of them can hold ceremonies:

The Formal Gardens:

formal gardens

An aerial view of the formal gardens. Image via the Hunter Valley Gardens official website.

The Sunken Garden:

sunken garden

A shot of the gardens in front of the waterfall. Image via the Hunter Valley Gardens official website

The Oriental Garden:

oriental garden

The Oriental Pagoda at the Oriental Garden, where ceremonies are usually held. Image via the Hunter Valley Garden official website.

And the Lakes Walk:

lakes walk

The Lakes Rotunda at the Lakes Walk, where the ceremonies are usually held. Image via the Hunter Valley Garden official website.

Each of the four gardens has specific places which the HVG wedding coordinator recommends for the ceremony. The Sunken Garden itself has two places – the bottom of the waterfall and the top of the waterfall. When we first toured around the HVG, we were allowed to enter for free (yay for being the engaged couple!) and were toured around on a golf buggy. We were basically treated like stars for the day! It was awesome.

During our tour, our guide, the then-wedding coordinator Kelly, showed us around. Kelly was so fantastic and was able to answer all of our questions! She gave us the lowdown about what each bridegroom couple received when booking their ceremonies with the HVG. There was a fee attached (we knew that beforehand), but with the fee the couple also received:

  • A set number of seats and a PA system for the ceremony
  • A wedding coordinator on-hand to assist in all questions, queries, details and problems
  • Two hours photography with all-access around the HVG
  • A golf buggy to take the bridal party around the HVG on-the-day (girls in heels with no sore feet? Score!)
  • A wet-weather option inside their onsite Chapel (which, if this Spring has been anything, we won’t need)
hvg_chapel

The HVG Chapel from the entrance. Image & Photography via the Vincent Lai Photography.

She then gave us the grand tour!

The first stop was the Formal Gardens. We took a look and, though beautiful, it was much too… well, formal. It would be a great place for formal wedding, but our wedding was a little less formal, and a little more semi-formal. So, off we went to the Sunken Garden.

We took a look at the base of the waterfall, and it was gorgeous… but loud. The sound of the water hitting the base of the falls is soothing when you want some time to marvel in its splendour, but saying our vows over the din? No thanks. Despite its beauty, we had to give this one a pass.

Kelly then drove us to the top of the falls, called the “Waterfall Outlook”.

hvg_waterfall outlook

Image & Photography via Cavanagh Photography.

It. Was. Stunning, hive. That picture above does not even do it any justice.

The aisle, which you can see above, is lined with columns and arched with branches and wisteria. It ends at a balcony that overlooks the HVG. The waterfall isn’t loud at all from above so it makes the perfect ceremony location. Plus? It’s shaded, so we won’t have any of the Kiwis fainting in the summer heat.

It was the perfect place for us.

Get engaged at the base of a waterfall, and get married at the top of one!

Kelly then golf buggy’d us down to the Oriental Garden. We arrived, walked towards the Oriental Pagoda and Mr Big turned to me and said:

“We’re having the tea ceremony here.”

Now hive, I was of two minds. The first was stating that we had to be reasonable, that we had a plan in mind and we needed to stick to it.

The second was this:

Like – exactly my reaction. Taken from College Times.

I caved.

He was right, though! It was magnificent. But as I had said before, it completely changed our plans! So what do we do?

Well, it’s safe to say that we booked the ceremony venue a few days later (no suspense here!). We asked question after question about the ceremony and ensured we got everything in writing too (we’re paranoid) and the wedding coordinators (Kelly changed roles, and now our current wedding coordinator is Kylie!) have been nothing but extremely helpful!

They agreed to provide us with hot water, tables and chairs for the tea ceremony, and were more than happy to give us two ceremonies for the fee of one! Kylie has been great and has answered all of our questions. They’ve also opted to provide us with snacks and drinks (for a price unfortunately) for our bridal party!

All-in-all we think we’ve chosen a great place to be officially announced as husband and wife and to celebrate the elders of our family.

It’s making me excited just thinking about!

Has anyone else gone to a venue looking for a reception and leaving with an idea about their ceremony? What do you guys think about our choices?