Transportive and wildly atmospheric, Karissa and Tom’s wedding unfolded in a hidden villa tucked away in Byron Bay Hinterland. An infusion of Moroccan accents, mediterranean influences and lush tropical details, the character filled space was finished with simple styling details; cascading pillar candles, geometric lanterns and breathtaking installations of lush florals.
Contrasting beautifully with weather worn patinas, Karissa wore a chic structural gown designed by Elly Sofocli followed by a simple silk slip gown for the reception.
Capturing every atmospheric detail and the romance between Karissa & Tom (childhood sweethearts who met at 15!) was the talented Mitch Pohl. Beautiful videography by incredible LANE handpicked videographer, Joel Tronoff.
NAMES: Karissa Sparke & Tom Lucena
WEDDING DATE: 17th September 2016
GUEST NUMBERS: 50
HOW WE MET: Tom and I went to high school together. We both started learning to play guitar in year 7 and used to spend hours talking on MSN messenger (back when this was a thing) about which songs we were learning. We started dating when we were 15 and the rest is history.
OUR ENGAGEMENT STORY: Tom was about to move 400km away to finish his last 3 years of university. In the summer break before he left, we went on our first overseas holiday together to Thailand (which Tom had secretly centred around proposing to me on day 2 so that we could spend the rest of the time blissing out in engaged euphoria.) We had booked this amazing hotel at the start of our trip, we indulged in a 2hr couples massage and spa in the afternoon and then headed up the roof top for dinner and drinks. Tom had the ring in his pocket (unbeknownst to me) and then minutes before he was about to propose I started to feel sick. Really sick. I ran downstairs back to the bathroom in our hotel room and Tom was left eating dinner alone. Turns out the antibiotics I was taking for my double middle ear infections had mixed poorly with the champagne we had drank during our spa treatment. He then had to hide the ring from me while we backpacked through Thailand on a tour for the next 10 days before arriving at our final stop – Phi Phi Island. The first night there, we were watching the sunset from our balcony of our villa and he proposed. We then walked down and ate dinner at on the beach, sand between our toes. As it turned out, it was a much better place to propose (picturesque island sunset vs smoggy Bangkok rooftop), and much more us.
MARRIAGE TO US MEANS: Sharing a life of adventure with your best friend.
WEDDING LOCATION: The ceremony and reception were both held at Villa Rustica in Byron Bay hinterland. We knew we wanted to get married in the area we grew up in, but I was also acutely aware of how fickle the weather can be in that region. I could dream of nothing worse than having my dream day rained out, so I wanted a venue where we would be weather safe. Villa Rustica was a dream come true. It is this beautiful Balinese/Moroccan inspired house with lush, overgrown gardens. Each corner of the house is like a work of art. I knew I wouldn’t have to do much styling wise to make it amazing. We held the ceremony by the pool, canapés on the front balcony overlooking the garden and then the reception was held in the breezeway area off the pool.
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THEME/STYLE: Effortlessly romantic, with tropical and Moroccan detailing.
PHOTOGRAPHY: We chose to work with the incredibly talented Mitch Pohl. I was drawn to his kind of documentary style, atmospheric photos. Very natural but emotive. He was just so easy to work with from the start, and I think having someone you feel at ease with is so important on such a special day.
BRIDE’S DRESS: I was lucky enough to have two dresses designed by Elly Sofocli. I never pictured myself in any kind of traditional bridal gown, so it was important to work with someone who could capture my style and kind of tomboy personality, and create a modern (yet timeless) gown. Elly went above and beyond to create my dream dresses.My wedding gown was a wrap, off the shoulder style with a daring side split. We also incorporated a three quarter feature sleeve, for something a little different. The front was quite simple in silhouette, so for the back we wanted to create something unique. The back was open with a low peak and covered button detailing. It had a grand, yet manageable train, which was perfect for an outdoor event. For the second dress, all I wanted was to be wrapped in silk. I had the opportunity to wear a piece from Elly’s new collection. It was a silk plunge neck gown, with draped detailing at the side and a thigh high split. It had a low peak point at the back, very open with delicate criss cross spaghetti straps. It was an effortless dress to wear and perfect to dance the night away.
WEDDING RINGS: My engagement ring is a 1930’s antique. A marquise shape with 21 paved diamonds, which is perfect as we were 21 when Tom proposed. Tom had a simple wide band and I’m yet to have a wedding band created. Just one of those things that slipped my mind in the wedding planning process and I didn’t leave enough time to have what I wanted created – it will be something simple but made from recycled metal and ethically sourced gems.
JEWELRY / ACCESSORIES: On the day I kept things pretty simple. I wore some simple gold studs from Baby Anything that I bought in Byron 2 days before the wedding. I also wore a simple gold halo from Amber Sceats in my hair.
HAIR & MAKEUP: The incredible Ashlea Penfold did both my hair and makeup. I chose her because she is a master at creating flawless natural looks. For me, it was all about looking and feeling like myself. I opted for all neutral colours, bronze around the eye to make it a little sultry, and then soft highlighting to create a beautiful glow. I wore my hair out, and Ashlea put in the slightest of bends in the end of my (very very straight) hair, to create some movement and soften the look.
STATIONERY/INVITATIONS: We went paperless with our save the dates and then got our invites and wedding programs printed from Minted. Both were quite minimalist, but had gold-foiling elements, to match the décor of the day. The other stationary on the day (menu cards and wedding sign) I made myself using a beautiful font I found online.
FLOWERS & BOUQUETS: My brief to my florist was all about greenery and white. I’m quite minimalist and not much of a colour girl. For me the floristry was all about bringing the lush, tropical feel of the ceremony space into the banquet area. Jess from Poppy & Fern brought my vision to life, and then some. The reception space/banquet area was filled with lush palms and beautiful arrangements in brass vessels which transported our guests into this exotic paradise. My bouquet was a mix of white garden roses, lissianthus and foliage.
PREPARATION: Tom and I both felt it was important to have that time alone and together on the morning of the wedding. We woke up to watch the sunrise together, before going our separate ways. I went off to do yoga with my dear friend Sally, and Tom went surfing. Yoga was the best way I could have started the day, something to really ground me so that I could enjoy and be present in every moment of the day. Tom and I then met up for an ocean dip together at Wategos Beach, which was followed by a quick smoothie stop before heading to the venue to get ready. We also chose to do a private ‘reveal’ before the ceremony. It was so special to share this moment with just the two of us, before you get wrapped up in the day. It also meant we got most of our photos done before the ceremony, which made things less stressful and allowed us to spend more time with our guests.
CEREMONY DÉCOR/ RECEPTION DÉCOR: The Villa itself has so much character – Mediterranean influence meets Moroccan décor, all set in the lush landscape of Byron hinterland. The ceremony space needed no styling – lush gardens surrounding the crystal blue pool and dramatic stone archways. As for the reception décor, I handed everything over to the amazing Lucy (from @_lucyinthesky). We kept to a neutral palate accented with gold. It was all about matching the venue, but also reflecting my style. The inspiration was to create an effortlessly romantic space. We wanted to create an atmosphere that was relaxed, but breathtaking and really encouraged our guests to mingle and move. The room centred around the wooden banquet tables underneath these incredible Moroccan pendant lights. The rustic stone alcoves were styled with white pillar candles, geometric lanterns, fine gold candlesticks and an array of vintage brassware styled with delicate floral arrangements. We used a collection of textures to give depth to the space (distressed leather chesterfield paired with a vintage chest, antique brass, linens and glass). We had festoon lights installed above the pool between the ceremony and reception which, together with an abundance of flickering candles, brought warmth to the space and created an incredible ambience as the sun went down.
WEDDING PLANNER/ WEDDING STYLIST: I planned the entire wedding myself, given we were engaged for 3 years before the wedding, I had plenty of time to hone in on my vision. That said, I had incredible vendors that I worked with to bring my vision to life. Lucy took over the styling and sourcing of pieces for the reception space/banquet area as well as the cabana by the pool and lighting. She did an incredible job and styled the space to perfection. I also had a close friend Mel Carrero who took over the role of ‘wedding planner aka girl boss’ on the day. She made sure everything ran smoothly and came together, as we had a bit of transformation happen to the space between the ceremony and reception. Having her to hand over to really meant I could just relax and enjoy the day.
CAKE: We actually had an amazing (and entirely vegan) dessert spread. Our wedding cake was a three-tier vanilla sponge cake with a coconut icing decorated with fresh blooms and greenery. We then had three different types of raw cheesecakes 'snickers’, lemon passionfruit and a salted caramel pecan pie. To finish off our dessert spread we had donuts (nutella, caramel and jam filled). Greenhouse Factory really went above and beyond.
WEDDING SONGS: Song walking down the aisle – Bon Iver “Holocene”, Song after first kiss – Ben Howard “Only Love”, Recessional – Beyonce “Love on Top”, First Dance – a swing/big band cover of “Get Lucky” by Flash Mob Jazz.
ENTERTAINMENT: We created our own playlists for each part of the day (i.e. atmospheric music to set the mood as guests arrived, chilled dinner music and our party dance playlist). As part of our RVSP we had included a ‘Song that will get me up and dancing” question to help build up our dance playlist. My older brother, Keegan Sparke, also did me the great honour of playing a set for our guest while they waited for us to return from our photos. He is such a talent, and played such a great mix of acoustic originals and covers – my favourite being an incredible (and less cheesy) cover of Shania Twain’s “From this moment”.
FOOD & BEVERAGES: We worked with the amazing team from Greenhouse Factory to create our dream wedding menu. Tom and I are both vegan, so the kind of food we served was very important. We opted for a relaxed feasting/banquet table dining style. We wanted the food to be fresh and abundant. Canapés included – ‘cheesy’ garlic bread, mushroom + cauliflower baked arancini balls and Mediterranean polenta bites. The dinner menu included – stuffed jacket potatoes, pulled jackfruit tacos, DIY quinoa and Blackburn nachos, mushroom and broad bean paella and roast vegetable salads. The food was amazing, and our guests all raved about it. We kept everything else pretty simple and just had a bar set up outside for people to help themselves to drinks.
HONEYMOON: We split our honeymoon between Samoa and Fiji (spending our time in the Yasawa Islands). We wanted that perfect mix of adventure and relaxation time. Samoa was incredible, I would so highly recommend. The ocean trench was breathtaking, and we also did this incredible 5 hr waterfall hike run by a local village. This was such a highlight – trekking through jungle upriver, jumping off all kinds of waterfalls (it’s a MUST-DO). We also stayed in an actual treehouse. Samoa is a beautiful place to visit, as its just so authentic and not at all “touristy”. I have such fond memories of driving around the island, being waved to by every member of every village we passed along the way. Fiji was pure relaxation, and some of the most beautifully clear water I have ever experienced. Some beautiful snorkelling and so many palm trees.
GIFT REGISTRY: We did a more traditional gift registry through Peters of Kensington, but also had a wishing well on the day and encouraged our guests to give in the way most meaningful to them. Some guests made donations to Tom’s favourite charity, others used their talents to do a beautiful painting for us (my favourite is from my friend Sally Mustang). Another memorable gift is from a family friend who hand crafted an incredible wooden chopping board from wood he had collected from all over for the last 30 years (including some from both mine and Tom’s parents properties). We loved receiving such unique and personal gifts.
CELEBRANT: Tom and I chose to do things a little differently. We decided that we wanted the ceremony to be very personal and reflect on our journey over the 9 years we’ve been together. So we had a celebrant sign all the legal stuff in the morning, and then we had my eldest brother and another close family friend (essentially a brother) conduct the ‘ceremony’ in the afternoon. They did such a stellar job in making us laugh and cry and really told our story from the view of someone who had watched it all unravel. It was definitely quite untraditional, but it was honestly one of the best decisions we ever made, and really made the day so special for us.
ANY OTHER SPECIAL DETAILS:
SOURCES OF INSPIRATION: The LANE of course.
A MEMORABLE MOMENT: Definitely our first dance. We decided we wanted to do something really fun, so we took lessons to learn a swing style dance. Our brief to our dance teacher was “we will suck at foot work, so give us some showy lifts to distract our guests” and that she did. It was so fun to surprise and wow our guests with our dance, particularly the moment when I picked up Tom in our double cartwheel. At the end of the dance, Tom carried me off the dance floor and we jumped into the pool.
IF I COULD GIVE OTHER BRIDES TO BE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE… Don’t include anything that doesn’t resonate with you, just because you think it’s what a wedding should have or should be. Be selective with what you pour your energy into and keep things personal and relevant for you and your partner. Also factor in some “together time” on the day, after all that is what the day is all about.
KARISSA & TOM’S CONTACTS:
PHOTOGRAPHY: Mitch Pohl
BRIDE'S DRESS: Elly Sofocli
BRIDE’S SHOES: Senso
HAIR: Ashlea Penfold
MAKEUP: Ashlea Penfold
FLORIST: Poppy & Fern
CAKE: Greenhouse Factory
CATERING: Greenhouse Factory
WEDDING STYLIST: Lucy Ewing
WEDDING VENUE: Villa Rustica
HONEYMOON DESTINATION: Samoa and Fji
VIDEOGRAPHER: Joel Tronoff
ENTERTAINMENT: Keegan Sparke