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The Enchanted Forest

— Ben & Jade


13 March 2014


120 people


Anna Kidman

Ben & Jade by Anna Kidman
Ben & Jade by Anna Kidman

An old forest school hosts an intimate celebration with family and friends in the Pongakawa Valley New Zealand. The last golden light of summer peeking through forest trees before night falls and moments are made magical under a blanket of stars.

We are in love with this effortlessly cool bride dressed in one of our favourite Karla Spectic lace outfits and her bridesmaids adorned in their own cream dresses. Bouquets of wildflowers and daisies with a handpicked sentiment and a casual outdoor dinner party creating a beautiful blend of whimsical rustic romance.

This effortless wedding beautifully documented by Anna Kidman, will have you lost in romantic forest moments drenched in golden light. 

HOW WE MET: In our home town of Waihi Beach, New Zealand, through mutual friends a long time ago! We were together for about 7 years before getting married.

OUR ENGAGEMENT STORY: Ben’s proposal blew me away. He had spent months and months creating an illustrated, animation film (with the help of some friends!) which was based around a beautiful song his sister had written and recorded especially for the proposal. He tricked me into being in parts of the video and it was about how much we had done together so far. He set up a beautiful night picnic with festoon lights and a projector screen and played it for me in Centennial Park, Sydney. We had a bunch of friends hiding in the dark amongst the trees that surrounded us that then rushed out afterwards to celebrate with us.

MARRIAGE TO US MEANS: We both promised in our vows to make each others lives extraordinary. Marriage to us means not only being each others husband and wife but best friends, adventurers and motivators along the journey. 

WEDDING LOCATION: The wedding was at Old Forest School in Pongakawa Valley, New Zealand. We were searching for a rustic, barn venue and found exactly what we were looking for. The venue was in its first season and is a lovingly restored old school yard complete with schoolroom, tennis court, watershed, pool and changing rooms. We loved that it was completely out of the way and secluded within the Pongakawa Forest which meant you had the whole area to yourself and the guests and could stay at the one venue all day, no moving around. We were so lucky to have a warm, still night and perfect day for the wedding which meant we could have the reception outside under the stars. The other main attraction to the venue was that it is also super close to Pukehina Beach, so we suggested guests all rent a holiday home along the beachfront and we organised a bus to pick people up and drop them off after the wedding. The day after the wedding was amazing as all the boys went surfing together and you could walk along the beach to all the other guests houses - it had a real holiday vibe about it so made the wedding feel like it was more than just one day.

THEME/STYLE: We both wanted it to be a really casual, low-key vibe. It was really important to us that everyone was relaxed and having a good time and that the day wasn't just about ourselves but about all our friends and family too. The day is about thanking all the people in your life for being amazing as much as it is about you. The venue played a huge part in the actual ‘theme’. We didn’t really need to over decorate anything as it already had such a rustic feel that the theme kind of chose itself and we ran with it.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Our photographer was Anna Kidman. She came highly recommended by a very good friend not only as a brilliant photographer but as a lovely person and this was really important to me. Anna made the day effortless, we didn’t spend hours taking photos we just wandered around the beautiful grounds at the venue. Anna was amazing at capturing moments and we felt she captured the feel of the day perfectly.  

BRIDE’S DRESS: I had in my mind exactly what I was looking for and was lucky enough to have a good friend send me a link to a Karla Spetic dress that was perfect! I had a day trying on gowns but none of them were me. I went straight back that day and bought the Karla Spetic dress. That was the easiest part of the planning! It was casual, not too over the top and most importantly I felt like myself in it.

BRIDE’S SHOES: My shoes were Sasha by Senso. They were white with a clear perspex heel.

BRIDESMAIDS DRESSES: I really wanted my bridesmaids to feel special on the day so I let them choose whatever they wanted to wear in white or cream - I didn't mind if it was all a bit thrown together and eclectic, at least that way they would all feel like themselves and be comfortable on the day. They all have great style so I knew it would come together - it was probably a bit hard for them to decide but it made it one less thing I had to think about. The dresses mixed from Miss Crabb, Shakuhachi, Glassons and Asos.

BRIDESMAID’S SHOES: They all chose their own shoes in black. 

FLOWERGIRLS/PAGEBOY OUTFITS: We only had one flowergirl and she was adorable with her little broken arm and her dress from Dollcake. We made her baby’s breath floral crown the morning of the wedding.

JEWELLERY/ACCESSORIES: The only jewellery I wore was a set of statement earrings from New Zealand department store Farmers. I had been searching everywhere for the perfect pair and I had left it too late to order anything from overseas. They were bought the day before by my amazing bridesmaids as I had realised I didn’t have anything!

WEDDING RINGS: My ring is from a jewellery designer in New York called Anna Shefield. I was joking around with Ben about buying it for me months before he proposed - I think he went back through my computer history to find it! Ben’s ring was made by a local jeweller from our hometown in Waihi Beach, Jayne Jolly of Off the Bench which is quite special for him.

GROOMS ATTIRE: Ben wore a bright blue Marcs suit with brown Vanishing Elephant shoes. He had a matching brown Country Road belt and Zara white shirt.

GROOMSMEN ATTIRE: The groomsmen were a bunch of casual guys so I didn’t want them to feel awkward in full suit attire. They wore brown Asos chinos and all wore their own white shirts and black shoes. 

HAIR: I wanted my hair very classic. My dress was quite different so I felt like my hair and makeup should be timeless. I wore in in a low sweeping, curled side bun.

MAKEUP: Fiona Wright was the hair and makeup artist and did such an amazing job. I also wanted my makeup very classic and had gone into Mac a few weeks beforehand to get the perfect ‘red’ lipstick.

STATIONERY/INVITATIONS: I am a graphic designer so designed and handmade our save the date and invitations. Ben and I sat one night folding, and collating them all so it was a real labour of love. They were a recycled card cover with a hand drawn type invite and information booklet inside, tied with black and white twine. They were a little DIY and rustic so went with the theme perfectly.

FLOWERS & BOUQUETS: I knew I only wanted greens and whites with no colour. Rosie’s Wildflower Co. did such an amazing job of selecting a variety of beautiful wildflowers and greenery and we had buckets delivered to us the night before the wedding. The bridesmaids made the bouquets the morning of the wedding (so talented!) and the remaining flowers went to the venue to be thrown into vases by the groomsmen would you believe!

PREPARATION: Both of our families had hired beautiful homes right on the beachfront at Pukehina Beach. Ours had a huge deck overlooking the water and all the bridesmaids and my family stayed there the night before. We woke up to mum making us all breakfast and the sun streaming into the lounge where we were setting up to get ready. In was such a relaxed and peaceful morning for the girls while the boys rushed around getting everything ready at the venue. They also squeezed in a surf before hand of course!

CEREMONY DÉCOR: We had the ceremony in the old school room so it was already full of character and didn’t need much decoration at all. We hung some jars full of hydrangeas from the seating and that was it. The room had these beautiful big old windows that looked out to the forest so we really didn’t feel like overdoing anything.  After the ceremony was the most important part of the day for us. It was the hang out and chill time. We had old school games set up for everyone to play. At one point there was cricket, tennis and croquet going on. We had a whole heap of blankets laid out under a big tree hung with lanterns for people to hang out under.

RECEPTION DÉCOR: We set up the reception in front of the barn with big long tables and rustic mix matched chairs. We didn’t cover the tables just kept them raw and ran a strip of hessian down the middle. Ben and his dad had made wooden rounds that held the hessian down and these were then stacked with vintage glass jars filled with wildflowers. We had handmade everyone’s name tags and designed menus in matching recycled card and using a vintage labeller in black tape. There were festoon lights hung above the tables and bunting flags made out of paper doilies strung around the barn.

CAKE: We had a dessert table set up. The cakes were made by Nona’s Homemade Cakes - I ordered about 7 in total in lots of different flavours and the wedding cake was a white chocolate and raspberry layered cake topped with wildflowers. It was very simple and understated.

WEDDING SONGS: Ben’s sister played the engagement song live as I walked down the aisle. It was a very special and emotional moment for everyone – she did so well. Ben’s dad also played acoustic guitar for us while we signed the register and everyone mingled.

ENTERTAINMENT: After the ceremony we had a two man band band play outside while everyone hung out, played games and chilled on the blankets. Then we had a few friends DJ the reception which made it super fun.

FOOD & BEVERAGES: After the ceremony I had a friend who put together the most amazing grazing table. I bought little finishing touches like mini chalkboards and extra wooden rounds, chopping boards, vintage jars for displaying food on/in and she managed to whip up something that looked like a magazine shoot! We had drink dispensers with different punch and mini milk bottles to drink out of, an old bath filled with ice and drinks and champagne for the afternoon. For the reception we had Paella. The caterers turned up with three huge paella dishes and made three separate types. It was such an easy, no fuss way of feeding 120 guests and ensure that they were full afterwards! We had made salads the morning of the wedding and kept them in a big chiller trailer at the venue and also ordered a variety of bread rolls. The casual feel of the meal was nice as it kept everything very relaxed and enjoyable.

TRANSPORT: We had a bus pick up all our guests and drop them home. The bridal party arrived in private cars – we were not going to be seen by any of the guests so I didn’t see any point in spending extra money on cars.

HONEYMOON: I’m not sure that this is good advice…but… we both actually quit our jobs before we went back to New Zealand to get married. After the wedding we travelled Europe for about 2 months - France, Portugal, Spain and Morocco. It was a wonderful way to start married life but yes not sure I’d advise everyone to do it!

CELEBRANT: Our celebrant Jenny Minogue was an old family friend that had known us for a long time. It was so special to have someone marry us that actually knew us and she added in a few quite personal bits into the wording of the ceremony.

READINGS: We both wrote our own vows and Ben’s grandmother said a reading during the ceremony. 

ANY OTHER SPECIAL DETAILS: Ben made a huge ‘LOVE’ sign that sat out in the field by the barn. It was a big marquee light and really came into it’s own at night. We also had a few mini polaroid cameras floating around all day. I had bought heaps of film and made a big photo board for everyone to peg them too. It was so great the during the day and the morning after to look through all of the pics.


A MEMORABLE MOMENT: There were so many moments that made the day special. If I had to choose though I think it would be my little sister rapping her bridesmaid speech! We were huge Prince of Bel Air fans when we were little and would always rap the beginning. She rewrote the song to make it about Ben and I and blew us away. She downed two glasses of champagne before she stood up and delivered not missing a beat. Standing ovation! My nana on the dance floor being spun around by all the boys until 11pm was also pretty neat.


Sounds so cliche but don't stress the small stuff, on the day no one notices and neither do you. And delegate! People want to be involved and help out, don't try to do it all on your own.



BRIDE'S DRESS: Karla Spetic


BRIDESMAIDS DRESSES: AsosMiss CrabbGlassons and Shakuhachi


GROOMS FORMAL WEAR: Marcs and Vanishing Elephant Shoes

WEDDING RINGS: Anna Sheffield

HAIR/MAKEUP: Fiona Clare Wright

FLORIST: Rosie’s Wildflower Co.

CAKE: Nonas Homemade Cakes

CATERING: Amanda Joe and Paella Man

CELEBRANT: Jenny Minogue

WEDDING VENUE: Old Forest School



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