Just an hour from Melbourne, set in the Victorian countryside is Churchill, a 19th Century venue reminiscent of European charm and architecture. High timber ceilings and gothic stained-glass windows overlooking two acres of lush garden made for the perfect scene for this modern and intimate wedding.
As a wedding planner herself, Claire was able to bring her own vision to life by creating a romantic and minimalistic setting all in one place. The juxtaposition of raw, unadorned materials against deep red, toffee and black sprayed floral displays made for a stunning symbiosis for both their ceremony and reception.
Rows of tables boasting with carefully curated vessels, unstructured textures and intricately displayed blooms, under strings of festoon lighting romanced their guests late into the evening.
This raw, yet refined celebration was intimately captured by Zoë Morely.
Names / Claire & Adrian
Wedding Date / 7th February 2020
Guest Numbers / 95
How We Met
We met in London, of course, the irony did not escape us that we had to move to the other side of the world to find each other. We met when we were both working at The Parlour, a bar and restaurant in Canary Wharf. Adrian had been there for a while and I started about a year later. I remember when I heard there was an Australian floating around I was excited about the prospect of talking about home and hopefully getting a decent soy latte.
Our first interaction was when I asked Adrian to make me a coffee and it turned out very poorly. I commented, “Wow, I thought you were Australian and knew how to make coffee”. I was joking but Adrian was extremely unimpressed. After the initial encounter, we were friends for about a year and then one day things changed between us and love started to blossom!
Our Engagement Story
Adrian’s favorite place in the world has always been Japan as he spent a large part of his childhood there. After dating for two years we booked a trip to Japan during cherry blossom season so Adrian could show me the sights and where he had such fond memories.
We had plans to wander down Nakemeguro, a 2.2 kilometer stretch with over 880 pink cherry blossom trees; the river is lit up with red lanterns and stalls which serve pink champagne. The perfect setting for a proposal. When we arrived the setting was a little different. It was about two degrees and there were only a handful of trees in bloom as they had blossomed very early that year. We strolled down the river, pink Chandon in hand and Adrian started to act very suspiciously.
After we had covered the river four times and a lot of complaining on my end about being cold and hungry, Adrian suddenly said, “Do you remember when we were in London and you asked me how I imagined I would propose to someone when the time came? Well, this is what I imagined. Being in my favorite place in the world with the woman of my dreams”. Adrian pulled out a box and I bawled my eyes out. We then headed out to one of Japan’s largest nightclubs. The night continued with a lot of dancing, screaming and Adrian swigging from a Grey Goose magnum to celebrate. I remember Adrian saying that he had never seen me look so happy.
Marriage to us Means…
The ultimate expression of love. Sacrifice, commitment, and loving someone unconditionally. Marriage means growing and changing with someone and a lifetime of fun, laughter and adventures with your best friend.
Churchill, located in Taradale, Victoria. The venue is an 1858 church overlooking pocket-sized Taradale, a small country town in Victoria. This was the absolute perfect venue for us and provided us with the European feel we had been searching for.
There were three main stand-outs for us:
- Being a Wedding Planner in Melbourne I have planned and worked in so many venues so I really wanted something special and unique that would take me out of Melbourne and enable me to relinquish control.
- I have always loved the thought of moving from one location to the next – wowing your guests with little surprises along the way. However, we were also not keen on everyone having to travel from one venue to another, lost and bored for hours as we headed off for photos. Churchill is the perfect setting to move from one location to the next without all of the fuss in between. We started with our ceremony facing the side of the church (where the rest of the reception was hidden from the guests). Guests then moved around the corner to have pre-dinner drinks and canapes under the oak tree, followed by alfresco dining and an after-party in the church.
- We wanted the flexibility to be able to bring in all of our own suppliers, including food and beverage. The fact that we could curate every aspect of the day was perfect for making the day truly ours. We had the amazing Fourside Events cater the evening and because of Adrian’s contacts in the hospitality industry we were able to handpick a beautiful selection of wines to complement the meal; as well as our favorite cocktails which were inspired by our travels.
We chose Sky High Mount Franklin as our getting ready location. It is an Airbnb with 260-degree panoramic views of Daylesford. It was about 25 minutes from the wedding venue but it was important that we had a place large enough to house our bridal party as well as family on the wedding day.
We also planned to have our first look and portraits prior to the ceremony, so were after a picturesque location for photo opportunities in order to allow us to mingle and relax with our guests at the reception.
The night prior to the wedding our bridal party stayed with us and in the morning, both sets of parents and my siblings joined us for a champagne breakfast whilst we all got ready. I loved that Adrian and I spent the morning together with our loved ones, it also calmed our nerves before our first look!
Event Aesthetic & Inspiration
Modern, minimalist and romantic. Black Finn has always been influenced by a modern and minimalist style, promoting a less is more approach.
We wanted to make a big impact with a few key quality pieces throughout the day without going overboard and trying to do too much.
There was also a raw, refined Brutalist element to our wedding through the design process with Jess our stylist at Stirr Studio.
We kept the styling here classic and simple with bentwoods, red rose petals to throw and white parasols for guests as it was a warm summer’s day.
Prunella flowers created the stunning floral installation as our backdrop. The bright florals made the wall pop and also doubled as a perfect spot for family photos.
After some planning sessions with Stirr Studio, we landed on a visual story that represented both Adrian and I inspired by the modernist design movement – Brutalism. Jess saw the common thread amongst our inspiration and Pinterest boards – natural stones and raw edges in unexpected formations that played with gravity and exposed the imperfect in a perfect way. There was a balancing of raw elements with refined and soft materials. And that’s how we approached each design piece, from our invitations right down to the epic seating chart installation.
The reception was to be the modern wow factor for the night. Using the classic church as the backdrop, we wanted something modern yet romantic. Stirr Studio hand-carved stone-like blocks and created unique installations with sandstone shards for our centerpieces. Festoon lights zig-zagged above the guests and tealights adorned the tables, creating romantic candlelight under the stars as the sun set. The afterparty in the church took on a different vibe. Chandeliers, neon signs, candles and a stage for the DJ set the scene for the ultimate dance party.
Wedding Planner / Wedding Stylist
I am the founder of Black Finn Wedding Planning which made things very easy! I found it really enjoyable putting so much time, energy and love into our own wedding and it was really interesting seeing things from a bride’s side of planning. It was so exciting being able to make all of my own decisions and seeing all of the hard work come together exactly as I had envisioned it.
Our wedding stylist was Jess from Stirr Studio. Jess and I had a real collaborative approach when it came to the creative direction for our wedding. Her unique ability to always create something that I hadn’t seen before with an edgy, modern style was what resonated with me.
It was important our wedding felt like something only we as a couple could pull off – not something we’d seen elsewhere and that’s where Stirr’s story-telling approach came into it. Jess got to know us, and we caught up over wine each time. She could see our raw yet refined vibe. I’m more traditional than Adrian in a sense, I love the classics like roses and neutral tones. Adrian’s more raw and loves dark tones; he has several tattoos inspired by oriental art. But between us we both love a little twist, a pleasant surprise.
It’s beautiful to watch Jess at work. She is so passionate and puts so much love and thought into even the smallest of details.
Zoe Morley Photography. I stumbled across Zoe’s Instagram one day and was struck by how beautiful and natural the photos felt. No posing or foreheads pressed together, just people laughing and each photo seemed to tell its own story.
We knew that photos were important to us and seeing as though Zoe was based in Sydney, we flew there to meet her. Upon our first meeting, we knew that Zoe was perfect. She made us both feel at ease and in particular, Adrian. Photos were one of the things which he was most anxious about so knowing that he was comfortable was a great feeling. On the day, Zoe was so friendly and approachable and when things got hectic, we didn’t even notice she was there capturing every moment. I love the way she is able to tell a story with each image and truly encompassed Adrian and I and the feeling of the day.
Lightbox Media captured our day so beautifully. We chose a lively and fun song as the movie backdrop which worked perfectly to tell the story of the day. It’s been so nice to have a video to look back on and relive all of the special moments which passed us by so quickly.
My dress was by Melbourne designer Georgia Young Couture. When I tried on the ‘Sofia’ gown I knew it was the one. The fabric of the dress is made from a white double knit fabric which is so light and easy to wear. It was really important to me that I was comfortable on the day as I have seen so many brides have their day ruined by an uncomfortable and heavy dress.
It was natural for me to choose something quite plain, but I loved the line detailing and cut out in the corset style top which gave it structure, depth and a little bit of an edge. The dress originally came with a bow on the corset which I had removed. Georgia was so helpful along the way with numerous fittings and I was lucky enough to be the first person to wear the ‘Sofia’ dress.
Edward Meller patent nude mules. I really just wanted something super comfortable and it was important to have a thicker heel due to the terrain at our venue. I wanted something that would blend in and that I wouldn’t have to change halfway through the night. These were perfect, not a blister in sight!
Originally I asked the girls to wear a black dress or black jumpsuit. As it turned out, they all ended up wearing different styles of black jumpsuits which I loved. Each one complimented them perfectly and suited the relaxed feel of the day.
Our ring bearers were our beautiful french bulldogs Argo and Fuji. Adrian’s dad is a costume designer for Dance Encore and made the bright blue lycra harnesses from scratch.
My engagement ring is from Grew and Co – a boutique jeweler based in Sydney. It is a modern touch on a trilogy engagement ring. A champagne diamond set in the middle of a pair of trilliant cut white diamonds.
The engagement ring is so beautiful and a statement on its own, so I wanted something very simple for my wedding band. I found the band at the Big Design Market in Melbourne and there discovered Abby Seymour. I fell in love with a very fine, minimal gold band which is hand-carved at their studio. I love how the two rings complement one another and each piece is unique and timeless.
Jewelry / Accessories
The neckline of my dress had some detailing so I was after some classic and understated earrings. I found some beautiful pearl studs by Amelie George, offset by their signature brushed gold cube.
I also wore a chunky silver bracelet which is in my everyday wear, and my mother in law gifted me a Swarovski bracelet with a blue stone as my ‘something blue’.
The last piece was the veil, I opted for a two-tier fingertip length veil. I knew I wanted to wear one but the cathedral length is not my style. I loved how all of the clean lines and classic pieces complemented one another.
The groomsmen were instructed to wear blue suits in any shade, along with matching pink shirts and brown shoes. They all chose their own ties and Adrian gifted them all gold cufflinks – each one in a different style.
For our save the dates, we opted for Paperless Post. I’ve always loved the iconic stationery brand Venamour. They released a small range of Paperless Post options which I knew would tie into our overall modern and minimalist vibe.
Our invitations, signage and wedding day stationery and installations were designed by Melbourne based Stirr Studio. The design direction that tied through each piece was the result of a story-session where Jess asked Adrian and I for random images and words that sparked joy within us. This was fun, and what came out of it was surprising.
She really pulled out what made our relationship unique and grasped how we speak – what words worked for us vs. what words didn’t. From that, Stirr wrote the text that appeared on everything in a way that felt like us. Casual, to the point, yet still sensible.
We landed on a modernist bold type design direction that was subtly inspired by our travels. We’ve traveled a lot, we lived overseas together in London and Adrian proposed in Japan. The co-ordinates of these places were made into a unique stamp which we embossed on all our invitations and menus. I loved how this was something subtle that people wondered about and asked us or Googled the digits to work out what they were all about.
Flowers & Bouquet
We opted for different styles of florals throughout the day to evoke different feelings and emotions depending on the setting. I wanted the bouquets and ceremony florals to be soft, romantic and classic to tie in with the overall feel of the stain-glass window church backdrop. My bouquet was simple yet wild – long-stemmed roses peeled back with an unstructured look.
My brief for the very talented Prunella flowers was to have the ceremony florals look as though they were stuck to the side of the church – with some areas looking as though they were creeping wildly along the wall.
For the reception, we wanted this to feel modern and for the floral designs to create a pleasant surprise for guests. Stirr Studio helped with the floral designs here, introducing more black and unique choices like black sprayed hydrangea and sprayed billy buttons in their curated vessels. We kept the romantic feel going with red and toffee roses, and the wild element with black scabiosa.
When I was younger I worked at a traditional wedding reception where we saw many-a Croquembouche make its way through the door. They were always so incredibly delicious, so we did a tasting at the French Lettuce Patisserie in Carlton and picked out an assortment of vanilla, chocolate and coffee profiteroles which would be spun together in sugar and topped with pink and red roses.
We also had some custom clay cake toppers made of our beautiful fur babies Argo and Fuji. They sat at the front of the cake and are now a nice keepsake from the day.
Food & Beverages
Pre-ceremony we held off on serving any alcohol and the guests were greeted with trays of flavoured sparkling mineral water as an arrival refreshment.
Post ceremony guests were served a Venetian Spritz cocktail whilst being ushered to the second location for pre-dinner drinks and canapes.
Under a huge oak tree was a grazing table with meats, cheeses and condiments for guests to help themselves; a selection of canapes and oysters were also served. This was in the place of a more traditional seated style entrée to get guests mingling. Beers, wine and prosecco flowed throughout.
Guests then headed over to the alfresco dining for a shared feast of eye fillet and barramundi accompanied by sides and salads. Adrian handpicked a selection of Australian and international wines to complement the menu. The staff were so friendly and accommodating. I found my eye wandering a few times scanning the room to ensure everyone had drinks but Katie and her team from Fourside were all over it.
For the final instalment, guests moved to the church for an afterparty where they nibbled on profiteroles and late-night snacks of dirty hot dogs and cheese toasties. The church bar was fully stocked with spirits and cocktails – margaritas (my favourite), espresso martinis and negronis (Adrian’s favourite).
We have had so many compliments about the food and service and I can’t thank Katie and the Fourside team enough.
I arrived in a black Jeep defender, donning a fresh wash and white ribbon courtesy of one of my bridesmaids, Erika. We arranged a bus for guests to travel to and from the ceremony/reception from the main town.
Our plan was to head to South America and Europe in a few week’s time for two months of backpacking. Unfortunately due to the current situation (Covid-19), we have had to push this back but we are very hopeful for a belated 2021 summer holiday!
We had a wishing well at the venue to go towards our honeymoon.
I walked down the aisle to ‘I’m Kissing You’ by Des’Ree. Post-ceremony we played ‘Praise You’ by Fatboy Slim. Our first dance song was ‘Vivir Mi Vida’ by Marc Anthony. Adrian’s parents have been professional dancers their whole lives and the thought of a slow dance made our skin crawl. Adrian’s mum Lesley and good friend Linda choreographed a short salsa style dance for us which was surprisingly much more fun than we initially thought it would be. Dance rehearsals in the lead up were one of the planning highlights.
Adrian’s friends Blain and Courtney are amazing musicians and played acoustic during the ceremony and pre-dinner drinks. It created such a nice atmosphere and I loved having the live music element.
Rutherford Entertainment provided our DJ and sax player for the afterparty in the church. Those few hours were insane, it was like a crazy nightclub filled with all of our favorite people. I have worked with Rutherford many times and they definitely know how to fill a dance floor. Our guests loved the saxophonist Nathan, he was so interactive, weaving in and out of the dance floor. We knew we wanted some sort of live element without opting for a full band and Ed and Nathan were perfect.
Kirsten Egan is an old friend of mine who I used to work with in the events world. Many years ago when Kirsten got her celebrant license I said to her that if I ever got married it had to be her. We have kept in touch ever since and it was so special having her marry us. Kirsten is such a smiley, bubbly person and really calmed our nerves on the day.
Sources of Inspiration
Adrian and I have always loved to travel and our first trip together was to Italy. If we were able to transport all of our loved ones to Italy that would have been a dream wedding location. I researched Italian weddings, alfresco dining and sourced inspiration for raw materials from Instagram, Pinterest, construction sites and shop fronts.
A Memorable Moment
The first look – I loved that it was a secret moment between the two of us. We both cried and held each other and everything at that moment felt so right.
As for the reception, the speeches were all so heartfelt and beautiful. One of my bridesmaids had been living and working in China and she wasn’t able to make the wedding. She had arranged a video speech with Adrian and they surprised me in the middle of the speeches.
Another highlight was dancing on the podium in the church with some of my girlfriends to ‘Mr. Brightside’ by The Killers – screaming down to all of our guests!
One Thing I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Wedding Plans…
I knew the day would go quickly, but I still wasn’t prepared for how quickly it actually went! Being a Wedding Planner there weren’t too many surprises.
If I could give other Brides-To-Be one Piece of Advice
Take the time to stop and enjoy your special day! Look around at all of your loved ones in one place and bask in what you have created. Take a moment to sneak off with your partner at some point – this is all about you and your relationship and you will look back and treasure this moment of connection.
I would also recommend engaging a videographer. This is something I never thought I would invest in during planning. The day really does go by in such a blur and to have the raw footage of all of our speeches and the ceremony is so special.
Photography / Zoe Morley Photography
Wedding Planner / Black Finn Weddings
Wedding Stylist / Stirr Studio
Stationery & Invitations / Stirr Studio
Bride’s Dress / Georgia Young Couture
Bride’s Shoes / Edward Meller
Groom’s Formal Wear / Peter Jackson
Jewellery & Accessories / Amelie George
Hair & Makeup / Shara Hair & Makeup
Florist / Prunella Flowers
Cake / French Lettuce
Catering / Fourside Food & Events
Celebrant / Kirsten Egan Celebrant
Wedding Venue / Churchill
Videographer / Lightbox Media
Furniture / Dann Event Hire
Cake Toppers / That Little Nook
Dog Sitters / Leave & Retrieve
Floral Vases / Wildflos
Festoons / Festoon Lighting Melbourne
Candles / The Small Things Co
Find our handpicked edit of Bridal brands from around the world on the Directory.