Despite the devastating bushfires affecting Tessa and Daniels wedding plans, their vendors came together to bring their vision to life, fusing the perfect blend of iconic Australian hinterland and sea.
Their minimalist, monochromatic styling was beautifully offset with bold florals and a unique, circular floral arch as a dramatic ceremony backdrop. The perfect collision of poetic curves and lyrical touches – every element was purposefully considered, from the fluidity of fabric bows, circular floral installations, asymmetric necklines, to fan-shaped dinner menus.
From a ceremony under the large shaded fig tree, harboring obstructed hilltop views, Tessa and Daniel serenaded their guests with the rhythmic sounds of the ocean at their reception by the sea. Dancing barefoot in the cool sand under the moon washed stars – an idyllic ending to a celebration imbued with unexpected classicism and elegance.
Photography by Ivy Road.
Names / Tessa & Daniel
Wedding Date / 4th January 2020
Guest Numbers / 90
How We Met
We met online and had our first blind date at the Ovolo Bar In Woolloomooloo Wharf, Sydney. I was having tea at a girlfriend’s apartment upstairs in the wharf, and the bar downstairs was the perfect low-risk option to meet at. Needless to say, I didn’t return to my tea! Daniel had me immediately – those eyes, that sharp mind and wit, and as I’d come to learn over time, so much heart and strength. He moves mountains for those he loves. That became apparent as we got to know each other. An American based in New York, Daniel was in Sydney for a brief vacation when we met. But he didn’t let the distance stop us, and over time, we found ways to meet across state lines and datelines, meeting up in Sydney, New York, and Hawaii as the “middle point”. It may sound exotic now, but each step was a small risk and required a leap of faith! A year later, when I moved to London for work, we spent long periods together reveling in the “convenience” of the shorter distance between our two cities. And we’d find ways to pepper each of our work trips with rendezvous, meeting in far-flung destinations like Turkey, Spain, and Portugal. A year later, I joined Daniel in New York.
Our Engagement Story
One day in London, we spoke about our intention to marry in the distant future, more as a symbolic recognition of the life we wanted to build together. The idea moved to the back of minds, an experience that we knew would find its feet at the right time, but we didn’t think about it much further beyond that.
The engagement itself was a big surprise. A year into my time in New York, Daniel organised a long weekend getaway at Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn, set atop the rugged North Californian cliffs. We spent our first day outdoors hiking amongst the red woods, and I remember being confused as to why Daniel kept a heavily padded vest on despite the heat, and why he kept suggesting hike after hike, well after our legs were weary and heavy.
Just before sunset, we reached a small bench under a giant shaded tree, where we took a moment to rest. It was a beautiful, meditative moment out in nature, the one Daniel had been looking for. He began to propose, though thinking we were in conversation, I began to respond to him, and as he rose from the bench to get down on one knee, I asked him where he was going. Finally, I realised what was happening and fell silent in elated surprise, before we both came together in laugher and excitement. I said yes, and Daniel was relieved to ply the ring box out from hiding under his vest and finally take it off! We celebrated that evening with champagne on the clifftops.
Marriage to us means…
A true, equal partnership, and a grand adventure, with many laughs along the way.
We combined the mountains and the sea for our big day, an especially unique way for our American guests to experience the diverse beauty of Australia.
We held a garden-party style ceremony at the Fig Tree in Byron Bay, where we exchanged vows under the shade of the giant tree set upon the hilltop, with sweeping views down the hinterland toward the lighthouse and ocean. We loved the relaxed natural beauty of the venue, and despite the recent fire just weeks ahead of our ceremony, the team moved mountains to make it possible for us to hold our reception there as we’d originally envisioned.
We moved beachside for our reception, taking guests to Beach Byron Bay Restaurant, where we dined and danced under the stars with incredible views and the rhythmic sound of the ocean.
Overall Aesthetic & Style
Modern and poetic. Minimalist, expressed in a deep and meaningful way.
We brought this to life with a monochrome color palette and lyrical touches including unique shapes such as asymmetric necklines on the bridal and bridesmaid dresses, curved fan-shaped dinner menus, and weaving poetry into the wedding materials and vows.
Shelley from Ivy Road Photography. I was drawn to Shelley’s natural, effortless style and her focus on catching authentic, candid experiences. She captured the emotion of the day and was a dream to work with – we never felt like we were posing for photos or missing out on the action.
I tried on a few bridal dresses but felt like I was playing dress ups. I felt most like myself in my ceremony dress by Sachin & Babi, which I serendipitously found near Daniel’s hometown on a trip there for a holiday weekend with his family. I love the modern silhouette with the poeticism of the ruffle and bow details. For the reception, I wore the Mayfair dress by Galvan.
I had my dresses cleaned by Eco Laundry Company in New York, an incredible small business reimagining a more sustainable garment care experience, and they’re ready to be worn again as an act of creative reuse.
I wore strappy gold heels by Schutz.
The bridesmaids wore black asymmetric midi dresses by Bec + Bridge.
Flowergirls / Pageboy Outfits
Our pageboy wore a white collared shirt with grey florals, tan shorts, and a matching bowtie (dressed by his adoring mother and my bridesmaid). The sweet flowergirl twins wore whimsical grey cotton dresses by Faune and went between ballet slippers and bare feet on grass.
My engagement ring is a round brilliant cut diamond with a simple almost heirloom design. The stone is enclosed by four small triangle diamonds designed by a dear childhood friend of Daniel’s in the image of a compass rose.
We chose engagement bands from Bario Neal In New York, who handcraft rings from reclaimed precious metals and fair mined gold. I chose a slim eternity diamond band and Daniel went with a modern gold, wide shoulder hammered band. We engraved the rings with lines from a poem we both love, ‘I Carry Your Heart With Me’ by e.e. cummings.
Jewelry & Accessories
I wore pearl earrings by Reliquia and a gold ring that my nana left me, which my mum surprised me with just before the wedding.
I wore the barely-there Skylar veil from Britten to reveal the back detail of my dress. The veils are handcrafted from English-made tulle and have a very soft textural finish.
The groomsmen wore textured grey, Australian merino wool suits by Institchu, skinny black ties, and cognac brown leather slip-on loafers.
Hair & Makeup
I wanted to feel natural on the day, and Alex Ouston created a beautiful loose curl and natural sun-kissed look for myself and my bridesmaids, focusing on earthy tones.
Stationery / Invitations
Emily Lauren created our wedding stationery including save the dates, invites and signage. Our partnership has since bloomed into a beautiful creative collaboration on my botanical lifestyle essentials and garment care brand, Poetica. I created our wedding website using Squarespace.
A close friend and long-time mentor of mine from my time living in Sydney generously pitched in to provide a beautiful, personal touch to the invites. She happens to be an accomplished painter (in addition to a highly successful business career!) and kindly took it upon herself to paint a landscape portrait of the wedding venue with the iconic arching branches of the fig tree and the view of the ocean and Cape Byron lighthouse. We were able to use her creation as the background for the invites, teasing the experience awaiting our guests.
Favors / Bonbonnierre
We gifted groomsmen Brookies Byron Dry Gin, which is made with native botanicals and supports local rainforest conservation, to share a little bit of Australia with the Americans.
We handwrote a letter to each guest on postcards we happened upon at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection in Charlottesville, Daniel’s home town, just before the wedding. It happens to be the only museum outside of Australia dedicated to indigenous Australian art, and their gift shop features unique examples of indigenous Australian creations that we were thrilled to be able to share with our guests and allowed us to deliver personalised messages about how each one of them has touched our lives.
Flowers & Bouquets
I like the simplicity and romance of roses, and chose white tibet roses for the bouquets and bridal party adornments. The floral arbor was made of white tibet roses and disbud pompoms with limited foliage. We played with shapes on the dinner tables, pairing tall white phaenopsis orchids with roses, while keeping the overall arrangement lowlying to avoid blocking guest conversations.
Mos & Co lent their natural, candid style to create vivid shorts of the day for us. Video is an excellent way to capture the small, intimate moments and the feel of the day. It’s been an incredible way to share the experience with overseas family members who were unable to attend the wedding.
We stayed at the Fig Tree accommodations on the hill overlooking Byron Bay, which served as a relaxing home for the few days around the ceremony and only further enhanced the sense of connection with the venue. On the morning of our wedding day, Daniel went for a sunrise swim and watched the morning fog roll over the Byron hinterland, a peaceful way to begin the day.
We decided to have a relaxed morning together and ventured into town for coffee. Because Byron Bay is relatively self-contained, we ran into family and friends returning from their morning jaunts; many small serendipitous moments that energised us for the day ahead.
Our bridal party met us at the Fig Tree accommodations at midday to get ready at opposite ends of the house, and that was a really fun way to begin the festivities.
Ceremony Décor / Reception Décor
I love how light and scent can design a space and experience. We placed small tealight candles on the dinner tables and dotted a few Lumira travel-sized Sicilian Citrus candles across the various indoor spaces, including bathrooms, and the soft scent carried the relaxed summer’s mood.
Wedding Planner / Wedding Stylist
We chose German Chocolate Cake, Daniel’s favorite cake from childhood, created artfully by Marina Machado Cakes.
We chose Green Eyes by Coldplay as our ceremony song and Lava (the Pixar digital short from the introduction to the movie Inside Out, set to the tune of “over the rainbow”) as our first dance song. My sister Bonnie and her boyfriend Ben joined the musicians on violin and ukulele respectively, which was especially moving.
“I think maintaining perspective can be important in the midst of wedding planning. We had two fires affect our wedding plans and that was challenging to deal with…”
We opted for live acoustic music, with guitarists and a saxophone player who added smooth jazz tones as a wink to New Orleans, where Daniel lived for a few years. Our musicians transitioned to DJ sets after dinner.
Food & Beverages
Champagne on arrival and cocktails and canapes at the ceremony, followed by a share style menu for dinner. We liked the idea of shared plates to foster a communal, family vibe. We offered Tim Tam platters and espresso martinis for dessert, naturally.
Guests were transported to and between venues in black buses, which turned out to be a great way for guests to mingle and get to know each other.
I had previously spent time in Kenya for work and fallen in love with the country. Our honeymoon was the perfect way to experience it together.
We started our honeymoon in Mauritius, the small island off the eastern coast of Africa, where we enjoyed the seclusion of nature with rainforest hikes, scuba diving, and feasting on the unique Indian Ocean cuisine from the country’s Indian, French, Portuguese and Dutch influences.
In Kenya, we visited the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi to spend time with elephants (Daniel’s spirit animal), before heading north for game drives at the Lewa Conservancy’s Sirikoi Lodge, a unique conservation-minded safari lodge.
We chose two friends who know us both individually and as a couple to be our celebrants, which added such depth (and many laughs).
We wrote our own vows and shared in a poem we both love, ‘I Carry Your Heart With Me’, by e.e. cummings.
Any Other Special Details
I love the idea of reuse as a creative act, and I think it’s beautifully relevant to weddings. This guided us to choose wedding attire we’d want to wear again; gift our bridal party with Poetica washes to preserve their dresses, and donate wedding flowers to the local hospital the day after the ceremony. I’m sure there are many other ways to think about wedding planning in circular terms, extending the joy and/or usefulness of elements of the ceremony beyond the day of the celebration itself.
A Memorable Moment
It warmed our hearts to see how our friends and family from opposite sides of the world came together and enjoyed each other’s company and the camaraderie between countries. When Daryl Braithwaite’s The Horses came on late into the night, the Australians’ shepherded the confused Americans through the lyrics until they too were singing ‘that’s the way It’s gonna be lil darlin!’. We firmly believe a wedding is about a coming together not only of two individuals but of their families and communities, and we could not have felt this more strongly throughout.
Beyond that, the personal touches made an incredible contribution. My sister (and Ben’s!) dedication in learning the notes of Lava to serenade our first dance; the tear-inducing speeches from friends and family; the beautifully crafted language and structure of the ceremony itself as relayed by two dear friends who had seen nearly every step of our journey.
One Thing I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Wedding Plans…
I think maintaining perspective can be important in the midst of wedding planning. We had two fires affect our wedding plans and that was challenging to deal with, especially because It was close to the wedding date and we were overseas. However, it became a bonding experience as Daniel and I worked as a team to jump the hurdles, good practice for marriage! It was a reminder to be flexible and adjust, something that’s possibly even more relevant now with the global health crisis upending plans.
If I could give other Brides-To-Be one Piece of Advice…
Parlay your own sense of style and stick to what feels authentically you versus what’s expected or “bridal”. A wedding should be an expression of your unique style and story together.
Photography / Ivy Road Photography
Bride’s Shoes / Schutz
Bridesmaids Dresses / Bec + Bridge
Flowergirls / Faune
Grooms Formal Wear / Institchu
Wedding Rings / Bario Neal
Jewelry & Accessories / Reliquia
Hair & Makeup / Alex Ouston
Stationery & Invitations / Emily Lauren
Florist / The French Petal
Cake / Marina Machado Cakes
Honeymoon / Kenya and Mauritius
Entertainment / J&A Events
Transport / Steve’s Transport
Videographer / Mos & Co.
Gift Registry / The Good Beginning
Find our handpicked edit of Fine Jewelry brands from around the world on the Directory.