James and Beth’s surprise wedding is a tale that will survive the test of time. Held at Pope Joan (an awesome inner-city Melbourne wedding venue), they coaxed guests to their ‘engagement party’ with cocktails on arrival and a truck-load of champagne. And thankfully, WedShed fave Georgie James was there to capture in pictures the moment everyone’s party got “upgraded”.
“The faces of the crowd when they realised it was a wedding they were in for, not an engagement party, was epic!” says Beth, a true bridechilla who couldn’t think of a more fun and relaxed way to kick-start married life.
Tell us about how you met and the proposal.
James and I had plenty of opportunity to meet before we eventually did. He lived a block away from me, he worked with my best friend at sports company, there were even a few events we were both meant to attend but on each occasion one of us had to pull out of at the last minute! Safe to say, it took a while for lady luck to finally bring us together!
We eventually met over cocktails at Melbourne’s brilliant Eau de vie cocktail bar, and after one too many cocktails (to settle the nerves, of course), we got to know each other and realised we’d landed on something pretty special. Like all good love tales, we were inseparable from then on.
The proposal came 18 months later, on our house settlement day in December 2016. We collected the keys to the new home, were sitting under the jacaranda tree in our new garden enjoying a glass of champagne, when James started telling me all of these wonderful things. I just thought he was excited about the new house and our future together – and kept interrupting! It took a while for me to realise he was proposing (even with a ring in his hand!) but eventually I figured it out and said a big fat juicy YES!
What was your sort of vibe were you aiming to create for the day?
We pulled off the ultimate surprise wedding! Our family and friends thought they were coming to our engagement party at Pope Joan. We lured our friends from south of the river to the north side of town with the promise of “a cheeky cocktail on arrival” to coax them there by 6pm. Thankfully, almost everyone arrived on time (along with a few frantic calls to a few late-comers – like my almost nine-month pregnant childhood friend encouraging her and her baby belly to get a wriggle on to avoid disappointment!).
Pope Joan is an awesome venue that doesn’t require too much ‘tiz’. The less, the better. We wanted an outdoor, relaxed party vibe – with the festoon lighting giving the courtyard the best atmosphere. With champagne flowing and heartfelt speeches, we couldn’t have wished for a better way to kick off our forever together.
What traditions did you involve during your big day?
Being a surprise wedding we threw out a few traditions – my folks were mortified that we stayed together the night before the big day! But on the morning we had a champagne breakfast with my parents and interstate family and friends who had made the secret trip over and were “in the know”. It made it even more special to be together during the morning of the wedding.
James left by 1pm to head to our hotel while the girls continued to get ready. We arrived at the venue separately, me in an ‘engagement party’ dress and James in his suit. We had a lovely hour to ourselves taking photos at the venue before our guests arrived.
Then the surprise was on! There was lots of jumping up and down and pure excitement as everyone realised their party had just been upgraded!
I did a disappearing act 20 minutes before the ceremony to get changed into my gorgeous Karen Willis Holmes gown – which the amazing ladies turned around in just eight short weeks! Sticking with tradition, my dad walked me down the aisle, and I wore my mum’s eternity ring for the something old, borrowed and blue. My frock was an obvious choice for something new.
What advice would you give to other couples leading up to their big day?
Take the stress out of it all and go with a surprise wedding! There isn’t a thing we would have done differently if we’d waited another 12 months or more to throw a traditional wedding.
And go with your gut when picking vendors. There’s usually something that leaps out at you: the easy-going nature of the event coordinator, the make-up artist whose posts you seem to always stop your thumb on when scrolling through your feed, the photographer whose pics you stumble upon and then find out they worked with an old colleague and come with rave reviews. Do what feels right!
What was your favourite moment on your wedding day?
Definitely the ceremony. Coming around the corner and seeing James staring back at me. I was lost in the moment. Our celebrant, Charis White, was so easy going and set such a lovely tone for the whole thing – she was amazing. Saying our vows, which we both wrote separately and surprised one another with on the day, was really lovely and brought home exactly why we were there. And James’ going in for kiss number 3, 4, 5 …haha!
“Like Real People Do”, Hozier.
First dance song?
Boyce Avenue’s cover of “Latch” by Sam Smith (in which my loving husband almost dropped me on my head in our hastily rehearsed final dip moment!).
CREDITS: Photos Georgie James Photography // Videographer Terry Turle // Flowers Tyabb Roses // Ceremony, reception and catering Pope Joan // Cake The French Lettuce // Stationery Matter // Bridal gown and veil Karen Willis Holmes // Brides shoes Shoes of Prey // Accessories Samantha Wills // Bridesmaid dresses Zimmermann // Bridesmaid gifts Calvin Klein // Grooms suit Rodd and Gunn // Ties Rhodes and Beckett // Rings MDT Designs // Hair Selina Bean Hair Technician // Makeup Makeup by Sophie Knox // Music Baker Boys Band // Celebrant Charis White.