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Wedspiration > Real Weddings > REAL WEDDING: Steph + James – Mali Brae Farm
Real Weddings
REAL WEDDING: Steph + James – Mali Brae Farm
After 10 weeks of dance lessons, this couple were ready to hit the dance floor for the first time as husband and wife. And what a DF it was – nestled within a refurbed glass barn on a showstopping NSW farm.
Words by Karina Lowndes
25 May 2020

With too many memorable moments to count, Steph and James’s Southern Highlands wedding was everything they’d hoped it would be. Held at Mali Brae Farm, it was a ‘huge celebration of love’ made possible by a team of incredible wedding vendors including The Story of Us and Andrea Calodolce Ceremonies.

Check out the entire day captured by photographer Samantha Heather below.

Tell us about how you met and the proposal?

When it came to the proposal, James knew he wanted to do it somewhere that was important to us, and doing something that we both enjoyed. He had been preparing for a charity walk and I often joined him in training. When I suggested doing the Spit to Manly walk one weekend, he saw his opportunity. We had done this same walk in the past and it was one of our favourites.

When the day came and it was raining, James thought his plans had been thwarted. But luckily for him, I’m always up for an adventure and insisted on going anyway. We trekked through the mud and finally popped out on the top of a cliff at the lighthouse overlooking Balmoral Beach. The rain had cleared and we were alone with the most beautiful view as our reward. James got down on one knee (quite a feat for him as he’s very tall) and asked me to marry him. I can’t remember what my exact words were but I do remember how I felt – on top of the world!

What DIY projects did you do accomplish for the wedding?

The DIY projects ended at my crafty ‘will you be my bridesmaid?’ boxes. I asked each of my four beauties with a small box filled with fabric roses – six different fabric swatches to help them find their own bridesmaid dress – gold foil Haigh’s chocolates and a personalised card, explaining why they were special to me and with further advice on what style dress to choose.

Thereafter, work and general life busyness overcame any option of DIY projects for the wedding. Luckily, we had chosen Mali Brae as our venue – Shelley, Greg and Trish took care of everything for us. Even things we didn’t know we wanted, or needed – they had it covered.

What was your theme/inspiration/vibe for your wedding?

We wanted it to be a big party. A huge celebration of love. No stuffy formal proceedings that didn’t have any meaning to us, it was all about enjoying our family, friends and love for each other. The other big factor for us was ease – if any part of the preparation for the big day felt like it was being forced, it wasn’t right for us. The venue and catering, celebrant, photographer, hair and makeup, band, etc… it all gelled right from the start.

Southern Highlands wedding
Southern Highlands wedding

What traditions did you involve during your big day?

Besides the ceremony, the most significant tradition we included was the first dance. We went all out and completed 10 weeks of dance lessons to perform our dancing debut to Modern English’s ‘Melt With You’. The lessons were great fun, and the end result, better than we could have hoped for – even with a couple of missed steps.

During the ceremony, in amongst our vows and legal bits, Andrea (our wonderful celebrant) introduced each of our bridal party. I loved this part as it explained to all our guests just why the people standing next to us were so special. Judging by their reactions, the bridal party enjoyed it too.

Last but not least, the speeches. These were amazing to say the least. Our fathers, groomsmen, bridesmaids and very charismatic MC, delivered heartfelt and wonderfully entertaining words.

What advice would you give to other couples leading up to their big day?

Book every supplier we did. Ha! In all seriousness, ‘do you’. Do what feels best to you. If it makes you both happy, then it’s likely to be a good choice. If it feels forced, then it’s not for you. Also, don’t feel like you have to do it all yourself. People are there and are willing to help. Finally, have fun. It is a celebration after all.

barn wedding venue NSW

What does marriage mean to you?

For us, marriage is about a shared understanding, commitment and respect that just gets stronger and stronger over time. It is the two of us working forever in partnership, as a team, facing every challenge and sharing every celebration together.

What was your favourite moment on your wedding day?

It is hard to choose just one. The whole day was a favourite moment…

Some of my stand-out moments (to name a few!) were the early (6am) wakeup by my bridesmaid Sapphire, delivering a thoughtful (and super cute!) card from my husband-to-be. Peeking through the blinds to see everyone arrive at the venue. Pre-ceremony hugs from my dad and step-dad. Dad walking me down the aisle – we looked so happy and composed, but little did everyone know we were enjoying a few crude jokes on the way. The vows… The photos in the paddock, and all through the grounds, with Samantha and Gaby, we were laughing so much. It was a lot of fun – more enjoyable than expected! The speeches, the band, all of the dancing, the food, even the weather – it all was so much more than we anticipated. It was truly the best day.

unique NSW wedding venue

Tell us any funny stories that surrounded your wedding?

I didn’t see this but I was told one of the bridesmaids (shout out to Piriti!) tripped over on her way down the aisle. It was a true blessing in disguise – she handled it like a total boss and it ended up being a great moment. As she tripped you could hear a communal gasp from the guests, but as she not only saved herself from falling flat on her face but had the sense of humour to sashay her way down the rest of the aisle, you just felt the tension break, everyone laughed and it set the tone for a really fun and relaxed ceremony and day ahead.

How did you find your venue and was the process difficult for you?

James found the venue while searching online for places in the Southern Highlands. Besides the beauty of the venue itself, one of the reasons we were drawn to visit Mali Brae Farm and eventually book it, was Shelley and Greg. A sign from above, Shelley is Steph’s late mother’s name and Gregory, Steph’s surname. It was meant to be.

Ceremony song?

Steph walked down to ‘Fields of Gold’ by Sting, an ode to her mother.

First dance song?

‘Melt With You’ by Modern English.

Southern Highlands wedding venue
Southern Highlands wedding venue
Southern Highlands wedding venue

CREDITS: Photos Samantha Heather // Ceremony and reception Mali Brae Farm // Catering Violets & Vinegar // Stationery The Story of Us and Butterfly Days // Bridal gown Babushka Ballerina // Reception dress Sant Elia// Accessories Sofia Roe // Bridesmaid gifts Mimco // Groom and groomsmen suits Tom James // Groomsmen gifts R.M. Williams // Ties OTAA and TM Lewin // Rings Troy O’Brien Fine Jewellery // Hair and makeup Hayley Dutton // Music Jellybean Jam // Celebrant Andrea Calodolce Ceremonies // Transport Southern Highlands Taxi, Limousines and Coaches // Dance teacher Arthur Murray Dance School.

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