Nov, 2016: Most people in their thirties are either married or thinking about getting married. And, regardless of age, planning a wedding is a bit of a big deal. We were no different…except at the age of 35 we quit our London jobs, rented out our apartment, packed our bags, and set off on a traveller’s honeymoon of a lifetime. Oh, and yes, all of this was while planning our wedding. Here is how it all came together.
We first met working in a fine dining restaurant back home in Australia and very soon figured out that we shared a passion for travel and for enjoying the good things in life. It turned out that the vivacious woman working behind the bar on my first shift, was even more up for squeezing the most out of life than I was. Seven years later, on a weekender from our adopted home in London, we got engaged in a simple hotel in Reykjavik. Finally, three years after that, and at the end of a glorious, year-long honeymoon travelling from Antarctica to Honduras we got around to tying the knot. By this time we had travelled to 72 different countries across all 7 continents with 52 of those being as a couple. It is not surprising then that travelling played an important part in our wedding.
Several people doubted we would ever get married. The end result was well worth the wait though. We got hitched on a hot November afternoon at a country hall 45 minutes west of Byron Bay in northern NSW, Australia. We had 120 of our nearest and dearest representing five Australian states and 10 different countries. There were watermelon and cucumber mojitos, G&T’s and boozie homemade lemonade to keep everyone well hydrated. As we took a celebratory prosecco toast, a lazy afternoon soundtrack kicked off with a few local lads playing the jazz flute and guitar. Big stainless steel portable ovens were slow cooking lamb shoulders and whole snappers while the wait staff brought around canapés of spicy ceviche cups and rich beef empanadas. We even had a Kookaburra watch over our entire ceremony from the top of the flower adorned arbor, just above our head. It was perfect! The only thing which could have made for a better day if it was about twice as long.
Planning our wedding while backpacking through South and Central America was all part of the plan. Indeed, we pushed the wedding back by a year to ensure it would come at the end of our honeymoon versus the start. We wanted the time to plan something special and for that special to come in part from the places we would visit and the people we would meet. And, looking back, we’re both pretty chuffed that that is what we achieved.
From our menu to our wedding favours, Fi’s ring to her three outfit changes and a good bit of our decorations, travel inspired a lot of our wedding. The flavours and inspiration for our epic feasting menu came from our travels and was created by the Argentinean / Australian duo behind Francisco’s Table. Recipes from around the world filled our cook book wedding favour, while I sketched the recipe illustrations from the front deck of our beach cabin on the Corn Islands off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. We surveyed the guests on our Galapagos Island cruise about the best design for our wedding invitation, while an earlier trip to Mexico inspired the bunting which adorned the hall. We found Fi’s 1932 antique wedding band in a little gallery in Venice, LA, her stunning skirt in Beverly Hills while her two other outfit changes and all the groomsmen’s suits were tailored in Hoi An, Vietnam. Finally, the ridiculously good Casa de Porco restaurant in Sao Paolo inspired the origami animals (i.e. the meat from our menu) which formed paper chandeliers dangling above the dining tables and the dried lemon wheel and juniper garnishes which the super team from The Canavan served up with our G&Ts. The list could go on.
While planning one of the most expensive and stress inducing events of your life from grotty hostel rooms and sweaty chicken buses definitely has it’s challenges, it’s totally possible and at times actually quite fun. Sure, your venue manager might be a raving hippy who doesn’t believe in websites or even a mobile phone (as was the case with ours). Thankfully though, you will have the time to figure a way round it. We found having a side project great to keep the brain from slipping into a booze fuelled stupor. We also found that discussing the finer points of invitation design with a United Nations of dirty backpackers to be surprising fruitful. Travelling on a budget also inspires a certain thriftiness in your wedding purchases which is great for keeping costs down.
You’re hopefully going to be travelling to some amazing, exotic and downright stunning places so make sure you don’t get lost in too much planning tedium. Lay on that white sandy beach and visit that ancient temple. Maybe just ensure you discuss napkin colour on the bus that gets you there.
Here are a few other things we discovered along the way which may help plan your wedding while on honeymoon:
Get inspired by your travels. Take advantage of your spare time to build travel inspiration into amazing little details which will create a unique wedding theme which is 100% you. From hand drawn recipe sketches and photo series of scenic toilet stops adorning the loos, to the booze which stocked our digestif cabinet and the maps which formed part of our home-made bunting; from the handmade origami animals which filled the hall’s ceiling to the Vietnamese incense coils in the bathrooms; the little things were what made it for us and many of these came from places we visited.
Have the best food and booze you can afford, your guests will thank you for it. We spent fairly big on food and the team at Francisco’s Table didn’t let us down. On the other hand we kept costs down with alcohol through buying wine from Aldi (the Tudor Shiraz rocks), premixing our own simple cocktails for the awesome Canavan team to pour and by getting all our international guests to bring in duty free spirits to stock our digestif bar.
Plan well ahead and plan in detail. This is obvious but when you’re out of the country up until a few weeks out from the big day you really need to be extra organized. What can you do remotely versus what can some long-suffering friend do for you while you’re away? We had a rather large spreadsheet filled with all this plus more and it was invaluable.
Lean on your friends. Probably the hardest thing about planning a wedding while travelling is that you’re not actually there to visit the venue or do a menu tasting with your caterers. You’re going to have to make most of the big decisions which need to be made well in advance sight unseen. As a result you need to rely on your long-suffering friends and family who are on the ground; they need to be your eyes and ears. We were lucky to have a bunch of hospitality friends who could help choose caterers, design our wine list and even make our petit fours and wedding cake. We were also lucky to have one of my wife’s best friends live in the area we wanted to get married in, but in reality her living there was one of the major reasons we chose it in the first place.
Be prepared for lots of online research and shopping. And, do it as early as possible and have someone at home to send it to. In the absence of being able to ring a bunch of prospective venues during work or being able to spend a Sunday afternoon hitting charity shops for those perfect antique cocktail glasses, you’ll need to make do with lots of googling, maybe a spot of Skype and become good friends with amazon.com, aliexpress.com and eBay.com. Shopping online is obviously a great way to manage the budget as well.
Use web-based tools as much as possible. Web-based tools can save a good amount of time and money and are way more convenient. We found Paperless Post awesome for customizing our invitation, making guest responses really easy to manage and for people to post all their photos after the wedding. Envelope Registry was also great as a digital gift registry where guests can send you cash and nominate what they would like you to spend it on.
Utilize good wifi when you find it and make sure you pack a laptop. While wifi is virtually everywhere, reliable and fast wifi is not. Then, when you eventually do find good wifi, a laptop screen and keyboard will save the pain of squinting at your phone and the frustration of fat fingers hitting the wrong key.
Bridal shopping doesn’t necessarily mean an 8 month lead time. Schedule in some bridal-wear shopping at some point in your trip or make some brave online purchases. We chose the former and at the end of our trip planned a week in L.A. to hit some bridal shops plus 2 weeks in Vietnam to get some tailoring done.
Wedding suppliers and other legends:
Our wedding was held at Kohinur Hall, Main Arm road, northern NSW; unless otherwise noted, all photos were by Kym Dibb and Alex Warland from Carly Tia Photography; live music was provided by Dillon Carlsson and James Morrison and our DJ was Max Perrot; catering was by Francisco Smoje and Emma Byrne from Francisco’s Table; on the day coordination and bar service provided by Adam and Anika Chrisp from The Canavan; petit fours done by Greg and Angie Wilton from Scratch Patisserie; cake done by Gemma Whiting from the The Linton Kitchen in the UK; wine list designed by Matt Brooke from Athletes of Wine; Fi’s wedding band was from Alexis Bittar in Venice Beach and her skirt from BHLDN by Anthropologie (both in L.A.); Fi’s other outfits were made by The Sewing Bee in Hoi An, Vietnam; Guy’s and all groomsmen suits were made by Be Be Tailors also in Hoi An; furniture and equipment hire was from Hampton’s Hire and Byron Bay Wedding and Party Hire; finally hair and makeup by Bruce Mann and Paris Ambrose. Flowers were done by Guy’s mother and godmother. Online wedding invitations through Paperless Post. Online gift registry by Envelope Registry.