We hardly know where to begin in describing the sheer wonderfulness of this Down Under bushland wedding, which took place at the Kangaroo Valley Bush Retreat in Kangaroo Valley, a valley that stretches along the Kangaroo River in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. Incorporating Moroccan touches and traditional Jewish wedding rituals, Leanne and Dave’s day was so full of loveliness that squeezing it into one post has proven to be an almost impossible feat. We could gush on and on about each and every detail—the breathtaking outdoor church nestled inside a rock cavity; the fantastic florals, which were arranged by the bride’s grandmother and included dusty pink proteas mixed with baby’s breath; the bride’s to-die-for custom gown, designed by the bride and handmade from French lace and silk georgette; the perfectly mismatched bridesmaid dresses in earthy shades of rust and brown; the criminally cute critters; the DIY goodness at every corner; and the awe-inspiring setting with its lush, native flora, including cabbage-tree palms, bird’s nest ferns, and sclerophyll forests.
Oh, did we tell you that a trampoline makes an appearance? We’d bet a pretty penny that this couple is going to be single-handedly responsible for starting a trampolining-in-wedding-attire trend! And we can’t leave out a mention of their unbeatable first dance, a lively jive choreographed by the bride herself. Suffice it to say that these two tore up the dance floor, and they have the most incredible series of dance shots—and an off-the-charts awesome Cinemotive video, which we’ve included for your viewing pleasure—to prove it!
Leanne and Dave’s phenomenal photographer, Lara Hotz, captured every poignant moment, telling their magnificent love story through her lens and offering a true sense of who they are as a couple. Both spontaneous and sophisticated, the dynamic imagery is pure magic.
All in all, we’d say that this wedding is one for the books!
FROM THE BRIDE
Dave and I met at Macquarie University, where we studied law. Although we were both in other relationships when we first met, we came together in our final year and have enjoyed a beautiful relationship filled with love, adventure, travel, growth, and friendship ever since. We got engaged in September 2011, when David surprised me with a trip to Fiji. His proposal was relaxed, fun, and beautiful—just like our wedding day!
After browsing for wedding dresses, I knew that I wasn’t going to find the right dress for the right price in any store. Instead, I sketched a design of the dress I had in my mind and bought beautiful pieces of French lace and silk georgette to serve as sample swatches for the skirt and details. I found a fabulous dressmaker to bring my vision to life. She did a wonderful job and was such a pleasure to work with. The dress was just as I had imagined it, and I felt comfortable and beautiful in it all day and night long. For the ceremony, I wore a plain, cathedral-length veil. My earrings were my something borrowed; belonging to my grandmother, they were gorgeous large pearl studs with ornate gold borders.
The girls who served as my bridesmaids are each unique and gorgeous. I wanted them to feel comfortable, and I wanted their dresses to represent their personalities. I also wanted them to be able to wear and enjoy their dresses after the wedding. They wore breezy maxi dresses and flats to suit the relaxed bush setting and Moroccan influences of the wedding. I chose a rust color palette, and the girls worked together to find their dresses. Gold headbands from Witchery completed their look.
For the ceremony, David wore a chocolate brown three-piece suit by Jack London, a custom shirt by Corazon Bespoke, and a taupe tie and pocket square. For the reception, he took the three-piece off, rolled up his sleeves, and changed into brown leather braces for a more relaxed look and feel that allowed him to party comfortably into the wee hours of the morning.
The groomsmen wore grey Marcs pants, and each had a shirt made by Corazon Bespoke. Each shirt was slightly different in design, giving the guys a touch of individuality and lending a more relaxed overall look.
Our wedding was a weekend celebration in Kangaroo Valley. It was held at the Kangaroo Valley Bush Retreat, which accommodates 88 guests in cabins and features a gorgeous, peaceful outdoor church called the Bush Cathedral; a breathtaking observation deck with views overlooking the valley; and a cozy reception barn with a fireplace. It also has a unique spiral bonfire area, which we used to host a BBQ on the Friday night before the wedding.
We hosted as many of our friends on the property as possible. Family and parents’ friends stayed in nearby accommodations in Kangaroo Valley. This worked out extremely well, as we had exclusive use of the property for the weekend, and the wedding reception lasted for an epic 12 hours. Dave and I and headed to bed at 5 a.m., leaving our remaining friends to party.
The BBQ on Friday was a relaxed affair, with punch, salads, and a BBQ buffet available to guests as they arrived into town. As the sun set and the mist settled over the valley, the music and the bonfire created a festive, cozy atmosphere in which guests mingled, ate, drank, and celebrated into the night. It was a beautiful way to welcome the weekend and to introduce guests to one another.
Our ceremony was held in the Bush Cathedral, the Kangaroo Valley Bush Retreat’s outdoor church. After a month of watching the weather station forecast a weekend of storms, we were lucky enough to have three glorious autumn days. The afternoon sun streamed through the trees, creating a magical atmosphere for our 3 p.m. ceremony. Our guests were welcomed into the Bush Cathedral with a choice of elderflower lemonade or ginger mint juleps. The drinks were served in recycled glass jars that our family and friends tirelessly collected during the months leading up to the wedding. Guests provided the flowers that made up my bouquet and a floral arrangement for the ceremony.
The bridesmaids entered to Neil Young’s “Dance, Dance, Dance.” I walked down the aisle with my parents, Debbie and Ken, to “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes. “Love Love Love” by Avalanche City was our recessional song.
As the wedding was an interfaith wedding, we wanted to incorporate elements of Jewish traditions. We were married under a chuppah, or wedding canopy, which we made ourselves from large bamboo poles that were hand-painted with a band of “tribal” patterns in earthy colors. We kept our ceremony short and sweet—only 15 minutes long—but it captured all the love, traditions, and sentiments that we had hoped to incorporate. It was a relaxed and moving ceremony, enjoyed by the two of us and our guests alike.
Following the ceremony, Dave and I went off to take photographs while our guests enjoyed canapés and champagne on the observation deck and Mother Nature put on a glorious sunset. We provided an open mic, and many of our musically inclined friends took the opportunity to each play a few tunes to entertain the crowd. As the sun set, guests made their way to the reception area.
To kick off the reception, we had a traditional hora, a Jewish celebration dance. This was followed by a short dance set, which created an instant party atmosphere that lasted the rest of the night! Dinner was served family style and had a Moroccan theme. Entrées consisted of a gourmet antipasti platter and organic berry sourdough. The main course included beef tagine, spicy trout, and Moroccan-spiced vegetables along with a selection of salads, including couscous and fattoush. For dessert, my mother and her friend created a to-die-for homemade confectionery bar that included candied nuts, chocolate truffles, merengues, Rocky Road squares, coconut ice, Baci biscuits, and more.
Guests were seated at a combination of long banquet-style tables and smaller tables. The table names—“Love,” “Live,” “Dance,” “Relax,” “Play,” “Imagine,” and “Laugh”—were painted on thick pieces of raw bark. The table décor included Moroccan lanterns, tea lights, and centerpieces consisting of proteas and baby’s breath. The marquee featured two giant Moroccan lanterns.
I choreographed our wedding dance, a fun jive to “Rip It Up” by Little Richard. It included our entire bridal party and our siblings. It was a huge hit and suited the relaxed festivities of the night perfectly.
A highlight of the night was Dave’s speech and performance, which brought the crowd to tears, cheers, and laughter. His speech took the crowd on the journey of our relationship, incorporating sentimental songs from The Beautiful Girls and David Francey, as well as a beautiful song that he had written specifically for the night called “Treasure You.” He ended the speech with a rock rendition of “I’ll Do Anything” from the musical Oliver.
We were so fortunate to have family members who were both willing and able to devote hours of work to the preparation of the wedding. They helped to keep costs down and also added the unique touches that made the celebration so personal and comfortable for everyone. The tireless hours of work that they put into the preparation of the wedding (and into the cleanup of the wedding) is a wedding gift to beat all others!
The most important thing I think is to be present and to enjoy the day as much as possible. Keep things simple and truly reflective of you as a couple. The power and magic of your relationship will shine through and will be what you and your guests remember about your wedding celebration, provided that you are able to stay relaxed and enjoy the day. Be creative and think outside the box to save money while still creating a special and unique event.
We chose a venue that did not have a curfew, allowing us to celebrate with our guests for as long as we pleased. I recommend this for those who like to party! Also, wherever possible, make an effort to consider the comfort of your guests. We were very aware that our guests had traveled to celebrate the weekend with us, so providing a BBQ and a farewell brunch was an important way for us to thank them for their efforts. Other touches included beverages at the ceremony and blankets at the BBQ and reception, as it can get quite cool in the evenings in the Valley.
Photographer: Lara Hotz / Videographer : Cinemotive / Ceremony and reception venue: Kangaroo Valley Bush Retreat / Caterer: Caterina in Kangaroo Valley / Floral design: Bride’s grandmother / Band: Funkstar / Marquee hire: Your Event Solution / Dessert bar: Bride’s mother / Bride’s dress: Yulia McAuley / Bridesmaids’ headbands: Witchery / Groom’s suit: Jack London / Groomsmen’s pants: Marcs / Shirts : Corazon Bespoke
All decorations, including the wood table signs, wedding chuppah, invitations, menus, blankets, and photo booth, were homemade by the bride and members of the bride’s family.