A Willowby by Watters Dress for a Colourful Queensland Wedding With Hundreds of Paper Cranes

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When we were growing up my sister Lizzy and I were obsessed with origami. We used to take origami class in primary school and loved spending hours folding and refolding, perfecting our technique to create all sorts of masterpieces.

Years later, my sister was given a chain of paper cranes at a wedding. As well as their intricacy and colour, I loved the idea that someone had painstakingly made them, pouring time and love into making each one perfect. Opening up the photographs for today’s wedding, my eye was caught by the hundreds of multi-coloured paper cranes, and the reason behind them is so special and heartwarming. Nicole, who works in communications and marketing at a New Zealand university and Matt, a construction project planner, married on 27 May 2017 in a hand-fasting ceremony at Coronation Hall in Somerset Dam, Queensland, Australia. The barn-style hall offered them a blank canvas for their colourful DIY wedding, as well as being within easy reach of Brisbane where many of the guests live. Their main inspirations were ‘colour, colour, colour’ and paper cranes; over to Nicole to tell us why.

I love what Nicole has to say about Love My Dress and am so pleased to hear that, in spite of her location, she was such an active member of our private Facebook group. Thank you so much Nicole for your words.

“I love the secret Love My Dress Facebook group, which is what makes Love My Dress a community more than just a website. The women in Love My Dress are all such lovely, smart and funny ladies and I hate that I live on the other side of the world and miss out on all of the catch-ups with them around the UK.”

Photography Colin Hockey

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The bride’s beautifully floaty gown in soft bronze is the Willowby by Watters Penelope gown, ordered online from BHLDN. I adore Nicole’s enthusiasm for her gown:

“I originally wanted to wear a 1950s vintage dress (cream chantilly lace! Oh my, it’s so so beautiful!) that I bought from Etsy a few years ago. However it sadly didn’t fit me so I started looking online. Once I saw the Penelope I 100% knew it was the dress for me and it didn’t disappoint. It was the perfect mix of lace and tulle, and it fit perfectly without any alterations at all – it was like it was made for me. It was such a comfortable, light, fun dress to wear and I spun and swished the whole day. The main thing I wanted in my dress was for it to be swishy and floaty, and my dress was all that and more.”
Nicole and Matt, with the help of their friends and family, styled Coronation Hall themselves.

“It’s a beautiful barn-style village hall. We chose it as when we started our research and compiled our budget, we quickly came to the realisation that we needed a completely DIY venue, especially with regards to being able to pick our own caterer and supply all of our own drinks. We ended up only looking at two halls and quickly decided that Coronation Hall was the perfect place for us.”

“We loved that it was within driving distance to Brisbane where most of our guests live, but also that the village is full of holiday homes that people who wanted to stay for the weekend could hire. Somerset Dam is such a beautiful area, so choosing to have it there was a no-brainer.”

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“Whenever anyone asked me what my wedding colours were, my reply was, ‘All of them’! Colour makes me happy so there was never any doubt that our wedding would be a bright, happy and colourful affair. The main theme, however, was paper cranes. My dear friend Emily passed away from brain cancer four years ago and during her illness, paper cranes were a big symbol of hope. After she died, I got a paper crane tattoo to remind me of her motto; ‘Life is fleeting. Life is full of beauty. Take notice.'”

“I folded cranes for months in the lead-up to the wedding and my friend Shannon also sent me a package from the UK with cranes she’d folded for me to use. There were over 1,500 cranes used in the crane curtain, hanging from the rafters and as decorations. I am beyond happy with how they turned out, and I know Emily would have loved them. It was really emotional seeing the whole hall decorated in cranes as a tribute to her.”

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Nicole had a very clear idea of what shoes she wanted and found her bright blue, suede ballet flats at Shoes of Prey.

“I could choose the fabric and embellishments and get the exact shoes I wanted. My shoes were beautiful. They had a big bow on the back of them and bright pink lining and were the exact blue that I wanted.”

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The delicate headpiece worn to one side is a Twigs & Honey creation.

“It was perfectly dainty, detailed and sparkly. I loved that there were green crystals in it and that it just sparkled in the light. I spent a really long time looking for a perfect headpiece, and I just loved it so much. I can’t wait to be able to wear it again sometime!  My earrings were by Samantha Wills and were an almost perfect match with my headpiece.”

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Cath Mish-Wells applied Nicole’s discreet and pretty make-up, doing such a wonderful job that you’d never know that the bride had a pretty horrible accident just before the day.

“I first met Cath about four years ago when she did my makeup for a photoshoot. She did such a beautiful job and is such a gorgeous person that I knew then and there that I’d be booking her for my wedding. Four days before the wedding, I face-planted on a concrete path and smashed my chin up really badly. I had a huge graze on my chin and I put a tooth through it! It was brutal!”

“This meant that all of the last-minute wedmin that I planned on doing while I was back in Australia before the wedding was put to the side while I spent time going to the dentist to make sure I hadn’t knocked any teeth out, to the beautician to see if they had any super magic lotions, potions and treatments to help fix me (they did!) and also wallowing in misery and pain on the couch with wine! Cath, the incredible magician she is, managed to make me look perfect and covered up my grazed and scabby chin beautifully. So well, in fact, that you can only really tell that all wasn’t well with my face from photos right near the end of the night.”

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Matt and Nicole met at another wedding, exactly three years and three days before their own nuptials.

“Matt was a groomsman and the first thing he ever said to me was, ‘I love your bling!’. I was wearing a massive gold and diamante spider ring. A man who appreciates bling is my kind of man, so it was love at first sight from that moment on.”

“Our proposal is really a two-part story. The ‘initial’ proposal came about when we were at home in Brisbane talking about the future and decided that we wanted to get married, however Matt didn’t want to announce anything until we had rings so we set about planning our wedding in secret and booked in pretty much everything within about six weeks. A few months after that, we moved to New Zealand for work so told our immediate families about our plans. When our rings were ready, our jeweller sent them to my parents, who came over to New Zealand for a weekend with them and we went to Cape Palliser lighthouse. Matt ‘officially’ proposed the day after my thirtieth birthday.”

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The couple made a last-minute decision to have a ‘first look’ before walking down from the holiday house they were staying in (an old converted church) to the hall.

“We didn’t decide how we were going to enter the ceremony until the morning of the wedding. It was lovely and completely ‘us’. Matt initially didn’t want to see me before the ceremony but changed his mind, so we did a reveal and then walked to the ceremony together with our bridal party. We actually ended up being very, very early to our own wedding and had to stand on the side of the road for ten minutes waiting for our guests to sit down, which was pretty funny. The locals all came out of their homes to take photos of us and wish us well.”

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Nicole chose a beautiful selection of bright and bold blooms to create a wild and natural look. Friends pulled together to style them into beautiful arrangements and decorate the romantic arbour, which was built from scratch by Nicole’s parents.

“We did a bulk order of pink proteas, green banksia, blue sea holly, baby’s breath, billy buttons, wattle foliage and privot buddy through Toowoomba Flower Market and then added foliage from gum trees, lilly pilly and rosemary from my parents’ garden. The bouquets were arranged the night before by our very talented friends Lydia and Marg (along with our wonderful team of helpers) and table decorations were glass milk bottles and apothecary jars with an assortment of these flowers in them.”

“I asked my friend Viv (who happens to be a very talented interior designer) to take charge of decorating the arbour on the morning of the wedding and she and a group of our friends and family did the most incredible job. I was speechless when we walked down to the ceremony and saw what they’d done as it was far better than anything I could have imagined!”

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Matt’s relaxed style is just perfect for the countryside setting. His Indochino suit was paired with a patterned shirt from Rodd & Gunn, and worn with a cheerful bow tie and pocket square from Mrs Bow Tie.

“He wore his old trusty pair of R.M.Williams boots. We are both crazy dog people and for his birthday last year, I bought him a pair of socks with his favourite Instagram dog, Tobypuff on them. Unfortunately Tobypuff died a few weeks before our wedding so Matt wore them in Tobypuff’s memory. I got in touch with Tobypuff’s mum to send her pictures. She was really touched as she always imagined Tobypuff being the pageboy at her wedding, so was happy to see that his fans were making him a part of theirs.”

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Nicole has shared with us exactly how she achieved her ‘perfectly undone’ styling with the help of her family and friends.

“The ceremony was held at the front of Coronation Hall, as it was important for us that guests only needed to go to one venue. We had the church pews which were included in the hire of the hall moved outside for all of our seventy guests to sit on. We were married in front of the arbour that my parents made which was decorated with the curtain of cranes folded by my friend Shannon and me, and a floral arrangement by Viv.”

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“We had an incredible army of friends and family helping us set up the hall the day before the wedding. Lydia, one of my mother figures, took over the flower arranging and created the most stunning bouquets, boutonnieres and table settings.”

“I spent months folding and stringing the paper cranes and on the day before the wedding when I saw them go up, I nearly cried. They looked so much better than I could have ever imagined they would and it was incredible to see all of the time and effort I had spent making them come to life and look so beautiful.  I used a crane on each place setting with a name tag on it for each guest.”

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The bridesmaids toned in perfectly in their nude gowns, all different to suit their styles and personalities.

“I just asked them to wear long dresses in a neutral colour. They all nailed it and looked like absolute powerbabes! The dresses coordinated so well. My mum made my niece’s dress and the other three came from Ginger & SmartLittle Mistress and White Runway.”

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“Like with the bridesmaids, we asked the groomsmen to wear a blue suit, white shirt and a bow tie of their choosing. They were all absolute babes and looked awesome.”

“My three nephews all had a job each in the ceremony, either bringing us the handfasting cord or the rings. Their outfits were a mix of pieces from a few different places including Cotton On Kid and Ebay finds.” 

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“We walked down the aisle to ‘Hoppípolla’ by Sigur Rós. When we were brainstorming songs to walk down the aisle, I played this one and Matt cried because it was so beautiful so we knew it was the one.”

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The handfasting ceremony was conducted by celebrant Erin Woodhall, and Nicole emphasises how important it is to find someone you trust and like.

“I originally thought that the ceremony was going to be a boring tick box before we got to the good stuff (the party) but it was by far one of my favourite parts of the day. Having a celebrant who you really adore is so important as the ceremony is such a hugely important thing. Erin felt like an old friend and everyone was shocked when they found out that we hadn’t actually known her for years.”

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“We originally planned to write our own vows, however when we received the ceremony that our incredible celebrant wrote for us, we laughed, cried, laughed some more and realised there wasn’t anything else we could say, so went with standard vows for ourselves. Her ceremony has us in stitches, especially her opening.”

Celebrant’s opening: “These two first crossed paths at the wedding of their friends Toby and Claire. Let me start by saying: some men notice a woman’s legs, some men notice a woman’s eyes, but not Matt, no. When he first met Nicole he couldn’t help but notice her enormous, blinged-up, gaudy and gold diamante spider ring. So when he uttered the words, ‘I like your bling’ to her, Nic instantly knew that he was a keeper. Then, after a bit of a flirt and a conversation that ended up on the topic of ballet, Matt casually mentioned that he had two tickets to see ‘Swan Lake’. Smooth. Needless to say, Nic was totally impressed and it took her less than 24 hours to know that he was the man that she was going to marry.”

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Jeweller Zoë Pook handcrafted Nicole’s engagement ring and both the wedding bands.

“We had a very clear idea about what we wanted for our rings, and it was very important to us that the metals were recycled and the stones were from ethical sources. We quickly discovered that we weren’t going to find what we wanted easily in a physical store, so I googled and found Zoë Pook Jewellery.”

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“All I wanted was an oval blue sapphire set in platinum for my engagement ring, with an eternity band for my wedding ring while Matt just wanted a plain platinum band. Zoë completely surpassed our expectations and made us the most beautiful rings. Getting our rings made was one of the best parts of the wedding planning experience for us both, and actually ended up costing us less than buying something ready-made. We both adore our rings and would highly recommend Zoë for anyone looking for custom jewellery in Australia.”

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Photographer Colin Hockey is the man behind these gorgeous images. He’s captured the magic of the countryside so wonderfully – the misty early morning images have to be some of my favourites.

“Colin was fabulous to work with and felt like an old friend. He was the very first supplier we met with and we booked him on the spot as we just knew we could completely trust him to capture our wedding exactly as we envisaged it. A few months before the wedding, we decided to also book in a second shooter, which was an excellent idea as it meant that we really flew through all of the post-ceremony shots, and got so many more photos than we otherwise would have”

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” Colin and Rob were just like guests and everyone loved them. They even ended up staying in the house we hired for all of the groomsmen so they didn’t have to drive back to Brisbane so late at night. They got some great photos of Matt and me the morning after the wedding in our pyjamas jumping on a very dangerously broken-looking trampoline.”

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“For the bar we used My Vintage Lane, a gorgeous vintage-style caravan run by Samara and Jono, an incredible husband and  wife team. They were beyond amazing! Not only was the caravan a stunning addition to our wedding, the service and attention that they gave our day made them both worth their weight in gold.”

“They made sure Matt and I always had a fresh drink in our hands and had incredible attention to detail. We wouldn’t have had such an amazing day without them and our amazing team of suppliers.”

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I almost forgot to mention the cake! The deep forest green reflects the exotic foliage of the bouquets beautifully.

“I originally wanted to make the cake myself, however ended up having Deb from Artisan Cake Couture make it. It was a beautiful three-tier ombre cake and the flavours were raspberry red velvet, cherry ripe chocolate and orange poppyseed. I had a piece of each on the night (I’m shocked I didn’t burst out of my dress!) as it was so, so delicious. I chose the design after seeing it on Deb’s Instagram and absolutely needing to have it!”

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Nicole and Matt went down the unusual route of hiring a food cart from a favourite pub for their wedding breakfast – such a great idea, especially for couples who want to stick to a tight budget. Have any of you lovelies decided to take this option? As well as non-traditional food, the couple went for their own seating arrangements.

“We didn’t go with a traditional top table for seating. Instead, we had three long tables and sat us and all our friends on one, my whole family on another and Matt’s whole family on the third. As there were people travelling from all over to be there, we wanted everyone to sit with the people they wanted to catch up with.”

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“We wanted hearty, comfort food for the wedding and from very early on knew that a traditional plated meal was going to be well outside our budget. We were at a pub one afternoon that had a food truck, Char Baby Moveable Feast, and decided that was exactly what we wanted. The resounding comments from our guests were that ‘This is the best wedding food ever!’. We had mac and cheese, fries, onion rings, frickles, sliders, so many delicious meats, salads AND delicious sweet pies – what was not to love?! They served all of our seventy guests super-quickly (and with so much food that many of us went back for seconds!) and were lovely, attentive and totally on the ball about which guests had serious dietary requirements that they needed to keep an eye on.”

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The couple got their family and friends involved in shaping the sounds of the evening party, after a first dance to ‘Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk’ by Rufus Wainwright.

“I asked all guests to send me their favourite dance floor jam with their RSVP and made a playlist from that. I then downloaded the ‘WeddingDJ’ app on my phone and handed it over to our wonderful MC Nick who controlled the music for us.”

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Words of Wedded Wisdom

“I would tell any bride planning her marriage and wedding day that the day itself is about you and your soon to be husband – begin as you mean to go on! While everyone is interested in the day and has opinions, you should do everything exactly how you want to, rather than doing what other people want you to. Planning all of the big stuff before anyone even knew we were getting married was great as we went with exactly what we both wanted to do and weren’t put off by other people’s ideas of how to have a wedding.”

“Don’t follow traditions ‘just because’. Make your own and put your own spin on the day because it’s a day about you and your husband so should be totally ‘you’. The day really goes so quickly so make sure you have a lot of fun, and also take some time out to be with your new husband because you’ve just done a really big thing!”

“We set a pretty strict budget right from the start and we were surprisingly able to stick to it really well. I had a lot of fun finding options that suited our budget, and working within it meant that we had to think outside the box which meant we ended up with some really cool non-traditional things.”

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What a gorgeous celebration, and so beautiful with those colourful cranes. Thank you Colin Hockey for sharing your work with us today, and sending so many congratulations to Nicole and Matt for this insight. I love how you honoured your friend through the spectacular origami cranes, and I’m so pleased to hear that you were a member of our Facebook group. If you’d like more inspiration for colourful weddings then please take a look at these beauties.

Ele xx

Credits & Thanks

Eleanor Crossland

Eleanor Crossland View all Eleanor's articles

Ele lives in the Lincolnshire countryside, close to the beautiful coast. A qualified Pilates teacher, she loves fitness, yoga, Pilates and has a healthy addiction to baking, writing and travel.

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