Vivian Tham and Ram Castillo married at Bendooley Estate in August, a special month because it was when the couple began dating and also became engaged. Seven years in the making, their enchanting winter wedding was everything they had dreamt of, and more. AtDusk photographer Chris Prestidge captured their magic.
Marie Ramos has played an intrinsic role in the love story of Vivian and Ram. A beloved mutual friend and a photographer in Sydney, it was Marie who offered Ram a spare ticket on the fateful night she and Vivian were going to watch Irish indie rock band Passenger at Oxford Art Factory in Sydney.
‘I was working part time for Marie who was, and is, like a big sister to me, and is also a long time friend of Ram’s,’ says Vivian, a yoga teacher who also works in corporate organisational development. ‘A couple of months later, Ram and I met again at a weekend barbecue celebrating the expansion of Marie’s photography studio and he worked his charm and managed to get my number. Although in hindsight he admits it was quite a challenge.’
Cupid enjoys a good challenge, and soon Ram was having thoughts about Vivian he couldn’t shake.
‘I was attracted by Vivian’s charming soul that carried moral fibre, common values and spirituality beyond her years,’ says Ram, a multidisciplinary design director who hosts top ranking podcast Giant Thinkers, and is an international speaker and author. ‘They are attributes I admire and aspire to have more of.
‘Vivian had a light, depth and gentleness about her that I found incredibly unique, and there were many layers to her character that kept revealing themselves. That continues to this day.’
For Vivian, Ram’s self belief was irresistible: ‘I loved his confidence, his passion and the fact he is unapologetically himself. Oh, and his unfailing ability to make me laugh. Then, as we fell in love and spent more time with each other, his devotion to his family showed me another facet of his personality. Over the years his support has allowed me to dream bigger than I ever thought possible, and to make those dreams a reality.’
Ram certainly made one dream come true when he proposed to Vivian. He planned the entire proposal in collaboration with Marie who’d been there from day one, and later posted his surprise proposal on YouTube.
‘Ram had set up the proposal at Marie’s studio in hidden camera style,’ explains Vivian. ‘There were endless rose petals, a beautiful acoustic duo playing some of our favourite songs, and polaroid photos captured over the six years we’d been together strung up on fairy lights. I was speechless and I cried. A lot!’
Now promised to each other, the couple started looking for the perfect venue for their wedding, which they had always envisaged surrounded by greenery.
‘The Southern Highlands was a perfect choice,’ says Ram. ‘Just far enough from Sydney for our guests to enjoy a relaxing and serene weekend getaway, but still accessible enough.
‘The first time we visited Bendooley, by the time we were in the driveway Vivian was crying, “This is it! This is the one!”
‘I was crying too. I recall asking how much this was going to cost us!’
Jokes aside, Ram says they felt Bendooley struck the perfect balance of modern and country chic. ‘We didn’t want too many DIY components. We wanted to know we were in the safe hands of experts.
‘And after visiting the Book Barn, where we ended up having our reception, and their new cottages, we couldn’t imagine celebrating or staying anywhere else.’
On August 21, 130 of the couple’s nearest and dearest, including family members from Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines, came together in a marriage mass at Saint Paul’s Catholic Church in Berrima.
‘As we are both Catholic, the planning of the ceremony with our priest, Father Paul, and selecting the readings and hymns was very special,’ says Vivian. ‘We chose readings that held special meaning for us and our relationship, and songs that embodied the essence of our special day.’
Ram’s parents are from the Philippines so the couple also chose to include the Filipino tradition of being covered with a veil and cord by their chosen sponsors, to symbolise coming together under one roof.
Wearing a beautiful bridal gown that was actually the first dress she tried on, Vivian says one of her most precious memories is walking down the aisle: ‘I’d thought about it so many times in my mind, but as my dad walked me down, I was overcome with all the love and warmth in the church, and seeing Ram at the end of the aisle.’
Another priceless moment was the surprise Vivian had planned for Ram.
‘Since the proposal was such a big surprise, in the months leading up to the wedding I selected a song from one of Ram’s favourite bands as a teenager, New Found Glory. Hold My Hand is a punk rock song with beautiful lyrics. With a few secret practice sessions and help from my dear friend Louise who accompanied me on the night on the electric guitar, we slowed it down and I sang it. I didn’t really expect tears but Ram was blown away.’
And in a shared surprise, a few weeks before their big day the couple booked lessons with a dance teacher.
‘We thought it would be a nice surprise for the guests so we mashed up a few songs and the teacher choreographed something easy enough for us to learn in a fortnight,’ says Ram.
The songs ranged from At Last by Etta James, which was the song that was played when we got engaged, to Everybody by the Backstreet Boys and Crazy in Love by Beyoncé. Ram’s wonderfully talented sisters and cousins sang and accompanied them on the guitar.
The couple honeymooned in Japan at Osaka where they stayed at the stunning Conrad hotel, and discovered the Dotonbori markets and Kyoto before heading to Hawaii. About to celebrate their first year anniversary, Vivian says their wedding was everything she wanted.
‘The ceremony was the most special part of the day and I cried so many happy tears. Our priest encouraged us to write a few of our own words to share with each other and Ram’s short thanksgiving summed up so much of our seven years together, as well as his vision for our future. I will never forget how it made my heart smile.’
Ram agrees it was the most special of days: ‘There are two things I will never forget. The first was everyone we love in one room. The second was our own vows that we wrote to each other. I had imagined the day for a very long time, seven years in the making, and it was everything I hoped and dreamt of. Even things like the church being a little cold, and the slight sprinkling of rain in some of our photos, all made it part of our unique wedding day. I wouldn’t have done anything differently.’
Bendooley Estate, Berrima
Flower girl’s dress
Arabella and Rose
Fr Paul Roberts
Kay Del Rosario
Lexi Clark and Tim Conlon
Watch Ram’s proposal to Vivian at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xENWJtSYo1w