When Ernie Kim and Caroline Fung’s wedding plans changed last minute, they turned to The Secret Garden in Wildes Meadow and found the autumn ceremony of their dreams. Photographer Ansh Bose played witness.
Most couples take up to a year to plan and prepare themselves for their wedding day. Ernie Kim and Caroline Fung, however, had to act a little more quickly when the plans for their original wedding day went south.
“Due to unforeseen circumstances, we had less than two months to find a ceremony venue in the Southern Highlands,’’ says Ernie.
“It was Caroline who discovered The Secret Garden after things didn’t work out the first time, and she quickly booked in an inspection of the property. Thankfully, the venue was available on the wedding date we had set, which was 19 May.”
Lucky then the Sydney couple, who met and fell in love through a dating website, are used to making big decisions with minimum fuss. Ernie, a marketing and communications professional, says he knew he was smitten with Caroline after only a few dates, and Caroline, a medical practice manager felt likewise.
“Our second date went on for 12 hours. We just started talking and realised we didn’t want to stop,” Caroline says.
Ernie, who proposed to Caroline on their third anniversary while holidaying on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, takes up the story.
“What I loved about Caroline when I first met her was how practical she was. She wasn’t a daydreamer and if she wanted something, she wouldn’t stop till she achieved it,” he says.
This quality served the couple well, says Ernie, when their original plans changed unexpectedly and they had to find a venue in the Highlands that was available on their predetermined wedding date.
Always determined to have a Highlands autumn wedding, the couple say they were blown away by The Secret Garden, the life’s work of green thumb Kathy Finigan, whose stunning five acres of gardens are set down a quiet lane in Wildes Meadow.
Says Caroline: “The Secret Garden is a horticultural paradise and Kathy was so lovely and helpful from the first meeting.
“One of the reasons we chose our wedding day in autumn in the Highlands was because of the beautiful colours and contrast of nature during that season. The Secret Garden displayed all the shades of autumn and had multiple garden sections and a pond in one convenient location that featured different plants and themes, which made it a great place for photos before/during/after the ceremony.”
Says Eric: “We specifically chose autumn because that’s our favourite time of year. We didn’t want a cold winter wedding, or to have guests sweat through a hot Australian summer.’’
Caroline laughs. “Ernie was watching the weather forecast pedantically in the week leading up. On the day it was sunshine and clear skies.”
The couple, who have ties to Hong Kong and Malaysia, had mini-wedding ceremonies in both countries. They tied the knot at The Secret Garden in front of 70 family members and friends, including one of Ernie’s uncles from Malaysia and a dear friend who flew in from the south of France.
‘We were tempted to include our two rabbits in the ceremony but were concerned if we brought them along they would want to make The Secret Garden their forever home and wouldn’t want to come home with us,” jokes Ernie.
“But seriously, I’ll never forget watching Caroline walking down the aisle towards me.”
Caroline loves one of the ceremony’s funny highlights, the moment “when one of the flower girls got stage fright and after a few steps down the aisle with her sister she ran back behind the curtains!”.
After their ceremony, Caroline and Ernie celebrated their marriage with a fully catered reception on a private property 15 minutes’ drive away. They honeymooned in Queenstown, New Zealand.
And, like many things in life, in hindsight what seemed like a disaster at the time actually turned out better than anticipated.
“What made marrying at The Secret Garden so special for us was that it was a blessing in disguise,” says Caroline.
“It was by accident that we discovered it, and the location became a talking point for the wedding long after,” says Ernie.
“We were also able to have our photos done across multiple locations and we have never forgotten how hospitable Kathy was, allowing us to set up the event the day before and assisting on the day. We still joke about how glad we are today our original plan of having the ceremony at the reception location didn’t work out. We’d choose that location again in a heartbeat.”
The Secret Garden, Wildes Meadow
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