With loved up couples chaffing at the bit to finally walk down the aisle after enforced delay, we talk to some clever Highlands professionals helping the betrothed achieve their most magical of days.
Wedding Photographer: Thomas Stewart
What makes a good wedding photo and are some couples harder to shoot than others?
A great photo makes the viewer feel they were there, with the couple. It conveys that sense of joy present a weddings while also being really lovely to look at. Sure. Some couples are more relaxed in front of the camera while some are a little nervous, and say they feel very unphotogenic. However, it’s those couples, who don’t think they photograph well are actually my favourite to shoot.
What are your favourite SH locations?
There are so many venues I love with such a diverse range of styles that I honestly can’t list my favourites. What I do LOVE is the fields, forests and paddocks we have. Incredible options for photos.
Got a favourite season to get married here?
Autumn! Soft golden sunlight, cooler days, delicious colours in the trees.
Shooting a wedding looks like hard work. What’s always your biggest concern?
It is hard work but I remind myself that I’m not performing open heart surgery so there are tougher jobs. My biggest concern is the ‘juggling act’ as photographers are at the mercy of different elements, many out of our control. Things like locations, timing, weather, the chemistry of couples. And that despite these ever changing factors, which all have an affect no our final images, we must deliver a top-quality product which we’ve been paid. It’s tough but also a wonderful challenge.
What’s one wedding that always sticks in your mind?
I shot a wedding the incredible venue, Mali Brae Farm a few years ago. The bride’s grandmother came to the wedding in a patient transport vehicle as she was permanently in bed and couldn’t walk. The ceremony was in a spot that required some walking and grandma’s vehicle couldn’t access it. Greg, the owner, literally dug up and removed part of the fence to allow the vehicle to get through so granny could be at the ceremony. She watched the whole thing from the comfort of her hospital bed It was a wonderful thing to see, and a true reminder of what’s important at weddings.
Wedding Celebrant: Diana Kelly
Why a marriage celebrant?
Flattery! I became a celebrant four years ago when one of our venue owners suggested I would make a good one! It wasn’t too long before I found myself sitting in a training course in Canberra, and I loved it from day one. I worked as a television and theatre producer for years which gave me a great understanding of how people can react in stressful and stimulating situations. I love to be able to hold their hand or lead the way.
What makes a good wedding ceremony, and are some couples harder to marry than others?
I always try to ensure the ceremonies I do are personal and totally reflective of who the couple are; it can only be their ceremony. I never presume or apply a “one for all” approach. If a couple doesn’t know exactly what they want at the time you meet with them, they usually know what they don’t want once they see it on paper with the first draft. Every couple is different and I love that.
Favourite marrying locations here?
The Southern Highlands is a unique location because of its natural beauty and seasons and all our venues offer something different and unique. For me it’s all about the atmosphere is created. Capture the love in the room and the ceremony will be all the more memorable & beautiful.
Favourite season to utter those famous words, “by the power vested in me”…?
Winter. There is something special about winter in the Highlands and what can be conjured up with colours, flowers and candlelight! So romantic.
Is there one particular wedding that always sticks in your mind?
It was my very first actually. They were a great young couple, first marriage for both but we just connected on our first meeting. I was very nervous of course and it remains one of the biggest weddings I have ever done but it all came together on the day. It was very special. Another one that sticks in my mind was for two friends. They hired Kangaloon Hall, and had a bagpipe player and we held the ceremony on the stage which was decorated like a forest setting. It was such a happy, fun and crazy wedding. I shall never forget it.
Caterers: Chef in Your Kitchen – Kelly & Michael Garske
What makes a good wedding feast?
When we married, we chose a cocktail reception and we love this style as it is elegant yet informal with plenty of food. 14 courses all up! Share platters are a very popular option now too and are perfect blend of sit down reception, with lots of choice and variety while all the guests remain seated. We also cater for every dietary requirement from diets and allergies to vegan and vegetarian. We’ve even catered a full paleo wedding.
Favourite marrying locations?
There are so many wonderful private properties we have catered at … beautiful gardens, woolsheds, marques on a farm paddock. There are also wonderful coal halls that offer a unique event such as Exeter Village Hall and Burrawang School of Arts.
Got a favourite marrying season in terms of menus?
Autumn means lots of seasonal vegetable varieties and milder weather conditions make this a great option. Winter, often not considered for weddings, can feature slow cooked meats, roasted veg and scrumptious hot desserts. Spring in the Highlands means beautiful tulips in the gardens and delicious spring salads and vegetables on the menu. Summer is all about berries and canapes in the garden.
Any wedding that particularly sticks in your mind?
We catered for a pop-up wedding at The Secret Garden, Wildes Meadow last year. The bride and groom were so relaxed and wanted a beautiful celebration but without the fanfare. The ceremony was at 10am followed by champagne in the gardens followed by cocktail style lunch canapes. Wedding cake was served at 12.30pm and everybody left at 1pm. Fabulous idea.
Florist: Botanica Style Co – Jessica O’Neill
Why a florist?
I have a BA in Set & Costume Design for Film & Theatre, which turned out to be a fantastic foundation for wedding design. I felt really passionate about creating beautiful things and found myself getting frustrated with compromising aesthetics for practicalities. I threw myself into a floristry course and never looked back. I come from a long line of watercolour artists and garden designers so I think it’s in my blood.
What do flowers bring to a wedding, and what’s the secret to amazing flowers?
Flowers absolutely establish the mood in a space & bring about a sense of occasion. Flowers bring life to an old stone church and transform a restaurant into a reception. My top industry insider tip is to use the flowers at when they’re at their absolute best. The more open & voluminous, more fragrant & frankly more value for money. Sometimes that means day four or five.
Do you have favourite flowers for the different seasons in the Highlands?
Oh absolutely! I love to draw inspiration from the changing seasons & whenever possible use locally seasonally grown product. For spring weddings, I love to use delicate Lily of the Valley, Forget Me Nots, fragrant Lilac, everyone’s favourite – Peonies. Summer often calls for bigger blowsier blooms such as Dahlias, hydrangeas, heavy garden roses, vast foliage branches. I love incorporating dried botanicals into late summer weddings. Autumn is divine in the highlands, faded late summer roses, Japanese maple, berry laden branches. Winter evokes a more sculptural aesthetic & dramatic blooms, flowering magnolia branches, decadent parrot tulips, hellebores, dramatic black centre anemones.
Installations seem to be big news – does bigger mean better?
I will always advocate for quality over quantity. That being said, the Highlands is the destination for luxury weddings & installations like the beautiful ones we create at venues such as Bendooley Estate are fast becoming the norm. A statement arch installation or ceiling dripping with blooms will guarantee the wow facture & ooze romance & glamour.
If you had to choose one wedding flower, what would it be?
Roses because they’re so versatile, virtually available year round and the variety is amazing. Sweet lace cluster roses. Fragrant David Austin’s & heritage varieties. Wild climbing roses like Cecile Brunner; Voluptuous imported blooms purposely bred in the most perfect toffee, latte & champagne tones. Local roses in ‘perfect white’ bought by the bucket.
Location, Location, Location
The Southern Highlands has some fabulous wedding venues for every budget and taste and every bride & groom, groom & groom, bride & bride ……
Country Estates & Hotels: Bendooley Estate, Berrima. Kalinya Estate, Bargo. Somerleys, Sutton Forest. Robertson Hotel, Robertson. Milton Park Country House Hotel & Spa, Bowral. Peppers Manor House, Sutton Forest. Sylvan Glen, Penrose. Hopewood House, Bowral. Gibraltar House, Bowral. Peppers Craigieburn, Bowral. Links House Hotel, Bowral. Mali Brae, Moss Vale. Retford Park, Bowral. Fitzroy Inn, Mittagong. Hillview Heritage Hotel, Sutton Forest. Briars Country Lodge & Inn, Burradoo.
Outdoors: Grow Wild, Alpine. Weddings in the Wilde, Wildes Meadow. The Secret Garden, Wildes Meadow. Harper’s Mansion, Bowral.
Vineyards: Centennial Vineyard Restaurant, Bowral. Southern Highlands Winery, Sutton Forest.
Restaurants, Pubs and Clubs: Mittagong RSL, Mittagong. Bowral Golf Club, Bowral. Moss Vale Services Club, Moss Vale. Robertson Public House, Robertson. Dormie House at Moss Vale Golf Club, Moss Vale. Highlands Golf Club, Mittagong. Bundanoon Hotel, Bundanoon. Burrawang Village Hotel, Burrawang. BIRCH, Moss Vale. Bundanoon Guest House, Bundanoon. Sutton Forest Inn, Sutton Forest. Eschalot, Berrima.
Halls for hire: Robertson Showground Hall, Robertson. Cayonleigh Hall, Cayonleigh. Exeter Community Hall, Exeter. Burrawang School of the Arts, Burrawang. Avoca Community Hall, Avoca.
Bed then wed: venues with onsite accommodation
Sylvan Glen, Penrose. Fitzroy Inn, Mittagong. Bendooley Estate, Berrima. Peppers Manor House, Sutton Forest. Robertson Hotel, Robertson. Peppers Craigieburn, Bowral. Links House Hotel, Bowral. Burrawang Village Hotel, Burrawang. Mali Brae, Moss Vale. Gibraltar Hotel, Bowral. Springs Resort, Mittagong RSL. Bundanoon Hotel, Bundanoon. Milton Park Country House Hotel & Spa, Bowral.
Wed then bed: Mr & Mrs first night snugs
The Potting Shed at Bunya House, Bowral. Redleaf Carriages, Fitzroy Falls. The Lazy Duck Tiny House, Exeter. Hideout Cabin, Moss Vale. Berida Hotel, Bowral. Studio Cottage, Bendooley Estate. Wild Ducks, Burrawang. The Humpy, Wildes Meadow.
Extend celebrations and meet for brekkie or lunch pre or post wedding:
Wedding morning breakfasts: Moonacres Kitchen, Robertson. Exeter General Store, Exeter. Old Cheese Factory, Robertson. Raw & Wild, Bowral. Shaggy Cow Mittagong. Corner Store, Bowral. Highlands Merchant, Moss Vale. Burrawang General Store Café, Burrawang. Café Rosso, Bowral. The Hospital Shop Café, Bowral. The Grand Bistro, Bowral. The Boston, Mittagong. Berrima General Store, Berrima. Links House Hotel, Bowral.
Post wedding recoveries: Southern Highlands Brewing Taphouse, Moss Vale. Surveyor General Inn, Berrima. Briars Historic Country Inn, Burradoo. The Mill, Bowral. Bendooley Estate, Berrima. Burrawang Village Hotel, Burrawang. Bundanoon Hotel, Bundanoon. Sutton Forest Inn, Sutton Forest. Artemis Vineyard, Mittagong. The Royal Hotel, Bowral. PepperGreen Estate, Berrima. Bistro Sociale, Berida Hotel, Bowral. Bowral Golf Club, Bowral.
Homegrown wedding tips
Do a reccie: Meet with some of our unique wedding professionals to help you plan, book and count the days.
Go Local: Using outside suppliers means travel to the Highlands, and travel always equals more cost. Local suppliers will share their valuable inside knowledge to make your day shine. Venues such as Bendooley Estate, Milton Park Country House Hotel and Mali Brae Farm have their own on-site wedding coordinator who can take care of your every hearts’ desire.
Think off peak: Traditionally spring and summer are the most popular seasons to marry, but there’s no need to follow the crowd. There are savings to be had marrying off peak, with some Highlands venues offering discounts on venue hire, and food and beverage costs off peak. Have a chat.
Vintage vantage: Want bespoke or truly unique? The Highlands is a treasure trove of outlets selling vintage and pre-loved clothes, accessories and homewares. Check out the fabulous Twisting Vintage and Mittagong Antiques Centre in Mittagong; Classic & Chic and Dirty Janes Bowral in Bowral and Cedar & Cloth at The Everything Store, Sutton Forest for those key killer flourishes.