Lara & Mark's fiery medieval-inspired handfast wedding

December 29 |
at the Spit
Photos by Thurtell Photography

The offbeat bride: Lara, photographic editor (and Tribe member)

Her offbeat partner: Mark, senior systems administrator

Date and location of wedding: Lions Park in Tallebudgera Valley, Gold Coast, Australia with reception at the bride's aunt's house, Tallai, QLD, Australia — October 9, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: I wore a black dress and Mark wore leather armour. Our ceremony was a Pagan-influenced handfasting with six cords. We had an uneven bridal party and the bridesmaids wore capes! There were no flowers, so my bridesmaids carried censers with smoking incense, while I carried a lantern I bought in a market in Turkey. We tied the knot at sunset in a natural park surrounded by tall trees, handmade paper lanterns, and LED lights scattered to form the aisle.

walking down the long aisle (across the park)

We followed that with a reception in my aunt's back garden, which we had decked out Turkish Bedouin-style. Rugs on the ground, floor cushions, Moroccan lanterns, and hay bales covered in Turkish tablecloths.

our fire dancers light the way in through the garden

Guests were led in through the garden path by fire dancers, who later performed a feature show. With help from family and friends, we made all of the decorations, seating, and tables.

cake toppers revealed!

I sculpted our cake toppers, which we revealed only just before cutting the cake. Our food was wok catering made fresh in front of everyone, served in noodle boxes. We had a belly dancer and a photo booth, and had guests throw streamers over us during our first dance.

best man with cords

Tell us about the ceremony: We put the ceremony together using variations of several different handfasting ceremonies that we had found. We used six cords and made a promise to each other with each binding. We had a circle marked in rose petals that we asked guests to step into, and we marked the beginning with a candle lighting ceremony. The bridesmaids were each assigned a direction (marked by a burning torch) where they stood and offered their blessings.

tying the knot!

our friends and family with their candles

We also included the following lines:

Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life [this part is the legal requirement for marriage in Australia]. Lara and Mark hope that one day this is a right that will be allowed for all couples, regardless of gender.
Others would ask at this time "who gives this bride in marriage," but as a woman is not property to be bought or sold, given or taken, I ask simply if you come of your own will and accord.

our casual reception

Our biggest challenge: The first was coming to terms with sticker shock. I had thought that since we wanted to do things so differently, we wouldn't be going through regular wedding vendors and wouldn't get as much of a mark-up. However, it can cost even more if you want to be different. [This is a good reminder for anyone who thinks "offbeat" is synonymous with "low-budget." -Editors]

lots of rugs and floor pillows

After the shock wore off, we did some calculations and decided that with clever buying, borrowing, and making, we could do the whole lot much cheaper ourselves. We made the coffee tables and tablecloths, we brought back lots of lanterns, rugs, and cushion covers from our trip overseas, and used hay bales as some of the seating. We collected furniture and cushions from secondhand stores, eBay, and op shops.

we did it!

My favorite moment: Our vows and ceremony wording were carefully put together to ensure that we meant every word we said. I don't believe in making grandiose promises about "'til death do us part." Instead we spoke of our hope for our love to last forever, and made personal promises we will endeavour to keep whilst recognising that happy marriages require hard work and compromise.

our LED throwies lit the path

For me personally, walking down the aisle and seeing, at last, all our ideas put together: the aisle lit with scattered LED throwies, the sun setting with pink clouds, all our friends and family holding their candles, Mark waiting for me at the edge of the circle, and the lanterns that my wonderful bridesmaid made. It looked amazing.

with the fabulous caped bridesmaids

My funniest moment: As part of our ceremony, we had each of the four bridesmaids (standing as the Cardinals of North, South, East, and West) issue a challenge. This meant when the celebrant announced, "If any would ask why these two should not be joined, let them stand before those assembled here and speak now," the bridesmaids stepped forward and each asked their questions.

Only the bridal party knew that this was part of the ceremony, so our guests got quite a shock when the first bridesmaid spoke up. She was referred to as the "troublemaker" for the rest of the evening!

first dance with streamers

We also got lost on the way, which was not so funny at the time since we couldn't be late due to the ceremony being right at dusk. My bridesmaid used her phone to work out where to go without realising she had it set to "walking directions." The GPS tried to get us to drive through a park! We then ended up going a back way with lots of windy roads and arrived feeling carsick, but at least right on time. As soon as I stepped out of the car and saw everyone waiting, I felt instantly better.

our cake toppers ready to be unveiled

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? About two weeks before the wedding, we found out that the lady who had been paid to make our cake had closed shop and done a runner with everyone's money. We had no money left in the budget to replace it. Since I had spent weeks working on sculpting our own cake toppers, we went to a small cake wholesaler and ordered three small cakes, just so the toppers would have something to sit on. The cakes didn't look fancy but they were delicious.

We were also very worried about the weather. It stormed the day before, and whilst we had a back-up plan, I really didn't want to have to use it. We got lucky though because the weather was perfect.

belly dancer

My advice for offbeat brides: If your wedding involves lots of DIY, be organised early on. If you're relying on other people to do things, make lots of schedules and lists, but don't be surprised if they don't actually read them.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? They say that marriage doesn't change anything, and I expected that. But there actually has been a subtle change. Because the vows and promises we made were sincere, we think about them often and our relationship is stronger as a result. I'm glad we worked so hard to make the day about us and our specific strengths.

our entry escorted by fire dancers

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. Amazing. Beautiful. Stunning. A wedding of dreams.

    Plus, how awesome is Australia?!? *Dreamy sigh*

    7 agree
    • Thank you :) Australia is a great place to live, although I don't much like the Gold Coast (where we live)

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      • The GC hinterland is beautiful though – my kingdom for a house on Tamborine Mountain!

        Congrats on such a gorgeous wedding from one Aussie wife to another. May you have many years of good times ahead <3

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        • yeah the hinterland is the best part :) and thank you :D

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      • Really? May I ask why? I totally have a 'dream plan' to move there – Brisbane area.

        Also, on a super side note – What do you do to your hair? It looks beyond fabulous! If you don't mind sharing your secrets that is!

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  2. Absolutely beautiful wedding. Amazing and makes me wish I was getting married at sunset too.

    Congrats on such an amazing wedding and best wishes for a beautiful life together!!

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  3. Ever since I saw your dress I've been dying to see your wedding, everything was so beautiful! Love your hair and dress and as for your groom, hubba hubba!

    Belly dancers and fire dancers with asian seating, booyah!

    This is seriously one of the best weddings I've ever seen featured on here. You both must be so creative.

    Have a wonderful marriage, you're off to a great start! Hugz

    Sid

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    • Thank you :) I'm the creative one, Mark keeps my wild ideas in check.. it all balances out. :)

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  4. I really love your dress. That picture at the top of the page looks very romantic. That sucks that the cake vendor did that but you handled it very well. Congratulations!

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    • Thanks for your kind words Louise… it was truly a btueaiful day and a lot of fun catching Rebecca and John.

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  5. beautiful, fantastical, and very inspiring wedding!
    all best wishes for your marriage!

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  6. omigosh that cake topper is epic!! Do you have an Etsy store or something, lol?

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    • Hahaha thank you, but no I don't.. it took me weeks and weeks to make it, as much as I'd love to be able to do them for money I could never make back enough to cover my time. :)

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  7. Makes me miss the days when my hair used to be able to achieve that shade of red. Alas with time and over-proccesing, it just won't keep red. Completely stunning look though with the black dress and creamy skin!

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    • Thank you, the red is high maintenance, that's for sure, but I love it. :)

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  8. Epic! You both look stunning and I can see you put a lot of effort and thought into everyting. With fabulous results!

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  9. Oops, sorry about those last 2 images. I added more photos to my flickr account via Lightroom, 2 must have been repeats and for some reason it deleted them from the set. I've put them back, but you guys must have done the links already! Sorry!

    Thank you to everyone for the lovely comments. :D

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  10. Oh, and just in case anyone wants to see, our wedding video is up here -http://vimeo.com/31837777
    :)

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  11. I have to say it looks like a really fun and wicka wedding. I would have liked to been a guest to this wedding so interesting things to see.

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  12. Oh. Wow. Everything about this makes me feel all weak and trembly with awesome. The CLOAKS, the lanterns, the handfasting, the belly dance, the FIRE, the whole damn gothiness of it, AND The Islander in your wedding video. You deserve all the happiness in the world for being so kick-ass :)

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    • Haha thank you. I walked down the aisle to the Islander, and we did our first dance to Sleeping Sun!
      xx

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  13. Lara, my wedding date twin!! You got featured!! Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

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  14. Wow. WOW. What a spectacular affair! You both look HAWT – how awesome that your husband wore armour! Loving your figurines, the bridesmaids' cloaks, the Arabian Nights ambience, EVERYTHING! Congratulations on your wedding and your marriage!

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  15. Oh wow Lara, that is amazing… I knew your wedding would be fantastic but those pics are just WOW!!! Three months to go tomorrow for me and have been feeling nervous about my black dress, thank you so much for sharing your pics and giving me confidence again about how much black wedding dresses rock!!! congratulations again!!

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    • Thank you!! You know, I expected a few comments from family about the black dress but no-one said a word! I was almost disappointed. :) Best of luck to you!

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  16. The bride's hair = yummy! I love the way you paired it with a black dress.

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  17. Stunning photos~! It inspires me to draw. It looks like you all had a great time, thanks for sharing!

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    • Thank you! it's nice to be able to inspire someone!!

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  18. Love the idea of the bridesmaids asking questions during the speak now part… I'm super curious to know what they asked though… do you mind sharing?

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    • Sorry for the slow reply, Here's the wording from that part of the ceremony –

      We are gathered in this sacred place to join this man and this woman, life
      to life and spirit to spirit. If any would ask why these two should not be joined, let them stand
      before those assembled here and speak now.

      North voice: "I would speak. Do you have the means to support yourselves and
      to provide for your worldly needs?"

      Do you?

      Couple: "We do."

      West: "I would speak. Do you love one another? Do you like one
      another?"

      Do you?

      Couple: "We do."

      South voice: "I would speak. Do you have the will to argue, if you must, to
      air your problems, then stand together against adversity?"

      Do you?

      Couple: "We do."

      East voice: "I would speak. Do you share your thoughts and ideas, burdens and
      dreams?"

      Do you?

      Couple: "We do."

      All challenges have been answered; let the rite proceed.

      3 agree
  19. You are gorgeous and your wedding is gorgeous! I was just starting to look for a celebrant (and I live on the Gold Coast!) and I am meeting with your celebrant on Tuesday! Perfect timing for your feature!

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    • Helen was great!! I hope you go with her :)

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  20. Amazing, this is the feeling I want people to have at my wedding. I was wondering where you purchased the bridemaids Censer's???

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  21. 2 things…1st: You are a great looking couple and had a fantastic wedding. 2nd: I hope that since then there has been a way to have look out for the cake vendor and have her stopped/ charged whatever. You made the most of things. Best Wishes

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  22. This is just amazing! I'm planning our wedding/handfasting and you have really inspired me! I've just realized a couple days ago that I would be in front of an audience, basically, and that has been scarring the shit out me! Even almost making me dread the ceremony part, but reading about your day has actually helped calm me and put my mind back at ease and on track. Thank you!

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  23. The bit of your vows is wonderful. I'm getting married in the spring and I may include a bit about marriage equality and how I'm not his property. You put both so eloquently.

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