Welcome to our new series, The Real Wedding Diaries, brought to you by Hera Couture where we profile real Kiwi brides and real weddings!
There used to be a rulebook for weddings – an event venue, three-course-meal, awkward family speeches and an uncle who really shouldn’t have graced the dance floor with his presence.
And while uncles will be uncles, more and more couples are throwing out the rulebook and are embracing the ‘my day, my way’ ethos – and that way of thinking also extends to a bride’s choices of gown for her special day.
In partnership with Hera, Capsule will be profiling real Kiwi brides and real weddings, who decided to go their own way for their big days – and of course, how they decided on their dream dress!
This month, we speak to Kiwi bride Ashleigh who, like so many brides, had to change plans thanks to a little thing known as Covid – including a COUNTRY change – but who was determined to blend old and new in her own unique way – and click here for our previous instalments!
Ashleigh and Luke Hallsmith, Jule 11 2022, Redleaf, Hunter Valley, Australia
Dress: Hera Couture
Photography: Blaise Bell
Congratulations on your wedding! Tell me a little about the day – was it a straightforward wedding planning process?
Well, no! [Laughs]. Luke’s family is from Brisbane, and I’m from Sydney and all of my family is there. We initially wanted to get married on Waiheke and bring everyone over and show New Zealand off to them, and since it would have been the first time a lot of them had met, it would have been a real coming-together-of-our-families affair.
But, of course, Covid got in the way and we realised that it was going to be a lot easier for us to go to Australia, rather than the other way around. So we ended up having our wedding at a venue called Redleaf in the Hunter Valley, in New South Wales.
Bloody Covid, huh! What was the vibe you were going for?
Intimate and really focussed on blending our two families and all of our friends from both Australia and New Zealand – and we also wanted our dog, Franklin, there too!
We especially wanted it to be fun because not everyone had spent a lot of time together – I guess it was kind of reunion vibes too, after Covid! And we were very determined to make sure it reflected us as a couple, rather than just ticking boxes of stuff we ‘should’ do.
My dad passed away about 10 years ago and we wanted to have him there as much as could, so that meant we worked with our celebrant to change up the order of the vows and the ceremony – she told a little story about how we met, then she put in a story about my dad that I wanted to read out. And we then did our own vows.
We wanted our ceremony to be about us and who are as a couple, but also our families and friends, and the wonderful life that we’ve made for ourselves in New Zealand.
Were there specific details you knew you wanted to include?
Luke was so adamant that he wanted a Champagne tower, so we had that! He wanted ‘big energy’ and vibes, and he even did a sabrage with the Champagne bottle too. We also had a six-piece band that played as we walked back down the aisle. He wanted it to be surprise entertainment for our guests, and it was awesome.
I was also pretty keen on having a dessert bar – because I love dessert! – and Luke wanted espresso martinis, so we had those at our reception.
I guess one thing that was a bit different was that we had a live pasta station for our catering, so that was a bit of entertainment too. There was a big pasta wheel and the guy was plating it up for the guests as he went.
You had a winter wedding – was that intentional, or as a result of Covid?
Covid – but honestly, winter weddings are UNDERRATED. I never wanted to get married in summer, but the original plan was autumn but with Covid delays, we had to settle on June, and I’m actually really glad we did. It was so beautiful, it was still and comfortable and no one has the summer wedding fatigue, so everyone was really excited! Plus, things can be a bit cheaper in winter, which is always a bonus. I think people should consider it more.
Is there anything you wish you did, or that you didn’t do?
I’m a pretty organised person so I was pretty happy with how the day went. What I will say is that wedding planners are worth EVERY PENNY. I wasn’t going to have one originally – I thought that I could do it myself – but it was so fantastic, they really did think of everything. At the very least I would recommend getting a wedding coordinator for on the day, so you don’t have to spend your wedding day worrying about logistics when you should just enjoy it.
I had no idea about how much things cost, and my wedding planner was very good at taking my whole budget and working it in with my wish list, and she had great advice on what I could save money on, and what was worth splurging on.
She also made sure that Luke and I had a few moments alone together just before the reception, as a lot of couples forget to do that as they’re so excited to see everyone!
We also took dance lessons, which is something I NEVER thought I would do! We had a very sentimental song we wanted to use for our first dance – it was one that I used to listen to with my dad, but Luke and I had no idea how to dance or how to do it justice. So we went to lessons and in the midst of all the wedding planning, they kind of became like our little date nights. We felt so comfortable and confident when it came to our little routine, and I’m so glad we did it.
And of course, tell me about your dress!
I wore the Hera Couture Florence Gown – I went into Hera with my mum, and with my eye on a completely different dress. Mum saw it on the rack and made me try it on – I saw it and thought that in a million years, I’d never wear that dress, it’s so not me! But as soon as it was on… it sounds so corny but I had a ‘moment’. Mum was crying, I was crying… I loved it. I knew I didn’t want to feel sexy or anything on my wedding day – no boobs on show! – and rather feel more elegant, romantic and timeless and I think this is what this dress does.
This happens to so many brides – they come out with something completely different than what they thought.
It’s so true what they say about having to have an open mind about trying different types of dresses on because you really don’t know what is going to be ‘you’. I mean, most of us trying on gowns haven’t done it before, so how are you supposed to know what will look good? Also, I think it’s really important to go with people whose opinions you actually want to hear.
Is there anything you were sure you wanted to include in your wedding day look?
I knew I wanted a full, over-the-top veil to go with the dress – I mean, why not! – so Katie at Hera custom-made me a three layer veil, which I loved, and because it was a winter wedding I also had an organza wrap for after the ceremony.
The one thing I knew I wanted to include was an heirloom piece from my mum, which was a headband that she wore on her wedding day. Katie restyled it for me so it was a bit more modern – Mum wore it across her forehead – but she made it more contemporary for me, and that was really important.
So you kind of morphed your look as they day went on?
Yeah exactly, I had a separate dress for the reception but kept the headband on, for example. I was actually quite traditional in the sense that I wanted to do the whole ‘something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue’ thing, and it’s not uncommon for women to be handed down a piece to incorporate into your outfit.
But, you don’t have to wear it the same way, which I think is the key to remember – or that you have to only wear one dress for the whole day. So many people had such strong opinions on if I should change into another outfit or not – a lot said the whole ‘you pay so much for this dress, you should wear it for the full day!’ thing. I loved my wedding dress, but I also loved my second dress too – it was slinkier and better for all the dancing, so it was a little more practical. So, I didn’t really listen to anyone and did what I wanted for my day!