With a blossoming industry based around the creation of the picture-perfect wedding, it has become very easy for the focus to fall on 'things' rather than what I feel really matters at a marriage; connections, history, feelings and - most importantly - people.
That belief is the reason why Breanna and David's wedding was one of my favorites of the summer. Set in the Tukituki valley in Hawke's Bay, it had all of the elements of a beautiful, rustic country wedding. Yet everything from the ribbon on the bride's bouquet to the chairs behind the tables and the riverside location had an intensely personal, heartfelt story behind it.
Breanna and David are high school sweethearts who were introduced by a mutual friend at a high school after party held at the Napier Port. Back in 2002, they had no idea that mutual friend would one day officiate their marriage ceremony, nor Breanna end up working at the Port on the comms team.
Small synchronicities like that absolutely defined the couple's wedding, which was held in the Tukituki valley not so much because of its world-renowned beauty, but because it was where they grew up.
Picture a winding blue river slowly idling past arid, dry hills blanketed in lush green vines. It's the stuff tourism advertisements are made of, but for Breanna and her bridesmaids (who all lived within coee of each other in the rural Tukituki community) it was simply the place they called 'home'.
The community that raised Breanna also came together in big and small ways to make her marriage to David magical. A low-key couple who care about lovely things but in a quiet way, their wedding featured all of the exquisite details that define a fairytale wedding, but without the professional styling or big-budget buys from Etsy. Rustic wooden platters and signs were made from timber torn from Dad's shed and foraged from woodpiles at the bridesmaid's home nearby. Rings were crafted locally and literally hundreds of meters of bunting were sewn in working bees made up of Breanna's friends and family. Breanna's brother (a former top pastry chef) made their cake, talented cousins were roped in for the flowers and makeup and local designer Rowan McLennan turned Breanna's vision of a simple, drop-waisted dress into a reality.
Breanna and David decided to have most of their photos before the wedding so they could spend quality time with all of their guests later on (with the exception of a few minutes away on sunset while guests were seated). Locations of significance were important to them, so we focused our session around places layered in memories of happy childhood times spent playing in the orchards and vineyards of the valley.
"We were both quite nervous about our wedding photos. We knew we wanted the memories, but neither of us enjoys having our photo taken and thought it might be a bit of an awkward experience. But Eva and Andrew put us completely at ease and their natural, unposed approach was perfect for us. It was a great experience,"recalls Breanna.
Simple hay bales and a hand-crafted floral arch in a dell at the camp set the scene for the ceremony, which was conducted by Koryn Evans, that bestie who hooked them up way back, and got registered especially for the occasion (she sure has clocked up some brownie points)..was followed by home-made platters of fresh Hawke's Bay produce and lawn games after the ceremony and local food legend Kate Lester (of .OnYourPlate fame) came with her mobile kitchen to serve a simple, fresh dinner that suited everyone.
While guests were seated, Andrew and I snuck away with the newlyweds for some quiet time in a private location. Even if most of the creative session is done before the wedding, we still like to create some space in the day to shoot in the golden hour without anyone else looking on. We encouraged Breanna and David to wander off and enjoy some quality time with each other, while we shot from a distance with our longest lenses.
After a long day (which felt like it went by in a heartbeat), it was finally time to enjoy the reception and the magical space Breanna and David had created by sourcing rustic furniture from local hire company Mardi Gras and fantastic chairs orginally from the Paeroa Community Hall. "I found the hunt for chairs quite frustrating. They were either white plastic lawn chairs or the hire charge was really expensive. I spotted these chairs for sale on a Recycled Weddings group on Facebook and snapped them up. They've got so much history and character and now that our wedding is over I'm going to hire them out so other people can enjoy them," says Breanna.
Breanna says the highlight of the day was seeing everyone they cared about in one place at one time. The most unexpected thing was how fast the day whizzed by. "Despite being at the venue for eight hours, the whole day went by in a flash".
It's that reason which propels us to capture every moment we can, from two different perspectives. Breanna and David made the memories, we just pressed pause on them.
The Dream Team:
It's almost impossible to name all of the family and friends who were happily roped in to help turn Breanna and Dave's dream into a reality, but here are some of the stars & the pros:
Photographers: Eva Bradley & Andrew Caldwell
Venue: Tuki Tuki Camp on Moore Road, Hawke's Bay
Breanna's dress: Rowan McLennan Design, Napier.
Bridesmaids dresses: Kilt, Napier
Hair & Makeup: Delia Gillies, Salon De-Zign & Taz Alcock
Catering: Kate Lester Catering, Hawke's Bay
Marquee & crockery: Sloans CHB Party Hire, Hawke's Bay
Flowers: Lee Alcock, Annie Gunn,
Rings: Mike Millett, Independent Jeweller, Napier
If you've seen something here you really love, you can get in touch with Breanna directly via firstname.lastname@example.org as most of the handcrafted pieces and cool finds (including the chairs) are available for hire.