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Chosen for lush garden surrounds and sweeping mountain views, Fins Plantation House on the northern NSW coast created the perfect backdrop for Natalie and Jackson's recent wedding. With a love story that stretches over half their lifetime, the newly wed's shared some of their favourite moments from their day, a heartfelt way of including their daughter, and advice for couples in the throws of wedding planning. 

We would love to hear how your story began. Please share how you met and your proposal story.

We met when we were 15 years old and started dating a few months later.
We met online on MSN; we had mutual friends and spent time chatting a lot before meeting in person. We shared many of the same interests and hobbies – we felt like two people who were basically the same person. When we finally met, the love blossomed. We have been together ever since, and we are now 31! For the proposal, we had planned a trip up to Cabarita Beach, stopping into Yamba along the way. It had been a very long time coming; I waited 13 years! We had booked dinner at Paper Daisy for our anniversary, and Jackson said we should go up onto Cabarita Headland and have a few beers beforehand. So we were all dressed up and looking nice, but he was acting very strange and moving around; I think I had a bit of an inkling at that point. It was still super awkward, and I stuck out my right hand instead of my left. But it was lovely, intimate, low-key and just us, which was perfect.

Tell us about your wedding planning process following your engagement. Where did you start?

We wanted a destination wedding so everyone could go away (this was during COVID, and everyone just needed a holiday). We had originally looked at Byron Bay, but since we got engaged in Cabarita, we thought, let’s celebrate our story and get married there too. We both loved the look of Fins Plantation House, and we decided from there that the venue would be the first thing to lock in. Not long after the engagement, we booked the venue; however, within the same week, we found out we were pregnant! So we backtracked, cancelled the booking and decided to put everything on hold and do it in a year’s time once we had our baby. It was the best decision ever, as we were able to celebrate our wedding day with our gorgeous daughter Billie.

What came next: the dress, the date or the budget?

We knew we wanted to get married in November (around our anniversary), and several dates were available (we booked 12 months prior). The location was a big one for us, so we had to have everything fit around the wedding’s feel and look. We chose the 12th of November, not too late in the month when it would start getting very hot, and also two is a lucky number for us. It was also around our anniversary. I started wedding dress shopping about nine months out and settled on that after a few bridal shop visits. Budget was last, but let’s be honest, that blew out, and towards the end, there really wasn’t a budget!

What were the most important elements of your wedding day? How did you choose what to prioritise?

We wanted it to feel personal and not just your cliché ‘run of the mill’ wedding. We wanted the look to be unique, from the wedding dress to the flowers to the stationary, to the set up of the venue. We wanted to prioritise the flowers; this was going to add extra depth and personality to not only the ceremony space but also the reception, and we could reuse some elements. Yes, we went a bit over the top with the ceremony; however, I just felt the more flowers and texture gave really to that unique style. I know other people tend to lean towards the more minimalist vibe with flowers sometimes, but we wanted to go out with a bang! We also wanted the décor or furniture to add to that. The chairs at Fins were beautiful and were really aesthetically pleasing with the wavy curves of our stationery. We also wanted the vibe after the ceremony to be really chill and casual for our guests, and by adding large umbrellas and comfy seating, it really had a cocktail hour vibe to it. We wanted our guests to be drinking a lot and letting their hair down! We wanted to create really beautiful tables with flowers, fruit, stationary and candles, so again, we needed the help of a stylist to really get the look we were going for.

How did you personalise your wedding day?

Nat’s sister painted fans with the same colours we used for the stationary. They had ‘J&N’ painted on them, and these were provided at the ceremony. The guests used them all night! We also loved the idea of having fruit accompanying the flowers, especially in the reception area, and everyone commented on how different but how amazing it looked! One of Nat’s best friends (who is a graphic designer) also completed our stationery. Our nephew and daughter walked down the aisle before Nat did, we made sure they had flowers too, and they were very much a part of the day.

What drew you to your venue?

The lush green lawn with the white picket fence. We loved the plantation-style house with the rocky pillars, white balustrades and accents. We loved how they had lush gardens surrounding the property and that we could get our photos taken in the cactus garden, too, which was so different to what I had seen before. We also didn’t realise how amazing the view was of the mountains. All of our guests commented on how beautiful it was (we booked the venue before even seeing it in person!)

We know that many brides steer the ship when it comes to wedding planning. How did you involve Jackson in the process, and what advice can you offer other couples to make the process more exciting for both of you?

I guess I knew that Jackson would want to have some input, as he wouldn’t want me to just organise the whole day. I would show him inspirational pictures of what I was thinking, and he would agree mostly with what I was proposing, especially with aesthetics and what we would be serving. He did have more input when we had to choose music, especially the ceremony songs and the reception playlist; he was very involved as we both wanted it to be a big party. I guess I would say pick something you know he will want to have input in, don’t just make decisions without them, and show them or have them sign off so they feel part of the process. Choosing music for us just really made the whole day very special and emotional, especially in those intimate moments.

How would you describe your wedding day aesthetic? Where did you find your inspiration?

Garden Party! I found a lot of inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram. I followed a bunch of florists, which was a big part of my aesthetic and created a vibe with just the flowers. I looked at a lot! But it made me come up with the best decisions.

What was the highlight of your wedding day? Can you share your favourite moments from the day?

I loved getting ready in the morning with my mum, my sisters and my best friends. It was so relaxed. The ceremony was super emotional, and my daughter, nephew, and niece were a part of it too. I wasn’t nervous at all, and I just wanted to be married finally! We also had a really special moment, as everyone was having dinner; our photographer and videographer grabbed us and said we had to run outside as there was the most insane sunset. It was incredible! And we have beautiful photos to prove it. Our speeches were so heartfelt and just enough. We felt all of the love in the room. And I’m so glad we had a small guest list; it just made it feel even more intimate. The dance floor was epic – Jackson had his shirt off by the end of the night, and a lot of people said it was the best dancefloor they’ve seen!

How did you remain present while letting go and enjoying the moment?

I tried not to be too nervous throughout the day. Let’s be honest, I had been waiting a while to get married. Someone had told me to step back and look around at everyone who had come to celebrate us, and I did exactly that. I grabbed Jackson at one point during the reception, and we got to just soak it in and feel the love. I made sure my vows were very sentimental and love-dovey, as this would be one of the only times we could talk like that in front of friends and family. It was so nice to see all the planning and hard work come together on the day. The vibe/styling really gave us that feeling.

Why did you choose to have a bridal party? How did you each spend the morning of your wedding?

We wanted to highlight the special people in our lives. I had my two best friends and my two sisters. My mum also spent the morning with us getting ready. I made sure I had nice pyjamas for them on the day, with some jewellery, candles and face masks. I also got a handmade bracelet for my daughter made, and she wore this on the day. Jackson ended up buying me a bracelet as well, which matched my earrings. Jackson had his three best mates as his groomsmen. They got ready at his family’s accommodation, went for breakfast, a swim at the beach and a lazy morning getting ready.

What advice would you offer other couples in the lead-up to their wedding day?

If you can go destination, do it. It gives a lovely vibe for the whole week. We spent the week travelling north to Cabarita from Sydney, and it just made us super excited. Even spending the afternoon/night before seeing all of your guests was great, as I felt like I didn’t have to speak to them all individually and in-depth on the actual night. Soak it all in; it goes so fast.

How would you describe your day in a few words?

Intimate, fun and full of love.

How do you plan to celebrate your wedding anniversaries in the future?

We would love to celebrate by revisiting Halcyon House every year. We went here after the wedding, and it was the perfect way to ride out the high and have some relaxing days, not so far away from Fins Plantation House.

Did you include any special traditions on your wedding day?

I had both my parents walk me down the aisle (I grew up with divorced parents and wanted them both there to signify the support from both of them). I also had my daughter walk down the aisle before me with my mother-in-law.

Where did you start when writing your own vows?

I wanted some structure to my vows as I didn’t know where to start. So I used a very simple format by noting down all the things I loved about Jackson; I used the same beginning sentence for each point. I then listed all my promises. I included some funny parts but also included some personal and deep thoughts. Let’s just say there were a lot of tears.

Can you share your top beauty tip/hack for pre-wedding skincare?

I spent a lot of time and money on wedding prep skin. I experienced postpartum acne and was very self-conscious about my skin. I went to my friend Diandra Politano who did monthly treatments from needling to facial/LED, which really helped my skin recover. I was also very diligent with a twice-daily cleansing routine. We used face masks the night before and the morning of. I even got the boys to use a face mask the day of the wedding.

Spend vs. Splurge. In your opinion, what was worth the price tag and what wasn’t?

For us, the party and vibe of the day was really important. We wanted there to be good food and beverages, and we really didn’t have a limit on that. We offered cocktails on top of wine and beer, and it was a loose dancefloor but bloody fun. You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on stationery. If you can do it yourself or outsource for a cheaper rate, do it! We were also interested in getting professional film photos taken, but we put film cameras on the tables, and our guests took them instead. There are some really great and funny shots from all of the guest's perspectives.

Unsolicited Wedding Advice: what’s your unpopular wedding opinion?

You don’t need any fancy cars driving you to the wedding as your guests are likely only going to see it for a few seconds. I also would say don’t just stick to the 'norm' look, I felt like I really spoke to my personality with my dress choice and hairstyle, and I’m really happy that I look like me in the photos. Also, if you want to have kids before getting married, don’t hesitate. It is even more special being able to celebrate with the ones you love (including your little ones!!)

Most thoughtful wedding gift you received?

My family purchased our stay at Halcyon House, which was such a great experience. We definitely want to go back every year to celebrate our anniversary.

What advice would you offer other couples who are unsure whether they should invest in having an On the Day Coordinator at their wedding?

Don’t hesitate. It will allow you to not even worry about all the little things that need to be done leading up to and on the day. There are so many moving parts in a day’s event, and just one thing not going right can probably send you into a frenzy after all those months of planning. On the day, we were told we had to move our champagne tower as it was too windy, but after FLL negotiated with the venue, we could have it in its original place. FLL really looked out for us and what we wanted. You don’t have time to speak to venue organisers; you really just want to enjoy the day.

How did having an On the Day Coordinator help to put your mind at ease in the lead-up and on the day of your wedding?

I knew Emma and her team would really capture my aesthetic and what we wanted. The software that Emma provided really ticked off all the 'to-do' jobs. I knew she had a great eye for detail and wouldn’t miss a beat. I didn’t have to worry about all the suppliers and when they would be bumping in and out. I was able to enjoy the lead-up that week and not stress about all the little things.

Florals - Fiflar
Glassware - Frank & Joy
External Furniture - Hampton Event Hire
Decor & Linen - For Love & Living
Photographer - Shane Shepherd