Jemma and Michael’s Romantic Black-Tie Wedding in an Australian Olive Grove
Jemma and Michael, who vaguely knew each other through high school after meeting in a math class in Australia, bumped into each other often postgraduation, but one or both was always in a relationship. The former classmates finally started dating four years later, when they ran into each other while both single. Several happy years down the line, Michael, a plumber, organized a surprise weekend in the Margaret River wine region to propose to Jemma, a wedding photographer, on the beach. “As it’s the only surprise weekend he has ever planned in the eight years we had been together, I think I knew that he was going to propose!” says Jemma.
The pair wed on March 15, 2014, in an olive grove in Torbay—a small town near Albany—then continued the black-tie celebration at Jemma’s parents’ property. Taking advantage of the surrounding natural décor, they filled their ceremony with foliage and chose a soft color palette of blush pink, almond brown, and peach. The classmates-turned-soulmates invited 117 guests to celebrate as they made their relationship official.
Jemma and Michael drove five hours south from their house in Perth to get married in Torbay, which is halfway between each of their childhood homes. Since Jemma’s parents grow olives, she has a soft spot for their groves and chose one owned by a family friend as a ceremony location. The reception was held in the middle of a field on Jemma’s parents’ property, about 10 minutes away from the wedding site. Golden grass contrasted with lush green trees to create a colorful backdrop for the celebration.
The Stationery Suite
To reflect the romantic black-tie theme of the wedding, Jemma painted soft-pink watercolor designs to use as backgrounds for the stationery suite. Brown Linen Design penned the wedding details in long, flowing calligraphy, which she then turned into a digital file and placed onto scans of Jemma’s paintings.
Jemma couldn’t decide between a Vera Wang gown and a Monique Lhuillier gown, so she had Australian designer Steven Khalil draw inspiration from both to create a custom strapless ivory lace dress with a trumpet silhouette. She topped off the look with a Steven Khalil veil and Hobbs shoes. Michael paired his suit from Australian Formal Wear with a custom bow tie.
A Delicate Detail
A large structured crinoline bow with lace detailing was placed off-center in the front of Jemma’s dress as a focal point.
Keeping with the soft-blush-and-peach color palette, Natural Art Flowers by Rebecca Grace made Jemma’s bouquet with garden roses and elements from the surrounding area like pussy willow, milk berries, and olive foliage.
The Bridesmaid Bouquets
Each bridesmaid clutched a bouquet of peach and pink roses, milk berries, Queen Anne’s lace, and pussy willow.
Michael de Vildosola, a friend of the couple, made Jemma’s engagement ring. Her Steven Sher Antiques wedding band was stored in a vintage ring box from a thrift shop for pictures. Michael, however, opted not to get a wedding band. “I have never really worn jewelry. My dad and granddad never wore rings either,” he says, adding that Jemma didn’t mind his decision.
The Bridal Party
The bridal party consisted of close friends and Jemma’s sister, Tilopa. The groomsmen looked dapper in Australian Formal Wear suits that matched Andrew’s attire.
The bridesmaids glowed in long lace gowns from Chris Riley Bridal that featured an oyster-hued underlay, high neckline with scalloped edging, and a slit in the front.
A Family Affair
Family and friends—especially Jemma’s parents, siblings, brother’s fiancée, and bridesmaids—helped the couple set up and accomplish any last-minute tasks.
Buckets of Foliage
Baskets full of olive foliage and white blooms decorated the ceremony site and the reception.
A Vintage Ride
Jemma’s mom, brother, and bridesmaids entered the ceremony to “Fade into You” by Mazzy Star, which is one of the bride’s favorite songs. Her dad then walked her down the aisle to another favorite: “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison. Michael says that seeing his future wife walking down the aisle was his favorite moment of the day.
The 3:30 p.m. ceremony felt “surreal” to Jemma, who finally got to be the bride after attending countless weddings as the photographer. Michael’s sister, Jodie, read “The Art of a Good Marriage’” by Wilferd Arlan Peterson, and Jemma’s brother’s fiancée, Hannah, read “I Like You” from the children’s book by Sandol Stoddard. The last line of the vows, which had the couple, their friends, and their family laughing, went, “I promise to do the stuff neither of us wants to do, if you really don’t want to do it more than I don’t.” Michael says the funny line reflected the couple’s laid-back nature and emphasized that the little things in a relationship are just as important as the big ones.
Setting the Scene
To keep the ceremony styling simple, Jemma and Michael chose wooden benches from the bride’s sister’s rental company, Bride + Groom. A seagrass runner anchored the aisle, and fresh olive garland flanked it. The duo stood on a seagrass mat overlooking their guests and the picturesque grove.
Since the couple didn’t want to leave any litter in the olive grove postceremony, they set out to find something organic for guests to toss during the recessional. They decided to use popcorn, and placed the biodegradable snack in muslin bags stamped with a design by Brown Linen Design.
A Pair of Wine Barrels
Embellished wine barrels served as décor, with one doubling as a signing table.
Portraits in the Olive Grove
The newlyweds opted not to see each other before the ceremony, so photographer Jose Villa (who flew across the globe for the event) took portraits during cocktail hour at both the ceremony and reception sites. The sun peeked out of the clouds just in time to capture some beautiful images in the olive grove.
Snacks and Drinks
Guests enjoyed refreshments at the ceremony site before taking a bus to Jemma’s parents’ house for the reception. Canapés and freshly shucked oysters were served in an outdoor area set with wide bench seats, lanterns, bistro lighting, and a wooden bar draped in olive garland.
The Reception Tent
The reception tent was dressed with billowing white linens that gleamed under low chandelier-style lights.
A Soft Glow
Candles in glass containers lined the long tables. “I felt like they magnified the beautiful dancing light around the marquee,” says Jemma.
Rebecca Grace arranged the table centerpieces as a continuation of the bridal bouquet, but added statement stems in the form of seedpods, grasses, and herbs like thyme and sage.
A Natural Chandelier
A chandelier covered in the go-to greenery of the day was suspended over the dance floor and marked the entrance of the tent.
Pretty Place Settings
Each place setting had a glass-beaded charger, a peach napkin, and a card with the guest’s name written on the front by Brown Linen Design. Each place card opened to display the menu, which included the choice of butter chicken and rice or beef bourguignon with creamy mashed potatoes and seasonal greens. Jemma’s mom made the 117 napkins by hand.
The three-tiered dessert, baked by The Sweet Piece, was a combination of chocolate and white chocolate mud cake frosted with white chocolate ganache and covered with almonds. “We did a couple of practice runs on how to get the almonds to stick, and then my incredible future sister-in-law sat in my parents’ kitchen for two days and painstakingly stuck them on!” says Jemma. The wooden trestle-style cake table was decorated with an olive garland that wrapped around the base of the cake and trailed to the ground, as well as candles in glass cylinders.
The First Dance
The newlyweds danced to “Lay Lady Lay” by Bob Dylan.
Warding Off the Chill
The weather in the southern portion of Western Australia can be extremely unpredictable, even during the summer months. Jemma and Michael had hoped for a warm and sunny day, but soon realized that the forecast called for a chilly, cloudy night. Fortunately, a friend of Jemma’s sister gifted the bride a fur cape from Mode and Affair that she wore when the temperature fell.
Oil to Go
As a wedding favor, each guest received a small bottle of olive oil that was cold-pressed by Jemma’s parents using olives grown at the ceremony site.
Photography: Jose Villa
Catering: Kookas Catering
Flowers: Natural Art Flowers by Rebecca Grace
Videography: Sarah Kate Dorman
Officiant: Catherine Kate Thomas
Stationery and Calligraphy: Brown Linen Design
Cake: The Sweet Piece
Rentals: Bride + Groom
Marquee: Albany Event Hire
Hair: Ryan Waugh
Makeup: Hendra Widjaja
Transportation: Albany Wedding Cars