Our simple beach wedding

Oct 26 2018 2 Comments Tags: simple life, wedding

We got married on the 23rd of October 2010 at Woodgate Beach, and I wrote this post on our first wedding anniversary as a record of our wedding, with some tips for others who want to keep things simple.  We didn't follow all the traditions because we didn't know what they were and we were happy to just do our own thing.

 

We had a simple wedding!

I'm sure you're not surprised that it was simple and we mostly planned and paid for our wedding ourselves. The months immediately before our wedding were incredibly busy and stressful, and afterwards I couldn’t imagine that I would forget all the details, but thinking back now, with so much having happened in the meantime, its getting a little fuzzy.

 


It was probably lucky for us that we hadn’t been to many conventional weddings between us. This meant that we didn’t have a good idea of how things were “supposed” to be done and were very free to create a day that suited us perfectly. We were also lucky not to have meddling relatives that wanted to “help”, most of the planning was left to us. If you are a traditionalist, you may be horrified by all the rules we broke, but I do hope it will encourage others to think outside what is expected or commonly done and do whatever makes you comfortable.

 

A beach location for our simple wedding

We took months and months to start planning because we couldn’t decide on the perfect location. We thought about having the wedding at Woodgate Beach, were my parents-in-law live, but didn’t want to make them feel that we were imposing on them. We thought about having it at our property, but the thought of hiring porta-loos and trying to seat everyone so they didn’t have to stare out at our neighbour’s ugly barren horse yard was just too much! We almost gave up and organised a registry wedding followed by a dinner. Finally we came back to the beach idea. We both LOVE the beach and we decided that we could make it work.


With the location decided we could finally set a date and start inviting people. We decided to have the wedding ceremony on the beach in the afternoon (although we would have loved a dawn ceremony, we realised it would be difficult for some of our guests to get there on time) followed by dinner at the community hall in Woodgate. All I had to do then was look up the tide times to find suitable weekends and find out when the hall was free. The 23rd of October worked out to be perfect on both counts, so the date was set.

The hall hire was only about $200 for the Friday afternoon until the Sunday morning. I’ve heard that its gone up a bit since, but that’s still very cheap! That included crockery, cutlery, tables and chairs.


Guest list and invitations

We wanted to keep things simple and small, which was made easy by neither of us coming from huge families or having huge circles of friends. Neither of us particularly wanted to invite anyone from work. We were able to keep the guest list to 30 people, which was quite manageable.

We decided that we didn’t want any bridesmaids or goomsmen (or any flower girls or page boys for that matter!), but we did ask two good friends to be our witnesses for the official part of the ceremony. As the ceremony was on the beach, Cheryl the Kelpie was able to come too.

I wasn’t interested in spending time and money on fiddly invitations, so I just drew something up in ms word with a nice photo of Cheryl on the beach and all the details. I emailed that to everyone on the list who had email, and only had to print and post 5-6 invitations. Most people continued to RSVP and communicate by email, which made things even easier.


Accommodation

As my family were all travelling from NZ to the wedding, we decided to hire some holiday houses for everyone to stay in, to keep down costs as so many had to buy air fares and pay for hire cars etc. We chose three houses on The Esplanade (across the road from the beach) and booked them for the week. Most people chose to stay for a few extra days and enjoyed the little beach town and the nearby city of Bundaberg. Pete and I stayed in the houses for a few days and booked our own apartment for the night before and the night of the wedding, so that we could get ready in privacy (yes, I know we weren’t supposed to get ready together!).

A simple wedding dress

About 6 months before the wedding I persuaded Pete to come into Toowoomba to look at some dresses. I said in my previous post that neither of us were very aware of what was “supposed” to be done at weddings, and this included the stupid rule about husbands-to-be not seeing the dress. For goodness sakes, we live in the same tiny house, how was I going to hide it from him!? We couldn’t work out why all the wedding shop attendants were getting so funny about him being there until I mentioned it to a lady at work and found out the reason!


Anyway, I wasn’t terribly keen on wearing a white dress, nor anything overly sequined or lacy. As usual, I was going for simple, but that seemed difficult to explain. I tried on a few white ones and they felt totally wrong. Finally one of the attendants actually listened to me and suggested a nice simple bridesmaid dress. The dress was made to order, so I was able to chose the size and colour. I chose green and cream to match the colours of the tussock grass on the sand dunes around the beach. Even better, it was a third of the price of the white ones I tried on, at under $300.

The dress arrived in a few months and fitted perfectly (lucky because I couldn't find a dress-maker!), but was far too long. I guess it was designed to be worn with high heels. I had no intention of wearing high heels on the beach or at the reception (why torture myself?). I had a pair of gold sandals that I picked up a garage sale for $10, that I thought would be fine. Anyway, the dress needed to be taken up so that it didn’t drag in the sand.
Fortunately my mother-in-law sews and has an overlocker, so we headed up to the beach for a visit and she helped me pin the hem to get the right length (anyone who has had their husband try to help will know that most men don’t know how to use pins and its more trouble that its worth). We were both scared to ruin the dress, so I had to be the brave one to cut the excess material from the hem, she then got me started on the overlocker (fortunately on an offcut) and it was a total disaster, so she took over and did a great job with the fiddly thin material. I then went home and took up each of the petticoats with my own sewing machine to suit the final length.



A simple groom's outfit

It didn’t seem right for my groom to wear a suit when I had chosen to wear a green dress. He decided on shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, very beach-appropriate! We left this shopping expedition until a few weeks before the wedding so that the summer clothes would be in the shops. What a mission! After looking at every shirt and shorts option in every menswear shop in two west Brisbane shopping centres, we finally found a suitable shirt and shorts (I only had to look in 5-6 shops to find my outfit!!). In hindsight it would have been easier to choose his outfit first and then matched mine, as I could have chosen any colour, oh well, we found something nice in the end.



Flowers for a simple wedding

I asked my mother-in-law if I could have some flowers from her garden for the ceremony. She grows lovely roses, so I was hoping that some of them would be ready, but I was happy to take whatever was available. I would have loved a bouquet of Australian wild flowers, but it was a bad time of year for all the pretty ones in this area. Anyway, I was lucky to get a lovely bunch of roses, which we wrapped in gold ribbon.


Simple wedding hair and jewellery

I was growing my hair long anyway, so I just decided to wear it down. No need for a hairdresser to help with that! I very rarely wear makeup these days, but I bought some for the occasion and wore a little bit around my eyes. I hate the feeling of it, especially on a hot day, so I kept it to a minimum. I wore pearl earrings that Pete gave me ages ago and a pearl necklace made for me by my neighbour at the time when I complained to her that I had no idea what necklace to wear with the dress! 

A simple beach wedding ceremony

We had the ceremony on the beach at Woodgate. We hired plastic chairs for the beach and bought a pair of white peace flags and a beach style “isle runner” (both ordered from the net, the runner was supposed to be hemp, but turned out to be plastic). We probably could have done more to decorate the ceremony, but the beach was a beautiful backdrop, I just didn't want to have to buy or hire heaps of stuff and then have to deal with returning/owning it afterwards!



Pete and I walked down to the beach and down the isle together, with Elvis Priestley’s “Love me Tender” playing in the background. When we made that decision to walk down the isle together, I was worried that my dad would be offended and I asked mum what she thought. She said that they had done the same thing (it was the 70s after all!), so we could proceed without any worries! I think some people may have thought it was a bit odd, but it felt right for us, seeing as we already lived together, it seemed a bit bazaar for my dad to “give me away”. 

Our celebrant was a Woodgate local. We met him a few times before the ceremony and he was very professional. He had also been married for a long time himself, so we trusted him to present a nice ceremony. We were very pleased with his work. He provided his own sound system and made a nice speech before we read the standard vows.
Instead of writing our own vows, George suggested that we write “special words” to each other to describe the reasons why we each wanted to get married. We wrote these and emailed them to George separately, so that when he read them out on the day it was the first time we’d heard them. Many people commented that this was a nice touch.


The rings

I was happy to just have my engagement ring as my wedding rig, that's what my mum does, so I'm not used to seeing two rings, but my Pete wanted us to both have wedding bands, so we bought plain gold bands. I wasn't sure if he would want to wear his, not really being a jewellery kind of man and as a tradesman it can be a safety hazard if it gets hooked up on anything. In the end we bought a nice thick gold chain and he wears it around his neck all the time, more than I wear mine, so that's been really nice. 


Photography for our simple wedding

We were very very lucky that a good friend of ours had just taken an interest in photography and bought himself a huge range of professional gear. We asked him if he could do our photos. He took some lovely photos during the ceremony and also videoed it for us, then some more personal shots after the ceremony and lots of group shots at the reception. After the wedding he gave us a dvd with all the photos (and made dvds for our parents and friends) and then made the video into a dvd. I used the photos to create a photobook through clickonprint.com.au because I liked their software (there are plenty of other options) and we gave copies of the books to our parents as mementos. 



The cars

Haha, just kidding! We didn’t have any cars, we just walked across the road to the ceremony together.


The presents

We put on the invitations that we didn’t need presents as everyone was travelling so far to be at the ceremony. Even so, most people brought something with them, which was a lovely surprise. I was worried that we would get lots of impractical and pointless presents, but we have some very intelligent and practical friends and family who all gave us useful items like towels, sheets, kitchen items, books, a magazine subscription and money (of which you can never have too much or too many).

Simple beach-themed decorations for our reception

For the reception we hired chairs, chair covers and sashes, table cloths and runners and a small cake table from Bundaberg Party Hire. The colour options were fairly limited, so I chose white and gold to match the beach theme. Everything else we needed was in the hall already. The hired gear was delivered on the Friday afternoon when we had the keys for the hall. Pete, my cousin and I set up all the tables and put the covers on the chairs, but when it came to them helping me to tie the sashes, it became clear that we needed more females to help, so we left that for my mum and aunties to finish (boys can’t tie neat bows! but are very good at tying things onto the back of the ute). 

On the day of the wedding we spent the morning decorating the hall and as my family had nothing else to do, being on holiday at the beach, they all came to help. My parents-in-law had spent months picking up nice shells from the beach and had presented me with a huge bucket of washed shells. I spread these out over the tables and all around the hall. The only other thing on each of the four the tables were three candles from a cheap shop (with small shells on them) sitting on small tiles (to keep them off the tablecloths).
The tiles were free from a tile shop. I had gone in there intending to buy about 20 small tiles, but they didn’t have any and suggested that I take some of the sample tiles from out the back, but they were all huge. Finally I decided on two sand coloured tiles and brought them home for my Pete to kindly cut into 9 smaller tiles. 



Food and drink for a simple wedding

We did have dreams of lovely fresh local produce, but it all became too difficult and we ended up booking in a company called Golden Roast, that came out and did a spit roast with veges, preceded by nibbles and followed by various deserts. This seemed to suit most people. We also paid a local family (mum and two teenagers) to come and serve the food and do the dishes. They did a wonderful job and kept the stress levels low for everyone.

The main worry here was that we wouldn’t buy enough! In the end we got 8 cartons of beer (various Cascade, Moteiths etc) and a box of red wine, a box of white wine and a box of sparkling wine. We were ok with choosing the beer, but had no idea when it came to the wine. Lucky for us we found a helpful shop attendant at Dan Murphies and he helped us to choose something nice but not too expensive. We had plenty left over, so we must have got about the right amount! I'm still using up the wine in cooking as we don't drink it much.

A simple wedding cake

 

My mother-in-law offered to make the cake and we thought that would be lovely (have you seen the price of wedding cakes these days? They cost more than my dress!). The best part was that she did a number of trials for us to sample before settling on the final recipe. We requested a chocolate cake and she started with a very complicated recipe and then ended up with a lovely simple one. We covered the cake with Guylian chocolate shells. I think it looked rather nice (and it tasted great!).


Our honeymoon...

Because our guests had booked to stay at the beach for a few days after the wedding, we wanted to stay also to see the people that we hardly ever get to see, rather than take off on a honeymoon. So we still haven’t been on an official honeymoon, but we’ll get there eventually!

So that is a summary of our simple wedding. I hope it will give you some ideas for your own simple wedding or event.
Do you have any suggestions for a simple wedding?

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2 Comments

  • Oh Liz, your wedding post made me cry. I loved it! My own wedding was a simple church wedding with reception in the basement with cake and punch and an older church member ‘giving me away’. This ended in a divorce 15 years later but with 4 awesome children. Their weddings were ‘catered’ by another working single mother with 5 children when we ‘banded together’ and formed a wedding and event business in a small West Texas town. With 9 children between us, we figured we needed to cut costs some way. I did the cakes, she handled the other ‘stuff’. With 3 great grandloves living in Melbourne with their parents I want to use the end of their 86th birthday song to me, for you…”Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray. Hip, hip, hooray!”

    Alice Eads on
  • Liz, we had a night wedding which, in hindsight, was a silly idea. I had bought my wedding dress at a boutique that was closing down and it cost $30 as did my shoes which were the most expensive I have ever bought in my life and that was back in the late 1970s. We gave one of my friends some money and she bought some food for supper and did the tables and decorating and my Aunty made some of her caramel tarts etc. that she was famous for in our family. We had an ice cream cake as well so there wasn’t anything too fancy for our wedding. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and it was done on a shoestring well and truly.

    Chel on

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