My very own proposal story

Proposal stories. I love them. Can’t get enough of them, in fact. It’s one of the first things I ask couples about. I start with a question of ‘how did you get engaged?’ and usually end up a) wiping away tears, b) happy clapping, c) grinning like a funfair clown or d) all of the above.

I have them all catalogued in my head, a veritable treasure trove of romance and consideration. Each story is different and each is wonderful. Here’s mine.

Blissfully happy.
Copyright K. Harvey

I think the boy despaired for quite some time that he would find a way to propose that I hadn’t heard before and in a way that I wouldn’t see coming. I’m the born organiser of the two of us – if we have social plans, I’ve made them. If our tax returns/dry cleaning/chimney sweeping needs doing, I’ll arrange it. We used to joke that if Dave ever announced he’d made plans for us to go out for dinner on a Saturday night, I’d know to buy a wedding dress.

But he managed to do both. When Dave did ask me to be his wife, I was so shocked that I was lost for words. And that, my friends, is remarkably unusual for a woman who manages to keep talking during dental examinations. (It’s true. Ask my dentist.)

In June, we set off on what I can only describe as a five week adventure. We would start in China, where my sister and her partner live, exploring Beijing and Shanghai. We would then spend 11 days in Italy, eating ourselves sick and having romantic couple time, before making our way to Germany for a family wedding. The last four days of our trip were to be spent pool-side in Hong Kong, cocktails in hand. All of that happened, except that after the first day it all happened with my fiancé rather than my boyfriend.

It’s big.
Copyright K. Harvey

Our first stop was Beijing where on day one, my sister, Trea, and her partner, Tom, were taking us hiking along the Great Wall of China. Any traces of jetlag were washed away by our excitement to see TnT again and to be standing atop the most impressive structure in the world. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe the sheer awesomeness of the Wall. Just. Amazing.

After a 2km uphill climb to get to the Wall, we then spent three and a half hours making our way along it in 38 degree heat and full sun. The section we went to hasn’t yet been discovered by hordes of tourists and most of it lies in disrepair. The four of us had a merry time looking out for rabbits, dodging loose gravel and making our way up and down the steepest hills I’ve ever encountered. Oh, and posing for a photo or 300.

Three monkeys on a wall.
Copyright K. Harvey

Dave had bought a new camera just before we left and would not let it out of his sight. Even at the airport he insisted on carrying it, which I put down to possessiveness of his new toy. Along the Wall, Dave took most of our photos, relinquishing the camera only when I demanded that he be in a few of them as well. In all the photos he is still wearing the camera bag. I should have seen it coming, shouldn’t I?

Not engaged yet.
Copyright K. Harvey

When we’d had enough, some three hours later, Dave passed his beloved camera to Trea and asked her to take one last photo of the two of us on the Wall. The climb had been so tough that my legs were shaking from exertion. While Dave set up the camera, I held on to the Wall as support for my weary legs and took in one last valley view. I still don’t know what made me turn – I think Trea gasped. I turned to find Dave on one knee and even though the words came out of his mouth, it took me several seconds to realise what was happening.

The moment.
Copyright K. Harvey

My thought process went something like this:

he’s on the ground why is he on the ground oh hell did he drop the camera no Trea has the camera oh good the camera’s safe what’s that in his hand it’s black like the camera but it’s not a camera is it a lens cap it’s a black box oh my god there’s a ring in the box oh my god he’s on one knee did he just ask me to marry him oh my god this is happening really is this happening why is it happening now what happened to Italy I thought this would happen in Italy I’m all sweaty and gross he’s PROPOSING you need to answer him Koren oh no I’m crying stop crying say something give the boy an answer nodding is an answer stop crying where have all my words gone

And then I kissed him.

Yes, still crying.
Copyright K. Harvey

Once Dave was back on his feet Tom pointed out I hadn’t given a verbal answer yet. I very happily said yes and then went back to clamping my hand over my mouth in shock. Trea, meanwhile, had got trigger-happy through her tears and snapped over 200 photos of those beautiful minutes. Neither she nor Tom had been any the wiser to Dave’s proposal and were just as surprised as I was.

I was so convinced that I’d see a proposal coming from miles away that I thought Dave hadn’t realised what he was doing. I do believe I even asked him if he was ‘sure’.  I had decided – without any discussion with Dave – that if he were to propose, it would happen in Italy (because we were booked into a Tuscan villa so beautiful that it practically begs to be proposed in), so seeing him on one knee in rural China threw me.

I said yes. Obviously.
Copyright K. Harvey

But the boy had other plans. He had meticulously planned this moment for months, secretly meeting with a jeweller to design my ring, asking Dad for his blessing, working out how to surprise me (here’s a clue: don’t give anything away. Just drop to one knee) and making sure the entire thing was captured on film. Most importantly, he had thought of something I hadn’t – how meaningful it would be for us to have Trea and Tom there to witness the moment.

Once the four of us were back at our hotel, we rang our parents and gleefully told them the news before making a serious dent in Beijing’s champagne supply. We swore our families to secrecy and didn’t tell anyone at home for the rest of our trip.

Two very excited, mascara-stained (and a little shocked) sisters.
Copyright K. Harvey.

Neither Dave or I liked the idea of our close friends hearing about it over Facebook and it was so special to have those five weeks to absorb what the news meant for us both and our future. It also meant we got to tell people in person and see their joy on our behalf, which only served to magnify our joy.

Proposal stories now mean all the more to me. Whether elaborate or simple, planned or impulsive, each is wonderful because of what it means to the couple. I still love hearing them. It’s just that I have a favourite now.

Copyright K. Harvey

Sara and Leigh

I love autumn weddings. There’s something about the combination of crisp air, vibrantly coloured leaves and dappled sunlight that makes them quite magical, which is a perfect way to describe Sara and Leigh’s wedding.

Tess Follett Photography

The weather aside, most of the magic came from who Sara and Leigh are. Not only are they two of the most stylish people I’ve ever met, they’re also among the friendliest. I think you can get a sense of them just by looking at these photos.

They’re funny. They’re warm. They’re generous. They’re inspiring. They’re loving.

Most of all, they’re a perfect match for each other.

Tess Follett Photography

After a sudden hailstorm at the rehearsal that saw us all rather comically bolting for cover, it was a relief to see clear skies the day of their marriage. Family and friends gathered in Prahran’s Victoria Gardens where the setting sun, russet leaves and lush, formal gardens were the perfect backdrop to their wedding.

Sara entered on her Dad’s arm to Never Let Me Go by Florence and the Machine. Trees hid her from view until she was at the top of the aisle and I can still recall Leigh’s sharp intake of breath when he saw her. In her Gwendolynne gown she was the very model of serenity and timeless beauty.

Tess Follett Photography

Sara and Leigh wanted a relaxed ceremony that honoured their relationship, the things they’re grateful for, the people they love and the future they’re building together. They included their siblings through roles in the bridal party and readings, with Sara’s brother and Leigh’s sister sharing a reading put together by the bride and groom. Sara and Leigh had painstakingly gone through many Bob Marley songs, selecting lyrics that resonated with them until they had a moving and honest tribute to love.

Sara and Leigh chose to write their own vows and neither of them had seen what the other had written beforehand. I have to confess, I love it when couples do this. It gives guests another insight into the couple’s personalities and what’s important to them. Most importantly, it provides the couple with an opportunity to say what’s in their heart.

Tess Follett Photography

Both sets of vows were brilliant and received with laughter and tears. Leigh framed his in a series of promises, getting a big laugh when he promised not to interrupt Sara when her favourite television shows are on. Sara, meanwhile, thanked Leigh for all that he had brought to her life, including a now strong appreciation of the amount of time one man can spend stretching!

They were pronounced husband and wife to cheers from not only their guests but from walkers, picnickers and anyone else who happened to be in the park at the time. So much beauty, so much love was coming from them that even the most casual passer-by couldn’t help but get caught up in it.

Tess Follett Photography

I’ve caught up with Sara and Leigh since their wedding and they told me it was one of the best days of their lives. Why? Because they got to celebrate their relationship surrounded by the people they love most. If there’s a better reason, I can’t think of it.

Congratulations, Sara and Leigh! Thank you so very much for the pleasure of witnessing your joy. xx Koren

Sara and Leigh, 14 April 2012
Venue: Victoria Gardens, Prahran
Photos: Tess Follett Photography (I love how very ‘Melbourne’ these shots are! For more, see Tess’ blog here.)
Bridal gown: Gwendolynne
Celebrant: Koren Harvey

You’re engaged! Now what?

He asked. She said yes. You’re getting married!

It’s such an exciting time. There’s so much love in the air, not just between the two of you but from all the people around you who are so genuinely happy for you both. I didn’t really understand this until the boy and I were engaged recently. We couldn’t get over the amount of cards and good wishes that came pouring in. It made it just that little bit more special to know that others were as thrilled as we were that we’d found each other.

Of course, hand in hand with the good wishes come questions. Well-meaning friends and family want to know all about the big day – have you got a date, found a venue, booked a photographer, chosen a dress? Given my profession, the most common question we were (and still are) asked is ‘but who’s going to marry you?

This, to me, is the most important question and one I wish more couples were asked. Now, I imagine you’re thinking ‘of course she’d say that, she’s a celebrant!’ but stop for a second. Think about it. You can get married without a venue, photographer, dress, cake or cars, but you absolutely cannot have a wedding without someone authorised to marry you!

East 13 Photography

I’m blessed to know a number of wonderful, talented celebrants who I refer couples to if I’m not available (and those superlatives are understatements – these ladies are awesome), but the average couple doesn’t have a contact list bulging with fantastic celebrants. If you want the pick of the bunch, move early. If possible, you should have your celebrant locked in no later than 9 -12 months from the big day.

This post has come about due to a few things that have got me thinking about the order of planning a wedding. Firstly, the fiancé and I are in the midst of planning ours, so there are precious few minutes in the day when I’m not thinking about someone’s wedding. Secondly, my dear friends at Melbourne Marriage Celebrants and I have recently been inundated with last-minute enquiries from frazzled couples. When it’s left this late, more often than not we’re already booked. There is no joy in having to turn couples away, particularly when we can see how stressed the search for the right celebrant is making them.

Generally speaking, the busiest period for the wedding industry is September – March, so if you’re planning a wedding during these warmer months, start looking ASAP. I’ve seen too many couples leave choosing their celebrant until the last minute and end up disappointed.  There are only so many days in a year and many celebrants (myself included) book just one wedding per day to ensure each couple gets the very best service possible. Last week I had to turn away a couple looking for a celebrant for their November wedding. The poor bride was so stressed that I didn’t have the heart to tell her that all my November Saturdays had been booked by April.

East 13 Photography

I cannot emphasise this enough: once you’ve decided on a wedding date, start talking to celebrants. It’s not just about finding someone who’s available – you have to find someone you both click with.  After all, this is the person who is going to preside over one of the most intimate and important moments in your life and you’re trusting them with your story.

You need to feel comfortable with the celebrant you choose and it’s imperative that they understand who you are as individuals and as a couple.

It should feel like you’re being married by a friend rather than a stranger.

End lecture!

*And for the record, the very first person we spoke to about our wedding – before we even had a date – was our celebrant. I practice what I preach!