“It’s going to be a relaxed affair guys, you can wear whatever you’re comfortable in,” said my soon-to-be sister-in-law, who is Australian. She took us through the details of the upcoming wedding on Skype, before we started out from here. So, shorts and T-shirts then? While she was more than happy to accommodate our casual attire, the eye-rolling and low-decibel mumbling from my old-school father-in-law kept us in check.
The itinerary included Sydney and surrounding coastal towns, the Blue Mountains, and a couple of days in the mystical land of Uluru. Sydney is a tourist’s paradise — the Taronga Zoo, helicopter ride, and the Harbour Bridge climb are recommended must-dos. If you’re one for petting marsupials (an experience you cannot have anywhere else), head to the Featherdale Wildlife Park to hang out with free-range wallabies.
The Blue Mountains are a popular picturesque weekend getaway destination, with many Sydneyites buying or renting holiday homes. Of course, I gave them the ‘We also have Blue Mountains, they’re called Nilgiris’ speech. On the drive back down, the cold rain lashed at a 60-degree angle. Nevertheless, we stopped to see the stunning Three Sisters standing tall and graceful.
As the big day neared, the girls and boys separated for the hens and bucks parties. The bride’s entourage was ferried to the Gatehouse Tea Room in Sydney’s Parramatta for a delightful afternoon tea. Between sips of champagne and curated stands loaded with egg and lettuce sandwiches, there was much laughter and teasing.
The boys went off on a supposed golf retreat, the authenticity of which has been questioned, considering they slid back into bed at 4 a.m., and were still swaying the next morning from all the schnitzel and beer games at the German bar. On the eve of the wedding, we left Sydney for the two-hour drive to the venue. En route, we stopped at the historic country town of Berry, known for its laidback food and wine tours, luxury accommodations at working vineyards, a range of walks and hikes, and antique and jewellery shops. I was caught eyeing vintage dresses and was whisked away quickly before any wallets were opened. You haven’t really done Australia till you’ve checked off at least a few of its whopping 10,685 beaches. We rented a tastefully furnished house in Culburra Beach, 20 minutes from the wedding venue. Sparsely populated, it was the perfect opportunity to hog the entire gorgeous beach. Watch out for jelly blubbers — they sting but don’t kill.
On the big day, we turned into a dirt track that led to what we thought was the venue, and were greeted by a rugged Aussie dressed in rough denim and a massive sun hat. He rested his elbow on a rake and chewed on straw as he shook his head at us. “Merribee? You want to go eight km back where you came from mate.” The venue was home to manicured lawns, a rose garden, a granary converted into a bridal suite, and a venomous black snake that was perfect because it “eats the baby browns, and those are even worse.” Only in Australia.
The guests sat on vintage wooden chairs decorated with painted cans and wildflowers. Keeping with the relaxed theme, the ladies wore beautiful floral dresses, while the groom twitched about looking nervous in his relaxed black suit. Tears could not be held back when the bride’s father walked her down the aisle.
She wore a full-length white empress dress by designer Collette Dinnigan, a cathedral-length veil, drop earrings and matching hair accessories with a flower bouquet made by her mother. When it was time for speeches, the bride’s father took it upon himself to tell funny stories of his new ‘pom’ son-in-law. Turned out the groom had been a goody-two-shoes all his life and embarrassing him was a real struggle.
The caterers passed around delicious arancini balls, samosas, fries, Asian wraps with peanut sauce, and lentil curry with rice among other meaty tapas. The eventful day ended with everyone boogying in the barn to a carefully selected playlist. The celebrations continued the next day at a big Aussie barbeque brunch, with the groom’s mother taking on the role of embarrasser-in-chief, where shorts and T-shirts were finally allowed.