‘Whatever,’ said my soon-to-be-daughter-in-law when I asked what sort of wedding she proposed.
As the mother of just one child – a son – I had assumed that any sort of involvement in a mythical future wedding would simply not be on. But I hadn’t counted on a surprisingly laid-back fiancé and the couple’s out-of-the-blue decision to hold their wedding in the little country town which my partner and I call home. And when I was unexpectedly afforded the title of wedding co-ordinator, I had no idea it would be such an easy job.
Stanthorpe is apple and grape country with flourishing wine and boutique accommodation enterprises and a burgeoning gourmet food industry and, as such, there is no shortage of possibilities for a wedding: superb four-seasonal gardens, little off-the-beaten-track churches, gazebos in vineyards, and granite-filled parklands.
Whilst the ‘whatever’ mantra would later set the tone, our son and his little anti-Bridezilla did have some strong views about what they didn’t want for their wedding. Being non-denominational, they nixed a church service. Their non-traditional views ousted any thought of a formal sit-down supper. And being completely set on something small and intimate, there was never any hint of a dispute over the guest list which ultimately consisted of ten:- two sets of parents, two nans, the best man and one bridesmaid, two friends and no partridge in a pear tree.
I emailed the Sydney-sider couple a list of possibilities with links to websites, contact names, and details of pricing but in the back of my mind I had hoped they might choose Diamondvale B&B Cottages and Lodge. I had the privilege of visiting many of the suggested venues, given that they are all almost in my own back yard, and I fell in love with Diamondvale straight away. Its superb bush setting and the country charm of chooks, kitchen gardens and miniature horses is complemented by the quaint chintz-and-lace cottages and offset by the eclectic mix of old and new in the recently built four-bedroom lodge.
‘That’s it!’ emailed my son’s betrothed.
I booked for a two-day party – a romantic cottage for the wedding couple, a two-bedroom cottage for the bridal party and friends and the rest of the guests in the lodge which would henceforth be known by us all as ‘party central’. The bride and groom had opted for a ‘happy little party with a wedding ceremony thrown in there somewhere’.
Wedding cake? ‘Nah, no-one really likes it anyway.’
Music? ‘We’ll bring our own.’
I risked copping interfering-mother-in-law status just once when the necessity for a photographer was mooted. I had had the recent pleasure of viewing some ingenious work that Cory Rossiter completed for a local calendar, which then led to me checking out his website. Cory ‘tree-changed’ to the Granite Belt region in 2007, after working as a commercial photographer in the south west of England and as a London fashion photographer. Whenever I mentioned the word ‘wedding’ to friends, his name came up time and again. The aversion to a photographer was brought about by the bride and groom’s distaste for anything staged or forced but, eventually, the bride gave me another one of her ‘whatevers’ and I went ahead. Thankfully, when the bride and the photographer eventually met, a mutual admiration society was conceived.
‘I am so over contrived poses,’ Cory said and the bride’s smile was as wide as the granite outcrop she stood upon. And when the photographer asked the bride if she preferred country or city-style shots and she responded with the ‘whatever’ mantra, you could see the shutters clicking and clacking in his brain as he grinned.
Diamondvale surpassed all our expectations. The hospitality and eagerness to please of Kerrin Cridland is unsurpassed. That’s not to say that partner Tony is any less gregarious but he does stay in the background somewhat; a quiet achiever. Kerrin makes you want to linger in her company, to bask in her good nature, to smile and laugh with her. You only need look to the way she interacts with her animals – glorious white horses that look like unicorns, the black miniature ponies, and the dogs Cara and Shadow – to understand something of Kerrin’s gentle nature and nurturing soul.
The comparatively newly-built lodge blew us all away. Perched up on brolga-like legs amongst the gum trees, its furniture includes a piano and decadent leather lounges. The kitchen has everything it needs to be functional and luxurious, including a dishwasher and an exquisite dinner setting for fourteen. There are televisions in the bedrooms with built in DVD players. Two of the bedrooms have en-suites and there is a large third bathroom. A BBQ on the wrap-around verandah and a great sound-system make it the perfect party-central venue. And for chilling out, there’s a surprisingly fun and interesting collection of books which (going off-track momentarily) includes an Isabel Allende novel and Colin Bowles’ Little Book of Immorals and Four and Twenty Tales.
Deciding on a walk via the heritage trail to Quart-pot creek, we were thrilled to be offered our own personal guide, a curly-haired four-legged gal who goes by the name of Shadow. This quiet, unassuming little dog led the way, stopping every now and then to sit in perfect triangle stance to wait for us tardy humans to catch up. She constantly looked over her shoulder to make sure we were following and never wavered or became distracted from her mission.
Back at ‘party central’ there was far more alcohol drunk than is probably thought acceptable for a night before the wedding. We sat on the balcony drinking wine and reminiscing before feasting on the chicken lasagne that the bride had insisted on preparing the day before, despite jetting in to Brisbane from Sydney and enduring the three-hour car trip to Stanthorpe. And when some of the ‘oldies’ started to fade as the evening progressed, the young ones returned to their cottages via the charmingly rustic communal hut for games and a nightcap of frivolity.
Sore heads were soothed with strong blacks on Sunday morning as the bride and bridesmaid were whisked into town for Gavin to weave some magic into their locks at Mansara hair salon and then it was off to see Kelly at Beauty on High. Kelly has a way with words and kept us lively and laughing as she wielded her magical powders and brushes.
Kerrin and Tony made their beautiful home and verandah available so the bride could make a grand entrance, descending the steps to the pews positioned near the creek where the celebrant (who coincidentally shares the same surname as the groom) had set up her white-draped table. The sultry voice of Etta James cascaded over our little congregation (given that it had taken ten years for the bride and groom to make it to the alter, At Last was the perfect song choice). The beautiful blonde bridesmaid emerged from the house and walked toward us in the silver-grey dress she had chosen. When she’d originally asked what colour she should wear, the bride-to-be had given her standard ‘whatever’ response.
The groom wore a Cavalli Sartorial suit with a hint of khaki.
And the bride wore red. Her floor-length gown clung to all the right places and was blinged up with diamantes at the bust.
Neither of the girls carried flowers. The bride was always a bit ambivalent. We had originally planned to raid the gardens of our friends for roses but the roses peaked early leaving nothing more than dead heads. Rather than cause a flurry, such moments were simply more ‘whatever’ occasions.
The celebrant – the totally unrelated Roz Thompson – had travelled from Warwick to perform the service with soft professionalism. The bride and groom wrote their own vows (or in the case of my son, partially lifted them from an Incubus song) and kept them secret from each other until they were spoken aloud during the ceremony. The guests blew bubbles (a great touch provided by Roz) as the newly-weds signed the necessary papers.
No confetti in sight. No formal seating arrangements or place-cards. Lunch was succulent fresh oysters and bright pink prawns, brought from the Gold Coast by the Father of the Bride, served with herb bread and a variety of salads prepared by the nans. Instead of the usual wedding favours, guests received a miniature bottle of local Vincenzo’s chocolate port with a ‘film-strip’ styled label featuring a photo of the couple. There were no speeches, just noisy chatter and raucous laughter. We presented the glowing twosome with a wooden ‘wish box’, filled with miniature sealed envelopes carrying wishes from all over the country. The newly-weds took turns in opening the cards and reading them out as we sat around the table. There was no champagne. The bride and groom had opted to purchase a bottle of everyone’s favourite so we had wines (red and white), scotch, vodka, rum and Baileys Irish Cream.
And if the bush setting, and the kookaburra-song background weren’t Aussie enough, how about Pavlova for dessert? Not just any old pav, mind, but custom-built individual ones. Ever mindful of a variety of tastes and preferences, the bride decided on a build-your-own approach. Guests created their own personalised pav with mini meringue cases, a mountain of chopped fruit – pineapple, melons, kiwi-fruit, strawberries and raspberries – whipped cream, and passionfruit sauce.
Safely back in Sydney and ensconced in their hectic lives, the newly-weds say that, if they had all the money in the world to design their perfect wedding, they would not have changed a thing. They got exactly what they wanted.