Donnelly River Holiday Village has to be THE most awesome place to get married. Even better, when the bride and groom decide to make it an entire weekend of activities and run it like a music festival. Hell Yeah.
I knew this was going to be a great weekend when we turned up (yes, husband and kids in tow) and there were wristbands for us – individually numbered and all. The invitations had given a clue though, outlining a weekend of events at the Marry-dith Festival, most importantly for me, The Wedding. It was of course, an opportunity to get right into the spirit of things and have the Main Event capture as much of that music festival vibe as possible and tell the story of Ian and Nova, both from the Bridgetown area. It was also a reunion of sorts, with an opportunity to catch up with Ian’s best man Jeff and his wife Kiri, one of the first couples I married, over six years ago, on Cable Beach in Broome.
Yes, the wedding weekend was called Marry-dith, a play on the Victorian music festival, Meredith, held on the very same weekend.
Two years ago on this very same weekend, Ian and Nova went to the Meredith Festival, in Meredith, Victoria. Google the festival and you’ll see it’s:
Music, nature, nonsense, humanity at its most wonderful, wild times, excursions, incursions, retrospections, a retreat, a Rare Treat, a rare feat, a rare bird, Things Rarely Heard, all staged in a purpose built Underground Wonderland specifically designed for housing The Very Best of Times on an annual end-of-year basis, all run VERY smoothly with pride and affection. Of course, that pretty much sums up this very same weekend at Donnelly River Holiday Village.
The ceremony was held in a bush clearing in front of an elaborate homemade arch that revealed its ‘evening gown’ later at the reception at the Worker’s Club to much ‘oohing and aahing’.
The Arch Of Love appears to have been a tradition at Meredith since about 1997. The Arch is about seven feet tall, made of cane, and wide enough for only one person to walk through at a time. It was probably made to be a garden arch, or arbor. It appeared in the middle of a footpath through the Amphitheatre during the ’96 or ’97 Meredith festival, nobody really knows why. To the quiet amusement of patrons nearby, people had to choose either to walk through it, or walk around it, as it was slap bang in the middle of a busy footpath. It turned up the next year, but with new decorations – a mass of plastic vines and pink flowers were threaded through the cane. It has been there every year since, in the same place, in different costume. One year it was present in a tailored leopard skin suit. The Arch has nothing to do with the organisers; it is brought along by a private citizen, and it has become an institution at Meredith.
A tradition sprung up that if two people walked under it they had to kiss. In the year of the Arch of Love being dressed in aforementioned leopard skin, Ian asked Nova to marry him, under the Arch. I’m not going to repeat to you Nova’s initial response. Let’s just say he caught her completely by surprise and the f bomb was dropped a number of times before hundreds of people around them started applauding and a can of VB and a can of Melbourne Bitter was thrust into their respective hands by excited strangers and the celebrations started.
As everyone had travelled such a distance to join them for the whole weekend and they had such a close group of long term friends, Ian and Nova wanted to acknowledge and thank more than just their parents.
Can I ask everyone here to please stand….
As family and friends you have all shown your love and support for this marriage by being here today. Each of you plays a special part in the lives of Ian and Nova.
Will all of you who are present here today, surround this couple in love, offering them the joys of your friendship? We will.
Will you support this couple in their relationship? We will.
At times of conflict will you offer them the strength of your wisest counsel and the comfort of your thoughtful concern? We will.
At times of joy, will you celebrate with them, nourishing their love for one another? We will.
They had two readings during the ceremony and with Nova being a primary school teacher, it was only right that we included All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, by Robert Fulgham.
All of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in Kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.
These are the things I learned…
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Give them to someone who feels sad.
Live a balanced life.
Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day.
Take a nap every afternoon.
Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the plastic cup? The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
Following the ceremony, guests enjoyed drinks and canapes on the tennis court while the bridal party had their photos taken. Their arrival, through the Arch of Love, now resplendent in its leopard skin suit, was a moment of pure genius and then everyone tucked into the curry buffet before dancing the night away to a live band in the Worker’s Club.
Nova’s sister in law, Victoria Baker (she lives in Bridgetown), documented the day and did an amazing job (look her up if you’re thinking about getting married at Donnelly River). I sincerely thank her for some of these images – make sure you check out her blog to see the rest of the Marry-dith festival. I spied my eight year old ginger ninja in the background of one of the photos....
Congratulations Ian and Nova. Great weekend, great wedding, great couple.