Eclipse Director, Rachel’s, destination brunch the day before her wedding.
Part of the charm in a destination wedding is that you can extend your celebrations over a few days. We chose a location that most of our guest list hadn’t been to prior, and the few days before our wedding was occupied with fun gatherings. While there were a few spontaneous dinners and tourist activities (like visiting the Hobbiton movie set and Hamilton Gardens nearby), we held a formal high-tea-inspired brunch the day before our wedding. It was a great way for all our guests to mingle and get to know each other in a formal situation before the big day.
I hired out a huge AirBnB home for my immediate family and some close friends to stay in for almost a week before the wedding. The property was three acres large. We organised for a stretch tent set up in the large outdoor garden and the brunch event catered to our intimate guest list of seventeen.
A deconstructed high-tea-inspired brunch
To enter the property’s garden, guests had to drive down a long driveway lined with giant white balloons. After parking the car, they’d walk by foot along a grass walkway, with fallen rose petals scattered across the floor. Either side were tall hedges that were too thick to see what was beyond them. The sound of a harp floated along in the air, but you couldn’t see it until you turn a corner to find the white tent set up with heaters, a coffee station, a spread of food and a harpist commencing for an intimate private performance.
Cosied up in the heated tent were cushions and throws on furniture and a long dining table. The coffee station had two different brews of coffee, four varieties of locally sourced tea, fine china cups and tea pots, and three bottles of champagne. A spread of breakfast foods – pastries, yoghurts, fruits, granola – filled the long table for guests to have a taste of everything. Beyond, in the garden, were benches and overgrowths of floral displays to explore through. Complete with a private chef coming out into the garden with rounds of hot food from the kitchen.
Stylistically, this day was to allude to what was to come the next day for our wedding. The canapé-sized platters gave a hint to our reception food. The soothing harp lent to the relaxing feel of our wedding venue. Light rain tapped on the tent’s roof while we cosied up with a hot drink and dined.
A private musical harp performance
Just the look of a full-sized harp has grandiosity to it and its sound is like you’re in heaven. Our harpist, Margaret, mixed up jazz standards and pop classics, with a few unknown pieces here and there. I originally asked her to perform mostly unknown pieces – to make it feel more otherworldly – but she insisted that guests generally do enjoy the feeling of recognising classics they love, done instrumentally. We went with that and she was absolutely right.
Many of our guests were fascinated with her performance. She spent much of her set breaks chatting to guests about her music and her instrument. I know she must have organised a playlist of music to fill the silence during her breaks but, in retrospect, I can’t even remember because she was so open to chatting with us all in between her sets. For such an intimate gathering, it was so special to have a private musical performance just for us. The day would have been completely different without her.
Menu stationery and gifts
Traditionally, bonbonniere are handed out to guests on the wedding day itself but, since our wedding reception was not a seated dining experience, we thought it’d be nice to instead leave gifts on each place setting during our private pre-wedding brunch. Each place setting had a menu and gift, which we created back home in Perth, Australia, and flew over in our carry-on luggage.
Within each gift set were three really considered items. One was as a gourmet chocolate cookie decorated with gold leaf, dried raspberries and rose petals. Another was a personalised handwritten note, written on handmade stationery paper by Feathers and Stone (who also make beautiful ribbons, products for place cards and other stationery). The third item was a Rotorua thermal mud mask, selected because the town of Rotorua, and its famous hot pools, were very close to where we were. (I sourced three flavours of mud masks and mixed each gift set with a different sachet: soothing manuka honey mask, cleansing kiwi fruit mask, and feeding mud and milk mask.)
My graphic design background allowed me to design a special R & N wedding logo that I applied across all wedding stationery, including our wedding website, invitations, white wax seal stamp and menu. (What would have been nice would have been to also design and print wedding ceremony programs to add to our stationery arsenal but I hadn’t thought of that then.)
After settling on the brunch menu with my caterer, I designed menus for each place setting and had them printed at The Little Press in Perth, Australia. They also printed my invitations and I would definitely recommend going here if you are after weighty, tactile stationery. The owner has an old-style letterpress machine and stocks of artisan paper textures that she uses to get incredible finishes.
Continental platters and a private chef
Much of this day’s concept was built around my vision for the food. I liked the idea of having a high tea the day before my wedding but instead of traditional high tea foods – scones, tea sandwiches and the like – I imagined gourmet breakfast foods served in bite-sized high tea pieces. After much visual research, I talked with my caterer, Amy, about moving away from very structured tiers of food and instead play with heights in a way that a grazing table would. I played a little on the high tea aesthetic by bringing in fine china teapots, cups and saucers.
Across the entire centre of the long dining table were stretches of continental platters. Fresh fruit, coconana bread, nut butters, pastries. Amy also prepared jars of homemade walnut and almond granola with coconut yoghurt parfait. Scattered in between were jugs of fresh, local orange juice and pure, filtered Antipodes water. These were laid out for guests to help themselves and, true to a private dining experience, Amy came out of the kitchen in stints to serve various hot foods: bacon and egg sliders, cocktail breakfast sausages, pancake stacks with blueberries and maple syrup. It was all so delicious. The food in combination with our private musician put all of us in incredible spirits.
Tea and coffee station
By the long dining table, we set up an area where guests could help themselves to a selection of rich filter coffees from a boutique New Zealand roastery, and award-winning Tea Total teas, a family-owned local Kiwi brand. Teacups, saucers and teapots nestled neatly by, and next to that was an ice dish keeping the champagne bottles cool. By our artisan teas and coffees was a dish of organic coconut sugar and three kinds of milk: almond milk, and Lewis Road Creamery whole and skim milk.
Floral installations emerging from the ground
Installations, created by our florist, Sophie, were scattered across the property. We discussed how they would look and both created visual mood boards to communicate what colours and textures to pull from. My request was for each installation to appear as if they had emerged from the ground organically and become these beautiful overgrowths. Beyond that, she had creative license to make what would fit best.
It had rained very heavily the evening before so the grass was still damp, and the light rain that morning made all the floral displays so perfect and dewy. I envisioned that these pieces would curate the area in a way to encourage guests to explore amongst them. My two year old niece ran and played around them with her mother and grandmother. Sophie also propped up a few by the garden benches, which made these little nooks more eye-catching and appealing to go to.
Polaroid happy snaps
Before we left Australia for our destination wedding, we bought a Fujifilm Instax Mini camera and decorated it with a handwritten note tag (with paper from Feathers and Stone), inviting guests to use it at their leisure. Travelling with it in my carry-on luggage, by the time of our pre-wedding brunch, I pulled it out and left it on a side table at the event. Images from a professional photographer is so worthwhile to invest in but it’s also so much fun to gather instant images that your loved ones took as well. (This is something we also set up for our actual wedding the following day.) Many people took their own images back home to Australia and I later learned that these instant images are now on their fridges – two years later.
Our event suppliers
We are a collective of musicians based in Perth, Australia, that perform the most well-adored songs of the decades for weddings, corporate events and special celebrations. We believe that live music is so important in establishing the tone of an event and, if done right, sets an atmosphere that allows guests to let their guard down, enjoy, and step into another world where they can feel comfortable enough to experience all that a good event has to offer.
Our musicians are not just experienced performers but also trained formally in jazz and contemporary music, and we understand the importance of how visuals reinforce a event’s tone, which give us the versatility to perform at cocktail events, black-tie events, wedding ceremonies and receptions, conferences, and brand or product launches.