Athena & Joff by Elsa Campbell

Tell us a little about yourselves, what you do, what you love, what is unique about you and your relationship … I am an Accessories Buyer currently working in the luxury beauty industry, and Joff is a Strategy Consultant working mostly in the healthcare sector. We are both from Melbourne, have been together for 9 years, and have been living in London for 4.5 of them. 

I met Joff at a bar in Melbourne through a mutual friend in early December 2010. Joff’s friend owned the bar, so he hung out there most nights.  That first time we met, there was an instant connection between us, but we were both too quiet and shy to do anything about it for a few weeks.

I popped into the bar a few more times over the weeks knowing Joff would be there, and then on New Year’s Eve, he slipped a doorman some cash to get into the gig that he knew I was at in the city. I didn’t know about that until much later! After the gig we were back at a friend’s house chatting non-stop until the early hours, and then he told me he had to go to the airport that day to leave for a trip to Thailand and Vietnam. I happened to be going to Thailand 2 weeks later with my girlfriends!  A few days later he messaged to tell me he had amended his itinerary, allowing him to be back in Thailand at the same time as me so he could take me on our first date. I was blown away. Fast forward a few weeks and there we were, having dinner in the most beautiful setting, both SUPER nervous, but it was just perfect. From that day we were completely inseparable. 

Our personalities are both similar and different in a lot of ways (mostly different), but most importantly we have an amazing friendship and deep soulful bond. What connected us from the beginning was discovering that we loved all the same things. We love food, music, art, design, culture and travel more than anything. We shared this strong desire to explore and discover new things together, and were passionate about the same things. What developed from there was a deep love and trust between us, and unconditional respect and support. 

Travel has played a pretty significant part in our relationship. A few months in, we were already planning our next overseas trip, and subsequently another one almost every 6 months after that. We were always plotting where to go next. 18 months in, Joff got a job in Bangkok working for the United Nations, which meant we had to do long distance for a year. It was tough at times, but I knew he was doing something that he loved, and for us it was never an option for it to not work. So it just did! And our relationship was strengthened because of our resilience. 

Our love of travel saw us take the biggest leap of all in 2015, when we quit our jobs in Melbourne and booked a one way flight to London. This changed everything for us; so much to explore and discover, always something new to experience, the freedom to travel wherever we wanted to. We just felt like we were in the right place and have never felt more excited about life. We finally felt like we were part of the world rather than feeling so far away from it.  Of course the move also came with many challenges, but it has really defined our relationship today.

When you’re facing really hard times, and you’re on the other side of the world with not a single person to lean on but each other, it really makes or breaks you.  Thankfully for us, it deepened our bond more than ever and we are grateful for what all of these experiences taught us about each other and about our relationship. Besides the struggles, there have been more amazing memories than we can count. We have learned so much about life, the world, ourselves and each other, and we’ve just had an absolute ball. Without a doubt we will look back at it as the best time of our lives.  

Tell us about your special day, was there a specific theme or style? Tell us a little about the setting, the styling and some of your favourite details … Because of our love of travel and being based in London, we were always certain we would have a destination wedding. But when the planning actually began, we soon realised that ensuring all of our friends and family could definitely be there with us was our number one priority. So we agreed on Melbourne.

When trying to visualise what our Melbourne wedding would be like, all we knew is we didn’t want it to be traditional. We both have the same style which is very minimal, so we started looking at warehouse venues, as we knew that working with an amazing blank canvas would be our best bet at achieving the look we wanted. 

When we came across Gather & Tailor, we knew it was the one without even seeing it in person. In fact we didn’t see it until 5 days before the wedding! The space is the perfect blank canvas, but also has so much raw character that we felt we didn’t have to do much to it at all. We also knew it would be the perfect space to throw an epic party. 

We really wanted to do the ceremony and reception in one place, to save our guests from having to move around. Basically we wanted to be able to transition into each stage of the wedding seamlessly, especially when it came time to party. We think that worked really well and the guests appreciated it!  

From the beautiful ceremony, straight into a fun cocktail hour accompanied by an amazing grazing table and canapés by Pot & Pan and the beautiful acoustic sounds of Maisie & Josh from Tillee Music, to an epic dinner (everybody still raves about the food!), to espresso martinis and donuts served by Mr B Coffee, then straight into party mode; the whole day just flowed perfectly. 

Our amazing DJ, Dan Elleson, who is a friend of Joff’s, played the best disco tunes all night (maybe some 90s hip hop as the night progressed) and the vibe was exactly what we wanted. Everybody had an amazing time and got a bit sweaty, so I think we achieved our goal of throwing a great party! 

In terms of theme, we didn’t really have one that we consciously thought about, it all happened very organically. We’re not colourful people. Anyone who knows us knows that we basically only wear black (even wearing a white dress was a big deal for me), so the wedding was always going to be very neutral with a ‘less is more’ approach. 

We knew that instead of flowers we just wanted loads of greenery to complement the existing white, black and wood hues of the space. Emily at North St was given the brief of ‘mixed textures of foliage.’ And what she created was unbelievably stunning. Guests commented on how amazing the plants smelled throughout the venue and we loved how natural it all felt, like bringing the outdoors inside. We wanted everything to look very organic in texture and shape; a bit uneven, nothing too ‘perfect.’ And she achieved exactly that. 

All the furniture and décor was quite simple; black Bentwood chairs and sleek wooden tables, paired with accents of brushed gold in the smaller details. We always knew we wanted to have long tables so we could sit amongst our guests and soak up the atmosphere, and the space was perfect for it. We also kept the table settings very simple, with more draped foliage, linen napkins, gold cutlery, and lots of white candles to create a warm and romantic atmosphere as the sun went down.

We expected that planning everything from London would be a challenge, but it really wasn’t at all. We loved every minute of it. We think the ease of it all it came down to the amazing suppliers we chose to work with. We trusted them and their style wholeheartedly, and knew it was aligned with our style. We were also quite relaxed and found it easy to make decisions throughout the process. Because of the distance, we knew we couldn’t overthink things, so we made decisions quickly and trusted that it would all work out. Which it did! And without a single hitch. 

We can’t thank our suppliers enough for putting up with our countless emails over the course of the year. They were all a dream to deal with and made it an absolute breeze. The 5 days in the lead up to the wedding were a whirlwind, as we had just arrived from London, met every supplier for the first time and saw the venue for the first time, but the suspense of waiting an entire year to do all that almost made it more exciting rather than stressful. 

Having multiple guests tell you it was the best wedding they have ever been to is the ultimate compliment! Don’t know if they were just being polite, but we’ll take it. I think we achieved exactly what we envisioned and we couldn’t be happier.

Tell us about your main outfits: I really wanted the dress process to be fuss free. I never tried on wedding dresses in a proper bridal store or wanted to go through the whole fitting process. Instead I bought a few different ready-to-wear designer dresses online and tried them on at home until I found the right one. 

I never wanted to wear a very ‘bridal’ looking dress. In fact what I ended up wearing was more bridal than I ever expected to wear. My every day style is very minimal, so I wanted something modern that fit into that, but without being boring. Which was actually a lot harder to find than I expected.  I ended up wearing a dress by Roksanda and I absolutely loved it. It was super simple, had modern clean lines, and was a little bit structured but still super comfortable. The textured wool silk fabric and drop waist silhouette was gorgeous and made it a little more interesting. The quality of the heavy fabric and the way the dress is made is just incredible. I got some minor alterations done by the ladies at Sewn Right in London who were amazing. 

I wore very simple heels with the thinnest barely-there straps I could find, and silver earrings from Sarah & Sebastian which were very organic looking and made to resemble real rose petals.  The only other accessories I wore were my fine metal rings that I wear every single day, although I had a new addition on the day. Mum surprised me with a beautiful gift that morning, which was another fine ring to match my others, but with a single black diamond in it. So simple but so stunning, and I haven’t taken it off since.

Joff wore a bespoke dinner suit from Norton & Townsend Tailors. Much to Joff’s dislike, he has to wear a suit to work every day, so he wanted his wedding outfit to feel special and not just like he was going to work. He has always loved English tailoring and was excited to finally have an excuse to get a bespoke suit. 

He went for all English attire; his suit was midnight blue in a fine English mohair with black satin lapel, with a handmade bow tie and pocket square from Drake’s, and handmade shoes from Crockett & Jones. He also wore some vintage Georg Jensen cufflinks which were his dad’s. A really thoughtful touch was having the name of our first dance song, “You’re All I Need to Get By,” embroidered onto the suit, hidden underneath the back of his lapel. 

What were some of the most memorable/unique moments from the day? The whole day was absolutely amazing, it’s hard to pick only a few favourite moments!

The obvious one is having all of our amazing family and friends in one place, especially considering we had not seen some of them for quite some time. It was a reunion in some ways as well as a wedding. As obvious as it seems, you don’t fully appreciate what it’s like to have all of your most important people in one room until it’s happening. Everybody was so happy and there was so much love in that room, so that is the most precious memory for us and has made us miss home more than ever. 

Walking down the aisle to “Something” by The Beatles was so amazing and emotional. We have always loved that song, and Joff chose it very early on as the aisle song because he said it explains in simple terms how he feels about me. So when we finally heard Maisie & Josh from Tillee Music’s stunning version being sung as I walked in, both Joff and I really struggled to hold back the tears, but also couldn’t wipe the grins off our faces. Maisie and Josh also performed stunning versions of “Angels” by The xx and “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green. Having the live acoustic music during the ceremony really made it feel personal and intimate.  

The food by Pot & Pan was the biggest hit of all, which made us happier than anything because we are obsessed with good food and this was a top priority for us. Being overseas meant we couldn’t taste the food before the day, so we left it up to our mums to taste it and they helped us choose the final menu. We knew it all sounded divine, but to see it all come together on the day and hear people still raving about it to this day is just amazing. We had 3 mains and 5 side options which were placed on raised table runners so everybody could share with ease. The food was accompanied by amazing wines from Blackhearts & Sparrows, as well as whiskey sours and elderflower G&Ts. The atmosphere felt like a warm and friendly feast and everything was even more delicious and beautifully presented than we had imagined. 

One of the best decisions we made was having dessert served by Mr B Coffee from their cool cart set-up. We had espresso martinis served by their amazing baristas, as well as donuts filled with Nutella or custard. Not only was it delicious but it forced everybody to get up from their seats straight after dinner and hit the dance floor without hesitation, martinis in hand. I think guests enjoyed that surprise a lot. 

Any advice for other couples planning to spend the rest of their lives together? The lead up to the wedding should be as enjoyable as the day itself. Try and enjoy the planning process and don’t obsess over tiny details. Keep things in perspective by remembering what is important to you both, and why you are having a wedding in the first place. We were super lucky that we had no pressure from those around us, so we felt completely free to make the day our own and focus on the things that were important to us. Thankfully we were also on the same page about everything, so compromising really wasn’t an issue. 

I would say that it really helps if you both know what is most important to you, so you can prioritise those things when planning. Everything else will honestly fall into place. So don’t sweat the small stuff! Remember that it’s only one day. If there are hiccups, it’s not the end of the world. You probably won’t even notice, and you will still look back at it as the most perfect day of your lives. So focus on soaking up all that amazingness you’ve spent a year planning for, because the day really does go by as fast as everyone says! 

We like to think nothing has changed just because we are married, and mostly it hasn’t, as we both knew we committed ourselves to each other a very long time ago. But formalising it has created a general feeling of zen between us that is truly amazing. We just feel a sense of peace and calmness that feels a little different than before. It’s weird to explain. So enjoy being loved up, and re-live your memories for as long as possible! (Best way to do this: don’t don’t skimp on an amazing photographer and videographer!)

Venue & Day Co-ordination: Gather + Tailor | Videographer: Films by Eve | Photographer: Elsa Campbell | Celebrant & MC: Zee Scott – The British Celebrant | Entertainment: Acoustic duo for ceremony and cocktail hour: Maisie + Josh from Tillee Music / DJ: Dan Elleson | Furniture Hire: Pepper Sprout Hire | Décor Hire: The Small Things Co | Flora: North St Botanical | Catering: Pot & Pan | Donuts & Espresso Martinis: Mr B Coffee | Beverages: Blackhearts + Sparrows Wine | Cake: Miss Ladybird Cakes | Lighting and Curtain: Technical Events | Audio Hire: Pro Light & Sound | Stationery and Signage Design: The Bride | Stationery and Signage Printing: Paperlust | Accommodation: United Places Botanic Gardens | Bride’s dress: Roksanda | Dress alterations: Sewn Right London | Groom’s suit: Norton & Townsend Bespoke Tailoring | Bride’s Rings: Vrai | Groom’s Ring: Vashi | Bride’s shoes: Stuart Weitzman | Groom’s shoes: Crockett & Jones | Bride’s earrings + rings: Sarah & Sebastian | Bride’s bag: Paco Rabanne | Groom’s accessories: Drakes London | Makeup & Hair: Tonic Hair & Makeup Agency | Bride’s Fragrance: Le Labo Santal 33 | Groom Fragrance: Le Labo Thé Noir 29 | Bridesmaid Dresses: Hexie | Groomsmen Suit: Black Tie Classic | Groomswoman Dress: Pleats Please Issey Miyake