Tell us a little about yourselves, what you do, what you love, what is unique about you and your relationship … We had been together for 8 years before getting married and most of that time our relationship has been surrounded by opera and classical music.
We met each other working for an opera company and travelled together to Berlin also in the pursuit of opera. We have performed and made music together for most of that time, it hasn’t always been easy but it is pretty amazing when you find someone who also has a deep passion for music and convenient when you are obsessed with it.
Everything moved pretty quickly in the beginning though we spent much of our time in a long distance relationship in the early stages, and again during the months leading up to the wedding. Despite this, we have shared a husky Nikolai for most of that time and an apartment in Berlin.
When we are not making music we love going for walks in forests, exploring Alsace, Tuscany, Copenhagen and London along with any other place we are privileged to visit.
We have both supported each other through difficult career times and studies and we know we can always count on each other for that little push and encouragement when life gets difficult.
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 …
Our themes were influenced heavily by our love of opera, European architecture, the Dutch masters and baroque and neo-gothic design. We wanted our day to be dark and moody using deep and lush colours and textures along with dramatic music.
A favourite detail would have been Montsalvat itself, it is an incredible venue and we didn’t want to over-dress it as it has a very unique European beauty, we particularly love the stained glass windows and grounds. Madi our florist did a wonderful job of sourcing blooms that really complimented the atmosphere without it being overwhelming. Montsalvat resolved our conflict of whether to have a European wedding or an Australian wedding, as its architectural influence comes from southern France, while geographically being closer to many (but not all) family and friends.
Of course another favourite moment was the ceremony with an orchestra, choir and a thunderstorm all set in the upper gallery, it completely evoked our dramatic, over the top and silly tendencies.
For the cake Ellen wanted it to reflect a painting and used edible charcoal plus pastel buttercream to create flowers that had the appearance of an oil painting. It was also something Ellen did to keep her focus and not become completely overwhelmed by the pressure of planning a wedding. Cake making was an excellent anti-anxiety strategy.
Tell us about your main outfits:
E: I am obsessed with baroque and neo-gothic design and the late Alexander McQueens last collection. I wanted to bring together my love of organic, floral embroidered styles with gold and bronze baroque themes plus a hint of gothic melancholy. In terms of structure I decided to not go for a ball gown cut as I wanted something that hugged my figure as if I was being wrapped up in vines.
Rose from of Annette of Melbourne seemed to completely understand my vision during our first consultation and I really enjoyed the process of creating my own gown. It was important for me that it be in two pieces so I could vary how it looks and reuse it the future for singing engagements
It was so important for me that it wasn’t white, I have never felt comfortable in White and historically prior to Queen Victoria many brides wore royal colours like gold, purple and green. I wanted to feel like me and a white dress wouldn’t have done that.
M: as an opera and orchestral conductor I am often performing in tails and very formal wear, so for our wedding I wanted to find something still formal and special, but which I then wouldn’t necessarily wear for conducting (ie work). The day we decided to go seriously outfit hunting, we first walked into a shop around the corner from our home in Berlin; one we had often wanted to browse. We walked into “Herr von Eden” and staring directly back at us was this deep purple coloured velvet jacket and vest. Both of us took about two seconds to come to the same conclusion, and despite then browsing a few other stores, nothing was going to compare – and so it took less than a day to decide.
What were some of the most memorable/unique moments from the day?
M: Definitely Ellen’s entrance at the ceremony. I knew that she would be stunning in whatever dress she had designed, but I particularly wanted it to be a surprise for me. I was blown away, even though I had a prediction of which direction it would take. Combined with the choir and musicians stridently singing “Zadok the Priest” it was an impressive entrance.
Having so many family and friends in one place at the same time was one of the big reasons I was more open to a bigger reception, as it is probably the only event besides a funeral that brings so many people from varying aspects of one’s life together. As performers we are accustomed to the pressure of having to deliver a performance or be the centre of attention, but we both remarked that we felt extremely calm and relaxed during the day’s preparations and the ceremony. Probably because we knew everyone in attendance, and that they were there FOR us, not to be entertained by us.
The readings and music during the ceremony were extremely moving and were performed by friends.
During our personal photos, we had some amazing wildlife join us, particularly a kookaburra family nesting just above where we were taking photos.
The expression “come rain, hail, or shine” took on a greater meaning, as we had all three at once when trying to depart to get to Montsalvat – and amazingly the weather cooperated just in time for us to get group photos in the sun.
Our Bugs Bunny “What’s Opera Doc” substituted the traditional entrance of the bride and groom, and gave guests a taste of our quirky humour and mutual love of Wagner opera.
Ellen’s friends managed to pull of the perfect flash mob surprise, by rewriting the lyrics to “islands in the stream”, accompanied by guitar, and gaining more and more momentum, until everyone was up on the Dance floor. The personal joke being that at Karaoke, Ellen and I will always sing this duet, as inspired by the show “Gavin & Stacey”.
Seeing my nephew uninhibitedly busting out some moves on the dance floor was great to see, as it clearly runs in the family, with my sister and I encouraging it wholeheartedly.
Any advice for other couples planning to spend the rest of their lives together?
Respect and support each other. Be creative together. Have mutual interests as well as individual ones. It’s okay to disagree, but respect each other’s opinions. Keep a sense of humour.
Do what feels right for you, we ditched many traditions as they didn’t make sense or made us feel uncomfortable. We are pretty sure no one missed the garter or bouquet toss and even if they did we were ok with that not being a thing.
Something that we battled with a bit was people not understanding our vision of a non-white wedding that was dramatic and melancholic but we are pretty sure on the day when it all came together people would have realised how it was very much “us”.
Venue: Montsalvat Arts Centre | Photography & Videography: She takes pictures He makes Films | Celebrant: Wendy Grose | Entertainment: Orchestra convened by Matthew Toogood, Including soloists | Planner: Ellen Leather + Matthew Toogood (The couple) | Flora: Madeleine Watts for Flowers by Brett Matthew John | Catering + Beverages: Montsalvat Arts Centre | Styling, Graphic Design & Cake: Ellen Leather (The Bride) | Bride’s Dress & Veil: Annette of Melbourne Couture | Groom’s Jacket, vest & bow tie: Herr von Eden | Groom’s Shirt: Xacus | Ring/s: Tiffany and Co | Bride’s Shoes: RAS | Groom’s Shoes: Jennen | Bride’s Ear Cuff + Earring (Ceremony): Mignonne Handmade | Bride’s Tassel Earrings: Star Styling | Groom’s cufflinks: Tiffany and Co | Makeup & Hair: Marlene Olsson | Bride’s Fragrance: Coco Chanel | Groom’s Fragrance: Boss One | Maid of Honour Dress: ASOS