Jesse + Vivien by Lionel Tan

Tell us a little about yourselves, what you do, what you love…

From high school sweethearts to husband and wife, we’ve been together for a decade. Jesse works as a resident doctor and Vivien is a tax advisor at medical devices manufacturer Fisher & Paykel Healthcare.

Jesse is naturally spontaneous whereas Vivien is a super planner, which has proven to be an effortless combo. For Jesse, trips are always better when someone has inside knowledge of all the good places to eat. And for Vivien, it’s nice knowing that if your plans fall through, there is someone around who can make it work (most of the time anyway).

How/where/when did you meet – and what were your first impressions?

We technically first met when we were in the same class at primary school. Years later, we reunited online and were messaging each other non-stop. After a series of library dates where we swore to our parents we were studying, we went Facebook official and haven’t looked back. Ten years across your teens and 20s feels like an incredibly long time. We grew together through awkward high school phases, the challenges of med school and law school, and even changing jobs. Sharing so much with each other has made our bond stronger with every passing day.

When did you first realise that this was someone you’d like to spend the rest of your life with?

Our relationship started from a friendship, so it genuinely feels like a gradual process rather than an overnight realisation. If we had to pick one key moment, it would be our Christmas trip to Japan. The trip was one of the first times we spent a lot of time by ourselves. We discovered how much we enjoyed hanging out all day, exploring different cities and even waiting in line for restaurants while hangry. Being together felt comfortable. Both of us wanted the trip to keep going instead of going our separate ways. After that, we knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with each other.

Was there a proposal? Tell us a little about it…

Jesse worked with a local jeweller in Parnell to design a bespoke marquise-cut sapphire ring and the jeweller handcrafted it. Jesse even got to be involved in the process, including rolling the metal through the jewellery equivalent of a pasta machine. The proposal was in Italy during our eight-year anniversary trip. After a day of exploring Rome and admiring lots of art, Jesse proposed in a quiet moment with just the two of us and the ring became Vivien’s something blue!

Tell us about the vision you had for the mood or style of your wedding…

V: We wanted the day to be a celebration of our story in ways that spoke to who we are. Despite growing up in New Zealand, our culture was a big part of our upbringing at home so we wanted to incorporate cultural elements in our wedding as a nod to our backgrounds. Red and gold are fortuitous colours for Chinese weddings, so we were inspired by that to create an autumn wedding using that colour palette. We hung up a custom dried flower cloud above the dancefloor and had bud vases of dried botanicals and red taper candles on every table.

Our families are from different parts of China so it was about mingling traditions to reflect us. The invitations were bilingual with a Chinese translation on the back. We held a Chinese tea ceremony for our family (including my Scottish godmother) and I changed into a Cantonese kun qwa richly embroidered with traditional wedding motifs of phoenixes, dragons, peonies and the double happiness character.

The part that no wedding planning website could prepare us for was making our customs COVID-appropriate. I hunted for appropriately decorated paper cups to use in the tea ceremony to avoid the tradition of hand-washing and re-using the china teacups for multiple people. Chinese weddings also traditionally have trays of candied melon, lotus seeds and lotus roots that guests graze from. Since production of these has slowed in the pandemic, my parents spent days making these from scratch and then we packed the treats in individual snack bags for hygiene. Not creating a ton of waste was also super important to me. We kept stationery to a minimum by having online RSVPs and printing one menu and program for each table rather than each guest. When we couldn’t find a card box within our budget, Dad’s friend made us one using kitchen cabinet offcuts.

Anything else that we bought or DIY’d we made sure that we loved them enough to keep them in our home afterwards – from the framed childhood photo Instax display to the dried flowers which I repurposed in a vase arrangement on our bedside table.

What was one element you were happy to splurge on?

We are both major foodies and always mark our celebrations with a delicious meal. So we definitely splurged on the food! Our reception dinner was served family-style just like a Chinese banquet and we customised the menu to dishes that featured symbolic ingredients. There were eight dishes (a traditionally lucky number) excluding the dessert and we chose a range that catered to our friends’ dietary requirements so that there was variety for everyone on the day. The tasting with the venue’s chefs was definitely a highlight of the wedding planning. We chose proteins like fish, scallop and roast duck which sound like prosperity and other blessings for newlyweds in Chinese, but had them cooked in Western and Chinese ways so it was a fusion dinner.

Did anything happen on your wedding day that you laugh about in hindsight (even if it was stressful at the time)?

J: At the end of the ceremony as Vivien and I were walking out, the music unexpectedly stopped. The bridal party got confused about what to do. While turning away, we heard some giggling and I managed to catch a glimpse of what seemed like the world’s slowest Olympic speed-walking competition down the aisle. It definitely made me feel more relaxed about the day, I only wish that their walk was captured on video so we could relive it!

Tell us about your main outfits, what was unique, is there a story?

V: Jesse wanted to match the colour scheme on the day so the burgundy suit felt like the perfect autumnal choice. I always like it when the groom makes a bit of a statement on the day. The finishing touch was a pair of lobster cufflinks that I got him as a surprise gift. I co-designed and made my ceremony and reception gowns with my mother during a few of the lockdowns. Mum used to work as a sewing machinist for designers, so I grew up surrounded by fabrics and fashion. It was a sentimental process to bring my vision to life while doing it alongside Mum. We bought the fabrics from “wedding streets” in Mum’s hometown of Guangzhou where it took me two solid days to walk into every store looking for the right fabric.

My favourite accessory that has seen me through all the milestone events in my life is a simple pair of pearl drop earrings. I was inspired by this when designing the wedding looks. The two gowns each have eight layers of champagne tulle and lace with hand-placed white floral appliques and hand embroidery using thousands of pearls and beads. It was important that it felt cohesive like the gowns were variations on a theme. The ceremony gown is more whimsical to match the garden setting, with a playful peplum, illusion sweetheart neck and a long train. We crafted the reception gown to be the elegant and practical version for indoors, with no train and a more simple round neck and long sleeves to bring focus to the flowers and beading cascading down. I also tried hard to have no waste. We used the excess materials to drape a matching pearl-studded veil (with over 300 individually embroidered pearls!) and make a ring pillow. It was months of gripping our sewing needles and Mum and I spent many a day holed up at home working on the dresses. But it was so worth it in the end and I know I will remember this fondly always. I love how comfortable a good jumpsuit is, so I got one with awesome sleeves on sale from ASOS and danced the night away.

Ceremony + Reception + Catering + Beverages  Alley Estate / Videographer ExpressioNZ / Photographer Lionel Tan Celebrant Valeria Antipenko / Entertainment Party DJ / Hire Event Styling Co and The Pretty Prop Shop / Flora K Flower Arrangements and Dried Meadow Cake The Caker / Bride’s dress made by bride and bride’s mother / Afterparty jumpsuit ASOS / Groom’s attire Heart & Dagger Bowtie The Iconic / Ring/s Louis The Goldsmith / Shoes Zara / Bride’s pearl headband BHLDN / Groom’s lobster cufflinks Ted Baker / Tea ceremony jewellery Chow Tai Fook Makeup Kiwi Lash n Brow and STYLENANDA / Nails Inco Studio / Hair Dry and Tea / Fragrance Jo Malone / Bridesmaids attire TFNC and Babys Breath Bridesmaids / Groomsmen’s Attire Ted Baker and Politix and Bowties The Iconic