A version of this article was published in Metro Plus, The Hindu.
“It’s going to be a relaxed affair guys, you can wear whatever you’re comfortable in.” My soon to be Aussie SIL took us through the details of the upcoming wedding on Skype. “So shorts and T-shirt then?” While she was more than happy to accommodate our casual attire, the eye-rolling and low decibel mumbling from my old school FIL kept us in check.
The itinerary included Sydney and surrounding coastal towns, the Blue Mountains, and a couple of days in the mystical land of Uluru. Sydney is a tourist’s paradise – the Taronga Zoo, Sydney helicopter ride, and the Harbour Bridge climb are recommended must-dos. If you’re one for petting marsupials (an experience you cannot have anywhere else), head to the Featherdale Wildlife Park to hang out with free range wallabies.
The Blue Mountains are a popular picturesque weekend getaway destination, with many Sydneyites buying or renting holiday homes. Of course, I gave them the “we also have blue mountains, they’re called Nilgiris” speech. On the drive back down, the weather played Aussie with wind so strong, the cold rain lashed at a 60 degree angle! Nevertheless, we stopped to see the stunning Three Sisters standing tall and graceful.
Hens and Bucks
As the big day neared, the girls and boys separated for the Hens and Bucks parties. The bride’s entourage ferried to the Gatehouse Tea Room in Sydney’s Paramatta for a delightful afternoon tea. Between sips of champagne and curate stands loaded with egg and lettuce sandwiches, the bridesmaid played “how well does the bride know the groom” to much laughter and teasing.
The boys went off on a supposed golf retreat, the authenticity of which has been questioned considering they slid back into bed at 4am, and were still swaying the next morning from all the schnitzel and beer games at the German bar. A well-deserved feather in the best man’s cap!
The NSW Coast
On the eve of the wedding, we left Sydney for the two hour drive to the venue. En-route we stopped at the historic country town of Berry known for its laidback food and wine tours, luxury accommodations at working vineyards, a range of walks and hikes, and antiques and jewellery shops. I was caught eyeing vintage dresses and was whisked away quickly before any wallets were opened!
You haven’t really done Australia till you’ve checked off at least a few of its whopping 10,685 beaches. We rented a tastefully furnished house in Culburra Beach, 20 minutes from the wedding venue. Sparsely populated, it is the perfect opportunity to hog the entire gorgeous beach to yourself! Watch out for jelly blubbers – they sting but don’t kill.
The Big Day
Turning into the dirt track that led to what we thought was the venue, we were greeted by a rugged Aussie dressed in rough denim and a massive sun hat. He rested his elbow on a rake and chewed on straw as he shook his head at us – “Merribee? You want to go 8 kilometers back where you came from mate (now get off my property).”
The venue was home to manicured lawns, a rose garden, a granary converted into a bridal suite, and a venomous black snake that was perfect because it “eats all the baby browns, and those are even worse.” Only in Australia!
The guests sat on vintage wooden chairs decorated with painted cans and wild flowers. Keeping with the relaxed theme, the ladies wore beautiful floral dressed, while the groom twitched about looking nervous in his relaxed black suit .Tears could not be held back when the bride’s father walked her down the aisle.
She wore a full length white empress dress by designer Collette Dinnigan, a cathedral length veil, drop earrings and matching hair accessories with a mum-made flower bouquet. Her bridesmaid made a lovely picture in a strapless flowy indigo dress.
When it was time for speeches, the bride’s father took it upon himself to tell funny stories of his new ‘pom’ son-in-law. Turned out the groom had been a goody two shoes all his life, and embarrassing him was a real struggle!
The caterers passed around delicious arancini balls, samosas, fries, Asian wraps with peanut sauce, and lentil curry with rice among other meaty tapas. The eventful day ended with everyone boogying in the barn to the carefully selected playlist. The celebrations continued the next day at a big Aussie barbeque brunch, with the groom’s mother taking on the role of embarrasser-in-chief, where shorts and T-shirts were finally allowed!
- Visit Kiama for a fascinating blow hole, Kangaroo Valley for a romantic getaway with canoeing and safaris, and Wollongong for the historic lighthouse and surfing along the NSW coast.
- Your Indian driving license is accepted in Australia, but you have to insure yourself on the vehicle you rent. Check services like Hertz and Avis beforehand.
- Homes/apartments in Culburra, Blue Mountains, Berry, Kangaroo Valley can be booked on Airbnb or booking.com. Most of these places are self-catered, so plan a trip to the supermarket before you check-in!
- While you need to pack sunscreen by the bucketloads, remember to also pack a warm hoodie and a waterproof jacket. Or invest in a cheap poncho to last you through the trip.