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A French Inspired Garden Party at the Charming Ilam Homestead

With the estate as backdrop, Anna and James celebrated in the poetic gardens of the idyllic Ilam Homestead. Classic, white floral, was accented by delicate details that evoked a sense of a classic French setting. Row upon row of wooden cross back chairs, banquet style tables, and crisp white umbrellas, created an al fresco style reception which blended beautifully with the historic setting.

The wedding was classically captured by Susannah Blatchford.

How did you meet and how long have you been together? 

We met after both swiping right on Tinder in 2016. 

We started dating in 2017 and our life together began from there. 

Tell us a little bit about the proposal and your engagement?

We got engaged in August 2022 in Aix En Provence when we were travelling Europe together. James’ mother and our best friends were with us the night we got engaged. James proposed with a ‘temporary’ ring that he had purchased in the night market, while Lesley (James’ Mother) and I were shopping in Longchamp (Another Story…). 

While travelling for the remainder of our trip, I started trying on engagement rings. On the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, I first tried on a Blue Sapphire with a Diamond Halo and fell completely in love. 

When we returned to New Zealand we inquired with Naveya and Sloane and they brought my dream ring to life. We had seen multiple variations of the ring but they designed the ring to perfection. In the process of designing the ring, they brought multiple Sapphire stones to Christchurch where we could inspect and choose the perfect stone which concluded in designing the best version of the ring I could have ever imagined. 

It’s the most special piece of jewellery I own and each time I look at it I am reminded of the amazing places James and I visited together to design this ring. 

Tell us about your wedding style. What influenced your planning for the day?

Our European trip together was so special – we wanted to incorporate this in our wedding day. The theme for the day was ‘French Inspired Garden Party’, which was both traditional and classic. Soiree Studio helped me from start to finish with the design and furniture to make this happen. All that was left was the weather to play ball to ensure outside dining could be a success and it was! 

Why did you choose your destination?

There really is no place more charming than the Historic Ilam Homestead in Christchurch, New Zealand. Beautiful, vast gardens, where guests could sit among the trees and a stunning historic interior, that guests could also explore. It fit our Traditional Garden Party theme perfectly. 

The vast gardens enabled us to explore a Marquee option or alternatively dine upstairs among the trees and overlook Christchurch University. With the Marquee option exceeding our budget, we initially chose to dine upstairs but in the weeks leading up to the Wedding, and an amazing summer, we were able to explore the alfresco dining option. This was my absolute dream I never thought would come true thanks to unreliable Christchurch weather.

Furthermore, as a bonus – Tanya, the Manager at Ilam Homestead, was extremely accommodating to all our requests and ideas we wanted to incorporate for the day (It started with lit candles and moved onto sparklers). The Catering company we chose, were familiar with the vast kitchen and it really was an easy and stress free choice of venue. Being central to Christchurch, also helped with timings on the day, as the Ceremony at St Andrews was only a few minutes drive to the Homestead. 

What was your favourite detail from the day?

I wouldn’t even know where to start. My Pinterest expectations were exceeded in all areas. I gave Soiree Studio and Alex from The Flower Press my complete trust in designing the day and I was absolutely blown away with how everything just came together. The beautiful floral arrangements, white umbrellas, stunning table settings and beautiful stationery designed by the very talented Brogan Scott – worked perfectly together. 

I remember sitting at the Bridal Table with the sun setting, all the colours coming to life and being in awe of just how amazing everything looked and being so thankful for the commitment from all our vendors to deliver such a perfect setting. 

Did you have a stand out vendor from your Wedding?

Every one of our vendors just worked so seamlessly together – like a well oiled machine! Soiree Studio is to thank for all the coordination and running of the day. Behind the scenes, Lauren was responsible for putting everything together and she was really the backbone of the whole day. 

What was your favourite moment from the day?

Favourite moment of the day! Where do I start? 

I absolutely loved my morning getting ready with the girls. I knew Lauren had everything under control for the day and I somehow had a solid 8 hours sleep that night – I am told that is unheard of. 

Everyone was so excited for the day. This was our last moment of the day, just us girls to just reflect and have a fabulous morning together. 

It was so relaxing with so many special moments. Kaye – (My hairdresser, as well as Mum’s) reflected on all the hair styles and updo’s she had done for us all in the past, but this being the most special of them all. No hair trial was required as she knew my hair so well. 

The make up was the finishing touch, and Stacey Banfield and her assistant Tessa Taylor did just that! I will always remember seeing Mum come upstairs, hair and make up done and just looking so relaxed and beautiful. “Anna”, she said, “Look at my Makeup!” I could tell she didn’t want to leave, but also needed to go home and get dressed before the final reveal! 

Our celebrant, Peg Riley. My Maid of Honour and Bridesmaid High School Chaplin. Meeting James a few months earlier and being a part of our special day many years later. Her energy and love could be felt all around the Chapel that morning. The service would not have been the same without her. And that quick shot of Fireball together before walking down the Aisle definitely helped.   

The day was filled with so many happy moments, now beautiful memories. All of our favourite people together in one place. I have so many flashing memories of looking around and seeing laughter and smiles. Seeing everyone so happy truly made our day. 

Oh and James cried as I walked down the Aisle. That was special.


What does marriage mean to you?

Someone that will support you in your goals and adventures. Always there to cheer you on and keep you motivated to keep going, who challenges you to be the very best version of yourself. Someone you always want to see smiling and hear laughing. Someone you go to for advice. A shoulder to cry on. Always kind, and never judgmental. The person you go to when something wonderful happens, and can’t wait to tell them. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition. Only kindness and calmness when you’re around them. You can be yourself and not worry what they think because they love you for who you are.  Someone who makes life is so exciting and worthwhile. Things that never before fascinated you now become fascinating because you know they are important to them.  Someone who will always be there for you, even when you don’t deserve it. 

Advice for other couples planning a wedding?

Pinterest – a great place to start for wedding ideas. 

Wedding planner – To reduce stress and all the unknowns. 

On the day coordinator – To keep you on track and everything running smoothly.

Choose key vendors early and secure a date – Venue, Photographer, Makeup Artist, Band/entertainment. Things book out quickly, especially in peak season so it’s good to have these things locked in early.


PHOTOGRAPHY Susannah Blatchford | CEREMONY LOCATION St Andrews College Church | RECEPTION LOCATION Ilam Homestead | VIDEOGRAPHER Weka Films | STYLING, PLANNING + COORDINATION Soiree Studio | CELEBRANT Peg Riley | FLORA The Flower Press | CEREMONY ENTERTAINMENT Graeme Bryce – Bagpiper | Mollie Gallaher – Singer | RECEPTION ENTERTAINMENT Rattle and Strum | HIRE The Little Hire Company – Soft Furniture, Table Linen, and Signage | Silk Estate – Wooden Crossback Chairs | Hayley and Co – Glassware | Truly Yours – Umbrellas, Bar leaners, Drinks Cart | CATERING + BEVERAGES White Tie Catering – Catering Dept. | CONTENT CREATION Soiree Studio | HAIR Yazu Hair Lounge | MAKEUP Stacey Banfield | BRIDAL PARTY TANNING Bronzed Goddess | STATIONERY + SIGNAGE Brogan Scott Studio | GROOMS GIFT Dalvey Half Hunter Skeletal Pocketwatch | MOTHER OF THE BRIDE + MOTHER OF THE GROOM Trelise Cooper | BRIDES GOWN Hera Couture | GROOM + GROOMSMEN Sergios Menswear | RINGS Naveya and Sloane | The Filing Kabinett | FRAGRANCE Jo Malone Tuberose Angelica Intense | Chanel Bleu | SHOES Dior J’Adior Slingback Heels | Groom – Working Style | EARRINGS Wolf and Badger. Flowers Baroque Pearl Earrings Gold | BRIDESMAID DRESSES Ruby | BRIDESMAID FRAGRANCE Jo Malone Perfume – English Pear and Freesia | BRIDESMAID EARRINGS Pearl Bridesmaid Earrings | GROOMS WATCH Tag Heuer

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