Tying the Knot

Kangaroo Valley, NSW

chels and dave's wedding
Most of you already know that in Sept 2014 we decided to set a date for our wedding. On our first afternoon of planning we went to the beach at sunset with a beer (it’s hard work this wedding planning!) and our laptops to gather our ideas. We soon realised we had the very same thoughts on how we would like to celebrate our wedding, and on our first venue search we found our dream location! Full of pure excitement we did our usual cheers with our beers, “To the Unknown Journey”.

As it turned out, the venue had one available date in 2015 and it was in winter. They did however have a weekend free in just a few months time, on the 27/28th Dec, and we jumped at it. The sooner the better for us, so guns blazing we organised our wedding and got married in a matter of months!

Our wedding was a weekend getaway spent at an exclusive bush retreat in the Kangaroo Valley of NSW, where our guests could celebrate and stay with us. Having been off traveling and living in Darwin, most of our friends and family hadn’t seen us in almost 2 years, and this was the no.1 reason why we wanted to spend the weekend with everyone.

For our wedding we knew we wanted to dress formally but have it in a quiet outdoor bush setting. We pictured a delicious meal, good live music and a hang out session at a fireplace; and this place – well – it had it all and more!

Driving through the KV to our wedding venue took us along narrow windy fern lined roads surrounded by rainforest, out to open views of rolling green hills and little country houses, over old sandstone bridges and through quaint small villages – such a spectacular area! Our destination was a remote bush block, on a plateau above the Kangaroo Valley River. On the block we thought the large and central guesthouse was perfect for milling about and catching up with people. There were bush cabins spread out over the property, along with a dam, a pool and bush walks. The wooden hall and pergola had such an awesome feel and was the perfect spot for our reception. A bush walk took us through mossy boulders and big old trees, down into a ‘Rock Cathedral’ where our ceremony would be held. A walk that ended with a wooden deck perched on a cliff top, over-looking the Kangaroo Valley from high above. When we stood there for the first time we took a deep breath in and soaked it up – this was it – it was happening…

Saturday 27th December – The hangout day

We started out by setting up the reception pergola for the following night. We were so stoked with this venue!


We couldn’t wait to see all of our friends and family again! Our guests joined us for a ‘hangout’ day and a group BBQ dinner, where we had a good crack at catching up with everyone. Everyone slipped right into chill out mode and it seems they loved the venue as much as we did. We loved hearing them say “This place is so Gravy and Chelsea”.

With the kids running around chasing wombats and with everyone mingling and laughing at the BBQ, we felt it had such a good vibe. It felt special because everyone seemed to hit it off. I guess our family gained insight into our every day lives when they got to know our friends better, and alike, our friends got a glimpse into our family life and how important they are to us. We felt so lucky to have everyone come together for us. And that’s what made the BBQ for us.

IMG_1850  IMG_1858

IMG_1755Dave and I had a smack in the face ‘wow’ moment when we both sat down at the fireplace that night and looked around the circle of our amazing family and friends. Laughing, chatting and relaxing, it was just what we dreamed of. We truly couldn’t have been happier and valued this added quality time we got with everyone. We looked at each other and said, “How good is this?!” And what a way to start our wedding celebrations!

Sunday 28th December – The big day
I am told there is an 80% chance of rain in the afternoon. Hmm, with the ceremony at 5pm it was simply a waiting game. I figured what happens will happen, there’s no use worrying about it all day.

My dream plan was to have a relaxed day floating around the guest lodge, hanging with my Mum and best buddies, while sipping champas and nibbling on delicious food – and that’s exactly what I got. I was lucky to have my half sister Salina as my flower girl, my sister as my maid of honour and two long time girl friends as my bridesmaids. Spending this day with them meant the world to me. In addition, friends and family wandered in and out of the lodge to say Hi, making it a fun and social day.

Luke laughing at the curlers in my hairI had hoped the day wouldn’t rush by and thankfully it didn’t. Everyone kept saying to me that I was much too calm, but for me that’s what it was all about and I was happy soaking it all up. Granted I had an army of friends and family making sure the last minute tasks were taken care of, so that I could float around (looking hilarious with my hair in curlers!) mingling and beautifying. Thanks to them, I got the day I dreamed of and had the BEST day!

My mum and I love our hugsEventually it was time for me to disappear into my room for final hair styling and to play dress ups with my flower girl and bridesmaids. To be honest, this is when it started to feel real! The excitement in the room was ramping up, and you could feel the buzz in the air. Meanwhile, I am told Dave and the groomsman are still relaxing in the pool?

Dave’s account

Waking up the day of our wedding was such a good feeling. Chels and I were so at home in this bushy location that it would have taken something pretty major to go wrong to dampen our happy, content feelings. I got to spend the morning with my best mates hanging out in the bush and in the small town of Kangaroo Valley so I was stoked. First we headed to the river where we soaked up the amazing scenery and checked out places for photos later in the day. Next we went to the local pie shop for “the best pies in the world”. Its funny cause on our travels around Australia Chels and I have probably been to half a dozen pie shops that quote that same claim to fame. These pies were pretty bloody good though. After topping a few pies there was only one place to go to next – the local pub. Over the weekend I had 3 proper ‘wow, I will never forget this’ moments; seeing Chels walking down the aisle, sitting around the campfire with our family and friends, and this moment. Sitting in the outdoor beer garden surrounded by rolling green hills and talking about whatever we want to talk about with my best man and my two groomsmen. 3 guys that have had a major part in my life in different ways and here we were, all sharing stories over a beer on my big day. After a few hours at the pub, and a few messages from people at the bush retreat wondering where we were, we decided we should probably head back.

Back at the bush retreat we migrated to a cabin and were lucky enough to have food brought to us for a fantastic lunch. After lunch it was time for a swim to cool off. With less than an hour to get ready, we headed back to the cabin to get our suits on. Before I knew it I was heading out the cabin door with my mates in tow and off to get married!

Dave and groomsman getting ready  Dave and groomsman getting readyWalking through the bush to the rock cathedral  Walking through the bush to the rock cathedral

And luckily no rain! – So we made our way down to the Rock Cathedral.

A short walk through bush along a windy dirt track would bring our guests to our ceremony location, known as the Rock Cathedral. A shady rectangle shaped clearing hidden in amongst a rocky outcrop.  There was a wooden stage for Chels, myself and our celebrant, with wooden pews lined up for our guests. It was intimate and simple – just how we like it.

rock cathedral

Meanwhile back at the lodge…

It’s 15 minutes until the ceremony is due to start and the girls and I are itching to head out of our room to get some photos, but guests were still in the house! How funny – Luke our MC does a mad dash around to move everyone down to the Rock Cathedral, and at 5pm we dash out and get some fast pics of us girls.

IMG_2821Full of excitement and 110% loving the idea that am I walking down a small windy dirt path in my rubber thongs, through beautiful bush and mossy rocks, down into a hidden location where I was soon going to be seeing Dave and walking down the aisle. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

The nerves didn’t flutter until we arrived close to the entrance of the Rock Cathedral. Mum is awaiting us here, looking gorgeous and with a huge smile and teary eyes, she was ready to walk her baby girl down the aisle. Hidden from everyone we had time to put our heels on, line up and take a deep breath. Salina says to me “I’m nervous, everyone will be looking at me and I don’t normally wear a dress.” I said “I’m exactly the same! But I think we’ll be alright” and we laughed. I heard our guest’s stand and hush. My heart is racing. I realise now that in our haste I hadn’t even seen myself all done up yet. Paul (Dave’s brother) was there to greet us, and had the biggest grin on his face. He said, “You look stunning”. It seems silly but I felt relieved after that assurance! Now I was ready to go. Paul was managing the music, so he hit go on our aisle song and away we went.

Salina-flower-girlSalina heads out first and scatters little white baby’s breath flowers as she goes. I thought the contrast of the soft little white flowers scattered along the dirt aisle was incredible.

And soon my three bridesmaids made their way down the aisle to stand at the wooden deck where Dave was waiting. As it turned out I actually couldn’t stand where I had planned to because I realised guests could see me, so I was hiding right back around the corner and made a total guess about when to walk out.

7-b-Bride-and-mumLuckily no one passed out from holding their breath, and next mum and I make our appearance. I remember wanting to look everywhere at once. What an amazing feeling it was to be surrounded by very important people to Dave and I, who care for us so much. Mum and I had a deal not to cry and we joked that we just needed to think about something funny if we started to slip. That wouldn’t be hard since we had just the story – one that still cracks us up just at the mention of it. It was the time I jammed mum’s wheelchair at the top of an escalator at the shopping centre, in a busy food court at lunch. As I tried to push her off the escalator (while walking backwards as the escalator is still going) I had 7 people pile up behind me as they had nowhere to go. Finally we came free and all piled off the top of the escalator, some laughing and some not so amused! We laugh because it would have looked so comical!

Come to think of it, we both have a habit of laughing until tears roll down our eyes anyway! So maybe this story wouldn’t have helped us after all…

Dad and I walk down the isle

Half way down the aisle Mum passes me to Dad and we finish our walk with a hand over to Dave. I honestly didn’t expect walking down the aisle to have that much impact but it really did. I will never forget seeing the look on both my Mum and Dad’s face, it had hit them just as hard as I. I could see they were so proud and happy for us. It meant the world to me.

 We both have to admit that the ceremony went really fast and was a total blur! We now both talk about how we were trying really hard to focus on our celebrant’s words, but nothing was actually sinking in.

Dave looked so handsome in his smick suit, and I know it sounds lame but I could literally see the love he has for me in his eyes. I remember looking around I could see just how much our crew of friends and family were enjoying this special moment. I could see happiness and proudness on my family’s faces, mixed with the smiling support of our friends, and both meant the world to me. I looked around at the setting and thought to myself how perfect it was. It all added up to an amazing feeling. I loved hearing Dave’s personal vows and loved reading my own vows to him – that was the moment for me that I will never forget.

Dave – It was a surreal feeling being up in front of everyone and the centre of focus. I couldn’t wait to see Chels walking down the aisle because I knew that I would feel relief. Relief that soon Chels would be standing with me, hand in hand, and I could focus on her rather than feeling awkward about being the centre of attention! Once I saw Chels all those feelings were stripped from my mind and body. All of a sudden there was no one else there but Chels walking down the aisle. All I could do was smile, I was frozen in a state of bliss. I can’t remember one word spoken by the celebrant. All I could do was stare at Chels and soak up her mirrored smile to mine.

After we were announced husband and wife, we looked at each other and laughed. What just happened? We literally said to each “that’s it – just like that we’re husband and wife! Wow.” In 30 minutes our lives had drastically changed. Yet it was still a surreal feeling that it had finally happened.

And not only did the rain hold out but we got some wicked cloud and sun ray action happening over the Kangaroo Valley from our lookout!

14-Awaiting the Johnstons_sm

View of the Kangeroo Valley

While our guests enjoyed canapés and drinks on the lookout deck, we whizzed around getting photos done and before we knew it we were back at the hall/pergola for our reception and LOVING the live music, speeches and most of all sharing this night of celebrations with people who are so important in our lives.

Be sure to head over to our photo gallery to check out our wedding albums!

Happily ever after

We’re psyched for the next chapter of our lives as husband and wife.

Dave here again – I thought I might just add in here the story that I wrote and read out during my speech for Chels, since she loved it so much:

Our Story so far:
A big city boy found love for the bush and rock faces,
Grabbed his best mate to travel the world and climb in many places.

A small town girl with a big heart and a curious mind,
Took a brave solo step out the door to see in this world what she could find.

Of all the wonders on this planet,
They both decided the Rockies was the place to be.
And so as fate would have it,
A certain Banff share house would be the meeting place of Chelsea and me.

Both already had further plans of travel and adventure,
And before we knew it our bodies flew in different directions.
But sole mates can’t be separated once brought together,
And so our minds kept beautiful and solid connections.

To my joy Chelsea decided to give a big city a go,
So I did my best to wow her with trips to the bush, the mountains, and the snow.

Before we knew it we were planning our next big adventure together,
An epic road trip around this beautiful country, just the 2 of us and our camper.

One might think 2 people living in such a small space would become a bother,
But we found our love growing stronger and stronger!

The big city boy and the small town girl knew they had to be together forever to any ends,
And so here we are sharing our love and commitment with our closest family and friends.

To the most amazing person I know…my small town girl and my wife, Chelsea.

3 thoughts on “Tying the Knot

  1. You guys are the best! Such a beautiful account of a such a perfect day. It is a blessing to have you both as friends and a privilege to have been a part of your special day.

  2. Hi guys

    Congratulations on your recent wedding, I have been following your journey not long after you started and love love love your web page and travels. It is the best blog I have seen for a trip around Aus.
    I particularly love your idea of the swivel toolbox behind your van, can you tell me did you design it yourself or is it something you can purchase.
    We are planning a trip and would love to steel your idea.

    Laurieton NSW

    • Hi Fee,

      Sorry for the late reply! We’re currently working on a cattle station in WA so we don’t have much reception to check our website!
      We’re glad you like our blog and thanks for the complements.
      The steel box is something that I saw on some other campervans and decided would be a great idea for extra storage. I couldn’t find anywhere that installed them as a ‘standard attachment’ so I had to go to a small metal fabricator and tell him my idea. It took a little bit of persuading but he decided to give it a go, and it worked out perfectly! The actual box is a standard aluminium tool tradesman tool box that you can buy from Repco or Supercheap auto. The fabricator then made up the cradle for the box to sit in, the hinge, and also added the jockey wheel.
      I hope that helps out. Good luck with it!
      Happy travels.

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