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The History of a Dress: Anna and Graham's Wedding

Posted on 26 Jun, 2015
The History of a Dress: Anna and Graham's Wedding

Eleven years ago, Anna came into the Paddington boutique looking for her special dress. Anna recalled Karen grafting pieces of lace together to resemble sea foam on the bodice and embellishing with seed pearls by hand. After unfortunately not being able to wear her special gown in her first marriage, Anna wore her gown on the May 5th on a brillantly sunny day in Sydney. 

Anna added a lace capelet to the gown, but with the support of her 'bullet proof' couture gown she told us how incredibly beautiful, strong, dignified and chic she felt. 

Congraultations Anna & Graham on a beautiful wedding.


How did you meet your (now) husband? By chance.

How long have you been together? Five years

Do you have a proposal story? No one proposed…my engagement ring was stolen so the one knee moment never happened.

The Wedding

What was your wedding date?  May 5th, 2015

Location (Ceremony and Reception) 

1.     Where?  McKell Park Darling Point and then Lucio’s Paddington  

2.     What made you choose there?  A natural beautiful outdoor setting followed by a rustic art world legend beloved by everyone we know.

3.     How did you find it? We swam off the wharf at Darling Point when we first met. I always like the mixture of private houses, a broken down jetty and big established trees.

How was the weather on the day?  Very lucky for winter, 24 degrees! 

What made you decide to get married on this particular date?  ISIS By Bob Dylan begins with the words “I married Isis on the 5th day of May” it was auspicious, romantic and subversive.


The Wedding Details

Theme?  Olive green, black and white. No stylist. No planner. But no sleep either!!!

Where did you draw your inspiration/ideas from?  Manet. Sixties realist film. David Bailey. Shakespeare. Rock and Roll romance.

Were any aspects of your wedding D.I.Y? If so What? The focal point (other than brilliant organic crazy flowers and herbs) were the hand inked green place settings which I drew the night before. The music which was made by  jazz legend Barney McAll with a home recording and performed live on a 60s keyboard. Barney played an instrumental version of  “Love is All You Need” for the processional and the track list. Shhh don’t tell Paul. And a chalkboard which we forgot to hang

Bridal Party

1.     Bridesmaids – who/relationship?  My best friend Karen Markham

2.     Groomsmen – who/relationship?  Martin Searle, best friend and best guy in general! My Dad, Micahel Johnson.

3.     Flower girls/Page boys – who/relationship? Page boy: Marcello de Cosmo our son. Flower girl Ari Johnson (my cousin) and Violet Maslen, our daughter.

Wedding Gown (the most important part!)

What made you decide to come into Karen Willis Holmes? 

After seeing a violet silk dress I saw in a magazine that was very belle epoque. When I ordered my two piece gown this label was not yet global.  I was visiting Sydney from new York, It was very much a discovery at the time and I kept the dress hidden away for many a year until I had the amazing chance to actually wear it. The dress was boight but never worn… My first marriage was consecrated at a registry office and then I got pregnant and then divorced after seven years….Clearly I am not superstitious! It pays to be on good terms with the past. No regrets. This time round I saw that dress as ready to be worn for the first time. Two children and many adventures later….Great dresses truly have nine lives!!!

How many gowns did you try? One or two then we opted for custom couture. I am short and shaped like a guitar….Karen understood my proportion and esire to look a bit taller…

Where did you purchase your gown from (which store or stockist)? Paddington

What did you especially like about your gown?  The adaptability of the corset. The flattery of the line and the amazing quality of the fabric. Couture is not a word to be thrown around and this was and is the real thing. The dress looks like one of my drawings…it’s like the line where art becomes reality. Also it photographed really well…a delightful surprise. I ended up wearing it with a capelet. That added a flattering bit of fluff near my face and gave me more confidence. Some brides don’t want to bare all….I am a bit like that. I highly recommend adding a bit of vintage or something a bit less precious to a very serious gown. My cape was from an outlet store…that felt a bit rock and roll and a bit easy. I could fling it off without panic or use it to soften the line. It was my bit of Kate Moss.


Who is your bridesmaid dress supplier? ALANNAH HILL with custom shoes by Sophie Cox

Where did you get the groom and groomsmen’s suits? DRIES VAN NOTEN

What accessories did you choose to finish your gown and also for those in your bridal party? FRESH FLOWERS BY GRANDIFLORA, silk corsages by Alannah Hill on the flower girls. Jewels by BUNDA Pearl necklace by LOVE AND HATRED

 Where did you get your shoes from? SOPHIE COX 

Lingerie: Collette Dinnigan and Agent Provocateur

Did you wear a veil/headpiece? Where did you get this from?I had so much going on that all I had on my head was brilliant hair by Pete Lennon!


What advice would you give brides organizing their wedding? Make something yourself no matter how small. Choose a sensitive photographer who understands your taste and vision (Sheridan Nilsson) and expect to lose weight and not sleep the night before. If you have kids, get some help the night before and on the day….Try to remember that looking beautiful is just a very small part of all of this and to include EVERYONE in the photos.

What advice would you give brides searching for their wedding gown? Follow your dream and not fashion. I wanted a minimal 60s mini dress but suited the 19th century so I went with a dress that was a bit like a costume. It worked!

Anything extra that is special or you would like to share about your big day? After a week of rain…The sun came out. I wound up wearing my very formal dress all day because it felt so good. My daughter Violet was a bit less naughty than usual. My step daughters Ellie and Lucy managed to wear matching shoes and looked like goddesses. I found a tuxedo for our boy Marcello in gumtree for forty dollars. It was not a bargain wedding but this was fun and funny. Nothing went wrong in the conventional sense and it went too fast.

Something Old? Me! And the bus we rented…an original 60s route master.

Something New? Blue shoes by Panache Bridal Shoes, Sydney.

 Something Blue? A little bow hand sewn by Karen inside the bodice.


QUALITY COUNTS….We chose to use really high quality vendors and have a very small guest list. If we had a big garden then we could have had a less formal wedding but I do not regret hiring Stedmans for the drink service. Serving Lanson and going for fairly posh vendors.  We avoided lots of silly things….like hiring 60 chairs, using a ceremonial arch, or tying ribbons on furniture. Our cake was raw and sugar free and  made by a NATUROPATH!! From an Organic café that I love (SmithsOrganics!)  So there was a balance between luxury and simple things. Investing in great clothes, flowers, photography and transport are personal but pivotal choices and really it comes down to whatever generates confidence, complicity and comfort. When it comes to a wedding you do get what you pay for but there are funny little ways to avoid going mad. We felt strongly about the flowers, the food , the photography and the dress….which I guess is sort of everything. My husband made sure the wine and some of the food was from New Zealand. Don’t let your menu be generic. Food and wine tells a story.

Venue: Lucio’s Paddington is the most beautiful location for a smaller wedding. It felt like Italy and I love Lucio, Sally, Matteo and Micheala like they are family. Bravo Lucio!

 Florist GRANDIFLORA, Saskia Havekes personally applied the flower girls head dresses and tied silk ribbons to a lilly pilly tree. She is the best florist in Australia, an enduring friend of many years and a style legend who deserves her reputation.

Photographer SHERIDAN NILSSON. Simply the best in every way

Music – BARNEY McALL (he is a friend and does not do weddings but you can check out his new album on ABC records….a genius)

First Dance – None of that thank you. But we did play Ramble On by Led Zepplin on the amazing 60s bus we hired from RedLOndonBus (need to check exact name)

MC -  Matthew Johnson, my brother

Celebrant – Ian Dickson, a close friend who does NOT do weddings but had a laugh at ours.

Stationery – Handmade by Anna Johnson. 

Menu – Handmade by Anna Johnson. 

Cake – SMITHS ORGANIC. Queen St. Woollahra

Bombonieres – Cook book by LUCIO GALETTO and LUKE SCIBERRAS

Hair Pete Lennon

Make up – Linda Jefferyes

Wedding Bands BUNDA FINE JEWELS. Our rings were elegant, sophisticated, opulent and beautifully made. Ben Bunda makes every bride and groom feel so magical. There is nothing like the moment when he presents your rings. It’s almost as intense as the vows themselves.

Extra features – All shoes by Sophie Cox and  pale blue silk wedding shoes by Panache Bridal Shoes

Other – I recommend renting a vintage red London bus and playing rock music very loud!!! It was not at all corny and broke up the formality of the day with a bit of a joy ride. The thank you cards will be by my close friend and creative partner Maree Oaten at Little Branch