It was 2014, when now husband and wife, James and Livia first met.
Both studying to become teachers at the Australian Catholic University, the Greek Australian couple met through a mutual friend at a cafe located at the university. The instant chemistry and connection was evident from the start, as they hit it off from their first date.
Livia and James love to eat out for breakfast on weekends and after being together for a year and a half, James asked Livia to marry him at one of their fave brunch spots. Livia recalls "it was Saturday 6th August, 2016, James took me for breakfast at a quaint café located in Centennial Parklands, Sydney. We had ordered our coffees to-go and were heading back to the car, when James opened the car door for me and he got down on one bended knee and proposed to me in the pouring rain with a stunning cushion cut diamond.”
The pair decided to get married at The Cathedral of The Annunciation of Our Lady, as it holds a special place in their hearts and in their family's lives. Livia said “We have a close connection to Very Rev. Fr Kyrillos Zisis. We have celebrated many beautiful occasions at The Annunciation of Our Lady and it was only fitting that we have our wedding ceremony there, too.” Both being teachers, they chose to get married in January, during the six week school break.
When searching for a wedding venue, Livia and James knew they didn't want to choose a typical wedding reception lounge, so when they came across the Grand Ballroom at the InterContinental Hotel, Double Bay, it was an easy decision. The French Provincial-style ballroom was the perfect setting for a glamorous, elegant, timeless wedding, which is exactly what they wanted.
Livia is also works as a graphic designer when she isn't teaching and for her wedding she custom designed all the stationery. From the invitations, to the amazing mirrored seating chart decal, place cards, menus, delicate acrylic table numbers, guest book, wishing well signage, stickers for the bomboniere and confetti cones, there was not one detail left out that she didn’t beautifully design. With the help of her mum and sister in-law, they also made custom wedding candles (lambathes) for the church, which featured stunning Swarovski crystal crosses, made by jewellery designer, House of Emmanuele.
For Livia, it had always been her dream to have her gown custom designed by leading Sydney wedding designer Steven Khalil. “I knew that I wanted something form-fitting, but also a 'WOW' factor when walking down the aisle. I wanted my princess bridal moment. We decided to add a three metre detachable overskirt to the back of my dress. My entire wedding gown was adorned with hand-appliquéd floral bouquets, including my beautiful veil. When I went for my final fitting at Steven Khalil's atelier, and he placed the veil in my hair, I knew this was the gown I was meant to marry James in. It was everything I had dreamed of,” Livia told GCT.
The special date, 13th January, came around quickly for the couple who had been waiting for this special day and moment. Livia’s yiayia (grandmother) gave her an evil-eye pendant (mati) to pin on the inside of her wedding dress; it was something old, something borrowed and something blue. Her something new was the wedding dress.
James had a traditional red scarf ceremony at his house on the morning of his wedding where all of his family and relatives wrapped the red scarf around his waist three times, as a symbol of his fertility. He also had live musicians and singers at his house before leaving his home as a groom. James wore a traditional black tuxedo to the church ceremony, which was designed by Liondos Corporate Wear and changed into an ivory dinner jacket with shawl lapel for the reception, designed by Varqa Clothiers & Tailors. He also wore black patent Christian Louboutin leather lace up shoes.
Everything was perfect for them as they officially tied the knot at The Cathedral of The Annunciation of Our Lady. House of Emmanuele also custom designed the Stefana (wedding crowns) for Livia and James, which laid on a bed of Koufeta (sugared almonds) with an icon of Jesus and Panagia(Virgin Mary) at the altar.
The stunning couple wanted their wedding celebration to be one giant party with all their friends. Being a high-school music teacher and a vocalist himself, James knew he wanted to include this part of himself into the wedding. In addition to a DJ and MC, they were lucky enough to have Scot Finnie (The Piano Man) perform during the formal part of the evening, serenading their guests as they ate their meals. They also had not one, but two bouzouki players, two bongo players, saxophonist, trumpeter, violinist, cellist, guitarist and Lebanese drummers, and even had a ballerina perform before the newly weds made their grand entrance!
“The theme of our wedding was classic, elegant and luxurious. We opted for white florals, with bursts of antique blush. All of our decor was crystal, gold and white. Right from the gold cutlery to the white dance floor. We wanted our reception to look like a fairytale… It was so dreamy” Livia said. The wedding cake was six tiers, decorated with piped floral lace and pearls, which matched Livia’s wedding gown. It was finished with white, cream and ivory florals, including cascading phalaenopsis orchids.
When Livia was asked what the most special moment of her wedding day was, she said “James said some truly beautiful words to me during his wedding speech. Once he finished, he announced that he had expressed his feelings through words and that he was going to express his feelings through song. James sang 'Die With You' by Beyoncé with an accompanying guitarist in front of all of our family and friends. It brought me to tears. It was such a surprise and it was so breathtaking. Especially considering that he convinced me that he wasn't going to be singing on our wedding day. He had me fooled!”
For the honeymoon, the newlyweds booked Byron Bay, where they stayed in a beautiful luxury villa and had their own private chef cook them a 3-course dinner, an in-house massage and James surprised Livia with a horse riding tour through the sub-tropical forest and beach, as part of his wedding gift to her.
*Photographs by Image Haus Weddings