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I pulled off my dream wedding for $1000 – yes, it’s possible

It is every bride’s dream to have that special wedding dress. After trying on countless gowns that transformed me into a super-sized meringue, it just wasn’t happening for me. Time for plan B. I knew my mother still had her wedding dress, but would it fit me and would it scrub up OK? After all, it had been packed in mothballs for more than 25 years. Luckily, the stunning, ivory brocade dress that was handmade by my mum for her own wedding in 1955, and which I still have to this day, fitted me perfectly. Savings factor aside, walking down the aisle in your mum’s wedding dress: priceless.

Next to sort out were the men’s suits, and my father definitely had no heirloom packed away to offer to his future son-in-law. So we shopped for suits, but when the day arrived to pick them up, not only were they the wrong size but the wrong colour. It was sorted out, but my feisty husband-to-be demanded compensation. The result? Free suits. Total outlay so far? Nil.

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The bridesmaid’s dresses, however, were a different story. A local bridal shop was closing down and I managed to snare two stunning full-length light blue chiffon dresses at $20 apiece, a perfect match for the freebie blue suits.

Whether it’s a 21st, an engagement or even a slap-up backyard barbecue, we Aussies know how to put our friends and family to good use. My future mother-in-law, among her many talents, was a gun cake decorator. June created a three-tiered masterpiece that rivalled any cake from Ferguson’s Bakehouse. She spent countless hours hand-making delicate flowers in the form of tuba roses, lily of the valley and gardenias.

My mother’s friend Joan happened to be another creative lady – and the local florist. My bouquet of dainty cream roses entwined with baby’s breath was stunning, as were the bridesmaids’ pink roses. I’m certain Joan’s invoice had “mates rates” stamped all over it.

Nearly 40 years down the track, I believe we pulled off a dream wedding.

As for the wedding car, my dad had it covered. His good mate Barry owned a Mercedes, my dad’s dream car, and as the three of us rode to my wedding on that glorious afternoon in May, it wasn’t me that had the biggest smile that day.

My future husband had known his friend Don for most of his life. Don was an avid shutterbug who jumped at the chance to take the wedding photographs – no charge, of course. If there’s one thing that makes for a great wedding, it’s the music, and did we strike the jackpot there. Our best man, Brian, was a musical genius. Back in the day he had the most spectacular sound system and a huge vinyl collection. Over countless bottles of wine we spent many lazy weekends at Brian’s organising our wedding tapes. On the night, we rocked to the beat of the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Blondie, AC/DC, Cold Chisel and Queen.

Our wedding ceremony and reception took place at a charming country homestead in Frankston, in Melbourne’s south, named Malo House. The owners lived on-site, organising and cooking all the food for the weddings. At about $10.50 a person, we feasted on a sumptuous smorgasbord of vol-au-vents, hearty gourmet casseroles, chicken cacciatore, layered salads and cold cuts. The mouth-watering desserts included a pavlova dripping with fresh cream and fruit, along with my grandma’s favourite, trifle, and baked cheesecakes. In the 1980s, no one went hungry. I’m positive there were also no late-night dashes to McDonald’s that night.

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As the night drew to a close and we said our long goodbyes, our wedding presents were carefully piled into my parents’ car to be opened the next day. No Wishing Well in sight, only elegantly wrapped gifts in matching paper and ribbon of all shapes and sizes. Our gifts included sets of Dickies His and Hers towels, two Kambrook kettles, two Sunbeam shot-of-steam irons, one egg poacher, one warming tray, a Breville hand-held mixer, a Bendigo Pottery bread crock, Cristal D’Arque wine glasses, Corningware baking dishes, Orrefors vases and, the pièce de résistance, a gleaming stainless-steel Wiltshire cutlery set.

Nearly 40 years down the track, I believe we pulled off a dream wedding. If I can pass on one piece of advice to those planning their nuptials it would be this: spending a small fortune on your big day will not guarantee success. It’s the people and the personal touches that will make it special and give you a lifetime of memories to treasure.

This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale February 28. To read more from Sunday Life, visit The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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