The Gracelands Wedding of Mary & Ben

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Discover how this Sydney photographer became a part of the warm, stylish and fun wedding of Mary & Ben at Gracelands.

Being a Sydney wedding photographer is a genuine joy. Not just because I get to partake in the most special day of some couples’ lives and create a photo album of memories for them that they’ll cherish forever, no, it’s not just those two amazing things, it’s also because I get to travel around this wonderful country of ours discovering new places. And when Mary & Ben got in touch and said that they wanted me to photograph their wedding at Gracelands, I jumped at the chance! I’d never been to Memphis before! But soon, it dawned on me that they meant Gracelands, NSW, and to be honest, I was equally overjoyed! It’s always a special moment when a couple chooses you to be their wedding photographer, and it’s even more exciting when I get to go on a little field trip out of Sydney!

For me, it’s important to meet with all of my clients well-ahead of the big day to find out if we’re a good match for each other. And that was no different with Mary & Ben, whom I met with for a little chat earlier in the year. We instantly clicked, and I soon understood what kind of shots they were looking for and how they wanted their Gracelands wedding to be framed. Soon we were even swapping old stories, and I found out that Mary & Ben were high school sweethearts! Ahh! Nowadays, our bride works in childcare, and our groom works as a rigger. Both of them shared how strong the bond was between them and their friends and how many of them grew up together, and so this was something they also wanted to be represented in their wedding photography. A togetherness of family and friends.

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Mary & Ben’s Gracelands Wedding, NSW

I have been a Sydney wedding photographer for some time now, and this experience has taught me many things;

1. Always visit the venue and test shoot the day before.

2. Become part of the wedding party, and your photography will be a lot more natural.

3. Stay away from the dessert table…

Focusing on the first point for now, as I had not visited the Gracelands wedding venue before, it was vital for me that I arrived a day early, tested out the conditions, and decided how certain elements would look. Where does the light fall? Where will the exits and entrances happen? Where are good spots for portraits? Answer all of these questions, plus many more, before the big day, and you’ll be one step ahead of everything and prepared for anything.

Upon arriving at the Gracelands wedding venue, I was amazed. It has a very classy, chic, yet relaxed look about it, with a location to die for! Nestled in the Central Coast, this Forrester’s Beach wedding venue feels like a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Bursting with charm, ‘grace’ and character — I could see why Mary & Ben knew this was the place for them.

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A Laid-back, Sunny Winter’s Day

The big day was on the 11th of June, 2021. It being winter, there was a chill in the air, but the gods were certainly looking down favourably on Mary & Ben that day, as the sun was shining. I arrived at Gracelands early and made my way up to see both bride and groom shoot their wedding preparations at the hotel. As usual, the groomsmen were practically ready already and were pouring out the morning whiskeys. After a quick chat with Ben, I could soon see that he was overjoyed to be marrying Mary and keen for the day to commence! Once I’d taken some group shots of the boys, I headed over to the girls and saw how they were getting on. Not yet dressed and still working with her hair and makeup team, Mary shared how she felt a little anxious and nervous about being the centre of attention. I reassured her that it was perfectly normal and gave her a few messages of encouragement from her husband-to-be.

A Garden Ceremony Surrounded by Friends & Family

Soon both wedding parties were ready for the ceremony and were making their glamorous way to the venue. One of the main reasons why Mary & Ben chose Gracelands for their wedding in the first place was because they could have their ceremony and reception all in one place. The all-in-one nature of this NSW wedding venue is a wonderful feature, and I was immediately blown away by how wonderfully presented both spaces were. As a wedding photographer, I have seen many couples struggle to find two separate venues in Sydney that they love, even though there is so much choice in and around the city. That’s why Gracelands has really nailed it with their wedding venue/ceremony space. The whole service was dreamy and intimate, with friends and family right up close to the couple as they exchanged their vows.

Group Shots & Wedding Portraits at the Beautiful Gracelands

Following the lovely ceremony, this small wedding party set about celebrating their nuptials! But before the drinking and eating got out of hand, I managed to wrestle down the main cast members for their group shots. Once the gang was together, we took some fun shots of everyone goofing around together, and then some more serious photos for Mum & Dad! All of these wedding party group shots were backdropped against Gracelands’ incredible Forrester’s Beach location, with the sun still shining down through the clouds. Then it was time for the portraits, and I knew that this was a moment that both bride and groom felt uneasy about. And so, I tried to make them feel as relaxed as possible by keeping my distance and making little jokes to lighten the mood. It turns out they were pros! They barely needed my help at all, and as you’ll see for yourself, they both looked wonderful in their portraits.

An Intimate Celebration Between Friends & Family

The whole vibe of Gracelands was perfect for this wedding party, as it was an intimate affair that needed to have a laid-back yet chic vibe. Everything was geared towards friends and family just having a good time, from the flowers to the lighting and the food. And I soon became a part of their celebrations, weaving my way through the rounds of shots and documenting all the crazy goings-on! As I mentioned above, this style of natural wedding photography is certainly one I love. It has also proved to be very popular with my couples — with many family members often confusing me, for one of the guests! Thankfully, this is also how Mary & Ben felt about my work too, “Honestly, it felt like you were a part of our wedding and not just a photographer. You made everyone super comfortable and engaged with everyone, having a laugh with us all. Capturing all the special details. It wouldn’t have been the same without you.”

The party went on long into the night, with the happy couple refusing to let go of this special day. But even with all the dancing, drinking and laughing, Mary & Ben still found time to cherish a few moments together, and it ended being one of their favourite points of the night. “Towards the end of the night, Ben and I sat in the lounge area and just looked around, taking everything in, and it was ‘like a moment’ of we did it! It was all worth it, and I married the love of my life.” said Mary. And this is a lesson for all couples tying the knot; never forget to steal a moment for yourselves on the big day; otherwise, you’ll blink, and you’ll miss it!

Mary & Ben
Wedding date: 11th June 2021
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Gracelands, Forresters Beach, 25 Forresters Beach Rd, Forresters Beach NSW 2260, Australia. Website

Wedding Dress & Bridesmaids: Geraldine Bridal Couture, Sydney. Website.

Flowers: Flowers by Susan

DJ: Simplecitymusic

If you are looking for a wedding photographer in Sydney, or further afield, and you like the style of Mary & Ben’s Gracelands celebration, I would love to hear from you! Please don’t hesitate to get in touch via my contact page, and if you would like an idea on my pricing, please take a look at my wedding packages page.