Kris and I were at a wedding over the weekend, at the historical Mt. Bundy Station, a cattle station established in 1911 along the banks of the crocodile-famous Adelaide River. Our friends Anne-Marie and Ewin gave us the choice of a bedroom in one of the many historical buildings on the property, or we could have a tent and camp on the grounds. We chose the latter, because we aren’t fussy about sleeping arrangements, and there were plenty of wedding guests—the couple’s families, up from Melbourne, among them—who would need the creature comforts more.
The trip, in a coaster bus hired for the occasion, took just a little over an hour. On the station, we took our little tent and rolled swags down to the thickets by the edge of the Adelaide River, and Kris went off to help with the wedding preparations while I put the tent up (this may sound like a strange division of labour, but I really am the tent expert of the household; I was on the tent crew at the Garma Festival a couple of years ago…we put up around 3,000 tents!)
With camp set up, I grabbed my camera and headed for the Cook’s House, the hive of activity for the wedding. Along the way I snapped some of the wildlife and stock that roamed the station: horses and cows, of course, but also peacocks, guinea fowl, wallabies and kangaroos, fat and friendly geese that waddled among the decorated tables that were set under large mango trees between the Cook’s House and a billabong.
At five p.m., after showering and getting changed, wedding guests convened under the mango trees to learn that the actual ceremony was to be held on top of a small hill across the road, about a kilometer’s walk from the lawns where the party was set to happen. The crowd set off down the dusty dirt and gravel road…a brightly colored skein of dapper gents in vests and ladies in bright frocks and floppy straw hats unfurled alongside the wire fences and bemused horses that flanked the way.
When we were all gathered close together on that little hill top, the bride came walking up the rocky, uneven path on the arm of her father. This is, sadly, the only good pic I got of Anne-Marie (and I got none of Ewin) because the crowd pressed forward to watch the ceremony, and I knew hardly anyone, so didn’t want to be pushy. I am sure others got plenty of great pictures of the couple at the ceremony, hopefully some will surface on the internet…
This interesting shot of a guest’s shoulder was actually my attempt to hold the camera over the heads of the crowd and snap a photo of the couple kissing…must’ve angled it too low. I kept it, anyway, for that detail of fringe from her shawl, and the colors.
By the time we had all walked back to the Cook’s House, the sun was setting over the little billabong. We found our places via a map on a board titled “Find Yourself”, and sat down at tables decorated with lotus flowers and votive candles in small glass household jars that had been quickly, roughly gilded by hand.
The warm signs of a handmade wedding were everywhere on this night: from the crepe paper pom-pom decorations hanging in the trees…
To the fantastic, hilarious labels that adorned all the bottles of beverage served at the wedding.
More mind-blowing than these customised labels was the fact that the groom had personally brewed all seven different kinds of beer for the wedding (including a non-alcoholic ginger beer), and had distilled all the bottled water for the party, as well. The dedication and effort involved in such a feat! I knew he had been brewing the beer for a few months, but could not believe that the blue plastic bottles of H2O—almost indistinguishable from commercial bottles, until you read the label!—had also been home made.
H2O, Water, Aqua? On Cloud 9 we like to call it Cloud Juice! Gay frolicking cupid angels gently and lovingly squeeze each perfect cloud to fill each beautiful bottle. Before capping, bottles are topped up with pure tears of joy. Rejoice in every drop of this special edition Cloud 9 Juice
Ewin is an amazing and consummate artist who specialises in making molded, cast and otherwise manipulated reproductions of living things. I first met him at the Darwin Visual Arts Association—where I was renting a small studio and preparing for an embroidery exhibit—while he had just moved in next door to assemble and hand-finish a set of 14 totally lifelike, life-sized reproductions of crocodiles from around the world. As early as then it was hard not to notice his total devotion to verisimilitude and detail…every spot on each crocodile’s back was lovingly, thoughtfully painted on with a brush, using photographs for reference. Ewin has also done exact copies of desert flowers, thick and knotty liana vines for the monkey houses of the Melbourne Zoo, barnacles and underwater flora for aquariums…even a huge mound of potatoes, now part of a permanent public exhibition in Tasmania. As if that isn’t cool enough, he is also a taxidermist. What a legend!
I peeled one of each drink label from bottles, and stuck them in the sketchbook I had carried along; the passion and humor that went into these hundreds of bottles of home-brewed drink deserve a post all their own, so I may do that in a couple of days (have to get Ewie’s permission, of course).
I stopped taking photos after it got dark. Speeches were made, a dance floor carried in, and four sets of family DJs regalled the party with music and comedy, starting off with an awesome set by DJ Bridezilla, herself! I made sure I tried every one of the different beers available, and stumbled back to the tent at 2 in the morning. The rest is a happy, foggy memory, destined to be distilled and ripen into the most awesome, legendary wedding the NT has ever seen.