Real Weddings: Sarah Lindsay & Joshua Preston At Alberton House, Mt Albert
Sarah Lindsay (owner of Sala studio) and Joshua Preston (delivery director at AKQA) share highlights from their English-inspired wedding
Sarah: We wanted to pull traditional elements of English nostalgia into the day, and take people on a journey through time. There are lots of beautifully quaint traditions that are often dropped because they’re seen as out-dated or old-fashioned, but we wanted to put a contemporary twist on them and allow people to experience a little bit of English romance. A lot of this vision was based on my home sickness for my native England.
We wanted to thread English tradition through the day, including a church, but free from religion so guests of any faith (or no faith) could feel comfortable. We were able to find a beautiful church on Jervois Rd where we could use our own celebrant and vows.
Joshua’s mum got accredited so she could marry us and we wrote vows, based on traditional ones, but updated. My best friend Rebecca walked me down the aisle and one of the bridesmaids, Jessica, read a poem that I had written. We wanted as many women to speak as possible because we felt weddings are usually dominated by the voices of men.
We had our ceremony at St Stephen's Presbyterian Church. Inside the church are huge wooden beams made with New Zealand native trees. It reminded me of a colonial church you’d see in a black and white postcard and I fell in love with the place immediately. It felt like the perfect bridges of our two worlds; London and Auckland.
We had friends coming from London, Hong Kong and Canada, so wanted to make the wedding as easy to get to as possible. We didn’t want to tarnish people’s memory of the day because of logistics, so we went for a ceremony and reception centrally located and close to one another.
We filled the church with music whenever there was space. A family member played classical piano while guests arrived, then played Bridal Chorus as the bridal party walked down the aisle. While we signed the registry, Molly, our sister-in-law sang a beautiful stripped down version of Video Games by Lana Del Rey on guitar.
I think the music really helped keep an intimate, focused energy and the whole building felt electric.
It was at Alberton House in Mt Albert on the sunniest January day. It’s an old farmhouse with redwoods and roses in the garden. It felt straight out of the Cotswolds. They have high tea on the weekends open to the public. The house is now a Heritage NZ-run museum so there are old photos of the family who owned it in the 1800s on the walls and all the original furniture. Apparently the family used to love hosting and parties so it feels very sweet to continue that for them. We organised a string quartet to play under the holly tree when guests arrived and it truly felt like stepping back in time.
The Look and Feel
We hired tents with long wooden tables with eucalyptus blooms down the middle. We kept it as simple as possible, no tablecloths or coloured flowers. We wanted to strip the day back to the bones of a wedding and sprinkle experiences into the day instead.
Our three-tier cake was from The Caker, each tier a different flavour. It was completely white iced to look like an older style cake. The cake toppers were from the 1940s and looked just like us. We cut the cake with a knife three generations of Joshua’s family have cut the cake with.
We were travelling through Asia, between living in London and moving to Auckland, and Joshua proposed on the second stop in Bagan, Myanmar. When we got to Vietnam we decided to get a dress and suit custom made.
I designed a simple dress with a sheer chiffon cape and got little lace capes made for the bridesmaids. I love my dress. It was the perfect mix of understated and striking. I was deep into season six of Game of Thrones at the time, so that’s potentially where the cape inspiration came from. They made it in two days and it cost $500. I'm toying with the idea of dying and cutting it so I can wear it again.
We got dresses from ASOS and I got little lace capes made in Vietnam. I wanted them to look like garden fairies with crowns of eucalyptus. They looked so sweet! I went full traditional floor-length pink with sparkles. I added dewy almost-naked makeup and eucalyptus as a simple contrast.
Melinda Patel did our makeup and hair and she was amazing. We didn’t even do a trial and she nailed it. She’s a dream to work with.
We had a string quartet and a wedding band. Oliver Bones play country covers with a Mumford and Sons energy. Everyone was wild for them. They play around Auckland, I recommend you go see them.
We used Lydia Reusser and she did the most perfect job. We wanted something simple, elegant and not too costly. We had eucalyptus foliage running through the tables and one arched over the bridal party table. Afterwards, we dried them at home and they’re scattered around Joshua’s mum’s house. The bridesmaids had eucalyptus bouquets tied with brown string and flower garlands.
Joshua’s cousin is a wedding photographer (Frank and Peggy) but she wanted to enjoy the day so she recommended Brijana Cato, who is her second shooter. Brijana is really laid back and personable, she puts you at ease the whole time. We did first look photos because we wanted to enjoy the whole day with our friends and family and not disappear for pictures. We wanted everything to look and feel natural and relaxed, including our pictures. Other than first look, we just had candid snaps of the day. I love the warmth and intimacy Brijana captures.
This is a running joke between us. Joshua planned the whole day with an iron spreadsheet. Everyone couldn’t believe how chill I was, but probably because I hadn’t experienced any of the stress of organisation. I set the vision and Joshua brought it to life. That’s kind of our whole life summarised. We’re the perfect team (or I'm the perfect dictator).
The Hen’s Do
I went back to London and 20 of my friends took me on a champagne-fuelled canal boat trip from Camden to Kings Cross.
The Stag Do
Joshua: My stag do was mostly focussed around activities. The guys had organised a cricket game at Cox’s Bay, everyone from my hometown vs the rest. From there we went to lawn bowls at Mt Eden bowling club, then we hired a house in Orakei. A chef came in to cook a beautiful barbecue and we kicked on into the night! Thankfully, I managed to come out fairly unscathed.
Sarah: It was honestly the best day of my life. I pride myself on being a little anti-establishment in my attitude, but your wedding day is the best day. Everyone you love in one room, high on happiness. My face hurt the next day from smiling so much. At different points, Josh and I would see each other and just say 'it’s going too fast!'
The dance floor was a surprise. We rolled the dice on our band, and we had no idea how it would go, but everyone went wild. We danced the whole night. When they pulled the plug people were chanting ‘one more for the bros’. It was pretty hilarious seeing everyone that amped up on dancing.
Have your ceremony phone-free. It’s so powerful looking up at the faces of the people you love. I also really recommend first look photos so you can enjoy the day with your guests. We'd bring the day forward by an hour so we could have more fun. We started at 3pm because I was conscious of the day being long, but actually we were all having so much fun, we weren’t ready for it to end.