Justin Tozer & Lauren Chapman – Catseye Beach

After meeting under the stars on a river bank in China’s countryside (we were on the same hiking tour in the south of China) we spent two weeks having an adventure together. When that came to an end neither of us were ready for it to be over and immediately upon arriving back home we talked on Skype. Eight months later  Justin came to Texas and then in 2016 I moved to Australia.

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To celebrate our three year anniversary Justin told me that we were going to the for a close encounter with koalas. Little did I know he had a big surprise up his sleeve. We left around 10am and on the way Justin pulled into a Vineyard where he had reserved a gorgeous over-sized wine barrel table for us over looking the vineyard. When we finished lunch Justin asked me to take a walk with him through the vines. He had a beautiful speech prepared, set up the camera quickly with a timer… and got down on one knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. I will never forget how sweet and intimate that moment was.

We decided on Hamilton Island,  as we had guests from all over the world, so for most of the guests coming it was already going to involve an element of travel. We wanted a location where everyone could have a holiday and participate in bonding activities to get to know each other in a calm gorgeous environment, as it was the first time our families were meeting.

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Hamilton Island offers everything you need for a destination wedding- luxury resorts, large houses for hire, fine cuisine, shopping, incredible activities, a small clean airport, buggies to hire for getting around, unique wildlife, and more.

Also, because my family was traveling from America, I wanted to show them the best of Australia. Hamilton Island is one of the most beautiful locations in the world. It is located in the Great Barrier Reef and has one of the top rated beaches on earth, Whitehaven Beach, located nearby on Whitsunday Island.  A major factor that made me choose Hamilton Island was that they offered packages, excellent wedding planners, high quality vendors, and an entire group of professional staff that helped with every step of the planning process which meant it ran so smoothly and easily.

THE PLANNING PROCESS

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The first part of planning was the travel element. A destination wedding with people coming from all over the globe means that things are always a bit trickier than a normal wedding in your hometown.  I tried my best as a bride to make things as simple and stress free as possible for all of our guests planning to travel to Hamilton Island for our big day. For our guests coming from Australia, Hamilton Island was easily accessible from any major city in the country. We were very lucky and had no issues booking rooms/villas even up to the last minute (in peak season this can be a different story).

I decided to work with a travel agent from Los Angeles to put together a seven day all inclusive trip package with all of the American guest’s accommodation, flights, transports, breakfasts, and excursions included.  This made it much easier for them, especially the numerous first time travellers. It also gave me peace of mind that everyone would always be together and no one would get lost.

The Hamilton Island Weddings team truly were wonderful throughout the entire planning process. I was able to contact my wedding planner almost anytime I needed to speak with her. She divided the planning into steps and over six phone meetings all the items on the list were completed. She was kind, thorough, and helpful with my husband and I for the entire experience.

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Everything ran so smoothly and easily like a well oiled machine. Additionally, the vendors that the island use are all upscale and consistent high quality. The team at Hamilton Island Weddings couldn’t have done a more brilliant job.

Initially I was a little concerned that we may get lost around the island, but everything was very organised when we got there. Us and our guests were able to find our way around, meet up easily, move around the island and do activities together.

THE BIG DAY

Getting ready

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On the day things got underway at around 9am when I had my hair and makeup done. I then met the bridesmaids, mother of the bride and mother of the groom in her hotel room for champagne and pictures until the wedding planner came and then it was time to go to the ceremony.

 

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We had an intimate wedding with 18 guests. Our ceremony was on Catseye Beach as we wanted a barefoot beach ceremony in the sand with the magnificent blue water and scenery in the background.

 

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Walking into a wedding we felt like movie stars. It was perfect! Better than we had imagined.

For our reception, we choose with The Hamilton Star.  We needed a private space where everyone could get to know each other better. We loved the idea of sailing out to sea over the Great Barrier Reef while the sun was setting after saying our ‘I dos’. Reception guests included dolphins and whales. The boat anchored right before the sunset and we all went to the rooftop of the boat for a priceless view of the cotton candy sky that no one will ever forget.

[NOTE- The Hamilton Island Star is no longer operating on Hamilton Island. Other charter boat options are still available. Contact Hamilton Island Weddings, who can assist with available options and ideas].

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The wedding cake was a two tier hummingbird and migaloo mud cake with butter cream icing. Flowers decoration was provided by the florist.

Overall

Not only did we get to marry each other, but we also had a once in a lifetime week long holiday with all of our friends and family. Our friends have said it was the wedding of the year (besides the royal wedding). We all had the time of our lives! Our guests said it was the most beautiful wedding they had ever been to.

In addition to the wedding we also all went to Whitehaven Beach on a day trip which was a special experience. We had breakfast with the koalas and we had family dinners at the restaurants on the island. We all enjoyed the pool and gym facilities at the resort and had a family BBQ at one of our parent’s villas.

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Five Fast questions

  1. In three words how would you describe the vision for your wedding? Unique, chic and memorable.
  2. Tell us about the dress? Bohemian handmade crochet lace that delicately covers an ivory underlay creating a lovely contrast- invisible neckline making it perfect for a seaside wedding. Purchased in Melbourne at Bluebell Bridal. The designer is an Australian label ‘Made With Love’. The name of the dress is Sasha. I had it altered by a designer in Brisbane at PQ Fine Alterations.
  3. Do you have any favorite details? The flowers, the butterfly release, the ceremony book that our wedding planner created for us, the photographer, the ceremony transport car, the American/Australian flags on the canapés, and the food.
  4. What were the stand out moments of the day? Pre-drinks in the resort room, getting our hair and makeup done, the butterfly release and the entire reception.
  5. Any advice for couples looking to plan their wedding on Hamilton Island too? Book your restaurant’s before you arrive to the island, because it’s almost impossible to get a reservation anywhere if you wait until the week of. Be sure to apply SPF 50 sunscreen anytime you go outside with the extreme Australian UV rays. Also we would recommend staying on the island for at least 7 days! Once you get there you won’t want to leave and will wish you were staying longer to experience all of the fun activities that you won’t want to miss.  We heard countless guests of ours express this.
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