As if from a Banjo Paterson Poem, this wedding was as indelibly and uniquely Australian as it gets.
The scene was set deep in the Snowy Mountains off a windy dirt track where the Snowy and Pinch rivers collide. As we crested a ridge and stopped before the long descent into the valley, we took a moment to stretch our legs. Not far from the dusty road, a small herd of wild brumbies grazed quietly among the gums. (actual wild frickin’ brumbies!!)
Nicole and I arrived to a buzz of activity in the campsite – horses to be saddled, children to be washed after a day’s play in the dust, and a dress to be donned… ….in a horse float.
Yes, it had been cleaned. And cleaned well. But it takes out top standing as the most unique dressing room I’ve ever photographed.
Then it was time.
Guests assembled at the edge of the riverbank and were seated on hay bales facing a wide, old gum tree. The air broke with the crack of a whip from the bush. Another whip answered from the opposite side as two cowboys rode into view. They dismounted and tied their horses to the fence spanning the altar.
Another crack broke the silence, as this time two young women – Dave’s daughters – emerged from the haze on the hillside and rode, leading their father, Dave, across the cool waters of the Pinch River to the ceremony.
Moments later, Nicole entered riding atop a beautiful old carriage pulled by a sturdy draft horse.
Their ceremony was uniquely them. Their ‘I dos’ were punctuated by more Wild Brumby (the schnapps this time) and the promise to return each year to that location for an anniversary drink.
Dave, a bush poet, read aloud some newly penned verses in his vows.
The ring bearer was their beloved late horse, Willy, who presented the rings on his horseshoe hanging from the tree trunk.
But more importantly than any planned detail, was the happiness that radiated from these two romantic souls.
Rather than any formal dinner service, Nicole and Dave wanted to keep the celebrations as casual and enjoyable as possible, and encouraged everyone to throw something onto the barbie and mingle. Emus and kookaburras watched from the trees. A billy was set over the campfire.
As the evening progressed, Gary Jones and the Poddy Dodgers took the stage (the bed of a large truck) and lit up the night with their awesome country stylings.
The dancing and music echoed through the bush until just before the first lights of dawn.