Getaway with Soleil: A Wedding in Montville

               Until now, all of the weddings I’ve attended have been family or family adjacent. I’ve been a flower girl, a guest book officiant, a slideshow creator, and more. Throughout my life, I was present when mothers, cousins, and family-in-heart tied the knot. However, I’ve somehow missed out on that essential experience of being a true guest at a wedding: knowing almost no one but the person I’ve come with, being the plus one, not being ‘family’ but ‘friend.’ Additionally, I’ve taken dates to weddings before, but never been the date. This weekend changed all that.

               Although most of Soleil and my relationship has been long distance and digital, we’ve kept each other up to date on the ‘normal’ events of our lives outside of romance. Tangential to that, I was excited when Soleil told me his brother was planning a big proposal to Aster. I’m not going to lie; it’s a bit like a reality TV show where you have key characters whose plotlines you’re invested in. Earlier this year, even with the ongoing questions about borders and futures, I was invited as Soleil’s plus one to a wedding in Australia. Not only would this be my first wedding outside of America, but it would also be my first time as a true guest.

               Weddings usually give me a weird kind of social anxiety, so I tried to prep for that before the trip. I investigated what ‘cocktail attire’ meant and tried on too many dresses before choosing a few options I already happened to own. I found the perfect lipstick. I shopped around for shoes that would be comfortable and work for dates too. In the end, though, I knew I’d have to do my best to push past any discomfort and get out of my head. However, reality and some key wedding planning ensured I had—perhaps—one of the best experiences at a wedding ever.

               We left Brisbane via train on Friday morning. Traveling via plane may be faster for some destinations and renting a car may seem reasonable, but something about the train holds an appeal for me. We sped through the Australian landscape, forests and farms passing us by, and I had my first glance of the Glasshouse Mountains. We were picked up from the train station by Soleil’s mum and her friend and drove up an intensely winding road to Montville. The views, however, were worth the anxiety as it’s probably one of the few places I’ve been where you can see the ocean over a vast swath of land.

               Soleil and I checked into our newest accommodation—Altitude on Montville—and had a few hours to relax before what would become a busy, busy weekend. I caught up on my blogging and tried to navigate the difficult hotel Wi-fi. We admired the forest view and peeked into Lune and Aster’s honeymoon suite. The air was heady with the scent of jasmine and birds flitted from tree to tree. It was already a setting that screamed romance.

               The wedding rehearsal was more lax than I was used to, but I liked it that way. Soleil, Lune, and I went early for drinks at Montville Café Bar and Grill. I had the first decent cocktail on this leg of the trip, a sweet grape-bubblegum flavored concoction named Bubbalicious. As people arrived, I was introduced to more of the bride and groom’s family and friends. People had come from near and far to celebrate with the couple, and I wasn’t the only person who’d traveled from the States. A grandmother who lives in Texas made the journey, too, and we had a relatable chat about how much things have changed and Californians.

               For dinner, Soleil and I ordered the Bread of the Day, Fish of the Day, and Soup of the Moment along with two mezze plates to share with the tables. When I ordered, the server asked how many slices of bread I wanted. I—imagining a crostini situation—was like, “Of course I want six. Max it out.” Turns out, the bread slices were full on and huge. The bread was absolutely delicious though. The soup, my first on the trip, was thick and hearty and a bit like baby food (but in a good way). The fish of the day was barramundi, and it was flaky and decadent.

               As we ate our food, we also drank through various beers and chatted. I had a chance to get to know Soleil’s mum better. The excitement for the next day was palpable. Fairy lights twinkled amongst the trees. A live musician played romantic standards like “Stand By Me.” A bush turkey wandered through the patio in search of scraps. The night was a bit chilly since we were at a higher elevation, but it was tolerable.

               After dinner, Soleil, Lune, Aster, and I did beauty masks in our room with the North Queensland Cowboys vs Parramatta Eels rugby match on in the background. We all had a chance to try something different, and our skin glowed when we peeled off the sticky residue. I’ve found (in my “older” age) that taking care of my skin helps me feel a little more together and makes it easier to be make-up free with confidence. We went to bed early-ish, full of excitement for the big day.

               In a Home Alone-esque moment, Soleil and I forgot to set an alarm and woke up later than we wanted. I, of course, didn’t have much to worry about since I wasn’t getting ready with the bridal party, prepping food for the reception, untangling HDMI cords, or more. Soleil was swept off to get ready with the men, and I had time to write and watch Friends. Do I mind mixing my holiday with this kind of work? Not much. I know someday the small details will fade from my memory and I might only have these documents to remind me.

               As I was getting ready, Soleil returned—dressed in a navy suit with a crisp white shirt and fun, floral tie. It’s funny how little moments take your breath away, and the sight of him stole mine. In our distance, we haven’t had many chances to dress up or go to nice events together, and this was our first. He helped zip up my dress—a black swing number bought from Unique Vintage in 2019 on sale—and I put the finishing touches on my appearance. I, after all, was a background character in the day.

               We walked to Montvale at Montville, the idyllic wedding venue for the event, and I was peer-pressured into jumping on a golf cart with some of the other heeled guests instead of walking to the ceremony space. The cart zipped through paths full of flowering trees and ponds. At the end, a gazebo stood above glittering water, and white chairs waited for the eager audience that would soon arrive. A few arrangements of native Australian flowers decorated the ceremony space. Above, a tent and relaxed space for post-ceremony canapes had been set up. A swing made for an Insta-worthy spot. Guests milled and met before everything began.

               I met some of Soleil and Lune’s friends from their younger years, a couple enjoying both their anniversary and a day away from their young kids. Hands were shook, jokes exchanged, and everyone marveled at the beautiful setting for the day. Eventually, we made our way to the seats, sun glaring on our faces a bit, and waited in eager anticipation for the bride.

               Look, I’m not typically one for sentimental displays and weddings tend to feel overdone. Add this onto the fact I only (officially) met this couple about a week or so again, and I didn’t think I’d be swayed emotionally. The atmosphere and romance won me over, however. I teared up multiple times during the ceremony, and while I could blame the sun I won’t because this ceremony mixed the serious pomp and circumstance with a fun, genuine care that I’ve come to know is theirs. Who else would have their guests included in the vows? Who else would use trivia and poetry and heartfelt confessions instead of the same old words? Perhaps, too, it was the sight of Soleil beside his brother, tears in his eyes, looking handsome in his suit.

               After we blew bubbles to send the couple back up the aisle, I mingled and grabbed a few of the canapes. They were some of the fanciest appetizers I’ve had during a wedding, and tasty too. The mushroom arrancini ball was probably my favorite. I had my second beer of the day—when I was still keeping count—and watched how efficiently the couple greeted and went through their photo list. Most surprising and flattering of all, is that I was included in a few of the family photos. I’d had my reservations (because what if?) but their confidence and the acceptance I’ve felt over the last few weeks has made me speechless.

               I mingled with Soleil’s friends while he went off for some bridal party shenanigans. Like I’ve already said, this trip has been a whirlwind of meeting new people and seeing all of the different experiences people can have. The last few years I’ve been wrapped up in academics and that is a very isolated community, so seeing what else the world has to offer has been good for me. It’s also been cool to hear the stories of how these couples have met: at trivia nights, at parties, on cruises. Compared to Tinder, they seem like the classic days of running into another person, but I have to remind myself nothing is usual about Soleil or me.

               The reception was held in a beautiful timber building with exposed beams, glittering fairy lights, a fireplace, and three tables for the guests and one for the bridal party. I was seated with Soleil and Lune’s family and next to the other State-side guest, which shows how much thought was put into the seating arrangements. Guests received personalized wood coasters (made by the bride!) with our names on the front and the wedding details on the back. It was the perfect, practical favor and fits the couple so well. Food was served family-style with dishes brought out by servers and then passed around the table. The quinoa salad and green salad were refreshing. The roasted potatoes were crisp. We even had three different meat choices: chicken, beef, or lamb. Maybe I’m spending too much time here, but the lamb had to be my favorite. Most of the choices were gluten-free and dairy-free with consideration for guests’ dietary considerations.

               Throughout all this, guests could walk to the Kombi bus outside for beer or wine. There were three different beers on tap, and I tried them all throughout the night. However, perhaps I’m too used to being ‘useful’ during weddings, because I made it my unassigned duty to make sure Soleil and Lune (at least) never had an empty cup. So, I got to perform one of those movie moments and order something “for the groom.” Did this lead to more drinking? Maybe.

               One of the cool features at the reception were a few Polaroid cameras and scrapbooking materials for the guest book. Guests could take photos, develop them, and post them into the book with cool borders, pretty markers, or stickers. The camera had a bit of a learning curve, but it was easier by the end of the night. We segued into toasts, and I teared up yet again at the sentiments shared by those closest to the couple. The bride’s sister shared some embarrassing childhood stories. The groom’s friend reenacted a scene from The Lord of the Rings (with help from other guests and props). The bride’s parents gave their heartfelt wishes for the future. All of this to say, it was beautiful.

               The couple’s first dance was a Lumineers medley, played live by a musician who hit all those indie notes just right. The bridal party joined in and, a moment later, I did too. While I won’t say Soleil and I are the most natural or best of dancers, the fun wins over. I’ve written before about how, in the past, I’ve longed for those Cinderella dance floor moments. Perhaps we weren’t as graceful or poised as a fairy tale, but there is a certain kind of magic in a room of people shouting the words to a song, pumping their arms, shaking their hips, cheering on a child who is feeling it too. We spun, we attempted a dip, we kissed.

               As the night wore down, we drained the last of our beer, tasted slices of cake, and finished conversations. Of course, even when the venue closed, a few guests continued the get together in their nearby hotel room and I had a chance to chat with more of Lune and Aster’s friends while we queued random songs on Spotify. Maybe an hour or so later, Soleil and I stumbled to our room, removed our fancy party wear, and crashed.

               I’ll rate the hangover the next day as top ten. Since I’m not much of a drinker, I was in worse shape than some others, but still put my best face on and packed for the next part of our trip. We said our goodbye and see you later to the couple. It’s an odd, bittersweet feeling because, naturally, the bride and groom go off on their own post-wedding and you don’t see them. Perhaps it’s different for me because I don’t know when I’ll see them again. You know how you can meet someone and know they’ll be an important part of your life? It’s like that. So, until the next time and after an amazing wedding, I said goodbye.

               Although I didn’t really have the chance to explore Montville proper, it seemed like a cool place. Lots of boutiques and shops for artisans. Amazing places to explore. Wineries. Fruit stands. Chocolatiers. Jewelers. Most of all, though, it was a great place for a wedding, and I’m glad I was there. It has been one of the highlights of the trip; a truly beautiful day. I wish I’d had more time to see the sights, but we hitched a ride on Sunday morning, traveled down another winding road, and went off for sunny beaches.

               So many stories end in weddings because it’s idyllic. The couple drives off into the sunset, rings shining on their hands, and full of the love and possibility for the future. I would argue, however, in this case, that even though my adventure isn’t over, I can still leave this wedding with the same glow of optimism and belief that everything—at least for a day—can be perfect.

               If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Reading Malone’s Ko-fi.

               If you would like to follow my daily adventures, please check my Instagram: @karleypardue (for writing updates, bookstores, and more) or @karleycooks (for tasty treats).