Shirley Chen, 33, and Scott Morrisey, 34, met how most modern lovers do: they blissfully Bumbled into each other's lives via a dating app. Yet it wasn't until a fortuitous meet-cute at a friend's barbecue that sparks truly started flying.
As Shirley puts it, their chance meeting that day was meant to be. "Our paths just crossed naturally," she tells ELLE.
Like the kind of head-tilting romance you hear about once and never forget, spontaneity and serendipity take centre-stage in Shirley and Scott's love story.
"Scott isn't much of a planner," Shirley remembers of her now-husband's proposal.
"He said we needed to pop out to get some groceries and took a detour to the beach, where he proposed to me atop a cliff edge. Just before he proposed, there was a whale and her calf breaching just off the coast. I was rushing to take a picture of it, when I turned around and there he was. I think it was very lucky timing," she laughs.
Although, as every fairytale has ever shown us, the meandering journey to that elusive Happy Ending doesn't come without a plot twist. And in Shirley and Scott's case, that twist came in the form of a global pandemic.
Getting engaged mid-lockdown forced the two to quickly shift gears in order to fulfill their dreams of a fuss-free wedding.
"We didn't want to deal with any cancellations, so we decided to have a micro-wedding," says Shirley.
"When we thought about our guest list, it was all or nothing, really; we could have everyone there, or just immediate family. Given the pandemic and uncertainties of the time, we thought we'd go small and just have immediate family."
"We got engaged and planned a wedding in four months," she laughs. "The thing that worked in our favour was how small our wedding was. Literally, the caterer said to us that ours was the smallest wedding they had ever catered for!"
For Shirley and Scott, having a micro-wedding — mid-week, no less — was not only strategic in mitigating the risk of a Covid-caused cancellation but allowed them to treat their nearest and dearest to what they call a "wedding festival" of sorts.
"We treated our immediate family to a two-day wedding festival-style getaway," Shirley tells us. "We didn't spare any expense on the food, the wine, the champagne... We could do things really luxuriously for a small number of people."
"We chose a weekday afternoon to get married: a Wednesday," she continues. "It was during the school holidays, and working from home means that some people were able to work remotely."
"The weekday wedding wasn't a big deal for our guests; we thought of it as treating them to a mid-week holiday. It meant that we got all of the vendors that we wanted without stressing about the dates too much."
Upon making the decision to go micro, Shirley and Scott quickly set out to find a venue that fit their brief. Like always, Shirley and Scott had serendipity on their side, with the couple locking in the first location on their list: the beyond-Instagrammable boutique B&B Redleaf Wollombi in the New South Wales' Hunter Valley.
"Because Redleaf was already so beautiful as a venue alone, we didn't need to do much styling," says Shirley.
From there, the planning process quickly turned to finding local vendors to make their dream I Dos come true. "We tried to use a lot of up-and-coming people in the Maitland-Newcastle area," Shirley recalls.
"The hair stylist had only just started to do bridal hair and she was a recommendation from my make-up artist, who was a make-up artist recommendation from my celebrant, Lauren (Loz) of Hungry Hearts Co."
"It all just started with my celebrant, Loz, really. She put my wedding together with all of her wedding vendor recommendations. I think it is really important to have the respect of other people in your industry; If you have the trust of other businesses, and the people you work with believe enough in you to recommend you, then I trust that process."
On the day, Shirley stayed true to her style. "The vibe of the day was mix-and-match; like wearing Gucci with Topshop, with up-and-comer designers thrown in there as well."
Shirley wore a head-turning Chosen by KYHA fit-and-flare gown, with a pair of Pinterest-approved Loeffler Randall White Camellia Bow Sandals ("which got ruined on the day by rain," says Shirley).
"A lot of things in our relationship haven't been planned," Shirley reflects. "When we went travellin early in our relationship, we just booked a one-way ticket and made it up as we went. The same goes with how we planned our wedding; we didn't want a drawn-out planning process. Of course, we wanted some things to be set, but for everything else to fall around it."
"And that is exactly what happened..."