We're big believers in making the most of every part of your wedding journey, from the proposal to the honeymoon, you'll never regret celebrating and savouring every single moment. The proposal alone is cause for celebration and an engagement party is the perfect way to mark the milestone with friends and family. For Stefania and Anthony an engagement party presented an opportunity to share their joy with those dearest to them. "We were so overwhelmed with the outpour of love and congratulatory messages we received once everyone learnt of our engagement news. They have all been so incredibly excited for us and it just wouldn’t be the same without them there sharing in our joy," says Stefania.
The pair decided on a Sunday afternoon cocktail party at Dunbar House Watsons Bay. "Watsons Bay is incredibly sentimental to us as it is where Anthony proposed; the area has a lot of meaning. We frequently enjoy breakfast and lunch at my place of work, Dunbar House, and couldn’t think of a more perfect venue to mark the occasion." Below, Stefania shares the details of planning her engagement party, from the food and styling to fun ideas and entertainment.
F R O M T H E B R I D E - T O - B E ...
Anthony proposed very spontaneously on a private wharf in Watsons Bay after I finished work. I was convinced right up until the moment that Anthony actually asked me to marry him that I was being gifted a watch which I had my eye on, but was blown away when I opened my gift to find the most gorgeous loose solitaire diamond stone. I later had the diamond custom set by Nicholas Haywood.
Engagement Party Planning...
We knew our wedding was going to be a very large event and thought we’d try to keep the engagement ‘small’. We started scouting for appropriate venues and just couldn’t quite go past Dunbar House, Watsons Bay. As Anthony and I both come from very large European families Dunbar House unfortunately was never a contender for our wedding venue, we felt this way we could celebrate one of our significant events at the venue which I passionately represent.
Initially we were only going to host a low-key lunch with just immediate family and close friends versus a big party with all our extended family and friends. The more we thought about our engagement celebration we just couldn’t imagine celebrating this milestone occasion without everyone that is near and dear to us.
After compiling a list we ended up with 120 people, this was far from small. The next challenge was to decide whether we wanted a sit down or cocktail style event. My fiancé made it quite clear that he was not keen on a sit down lunch considering our numbers were so large, he felt it would be too similar to what our wedding would be like and wanted a more relaxed and fun feel for the engagement. I absolutely agreed with him and we decided on a Sunday afternoon cocktail party, which was held at Dunbar House on Sunday, 1st June 2014 from 4pm until 9pm.
The night was strategically broken up into 3 sections:
- The first 2 hours enabled myself and Anthony to ensure we got around to mingle with all of our guests and thank them for being present to celebrate with us.
- There was 30 minutes of formalities which included a traditional Greek Orthodox ring ceremony, speeches which were given by my Father, Con and the Groom, Anthony and then we cut our gorgeous cake which was made with lots of love by my incredibly talented sister in law Sarah-Eleni.
- The final 2.5 hours of the night was spent on the dance floor.
Coming from a European background, food, and lots of it, is incredibly important to both our families. We knew we had absolutely nothing to worry about with our event being hosted at a Grand Pacific Group venue; they have a flawless reputation when it comes to food and service and they certainly lived up to their reputation and didn’t disappoint. Many of our guests still comment on the food they enjoyed at our engagement party, stating it was the best cocktail event food they have ever enjoyed and amazed at how it just kept coming all night long. Nobody left hungry, that’s for sure.
Dunbar House prepared the most delectable 18 piece canapé menu for our guests which consisted of crab cocktail tarts, shitake pecking duck wontons, beef and mushroom hot pots & Dunbar House burgers just to name a few. The Head Chef was incredibly generous and designed a few signature canapés which paid homage to our families heritage, I am Italian and Anthony is Greek, these canapés were very well received by our guests and at one point our grandmothers were in the kitchen complimenting the Chef on his menu and comparing recipes!
We had also arranged for a beverage package to be in operation for the entire course of the evening, this included an unlimited pour of our chosen sparkling, white and red wine, beers and non-alcoholic drinks which complimented our canapé menu. From a budgeting point of view this was fantastic, as I knew I didn’t have to worry about allocating a certain amount of money towards beverages as this was all included as part of our package price. The only beverages that we brought in ourselves were spirits; it is customary for men to enjoy scotch at a significant occasion like this, particularly when they are dancing the Zeibekiko, which is a traditional Greek dance.
When it came to deciding on a theme I had no specific idea as to what I wanted. Working at the venue exposes me to the many different styling concepts that my clients employ. It really is such a gorgeous space to work with and I was excited by the possibilities.
I was unsure as to which colours I would use, contemplating vibrant reds, purples and hot pinks to create a really romantic and regal setting or should I stick with neutral colours like white, green and navy and go with a timeless and classic feel. When I think of all the different settings that I’ve been privileged enough to see at the venue I am always drawn to those set-ups that employ white. Anthony never had an opinion about the colours that would be selected to create our event concept; he trusted that I would make the right decision.
I spent hours researching on Instagram and Pinterest, which soon became my new best friends to gain inspiration. I was quick to learn with a cocktail event the possibilities were endless as we were given the opportunity to completely transform the space. These social media platforms helped shape and influence virtually every aspect of our engagement party.
I clearly remember the night when my concept was given the direction it needed, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and came across this image from the Modern Wedding Magazine Anniversary Celebration at Doltone House, Hyde Park. There was this amazing white ottoman which had a cascading vase of florals resting in its centre. I instantly fell in love and pictured my guests sitting on that incredible piece of furniture in the centre of the dining room, in-between the venues gorgeous chandeliers with white phalaenopsis orchids falling from above. It was from there that my styling concept came together and I worked very closely over many months with my amazing florist Trish from Floral Desire Studio and the very patient and creative Claudia from Decorative Events to finalise the event décor.
'You probably haven't thought of...'
Something that I never initially considered, but am so thrilled I organised was videography, after all the glitz and glamour of the day has dispersed, how are you supposed to remember everything?
After a consultation with my wedding videographer Abraham Joffee, from Untitled Film Works, he recommended that a lovely way to tell our story would be to organise a pre-wedding shoot at the location in Watsons Bay where Anthony proposed. When I advised Abraham that our engagement celebration was going to be hosted in Watsons Bay he said what a perfect day to organise the pre-wedding shoot and perhaps film the engagement party as well. I am yet to see the footage but I know it will be so special to watch back the formalities, particularly the speeches and to see the final room set up before our guests arrived. Videography is something that I would encourage brides to consider as film adds the dimension of audio to your experience; it captures moments in real time and preserves them for generations to come.
Entertainment wise I knew exactly what I wanted; on arrival our guests were treated to the angelic voice of Scot Finnee, The Piano Man. He has one of the most incredible voices I have ever heard and was a huge support to me throughout the planning of the night. After the formalities our guests let their hair down and danced the night away with the awesome tunes played by the amazing Brett Martin from Sydney Wedding DJs. I did fear with the event being hosted on a Sunday evening that people wouldn’t be in a dancing mood, but Brett assured me that he would get everyone onto the dance floor and that he did! I was also very lucky to have Brett MC the evening for me; I didn’t want to burden a family member with this task and had peace of mind with Brett’s professionalism that the night would remain on schedule.
I really wanted to have something fun and interactive for our guests to enjoy and being the Instagram lover that I am, we organised an Instagram printer through the lovely Annabelle Smith from Social Playground. This was a huge hit and something all our guests both young and old really took to, many of our guests still have their Insta prints pinned to their kitchen fridge because they loved them so much!
This was not only a wonderful way for Anthony and I to see all our guests images but a great way for International family and friends to keep up with what was happening live on the night as they were following our hashtag. I’ve actually created an album with all the images shared on the night that will rest on our coffee table when we move into our home. It is a really special keepsake that we will no doubt cherish forever.
I feel humbled to be apart of the wedding industry and to have such talented and generous industry colleagues who have become dear friends. I worked very closely with the below team list of suppliers to bring this event together, without their hard work and effort the event would not have been half the success that it was. I am so grateful for everything they all did to help make my dream a reality.
Venue Dunbar House Watsons Bay Flowers Floral Desire Studio Furniture hire Decorative Events Personalised canapé linen, candy boxes & pillows The Personal Touch Cake Ses-sational Cakes DJ & MC Brett Martin, Sydney Wedding DJs Stefania's dress Rachel Gilbert Pianist Scot Finnie, The Piano Man Invitations Wedding Paper Divas Photographers GM Photographics, A Pause in Transit Videographer Untitled Film Works Candy Bar Candy Bar Sydney & Roc Candy Desserts Homemade with Love by Renee Instagram Printer Social Playground Hair & Make-up Filomena Natoli