Niki and Chris, from the UK, got married in Austria’s Tyrol mountains last June. The couple very quickly knew they had found something special in one another, moving in together only four months after first meeting. Niki had always dreamed of getting married in their local church in Cornwall in the UK, but after her mother passed away, she decided that it wouldn’t feel right without her. Instead she and Chris chose to elope to Austria, as Niki’s mum’s favourite movie of all time was “The Sound of Music”. The day was filled with so many personal details. Niki wore her mother’s wedding ring and a locket with her picture in which was given to her as a gift from her friend and witness, Charlie. The ceremony was held at an outdoor altar, next to a small alpine chapel, which was only reachable by hiking. A harpist played as Niki made the walk up to meet Chris at the alter, and during the ceremony Charlie sang Edelweiss. The Nun living at the chapel came out after the ceremony to celebrate their union Austria style, with a celebratory schnapps! Niki was distraught that they couldn’t bring their four dogs with them to Austria, so she had replicas made in the USA and shipped to Austria, which surprised Chris at the altar when they appeared as their ring bearers! Because she missed having her pets around, and as a massive animal lover, Niki even asked if they could stop and climb in with the sheep at a nearby farm for pictures. Their amazing day was captured to perfection by Cat from Wild Connections.

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HOW THEY MET

Niki: “We met online via a dating website; Chris wooed me with a Shakespeare sonnet and then on our first date we went to the cinema to watch “Shaun of the Dead” to see if we could spot his mate who was a zombie extra. The next day we went on our second date to the Globe Theatre where we had to stand for the performances of the Bard’s classic scenes in the Groundlings Pit- ordinarily this wouldn’t be too strenuous however on the way to the theatre Chris had stumbled and, unbeknownst to either of us at the time, had broken his ankle. The perfect gentleman, he even hobbled to get me a water during the interval! Not wanting to kick a man when he was down, I decided to stick with him. Chris proposed on a dog walk, “me and the dogs have something we would like to ask you.” Our pooches are an integral part of who we are as a couple.”

Chris: “We formed a strong bond and moved in together after only four months, during those first ten years we fell in love, bought a house together, sold a house together, adopted four dogs and moved to Cornwall! We were engaged for three years and got married June 3rd 2016.”

DESTINATION DECISION

“Originally we had planned on a traditional church wedding in our local village with all our friends and family present, but this was too painful in the wake of mum’s passing. Instead we decided to elope and have an intimate ceremony in Austria that had a connection to mum without highlighting her absence. We explained all of this to Kajsa and she found us the ideal venue: Kapelle Einsiedelei. The chapel was on a mountain slope with views of the beautiful mountains of Tyrol in Austria’s St Johann. We were outdoors, in the mountains, with a small stone altar that was surrounded by nature- it was breathtaking with a real sense of communion.”

CHALLENGES

Chris: “I think if we hadn’t found Kajsa, our wedding planner, the planning would have been a real challenge. The only part we found difficult was getting to the airport on time as we missed our flights and had to fly to Munich and catch a train to Salzburg instead!”

Niki: “The language barrier was an obvious challenge as well as the lack of local knowledge; both of these obstacles were overcome by hiring Kajsa as she was able to scout the area for suitable locations and liaise with the local vendors. Kajsa also dealt with the legalities and the translation of required documentation. Ultimately, as our mountain wedding still had to be made legal in a registry office, we decided to take the easy and cheaper option and do the official marriage in the UK. It worked out well as we legally got hitched on my birthday, three years after Chris proposed on my 40th, and then we relaxed and really enjoyed our free ceremony as the damage had already been done! On a more personal note, making the ten minute walk up the mountainside in my wedding dress was a challenge, especially with a garter that kept pinging over my knee. It wasn’t an elegant entrance, but I made an entrance!”

PLANNING 

“We used Kajsa Reisenbauer from Weddings by Kajsa to plan the wedding and she was amazing. We must have driven her crazy as we were so scatter-brained and indecisive, we left everything to the last minute and we were making changes right up until the night before the wedding (however, we were not accountable for the impending thunderstorm that resulted in everything being brought forward by two hours and the loss of much needed beauty sleep for the bride!). Incidentally, it is always worth asking if you would really like something, ‘they’ can only say no. Kajsa was so accommodating (and our photographer Cat was also willing and flexible) that when I asked if we could skip the pre-arranged post-wedding coffee and cake in order to go to a couple of stunning locations for a photo shoot her answer was: “Of course we can do that!” and the morning of the wedding she went out to check accessibility and logistics.”

STYLE / THEME

Chris: “The style was very laid back, not bohemian but comfortable. I broke with tradition and wore jeans and a herringbone waistcoat with a tie and Edelweiss buttonhole. Dave, my Best Man, was dressed the same, just with a different colour waistcoat and tie.”

Niki: “I think for us it was less about style or theme and more about intimacy, meaning and eclectic influences. Obviously ‘The Sound of Music’ brought us to Austria and this was a huge inspiration. Charlotte, my Matron of Honour, sang “Edelweiss” and the flowers were in the bouquet, button holes, corsage and decorations. I also love the romantic folklore and symbolism behind the Edelweiss flower; Chris has always been noble and gallant and I know he would climb any mountain for me! We also had forget-me-nots to represent mum. I had Shakespeare paper roses in my hair to signify the fateful date that entwined us forever, the theme tune from Grizzly Adams was played after we signed the register as the vinyl record was the first gift Chris had given me (it was for my birthday and he had sent it to my workplace as a surprise – it was almost as elusive as Edelweiss!) All the elements represented a part of our story; we created a montage of our lives together and it was really special.”

BEST DECISION

Chris: “Best decision was picking Austria and eloping.  The ceremony was full of wonderful moments: the vows, the harpist, the matron of honour singing Edelweiss, one the most memorable moments was the best man’s phone going during the most important part of the vows!”

Niki: “My best decision was to secretly have replicas made of our four dogs. Our dogs are such an integral part of our lives and originally we were going to hire a motorhome and take then to Austria to be with us for the ceremony and honeymoon. Kajsa was happy to make arrangements to ensure this was possible, but ultimately we realised it wasn’t really feasible. Instead, Kajsa became foster mum to four ShelterPups during a covert operation that also saw Susanne, our free speaker, place our felt ring-bearers on the stone altar when the groom was distracted by the bride’s arrival. Chris’ face when he suddenly noticed them was priceless. There were so many memorable moments, but what I will always treasure is the kindness and love shared by all those involved who, literally as well as figuratively, climbed a mountain to make our day so special. Edith had to carry her cumbersome harp up the side of a mountain in order to play for us and the nun who lives next to the chapel picked a four-leaf clover for us from her garden and then astonished us all with a traditional shot of Schnapps after the ceremony!”

ADVICE

“We really wish we had hired a videographer; we tried to do it ourselves with a camera attached to a tree but the visuals were blurry, the sound barely audible and the recording cut out during the vows- not ideal. Our advice would be- be yourself, be in the moment and embrace everything that happens, planned or otherwise (face-planting in a meadow wasn’t on the schedule but it certainly was a highlight!). Make sure you have a photographer that you feel comfortable with; we couldn’t have a practice engagement shoot, but we Skyped with Cat and chatted via email so we had a connection and an understanding before the day. Every bride wants to look amazing in their wedding photos, but my advice would be to not concern yourself with looking beautiful but trust your photographer to capture the authentic beauty of the moment. Cat’s photos encapsulate the hues of emotion we experienced and when we look at them we are transported back to relive those cherished moments.

I would also advocate writing your own vows (though perhaps don’t leave it quite as late as I did, dictating my promises to ‘transcriber’ Charlotte as I had my hair and make-up done) and I would keep them a secret until the day as it makes it even more magical. Charlotte facilitated a mini vow workshop with us both to give us a framework. We were also asked to provide some information for the free speaker regarding our history, our lives, our plans for the future and what we love about each other- again we chose to write our answers in secret and then wait to see how they were revealed through the speech. Our day was perfectly imperfect and we are so grateful to Kajsa for planning our wedding and excepting that some things would remain unplanned and to Cat for capturing the expected and seizing the unexpected. Definitely hiring a wedding planner was worth it! We are thankful to everyone who played a part in making our day so wonderful and especially to our Matron of Honour and Best Man who are wonderful every day.”

Photography: Wild Connections | Wedding Planning & Coordination: Weddings by Kajsa | Ceremony: Kapelle Einsiedelei | Reception: Zardini’s Schindldorf | Wedding Celebrant: Susanne Wörgötter | Hair & Makeup: Intercoiffeur Pock | Flowers: Innenleben | Bride’s Dress: Trudy Lee from Vu’s Bridal | Bride’s Shoes: Absolutely Gorgeous Boutique | Bride’s Locket: DucksFlyTogether | Bride’s Hairpiece: Sashacreative | Matron of Honour’s Bracelet: ScattyBun | Wedding Rings: AnnaReiJewellery | Groom’s Attire: Carbon 2 Cobalt | Harpist: Edith Mallaun (Music School in St. Johann) | Felt Dog Replicas: Shelter Pups | Specialist Seamstress: Miss Kathryn Jewels (Kathryn902@btinternet.com) | Pre-Wedding Hotel: Noichl’s Hotel Garni | Chalet: AirBnB

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