Solange Francois and James Bason are sentimental about marriage, but not in the traditional ‘two become one’ sense. “We both grew up viewing marriage as a commitment between two people who have shared interests and values as well as unique attributes. To me, marriage doesn’t mean becoming ‘one’ – it means formalising the intertwining of our lives,” she says.
The couple had been together for two-and-a-half years before getting engaged at the end of 2017 on a relaxed, yet meaningful date that would set the tone for their wedding day, four years later.
“James and I went on a bike ride along the water on a beautiful spring day after my birthday, and he gave me my present, a Kindle, which was already loaded with something to read – a poem he had written with his proposal.”
They had started to make their wedding plans several times over the following years. After two children, an ongoing pandemic and a few health scares in the family, Solange felt it was time to start looking for a dress.
“I originally didn’t want a true wedding dress,” she says, “I was going to find a nice dress that I could wear again for special events. But one night in the lockdown of 2021, I was chatting on Instagram to Di from Welcome Back Slow Fashion and I asked her if she happened to have any vintage wedding dresses on hand.
“She had a 1970s vintage Vinka Lucas Maree de Maru wedding gown available, so a few weeks later I did a contactless pick up and took it home to try on. It was absolutely gorgeous and fitted like a glove, so it didn’t take long for me to realise that it would be the one.”
The late Vinka Lucas built her legacy as a prominent bridal brand in New Zealand after moving here from Croatia in 1955, and opening one of the country’s earliest designer boutiques. She and her husband established the first bridal magazine in New Zealand, and her iconic Auckland store Maree de Maru was a treasure trove of exquisite gowns.
After finding her vintage dream dress (and piece of local fashion history) in November, the rest of the planning for the winter wedding happened over the course of just two months.
With two young children, the couple looked for a venue that was close to home, and opted for a late morning ceremony and a lunch rather than a dinner. They decided on Windross House Restaurant in East Auckland’s Cockle Bay, where they could be married in the garden and have lunch in the private dining space. It would be an intimate gathering of close family with just 16 guests in total, including the bride and groom.
“We were keen for a relaxed vintage garden vibe with attention to detail”, says Solange. “With such a small guest list it was manageable to add personal touches – each guest had a personalised poem that I had written as their place card at the table.”
To keep the kids entertained, they set up toys, stickers and activities for the children’s table, and friend and illustrator Raewyn Pope designed a custom colouring-in sheet featuring flora and fauna from New Zealand and Argentina, where Solange was born.
For the overall garden aesthetic, Solange had a strong vision in mind and decided to create dried floral arrangements herself. A local florist helped put her in touch with a wholesaler and she chose dark blues and neutrals for her bouquet, James’ boutonniere, and arrangements for the signing table and dining table.
An elegant, semi naked chocolate cake with buttercream from Caked By Jess, with Boho & Flora supplying the flowers for the cake and the S & J letters on the cake table brought the floral elements together perfectly.
Although it was a small gathering, Solange looked and felt the part on the day in her special vintage bridal look.
“There is definitely a fairytale feel to a long gown, and I also liked that it was ivory instead of pure white… I thought about adding colour with bright shoes but I came across some cream leather heels in my size at an op shop and they were almost an identical colour match.”
Hair and makeup artist Rachel Mackwood worked her magic, creating a loosely braided up-do that complimented the dress and ticked the ‘winter-proof’ brief, which meant keeping it off her face and “away from little hands!”
The final touches to her look were “classic and contemporary” earrings from Amelie George Bridal, and a touch of George & Edi Oak Moss Creme Perfume – a fresh green moss scent with hints of wood and musk, reminiscent of an old French cologne.
James wore tan trousers with a pale blue shirt, a navy bowtie and jacket and brown boots – nailing the relaxed yet sophisticated vibe and (importantly) pairing well with the vintage dress.
Solange says she was full of nerves before arriving at the venue, “but as soon as I was standing next to James they melted away and I was overcome with a sense of gratitude and certainty. I won’t forget that feeling.”
Extra attention to detail was paid to their ceremony playlist – Solange arrived to The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun (without jinxing it; there was no rain on the day) then Elton John’s Your Song and Adele’s Make You Feel My Love were played during the signing, and You’re My Best Friend by Queen concluded the ‘official’ part of the morning.
The couple had wanted any formalities to be “light-hearted, sentimental and focused on two people coming together to become a team rather than becoming one.”
Solange’s old school friend and comedian, Donna Brookbanks was their celebrant, “and she took on the brief brilliantly.”
After having some photos taken by Keryn Sweeney (Solange “loved the fine art/editorial style of her work”), the venue’s own music kept the good vibes rolling during lunch, where guests enjoyed Italian-style food, with beautiful, seasonal dishes, desserts and a wine list with French champagnes and Italian reds.
Rather than feeling tied to wedding day traditions, their ceremony was family focused and full of personal touches. “A veil didn’t appeal to me and I didn’t want to be given away, but I did walk in with my dad and my son – until my son decided the spotlight was a little too much for him!”
Solange’s parents’ rings were engraved with each other’s names and their wedding date, so they chose to embrace this family tradition and engrave their rings with each other’s first names. When researching other wedding traditions, Solange came across something called a “ring warming ceremony – the rings are handed around for guests to ‘warm’ them and pass on their good thoughts.”
The couple had their mums ‘warm’ the rings – both plain bands, with a small curve to fit Solange’s engagement ring – and had their dads as witnesses. The rings were displayed on an embroidery hoop by The Hoopery, featuring a bouquet to match the blue and neutral floral colours, which the couple now have hanging on their wall.
It wasn’t the only sentimental keepsake they took with them. “Our flowers are all still on display at home and will last a while, they’re a lovely reminder of the day… We did freeze some of our cake thinking we would have it on our first anniversary, but that idea didn’t last long when we both got a craving a few weeks later!”
It was back to family life as normal after the wedding, which wrapped up by around 4pm.
Solange says it was wonderful, but admittedly “a little stressful” to plan the day around their small children, but in hindsight, “we wouldn't change anything.”
Shedding some light on the cost of a wedding, the couple say the bulk of the expenses came from the venue hire, food and beverage and photography. “By having a small guest list, not having a bridal party, doing the flowers myself and the event only lasting a few hours we managed to keep costs down.”
Rather than hiring a videographer, their sister-in-law was the only one allowed to have her phone out during the ceremony to capture footage, which Solange has pieced together into a video for their children to watch. “Photos are incredible but footage always takes you back to the day in a different way.”
Her other piece of advice for brides deciding to get married in winter: “Try to not be obsessed with checking the weather forecast! We had a rain plan and being a winter wedding I had somewhat resigned myself to the likely chance of it being a rainy day but magically, the day turned out to be more reminiscent of spring than winter.”