6.30 am. Here I am at the airport again, kissing hubby good bye, hugging baby Moira as tight as I dare and telling her mummy will be back in the blink of an eye. This time, I’m off to Ratua. If the name Ratua doesn’t mean anything to you, I suggest you head to Google when you’re looking for a dream destination, or the place for an absolutely perfect beach wedding, as Ratua truly is something special.
Off the coast of Santo, the largest island in Vanuatu with direct flights from Australia, Ratua island resort is a private island reached by a 30 minutes boat ride in crystal clear, turquoise waters that will mesmerize you and take your breath away as the excitement builds with your destination getting closer and closer. If a journey over the water isn’t your thing, you can also reach Ratua by plane as it has it’s own jet landing. Either way, the feeling of freedom and serenity that wraps you, the minute the island is in sight, is an experience of it’s own, like you have reached a destination you never even knew you were longing for. I could just go on and on about it: with hundred years old wooden bungalows and a spa facing the ocean, ancient trees lightened up with storm lamps perfect for a diner in the wild, turquoise waters home to green sea turtles and colorful fishes, and the list goes on. I have photographed a couple of weddings there, and I must say, it is definitely one of my favorite wedding venues in Vanuatu. Ratua is a rare, hidden gem, perfect for couples who envisage a destination wedding as a little bubble in time and space, when and where all their closest friends beloved family can gather, take a swim or paddle out in the sunset, sip cocktails on a fishermen’s deck, get to know each other while enjoying some vacation for themselves, be pampered with a massage while the kids are having the time of their lives learning to catch fishes bare hands with the friendly local staff. It’s the perfect place for a couple who thinks nature is all the décor and color palette they need, are happy saying their vows on the beach with sand on their feet and wish to enjoy delicious organic food and dance under the stars. Like I said, I could go on, and on. I will just say, some of the most wonderful couples I have met and weddings I have photographed were in Ratua. And, every time I go there, I think to myself, if I should marry Oli all over again, have our loved ones gathered in one place once more, for a little bit of heaven on earth, this is the place I would go to.
And so I am off to Ratua again, to meet Holly and Andrew and spend 3 days with them. I have been looking forward to this wedding for months. From the moment I first spoke with Holly, and she told me a little bit about her story, and their story with Andrew, I just knew, I wanted to be their wedding photographer and capture this celebration. Holly sounded energetic and fun, friendly and warm. She felt excited about planning her dream wedding, but she knew to never lose focus on what really mattered: love. Everything about Holly, Andrew, their family and friends resonated with me. Their vision for their wedding was authentic, soulful, heartfelt, joyful, and quite simply: perfect. On the day, the laughter, the hugging (so, so many hugs I couldn’t count them if I tried), the happy tears, the ones loaded with true emotion, the warmth, the love, the genuine happiness of all the people gathered there to witness them commit to each other for a lifetime was incredibly fun and moving at the same time. This was the perfect beach wedding and so, so much more, a true celebration of love, family, friendship, and life.
Another thing I loved about Holly and Andrew’s wedding was the meaningful details that held the true soul of this celebration. Holly wore a ring that belong to her grandmother, a true family heirloom, and her mum told me the story of how her father bought it for her mother in Brazil. In her shoe, Holly wore a lucky penny dated from 1902, which had been worn as a something old and lucky charm by various women on their wedding day and passed on to beloved brides on their own, until they passed it on again to carry the tradition. I had never seen something like that before and absolutely loved the idea! Later in the day, when our newlyweds set off to their first dance as husband and wife, they were surprised with a guitarist and singer duet who interpreted the favorite song of Holly’s late father. Yes, my eyes were teary, and being trusted to capture moments like these is truly an honor.
A wedding with the kind of magic that cannot be forgotten, see for yourself.