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The HerCanberra Wedding Series….The Proposal

Sarah Nolen

This is a website for Canberra women, so it stands to reason that, at any given time, a decent proportion of our readers are thinking of getting married, or actively planning to. Hey, I’m one of them!

So here I am on a mission to weed out the good from the bad when it comes to weddings in Canberra. I’ll be taking you all on this journey with me as I select my venue, pick my perfect dress, decide what shade of lipstick I will wear, and what cake we will cut. You’ll know my selections and you’ll also be filled in on the price I pay for everything which at this stage seems rather scary.

The purpose of this series is to show you the great options that Canberra has on offer for your big day. I’m hoping that my groundwork will guide you in the right direction, and give you some ideas that you may not have thought of just yet. So, even if you’re not engaged, please join me anyway…because who doesn’t love a wedding!

In the beginning…

Let me brief you in on ‘us’ and how we began. So I’m sure you’ve heard of the old blind date….well that was us. One of my best girlfriends, Elise, set us up just over two years ago. Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that a night at the Tuggeranong AMF bowling lanes would be how I would meet my future husband! Totally unexpected but totally brilliant…


His name is Dave and he has muscles and a pretty brilliant brain to match! We’ve by no means had a fairytale courtship, but I’ve realised that real life is better than fairytales anyway. We’ve worked hard to build our relationship to where it is today. Through him I have learnt what true and complete love, grace and commitment is.

So it wasn’t any surprise that as, my best friend knelt before me atop of the cliffs at Booroomba Rocks and asked me to marry him, I answered ‘yes’.

The ring…

For most of my life I thought $40 000 was about the average price for a ring…that was until Elise brought me back down to earth and made me realise this is not the case…unless you’ve got an extremely well paying job. So at the age of 25, $40,000 for a ring just isn’t realistic.

I always thought I’d be extremely picky with what I wanted, and for anyone who knows me, I’m sure they thought the same. However, I was given a beautiful Sri Lankan smokey quartz ‘temporary’ engagement ring. Which I must say is absolutely stunning and very ‘me’.


Dave is a master at everything he puts his hand to and this includes designing rings. He’s designed me the most divine ‘permanent’ engagement ring of all time, which we will endeavour to get made up by a designer. It’s just a matter of finding a designer willing to work with us that isn’t going to cost the earth. Here’s where your suggestions and advice would be most welcome.

The prospect of becoming a wife…

Still freaks me out a little to be quite honest. In a world where divorce is almost a common thing, I did have to think about how the heck will I make this work when so many can’t. I once a read a beautiful quote from an elderly couple and the wife said the following;

“In my day if something was broken you’d fix it, not throw it away”.


That has always stayed with me, and I think it’s something so simple that so many have forgotten how to do. I feel blessed because I have been taught how to fight for something worth keeping. My fabulous grandparents held their vows until the day they died. My parents have been married for 28 years and I still catch them making out! All of these people in my life held strong to the value and meaning of marriage, and most importantly had God at the centre of their relationship. I’m not oblivious to the fact that things will get hard…really hard at times but I’d rather have a crack at fixing the problem than walking away from it.

The adventure begins!

So now you know a bit about me and my background. I’m excited and nervous about this next step, but the planning has begun so it’s becoming more real each and every day.

For all of you lovely ladies who have been married in Canberra please feel free to give me any advice and ideas that you have. All of your help will in turn help me and other future Canberra brides!

Sarah Nolen

Growing up in Canberra, interior designer with BIRDBLACK Design, Sarah enjoys nothing more than having people put their trust in her to transform their homes from drab cluttered boxes into beautiful masterpieces. She is a true believer in what you get is what you pay for. Constantly on the lookout for new trends and innovations she could never get bored with what she does. Find her at More about the Author

  • Cate

    Darling Sarah, I didn’t know that you proposal was outdoors its all wonderful and looking forward to the engagement party bring it on. X Catie

  • Tara

    I got my engagement ring made at Aharoni about 18 months ago and they did an awesome job. We did have a diamond and gold for the ring already though (from my mothers engagement ring), so our cost was a lot lower than the value of the ring.

    Also I got our wedding cake (and cupcakes) at Little Miss Cupcake and OMG they were so amazing, every one is still raving about them 3 months later! Get yourself the tasting box and you’ll never go anywhere else!!! If you look on FB at her page, her cakes are amazing!!!

    Congratulations and good luck on your wedding planning journey! I made most of my decorations and planned all the decorating myself. It was awesome!!! That reminds me I have to get onto selling some stuff! Second hand selling sites and pinterest and DIY websites were my best friend! I am really glad I did it myself because I got so much satisfaction seeing it come together and seeing all my family and friends reactions to what I had created!

    • Bindii

      Tara – so did I (oh in 1999 mind you – way ahead of the trends) – the invites, the RSVPs cards, placecards, the cake using my favourite boiled fruitcake receipe handed down from my great-grandmother’s and my throw away garter (wore my Mum’s to keep).

  • Sarah

    Thanks Aunty Cate!

    Thanks for all of your ideas Tara, I’m looking up Little Miss Cupcake as we speak. I’ve also heard from others that if we source the diamond ourselves it will work out cheaper, good thinking!

  • For ring design, try Nicholas Haywood Jewellery Concierge. He’s based in Sydney but comes to Canberra once a month. Website has lots of pics:

  • Bindii

    I prefer the temporary ring – why have a diamond as EVERYONE has a diamond!! Bor-ring (yes that’s a pun). You can get some truly lovely coloured stones. Some look just like the coloured diamonds….

    • Sarah

      Thanks ladies for all of your advice and ideas, this will help me heaps! It’s great to know you don’t have to leave Canberra for good service and quality workmanship.

  • Briana

    My husband went to Harry Rose to get my engagement ring designed. He is tucked away in the Garema Centre, but Harry was great to work with and would work within whatever budget etc you have. He was also realistic and offered suggestions when things might not have worked the best the way my husband envisaged. I was super stoked with the outcome… love my ring 🙂

  • Kinmar

    Being the “digital economy” type, my husband sourced my engagement ring from a wholesale website in the UK, which was much, much cheaper than buying a diamond and having it made here. It is beautiful. The added bonus was his proposal in Paris (at dinner at the Eiffel Tower), which meant we could claim the VAT back once we left Europe to come home. The story around how he had the ring delivered from the UK to Paris is for another time…. but if you are prepared to be a little innovative in sourcing your ring and/or the diamond, the website is We had our wedding rings made there (and later he got some diamond earrings made to “match” the engagement ring for a special birthday) and I can say they were awesome to deal with. Good luck!

  • Jennifer

    Congratulations on your engagement Sarah! I received a beautiful engagement ring from my fiance about 4 weeks ago also made by Harry Rose and would definitely recommend having a chat with him. My fiance really enjoyed working with him to come up with a unique and affordable design.

  • Your ‘temporary’ ring looks fine and I’d stick with that if I were you! But a couple of fabulous (and sorta local) jewellery designers you may like to check out are Emma Kidson ( and Sinead Buckney ( They have both made lovely pieces for me 😉

  • Mel

    Congrats Sarah & Dave!

    I am about 5 weeks away from my wedding, can’t wait – especially for the holiday afterwards! We have been engaged for a little over 12 months now so to be honest I am almost wedding-ed out! I found that some things I was able to organsie straight away and not think about again, but other things – the little and often stressful things, have had to wait until now and have come in real bursts. Even now I am feverishly waiting on RSVPS so I can finalise place settings etc. I have downloaded a few brilliant apps to my iPad – wedding planners, wedding budgets etc. That’s a good start 🙂

    My engagement ring is AMAZING and I couldn’t have imagined my fiancé would find me such a perfect ring. It’s a 1ct Classic Tiffany & Co Ring, their oldest and most traditional setting. I have never been a brands person at all so at first the significance was quite lost on me and all I saw was a sparkly rock…but with his proposal he spoke about classic and timeless love and how that’s what the ring meant to him. Bless him! Anyway, given I can’t justify the expense of the matching wedding band, we have decided to have the wedders (I am having a split wedder) made at Bijoux in Manuka. We love George! He has made my wedding bands and is also making my fiancés wedding band. He has taken the exact design we wanted for both and made them to suit.

    Other things to consider, we were very open with our budget right from the start and planned that before anything else. We only wanted a small, intimate wedding with our nearest and dearest. We are both big foodies so we wanted the reception venue to reflect our love for fine food and wine (we are having our reception at a Winery). We have a small bridal party and we have effectively cut trimmings wherever we can. I am making all the flowers (Capital Flowers in Oaks estate are a wholesaler and I am saving almost $1000 doing the flowers myself), we have made the place cards, invites, order of services, menus etc. I have purchased all the decorations online (we have a vintage theme) and we are lucky that our venue allows pay by consumption for alcohol so we are able to save some costs in that regard by not having to pay per head knowing some guests won’t drink.

    Our three biggest costs have been my dress (which was still reasonable compared to some but as I am having it made it was slightly more than something off the rack), our wedding photographer – who is still incredibly well priced compared to others, and the reception. Once you get your head around those things everything else can be pretty flexible price wise I think. I am exceptionally fortunate as my baby sister is a hairdresser and beautician so that is sorted, our friend is a DJ so that is also, and not to be forgotten my very best friend is a celebrant so things really couldn’t have gone any smoother.

    There really are some fabulous suppliers in Canberra and online and we have foudn the process quite smooth and easy thus far. That said, I really am looking forward most to the honeymoon!

    Weddings are so wonderful and it has been an exciting time planning ours but as clichéd as it sounds, I am most excited about my groom and all that the future holds. Looking forward to seeing how your day plays out 🙂

    • Sarah

      Hi Mel, I hope you had a fantastic wedding and that are your hard work in planning paid off!

  • Jacinta

    I would highly recommend Kelly McInnes for photography, you can find her on Facebook, she does great work and is reasonably priced 🙂 It depends on your budget but I’ve heard great things about the Abbey at Gold Creek, you can also find them on Facebook or also at

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