Sally Mussared interviews Nicky Thomas

Ep9. Choose What’s Right, Nicky Thomas, the Little Church & Springhill Peony Farm

Sally Mussared is the designer and founder of Mussared design studio creating luxurious handmade silk wedding gowns.

Nicky Thomas operates the Little Church & Springhill Peony Farm, a superb wedding venue!

Recording by the fabulous Miss Bella Hazelton.

Time Stamps

00:24 The Usual Procedure
00:57 Why it Began
02:19 First Contact
03:23 Elements of Fantastic Weddings
04:34 Break the Rules
07:19 The Biggest Tip
07:54 A Saucy Request
09:16 A Heartwarming Tale
13:24 Working Overtime

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Hopelessly Devoted Podcast! I’m  bridal gown designer Sally Mussared, delivering you the inside tips from Melbourne’s top wedding professionals.

We’re here today, just outside of Trentham, at the Little Church & Springhill Peony Farm with Nicky Thomas. Hi!

Hello!

It’s great to meet you!

You too, Sally.

The Usual Procedure

So we mostly have weddings from between 60 to 80 guests, which is the perfect size for the church, and then they can have a reception afterwards that they can have 60 people in the pavilion, or if they have 80 guests they can bring a marquee and have it on the lawn, so it’s beautiful, a very flexible property too.

And you grow beautiful Peonies, as well, just ‘round the corner?

We do, just up over the hill, and we’ve got five acres with 10,000 Peony plants in the five acres-

And they would be springing forth soon, are they not?

I think we’ve only got about three weeks to go, so that’s pretty exciting, yeah.

Why it Began

So what got you into weddings, you know, the whole bit. How did you start?

It’s probably my husband that started the whole Peony farm. He actually bought the property in the year 2000 and then planted, by hand, all those 10,000 plants, with the help of his father, Martin, and also just mates. So then when I met Mack, I had to really enjoy Peonies and working on a Peony farm, that was all part of it, so yeah.

And what led you to the Little Church?

The church has been here since 1890, so when we moved into the area we’ve always looked at it and it’s so beautiful, but it was privately owned, so when it came onto the market, we just got really excited and thought gosh we could do all those weddings that people have been asking if they could do on the Peony farm, but we could do it here in a proper church. And it’s a special place, it’s got the history, it used to be the old schoolhouse before they build the other Springhill school, and so it’s just a lovely quaint little place that people come to visit and they love it straight away, and they want to have their wedding here, so it works, it’s appealing to people.

Yeah it’s lovely.

First Contact

So what happens when a bride contacts you?

Ah, they usually… they’ll either ring me directly or they’ll send an email, but what I try and do is actually speak with them on the phone rather than email back, so that we can just have a quick chat about numbers, and their date, and work out whether it’s going to work for them, and then I arrange a time within the next week or two weeks for them to come and visit, and come and see the property, and I’ll show them around and then we’ll talk in detail about what the’d like to do, and we’re pretty much anything goes here. I prefer to talk to people, see what they want/had planned, and then see if we can do it, and that’s fun! Every wedding’s different, it’s really good!

And so can you have two weddings on a weekend, or do you get the whole weekend?

You get the whole weekend. I don’t want to have two weddings on a weekend, it’s too busy, too stressful. Couples love having the place for the whole weekend, you know, to set up on the Friday, have the wedding on the Saturday, and then pack down on the Sunday, so it’s very relaxed.

Elements of Fantastic Weddings

Of all the amazing weddings that you’ve had here, what elements do your favourite ones have?

It usually starts with the couples, it’s the part that makes the wedding really good sort of thing, but for some reason we only seem to get really lovely, relaxed couples, but the ones that make a real difference is when they have a lot of greenery and a lot of flowers, and i think that’s the only thing you really need in this place, is to actually for it to be luscious, and beautiful, and either really colourful or really green and white, and there’s been some really amazing floral installations that have happened in the church across these beams, and up over the archway, and that’s what i really like. And there’s nice ones where you put up some festoon lighting at the end of the evening, you know they’ll have that ready so they can turn them on, and that’s also very beautiful ‘cause that’s, you know, outside under the lights, it’s very romantic, isn’t it.

It’s a lovely setting here with lovely mature trees, and it is beautiful.

And the massive trees, the trees are older than the church!

And you just heard the birds in the background, gorgeous!

Yeah, it’s beautiful, it’s got a very very lovely feel about it, and especially in this church, it makes you feel really good, I think people can feel that, so yeah.

Nice!

Break the Rules

So when people contact you Nicky, and you’re obviously warm and friendly and easy to get along with, what else makes you and Mack unique in the way that you deal with couples?

Because we’re quite sociable as a couple, we can understand how people would like to have a quite relaxed, in a way a gathering of people, it doesn’t have to be a stiff wedding thats very formal, and because we can relate to lots of different types of events, and I think that makes it easier for us to be very flexible about what people would like to do. You know, one wedding in here, they wanted to have a circular wedding and that was fine, you don’t have to have it at the altar, you can just choose what’s right for you in your spiritual belief, or not, you know, so that’s good.

That’s really beautiful isn’t it. With our gowns, we spend a lot of time working to develop the gown so that the bride’s personality comes out, and it becomes an individual thing, it’s not a you know, oh yeah that’s the same as so and so’s dress, each neckline and the shape and everything is really individual, and it feels like that here, it feels like you’ve got every opportunity, and you’re not kind of saying ‘nope, these are the rules and you have to dit di dit dit’, it lets couples be more special.

Well that’s right, and how we help them in making every wedding different is that we just give them a list of suppliers, of all ones that we like and ones we’ve used, and that way they get to choose what the menu is, what type of of food it’s gonna be, is it gonna be formal, is it gonna be casual, what new, you know, their music, their… choose their wine, their wonderful champagne or, you know.

‘Cause that’s what a wedding’s all about, isn’t it, it’s a couple standing there saying ‘we’re it, let’s party!’.

X2! It’s about having all your family around, and just actually… they’re supporting you through this big important stage, which is the next stage of being together, and you’re asking them to help you commit, and so it’s got to be individual. And I’m looking at the couple who are here now, and it’s fantastic, you know! They said to me ‘gosh it must be all the same’ and I said it’s totally different every time! Everyone’s personality is so different, and things are important to some people and not to others, and that’s what shines through, so… and especially when they can bring their dog! And that’s good too, isn’t it. Actually, one couple brought a horse!

I was going to say, have you had horses here, yeah!

We’ve had a bulldog and a horse, we’re basically outside, there’s not much shelter, so you know you’ve got the view, you can hear the birds, the sun always shines here on wedding days, full sunshine, promise you! it’s actually got the history, hasn’t it, and so that is really important, it’s beautiful.

The Biggest Tip

What’s your one biggest tip for brides?

Break all the rules, don’t follow any instructions, don’t look at websites that say ‘do this, do this, do this’, just think about what you want, and then just do it, and it doesn’t matter. I think the best thing about this venue is you don’t have to follow the rulebook, you can break the rules, and you can do it the way you want to do it, and so that’s my advice to the brides and the groom, just do what you think is right for you.

A Saucy Request

What is the most unusual request you’ve ever had?

It’s a bit rude! One couple asked if there could be a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the Peony paddock.

Really?

Seriously!

So did you grant them that?

Of course, of course! Why not, why not?

As long as they don’t squash any Peonies.

Oh well, there’s a whole lot of grassed area as well. But isn’t that… that was real, that was amazing!

That’s gorgeous!

Yeah. Oh well, it was great, I just thought oh look, why not, that’s what they want. If you’re gonna start your wedding, like your marriage that way, that’s great, that means they’re in love, and they’re free, go for it!

The funniest request I’ve ever had, my bride wanted the back so low you could see her buttcrack, and I said said honestly ‘that’s a bit tarty don’t you think?’ and she said no no, I like that low, and I said really, you’re going to walk down the aisle and everyone’s going to go ‘Oh my god, I don’t know where to look’ because they’ll be looking at the back, and she said no, that’s what I want, so I said alright, it’s your dress, you can have it however you like!

A Heartwarming Tale

We are putting together a book of love stories, because I’m a hopeless romantic, and I love hearing how couple’s met. How did you and your husband meet?

Well, we met on a Qantas flight, sitting across the aisle from each other, Mack was already in the seat, and I looked down the aisle, seeing there was only one seat left, and I thought ‘please be my seat, please!’ and then… cause he was just beautiful, a man, I was so, oooh!

Where were you headed, somewhere exciting?

Mack was going back to Japan, and I was flying via Japan back to Ireland to work, he was working there, I was working in Ireland, and we sat next to each other, and so we didn’t talk to each other in that flight, but we got onto the next flight, and in the transit lounge, Mack decided to come up and have a chat to me, and there was so many things that we had in common, it was really quite funny, and we were living overseas, but there is a Melbourne accent, and to hear our voices so familiar and comfortable, that we got on really well. So we went back to our work and our countries, and wrote via email, wrote letters to each other for seven months, you know, it’s like god! And every week there’d be one back and forward, and after seven months I thought, I’ve gotta go and see if he, what if he doesn’t look the way I remember, so I went, I said I’ll come and visit you in Japan, and he walked towards me and I just went aww, he’s the same, he’s just even better! And he gave me a big cuddle and I thought aww he’s strong, so, it was love. Straight away!

Fantastic! And then what did you do, did you go back to Ireland again?

No, I quit my job and went back to Australia, and the only way we could possibly be together, I just said well I’m not having a long distance relationship-

Well, you’ve already done that for seven months!

-so I’m coming to Japan, and he went “O-O-Okay!”, but I did, and then we were together, and we stayed in Japan for another three years and then we were trying to have kids, and we came home, and it was good! Got married.

You came back to Australia, and you’re obviously a Melbourne girl, but from out this side of town?

No, I’m from Apollo Bay, so I’m a coastal girl, and I really wanted to live on the coast, but when I first come back to Australia after I met Mack, he showed me round up here, I’d never been to the Macedon Ranges, even though I’d lived in Melbourne all my life, so I just went ‘Oh, it’s beautiful, I can’t believe I’ve never been here before!’, and he showed me the farm, and all the flowers, and it was beautiful, so… and we camped, for the first two years of us being together, everytime we came to the farm we had to camp in tents, and have cold showers with buckets, and how romantic!

Fantastic! We decided that we would build our own house, and when we did that we were living in Malvern at the time, we were real tree-changers coming out to here, and we thought, this is crazy driving across town, so we bought a caravan and moved into it.

Oh good, but how old were the kids?

Oliver was born and returned to the caravan, and Oliver is the oldest, so until he was nine months old, he was in the van. [laughs]

See that’s alright isn’t it, just the two of you and a baby, that’s great! You never get any sleep anyway.

It’s a bit crazy, but it’s nice.

It’s good because then you go through the stages together and you develop to together and that’s what Mac and I have done, we’ve just slowly stepped up. Now we’ve got a house, now we renovate the house… I’m an architect, we bought the worst house, just right over there, it was run-down, there was a family living in it with four kids in one bedroom, you can imagine what it was like, it was terrible. So we just had to clear all of that out and start again.

Working Overtime

So how do you fit your architecture in with everything else?

I only do one job a year, but I keep doing it because I love it.

Residential or commercial?

Only residential now. In my years as an architect I did everything, every type of building, but my favourite is residential because you are dealing directly with the people who are going to use the house, so you try and make it cost effective for them and environmentally sustainable and energy efficient. There all my sort of big things that I’m into so…

So your house with the one bedroom, you put north facing windows in and did all of that, did you?

Yeah and when we did the extension we actually went north in nice long strips of extension which have all their windows to the north and only one room wide, with a hallway.

But the new house is unreal, it’s designed by an architect so when i walked in I just went “Oh, no, this is good,” Because it is exactly what I would have done. Beautifully designed, all north facing two pavilions with a connecting bridge and it’s really really good. But the house I’m doing now is actually just in behind here and it’s a great house, new design, got the client coming up tomorrow to go through designs, so easy.

Fantastic.

And then I get to keep doing that and I get to do this.

Super-mum!

I just love, I love events. I’ve always been, even when I was in the architecture business and working for firms, I would be the one organising all the social events. All the way through architecture. Even the architectural conferences, all of those things, I was always on those committees. I just really enjoy that. So to have now this situation is absolutely perfect. I don’t feel like it’s a job, at all.

Thank you for having us today. If people would like to get in contact with you, what’s the best way.

The best way is either to call me directly on the mobile, or send an email. Its mail@springhillpeonyfarm.com.au

Thank you, we will put that in the show notes as well.

Oh good, thank you.

Thank you!

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for listening, I’m Sally Mussared. Remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.