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Sydney couple gets dream wedding despite blazes

Andrew and Angela Gleeson on their special day.

Despite a stressful and devastating lead up, Angela and Andrew Gleeson from Sydney said they “could not have asked for a more perfect day” for their wedding on Australia Day at Gilmore Hall.

The region, Batlow in particular, has a lot of significance for the couple. Andrew’s grandfather John Melrose is in his 90s and has lived in Batlow his whole life. Andrew’s mother was also born in Batlow, and used to bring him for visits to see his ‘Pop’ while growing up.

“He used to absolutely love and cherish his trips to see his Pop and he has very, very fond memories from when he was younger of Batlow and those areas,” Angela said.

Andrew first brought Angela to visit Batlow six years ago, two years into their eight-year relationship.

“As soon as I visited Batlow and all of the beautiful community I fell in love with it as well,” she said.

Before the couple were even engaged they knew they wanted to get married, and they knew they wanted their wedding to be in Batlow.

“We couldn’t really think of another place that had such heartfelt, warm meaning to us,” Angela said.

Beginning their search for a wedding venue, Angela and Andrew first visited Brindabella Farm in February 2019 and met owner Anne Hallard. They fell in love with the property straight away, booking a second stay in May to spend with family and securing the venue for their wedding in January 2020.

They also booked the Batlow Literary Institute for their reception, liaising with the local council to make it happen.

“It was absolutely amazing and had pretty much everything we needed,” Angela said.

With the ceremony and reception venues chosen and booked, Angela and Andrew sent their invitations out in May 2019. They wanted to give guests lots of notice in advance, as most people would be travelling from Sydney.

Fast forward seven months to Sunday, January 5, Angela and Andrew learnt that Brindabella Farm – the house and all the property – had been totally destroyed in the devastating Dunn’s Road Fire, which reached Batlow the day before.

The couple were absolutely devastated, and knew that if their wedding were to still go ahead they would need to find a new ceremony venue.

The following Friday on the 10th, the council contacted Angela and Andrew and let them know that the Batlow Literary Institute – the venue for their reception – had been turned in to a bushfire recovery centre and would be unavailable for use.

Angela said this was “totally understandable,” but knew it was going to be a big task to find new ceremony and reception venues with only about a fortnight left until the big day.

Fortunately, the council reached out and let them know about Gilmore Hall. There had been a birthday party scheduled for the same day, but it had been cancelled due to the fires, so that left the venue free for them.

On Monday, January 13, Angela drove to see the Hall with her mother and mother-in-law. She thought the Hall was “absolutely perfect” and booked it right away.

Gilmore Hall decorated for the reception.

With a new venue scheduled and less than two weeks until the wedding, Angela and Andrew began the task of re-arranging everything. They said this feat would not have been possible without the help of community members and local companies.

Belinda Hindmarsh, who runs Embellish Catering, was a huge help to the couple.

“She was able to help us with updating all of our plans, and all of the seating and the catering.”

Riverina Party Hire helped with organising supplies that hadn’t previously been ordered. The couple also bought cider from Crafty Cider in Batlow, and hired a DJ from Wagga just one week before the wedding.

“About two weeks, even a week and a half out, and a week out, we were still adding things and they were absolutely amazing,” Angela said.

“Everyone had been through really tough times but there was a real sense of just coming together and making the most out of what was really an absolutely terrible time for the community.”

The couple made an effort to give back to the community who supported them so much. They made sure to eat meals in local pubs, and encouraged all their friends and family who had travelled from Sydney to spend money in the community.

The big day finally arrived, and Angela said “it all just came together.”

“We could not have asked for a more perfect day.

“We were just so lucky to have our family and friends and those that mean most to us there.”

It was definitely a day that Angela and Andrew, and all their friends and family, will always remember and cherish.