Ariana Cleo, model and founder of wellness agency, Ari Life, and Andrew English, film director and founder of creative media agency GOS 4 Media and GOS Films production house, met in Istanbul in 2014 when the country had huge protests. He was a video journalist, living in Berlin, and she was on a school trip and based in Rome at the time.
The romance came to a halt once Ariana moved back to the States, but almost exactly five years later, she made the call to jump on a plane to Australia, where Andrew had moved, “to fall in love with him all over again.” Four months later, he proposed with her grandmother’s ring while on a trip to Howqua, a quaint mountain town in Victoria.
Once engaged, Ariana really wanted an intimate wedding in Australia. They decided to tie the knot on Andrew’s parents’ property, which is only 35 minutes outside of Melbourne. “Our wedding was inspired by our love of French rustic palettes and outdoor comfort,” Ariana explains. “We wanted to have an aesthetically beautiful experience while feeling like you could party the night away in the comfort of your backyard.”
The bride was also convinced that February 22nd, 2020 would be their wedding day, but little did she know that it would be one of the the only days it could’ve taken place. Between bushfires in Victoria and COVID-19, it happened to be the perfect time to wed.
For her wedding dress, Ariana custom designed her gown with à toi studio founder Fiona. “I wanted something that was minimal, sleek, and gave me shape even though I would be seven months pregnant,” she explains. “With much fear the dress wouldn’t fit, we took a gamble, and each week, as I sent Fiona my measurements, we created a projection of what we felt my body would look like.” It arrived five days before the ceremony and was luckily able to be altered the day before to fit like a glove.
On the day-of, Ariana got ready with hairstylist Megan Harrison and makeup artist Mae Taylor and put Oscar de la Renta pearl drop earrings. “Having spent years in hair and makeup for modeling, I searched Instagram for hours to find a duo that would fit my desired aesthetic,” the bride remarks.
Ariana’s sister and maid of honor, Zoe, complemented the bride well in a champagne à toi silk dress, and her close friends wore the Amber silk slips from the same label. “All of my girlfriends were there for me every step of the way, including when I arrived 30 minutes late to my own wedding and undressed because I was afraid I would wrinkle my dress,” she says. Andrew’s brother and best man chose a navy suit, while the groom looked handsome in a navy and black Zenetti tuxedo.
Outside in the Australian summer sun, the bride walked down the aisle with her father to Andrew and his uncle, who led the ceremony. Five hours prior, the couple had brainstormed their vow strategy and decided on five lines each to say. Andrew took it literally and only wrote five sentences, while Ariana took creative liberties and had two pages based on five bullet points. “One could only say it went perfectly with many laughs, as Peter thought I was done professing my love when I was only on page one,” she explains.
After being declared as a married couple, everyone gathered under the tent for the reception. Sustainability was a priority for Ariana, and she found Social Food Project, which creates eco-friendly food experiences. The entire menu was determined the week of the wedding and based off of what was in season and available at local markets. And the lemon and raspberry swirl wedding cake was handmade by Andrew’s mother, Anne, and decorated and styled by Nora O’Neil.
Post-dinner, miniature golf and horseshoes entertained guests, and then there was a surprise show from circus performer Pippa the Ripper and her fire hula hoops. And later in the night, as it was important to the older generation of Ariana’s family, the couple did the money dance. Guests could only join in once bills were put into the bride’s purse or the groom’s suit.
Ariana’s Californian family was a little concerned about the tequila quality in Australia, so they brought 10 bottles from home and passed out shots to keep the party alive. “Rumor has it, many Australians suffered from the worst hangover of their lives after many hours of ‘tequila tasting’ with my aunt and uncle,” the bride says.
The newlyweds left the group at 2:30 a.m., and the dance floor closed at 3:30 a.m. when Andrew’s father had to cut the power. People then went out to the bars until around 5:30 a.m. “One could say we really knew how to throw a party,” Ariana says.
Originally, the newlyweds had planned a honeymoon in Paris, but with Ariana being pregnant and COVID-19 hitting, they had to stay in the country. They instead threw a family getaway for those close to them who had traveled to Australia, and then the two of them went to Noosa for a weekend, two weeks before the travel ban in Australia was implemented.