They say that a gentleman knows that it’s often the simple gestures that mean the most. And so they did for palliative care nurse Esther McMillan-Drendel, who lost her heart to a tall, handsome chap with impeccable manners on their very first date.
Esther met up with farmer Huw Thomas for coffee, en-route to a baby shower in Wodonga, after working a 12-hour night shift.
“This gentleman then walked me back to my car, asked if I had enough fuel and if I wasn’t too tired to continue on,” Esther proudly recalls.
“Upon opening my door, he asked, ‘would it be alright if I saw you again?’ I knew I was going to marry this man.”

It’s one thing to experience nerves when proposing to the love of your life…to have your flame mistake your anxiety for a heart-attack is quite another!
“We had gone away for a week in Tasmania and Huw was really distant,” Esther remarks.
“I went to give him a hug, only to find that his heart was racing, and that he was pale and sweating. Nursing-mode engaged, and I thought Huw was having a heart attack – 45 minutes away from the nearest hospital, poor road access, on top of a hill in the bush. He assured me that he was not having chest pain, and sent me outside to ‘enjoy the scenery’. I went outside only to hear a noise behind me to find Huw on his knee.
“You are having a heart attack!’ I screeched. Instead he presented me with the most impressive proposal and ring!

Fast forward to their wedding day at Chateau Dore, a historic winery in the Mandurang Valley near Bendigo, and it was this same sense of charm, reminiscent of old Hollywood glamour, that set the tone for an unforgettable day.
“The beautifully restored venue of Chateau Dore boasted wooden floors and beams, exposed sandstone walls, magnificent French polished buffet and an olive green Chesterfield,” Esther enthuses.

The brunette beauty wore a custom-made, molten gold sequined gown she sketched herself and had designed by dressmaker Trish McCully.
“Knowing that I was not going to find anything like this on the market, I approached Trish, who is incredibly talented, and – luckily – she had faith in my vision and knew exactly where to hunt down a sequin that wasn’t going to be straight from a tap-dancing studio!” she says.
“I didn’t want my gold dress to be the stand-out of the day; I wanted it reflected in the gold leaf in the afternoon champagne, the brassy hues of the pheasant feathers in the men’s corsages and floral arrangements, the gold tint on rose petals scattered down the aisle to the copper and brass trays for the cognac and cigars.

“The day was an homage to the tones and antique style of our home, and the colours we surround ourselves with on a daily basis.”
It was important to Esther and Huw to support local businesses in the planning and staging of their special day.
“In doing so, we found the most incredible vendors, who all shared our view in creating the most amazing day.  We would send out emails with our vision of what we wanted and, depending on the manner in which they responded, we soon established if they held the same passion for what we were trying to create.

Featured in issue 3 of Absolute Weddings Magazine


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Location of Wedding: Mandurang
Theme: Gold
Bride’s Dress: Trish McCully
Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Weddington Way
Ladies Shoes: Shoes of Prey
Accessories: Gems & Jewels
Cake: Heather Drendel
Florists: The Eternal Vase
Hair: Honeyeater
Make-up: Ashley Morales
Suits: MJ Bale
Rings: Gems & Jewels
Ceremony Venue: Chateau Dore
Celebrant: Jennifer Lawrie-Smith
Photographer: Kim Selby Photography
Reception Venue: Chateau Dore
Entertainment: The Baker Boys
Caterer: Two Sister Catering
Hire Equipment: Bendigo Hire
Stylist: Bride’s own design and props
Number of Guests: 90

Featured in issue 3 of Absolute Weddings Magazine