It’s the wedding that made waves before it even got started: tabloid speculation on the celebrity guest list, a ‘strict’ guest dress code and so-called bridezilla behaviour (ridiculous to anyone who really knows the bride in question).
In reality, though, the Byron Bay wedding of lawyer-turned-social-media-sensation Pia Muehlenbeck and her creative director husband Kane Vato was relaxed and filled with much love, laughter and magic (literally – there was a roaming illusionist present to entertain guests).
It also happened to be incredibly picturesque, but what else would you expect of a couple who make curating Instagram feeds and their luxury lifestyle website Finding the Finer an art form?
Muehlenbeck and Vato, from the Gold Coast and England in turn, were joined by 100 of their closest family and friends (including yours truly) for the intimate celebration, which was held at popular hilltop wedding spot Fig Tree Restaurant. Known for its incredible vista – a 180-degree view of the sprawling coastline north of Byron Bay’s famous white lighthouse – the venue features a guest house, restaurant, swimming pool, and a giant swing, removed in this case to make way for the make-shift wedding aisle.
While there were no official bridesmaids or groomsmen alongside the couple, guests had been supplied a simple outfit mood board in the weeks beforehand so they matched the future Mr and Mrs – a sweet way to make everyone present feel like they were a key part of the celebration too.
“We chose to have no bridal party so everyone felt equally included,” Vato later told GRAZIA. It certainly made for ‘gram-perfect photos and behind-the-scenes snaps that looked like stills from a movie set.
For GRAZIA, Muehlenbeck is practically family, having been part of the extended team since our 2016 relaunch in Australia; an official market editor, contributor, collaborator, on-stage panelist at Fashion Week and literal friend-in-fashion.
Here, we exclusively unveil (yes, wedding pun) their official photo album, captured by acclaimed Australian photographer Jarrad Seng, who jumped off tour with Angus and Julia Stone to come and shoot their wedding, then immediately flew back to join the band’s tour the following day.
BEFORE THE WEDDING: THE BRIDE
In typical wedding style, Muehlenbeck spent the morning of her wedding getting ready with her mother Petra Koenig, younger sister Tara, and closest girlfriends. A representative from Pallas Couture – the bespoke wedding label that custom-made her wedding gown – was on hand, having flown to Byron just days before with the finished gown, which took more than 800 hours to construct.
Hair-stylist Barney Martin, from Sydney, was there too, as was makeup artist and friend Estelle Philips, who beautified all of the women present aside from the bride, who did her own makeup. After the wedding, Muehlenbeck confided to GRAZIA that her dress was originally sleeveless and that the stunning statement shoulder-covers had been added later.
BEFORE THE WEDDING: THE GROOM
He may not have had official groomsmen, but Vato certainly had a strong gang – including TV presenter Danny Clayton, fitness sensation Nathan McCallum and influencer Simon Hancock for support (and general mischief). Several of them bunked into the venue’s chic guest house the evening before the wedding. Vato’s three-piece linen suit was from Montagio by Suave Bespoke.
BEFORE THE WEDDING: THE GUESTS
Adding to the mystery of the day, guests (aside from the guy gang staying with Vato) had no idea of the wedding venue until they arrived them. The official invitation simply instructed them to meet at Byron Bay’s main surf club just after midday – a fun touch for friends and a foil for paparazzi, who’d arrived days beforehand in the coastal town. (Note: some still found their way, though – the bride later recalled seeing photographers with long lenses as she drove up the hill to Fig Tree’s front gate. Just hours later, the grainy, pap-snapped images started popping up on news-service sites.)
A reworked double-decker bus was used to ferry the troops, joined by the groom himself for the ride. Bachelor Tim Robards and new wife Anna Heinrich were amongst the first guests to step aboard, followed soon after by the SketchSHE girls Lana Kington (dressed in a striking, copper satin slip dress and head scarf) and Madison Lloyd, fitness influencer Steph Claire Smith and fiance Josh Miller, beauty Vloggers Rachael Brook and Chloe Morello and dozens more special friends.
The groom cried first. Then the bride. Then everyone in the audience (with a beating heart). Muehlenbeck was walked up the aisle by her father Thomas for the ceremony, which was presided over by the often-times hilarious celebrant, long-time close friend Peter Bray.
Her flowers, like the many dried arrangements around the venue on the day, were by Bower Botanicals. While a relaxed and short (by typical standards) ceremony, it was big on emotion, both bride and groom wrote their own vows.
After being declared man and wife, the pair stopped for the inevitable: a tongue-in-cheek selfie with everyone captured in the background, Ellen-at-the-Oscars style. (Here, the true genius of the ‘pale neutrals’ guest dress code became entirely apparent.)
THE AFTERNOON DRINKS
Ceremony done, the party began, kicked off with a champagne fountain, then plenty of selfies, and cocktails, canapes, and magician-fuelled laughs. At this point guests finally spotted the spectacular dinner setting down the hill: three long tables under a wooden pergola structure that was literally constructed the day before. Above were hanging lights hidden in wicker baskets, more dried florals and then clear blue sky. Muehlenbeck worked closely with wedding planners Byron Bay Weddings on the whole day’s happenings.
THE formal PHOTOS
While guests mingled (drank, posed and were merry), the bride quickly freshened her makeup before setting off with her new husband and official photographer Jarrad Seng to a nearby field of sunflowers for their formal, posed keepsake photos. Afterward, Muehlenbeck changed into her second dress of the day, another figure-hugging, custom-made Pallas Couture gown, this time covered in diamontes. Because she could.
THE EVENING CELEBRATIONS
As the sun set and the last of the half-dozen hilarious, heartfelt speeches around the pool were finished, guests headed to a table covered in small black boxes splattered in gold paint. Inside their namesake box was a personalised cookie by Marina Machado with their name and table number for dinner imprinted into the icing.
After a candle-lit dinner of several courses, guests moved back to the main house to watch the married couple cut the cake, which featured 600 petit fours on its top to cater for all tastes. A DJ, dancing and expresso martinis carried everyone late into the evening, which ended when the couple and most guests piled back into the big red bus and tripped down the hill into Byron Bay’s beachfront.
So how did this highlight-packed wedding day end? With everyone dancing in the rain at 4am on the beach, the bride still in her Pallas Couture gown but carrying her (by now practically ruined) Louboutin heels – a fair measure of success on the fun-scale for any wedding, surely?
All photography by acclaimed Australian photographer, creative director, and influencer, Jarrad Seng. Follow him on Instagram HERE.