This couple’s wild, wild life inspired an Australian wedding celebration at The Crocodile Hunter Lodge: a vision of the original Wildlife Warrior, Steve Irwin.
For nature-lovers Luke and Mitch, it was their work at Queensland’s iconic Australia Zoo (Luke as General Manager and Mitch as Creative Services Manager) that led them to this special new location. In fact, the pair helped design it!
“When we’re not travelling the world doing conservation work, we’re at the zoo designing the next animal habitat or working on Crikey! Magazine,” says Luke. “Recently, we both worked on designing and project managing The Crocodile Hunter Lodge, making it the perfect place for us to get married.”
The pair is based on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast and even celebrated their first date in true coastal style. “We ate pizza on the beach and have been together ever since,” says Luke. “When we’re not working, we love Sunshine Coast life, and our happy place is Moffat Beach. We’re also huge foodies, so love trying out new restaurants with our family and friends.”
Bringing those loved ones together for an intimate wedding called for a naturally beautiful backdrop, with Luke and Mitch the first to say ‘we do’ on the deck at Ironbark Paddock. Nestled in bushland, this secluded setting can be found within The Crocodile Hunter Lodge grounds. “Ironbark Paddock is a space we both worked on and absolutely LOVE,” says Luke. “It was magical.”
Styling stayed on brief with a glorious mix of natural flora and materials. “Everything was earthy, neutral, and of course inspired by nature,” says Mitch. “We accentuated the natural bush around the shed with native Australian flowers from That Little Flower Shop, and all the timber used for the arbour and decorations was recycled from the original zoo that Steve Irwin built.”
Arriving at the ceremony site inspired a precious memory for the pair. “Our favourite moment was walking to the shed and down the aisle as The Famo’s performed Noah Reid’s version of Simply the Best,” says Luke. “We chose our mums to walk with us and it was very emotional. It felt like that was the moment we were entering the next stage of our lives together.”
With vows exchanged, the newlyweds could really lean into the day’s relaxed vibe. “We wanted our wedding to be very laid-back: more of a big party with the people we love most,” says Luke. And it was, with the Australia Zoo team on hand to deliver the couple’s wedding non-negotiable — good food! — with catering from Warrior Restaurant & Bar. “The Australia Zoo events team handled absolutely everything so perfectly,” says Luke. I’ve seen a lot of weddings here, and now I know why!”
And the couple’s advice for others planning a unique wedding? “Make the wedding your own. We wanted a small wedding done our way, and I think that’s what made it so special for us,” agree the grooms who just returned from an incredible month-long honeymoon.
“Having a small wedding meant we could have a big honeymoon,” says Luke. “We each chose half of the trip: anywhere in the world. First, road-tripping through Europe, starting in Paris. Then South Africa for two weeks in the middle of the bush, surrounded by elephants, lions and leopards.” Sounds perfect!
Photography: Kate Berry Photography
Ceremony & reception: Ironbark Paddock, The Crocodile Hunter Lodge
Celebrant: Dee Hamson
Suits: MJ Bale (Luke) & Anthony Squires (Mitch)
Florals: That Little Flower Shop
Stylist: Cloud Nine Weddings, Simply Style Co & Equip 4 Hire
Music: The Famo’s
Cake: Cake Yard
Catering: Warrior Restaurant & Bar