Words by Molly Smith
In September 2020, Brogan Ruytenberg, formerly the Head of Digital at SIR the Label, said her forever “yes” to partner Antony Hembrow, an interior designer from New Zealand—someone she admits she had always jokingly manifested. Their love story began almost five years ago at a cliché Christmas lunch with her girlfriends, and the immediate chemistry sparked something special. Just two nights later, their first date took place, and before long, the l-bomb was exchanged, and they were moving in together. Since then, they’ve remained inseparable.
As described by Brogan, Ant’s proposal was nothing short of perfect. Set against the picturesque hinterland backdrop, he took her on an escape to Heartwood Cabin in Byron Bay. Amid intimate seclusion and nervous excitement, Ant popped the question right away, leading to immediate celebrations. The engagement came with a stunning custom Natasha Schweitzer ring, and the following days were filled on cloud nine.
“Eloping was our immediate thought. We were close to finalising plans for a 150-person wedding in Wanaka, New Zealand, but we ultimately returned to our initial idea of eloping, a decision we’ve never regretted.”
The passing of Antony’s beloved mother, Terri, in 2021 further solidified their choice to elope. A planned skiing trip to Canada transformed into an elopement, with an added week in NYC. While Brogan hadn’t been to New York City before, Ant had, and he was sure she would fall in love. Despite planning the entire celebration afar, relying solely on instincts and the internet for vendors and locations, the experience was impeccably perfect.
Their must-haves for the wedding day were apparent: exceptional food, photography they would treasure forever, and a relaxed atmosphere for their intimate guest list.
“In hindsight, it’s amusing. I meticulously organised certain aspects of the wedding, locking in details months in advance. Yet, other parts were left until the last moment (quite literally). I realised I needed a bouquet only the day before! Fortunately, there was a florist across from our SoHo hotel, and they crafted a simple bouquet of white roses, which turned out to be perfect.”
“Both parents flew in—mine from Sydney, Ant’s from New Zealand and Ant’s sister and her partner. The day felt incredibly intimate and special with just eight of us present.”
To capture the day, they enlisted film photographer Jen Steele, whose work Brogan admired while working at Sydney Fashion brand Lee Matthews. The brief aimed for a fashion photojournalistic style rather than traditional wedding imagery. As a New York City local, Jen facilitated a memorable day of exploring the city with the newlyweds while she snapped their euphoria.
The wedding perfectly embodied the contemporary bride, staying true to Brogan’s style. Her effortlessly elegant gown by Saint Laurent was a chic departure from tradition, the sole dress she tried on and the only one she considered. Crafted from recycled wool fabric, it was ideal for the 4-degree Celsius wedding day.
The day commenced with hair styling at David Mallet by Hannan Siddique (who had no prior knowledge of the wedding until the bride arrived), followed by preparations in the Modern Haus SoHo hotel room with makeup artist Sophia Vallejos. An Aussie herself, Sophia made Brogan’s morning a breeze.
The ceremony location was held in a corner studio in Chelsea. A simple, intimate, exuding a distinctly NYC-esque and oozing romance. The choice of venue was driven by its beautiful windows, abundant natural light, and clean white walls. Opting to forgo floral arrangements, they embraced the studio’s natural beauty as the backdrop for their vows among family before heading back to SoHo in a cab for some photos walking the streets as a newly married couple.
As the cold but beautiful NYC day faded, the newlyweds took a moment at the iconic Balthazar to share some champagne. Following the bubbles, they gathered with their guests at Estela for a reception in the upper-level private dining space. There, they savoured a chef’s dining experience, recounting the day’s events with laughter and speeches late into the evening.
“The day turned out exactly as we had envisioned—no more, no less—simply perfect for us.”
Brogan’s advice is clear: Define your priorities as a couple and avoid getting entangled by the societal expectations of what a wedding “should” be. Don’t feel obligated to conform. If elopement crosses your mind, don’t hesitate—go for it. Brogan spoke to numerous couples who either had weddings or were planning them, and many admitted they would have chosen to elope, given the chance, due to the undue stress and financial strain. Invest in your dream dress, select the perfect location, and allocate your resources to create a day that revolves around you and your partner. You won’t regret it.
So much so Mr and Mrs Hembrow relocated from Sydney to NYC five months after their wedding, enticed by the city’s allure and eager to embark on the next phase of their journey as newlyweds.