Ceremonies with Antique Charm at Vieille Branche
Update January 2019: Sadly, this gorgeous venue has closed since I wrote this piece. I still wanted to publish it because I think the creative styling of this space was so inspiring and unique that it just might give you an “aha” moment while you plan your wedding and look for creative ideas!
Nestled within the industrial backstreets of Brisbane’s Albion lies Vieille Branche (The Old Branch, a French colloquialism for ‘my old friend’), a breathtakingly beautiful and unique event space (as well as café) with a French twist. Luckily for you, engaged Brisbanites, you can actually get married here! It is truly an eclectic visual smorgasbord - there are intriguing antiques as far as the eye can see, little comfy corners to chat in, too many photo-ready backdrops to count and an enchanting garden out the front. As soon as I walked in the door, I was completely smitten. So naturally, I had to sit down with Jen, who owns and runs Vieille Branche with her husband JC, for a quick chat about how this one-of-a-kind place came about…
AND we are lucky enough that Amanda from Peppermint Photography has let us share some incredible photos from Natasha and Ramon’s stunning wedding held at Vieille Branche in April 2017, so make sure you keep scrolling to see this place in all its wedding glory, a couple of gorgeous lovebirds and our interview, of course...
What prompted you to create Vieille Branche?
I met JC when he was in Brisbane on a working holiday visa from France. We met totally randomly at a bar in West End and after a while, we were going out and dating and he started living with me. We were getting old bits of furniture and renovating them and then selling them on Gumtree and that’s basically how it all started. We were going to antique shops and JC kept saying to me, “You could buy this sort of thing for nothing in France, so we could just go”. So, we went to visit his family in France, saw the price of antiques and thought maybe we should give it a whirl. We bought a container-load of furniture (which involved a lot of work!), brought it back to Australia, set up and traded as an antique shop. We had a space in Newstead for a year and things were going pretty well so we said, “Okay, let’s find our own place” and we came here to Albion in November 2013 and set up our shop.
We had a lot of people who were coming in and saying, “This place is amazing. Don’t just do antiques, you should have a coffee shop!” So we were like, “Okay, we’ll think about it a bit more.” Then we set up the coffee and then of course, more people came in. Then one day, a couple dropped in and asked, “Could we get married here?” When I was younger, I worked at St Lucia Golf Club (for pretty much my whole childhood), so I suppose knowing what the wedding industry is like a little bit, it wasn't that daunting really. So we said, “Yeah okay, we can do that”. So, we did our first wedding here in March 2015 and a couple of months later, we had our second wedding. Those two weddings really taught us that we needed systems in place, so we went away and figured out how the whole thing would work and then started advertising. From there, it has been building and building through Instagram and word of mouth from guests of previous weddings.
Although we didn’t originally intend to open as an event space, we always kind of wanted to go in this direction. We just didn’t realise what were going to be the things that really worked well and what didn’t work so well. So, for instance, now we don’t sell antiques at all. We just use the antiques as decoration. It’s funny how things move like that and it has just evolved into its own thing. Even if somebody asked me at school, “What do you think you’ll be doing in the future?”, I wouldn’t have said, “I am going to get married to a Frenchman and run an events space in Albion. Where the hell is Albion?!”
Can couples hold both ceremonies and receptions here?
Yes. People can have the ceremony and then they can go next door (to the beautiful garden area) and take photos, but that space can also be hired for the duration as an extra. So, there’s been some really nice combinations of weddings, where people move from an inside ceremony to the garden and have a garden party with a bar and musicians and then they come back inside for the reception. It’s really versatile like that. You can either be inside for the whole time or use both areas.
Can the space be decorated, allowing couples to add their own touches?
Yes, we get a lot of people who come in with florists and I think that makes a massive difference. Sometimes a few of the tables are used for things like grazing platters or boards and people can set up a wishing well area. A lot of couples choose to set up photo booths in the back corner too.
What would a typical wedding package include?
We offer venue hire only and base our packages around numbers. So, the most people we cater for is 150 standing. We allow BYO catering and because our license finishes at 6pm, BYO alcohol. Though we don’t provide food catering, we have preferred suppliers. We think this process allows couples to be as extravagant or as casual as they like with their wedding. So, for example, Pizzantica are on our list of preferred suppliers, so that’s a really easy wedding if you’ve got pizza coming in and you bring your own drinks - it’s really simple.
[Abby’s note - DREAM wedding, in my books. Read our recent interview with Pizzantica here].
We also had one wedding recently where the chef from GOMA came. That was a seated reception for 50 people where wines were selected particularly for individual tables and people, as the couple were sommeliers. It was incredible! Every time we do this, I think, “We have to have a party in here one day”.
What do you love the most about running your business?
I love the challenge and I really love seeing people enjoy the space. We end up becoming part of someone’s life story - the married couple will know this place as somewhere that will always be a part of their lives and their journey together.
Just for fun - where is your all-time favourite place to visit in France?
There is a restaurant just near where JC lived called La Cale and it’s basically a beach shack on the sand dunes. It’s got (similarly) old furniture, but they leave it out in the weather for the whole entire year. It’s really rough and tumble and there’s people playing jazz and dancing and if it’s busy, they will just bring you a piece of raw meat and say, “You cook it yourself on the fire”. The waiter will come and sit down and have a drink with you or he’ll have a drink before he pours your wine. It’s just really charming because it’s so easy and I love it. It’s like a pirate shack - there’s people with birds on their shoulders! One of the waiters does massage, so he might be massaging somebody on a table… It’s hilarious. It’s in Coutainville, a little seaside community near JC’s home town in Normandy.
Bonus just for fun question - what was your wedding like?
We got married here in Brisbane at the Registry, it was really quick, and then we had a party at my share house with all my friends. We followed that with a ‘fake’ wedding in France where JC’s very good friend is a captain and apparently you can get married by captains in France. So, we had a wedding with him officiating and we dressed up and had a party in a field.