We drove for an hour and a half deep into the Yarra Valley and up into the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. At half past one, we turned off the main road and pulled up a narrow gravel drive through dense bush to emerge in a clearing adjacent to a vast, sprawling house surrounded on all sides by a wide verandah.
Lawn sloped away from the front of the house until it reached the shrubbery. Beyond that, soaring trees - forest gums, mountain ash, that kind of thing. Through the trees, you can glimpse a mountain that rises dramatically, blue and sheer, in the warm afternoon light.
The sprawling house was just part of a larger estate that my sister had hired for the weekend. She had thoughtfully invited guests to stay overnight as it was such a long way out of town. Cabins were dotted around the property way beyond the trees and a shady pathway led to a camping ground 400 metres from the main house.
Family and friends drifted in through the afternoon, settling into their cabins or setting up tents at the camp ground. The ringing of hammers on tentpegs could be heard echoing through the trees.
In front of the house, a white tent decorated with pale blue swagged fabric had been set up in a corner of the lawn and a cousin was pouring drinks. How refreshing - a wedding where you don't have to endure the ceremony, an endless photographic session and the time in between before you get to have a drink.
Five o'clock rolled around, five-thirty. Everyone was gathered in little groups on the lawn in the shadow of the big house, some reclining on spread blankets or folding chairs, others standing about with drinks. Then some music came floating down from the verandah, ethereal sounds like birds in a forest with a distant drum beat. Someone announced over a microphone that the wedding party would soon be approaching.
Just as the sun dipped below the ridge of the mountain, turning the sky vermilion, the bird and drum music stopped and became flowing water instead. With reeds. Kind of a soothing 'shushing' sound.
Then they emerged into the clearing from a dark part of the shrubbery. Children led, some bearing banners of softly coloured filmy material which bobbed and waved gently like a lazy bird's wings. Others carried thin, long, white birds created from papier mache and some kind of fabric. The birds moved backwards and forwards, as if in flight, as the children took their faltering little steps.
The person who had made the announcement over the microphone went on with a commentary over the water soundtrack. She told of spiritual pathways and water; birds and their connection between the mundane and divine worlds; of regeneration and sanctuary. As she spoke, the wedding party advanced into the clearing. She went on, telling the assembled guests about the place where my sister had met her future husband: on the edge of Corner Inlet near Wilsons Promontory, a haven for migratory birds from all around the world. There, the mountain peaks rise out of the sea and form a chain of islands across Bass Strait to Tasmania. This is the path of the silvereyes and other birds.
The fading light played on the costumes of the rest of the wedding party. Flowing gowns of cut sheer fabrics floated and shimmered. My sister's costume was no brighter nor showier than the others. The party looked for all the world like a flock of birds as it circled the clearing and came to rest just as the speaker told how the couple's dream of replanting the rainforest was bearing fruit - the birds had started returning.
And with that they were married and then the performance was over and it was time to eat.