The ins & outs of the dress

Meeting at church led to divine love

24 jan 2017

RACHEL Tanios and Andrew Sharkawi wouldn’t even have to leave their street to find love — not that either of them realised it at first.

The pair met at St Mark’s Coptic Church in Arncliffe when Rachel was 16, but it was only after they became good friends that they discovered they lived just a few houses apart in Hurstville.

Although the couple who now live in Peakhurst were friendly, it was only after Andrew became close mates with Rachel’s sister and her husband and the four began socialising as a group that they began dating.

“We didn’t start going out together until about three years ago. I’m the type of person who would want to be friends before I dated someone, so it was nice that I knew him before,” Rachel says.

Although their courtship was slow, there was nothing tame about their first few adrenaline-filled dates spent quad biking, abseiling, rock climbing and horse riding.

“We’re both pretty active people, we like adventure, we have the same interest in that.”

On April 17, 2015, Andrew “completely surprised” Rachel by pulling out all the stops for his proposal.

Telling Rachel they were going to dinner at a mystery location, he drove her to Rose Bay, where they were greeted by a guitarist singing their song, Breathless by Shayne Ward.

Andrew steered Rachel towards a nearby park, where he had arranged for a red carpet to be laid down, and dropped to one knee as a fireworks display reading “Will you marry me Rachel?” ignited.


When they sat for a private dinner at Catalinas, he had placed two photos on their table. One of he and her father with the caption “I asked him and he said ‘yes’,”; the other of the couple with the caption “I asked you and you said yes”.

Despite planning a large wedding for 300 guests Rachel was never overwhelmed, saying “it wasn’t too chaotic” and they had initially anticipated the event would be bigger.

The couple were married on November 20 at the church where they met, followed by a reception at Doltone House at Jones Bay Wharf, Pyrmont.

“We met at St Mark’s so getting married there was definitely special. There were other churches where we could have got married, but I really wanted that church because it means something to us,” Rachel says.

For Rachel, there was only one dress possible for her big day. She wore a fitted French-lace gown with beading and a fishtail tulle skirt, which she had custom made from a photo she had kept for many years, long before meeting Andrew.

“I always thought ‘when I get married I really want to get this dress made’. When it came to the time, I showed them the dress and then they made it, with a few small modifications,” Rachel says.

Rachel had her two sisters, a friend from church and two school friends as bridesmaids, while Andrew’s groomsmen were his brother, Rachel’s brother-in-law and three of his friends who had travelled from Adelaide.

Taking the theme of white and floral, they custom decorated the dance floor of the reception venue, making it a bright white, with their names overlaid with the date. They also installed three chandeliers above the bridal table, added a floral backdrop behind it and a white glow to the bridal and cake tables.

They also set-up two giant, illuminated letters of their initials on the balcony and had photos taken next to them, with the Harbour Bridge in the background.


They had commissioned their videographer to create a same-day edit which captured highlights of Andrew, Rachel and the bridal parties getting ready, the ceremony and everything up until the moment they walked into the reception as man and wife. The short video was then played to guests at the end of the night.

“It was so good because I had no idea what happened with him getting ready, and the whole day kind of goes really fast, so seeing little bits of everything from the day was great, seeing it all come together,” Rachel says.

For their honeymoon, the couple spent 33 days travelling around Cancun — where they swam with dolphins — as well as relaxing in Las Vegas, Miami and Hawaii.