Our perfect country wedding
It was a highly emotional day for the couple who found each other on The Farmer Wants A Wife. Lucie Morris-Marr was there to share the joy
Before a single vow is taken or the groom has even caught sight of his stunning bride, emotions are running high.
Preparing for their glamorous nuptials at the foot of the majestic Grampians in country Victoria, farmer Rob Hodges and his fiancée, Jo Fincham, have a special secret they can’t wait to share with Woman’s Day.
Their wedding day, they reveal, marks the start of a new chapter in their million-to-one love affair, which began on TV dating show The Farmer Wants A Wife two years ago.
“We simply can’t wait to start a family,” reveals a tearful yet blissfully happy Jo, 32. “And if it turns out to be a honeymoon baby, then all the better.”
Since getting together after an instant on-screen attraction, their shared dream of having at least three children has been firmly on the agenda.
“I’m not getting any younger so I think we better get the bull out of the paddock pretty quickly,” jokes Rob, 44, during our chat on the eve of their big day.
It’s clear the relationship still feels miraculous to the delighted couple, who were both entered into The Farmer Wants A Wife by matchmaking friends.
Rob’s best man, TV host Ed Phillips, proudly admits he sent Rob’s picture to the producers of the show, convinced his single friend would be a perfect candidate.
“I like to see myself as the architect of the union,” Ed tells Woman’s Day. “And it was so much fun seeing it all unfold on TV.”
However, Jo, whose work colleague had secretly entered her profile, was so overcome with nerves she almost didn’t make her first “speed date” with Rob.
“I actually had a panic attack,” she recalls. “I had my head between my knees, I could not breathe because I was just so nervous. But then as soon as I saw Rob it was just instant … I thought, ‘yes!’
Rob selected Jo as his number one choice and once the cameras stopped rolling, the pair became inseparable. He proposed on a trip to Noosa in November 2008.
A few weeks later, city-girl Jo resigned from her job as a newspaper photographer in Melbourne and moved onto Rob’s sprawling 1010-hectare beef and sheep farm in Mount Gambier, SA.
“It’s a really good relationship,” Rob explains. “We are different – Jo is much louder than me – but we complement each other brilliantly and make a great team together on the farm.”
Jo, whose life has completely changed, admits she was initially wary of farm life.
“I’m an animal lover and at first I found it hard to deal with the fact that rabbits are an introduced pest in this country and need to be culled, or seeing an animal in distress during calving,” she says. “But now I get in and help as much as I can.
“Every time I went to go back to the city I would get really sad, so I just knew I wanted to be on the farm with Rob. It felt so right.”
Jo has now started a photography business and has made many friends among the close-knit Mount Gambier community.
“Jo has brought a ray of sunshine to the area,” Rob says proudly. “She does that everywhere she goes.”
Having their wedding in the country, with all the elements of farm life included, was important to the couple, who decided to hold the ceremony in Dunkeld, two hours drive east of Mount Gambier.
Although rain dashed their hopes for an outdoor ceremony on the lawn of the magnificent Mt Sturgeon Homestead – part of the farm property owned by Dunkeld’s renowned Royal Mail Hotel – the “emergency venue” turned out to be an apt setting for a farmer’s wedding.
The 118 guests – including Ed Phillips’ partner, TV presenter Jaynie Seal, and ex-Big Brother star turned businesswoman Jemma Gawned – were all directed towards the property’s shearing shed, which had been beautifully transformed with candle lanterns, a roaring fire and stunning tall flower displays of hydrangeas, berries and branches.
Rob found time for a quick breath of fresh air and a sip of champagne outside the main door with best man Ed and groomsmen Charlie Schall-Riaucour and former AFL player Richard Vandenberg. All were dressed immaculately in black-tie suits by Henry Bucks and boots by R.M. Williams.
Jo’s bridesmaids – her older sister Jacqueline West, 36, and best friends Anna Harcourt, 33, and Jade Mintern, 27 – led the way into the shed. Then came Jo, looking sensational in a silk and beaded couture gown designed by Melbourne-based Shane McConnell, and gliding up the aisle on the arm of her proud father, David Fincham. She even managed a wink as she caught Rob’s eye, causing a ripple of laughter.
Rob confesses he could not take his eyes off his bride during the ceremony.
“I had a moment when I first saw her,” he says. “I felt very emotional – she just took my breath away.”
“It’s everything I dreamed of and more,” Jo says. “I walked down the aisle on my father’s arm and I’m now Mrs Hodges and that’s all that matters.”
As the guests enjoyed champagne and canapés back in the homestead, the newlyweds were congratulated by farmers Ben Honey, Michael Peden and Howie Webster, who sought love alongside Rob on series two of The Farmer Wants A Wife.
Michael and Howie are still single, but Ben took the chance to introduce his new fiancée, Kate Morgan, whom he met after the show.
During the speeches, Jo’s dad paid tribute to Rob’s late father, Peter, who died 12 years ago, leaving his mother, Elizabeth, 71, a widow.
“If he is with us here in spirit we hope he is as delighted as we are with the union of his son and our daughter and … as proud as we are,” David said.
After guests tucked into delicious dishes of chicken and leek terrine with seaweed salad, followed by fillet of beef with a shiraz sauce, it was Jo’s turn to surprise her new husband with a special screen presentation of black-and-white photographs she had taken of him hard at work on the farm over the previous six months.
“How can you not fall in love with someone like Jo?” an elated Rob said in his speech.
The couple, who plan a short honeymoon at their beach house in Robe, about 130km from Mount Gambier, then delighted guests with a fun “boot scoot” first dance to the track I’m From The Country by Tracy Byrd.
The cheering and clapping guests were left in no doubt: with Rob and Jo lighting up the hills and fields with their megawatt smiles, sense of fun and future brood of children, the countryside will never be the same again.
“We are different – Jo is much louder than me – but we complement each other brilliantly and make a great team together on the farm”