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'We have no photos of the guests or our family.' Libby Trickett regrets selling her wedding day.

Luke and I were supposed to get married at an open-air auditorium at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, but it was forecast to pour on our wedding day. There was also some concern about a possible paparazzi problem. Having paid for exclusive rights to my wedding day story, the people at New Idea wanted us to get married at a secure venue where I couldn’t be snapped by rival publications. Per our contract, we had to protect the secrecy and confidentiality of the event. They were particularly—and weirdly—concerned about my dress.

The alternative venue we found was in Chowder Bay, a kind of wooden box that looked over the water, which reminded me of an old schoolhouse. There were views of the water from its tiny windows and it was beautifully decorated, but it was also brutally hot inside. Everyone was sweating profusely. I had to get ready in a room out the back of the sweaty wooden box because, again, the magazine was worried that I might be photographed by paparazzi if I travelled from one venue to another. I had never had a problem with paparazzi before, so it all seemed a bit ridiculous to me, but we got swept up in the paranoid demands of the magazine. Luke and I had made our bed and had to sleep in it, though it was increasingly uncomfortable.

The worst and most embarrassing security measure the magazine insisted on was the tent. On the day of the wedding, we had to enter and leave the venue via a marquee, which even had sides to prevent the three news helicopters overhead from getting any footage of my dress. I was absolutely stunned to hear the choppers overhead, but not as surprised as I was when I looked out of my dressing-room window and saw a scuba diver clamber onto the pier outside the venue, pull a camera out of his bag and point it in my direction.

libby trickett book extract
Libby Trickett is an Australian swimming legend. Image: Instagram.
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There were so many things about the day that made me smile. My mother walking me down the aisle. Luke, so handsome there at the end of the aisle that it made my heart burst. Our family and friends, laughing and smiling and hugging me every time I turned around. So much of it was absolute joy.

My dad wasn’t there, but Stephan came, and I had such fondness and affection for him. I cared deeply for him, but more than anything else he had my respect. He’d been there for me from the beginning of my adult life, through all the twists and turns, and I was so grateful that he was there to share this special moment with Luke and me—especially as it was his own 40th birthday! He came to see us in the dressing room before the reception, congratulated us and told me I looked beautiful. For maybe the first time in our relationship he seemed full of open kindness and love. It made me smile. I didn’t need Stephan to be kind to me in the pool, but he was still one of the most important men in my life. He was definitely a father figure to me—the only one I ever really had.

At the end of the ceremony, we were hustled through the tent and into a limousine with blacked-out windows, which drove us back to a reception room at Taronga Zoo. The room had a beautiful view but we couldn’t see it—the curtains had to stay closed throughout the reception. From our guests’ perspective, the day went really well. They had quite an adventure, being secreted down in buses to the venue in Chowder Bay and then back to the zoo for the reception. They got to hold some animals—an echidna, a koala and a crocodile. They also got to go outside and see the view. It was only me who was trapped inside, hiding from the media storm I’d created.

This was certainly not what I had expected, nor what I wanted for my wedding day, but the reality was that I had allowed it to happen because I hadn’t had the strength to say, ‘No, that’s not going to work for me.’ I regret signing up with the magazine—though it did give me the opportunity to support three special charities—and I regret being railroaded after the fact by people who clearly didn’t care about my feelings.

What I regret most of all is that we didn’t organise our own wedding photographer. We just figured the New Idea photographer would capture everything. But their photographer was on a job, and he wasn’t working for us. He didn’t care about our memories, or our family and friends, just the kind of insincere close-up shots of the bride and groom that look good in a glossy magazine. We didn’t get a group shot of the guests, or any family photos. We didn’t get pictures with the beautiful harbour behind us, even though it was glistening after the rain. I can see it in my mind’s eye, but that’s the only place I’ll ever see it. New Idea sent us a bunch of images from the day, but I have never printed any of them out.

The worst part of the whole experience was the nastiness that it seemed to trigger in the Australian press. It felt like rival media outlets had decided to cut me down to size in retaliation for not getting the exclusive story—if they couldn’t run a picture of my wedding dress, they’d run an article shaming me for hiding it. The Daily Telegraph ran a particularly brutal piece the following day, just as we were leaving for our honeymoon, saying I had allowed my wedding ‘to be hijacked’. The maliciousness made my head spin.

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Here’s to strong women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them. #iwd2019 #strongertogether

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After the wedding day, we went to Lizard Island, in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, for our honeymoon. It is one of the most pristine, spectacular places I have ever been. We swam in the crystal-clear waters, snorkelling above the most beautiful fish, turtles and coral.

It was enough to make me stop thinking, just for a second, about everything that had gone wrong over that year. The failed drug test was gone, the frustration over the world record was gone, the wedding blues were gone. I forgave myself for a lot of things, just for a second, and allowed myself to just be happy with the man I loved. It was beautiful. But I came crashing back down to earth before we even left the island.

On the morning we checked out, the hotel manager told me a letter had arrived for me and handed me an envelope. How does anyone even know we’re here? I wondered. And how random to get a letter on my honeymoon. I opened the envelope and pulled out a long, handwritten note on beautiful stationery. The handwriting had the perfect slope of someone who had learned cursive before home computing was a thing. I knew it had come from an older person. I was curious but my heart sank as I started reading, and I quickly wished I hadn’t opened it at all.

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The woman who’d written the letter wanted to tell me how disappointed she was that I had sold my wedding story to New Idea. She had followed me through my entire career, she wrote, and all she had wanted was to see me on my happiest day in my beautiful wedding dress, but she couldn’t afford to buy the magazine. One of the greatest joys in her life was that she was able to share her own wedding day with her family and friends through her wedding photographs, and she felt I had done myself and my fans a great disservice by prostituting myself in this way. I was a very selfish person, she concluded.

Part of me couldn’t believe someone would take the time out of their day to sit down and write these things to me, but a far bigger part of me felt like my worst fears had been realised. I was not good and I was not liked.

The world thought I was a drug cheat, a race cheat, a wedding cheat— worthless.

I was cheap and nasty, and nothing I did was any good.

This is an edited extract from Libby Trickett's memoir, Beneath the Surface. RRP$24.75.

You can purchase Beneath the Surface on Booktopia. 

libby trickett book extract
Image: Booktopia.
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