Te Miri and I first met at my flat in Wellington eight years ago, in the wee hours of the morning. He thought he was visiting a guy’s home with one of my friends, but when I opened the door – in my knickers – he realised ‘Bailey’ was in fact a female.

A couple of years ago, Te Miri and I were planning an OE, so when he said we were off on a “mini adventure” to trial our new travel gear, I didn’t think much of it. He organised a scavenger hunt that took us through most of the North Island over Christmas, including the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and hitchhiking from Picton to Nelson. He gave me love notes and challenges to complete throughout the hunt and I was always in the dark as to what would happen next. The last note was sent to my iPhone as I was getting ready for New Year’s Eve in our campground. After walking around in circles for almost 20 minutes, I found him tucked away on the water’s edge, where he proposed. We spent hours driving around Lake Taupō looking for a blank canvas for our wedding ceremony, and then Miri remembered a site he had once visited. When we arrived at Lake Okataina we both felt an instant connection, the wairua (spirit) was so beautiful we knew we would be married there. We are both culturally proud and continue to learn about our own cultures, so we wanted to incorporate both Samoan and Māori rituals into the ceremony. At first light, Te Miri and his groomsmen performed a ceremonial cleansing ritual on the edge of Lake Okataina by a local Māori expert who used the metaphor of a waka as the vessel that would carry Te Miri and I throughout our marriage. My family gifted Te Miri’s family an ‘ie tōga (fine mat) which symbolized my family gifting me to Te Miri with the expectation he would now look after me. They sang an old Samoan song as I walked towards Te Miri’s parents and it was a very special moment – there wasn’t a dry eye in sight. Sharing food is very important to us so we wanted to incorporate dishes that could be made by our family and friends like my grandfather’s quince jelly, my father’s raw fish, and my mother-in-law’s steamed pudding with custard. We wrote our own vows because we wanted them to reflect our journey so far. To us, marriage is a union of the mind, body and soul. We wake up every day and tell each other how lucky we are. Te Miri calls me his ‘piri pāua’ which means ‘sticky pāua’ – I never leave his side.

Photographer—Tim Kelly and Nadine Ellen | Bride’s dress– Paperswan Bride | Suits—Hallensteins |Bride’s necklace and earrings—Sarah and Sebastian | Makeup – Rebekah Banks