Tell us a little about yourselves, what you do, what you love, what is unique about you and your relationship…
Rhys is a Project Manager for a big construction organisation and I’m (Amber) the Editor of Renovate Magazine, living in Auckland. We have a pretty unique relationship.
We’re not opposites at all, we’re both very driven, full of laughter, total happy chappies, and perhaps both a little crazy. Together, with a good bottle of champagne (our favourite drink) we’re dynamite. We never say no to a party. We’re terrible with budgeting, choosing the fun and luxurious over practical every time. We’re ‘growing up’ ever so slowly, but loving every minute of it. Living in our cute cottage retreat in Greenhithe we’re surrounded by tropical plants and dense native bush, a welcoming escape from our energetic busy lives. We’re always renovating or re-styling our home, finding ways to jazz it up. We have so many indoor plants that they’ve literally started to grow up the walls. Our indoor plants are our stand-in pets until we can start collecting our family zoo of animals and children.
Our favourite part of every day is when we get home… the corporate pants come off and from 6pm we’re like reckless teenagers until that 6am alarm the next morning.
We were pretty infatuated with each other from the start, first meeting at a Dunedin ‘Scarfie’ lock-in party and seven years later, that hasn’t waned in the slightest. We actually met in total darkness that night, I couldn’t see Rhys for the entire five hours we stayed up talking at the flat party while mutual friends drunkenly slept around us. We were still talking when the sun came up the next day and I saw his face more than matched his charm – I don’t sacrifice my sleep for anything, so I had known then that my life was about to change.
In the seven years we’ve been together, we’ve never once doubted or questioned our fate. We have a special term we’ve used for years which accurately expresses how we feel overcome with feelings for each other, we call it being ‘overwhelmed’. This was a secret theme throughout our wedding day, from my aisle song to our vows.
Rhys surprised me in March last year. He took me on a HUGE date night mission on the Saturday, with treasure hunt clues leading to mini tasks like drawing the sunset, salsa dancing at Devonport wharf and feeding the homeless in Auckland CBD, before ending the night tipsy with burgers in Ponsonby. It FELT like he would propose it was so thoughtful, every detail, but the night ended with no engagement, and I was on such a high from a fun night that I slept with a smile on my face.
The next day when Rhys was ‘golfing’ I found a final treasure hunt clue in the letterbox – apparently our epic date night wasn’t over! It told me to be ready by 4pm with an overnight bag packed, to wear my favourite dress and a driver would pick me up. After driving North of Auckland, we entered a secluded wooden lodge surrounded by trees and a small waterfall. Full of nerves I got out of the car and noticed rose petals leading around the corner of the wooden cabin. I turned the corner and Rhys was standing in his best suit holding champagne while The Weeknd played softly in the background. The happy tears were next level. The best part? The week he proposed we were leaving for a big trip from LA, Palm Springs and Coachella, to Tulum, Mexico and New York. But we got to celebrate with our friends and family before going away… So many highs!
Tell us about your special day, was there a specific theme or style? Tell us a little about the setting, the styling and some of your favourite details…
Our wedding day was based on our love of the foreign and exotic. We didn’t want a quintessential ’Kiwi’ wedding. We wanted to feel as though Italy had come to us. We were so pleased with our venue (Ataahua) it felt European without the destination wedding price tag.
I will admit I spent a good year planning and styling the day down to the finest detail. My spreadsheets and schedules quickly became infamous among friends and family.
My styling theme was an intimate Italian romance with hints of dolce vita.
Our altar was at the ivy-covered walled courtyard of the venue, with a backdrop of heavenly florals and candles to suit the theme. One of my favourite decisions was the large Ecoya candles placed around the venue to set the scent of the evening as well as the scattered candlesticks throughout the long guest tables which flickered all night.
While we wanted a classy elegant affair, we didn’t want the stiffness of a very formal dinner, so we served the meals ‘family style’ which created a cozy and casual setting with guests – something they all loved!
And my last minute (one month before the wedding) call to have white orchids feature in my flora along with the romantic red roses from Columbia throughout the venue and in the bouquets. Despite concerns from family members and vendors on my new colour palette I was set that this was the unique look I wanted!
The venue was so pretty itself, particularly at night with the scattered candles lit against the creeping ivy walls and hanging orchids from the ceiling. We also had a bright white neon sign of ‘The Bakers’ against one of the ivy walls where we had a slow-motion video booth set up capturing all the cheeky moments with our wild guests.
We threw a Recovery beach picnic the next day – rugs, cushions and poufs were scattered at the beach at The Mount, with branded ‘Mr & Mrs’ coconuts, sparkling water on tap, towers of Dominos pizza and repurposed florals from the wedding venue. We also snacked on leftover dessert and cake – that lasted all of five minutes!
Tell us about your main outfits:
My dress was bespoke Vinka design. It was off-the-shoulder (my favourite style) with a sweetheart neckline, figure-hugging down to the hips then opening out to a long luxurious train. With a silky mocha-nude lining and ivory lace over top, it achieved my perfect mix of romantic Italian and ‘dolce vita’. I had a soft long veil over Hollywood styled waves and to continue this theme I changed to red lipstick for the second half of the reception which was definitely the best makeup decision I made!
Rhys and his groomsmen wore sharp black Barkers suits with bowties and a custom shirt from Suit Source in Parnell which achieved the black button look we were after. He also wore his brand new watch I gifted to him on the morning of the wedding. He made a last minute trip to the barber the day before the wedding and I watched over the poor guy like a hawk, but he cut it to perfection.
What were some of the most memorable/unique moments from the day?
After what was probably my first ever anxiety attack on the morning of the wedding when I was getting ready with the girls, two of Rhys’ groomsmen popped down to our bridal cottage with a package from Rhys. He had given me one big red rose stem and a handwritten book with words of encouragement for my nerves, reminders of our love and some bloody funny personal jokes. He had sprayed it with his cologne as he knows that specific smell would calm me down. I just about died on the spot.
During the ceremony Rhys and I were pretty nervous and our natural way of coping was humour. We kept sticking our tongues out, making funny sounds and emoji-like faces, but we relaxed a little when my dad’s phone went off and we lovingly gave him hell for it – it took the heaviness out of the ceremony, I think everyone relaxed after that. Even when rain started to drop very lightly for about 10 seconds or so after that then thankfully disappeared!
I loved it when we managed to escape the crowd of well-wishers post ceremony (it was so intense having 100-odd guests greet and hug you) so our bridal party ducked away quietly back into the courtyard, popped some champagne, scoffed some taco canapes and swapped notes on who teared up the most.
A very memorable moment for us was after catching the bus home with our friends and family to the Mount at midnight, we ducked into Burger King for our traditional late night snack in our wedding gear (much to the locals amusement) walked home hand-in-hand then sat in our gorgeous beachfront cottage debriefing the night as Mr & Mrs, surrounded by burger wrappers. I don’t think we’d ever felt so content.
We really couldn’t fault anything on the day – people say to expect something to go wrong. We waited, we waited, and it didn’t. It was pure, magic.
Any advice for other couples planning to spend the rest of their lives together?
Really think about where you book your bridal party accommodation – my bridesmaids and I booked the most stunning all-white vintage cottage in The Mount that we found on Air BnB. Getting ready in a beautiful but homely location made all the difference, the day felt special from waking up! Often a cute and cozy home is better than an impersonal hotel room or apartment!
If you’re budget isn’t huge, don’t sacrifice the videographer. It’s the realest way to relive the day over and over again, and the fun guests had with the cameraman was a memory in itself. Also, we chose (an amazing!) ‘cookie cake’ surrounded by our favourite sweet treats instead of something traditional and literally saved hundreds – be smart about where you should save or splurge.
Drag it out as much as you can! We threw a recovery beach picnic the next day and got to chat to everyone we didn’t have a chance with at the wedding. It was an incredible way to debrief and get all the goss and stories from the night before!
Have your favourites wherever you can – we didn’t want to drink the wine from the venue and so they kindly allowed us to provide our own. We chose our favourite wines, craft beers and champagne and the Stolen Kiss Rose was possibly the biggest hit with all our guests!
Photographer: Erica Jane Photography | Ceremony & Reception Location: Ataahua Garden Venue | Video: Ben Journee from Side Project Films | Flora: Shaye from On My Hand | Styling: Bride with help from Shaye | Catering: Hereford Catering | Cake: Moustache Cookie Cake | Bride’s dress: Bespoke Vinka Design | Groom & Groomsmen’s attire: Barkers & Suit Source Parnell | Rings: Anna Sheffield stacker ring & Diamonds on Richmond band for Rhys | Shoes: Novo & Overland | Bridesmaid dresses: Amber’s own boutique: Wilde Hearts | Hair & Makeup: Mary Estelle