On a warm Nelson summers evening in February 2017, James, myself, my sister and brother and our dogs were at the dog beach in Tahunanui. We had all been out swimming and were sitting around laughing, having some drinks and watching the sunset. It was here that James asked me to marry him.

Tell us a little about yourselves, what you do, what you love, what is uniqueabout you and your relationship…

James and I met through mutual friends when I was home from University one summer. When I headed back for university, James moved in with my family and become part of the furniture instantly. James is a sales rep with Placemakers and also a semi-professional rugby player and I am the dance teacher and year 10 dean at Motueka High School.

When I finished my degree, I moved home to complete a postgraduate diploma via distance study to be near James and my family. In 2016, my grandma started showing signs of dementia so James and I moved into her house to take care of her. I guess that is a unique part of our relationship- taking care of someone with dementia can be quite difficult at times and it made us work together as a team on a daily basis.

James being a rugby player, our passion runs deep for the game. Since the first year we started dating, James began helping coach my brother Jeen. Jeen was 10 when James first started coaching him and he is now 16 and in the XV 15 with James as his assistant coach. That was definitely the bonus of James moving in with my family straight away; both my siblings got a lot of coaching at home.

When it came time to propose, James asked my Dad in October 2016- we were all heading to Rarotonga for my mums 50th with a big group- James had planned to pop the question there. When James made the Heartland Rugby team, he was unable to come to Rarotonga, putting a hold on his proposal. On a warm Nelson summers evening in February 2017, James, myself, my sister and brother and our dogs were at the dog beach in Tahunanui. We had all been out swimming and were sitting around laughing, having some drinks and watching the sunset. It was here that James asked me to marry him. It was so special to have my siblings involved- I don’t know who was more shocked that it was happening- me or my siblings?

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…
We spent a lot of time trying to find the perfect venue, visiting somewhere different each Sunday. On our way home from venue scouting one weekend we stopped off at our family friends house. They have a gorgeous farm/ lifestyle block at the end of Richmond. They offered to let us use their place for our wedding and we knew this was the perfect spot straight away.

The ceremony was set in front of a small lake with lots of natural flora and fauna surrounding. Beautiful willow trees filled the space and added lots of texture to the area. Guests sat on timber school benches on the rolling lawn, looking out across the water and an archway was set at the end of the aisle, decorated with flowers.

We tried to go for a woodland theme with foliage and lots of florals. Georgia from Blackbird Cakery is a girl of many trades and a friend of ours, she created the most gorgeous hanging foliage garlands for our reception venue. These strung 15 meters wide and hung over the guest seating area. This really helped to bring our theme to life and was a simple yet elegant touch.

Our favourite details of the wedding day would have to be the hanging foliage garlands at the reception and the rimu bar my dad Jeremy and Uncle Rik bought to life from the many Pinterest photos I showed them. It took 4 men to move it in the reception hall and it was such a beautiful touch to the wedding day.

Tell us about your main outfits:

Having always followed Grace Loves Lace, I adored their dresses. I never imagined I would one day wear one of their gowns. I spent a lot of money trying on dresses in Wellington and Auckland to no avail.

My sister, mum and I went to the Gold Coast in October 2017. We visited Grace Loves Lace in Burleigh and I fell in love with two gowns. It was the hardest decision picking between the two- if we had the money I would have bought both. I chose the Paloma gown from GLL, I loved the fit of the dress and the way it compliments your figure. It also has very fine silver beading all through the dress, giving it a bit of sparkle. I also wore the Gabriela viel and Hera anklets- both from Grace loves lace.

James and his groomsmen wore suits from Hallensteis. They were stretch fit merino and
were excellent quality. The staff were great to deal with and coped with the many indecisive
visits we showed them.

What were some of the most memorable/unique moments from the day?
James: When Oakley arrived. When she stepped out of the car it hit me- this was the beginning of our life together. Seeing how amazing she looked, made me feel overwhelmed and emotional- she was so gorgeous and I couldn’t believe I was getting to marry her.

The people we had on the day- it was great to have such fun and happy people on our day. This extended to our amazing photographer Renee, videographer Ethan, and our wedding planner Rebecca O’Fee. Having excellent vendors makes such a difference.

Oakley: The first look. I cannot recommend this enough. It was such a fun way to start the day. The bridal party met at a separate location to the ceremony and reception- on a hill in Nelson, and got some amazing shots. We spent an hour before the ceremony, I got to see my H2B, laugh with our bridal party and just relax. My mum said the next day, she couldn’t believe how relaxed I returned from this part. After the shoot we went back to my parents, freshened up and the boys headed straight to the ceremony.

What’s funny is my husband cried at the ceremony when I walked down the aisle- I feel couples are afraid a first look will take away from this moment but it definitely didn’t. The main reason I did the first look was that after the ceremony I wanted to have time to spend with our guests and not feel pressured to go off and have photos. We had a grazing table, drinks caravan and games at the ceremony so I really wanted to have some fun. We got to spend nearly 2 hours relaxing and mingling after our ceremony. In the end, we took 30 minutes getting some photos while our guests made their way to the reception venue down the road. It really made the day.

The ceremony- it was perfect in every way, it wasn’t serious at all. Dianne did a great job at getting everyone involved and made the whole thing very relaxing. My sister’s friends, Bailee and Hana Tava sang us down the aisle- they were beautiful. When it came time for my parents giving their blessing to give me away- Mum and Dad stood up and flipped a coin, making the ceremony very light-hearted. My Nana and James’s Poppa were the ring bearers. When it came time to exchange rings they both came up and shared in this moment with us. James’s Pop had put a button in one pocket and after lots of tapping in his pockets, pulled this one out first, sending everyone into laughter again. It was so amazing to have a ceremony that was such a reflection of who we are and we thank everyone involved for making this happen.

Any advice for other couples planning to spend the rest of their lives together?

There is so much pressure from social media, friends/ family or just the industry to have a big wedding. It is so important to do what feels right for you. Whether that’s a small ceremony with your closest or something bigger with all the bells and whistles- you’ve got to make it reflect you both as a couple or you won’t enjoy it.

Photographer: Renee Edwards |  Videographer: With Love Film| Ceremony Venue: Van Zoelen Farm, Richmond, Nelson | Reception Venue: Redwood Hall, Richmond | Florals: Willow Floral Design | Celebrant: Diane Strong | Styling & Planning: Rebecca O’Fee | Cake: Blackbird Cakery | Ceremony Grazing Table: Alison Kerridge, Creative Bakery | Catering:  Phil Hazeldine | Entertainment: Kramit | Ceremony Bar: Pearl Drinks Caravan| Reception Bar: Rimu, handmade by Oakley’s uncle | Brides Dress: Grace Loves Lace | Brides Shoes: Tony Bianco | Jewellery: Grace Loves Lace | Makeup: Ko Cosmetics | Hair: Lauren Lewis Bridesmaids Dresses: Amber Whitecliffe | Rings: Glen James Jeweller | Grooms & Groomsmen’s Suit’s: Hallensteins |