Anna and Damian – Photography by Kate Roberge

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

Damian and I (Anna) are both yoga and meditation teachers. Damian came over to New Zealand from the US to build a wellness retreat.

He settled near Glenorchy and naming the centre Ao Ha – which translates to ‘in the presence of divine breath’ and of course, aroha is Maori for love. We run a wellness festival together, called Biophilia. It’s a multi-day co-created community retreat festival out in nature, amongst Queenstown’s beautiful mountains.  I fell in love with him at first hike.

We live our life nestled amongst the mountains with our golden lab Beckett. He is probably part dog, part pig, and part sea lion – he makes the weirdest sea lion noises and flings himself about, and will eat just about anything. Our favourite time of day is the mornings – we usually turn on a guided meditation and do it together, Beckett jumps on the bed for a cuddle, and one of us might bring up a cup of green tea. 

Our favourite things to do (and teach) together are Acro Yoga, Ecstatic Dance, and Yoga. We also love getting outdoors in the mountains or sneaking away to the ocean for a surf. 

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…

It was extremely special to have the wedding at the retreat centre (Aro Ha). It was a day of love, with most of our family and friends travelling from around the world, from the US, Columbia, South Africa, Europe, Australia and around NZ, many of them meeting each other and getting to see our lives here for the first time. Because most of our guests were travelling, we ended up creating a week long wedding celebration, so that everyone could get to know each other and explore Queenstown before the wedding day. Having this extra time together really made it feel like one big family and meant that we got to spend a lot more time with those we love the most. 

The whole wedding was a beautiful reflection of us and our lives. Almost every vendor or person involved in any way was a good friend of ours. Having people we knew involved in every part of the wedding made it all the more special. We started the day with a yoga class and breakfast ritual together with each other and our guests, then headed off and got ready with our most loved friends. 

It could not have been a more perfect day. The week prior to the wedding a mid-summer snowstorm came through. So on the day of the wedding we had crystal clear skies, but a small sprinkling of snow up in the mountains. 
The wedding took place on the Aro Ha ‘Yoga Lawn’, the most beautiful lawn overlooking the mountains and lake Wakatipu. Our guests came in, were saged, blessed our, which we had made ourselves with the help of local jeweller Jessica Winchcombe, and placed a meaningful item on the alter.

The wedding was styled by Megan Glenn of Juniper Sage, and she kept the styling minimalist, natural yet romantic. Lots of greenery foraged from the property.

If I could give any advice on getting married, it would be to get a photographer whose work you absolutely love, as after the wedding your photos are what you will have to remember the day, and to get yourself a stylist and planner! You do not want to be stressing the details. I do not know what I would have done without one.

Tell us about your main outfits:

 My outfit was from the Jessica Bridal Boutique collection and it was my absolute dream dress. It was romantic and beautiful but simple, with a silk tulle skirt, and amazing beaded, boned bodice. My hair was curled with natural curls and partly braided, with flowers in my hair. 

Damian wore a suit he already had – I’m not even sure where it is from, but his outfit was about the simple details – a felt hat and some beautiful brown leather braces he got made. We had his nephew dressed in a matching outfit, which was adorable. 

What were some of the most memorable/unique moments from the day?

My absolute favourite moment was the way we crafted the end of the ceremony. We got everyone to circle around us, with family in a smaller circle around us, and then all of our friends in a larger circle around them. Each person was handed a whole white rose (taken off the stem, so just the flowers sat in their hands, but still in the form of a perfect rose). Our friend and employee Ben guided them to put their intentions and love for us into the rose and then they all threw the flowers in the air together and let them rain down on us. We felt so loved, held and supported by our community as we entered into married life. 

Our dog was the star of the show! The circle of the alter had been marked out with cooking flour, and Becks will literally eat anything. He walked around in a circle licking up the flour before the ceremony until it was all gone, and then flopped down by us and watched the rest of the ceremony. Our two wedding celebrants (our celebrant who officiated the wedding and our celebrant who guided the ceremony) are both friends. 

One of my favourite moments getting ready was having my childhood best friend, Debby, doing my makeup, tears rolling down both of our eyes and a lifetime of memories together shared just with a glance. 

Another favourite moment was our wedding dance. Our first slow and romantic song, morphed into a Columbian Salsa song (representing Damian’s heritage), which morphed into a lively South African track, representing my heritage, and then the dancing went into the night. 

Another favourite moment was a song written for us by our friends and staff of Aro Ha. They got us and all our guests into the yoga room, with dimmed lights, and then separated the men into one side of the room and us onto the other side. They put Damian and me in the middle and we all sang together.

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

The wedding is just a fun party and a beautiful proclamation of your love for each other and the love you want to foster into the future. It is so easy to get so caught up on the minutiae of the wedding, but its so much easier if you keep focused on the big picture and the reasons why you are getting married in the first place. If you’re feeling stressed or causing conflict about anything to do with your wedding, ask yourself ‘will this matter in a year, or in 3 years?’ Most of it won’t. All that really will is the health of your love relationship and your relationship with yourself. 

The best thing we have done for our marriage is signing up for an Imago Dialogue course. Its just a 3 day course that reveals the deeper and unconscious reasons you chose the partner you did, and gives you the tools to communicate with each other about any issues that arise and to ask for what you need in the best and healthiest ways possible. We found it revolutionary. 

Another pieces of advice is to always choose love. Am I communicating from love? Am I acting in a way that is loving? Am I thinking loving thoughts? Am I speaking loving about and to my partner? If your thoughts, words and actions are aligned with love, you will have a happy and healthy marriage

Photography: Kate Roberge | Ceremony and Reception Location: Aro Ha Wellness Retreat | Bride’s gown: Jessica Bridal | Engagement ring: Deborah Fallowfield |Makeup: Debby Esperson  | Hair: Salon Sylvan | Groom’s outfit: Braces are custom hand made (unsure who by) | Fragrance: Strange Individuals, Fair Verona | Entertainment: DJ Si On | Styling & Table Greenery: Juniper Sage (Megan Glenn) | Flora: Orange Blossom | Hire: Tom Tom Productions| Food/beverages/catering: Aro Ha Wellness Chef’s Bespoke Kitchen