Chelsea + Théo by Zara Staples

I was exploring some of the rocks and shells, and when I turned around, Théo was on one knee!

Tell us a little about yourselves, what you do, what you love…

TT: I am an expat from France living in the Waikato, love rugby and the outdoors! I’ve worked in a few different industries since moving to New Zealand, but currently work in Insurance.

CT: I was born in New Zealand but grew up in regional Western Australia from age 6. Théo and I moved to New Zealand together around 8 years ago. Like Théo, I also work in Insurance and enjoy brunching, crafting, travelling and going out on hikes / exploring the region and surrounds.

How/where/when did you meet – and what were your first impressions?

TT: I met Chelsea at the University of Poitiers (France) in the cafeteria of the Linguistics department nearly 10 years ago in 2014. The only reason I was in this department on this particular day was that I was preparing to sit an English exam as part of my application to go on exchange to Oregon, USA, for a year. I thought Chelsea was cute, and practising English was a good excuse to strike up a conversation.

CT: I was learning French at the University of Poitiers in January 2014 and met Théo in the cafeteria one morning when I was doing my homework for class. He was very sweet and offered to help me with my homework and bought me an espresso coffee. We chatted and exchanged numbers as he was keen to practice his English more in preparation for his exam (and I also needed all the help I could get with learning French!).

When did you first realise that this was someone you’d like to spend the rest of your life with?

TT: I knew pretty soon that Chelsea was the one, but we knew that we would be living apart on opposite sides of the world for a year. It was hard, but we made long-distance work, and Chelsea visited halfway through my exchange in Oregon at Christmas time.

CT: Looking back to when we met at 21, it’s crazy to think how young we were and how determined we were to make long-distance work only 6 months into our relationship. I know it sounds cliché to say, ‘I just knew,’ but I really did. Théo and I became really good friends first and hung out a lot, doing touristy things and going on day trips around the region, about 2 months into us hanging out, I was sure Théo had friend-zoned me!

Was there a proposal? Tell us a little about it…

TT: Chelsea and I visited Aotea (Great Barrier Island) in March 2021. I had just received the engagement ring, and luckily, Chelsea didn’t suspect a thing as she was handling mailbox duties while we worked from home in 2021. I had collaborated with Tamsin from Ash Hilton Jewellers for months, crafting a sustainable and ethically sourced ring made from Alluvial New Zealand Beach Gold and a Montana Sapphire (not mined). Sustainability was a priority for both of us, making our experience with the Ash Hilton team fantastic. The proposal occurred on Whangapoua Bay, where we had the beach all to ourselves. We considered other locations during the weekend, but challenging hikes deterred us until the perfect moment.

CT: I had planned a long weekend on Aotea for Théo’s birthday, and we were eager to explore. Our days were filled with food, hikes, natural hot springs, and beach activities. An odd moment occurred when I couldn’t fit sunscreen in my bag, and Théo wouldn’t let me use his. Little did I know, he was planning a surprise proposal on a beautiful, deserted beach that day. After seven years together, I never expected it to happen!

Tell us about the vision you had for the mood or style of your wedding…

TT: We were fortunate that my parents agreed to host our wedding in our family home’s backyard, an old farmhouse with a large garden. Wanting a summer wedding, my mum spent a year preparing the garden for the ceremony and reception, even transforming my dad’s vegetable patch into a wildflower garden. They, along with friends Sylvie and Christophe, installed a wooden floor in the barn for dancing. Backyard weddings are uncommon in France, so we borrowed crockery, cutlery, and glassware from my aunty Arlette. Our wedding blended Australian and New Zealand traditions, with a 4 p.m. ceremony to avoid the summer heat, having officially married at the town hall earlier.

CT: The ceremony took place under apple and walnut trees surrounded by wildflowers, officiated by our friend Nina with Antoine translating for our French guests. To achieve my vision of wildflowers, pops of colour, and vintage furniture, my mum, who co-owns Linen & Stone in NZ and France, collaborated with her brocante contacts to collect antique furniture. Our wedding was a unique blend of cultures, and we danced all night until my mother-in-law served cheesy French onion soup at 4:30 a.m., with the last guests leaving at 6 a.m.

What was one element you were happy to splurge on?

TT: The pastries/desserts were made by my mother’s friend Laurance, who recently started her own pastry business. We asked her to create mini French desserts so everyone could enjoy all our favourite desserts. Chelsea is coeliac, so Laurance was more than happy to make a tower of macarons and a few other gluten-free options (which are not easy to find in France). As you can imagine, good champagne is important at French weddings, so made sure we had plenty of it and good quality for our reception celebrations.

CT: I really wanted our day to be captured beautifully, which is why we asked Zara Staples as our photographer! Zara did our engagement photos in Gisborne, and we knew we wanted her to shoot our wedding too, so it worked out so well as she was over in Europe already. Another aspect of the day that I was happy to splurge on was cheese (very important for a French-based wedding!), which we got most from the local goat farm in the village – Ferme du Rateau. Also, the flowers! Louise, our florist, was incredible, she had a flower stall at the local market, and my mum picked up her business card and sent it to me, I emailed her with what we were after for the wedding, and she nailed the brief. Louise has her own certified organic flower farm, which was nearly picked out because of our wedding!

Did anything happen on your wedding day that you laugh about in hindsight (even if it was stressful at the time)?

TT: It was a DIY backyard wedding in rural France, so there were a lot of stressful moments in the lead-up to the wedding with fatigue and unpredictable situations. Most of it now is something we laugh about, but we would do it all again in a heartbeat. I was counting on Chelsea and the bridesmaids to be fashionably late, but my uncle Alain who picked up the ladies in his vintage Citroen DS car, didn’t get the memo and insisted on being there on time! I was not quite ready and almost was late for my own wedding.

CT: There were a few things that happened on the day that, thankfully, I was blissfully unaware of! Like someone forgetting to pick up the baguettes or Théo not being ready on time (which is not surprising to me in the slightest). One stressful moment in the morning was trying on my dress – with the running around and preparations in the week leading up to the wedding, I had lost a bit of weight. Thankful to my bridesmaids, who secured me with safety pins! I think DIY weddings, in general, are a lot of work, but planning a DIY wedding from another country, in another language in a quite remote part of the country, was next level – would still do it again, though, as loved every minute of our day!

Tell us about your main outfits, what was unique, is there a story?

TT: I had a three-piece suit that was 100% linen, I wanted to be well dressed but was conscious it would be a hot day, so chose linen. I chose not to wear a tie but wore my pounamu instead. It was a nice reminder of where we’ve been living for the last 8 years and where we choose to call home.

CT: I knew I wanted to have a super simple dress with pockets and a colourful veil! I got my dress from Dylin’s Bridal, and my mum’s seamstress friend Helen made some changes I wanted (removed the lace-up back and put in pearl buttons instead, removed 3/4s of the train). I couldn’t find the veil I wanted online, so found the beautiful material on Etsy and got Helen to make it into a veil for me! To be honest, I was a bit unsure if the veil was going to be too extra for a backyard wedding, but so glad I got it made, as it fit with the theme so well and really made our photos pop! A lot of people have asked me about the story behind the veil, I wish I had a more unique story, but I just really loved the fabric and embroidered flowers!

CEREMONY + RECEPTION Théo’s Family Home / PHOTOGRAPHER Zara Staples, @zarastaplesweddings / CELEBRANT Weddings by Nina H, @weddingsbyninah / ENTERTAINMENT Sono Max / FURNITURE + DECORATION HIRE Joanne at Linen & Stone, Brocante Collective, @linenstone, @brocantecollective / MARQUEE Mathieu Location / FLORA Louise from Les Brindelles de Lou, @lesbrindillesdelou_farmflower / CATERING Debbie & Andy from Pois Chic, @poischicfrance / CAKE Laurence from LPâtrisse86, @lpatisse86 / STATIONERY Oh Lilly Designs, @ohlillydesigns / INVITATION PRINTING Vista Print / SIGNAGE PRINTING Crea’Imprim / CHAMPAGNE Champagne Baillet-Jauroyon, @baillet_jauroyon / WEDDING DRESS Dylin’s Bridal, @dylinsbridal / RECEPTION DRESS Aere Label, @aerelabel / VEIL Vincy Store / SUIT MantaiKotai, @mantaikotai / ENGAGEMENT RING Ash Hilton, @ashhiltonjewellery / RINGS The Heritage Trading Company, Divett Jewellery, @theheritagetradingcompanyltd, @sophiedivettjewellery / BRIDAL SHOES Bared Footwear, @baredfootwear / GROOM’S SHOES Merchant1948, @merchant1948 / MAKEUP Scarlett from Maison Beaute, @maisonbeaute16 / HAIR Jaimee from StyleCo, Vanessa Gryson, @styleco_nz / NAILS NailEnvy by Nicole, @nailenvynicole