Courtney + James by Kate Wark

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

James and I met in Melbourne at a 2011 New Years Eve party, he was my NY kiss, in fact we are both not entirely sure we spoke beforehand either because we were both a little bit drunk (classy stuff I know!) 

By the time we got married we had been together for a while and the wedding just seemed like an incredible day to celebrate with all of our family and friends. I love that it didn’t really change much for our relationship other than having a fancy bit of paper making it all legal. The one thing I have always loved about our relationship is it has never felt hard or like we have had to work at it, things just seem to work. We have done a bit of travelling together but now have a daughter Ella and our life is pretty relaxed, we live by the beach in Mount Maunganui and love exploring NZ, travelling and visiting friends around the country when whenever we have free weekends.

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…

No real theme, just a collection of things we loved, more than anything we wanted a relaxed fun day. I photograph weddings for a living so I knew that I wanted our wedding to be more than just one day as well, so most of our hunt for a wedding venue was based around the fact we wanted everyone to be able to stay onsite with us. We ended up finding the perfect location and we stayed there from Wednesday to Sunday, having a good few days was the best as it really felt like we could properly catch up with people and relax.

When we were searching for a venue we were exploring Coromandel and randomly chanced upon TeKouma cottages, it’s down the end of a long windy road that opens out to views of a beautiful bay with accomodation for 100 odd people. It was a rainy and misty day when we first found it but we just knew it was the perfect spot. The main cabin had an amazing pool overlooking the view and although the reception space could be described as rustic at best we could see it had potential.

The whole week leading up to the wedding was incredible, crystal clear hot days that we spent relaxing fishing and swimming in the pool. One of my favourite memories is actually from the night before the wedding, we had a bbq with all the seafood caught that day and relaxed around the pool for the afternoon.

As for the styling and flowers and all the little details I just hired some incredible vendors and let them work their magic. Trusting them was the best decision I ever made! Casey from The Heirloom had the most beautiful pieces for us and Jess from Honeysuckle Rose is basically a floral magician. She asked me to send her a couple of photos of flowers I liked but what she created from that was beyond incredible!!! The archway we got married under was just next level, James had made it but it was a simple backdrop and she made it magic!

Tell us about your main outfits:

So I made my wedding dress, I definitely tried on a few different dresses in my search for ‘the one’ but nothing felt quite right, especially the white. I photograph white dresses most weekends so I think having a dress that wasn’t white was what made it special to me. I had seen a couple of images of a dress I loved in the States but trying it on or buying it in wasn’t really an option so I decided to attempt making one myself. I am by no means a sewer at all so it was a somewhat ambitious goal, I actually brought another dress as a back up in case it didn’t work out! 

In the end everything worked out and I am so glad we went to all the trouble. The dress was also a combination of efforts between myself, my mother and my Nanna which made it all the more special. Although it did stress Nanna out that I wasn’t following a pattern so she mainly helped at the start! We ended up having to hand stitch the entire dress as the sequins wouldn’t work with the machine but it meant that we could alter and change it as we went along. Initially the dress wasn’t going to have the wings but when I tried it on they just worked so we kept them there. 

Every piece of jewellery I was wearing was given to me by someone special and is what I normally wear day to day and the girls gave me some jewellery on the morning of the wedding day so I wore that as well. We wanted the bridal party to feel comfortable so gave them a colour theme and let them wear what they wanted. James suit was from Hallensteins and it worked out that it fit well without having to make alterations.

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

James and I chose to stay together the night before the wedding, things got a little bit busy the night before so the morning of the wedding we got up early and went for a 1 hour walk around the harbour together. That relaxed time together before everything got busy again was one of my favourite parts of the day, when we arrived back from our walk the girls had made us breakfast and we sat eating overlooking the harbour. It was the best way to start the wedding day!

Although I am a huge fan of cake I have never been a fan of the ‘cutting the cake’ photo at weddings so instead of cake we had a table full of desserts (made by our wonderful aunties) and we made a Piñata instead. The Piñata looked amazing but was a complete fail!! It was so solid that it fell to the ground when we hit it, it took a couple of attempts of throwing it around to get it to break but at least it made for a funny end to the formalities.

At the end of the night James and I were the last to leave and turned off the lights at the reception. The weather was so hot and the sky was so beautiful and full of stars so we decided to sleep outside. It was the most wonderful way to end the night and to have a little downtime together and reminisce about the day.

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

Just enjoy every single moment, in 10 years you probably won’t remember the small details but you will remember how you felt and the joy of that day. 

Also how often in your life is almost every single person you love in one place. You honestly can’t go past that feeling of looking around and seeing all of your favourite people enjoying themselves. Make sure you take the time to soak that all in as well! 

Oh and have lots of confetti for the isle walk, always have confetti!

Ceremony and Reception location: Te Kouma Harbour Cottages | Photographer: Kate Wark | Celebrant: Married By Kelsey | Entertainment: Right Royal Racket | Styling, Hire and Planning: The Heirloom| Marquee: Peninsula Party Hire | Flora: Honeysuckle Rose | Catering + Beverages: Aroha Catering | Cake: A DIY Piñata | Bride’s Dress: Made by the Bride, her Mother and Nanna | Bride’s Reception Dress: Lover | Groom’s Attire: Hallensteins | Ring: Mayo Jewellery, Mt Maunganui | Shoes: Asos | Makeup: Jess Drought | Hair: Elaine Cooper