Pania & Michael by Tim & Nadine

Tell us a little about yourselves, what you do, what you love, what is unique about you and your relationship … Pania: Before moving to Japan this year to support my husband as his pursues his career in Rugby, we did long distance for two years until we got married in February this year.

I am currently on a two-year leave break from my job as Head of Department of Physical Education and Health at Massey High School which was part of the reason I didn’t move to Japan for so long. I wanted to reach some goals I had and gave myself two years to do so. At the moment I am at a crossroads of what I want to do and what my next direction is as I navigate my new life in Japan. I have a passion and love for Māori culture and the impact it has had on my life, it has influenced the way I view other cultures as well as trying to assimilate myself into a place which is completely foreign to me. I think what is unique about our relationship is something which sounds so cliché, but is the fact Michael and I are complete opposites. I am loud and outspoken and have the confidence to interact with others without feeling shy. Michael is much more reserved than me and it actually is a breath of fresh air, especially when I need to be brought back down to earth. He is gentle and sensitive in his approach to things which makes me appreciate his nature and temperament.

Michael: I have been living in Japan for almost three years as I have been lucky enough to fulfill my hobby and passion of playing Rugby. I have recently discovered an interest in motorcycles despite my wife’s disapproval although I am hopeful she will slowly change her mind. After living apart for an extended period of time I really appreciate being able to establish our life together by exploring our new home in Japan. I think what is unique about our relationship is as Pania has said we are different in most ways but our differences compensate for one another which makes us the perfect mix and keeps both of us on our toes.

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 … When organising our wedding, we wanted to try and incorporate a different kind of set up of the day. At the time we thought it was genius and also served so many purposes because we wanted to make the day last as long as we could. This meant our ceremony was held at 10:00am in the morning on a Friday in the middle of summer and attended by 130 family and friends. After the ceremony we had our photos and then headed to an intimate lunch at Pilkingtons with just 36 guests. Our guests consisted of all 14 of our bridesmaids and groomsmen (yup we had seven each), both our parents, siblings (I have five sisters and a brother and Michael has three brothers and a sister) and their partners. Our rationale for this part of the day was that we felt these were the people we really wanted to share most of our time with during our wedding. It felt relaxed and not too overwhelming to go and speak to everyone and we enjoyed some delicious food as well. After the lunch, Michael and I went for couples photos which was really special as the afternoon light was dimming and it was just us this time. It was also special because we went and visited my nan as she was too ill to attend the ceremony. Even more because between Michael and I, she was our last remaining grandparent and the memory is something I treasure now she has since past. Once our afternoon photos were complete, we headed back to Pilkingtons where our guests from both the ceremony and lunch returned for our wedding party. We wanted this part of the day to be more relaxed and informal, but still ticked off wedding formalities like speeches, cutting of the cake and first dance. We served canapes and had an open bar as well as a swing set, dessert bar, a selfie station and an amazing band who really set the night on fire. The styling was all taken care of by my wonderful stylist Esa, who took control and made everything personalised and beautiful as well as my florist who really captured my vision and brought it all to life. I had stated that I wanted a clean fresh look, with whites and blush hues but not anything too overpowering. Everything, from the ceremony, to the lunch and then to the party was immaculate and really was a dream. Looking back, it really was a full on day, but it was the most fun ever! We wouldn’t change a thing.

Tell us about your main outfits: When searching for my wedding dress, I, like most brides I feel, were overwhelmed by all the styles and also what might suit my body. I had been given advice about dresses that don’t photograph too well and also styles that were oversaturated in the wedding dress market. I really wanted to make sure that my dress seemed as timeless as possible and that when I look back at our photos, it would be a dress I would wear in that day and age. I am not a fan of lace, and because of the time of year our wedding was, it couldn’t be too heavy or poofy. I came across Chosen by One Day Bridal in Australia and decided I would visit with my dad while going to watch Michael play rugby against the Melbourne Rebels. It was a perfect excuse to shop form my wedding dress as well.  I had a few styles in mind that I wanted to try and all of their gowns were exquisite. I had booked to go to three other stores while I was there and after visiting One Day, dad and I decided to go and have lunch. I talked to him about what I thought about the dresses and also messaged two of my best friends for their advice. Both my dad and them agreed on which dress they felt was the most suited to me (which in my heart I knew too) and that afternoon we went back to confirm it was indeed the first place and first dress I tried on and loved that I wanted to get married in. On our wedding day and after I received so many compliments on how wonderful I looked and how beautiful my dress was. It made the traveling back and forth between NZ and Australia worth it. I also wanted some heels that I’d wear forever and were stylish and had always loved the Valentino Rockstud style. Even though you couldn’t see them under my dress, I felt so chic wearing them on such a special day. I don’t wear a lot of jewellery, but I do love earrings and thought that statement earrings with my hair down would really suit the look. I adored Jennifer Behr’s flower creations and decided that white floral earrings were the piece for me.

Michael: I tried to organise getting a suit done here in Japan as my time in NZ was limited and it was something I wanted to do to try and take the stress off Pania for organising basically every element of the wedding. To be frank, it was really difficult without her and the styles I was presented with didn’t really suit what we were looking for. On a short trip home to NZ, I decided to make an appointment with Crane Brothers as I had heard and seen the amazing suits they create. We decided a custom suit was warranted for such a special day and we were taken care of from start to finish by the amazing John at their High Street Store. Pania was able to put a little touch on my suit by choosing pink as the lining of my tuxedo.  I also had my initials embroided on the cuff of my shirt which were small details that really added to the experience. On the wedding day, Pania had cleverly planned a small gift that would add to my overall outfit and be pieces I’d have forever. She kindly gifted me Louis Vuitton Cufflinks, that were wrapped in a handkerchief embroided with my initials on one side and “My Husband” on the other. She also included some socks which were grey and had peaches on them which represent her in an inside joke we have with each other. I can tell you, and the photos can too, that handkerchief really came in handy throughout the day.

What were some of the most memorable/unique moments from the day? Pania: A memorable and special moment for me was being able to keep a secret a surprise I had for Michael that I revealed after my speech at the wedding party. I had organised with my two older sisters to perform a poi to the song “Kiko” and was played by guitar by Michael’s father Walter Little. I had practiced at home with my father in law without Michael knowing and I really wanted to bring together our families for such an important event. I also honoured my husband by facing him during a haka which was the first time Michael had seen me perform like that.

Another unique moment was when our niece Bella (who was one at the time) was basically being a one year old and had had enough of the ceremony when she paused and then lay flat her back on top of my dress. It was a cute and funny moment where we all could appreciate the humour of trying to make a one-year-old maintain composure during a wedding. It was all caught on camera too!

Michael: The most memorable moment of the day was definitely when Pania and I did our reveal before the ceremony. It was such a calming but emotional time and Pania looked so stunning I couldn’t stop crying or keep my eyes off her. So many parts of the day weren’t “kosher” but it was just as we liked it.

Any advice for other couples planning to spend the rest of their lives together? Pania: Don’t react too quickly after you have a disagreement or are unhappy with something. I have learnt that often when my emotions are running high you make rash choices and it clouds your judgment. You look back and realize perhaps there was another, more effective way to deal with the situation. Be present! Try not to spend too much time on your phone (especially in bed). Say you love them and be safe every time they leave you…

Michael: “Happy wife, Happy life” is the motto my Dad gave me on our wedding day. Most of the time this has been sage advice and hopefully, it will lead to a new motorbike somehow?

Ceremony location: Fort Takapuna | Reception location & Catering: Pilkingtons | Videographer: Stephan & Nakita | Photographer: Tim Kelly & Nadine Ellen | Celebrant: Lets Say I Do | Entertainment: Mischief Band | Styling: Dream Catcher and Co Styling | Planner: The Bride – Pania Little | Hire: Insphire | Flora: Blossom and Wild | Ceremony Catering: Little Willow | Cake: Mint Cakery | Drinks Caravan: Just Hitched | Wedding Stationery: Millie Custom Designs | Wedding Invitations: Harlan Creative | Wedding Desserts: Macaron Heaven | Neon Light: Neon Signs NZ | Bride’s Dress & Veil: Chosen by One Day | Groom’s Suit: Crane Brothers | Bride’s Ring/s: Walker and Hall & Stewart Dawsons | Groom’s Ring: Meadowlark | Bride’s Shoes: Valentino | Groom’s Shoes: Windsor Smith | Brides Earrings:  Jennifer Behr | Makeup & Hair: Fiona Goddard | Groom’s Hair: Darren Meredith | Bride’s Fragrance: Jo Malone Nectarine Blossom & Honey | Groom’s Fragrance: Tom Ford Soleil Blanc | Bridesmaid Dresses: Shona Joy from Onceit | Bridesmaid Earrings: Zoe & Morgan | Groomsmen Suits: Hallensteins | Groomsmen’s Shoes: ASOS