Sarah & Marcus

Today’s Wedding Graduate post is especially moving because it’s a Wedding Graduate post and a Wedding Graduate Returns post all in one. We’ve been in the process of cleaning out our Wedding Graduate archives (so much brilliant stuff in there), and following up with people on what has happened since they wrote their posts. Sarah‘s post talks about all the work they did to create a green wedding, and about how in the end, what really deeply mattered were the people there loving them. In the past year, their lives have changed enormously (more at the end of the post!), and it’s that tremendous sense of love celebrated on their wedding day that acts as an anchor for what came next.

My husband (gah!) and I live in New Zealand. For those who aren’t quite sure where that is—and that is fine, there aren’t that many of us down here—it is south east of Australia in the South Pacific Ocean. We got married on the 3rd of April on a remote beach called Wai iti in Taranaki. Taranaki is where I grew up and it’s where all my family lives, too. It has this  great wild coast of beaches with high cliffs and slapping seas. It is beautiful there, and it’s where we wanted to get married from the start.

Our wedding was a truly magical weekend at the beach, filled with love, wonderful family and friends, fun and games, and lots and lots of very special moments. When we first started planning, Marcus and I brainstormed together everything we wanted our wedding to be. We stuck our brainstorms on the wall in the office and they framed our approach to the weekend. While admittedly, in the end, we did have smack loads of help and luck, I think focusing from the start on what made sense to us, and doing it, made it the epic occasion that it was.

Right from the beginning, it was paramount to us that we got married in a sustainable way—both for the environment and for our own wallets. We are really into being low impact in our lives, and it was important that our wedding day reflected that. It was quite the challenge, but we relished trying to put it all together without using too many of the Earth’s resources.

We bought a great deal second hand. I did get mildly obsessed by charity shops as I hunted for vintage fabrics (to be sewn into tablecloths) and mismatched cut glass vases. We not only went second-hand, but we also up-cycled things that you might otherwise throw out.  My friends and I had a ‘Wedding Bee’ at our house to create decorations. Actually it was less a ‘Wedding Bee’ and more a small sweat shop as we furiously made all the place names and then fifty tin can lanterns out of recycled cans. It was a great girls night in.

Though a word of warning: if you are thinking about making tin can lanterns, wine, hammers and nails are not a good mix! We also have a friend who is a clever up-cycling artist, and she made the boys’ buttonholes, the girls’ hair pieces, and my bouquet out of old inflatable swimming pool toys and billboard vinyl. They were mega cool and got squllions of comments all day.

A huge number of the details were made by friends and family: a baker friend made the cake; my sister knitted me my shrug; a jeweler friend made the bridesmaid’s necklaces; DJ friends played records and so on and so on. It was very cool and it created such a lovely shared feeling to the whole event.

Our wedding was DIY—not by design, but by a need to be green and budget conscious—and I totally recommend it. While it did take some time, it was well worth it as the sense of satisfaction was immense. While being sustainable was a focus for us, we weren’t fanatical about it—yes, people flew long haul (ouch!) and we did buy some fresh cut flowers for the tables (though locally grown and seasonal from the markets), but we tried hard to make each of our choices conscious, and this made a heck of a difference.

What surprised me the most was that in the end, all those eco-details totally paled in comparison to the effect that our decision to book out the beach retreat had. We had everyone staying there for three nights over Easter. We decided that the least we could do to compensate for all the traveling everyone would be doing to get there was to make sure we got some quality time with them all. And with 80 dear family and friends, in the back waters of Taranaki, hanging out together without cell phone reception, or internet, or shops—that is just what we got.

On the days either side of the wedding, this down time together resulted in fantastic catch-ups with dear friends and family, beach fires, shared BBQs, cave explorations, three legged races and an appreciative audience for some beautiful sunsets. It was awesome. I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed the days after the wedding day more, because the wedding day was totally choice, but I was surprised by how meaningful those days shared together afterwards were.

There was some sadness in it for us. Marcus is from Lancashire in the United Kingdom, and his parents live there. They couldn’t make it to our wedding as his Dad is seriously sick and New Zealand is such a long flight from England. It is 23 hours and far too far for him to come. To begin with, rather selfishly, I thought that at least his Mum should be coming out. But she wasn’t and I was gutted about that. Then I reflected on why. I realised that if Marcus were to get that sick, than I would want to be beside him and no where else either. I thought that was a much more useful way to look at their absence. They really are a great example of marriage for us to aspire to.

My own Mum died of cancer when I was 14, so it was just my Dad representing our parents at the wedding. He is a wonderful man and did a wonderful job and we tried to incorporate our other parents into the day in lots of other ways. As Marcus is from Lancashire, all the best men wore the traditional flat cap and braces from that region. Tama, the best man wore Marcus’ granddads braces, which was very special.

My ethical engagement ring was shaped as the Lancashire rose, which is the symbol of the area he comes from too. My Dad then gave me my mother’s wedding ring, which was monumentally special. I feel really blessed to be wearing it as I write this. And we did other things too—like gathering historic photos from each of the family’s sides, and my Mum’s sister read one of my Mum’s favourite readings at the ceremony. But it was still hard. I don’t want to get too gloomy, because our weekend was off-the-richter awesome, but I suppose it is in those not-so-perfect moments that you appreciate what you do have. I think that family and friends are at the heart of all of our lives, and we missed our absent parents.

The ceremony itself was great. Dad walked me down the aisle to Keb Mo, ‘Every Morning’, and it was so overwhelming to be in that moment of walking down the aisle and seeing Marcus that I kind of abandoned Dad at the end and went straight over to him! Oops! We wrote the ceremony together and wrote our own vows, too. I know lots of people aren’t in to that, but it made sense to us. When I was saying my vows to Marcus, the last line made me choke up and start crying, which in turn made me laugh at myself. It is one of my very favourite photos captured in the day. The celebrant was a dear friend who got his licence just to marry us, and he did a stellar job. And one of my best girls sang with her Dad when we signed the register (Fly My Pretties, ‘Singing in my soul’). It was all together awesome.

We had a family style shared meal and the food was great. This had been one of the things that was important to us—vege friendly, fresh, local, seasonal yumminess. Then plenty of speeches, then an amazing sunset, then the dance floor took off like nothing else, as did the DIY photo booth—which got more and more popular as the night wore on. I love flipping through the polaroids; they are absolute diamonds.

Marcus and I snuck off to our cabin around 2am, and I was told people went down onto the beach, had a fire and sat up talking till 5am. I like that, I like that a lot.

My advice to other women embarking on being a bride is totally simple: soak it all up. The preparation and the wedding is such a special point in our lives to be standing. Be conscious of that. Perhaps if I had one chance to freeze time, it would have been at the wedding reception as the sun was going down. And not so I could whizz around and look at the tin can lanterns, or the pom poms, or the menu cards. But so I could stop and appreciate all the love that we have in our lives. Soak it all up.

And A Wedding Graduate Returns Update:

It’s funny how life goes. A lot has happened since I wrote this graduate post and it was a treat to go back to it. We had a baby boy in February of this year—it was a honeymoon pregnancy!! Albie is awesome. He was born with an undiagnosed major congenital heart condition, which threw us a bit. He has had four operations so far, and we await open heart surgery for him next year.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that looking back, that wedding weekend was a lot more than the party that I thought it was. Our wedding was a celebration of a marriage that is now is our very welcome anchor. It was the setting of our foundation together for all that was to come and for all that we now need to face.

The Info— Photography: Nicole Freeman / Venue: Wai iti Beach Retreat / Dress: Sophie Voon / Marcus’ ring: Ash Hilton / Sarah’s ring: We customised a ring from Marc Vigor Brown / Boys flat caps: Hills Hats / Bouquet and buttonholes: Margaret Tolland / Bridesmaids Jewellery: Pamela Streeter

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  • Such a great post. We absolutely need more about eco-friendly weddings here on APW, so this is a great addition. Congrats on your marriage and your lil’ baby boy!

  • Zan

    Albie is ADORABLE — even with the “nose hose” as you so lovingly named it (that cracked me up).

    • Ha! Me too! And I agree– Albie’s a little doll. Plus, his name is totally rad.

      • Thanks! Yeah, we are pretty sold on this wee dude. He is totally amazing – and teaching us a stack about resilience!

        • Alyssa

          Adding on to the Albie love; like a giant stalker I read through your whole blog today, but I had to because I couldn’t get enough of that smile! And his wee little sweaters…

          And in addition to loving your grad post, I’m also loving your bouquet!! Ms. Margaret Tolland must be amazing and I wish I had her in my life.

  • Soak it all up. Yeah. The families, the love.
    Congratulations on little Albie.It is hard, but you will make it together, and it is a blessing. I loved that Welcome to Holland poem. All the support and hugs and wishing you the best.

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  • The details of this wedding are so flipping beautiful! That bouquet!! Love.

    And honestly, the one big do-over wish I have when I look back at our wedding is that we would have made it more of a multiple-day hangout with the people we love. I think it would have been worth the extra stress. And a New Zealand beach hangout with your peeps? Sounds about perfect.

    • Eee! I’m always so happy to hear about people’s multiple day hangouts. This surfaced very early on in our wedding planning as something that was important to us. We’re looking forward to it sooo much!

      I’m sooo glad you had a wonderful time with your family and friends!

  • saveroomforpi

    I loved this post. Congratulations on your marriage and your son. I clicked through to your blog – what a smile Albie has!

    My husband and I took two weeks in New Zealand for our honeymoon last year (albeit 8 months after the wedding) – we loved it, and if my husband could make it work, we’d be living there half the year.


    • Ashley B

      The very first thing my fiance and I decided after getting engaged was that we’re going to New Zealand for our honeymoon. We’re spending Christmas 2012 there!

  • I love the part where you realize that you shouldn’t be angry at your mother-in-law for not coming because she’s by her husband’s side, which is exactly where you’d want to be in that situation. It seems like your wedding was an incredible foundation for your marriage.

    And Albie is so adorable!

  • Beautiful post!

    I too was born with a heart defect (an AV canal defect) and had open heart surgery at 8 mons old. I wish you much love and hugs…you seem like a strong, positive couple and as I like to say in Latin, “ad astra per aspera”–to the stars through difficulties.

    • Shout out to heart problems! I had a VSD repair at 18 months and it literally doesn’t impact my abilities or life one tiny bit now. Albie is in good company :) Stay strong!

      • Wooho! I love and adore my awesome chest scar–it’s what makes me, ME!

        Albie will get through this and have plenty o’ stories to share!

        • So lovely to hear from some CHD’ers! Its pretty big stuff isn’t it – but knowing that survivors are out and about rocking their lives fiercely makes me very, very happy indeed.

          • I love my scar too! How do normal people line up v-necks or jewelry?!?

  • I LOVE that we got to read your graduate post and also get an update! Fantastic. I’m wishing you and your boys all the best! I love the name “Albie”!

  • We had a few-day love-fest leading up to our wedding, and I feel a little guilty admitting that in some ways it was more enjoyable than the wedding event itself. But the whole thing is about the people, so I guess it makes sense, right?

  • I just wanted to say that I loved everything about your wedding, but mostly that Albie is tremendously cute, simply adorable, and that he has the sweetest smile. I send you light and love to get through this. May you all be in Italy soon.

  • Jo

    Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. Yes for sustainable weddings with low impact on the earth and high impact on your hearts. Yes for realizing that having the people around you is what matters most. Yes to your wedding being your anchor. Oh Sarah, you are too much! All kinds of crazy good wishes to you and Marcus as you embark on this next adventure with Albie, may it have just as happy an ending as you can imagine, if not more!

    • Oh thankyou! I am glad you got what we were doing – thats awesome. I was worried people might fixate on some of the more offbeat details (a swimming pool toy bouquet isn’t up everyone’s alley) rather than the overall heart of the thing. All these comments are just lovely….

  • Kathryn

    Such a beautiful wedding! And ohmygosh Albie is the cutest little baby; he looks like he is so happy and brings so much joy. Sending good thoughts southward for his operation next year.

    And can I say I’m obsessed with that bouquet! Amazing!

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  • mrsbutton

    Love it! And I especially love that you’re from Taranaki. We moved to New Plymouth just before we got married, and we love it here. Great to see it represented on APW!

    • Hi MrsButton :) Fancy meeting you here too! When are we going to see your wedding grad post on here, or did I miss it??

  • “I love flipping through the polaroids; they’re absolute diamonds.”

    This one line resonated the most for me because that’s exactly how I feel about our wedding photos, especially the photos of our loved ones smiling, laughing & dancing. They ARE diamonds! Beautiful post. Now excuse me while I follow the link to find out more about your Albie!

  • Thank you for your beautiful post…and can I just say that I totally love your ring? It is absolutely stunning!

  • Becky2

    After reading all these thoughtful comments I felt kind of shallow for being fixated on your committment to DIY eco-friendly things. I am currently in the midst of my own phase of planning where I’m not sure if I should commit to all my crazy DIY ideas, or throw money at the problems because I can’t make something as nice. Not only do I not have money to throw at the problems, but as you said, “I think focusing from the start on what made sense to us, and doing it, made it the epic occasion that it was.” Sticking to your guns and values helped create the magic of the event. Thanks for reafirming this for me! Back to my own crafting sweatshop…

    • Becky2

      P.S. – Best wishes to Albie. You guys hang in there.

    • Totally. Just keep following what you want to do – the effort is worth it!! And for me, there was great reward in having done so much of the wedding ourselves, with family and friends help. Go DIY, go! :)

  • Kat

    Just had to say a big HOORAY! to there being a graduate post from New Zealand. (I knew there must be other APWers from NZ).

    Also I need to say I LOVE you button holes :)

    Wonderful post, thank you.

    • I have been totally hanging out to find other APW readers from NZ, and trying to write a grad post (but its not been working for me).

      So YAY for an awesome KIWI wedding :)

  • Pippa

    Sorry, but as an Aussie I couldn’t go past this line: “The wedding day was totally choice.” Haha Kiwis rock!
    But seriously, geat post… sounds like the sort of wedding anyone would be proud to have.

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  • Nat

    Hi Sarah,

    My fiancee and I were looking at Wai-iti as a spot to get married, and then I found this post. I was wondering if you had any advice about using this space, or could offer any tidbits from your experience. We would like to have a big roast, but aren’t sure how big the cooking facilities are. Thank you, Nat