Real Weddings

Erin & Mathew (MJ)


MJ and I met in high school – we were actually friends for over 10 years before we started dating. Our group of friends was always close even after school, but everyone eventually moved away, went on OEs, found partners and started families, as you do. Throughout everything there were always three constants; me, MJ and Sarah. We were almost always together, living life as a trio. In 2016 MJ and I were both going through breakups and family hardships, with my mother’s bowel cancer diagnosis and his father’s unexpected passing. We became even closer and started dating – a shock for our family and friends, especially Sarah!

On a long weekend in January 2019 we headed down to Whangamata to spend time with MJ’s family. He took me on a walk over to Clark Island at low tide – I was suspicious as he never plans walks and wouldn’t let me put my glasses in his bag! We climbed to a gorgeous clifftop spot overlooking the ocean where MJ dropped to his knee and proposed before pulling a small bottle of champagne out of his bag. After making the important phone calls we headed back to the house which had been decorated by MJ’s family and continued celebrating with more champagne!

We held our wedding at Mangawhai Heads Holiday Park, where it’s been tradition for my family to camp for over 50 years. It represents summer for me and as a child, I spent every Christmas there. Everything we incorporated into our outdoor beach wedding represented us in some way. From the beach and bar to the casual bar leaners and picnic seating to the grazing table and gummy bear favours. We didn’t want to include anything ‘just because’.

The inspiration for our flowers was wild, rustic and boho. We wanted to use some less traditional varieties to create the look we were going for with belladonna, helichrysum, amaranthus, baby’s breath, bunny tails and roses. Our statement pieces were dramatic, asymmetric lush arrangements with lots of texture and sprawling foliage for a grand effect. The bridesmaids’ bouquets and the table arrangements were simpler yet still beautiful and wild. We used shades of white, green and blush to complement the natural aesthetic of our surroundings and a vibrant pop of rusty red to tie back to the bridesmaids’ dresses.

I started looking for wedding dresses online before booking appointments and getting a feel for the fabrics and styles I liked. I knew I had to be conscious of the weight of the dress as the weather would be hot. I really loved Rue de Seine gowns from the beginning – the sample dress I purchased off the rack fit me like a glove and was perfectly suited to my personal style. The gown was minimalist; sleeveless with wide shoulder straps, a plunging neckline and low back. From mid-thigh crochet-like lace with a silk lining turned into a mid-length train – a point of difference ideal for our beach wedding. My accessories were simple to showcase the dress; drop earrings, a choker necklace and a cathedral veil. I wore my heels on and off, as the majority of the day was spent on the beach and it was more comfortable in bare feet!

Originally I wanted to arrive at the ceremony in my grandpa’s dinghy – it was actually something MJ and I had talked about well before we got engaged. However, shortly before we did get engaged, I found out that my parents had turned it into a garden planter! We purchased an old dinghy from Trade Me and my brother kindly restored it. He presented it to me the day before the wedding with the beautiful gesture of naming it ‘Victoria Jean’, my middle names and our grandmothers’ names. Our guests had no idea that I was arriving by boat and were completely surprised when they saw me and my dad arriving!

The most memorable moment of our day was reading our vows to each other. We wrote our own and they reflected us as individuals and a couple so well. Our vow book is among the details and little extras that we’re glad we spent time on and have kept to remind us of our day.

For dinner following the ceremony we had a grazing table, which our guests raved about. Platters are our thing, so we served up all of our favourites with cheeses, cured meats, seafood, relishes, fruit and some sweet treats. In addition, we had a buffet with spit roasts – pork with awesome crackling and prime seasoned beef. We aren’t big on dessert, but both absolutely LOVE cheese, so instead of a cake we had five tiers of cheese. A custom cake topper with a fishing reference sat on top – very fitting as our vows mentioned both fishing and cheese.

The final touch to our wedding was a caravan bar. We looked at a number of them before we came across the Land Yacht Bar and we didn’t look back once we found it. It created such a WOW factor, complementing our venue and lifting the atmosphere to the next level. Our wedding really was the best beach day EVER!

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