Real Weddings

Suzette & Mark

SUZETTE VAN DER MERWE and MARK WESTON
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As a working mum with two children, dating was the last thing on my mind when Mark and I were set up on a blind date by mutual friends. A friend had sent me a photo of Mark and my daughter, Skye commented on it saying, “I like him. You can see he is a good guy”. Since our first date, Mark has sent me flowers every week. He truly knows how to make me feel special.

We were engaged a year after we met, but neither of us were in a hurry to be wed. After five years of living together – and my 50th birthday and a neck operation – getting married was important, and so we began planning.

We live in South Africa but Mark is from Whakatane, so we decided to make a trip to New Zealand and spend some time with family over Christmas – and secretly get hitched while we were there! Let’s just say that Mark really wanted to play a round of golf at Kauri Cliffs, and when looking into the world-class golf course, resort and accommodation in the Bay of Islands, he discovered that they also offered an elopement package. I was put in touch with the Group & Events Coordinator and created a ‘look book’ which helped to communicate my visual and logistical requirements for the day.

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My dress was safely transported 12,000 kilometres from Johannesburg to Auckland in Mark’s golf bag! Described as “An explosion of pink”, my handmade fuchsia-pink tulle gown was soft, feminine and flattering.

I had bought a pair of white, turquoise and gold drop earrings on a whim, not thinking I would wear them as they were inexpensive. Yet, on the day of our wedding I wanted to break the pink of the dress and pick up the colour of the sea. Suddenly, it felt right to wear them.

Mark’s dark blue three-piece suit by Hugo Boss was accessorised with a white collared shirt and Mont Blanc cufflinks that I gave him as an engagement gift.

My bouquet was filled with all my favourites – pink peonies, pink and cream roses, rose succulents and olive leaves. It smelt heavenly.

Mark’s dad and step mum were to be our witnesses, but they didn’t know it until the day. We invited them to join us for a golf weekend and upon their arrival at the resort, we ordered a bottle of champagne and Mark told them that in four hours we would be getting married barefoot on the remote beach. We exchanged our vows with our two witnesses, a celebrant, and a gathering of screeching seagulls.

Immediately after our ceremony we enjoyed canapes and Cloudy Bay Pelorus Rose Brut, before having a photo session and then returning to Kauri Cliffs Resort for dinner. We wanted the food to pay homage to New Zealand cuisine and our seven-course meal of small portions included blue cheese mousse; cured Ora King salmon; Leigh line-caught Red Snapper and Awanui grass-fed beef. A Wynsam Farm ewe’s milk cheesecake was devoured for dessert, and the resort surprised us with a personalised pavlova to celebrate our occasion. We sipped on Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc and let the day sink in. Mark made a special toast, including a mention of his sister who had sadly recently passed away.

We spent the next two weeks honeymooning in New Zealand and upon return to South Africa we had an Afrikaans-style celebration with our children and friends and family. Our remote and romantic wedding day and the decision to elope was everything we wanted: small, meaningful, and off-the-beaten-track. Absolutely magical!


THE DETAILS

BRIDE’S GOWN Gerrit Pienaar for Claris. GROOM’S ATTIRE Hugo Boss. HAIR AND MAKEUP The Bride. RINGS South African jewellery designer Jenna Clifford. VENUE AND CATERING Pink Beach, Kauri Cliffs Lodge, Kerikeri. CELEBRANT Heather Townsend. FlOWERS Arranged by Kauri Cliffs Lodge. WITNESSES Mark’s Dad, Wayne Weston and Stepmum Angela Weston. PHOTOGRAPHY Rachel Jordan, Two Little Starfish.

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