A stunning wedding in Queenstown New Zealand involving so much ‘Aroha’; especially for a couple of ‘Pākehā’!! (see translations at the bottom of the post)
After 56 countries and 66 ceremonies you would think that not much could shake us (unless you follow us, then you would know we are emotional basket cases) but experiencing Joe’s welcome, the Maori ‘Mihi Whakatau’ at the beginning of our New Zealand ceremony brought all of our senses to life. The hairs on our necks stood to attention, our eyes prickled with tears and even the wind bowed down and took a back seat for a while.
We felt that us being welcomed with the ‘Mihi Whakatu’ was the most natural and beautiful blend of two cultures we have ever experienced. It was an awakening and at the same time a perfect encapsulation of what we are doing. As Westerners we were being welcomed to NZ and invited to learn, love and partake in a small part of Maori culture. Nothing more, nothing less. Just a respectful and powerful welcome that we could feel all the way to our bones.
We had had somewhat of an epiphany during our recent 6 month sabbatical which had given us the time we needed to reflect on our trip, to revisit and remind ourselves what we are doing and why. We are trying to experience wedding cultures and traditions as close to real life as possible so as to further understand the meaning of the importance of two people committing to spend the rest of their lives together (A mouth full I know). It was with this in mind and after much research, discussion and talking it over with Emily that it became evident that having a solely Maori ceremony would either become very touristy or a kind of diluted version of the real deal. As is the case in many cultures, the Maori ceremonies are for the Maori and we absolutely understand and respect that.
With all of this in mind, Emily and the Queenstown team had realised our dream of a wedding in Queenstown New Zealand including beautiful heartfelt elements of Maori culture with style and aplomb. They just ‘got it’ and they absolutely nailed it.
Here is the full story!
Arriving at the wedding on the boat with everyone was a super relaxed way to start a wedding. We all grabbed drinks and milled around while we decided what the weather might do. A wind was whipping up and a grey cloud loomed over the distant mountains. Kate reassured us that it would hold off for long enough and after a couple of glasses of bubbles the wedding was under way.
Milly Bea‘s beautiful voice coursed along on the increasingly wild wind as everyone took their seats, wondering if it might actually blow them clean away. I changed out of my boots and into a pair of incredible heels so that I didn’t trip over my dress on the way down the sandy aisle…plainly just changing the potential damage from a trip to a clean ankle break…Trudy checked me over and made sure my dress was straight and gave me the warmest smile and squeeze of the hand as she went to take her seat and I felt all the wedding emotions well up inside me right there and then! I panicked about smudging my beautiful make-up and reigned it in as best I could!
Alex and I had decided to walk down the aisle together and as we clutched each others arms the wind whipped around us on our path to the aisle. We made it to the arch where Joe was waiting to welcome us Maori style and as he raised the Putatara to his mouth and began to play, all of the malice dropped out of the wind and a gentle breeze took the haunting melody over the water and into the surrounding mountains…I’m sure you could hear it for miles. It raised the hairs on my neck and arms and as Joe began to welcome us in Maori the tingling continued. His voice commanded the attention of all; the guests, the water, the wind, the spirits and that lump you get in your throat when you are on the verge of happy tears. The Mihi Whakatu was compelling and as Joe translated it for us I realised the privilege we had been offered.
The welcome complete we were offered Maori inspired cloaks to wear for the rest of the ceremony. Alex’s was a Hieke-Whakatipu (dress rain cape) and mine a Korowai ( a formal feathered cloak ). Mine was absolutely the BEST! It was covered completely in beautiful feathers and had a heavy embroidered band and I never wanted to take it off!
A rumbling sound brought us all back to Earth and we turned to see 5,000 sheep arriving in the pens behind us. The whistling, bleeting and barking made a true Kiwi backdrop as Kathryn seamlessly blended the Kiwi and Maori cultures during the ‘te morena’ or, the wedding. Her hand blessing had us both claiming something in our eyes as she read slowly and purposefully, followed with the Aotearoa blessing.
We were pronounced 2people1life to cheers from our guests, giggles from us and Emily, bleeting from the sheep and the melody of Milly’s voice as we walked back up the aisle. The wind seemed to realise that Joe’s hold over it had lifted and picked up with true force all over again. We were greeted and hugged by everyone as they went inside to shelter from the brewing storm and Joe took Alex aside to shake his hand, but in the Maori way; with the ‘Hongi’. The Hongi is a traditional Maori greeting where two people touch their noses and foreheads together. During this interaction, the ‘ha’ (or breath of life), is exchanged and intermingled. The breath of life can also be interpreted as the sharing of the two peoples souls. Alex and Joe both closed their eyes and breathed in the same breath and as they parted Joe explained that through the exchange of this physical greeting, Alex was no longer considered ‘manuhiri’ (a visitor) but rather ‘tangata whenua’, one of the people of the land.
With our eyes once again filled with tears…ahem, I mean sand, and our hearts filled with love and acceptance, we retreated into the wool shed where tables were covered with freshly sheered wool, adorned with beautiful flowers, candles and the most incredible cake you have ever laid eyes on! The uber stylish amazing travelling photobooth was well under way and we made a beeline for the silly hats, moustaches and glasses while the wind dropped so that we could take a few pictures and shoot some epic footage without disappearing Mary Poppins style.
We whiled away the evening cutting and devouring Jaimies incredible naked cake and swapping stories with everyone who had come together to make such an incredible experience possible. The bonfire was lit and we all laid on blankets under twinkling lights and watched the sun drop behind the mountains to go bring everyone else in the world the day we had just had. Milly sang a welcome to the stars and finished our perfect day with a fire dance dance by the waters edge.
Everyone had worked so hard and had succeeded in creating such an incredible wedding in Queenstown New Zealand. The blend of Maori and Kiwi culture felt right, the venue was just perfection and like New Zealand itself, the whole day was just beautiful and relaxed. As we sailed back towards Queenstown under a blanket of stars we realised that the wedding perfectly reflected our entire New Zealand experience. Beauty around every corner, a heartfelt welcome and a laid back approach to a celebration of love and commitment.
What more could anyone ask for?
(full length video coming soon…and I can’t wait)
A million thanks goes to everyone involved. Without you we would be just two bums travelling around in a campervan, with you, we are all explorers, out of the box thinkers and now, we are friends.
Photography – Emily Adamson | Cinematography – Humdrum Films | Maori welcome – Joe Cowie | Dress – Nemo Workroom | Suit – Omen Suit | Make-up – Road to Beauty | Flowers – The Vase Fesh flowers and Foliage | Nails – Hush Spa | Helicopter – Over the Top Golf | Celebrant – Kathryn Omond | Boat transport – Southern Discoveries | Wedding Venue – Mount Nicholas Station | Stylist – One Fine Day | Naked Cake – Cup and Cake | Photobooth – The amazing travelling photobooth | Music – Milly Bea | Fire Dancing – Flame
Get more information on how to get married in New Zealand
Alternatively, start at the beginning and read our ethos to find out how we choose which wedding specialists in New Zealand are the best. Discover exactly what to expect from the 2people1life collection
Aroha – affection, sympathy, charity, compassion, love, empathy.
Pākehā – English, foreign, European, exotic – introduced from or originating in a foreign country.
Mihi Whakatau – speech of greeting, official welcome speech.
Putatara – conch shell trumpet with an attached short, wooden mouthpiece.