Keepin' it Kiwi

Behind every New Zealand stereotype lies wisdom that can propel you forward on the planning path. From local hospitality to a pioneering spirit, take inspiration from old adages that typify the Kiwi way of life

  • Story by Photo Shine Studio & Words Briar Douglas

Behind every New Zealand stereotype lies wisdom that can propel you forward on the planning path. From local hospitality to a pioneering spirit, take inspiration from old adages that typify the Kiwi way of life

The Great Outdoors

It’s little wonder that many Kiwi couples make the most of their stunning backyard when it comes to their nuptials – New Zealand’s landscape has been the envy of the world long before The Hobbit

Auckland bride Renee Wood was inspired by nature’s best when planning her beach wedding. ‘We wanted to embrace elements of nature rather than detract from the beauty of our location. We incorporated kowhai sprigs into our centrepieces which looked great in our yellow and black colour scheme, and we sprinkled sand and shells on the tables.’ 

Our lush outdoor scenery also provides a canvas for beautiful photos – made even more personal when the location is meaningful to you. Emma suggests picking a spot for your ceremony or reception that has sentimental value to you as a couple and which showcases what you love about the country – whether that’s a black sandy beach or a mountain backdrop. Getting practical is a must when celebrating in the great outdoors. ‘You’ll need seats for elderly guests, and shade if you’re going to be out in the hot sun. Also don’t forget to have a back-up plan in case the weather doesn’t behave,’ says Emma. 

Regardless of whether it rains or shines, mother nature is a great source for your décor, says Jody Lidstone from I Do Photography. ‘I recently photographed a seaside event where the couple had custom-made paua rings and the bridesmaids held flax baskets. Toi toi and reeds made stunning decorations, and their favours were native seedlings.’ Nature lovers may also want to give their pet a starring role in the big day. Besides working out the logistics, such as making room for large animals like a horse, Emma suggests designating someone to look after them. If you include them in the ceremony, match the shade of their collar or leash to your colour scheme, and ensure that they’re freshly bathed. It’s also a good idea to check whether any of your bridal party members are allergic to animals, so you can keep them at a safe distance.

Clean and Green

New Zealand has cultivated a reputation as pure and natural, and there are plenty of ways to make your wedding more environmentally friendly. Start by tying the knot close to home to minimise your carbon footprint, and ask guests to email their RSVPs to reduce your paper trail. Direct guests to a wedding registry so that friends and family members can give you something that’s practical or request that they contribute towards experiences (such as your honeymoon) rather than purchase items you may not need. Sustainable guest favours also have a feel-good factor. Consider giving loved ones bags of soapnuts or a potted native seedling as thanks for their attendance.

Adventure Junkies

If you believe the tourism ads, Kiwis are born knowing how to paraglide and brave white-water rapids instinctively. And if you and your beloved are active types, there’s no reason why you can’t incorporate fun or daring adventures into your event. It pays not to choose an activity that’s too extreme – you’ll have enough nerves to deal with on the day and your guests may not share your passion for adrenaline-charged activities. 

Depending on your tastes, you may want to set up favourite Kiwi backyard activities such as a volleyball net or a slip and slide, either after the formal proceedings or at a relaxing post-wedding shindig. Your hen and stag parties also offer opportunities for adventure. Activities such as horse riding or rock climbing are ideal for brides to be who prefer clean fresh air to bar hopping, and will create a memorable experience for you and your girls – visit for ideas. Even at formal weddings, there is room for adventure without the risk of damaging your frock: book a helicopter ride with your man so you can take in the beautiful scenery together before flying in for the ceremony,’ Emma suggests. ‘It will be a memorable way to start the adventure of your married life together.’ 

Light up the Barbie

The relaxed beach or home barbecue is common practise in New Zealand – and what better way to settle into married life than to don your jandals and sunhat for a post-wedding gathering with your nearest and dearest? This also allows you to include anyone you couldn’t invite to the reception, or to catch up with guests you didn’t get to spend much time with on the day. Barbecues are especially popular for out-of-town nuptials, where those who made the invitation list but not the wedding will still be able to celebrate with you when you return. Marissa found her next-day get-together invaluable. ‘We had 100 guests at the wedding, which made it hard to talk to anyone for a long period of time. But we arranged to have lunch the next day with a smaller group of close friends and family – it gave us the chance to relax and really chat with everyone.’

Look Out for Your Mates

Whether it’s supporting the nation’s sports teams or helping out local businesses, New Zealanders are proud to see other Kiwis succeed. Steering your wedding funds towards local vendors and suppliers is not only good for the economy; it can help you save, too, says wedding planner Sophia Cohen. ‘Local wine and in-season produce can often be cheaper because it’s in plentiful supply.’
In addition, serving Kiwi fare means overseas guests will enjoy a New Zealand taste experience, says Emma. ‘And why not celebrate the Kiwi music scene by hiring a local band or DJ, or playing New Zealand music for your first dance or walk down the aisle?’ As with any aspect of your big day, Jacqui advises sampling your local suppliers’ products – such as wine, cheese and baked goods – to make sure you’re happy with the end product before you buy.

She'll Be Right

Ask any bride and she’ll tell you it’s true – planning a wedding is no simple task. There’s so much to keep track of, from the gown to the cake, that the process can feel overwhelming at times. But the quintessential Kiwi attitude of going with the flow will see you through. The key is organisation, Emma says. ‘Then you can relax rather than leaving things until the last minute, which can get stressful.’ Plan your big day carefully and well in advance, but don’t sweat the small stuff. And keep a positive attitude. At the end of the day, what really matters is that you’re sharing the love with friends and family, and having a good time – if you’re relaxed, others will be, too.

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