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An Autumn European-esque Wedding on Waiheke Island in New Zealand

By Sara Dial | Photography by 

Keryn Sweeney

|Planning by 

One Lovely Day

Once engaged, Alia and Sam Saunders chose Tantalus Estate Vineyard on Waiheke Island for their autumn ceremony. “I always knew I wanted to get married in New Zealand, as that’s where Sam and I grew up and where we met; therefore, no place would feel more like home for us,” she shares. “Immediately when we walked in, I was in awe of the surroundings. The restaurant, food, lights, vineyard, and atmosphere were so stunning and effortless.”

When Alia told Sam that she had found the perfect space for their wedding, he took her word for it. “My favorite part of Tantalus is the vineyard branches they have repurposed into chandelier lights, and I think this influenced my aesthetic to embrace the romantic and enchanted feel that the venue already encapsulated,” she explains. The space felt “very Tuscan” to the bride-to-be, so it was only fitting that the day encapsulated a romantic, European-style wedding. One Lovely Day brought her vision to life and Just My Type set the tone with a custom invitation suite.

“For as long as I can remember I had my mind set on a high-neck, lace, backless style wedding dress. My main inspiration has always been Grace Kelly as my bridal muse and Monique Lhuillier as a designer,” she notes. While visiting Hera Couture, Alia took a suggestion from the stylist and tried on an off-the-shoulder look. “It was a real fairytale ‘this is it’ moment. A classic white satin, it was so timeless but also bridal which I loved.” 

Alia collaborated with the team at Hera to create a second look. She chose a base design and added sleeves, a turtleneck, and a low back with exposed lace trim to create a bohemian feel. “I found something classic and bridal that I felt so beautiful in, and then I got to embrace a bit more of my inspiration without going overboard with my reception dress,” the bride shares.

She paired her ceremony dress with heels by Loeffler Randall and ByCharlotte pearl-detailed gold hoops. The second look featured Badgley Mischka satin pumps and jeweled Croatian earrings that belonged to her mother—a perfect “something borrowed.” 

“Beauty was easy, I had worked with a makeup artist in New Zealand previously and trusted she would execute my look perfectly, Kate Solley,” Alia notes. “I knew my hair was going to be up and off my face, in a swept-back, high, clean bun with the veil over the top to give it an elevated look.” Hairstylist, Robyn Munro, executed her vision beautifully. 

Sam donned a sharp double-breasted suit by P. Johnson Tailors on the day-off. “Because Sam is quirky and fun he wanted to change too, so he got a cream single-breasted blazer to switch into. His suspenders were apparently a copy of Daniel Craig’s in Knives Out,” the bride laughs. 

Alia sourced a pistachio satin fabric and worked with Australian label One Fell Swoop to create custom dresses for her bridesmaids. The final look featured floor-length styles with a high neck and a low back. 

On March 3, 2023, guests gathered in the garden, as flower girls made their way down the aisle. Alia and Sam met before a collection of Michele Coomey florals and exchanged vows amidst loved ones. “The best way to describe the ceremony is pure happiness, everyone was smiling and laughing, dressed in an array of colors,” the bride recalls. “I just felt really happy and kept reminding myself to soak up the moment.” Everyone tossed flower petals, as the newlyweds exited the ceremony to “Love Train” by the O’Jays.

Afterward, the celebration kicked off as the newlyweds poured a Champagne tower and guests noshed on canapés and Aperol Spritzes. “The reception setting was romantic and intimate, the room was lit up like a wonderland with candles and chandeliers. The florals consisted of blue, pink, green, and hints of yellow, complemented with scattered lemons, blue linen and scalloped plates,” Alia remembers. 

South Pacific fish and seared scallops were served ahead of smoked mussels, lamb, and truffle fries. For dessert, the two cut their cake by The Caker before heading to the dance floor. 

Alia and Sam shared a first dance to Eddie Tom’s “You’re Still The One” before breaking into a choreographed routine to “You’re The One That I Want” by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. Guests joined in as deejay Brook Gibson took over, spinning all of their favorite hits. Everyone spent the night celebrating—dancing, laughing, and indulging in “copious amounts of cake.”