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A Sweet Chapel Wedding on the Hottest Day of Summer in New Zealand

By Alexandra Macon | Photography by 

Anna Kidman

Fashion and lifestyle writer Zoe Walker and Dan Ahwa, fashion editor at the NZ Herald newspaper, had known each other distantly for many years since they both worked in the same industry. But it wasn’t until one fashion week, when Zoe realized he was “cute and cool” and apparently she caught his eye, too. They ended up going on a few dates and were together for nine years when the subject of getting married came up one summer afternoon on the beach in Auckland. “Before we knew it, we were officially engaged,” Zoe recalls. “I love that it wasn’t a traditional down-on-one-knee proposal.”

For their wedding, the couple wanted something traditional and relaxed, and loved the feeling of those simple and sweet chapel weddings from the 50s and 60s. They decided to hold their ceremony at St. Mary’s Old Chapel in Auckland, a Gothic Revival chapel built in 1866, and their reception at Mission Bay Pavilion, a beachfront restaurant.

For her big day, Zoe worked together with New Zealand designer Kate Sylvester on a lace midi-length bridal dress with a black grosgrain bow at the back. “I wanted something no-fuss, but fun; a dress that I could move and dance in,” she says. “It ended up being two dresses: a slip with the bow worn underneath a lace dress with an open back.” Keeping with family tradition, Zoe also carried a silver pursed attached to her bouquet; a family heirloom that dates back to 1939 and has been carried by every bride on her mother’s side of the family.

As for the groom, Dan wanted a relaxed suit and went with Murray Crane of Crane Brothers.  He paired it with white Tom Ford sneakers for the ceremony and changed into leather sandals later on for the reception. Zoe also managed to get her cat obsession into her wedding party by choosing a cat cameo print dress for her flower girl by the label Twenty-seven Names.

On the hottest day of New Zealand’s summer, Zoe and Dan tied the knot at St. Mary’s Old Chapel. “Luckily we had organized to give woven fans to our guests as they arrived,” she says. “I remember walking up the aisle and seeing flashes of color and movement out of the corner of my eye as everyone fanned themselves.” They had family members share a few wedding readings, and asked their nana to be their witnesses and sign the marriage certificate. “That was a cute moment,” Zoe adds.

The reception at Mission Bay Pavilion followed, with indoor and outdoor dining. The couple celebrated while family delivered a number of toasts. “I was determined to give a speech, despite being terrified of public speaking and finishing it the night before,” Zoe says. “I was really proud of myself for doing it.” Then it was time for the Pacific Island group, Drums of the Pacific to perform after dinner. “It was important to have elements of Dan’s Samoan culture, including a reading in Samoan, traditional fine mats on the floor at the ceremony, and this surprise performance,” she adds. The musical group pulled the newlyweds into dance with them and it helped kick off the party portion of the evening.

Once the performance was over, DJ Manchoo took over music duties and played throwback songs from the 80s, 90s, and 00s, including “I Only Have Eyes For You” by the Flamingoes, which was the song the couple picked for their first dance. The music mix was varied enough that people from all different kinds of generations were up on their feet for hours. “We had a few guests comment about how fun it was to be outdoors dancing under the stars,” Zoe adds. The night ended with espresso martinis and mini fish ’n’ chips for the tired revelers. And as for the newlyweds, they went off to a two week honeymoon in Jamaica. “It’s somewhere we’ve both always wanted to visit,” she says. “But the Caribbean is not exactly an easy trip from New Zealand!”