Beach Weddings in the Bay of Islands

During the fabulous Summer months here in the Bay of Islands, many couples choose to have their ceremony on one of the many beaches or islands, and even on the range of boats available for charter, around the bay.  Beach weddings can be as simple or as vast as you want them, and they always give the feeling of being free and relaxed with nature.


Here are few ideas and tips to remember for making sure your beautiful beach ceremony is as you want it.

Choose your location wisely – Beaches are usually breezy. Try to pick a cove or area protected from direct winds for your ceremony. Be mindful of the tides on the day.

Decide how many guests will be attending – Most beaches do not require a special permit for small informal weddings. Check with the Far North District Council or local authorities to be sure.

      Remember your guest’s comfort and safety – Provide seating for the elderly as well as sunscreen and insect repellent just in case. If some of your guests have mobility impairments recognize that it’s nearly impossible to push a wheelchair in the sand, and it’s very hard for people who have difficulty walking to negotiate sand as well. Note how far parking is from your intended ceremony site don’t forget to find out if the beach has toilet facilities.

Seating – When deciding where to set up your seats, pay attention to both the sun and the wind. You won’t want the wind whipping up sand into guests’ faces, nor do you want them blinded by the setting sun. It is often a good idea to do a trial run or two…set up a couple of beach chairs around the time of day you plan on getting married and sit in them for a half hour or so to see if you notice any issues.

[Use white and foldable chairs if possible as dark or metal chairs can get very hot in the afternoon sun, you don’t want anyone burning their legs!]

If you plan on having a long ceremony during the middle of the day, you should seriously consider using a tent or awning to provide shade. At the very least, plan on having plenty of water available and small tubes of sunscreen for your guests.

Have a few umbrellas or parasols available for the guests to use as shade too.

rainbow at beachAlso, don’t forget to check on the tide. If the tide is coming in during your proposed ceremony time and you put your chairs too close to the water, you may find your feet getting wet before you make it to the I do’s!

  Weather  – Beach ceremonies are no different than other outdoor ceremonies, and are subject to the whims of the weather. Even if it hasn’t rained a drop on your chosen date in the past years at your location, there is no guarantee that it won’t rain this year. Rather than worry endlessly up until the actual moment of the ceremony, make sure you have a backup plan. It is a great idea to put  a ‘Location B’ on your ‘Notice of Intended Marriage’ form when you lodge it. A nearby hall, pavilion, or tent will alleviate any weather-induced stress.

Wedding Attire – Formal wedding attire can be beautiful for photos on a beach ceremony but sometimes heavy, floor-length bridal gowns can become extremely cumbersome in the sand, tuxedos can be stifling, and high-heeled shoes are nearly impossible to walk in. Make your beach wedding slightly less formal; you don’t have to get married in a cotton sundress (though you certainly can!), but choose a lighter, more breathable fabric and a slightly higher hemline. Men can wear khakis with a button down shirt, or even shorts and a T-shirt if that’s your style!

Dreaming of a barefoot ceremony? You can still dress up your feet. Beach Wedding shoes

It is a good idea to communicate appropriate footwear suggestions to all your guests beforehand. Not everyone will realize that high heels are a poor choice, and others may not realize that the sand can be uncomfortably hot to go barefoot on. Suggest that people bring jandals or sandals, or depending on guest numbers, even have a basket of these available at the main entrance to the venue. [Provide a basket of small brushes so that guest can clean the sand off their feet and shoes after the ceremony.]

You also want to keep in mind that the wind can be pretty active at the beach. This is not the place for that long, flowing veil (unless you can find a way to pin it down securely.) It’s also a good idea to keep the wind in mind when choosing a hairstyle.

Bouquet Ideas – If you want to skip flowers and opt for a seashell bouquet, this can be a fun project to make before  the wedding and it will last J. The men can include a mini starfish or shell in their boutonniere too.

Wedding Party – Bright leis make fun photo props and giving one or two parasols/umbrellas in complementary colours to your wedding theme, will protect the wedding party against the sun.

Ceremony Ideas – Tie your wedding rings onto seashells for your ring bearer or bridal party to pass to you during your vows.

A sand ceremony on the beach equals perfection! You can pour sand, dyed in the wedding colours, into a special glass vessel that’ll become a meaningful piece of art in your home.

Having baskets of mini beach balls near the guests can be a great alternative to confetti or petals. Kids and adults alike will love tossing these during your recessional and it makes for great photos. [Blow them up before though!!]

You should also keep in mind that the background noise of the ocean will make it much harder to hear. It is often difficult to hear a couple say their vows in a silent church; if you have added wave and seagull noise, it would make sense to rent a small PA system. Or, if you don’t like the idea of using a microphone your celebrant can use one and hold for you during your vows,  or practice projecting your voice beforehand .

I have a portable 100W battery powered PA system with mics available for rental if you choose to have them for your ceremony.

Photos – Your photographer will give you more advice but don’t be afraid to get your feet wet and a walk along the beach with your bridal party is always an unforgettable moment.  


Meanings of Flowers and Choosing your Bouquet

Each flower has a meaning derived through a combination of history, legend, art, and style. These meanings are communicated through the colour and shape of each flower, a subtle yet undeniable effect.

My favorite flower is a daisy.  The name daisy comes from “day’s eye” because the flower english_daisyis only open during the day and closes up or ‘sleeps’ at night. The daisy brings a message of innocence and purity, and always has positive meanings. The simple flower can be found in ancient folklore. For instance, there is a belief among folks that Daisy flowers can tell you about the feelings of your beloved. You just have to pull petals from a flower, keep saying “loves me/ loves me not” and the last petal would tell the truth. I remember doing this so many times while growing up!!!

Here are some meanings and symbol-isms of flowers often found in wedding bouquets.


Long a symbol of love and passion, the ancient Greeks and Romans associated roses with Aphrodite and Venus, goddesses of love. Used for hundreds of years to convey messages without words, they also represent confidentiality. In fact, the Latin expression “sub rosa”(literally, “under the rose”) means something told in secret, and in ancient Rome, a wild rose was placed on the door to a room where confidential matters were being discussed.

rose-flowerEach colour offers a distinct meaning: red, the lover’s rose, signifies enduring passion; white, humility and innocence; yellow, expressing friendship and joy; pink, gratitude, appreciation and admiration; orange, enthusiasm and desire; white lilac and purple roses represent enchantment and love at first sight. The number of stems in a rose bouquet can also express specific sentiments. The June birth month flower and the 15th wedding anniversary flower.


Originally from Persia and Turkey, tulips were brought to Europe in the 16th century, where they got their common name from the Turkish word for gauze (with which turbans were wrapped) – reflecting the turban-like appearance of a tulip in full bloom.  By the 17th century, the popularity of tulips, particularly in the Netherlands, became so great that the price of a single bulb soared to new heights, causing markets to crash and putting into motion “tulip mania.”

Although different tulip colours carry distinct meanings – yellow tulips symbolizing cheerful thoughts, white conveying forgiveness and purple representing royalty – a Turkish legend may be responsible for the red tulip’s symbolism. The story goes that a prince named Farhad was love struck by a maiden named Shirin.  When Farhad learned that Shirin had been killed, he was so overcome with grief that he killed himself – riding his horse over the edge of a cliff.  It’s said that a scarlet tulip sprang up from each droplet of his blood, giving the red tulip the meaning “perfect love.”

tulipsThe 11th wedding anniversary flower, it’s said that the tulip’s velvety black centre represents a lover’s heart, darkened by the heat of passion. With the power to rival roses in their red variety and the sweet charm to express simple joy when yellow, it’s no wonder that in addition to all its other symbolism, in the language of flowers, a tulip bouquet represents elegance and grace.


With a history that dates back more than 2,000 years, it’s not surprising that carnations are rich with symbolism, mythology and even debate. While some scholars suggest that their name comes from the word “corone” (flower garlands) or “coronation” because of its use in Greek ceremonial crowns, others propose that it’s derived from from the Latin “carnis” (flesh) referring to the flower’s original pinkish-hued colour or “incarnacyon” (incarnation), referring to the incarnation of God-made flesh.

Today, carnations can be found in a wide range of colours, and while in general they express love, fascination and distinction, virtually every colour carries a unique and rich association. White carnations suggest pure love and good luck, light red symbolizes admiration, while dark red represents deep love and affection. Purple carnations imply capriciousness, and pink carnations carry the greatest significance, beginning with the belief that they first appeared on earth from the Virgin Mary’s tears – making them the symbol of a mother’s undying love.

Worn on Mother’s Day, Teacher’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day (in green, of course!) and at weddings, this hardy, sweetly fragrant flower is the January birth month flower and the 1st wedding anniversary flower.


daffodilSymbolizing rebirth and new beginnings, the daffodil is virtually synonymous with spring. Though their botanic name is narcissus, daffodils are sometimes called jonquils, and in England, because of their long association with Lent, they’re known as the “Lent Lily.” Lore connecting the daffodil to not only a sign of winter’s end but a lucky emblem of future prosperity is found throughout the world. In Wales, it’s said if you spot the first daffodil of the season, your next 12 months will be filled with wealth, and Chinese legend has it that if a daffodil bulb is forced to bloom during the New Year, it will bring good luck to your home.

The March birth flower and the 10th wedding anniversary flower, a gift of daffodils is said to ensure happiness. But always remember to present daffodils in a bunch – the same legends that associate this cheerful flower with good fortune warn us that when given as a single bloom, a daffodil can foretell misfortune.


With a history that dates back to 15th century B.C., chrysanthemum mythology is filled with a beautiful_chrysanthemummultitude of stories and symbolism. Named from the Greek prefix “chrys-“ meaning golden (its original colour) and “-anthemion,” meaning flower, years of artful cultivation have produced a full range of colours, from white to purple to red. Daisy-like with a typically yellow centre and a decorative pompon, chrysanthemums symbolize optimism and joy. They’re the November birth flower and  the 13th wedding anniversary flower.

In Japan, there’s even a “Festival of Happiness” to celebrate this flower each year. A symbol of the sun, the Japanese consider the orderly unfolding of the chrysanthemum’s petals to represent perfection, and Confucius once suggested they be used as an object of meditation. It’s said that a single petal of this celebrated flower placed at the bottom of a wine glass will encourage a long and healthy life.


The most highly coveted of ornamental plants, the delicate, exotic and graceful orchid represents love, luxury, beauty and strength. In ancient Greece, orchids were associated with virility. In fact, Greek women believed that if the father of their unborn child ate large, new orchid tubers, the baby would be a boy. If the mother ate small orchid tubers, she would give birth to a girl.


During the Victorian era, orchid symbolism shifted to luxury, and today this sense of magnificence and artful splendour continues, with orchids representing rare and delicate beauty. The 14th wedding anniversary flower, pink orchids convey pure affection, and the popular cattelya orchid represents mature charm.


beautiful_sunflower_hd_picture_169107While their distinctive and brilliant appearance makes it easy to see why sunflowers have long held our fascination, when they were first grown in Central and South America, it was more for their usefulness (providing oil and food) than beauty. And perhaps this unique combination of striking beauty and utility is, in part, why sunflowers have appeared as such revered symbols throughout the ages.

It’s said that the natives of the Inca Empire worshiped a giant sunflower, and that Incan priestesses wore large sunflower disks made of gold on their garments. Images of sunflowers were found in the temples of the Andes mountains, and Native American Indians placed bowls of sunflower seeds on the graves of their dead. The Impressionist period of art is famous for its fascination with the sunflower, and this striking flower remains today a commonly photographed and painted icon of uncommon beauty.

The 3rd wedding anniversary flower, sunflowers turn to follow the sun. Their open faces symbolize the sun itself, conveying warmth and happiness, adoration and longevity.


With their wildflower beauty and lush texture, asters have long been considered an enchanted flower. In ancient times, it was thought that the perfume from their burning leaves could drive away evil serpents. Today, they’re known as a talisman of love and a symbol of patience. Also known as starworts, Michaelmas daisies or Frost flowers, the name aster is derived from the Greek word for “star,” and its star-like flowers can be found in a rainbow of colours – white, red, pink, purple, lavender and blue, with mostly yellow centres. The September birth flower, asters also hold the honour of being the 20th wedding anniversary flower.

NZ Marriage Bill Amendment

I watched Parliament for the first time in ages [!!!], on Wednesday night, in anticipation of the vote for legalizing same sex marriage. The amendment was passed, and the gallery started singing “Pokarekare Ana” after the decision was announced.

The definition for love [” An intense feeling of deep affection”] is now to be defined in a marriage for all couples wanting to get married in New Zealand. Enjoy this footage of the decision and the singing :-).

The First dance

The ‘First Dance’ at your Wedding.

The “first dance” of a married couple is a popular element at many post-wedding celebrations, not just here in Russell, but in modern traditions throughout the world. Exactly like an old-fashioned ball, the idea is that the married couple, as the guests of honour at a dance, open the dancing, not that they perform a choreographed duet for spectators. Sometimes, to further the traditional gender roles of father-daughter relationships in weddings (similar to ‘giving away’) the bride and father of the bride may share a dance either as the first dance or after the husband-wife one.

In the past, the first wedding dance was commonly a waltz. In modern times ballroom dancing is no longer a widespread skill, and rehearsing the “first dance” has become a lucrative business for dance studios and independent dance instructors. Today around New Zealand more popular dances include the foxtrot, merengue, and swing. Alternatively, many couples just do a “slow dance”. More recently, some couples have been known to introduce a surprise into their dance to shock and humour their audience e.g. by dancing to a song in a mock disco style.

Check out this great You Tube clip for a fantastic take on a ‘first dance’! 

Wedding Traditions

Have you ever wondered where the quirky little sayings and actions relating to weddings come from? As I do my research on getting married in Russell and the Bay of Islands, I am forever intrigued what I find out. There are of course many explanations to these traditions and a lot are traced back from historical evidence but according to my Dad, many are also classified as being ‘an old wives tale’ ….. I disagree Dad!

Please enjoy this list of ‘Wedding Lore & Traditions’ by Elizabeth Olson..

Giving Away the Bride

The tradition of the father giving away his daughter has its roots in the days of arranged marriages. Daughters in those times were considered their father’s property. It was the father’s right to give his child to the groom, usually for a price. Today a father giving away his daughter is a symbol of his blessing of the marriage.

Tossing the Bouquet

Tossing the bouquet is a tradition that stems from England. Women used to try to rip pieces of the Jules Russell Churchbride’s dress and flowers in order to obtain some of her good luck. To escape from the crowd the bride would toss her bouquet and run away. Today the bouquet is tossed to single women with the belief that whoever catches it will be the next to marry.

The Wedding Ring

The wedding ring has been worn on the third finger of the left hand since Roman times. The Romans believed that the vein in that finger runs directly to the heart. The wedding ring is a never-ending circle, which symbolizes everlasting love.

Wearing a white wedding gown

Jules bikini runPrior to the 16th century this most important Western European Wedding tradition was not common. To this day a traditional Irish bride often wears a blue wedding dress, rather than a white one. This is because blue symbolized purity in ancient times. It wasn’t until the year 1499 that a white wedding dress began to symbolize virginity and purity when Ann of Brittany popularized the white wedding dress and the tradition became part of Western European wedding culture.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and a Sixpence in Your Shoe

“Something old” represents the bride’s link to her family and the past. The bride may choose to wear a piece of family jewellery or her mother or grandmother’s wedding gown. “Something new” represents hope for good fortune and success in the future. The bride often chooses the wedding gown to represent the new item. “Something borrowed” usually comes from a happily married woman and is thought to lend some of her good fortune and joy to the new bride. “Something blue” is a symbol of love, fidelity, and purity of the bride. A sixpence in her shoe is to wish the bride wealth in her future life.

The Best Man

In ancient times, men sometimes captured women to make them their brides. A man would take along his strongest and most trusted friend to help him fight resistance from the woman’s family. This friend, therefore, was considered the best man among his friends. In Anglo-Saxon England, the best man accompanied the groom up the aisle to help defend the bride.

Bride on Groom’s Left

Because grooms in Anglo-Saxon England often had to defend their brides, the bride would stand to the left of her groom so that his sword arm was free.

The Tiered Wedding Cake

The origin of the tiered wedding cake also lies in Anglo-Saxon times. Guests would bring small cakes to the wedding and stack them on top of each other. Later, a clever French baker created a cake in the shape of the small cakes and covered it in frosting. It is now known as the tiered cake.
Read more: Wedding Lore and Traditions |

Bay of Islands Wedding History – The Origins of Marriage

I have always been interested in marriage and the whole ceremonial institution. So when I became a celebrant in Russell and the Bay of Islands I decided to do some research. Here is a great article on the origins of marriage from The Week Magazine.

How old is the institution of Marriage?
The best available evidence suggests that it’s about 4,350 years old. For thousands of years before that, most anthropologists believe, families consisted of loosely organized groups of as many as 30 people, with several male leaders, multiple women shared by them, and children. As hunter-gatherers settled down into agrarian civilizations, society had a need for more stable arrangements. The first recorded evidence of marriage ceremonies uniting one woman and one man dates from about 2350 B.C., in Mesopotamia. Over the next several hundred years, marriage evolved into a widespread institution embraced by the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans. But back then, marriage had little to do with love or with religion.

What was it about, then?
Marriage’s primary purpose was to bind women to men, and thus guarantee that a man’s children were truly his biological heirs. Through marriage, a woman became a man’s property. In the betrothal ceremony of ancient Greece, a father would hand over his daughter with these words: “I pledge my daughter for the purpose of producing legitimate offspring.” Among the ancient Hebrews, men were free to take several wives; married Greeks and Romans were free to satisfy their sexual urges with concubines, prostitutes, and even teenage male lovers, while their wives were required to stay home and tend to the household. If wives failed to produce offspring, their husbands could give them back and marry someone else.

When did religion become involved?
As the Roman Catholic Church became a powerful institution in Europe, the blessings of a priest became a necessary step for a marriage to be legally recognized. By the eighth century, marriage was widely accepted in the Catholic church as a sacrament, or a ceremony to bestow God’s grace. At the Council of Trent in 1563, the sacramental nature of marriage was written into canon law.

Did this change the nature of marriage?
Church blessings did improve the lot of wives. Men were taught to show greater respect for their wives, and forbidden from divorcing them. Christian doctrine declared that “the twain shall be one flesh,” giving husband and wife exclusive access to each other’s body. This put new pressure on men to remain sexually faithful. But the church still held that men were the head of families, with their wives deferring to their wishes.

When did love enter the picture?
Later than you might think. For much of human history, couples were brought together for practical reasons, not because they fell in love. In time, of course, many marriage partners came to feel deep mutual love and devotion. But the idea of romantic love, as a motivating force for marriage, only goes as far back as the Middle Ages. Naturally, many scholars believe the concept was “invented” by the French. Its model was the knight who felt intense love for someone else’s wife, as in the case of Sir Lancelot and King Arthur’s wife, Queen Guinevere. Twelfth-century advice literature told men to woo the object of their desire by praising her eyes, hair, and lips. In the 13th century, Richard de Fournival, physician to the king of France, wrote “Advice on Love,” in which he suggested that a woman cast her love flirtatious glances—“anything but a frank and open entreaty.”

Did love change marriage?
It sure did. Marilyn Yalom, a Stanford historian and author of A History of the Wife, credits the concept of romantic love with giving women greater leverage in what had been a largely pragmatic transaction. Wives no longer existed solely to serve men. The romantic prince, in fact, sought to serve the woman he loved. Still, the notion that the husband “owned” the wife continued to hold sway for centuries. When colonists first came to America—at a time when polygamy was still accepted in most parts of the world—the husband’s dominance was officially recognized under a legal doctrine called “coverture,” under which the new bride’s identity was absorbed into his. The bride gave up her name to symbolize the surrendering of her identity, and the husband suddenly became more important, as the official public representative of two people, not one. The rules were so strict that any American woman who married a foreigner immediately lost her citizenship.

How did this tradition change?
Women won the right to vote. When that happened, in 1920, the institution of marriage began a dramatic transformation. Suddenly, each union consisted of two full citizens, although tradition dictated that the husband still ruled the home. By the late 1960s, state laws forbidding interracial marriage had been thrown out, and the last states had dropped laws against the use of birth control. By the 1970s, the law finally recognized the concept of marital rape, which up to that point was inconceivable, as the husband “owned” his wife’s sexuality. “The idea that marriage is a private relationship for the fulfillment of two individuals is really very new,” said historian Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. “Within the past 40 years, marriage has changed more than in the last 5,000.”

Men who married men
Gay marriage is rare in history—but not unknown. The Roman emperor Nero, who ruled from A.D. 54 to 68, twice married men in formal wedding ceremonies, and forced the Imperial Court to treat them as his wives. In second- and third-century Rome, homosexual weddings became common enough that it worried the social commentator Juvenal, says Marilyn Yalom in A History of the Wife. “Look—a man of family and fortune—being wed to a man!” Juvenal wrote. “Such things, before we’re very much older, will be done in public.” He mocked such unions, saying that male “brides” would never be able to “hold their husbands by having a baby.” The Romans outlawed formal homosexual unions in the year 342. But Yale history professor John Boswell says he’s found scattered evidence of homosexual unions after that time, including some that were recognized by Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. In one 13th-century Greek Orthodox ceremony, the “Order for Solemnisation of Same Sex Union,” the celebrant asked God to grant the participants “grace to love one another and to abide unhated and not a cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God and all thy saints.”