It was important for Hana and Hayley to incorporate Māori traditions into their Aotearoa DIY wedding day including a mihi whakatau, karakia (prayer/incantation) and singing.
Tell us about how you met.
We met in the Waikato University carpark preparing for a church conference, such an obvious place to meet your future LGBTQ+ partner. We instantly became best friends. Eventually, we became more than that and as you can imagine, that didn’t fly with a lot of the people in our lives.
So seven years, four graduations, three cities, two fur babies, a year of long-distance, and one mortgage later, here we are.
Tell us about the proposal.
We lived in different cities for a year, Hayley in Auckland and Hana in Wellington. Hayley finally gave in and decided to pack her stuff and move to Wellington to be with Hana. Hana traveled up to Auckland to help Hayley with the move and her sister was at the airport ready to take Hana to what she thought was Hayley’s leaving party. Instead, Hana’s sister took her on a long dodgy drive to the middle of nowhere, and it was dark out. They turned up to a dark park, a single tree in the middle lit up with fairy lights and a candle-lit picnic at its base. Hayley was standing under the lit tree. She pulled out a ring and asked the big question. She then pulled a second ring out and asked Hana to propose because she didn’t want to miss out.
What led you to the destination?
Getting married in a region where we had a personal and ancestral connection to was important to us.
We contacted what felt like a billion venues in three different regions that would cater to our numbers, budget and vision, only to hit a brick wall. We were blessed with a family friend who offered his family land as a potential DIY venue.
It was a stunning spot in Tauranga where Hana has whakapapa links to and Hayley’s family is currently based – it was a no-brainer. We found our venue, and we are thankful to the Ngatai family.
Did you undertake any DIY projects for the big day?
Goodness, the whole thing felt DIY! We had family and friends use their talents and resources as wedding gifts. They made window wedding signs, signs for food, centerpieces, other reception decorations, archway flower arrangements, and even a bowtie for the token male in our wedding party. We also had family and friends provide and serve all the food. It didn’t even end there. They were also our MCs, the chauffeur, the marriage celebrant, the DJ, and running the whole day. So yes, almost the entire thing was DIY. We are very thankful.
Talk to us about your experience finding the perfect outfits.
The wedding dresses weren’t very high on our priority list. It was one of the last things we considered and organized. We understand that many look forward to the wedding dress experience, but it’s just not us. So instead, we took a gamble on an affordable wedding dress website and bought dresses based on photos, crossed our fingers, did some karakia (incantations/prayers), and hoped for the best. With a bit of help from a local seamstress, we were happy with our decision.
Talk to us about the big day!
Bloody hell, where do we start? We got ready separately and decided to do the first look and bridal party photos before the ceremony. This was mainly because of FOMO. We didn’t want our friends and family to have heaps of fun without us. Our photographers found us a fantastic spot for our first look. We had no idea what location we were going to, but we trusted them and their process. Hayley was there first, and of course, Hana turned up late with a bottle of bubbles. The wind was crazy, and it was hard to feel graceful, but we are thankful that we chose to have an intimate moment before we faced the craziness of the rest of the day.
After meeting up with our bridal party, taking a few snaps, and sharing some bubbles, we went on our merry way to the ceremony. Our fathers welcomed us as we had asked them to walk down the aisle with us. Hana chose to walk first as she was connected to the iwi (tribes) of Tauranga and could welcome Hayley to the altar. Hana’s mum was already there to greet everyone. Hayley is an emotional person and spent months before the wedding preparing herself not to cry and she was adamant Hana would not cry. On the other hand, Hana doesn’t cry as easily but was a slobbering mess on the day and Hayley didn’t cry. Our ceremony was in the afternoon and outdoors. The sun was shining, and the wind was wild. It felt beautiful and intimate.
Following the ceremony, we just had a grazing table, some lawn games scattered around and drinks for people to enjoy. It was summer, after all. Our ceremony and reception were on the same property #convience, and once the food was ready, we got people to migrate to the tent to prepare for dinner. We had a massive kai (feed) followed by speeches and songs from our friends and family. We cut and ate our cookie cake, and people ate dessert while we disappeared to our sunset photo shoot. We partied the night away, and then we lived happily ever after.
Tell us about your wedding vendors.
We made an effort to use Indigenous and local vendors throughout the process.
Our ring maker, Courtney Marama is amazing! She uses New Zealand stones in her jewelry. She made both our engagement rings from the same pounamu (greenstone). A year later, she managed to fit us into her hectic schedule and make our custom wedding bands.
In looking for a photographer, we would always state that we were an LGBTQ+ couple and only wanted a photographer who was comfortable photographing us.
We liked Songbirds but were nervous to ask them as we knew they were an openly Christian couple. We were pleasantly surprised when Pia was super excited to photograph us. They were already booked on our date, but Pia worked her magic and made it happen for us. And made us feel comfortable. They sent us a care package while we were planning the wedding, and Pia brought a bottle of bubbles to the photoshoot as she noticed it on our mood board.
Did you incorporate any family or religious traditions into the day?
Māori, cultural traditions were integrated throughout the day. We had a representative from the family who owned the venue conduct a mihi whakatau (traditional Māori welcoming). This consists of te reo Māori (Māori language) speech-making and singing. We conducted karakia (prayer/incantation) at the start and end of the wedding and before eating. It’s customary for people to sing after every speech, so we had a lot of songs. We loved it.
Instead of the attendees welcoming the wedding party to the reception Hana and her younger sister welcomed the attendees on behalf of the wedding party to the reception with a pao (traditional, impromptu song).
What does marriage mean to you?
It’s waking up every morning and deciding that you want to build your life with your best friend. It’s the coming together of our whānau (families). It also means that other people will now recognise our relationship as not ‘just a phase.’
Photography by Pia Photo & Film
Cake Moustache Milk and Cookie Bar
Celebrant Michelle Ohia
Decorative Elements Out of the Audinary
Engagement & Wedding Rings Courtney Marama
Florist Daisy May Flowers
Makeup Chrissy Mason, Missqrd
Marquee, Lighting & Furniture Stretch Tent
Stationery With JoyJoy – Wedding Planning, Redesigned (withjoy.com)
Wedding Party Outfits Evolution Bridesmaid