As an Olympic cycling ace, Aaron Gate has a passion for speedy two-wheelers. But as he gears up to marry his high-school sweetheart Kirstie Pooley, it’s a fleet of vintage four-wheeled beauties that steal the show.
The brightly coloured ’60s Mini Coopers in red, blue and yellow are the official mode of transport for the day, with the bride herself pulling up to historic St Mark’s Church in Auckland in a gleaming white model.
“I love the movie The Italian Job, which features lots of Mini Coopers,” explains Aaron, who arrives in his dad’s Austin 7 classic car. “It’s a fun way to get about on our wedding day. We’ve been driving in convoy and getting lots of waves.”
In front of 115 guests – including Aaron’s Olympic team-mates – the couple say “I do” at the picturesque 19th- century church, a stone’s throw from where they both grew up.
It’s been a hectic few years for the pair, both 26, who met on a double date when shy teen Aaron was just starting out as a promising professional cyclist. Since then, Kirstie, an insurance underwriter, has become her partner’s biggest cheerleader.
Dividing their time between Europe and their home in Cambridge, they’ve crammed as much as they can into their time back in Aotearoa, including hiking the 19km Tongariro Crossing. On the eve of their big day, Aaron even won the Tour de Ranges in Auckland.
But today, standing unusually still at the altar with his four groomsmen, his heart is pounding. As church bells herald the bride’s arrival, Aaron faces away from the aisle, adding to the suspense.
Then following her four bridesmaids to the strains of Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars” comes Kirstie, radiant in a Cristiano Lucci dress, on the arm of her proud dad Danny. Aaron tells us, “I knew she was going to look stunning, but when I finally turned around to see her, I was blown away.”
For Kirstie, the moment was both emotional and a huge relief. Only a few weeks ago, she’d tried on her gown, bought several months earlier on a trip to Australia, and to her horror, the frock was a little too snug.
“I was mortified!” she laughs. “My nana had to cut around the intricate lace with tiny scissors to add more room. Luckily, when I tried it on again, it fitted like a glove.”
After a traditional church service, the newlyweds kiss twice before Aaron, finally recovered from a recent shoulder surgery, scoops up his bride and carries her back down the aisle. “I took my life into my hands,” he later grins. “Kirstie was more than a bit nervous I would drop her!”
For the reception, the trendy Kingsland bar Citizen Park is transformed into a foliage-filled oasis. With the couple seated at a raised banquet table, they join family and friends for a feast that includes platters of antipasti, lamb kofta, beef quesadilla, spiced chicken and crumbed hapuka.
The newlyweds then address each other with Kirstie telling Aaron, “You stole my heart at 16 when you were wearing big skater shoes and had so much gel in your hair ... but you didn’t say boo to me. I had to make the first move and get your number. Thank goodness I did because my life has completely changed for the better. You are an amazing man, humble and a seriously talented athlete, and I’m stoked to be your wife.”
A beaming Aaron then tells his new wife, “I can say with certainty that the 20-cent text message I sent to ask you out on a date nine years, nine months and 20 days ago would have to be the best investment in the world!”
After their fun-filled evening, the newlyweds board a plane to Bali for six beautiful days of relaxation. Then it’s on to Barcelona, where Aaron will pursue his cycling dreams for the next two years – with his bride by his side and occasional visits back to NZ. With his heart on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the athlete grins, “I’m so lucky to have Kirstie to support me. It’s a really nice feeling to be able to call her my wife.”
Smiling, his bride adds, “I’ll be spending most of my time learning Spanish and cheering Aaron on. Kids are still a way off, so for now, it’s just the two of us on this crazy adventure.”
Words: Carmen Lichi