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Maree & James’ magical day

House that! The Block stars get hitched

Many moons ago, as a shy and softly spoken teen, James Steele accepted a can of fizzy drink from his high-school crush Maree Wright – a small, sweet token of her affection. And 15 years on from that fateful day in the tuck-shop queue at Onehunga College, their epic love story continues, with James – now much older, but no less nervous – waiting patiently beneath an arch of white roses for that very same girl. Only this time, he has a ring to seal their union as husband and wife.

It’s a hot, humid summer’s day when over 150 family and close friends gather at Auckland’s Westbrook Winery to celebrate the wedding of The Block NZ stars Maree and James, both 29. The excitement is palpable as the giddy guests, who have come from Rarotonga, Samoa, Australia and all over Aotearoa, mix, mingle and laugh. It’s the sultry tones of Tasha Hohaia performing a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” that hushes the crowd as Maree makes her entrance. Led by her younger sister Ashlee Wright, and best friends Jenna Otunuku and Nicole Manuela, the lovely bride holds back tears as she locks eyes on her groom.

“I was just so excited – I had to stop myself from literally running down the stairs towards him,” the Samoan beauty later tells Woman’s Day. “For so long, all I’ve ever wanted was to marry James and seeing him standing at the altar was like a dream come true. It was the moment I’d always pictured on the day I’d always dreamed about.”

It was only her father Mark’s steady hand that stopped Maree – in a dress lovingly crafted by her aunt Paula Chan – breaking into a sprint as she made her way towards her groom. At first sight of his bride, James could finally relax. “It was the second time I’d seen her that day,” he says, explaining that they’d shared a private moment before the ceremony hoping to get all their nerves and tears out of the way.

“But seeing her coming towards me was like noticing her for the very first time all over again. She looked beautiful. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.” The glossy-eyed groom, who’s of Cook Island descent, perseveres through his vows, pledging to “make you smile every single day, support your dreams and care for you always”.

A teary Maree responds, “I promise to walk by your side forever as your best friend, your wife and soulmate.” She later admits, “I honestly didn’t expect to get so choked up. The gravity of the situation really set in. I wanted to pinch myself, like, ‘OMG, this is really happening.’ But I couldn’t let go of James’ hands.”

Nailing the kiss!

Maree’s tears don’t last long. When they are announced Mr and Mrs Steele – not once, but twice – by the enthusiastic celebrant, James dips Maree and plants a tender kiss on her lips, to the delight of the crowd. The couple’s special day has been a long time coming. Ever since Block-aholics fell in love with Team Yellow in 2013, Maree has been vocal about her desire to tie the knot with her high-school sweetheart. And for years, James’ family had been pushing him to pop the question. So as newlyweds and guests soak up the magical moment, they’re blissfully unaware of the big, black raincloud rolling in. The scorching-hot day turns to dusk with a torrential downpour that sends everyone scrambling for cover under a reception marquee ablaze with fairy lights.

Dining on grilled mahi-mahi, green-lipped mussels and Cook Island potato salad, the guests share heartwarming anecdotes of James and Maree’s love affair. The groom gets special props for his romantic speech, with the MC declaring, “I think that’s the most I’ve heard James say ever.” James insists later, “We tell each other every day how we feel, but it’s nice to share that love with family and friends.

I get a bit of stick for being a man of few words, but I guess on a day like today, I didn’t want to hold back.” After James’ cousins perform a surprise Cook Island dance, the formalities end with Maree’s graceful siva Samoa, a traditional wedding dance, and a sign for the guests to kick up their heels. “It was hands-down the best day of my life,” smiles Maree. “We didn’t need a wedding to know we were going to be together forever, but seeing that ring on his finger is such a nice feeling. Today has shown me more than ever that James is definitely the one for me.”

On a hot and humid summer’s day in February, The Block stars Maree Wright and James Steele gathered with over 150 of their nearest and dearest to celebrate the next stage of their fairytale romance.

The couple said their ‘I do’s’ at Auckland’s Westbrook Winery.

Maree and James’ love story began 15 years ago, when James accepted a can of fizzy drink from his high-school crush Maree.

Maree’s gorgeous was handmade by the bride herself and her aunty Paula, featuring traditional Samoan handwoven fine mat on the bodice.

“I was just so excited – I had to stop myself from literally running down the stairs towards him,” Samoan beauty Maree said of the first time she locked eyes with her groom.

“For so long, all I’ve ever wanted was to marry James and seeing him standing at the altar was like a dream come true,” she says.

The couple – who took home a whopping $147,000 after coming second in the 2013 series of The Block NZ – shared a private moment with each other before the ceremony began, hoping to get all the nerves and tears out of the way.

The wedding party included (from left) Bodene Te Whare, Doyle Matautia, George Diep, Ashlee Wright, Jenna Otunuku and Nicole Manuela. Meanwhile, Lianna-Quinn and Ariana Fonoimoana and Taiyon Paulo-Wright served as the flower girls and page boy, respectively, for the ceremony.

When the couple were announced as Mr and Mrs Steele, James dipped his beautiful bride and planted a tender kiss on her lips – to the delight of the crowd!

In his vows, a teary James pledged to “make [Maree] smile every single day”.

“I honestly didn’t expect to get so choked up,” Maree told us about the big moment. “The gravity of the situation really set in. I wanted to pinch myself, like, ‘OMG, this is really happening.’ But I couldn’t let go of James’ hands.”

Details from the couple’s big day.

The newlyweds pose with Block builder Marty Laidlaw and his girlfriend Chelsia Docherty.

“We didn’t need a wedding to know we were going to be together forever, but seeing that ring on his finger is such a nice feeling,” Maree told us. “Today has shown me more than ever that James is definitely the one for me.”

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