a scenic backdrop.
It's not a traditional wedding tune, but as far as Sam and Sarah Wallace are concerned, the romantic Jason Mraz song I Won't Give Up was the perfect way to begin the touching ceremony that saw them become husband and wife. It also turned out to symbolise the couple's determination to make their wedding the best day of their lives, despite some trying circumstances.
As Sarah walked up the aisle on the arm of her dad Ross towards Coast FM breakfast host Sam last week, the lyrics, "I won't give up on us, Even when the skies get rough, I'm giving you all my love, I'm still looking up," rang out through the garden of the Duke of Marlborough hotel in Russell, causing more than a few guests to wipe away tears.
The song has always had special meaning to Sam, Sarah and their children Brando, three, and twins Sienna and Cosette, 14 months. "It's the song we've always sung to our kids to get them to sleep," tells Sam. "It's about not giving up on love and it's been a big part of our journey as a family. The words are beautiful and it's really poignant; the fact we didn't give up when things got tough."
Sam and Sarah are still glowing with joy as they look back on the "absolutely monumental" occasion that went ahead, despite fears they may have had to pull the plug on their big day as the latest Covid variant Omicron raged through the country. When they sent out invitations in June last year, there was no Covid in the community.
"We hadn't even heard of Omicron then," says Sam, 41, recalling how after Delta struck in August, they pushed the wedding date out to March, hoping Aotearoa would be through the worst of that outbreak. "We never thought we'd end up in the thick of it."
"Anything could have happened," adds Sarah, 39. "The Duke of Marlborough might not have had enough staff because of Covid. That would have been out of our hands."
Sadly, there were some guests who couldn't make it because they had Covid or needed to isolate, and Sarah was devastated that one of her bridesmaids, Rochelle Trudell, had to pull out after coming down with Omicron. "That was heartbreaking, but my brother managed to video call her so she could watch the whole ceremony and some of the reception," tells Sarah.
If it had got to the stage where more key people couldn't make it – such as Sam's parents Barry and Judi Wallace, and Sarah's mum and dad Joanna and Ross Bowman – then they might have had to consider postponing for another time.
"But we are so thankful that didn't happen because we had the most incredible day of our lives," Sam says. "It was even better than we were expecting."
The couple had been dreaming of a day full of love and laughter, shared with their nearest and dearest, since they got engaged in December 2020, when Sarah was heavily pregnant with their identical twin girls. Since then, she's juggled planning their wedding with two babies and an energetic toddler.
Sam admits that most of the organisation was left to Sarah. "I did bugger all, really. I organised my suit and I organised the bow ties, and as it was, I came up one short. Jason Reeves had to stop at a store in Whangārei on the way up to Russell from Auckland to pick up the right bow tie and he ended up arriving just in time for the ceremony to save the day. Luckily, most of the organising was left to Sarah."
Adds his new wife, "A lot of it was done by the wonderful staff at the Duke of Marlborough – they were instrumental in putting it all together and I cannot sing their praises highly enough."
Sam became enamoured with the historic hotel after doing a radio show from there two years ago. He convinced his bride-to-be that the iconic building on the water's edge, looking out towards Paihia, would be the ideal location.
"Their slogan is 'Serving rascals and reprobates since 1827', which is quite appropriate because Sarah and I are quite rascally ourselves," grins Sam. "We've been known to get into a bit of trouble. So I came home and said, 'Let's do it there.'"Just as they'd hoped, it was the perfect setting for both the wedding and the reception. They were married in the picturesque garden, under a magnificent 150-year-old fig tree with Kororāreka Bay providing
a scenic backdrop.
a scenic backdrop.
"When I walked out, I thought, 'This is really happening,' and it was such a relief," smiles Sarah. "My dad and I both took a deep breath and I was trying my hardest not to cry. I knew that if I started, I wouldn't be able to stop, and they'd be big, ugly tears. I remember looking at the guests, seeing all these people we love, and walking towards Sam, thinking he had never looked more beautiful."
"It was the suit," jokes Sam. "Great suit. Cost a fortune, was like a punch in the face when I got the bill, but it was worth it."
Meanwhile, he says he was blown away by how stunning Sarah looked. "I was just gobsmacked. She looked absolutely amazing."
Sarah bought her gorgeous gown, which was beaded with a plunging back, off the rack from Jessica Bridal in Newmarket, Auckland, in July last year. "It was sequinned and magnificent, and a little bit over the top for me, but just perfect for the occasion. It had a beautiful long train and a veil my mum embellished. I loved it."
Sarah admits to saving photos of bridal gowns into a folder on Instagram for quite some time. "I called it Epic Outfits because I thought that if Sammy ever saw one saying Wedding Dresses, he'd run a mile. When I looked through it, I could see all the photos were of the same style of gown. So when I saw it on the rack, I thought, 'That's it!' The moment I tried it on, I knew it was the one."
Twins Sienna and Cosette also wore white dresses, made of tulle and lace, that Sarah found on the internet. They were accessorised with handcrafted Bloom and Vivid flower crowns made by Robyn Hart, wife of billionaire businessman Graeme Hart.
The adorable girls can toddle on their own but were carried down the aisle by bridesmaids Sheree Ricketts and Jade Silvester. "We thought it was a good idea because Cosette likes to pivot and wander off and I think she would have tried to walk away to the park," laughs Sarah.
But Brando took his role of ring bearer very seriously. The rings, custom-made by Auckland jewellers Naveya & Sloane, feature "secret sparks" – little gemstones hidden on the inside of the bands. Brando got to choose the colours, and Sam and Sarah's rings each have one blue and two pink "sparks", representing the children.
"It means we always carry our kids with us," tells Sam.
Brando knew the wedding was an important event and was on his best behaviour. "He was very proud to be dressed up and I couldn't get over how cute our kids were," says the doting dad. "And none of them pooed, which was a very good thing!"
One of the most moving moments of the day was when the couple read out the vows they'd written. "I knew Sammy's would be brilliant because he's so good with words," says Sarah. "And they were amazing."
Her husband's vows included the heartfelt words, "Today I hold the hand of the girl who has grown into the mother of my children. I'm blown away by your strength and compassion. And it's the only hand I want to hold until the day I no longer have the strength to squeeze it."
Sam, who reveals he was in tears several times during the ceremony, shares, "We turned the vows into a bit of a writing competition and I think Sarah won – nobody cried at mine but they all did at Sarah's."
It was Sarah's turn to be overcome during the reception when her new husband gave an off-the-cuff speech. "I knew he was going to give the traditional groom's speech thanking people, which he did, but then he started talking about how I make him feel and it was just beautiful," she says.
Enthuses Sam, "She's just so super-warm and it gives me the confidence to carry on."
The day culminated in a fun-filled reception that was MCed by Sam's groomsman James L'Estrange, with music provided by musician Phil Madsen, accompanied by Jarrad Lee – and broadcaster Laura McGoldrick. "Every party we go to, she kicks the musician out of the way, grabs the microphone and sings Valerie [by Amy Winehouse]. She was on good form," recalls Sam.
There were quite a few famous faces among the guests, and Sam has no hesitation in spilling the beans on how they let their hair down.
"Let's talk about who was the best and worst behaved," he says. "Jase was busting out some of the most sensational dad moves you have ever seen on the dance floor. Toni was pretty wild too. But the loosest man on the dance floor was [Olympic gold medal winning rower] Eric Murray. It's like he had to lead such a strict life for such a long time that now he's retired, he's making up for lost time!"
Other guests included former Breakfast host Rawdon Christie, Laura and her Black Caps cricketer husband Martin Guptill, ex-Tall Black basketballer Kirk Penney, who was one of Sam's groomsmen, and boxing champion Shane Cameron, who was runner-up to Sam on Celebrity Treasure Island. The bridal party also included Toni as one of Sam's groomsmen.
"It could have all gone wrong, but it was just monumental, the greatest day ever," concludes Sam.
"I keep using the word magical, but that's how it was," adds Sarah. "It was just magic, from the moment we woke up, right through to the end of the day. I will remember it for the rest of my life."
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