Woman’s Day winners Madelein and Jan renew their vows celebrating life and love

After a gruelling cancer battle, Madelein and her hubby Jan celebrated life on Valentine’s Day
Madelein and Jan Nieuwoudt renew their vows

When Madelein Nieuwoudt went shopping for the perfect dress to wear on her Valentine’s Day vow renewal, she had a very specific gown in mind.

“I wanted a short, pink dress that had lace around the shoulders to cover up my scars and radiation burns,” says the brave breast cancer survivor.

“But I ended up getting the opposite! I decided I was going to show my warrior scars and show what cancer is all about. This vow renewal was about celebrating life and celebrating love. I got my dream dress, a princess-cut, poofy white dress that shows all my scars!”

Madelein, Jan, their two kids and Captain Holland

Madelein, 40, was over the moon when she won a Woman’s Day competition to renew her vows to soulmate Jan, 44, in a gorgeous ceremony held on the Royal Princess cruise ship.

It’s been a tough time for the Auckland primary school teacher, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in May last year and underwent a partial mastectomy. Unfortunately, the procedure didn’t get all
of the cancer, so she had a second surgery where the lymph nodes under her left arm were also removed.

“That time, they got everything,” shares Madelein, who is mum to Luca, 11, and eight-year-old Ruan. “As a precaution, I had to undergo months of chemotherapy. After that, I had a two-and-a-half-week break, then I had radiation for a month. That finished at the end of January, so this is the perfect time for a celebration!”

The newlyweds with sons Luca (left) and Ruan
“Aye-aye, Captain Holland, we do!” The newlyweds with sons Luca (left) and Ruan.

Wiping away tears, the beautiful bride says a silver lining of her illness was the bond between her and her husband grew even stronger.

“We’re such a great team and you can’t imagine that your love will grow any deeper, but then something like this happens! Our love is just so much more meaningful now, not only between me and Jan, but also between me and the boys.”

Madelein and Jan on the Royal Princess
‘I decided I was going to show my warrior scars’

Madelein says she knew her husband was The One very early on in their relationship.

“We were introduced to each other at a dance in Cape Town,” she tells. “I just locked eyes with this kind, gentle farmer. That was in September 2004. On New Year’s Eve, my brother called from Vietnam and I said to him, ‘I’ve met my future husband.’”

The besotted couple tied the knot in 2008. “It was a magical wedding,” Madelein recalls. “We wanted a place where everyone could dance, so we got married on a farm in Klapmuts with a big shed. It was beautiful, fun and joyful. There was so much love.”

Madelein and Jan first wed in 2008.
Madelein and Jan first wed in 2008.

The pair moved to New Zealand in 2018 and settled in East Auckland, where they’ve made new friends, including the ones who excitedly gather around them as they renew their vows 16 years after they first wed.

“I feel truly blessed,” says Madelein as she prepares to walk down the aisle. “When we moved here, there were so many people who embraced us. These angels supported us when we needed them the most. My work has been incredible as well. They’re like my family. They even threw me a little bachelorette party on Saturday!”

Jan, who is standing on ship’s deck with his sons, is overwhelmed when he turns and sees Madelein.

Madelein and Jan cutting their wedding cake.
Madelein and Jan cutting their wedding cake.

“She just looks so beautiful,” he says. “It reminds me of 16 years ago. She has the most incredible smile and is the most positive person. It’s very special. We’ve had some big challenges, but we’re very fortunate. And to have our friends here supporting us, it just makes it so much more special.”

Both Madelein and Jan are emotional as Royal Princess’ Captain Steve Holland officiates, and very few people have dry eyes when the crew lets loose with confetti guns to conclude the ceremony.

“It’s been perfect,” gushes Madelein. “Jan means the world to me. He’s such a great dad. He’s everything.

If there was a list, he would tick every box!”

Princess Perfect Weddings

Royal Princess cruise ship

Celebrate your love at sea with Princess Perfect Wedding packages. Princess Cruises is the original Love Boat, so there’s no better way to mark your romantic milestone.

Princess Cruises offers ceremony packages suitable for everyone, including legal and symbolic weddings, renewal of vows and proposal packages. Whether exciting and new, or tried and true, it’s love! Create your dream, bespoke experience with Princess’ dedicated wedding specialists.

Legal ceremonies are performed by the captain at sea while in international waters and as Princess ships are Bermuda flagged, marriage licences are secured through the Bermudian government. The captain will also perform all symbolic ceremonies and renewals of vows onboard as couples reaffirm their commitment to one another. Choose the package right for you, with options for an intimate ceremony for just the couple or bring more guests for a large ceremony and cocktail reception.

Packages can include everything from a dream-worthy wedding venue, fresh florals and bouquets, spa treatments, a cocktail reception with canapés, live musicians, custom wedding cakes, photography and more.

Getting married at sea onboard a Princess cruise ship is an affordable option with prices ranging from $4800 to $10,600 (subject to change and conversion rates from US$ to NZ$ at time of booking).

For more info, visit

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