Acting super-couple Acushla-Tara Kupe and Paul Waggott's dream wedding

The couple tied the knot in an emotional day full of tears and laughter.

By Fleur Guthrie
Over the course of their nine-year relationship, actors Acushla-Tara Kupe and Paul Waggott have always relished the quiet moments with each other.
So on the morning of their wedding day – mere hours after election night and an All Blacks win, when most of the country needed a cup of tea and a lie-down – the chilled-out pair snuck off to their local café to do a crossword over brunch.
Acushla-Tara's sister Melissa was the celebrant.
Acushla-Tara – who has starred in the TVNZ+ crime drama The Gone, Under The Vines and even an episode of The Crown – recalls, "When we walked in, everyone was a bit surprised, like, 'Aren't you getting married today?' But we just said, 'Yeah, a bit later!'"
After spying his gorgeous bride, Paul says, "I wept like a leaky tap."
Chatting to Woman's Day the day after saying "I do", the newlyweds are joyfully still in the afterglow of their sentimental, fun and simply "perfect" ceremony. "Is there a word better than 'perfect', honey?" asks a beaming Acushla-Tara, 32, turning to her new husband.
"Dream-like?" suggests Paul, 35, who recently appeared on Shortland Street. "You know how you dream about the day and what you want it to be, then it's even better than that?"
The couple kept their vows secret from each other till the big day.
The couple had been picturing a day full of love and laughter, shared with 65 of their closest family and friends, since they got engaged in 2020. British-born Paul says the highlight was seeing his bride in her "spectacular" wedding dress as they took their first-look photos.
"My best man, Sam Hallahan, left me alone for the big reveal while I faced the other direction, then Cush tapped me on the shoulder," he recalls. "I turned around, took a deep breath and immediately burst into tears.
Sealed with a kiss!
I was just flabbergasted and filled with joy. Cush looked so beautiful. I wept like a leaky tap from then on!"
Acushla-Tara bought her exquisite Rue De Seine lace gown – a halter-neck design with an open back – from Auckland's Paperswan Bride only three months ago. There was one element of the dress she wasn't fussed on, though, causing her to channel her inner "Acushla Scissorhands".
"Yeah, I took my scissors to it," she laughs. "The dress had tassels in a V-shape down the front and back, which I didn't want, so I cut them off. But I cut a bit too fast!" So two days before the wedding,
Acushla-Tara found herself sitting on the couch with a sewing needle, stitching up a tiny hole in the front.
"I was very calm about the situation, actually. I thought, 'It's fine – no one will notice."
And no one did. Heading to their 5.30pm ceremony at The Glasshouse venue in Morningside, Auckland, the stunning actress exuded Hollywood glamour as she waited to enter on the arm of her mum Linda. Patrons at the pub next door gasped as they caught a glimpse.
Acushla-Tara giggles, "Someone shouted, 'There's a bride!', and suddenly all the people who were in the bar shuffled over and became my own little hype squad, wishing me luck before I walked down the aisle."
As the doors opened, she saw her smiling groom waiting under a floating arch of Colombian roses and harakeke, beautifully designed by Carol at Branch and Bloom. Then the romantic song The Vow by Irish singer RuthAnne began to play, its heartfelt lyrics causing guests to wipe away tears.
"We picked the song because it was nice to bring a whakapapa that Paul and I both share to Ireland into our ceremony," explains Acushla-Tara. "Paul's mother grew up in South Dublin and my great-grandmother was from County Carlow."
Raised in Taranaki and of Ngāti Maniapoto descent, the actress is one of nine children and a third of the first set of IVF triplets to ever be born in Aotearoa. She chose not to have a bridal party as she wanted to include everyone.
Her sister Melissa Simchowitz, a sign language interpreter and celebrant, conducted the legal part of the ceremony, and gained laughs by addressing the couple as Diana Huia (Acushla's character in The Gone) and Thaddeus Fleiss (Paul's recent role on Shorty). The rest of the ceremony was taken by their comedian friend and fellow actor Jess Loudon, who plays Beth Haines in The Brokenwood Mysteries.
Holding hands and gazing into each other's eyes, it's through laughter and tears that the couple exchanged their deeply personal vows, which they chose to voice privately so guests couldn't hear. Paul tells, "Sharing our vows only with each other was like a gorgeous little oasis just for ourselves in the midst of everything."
Acushla-Tara adds, "We kept our vows a surprise for each other too and yet they were really similar – except mine were three times as long as his!"
Acknowledging lost loved ones also played a part in their heartfelt ceremony. Resting on a handmade lambswool blanket with a kākahu design were framed photos of people they wished could be there with them.
"Before the ceremony, my mum gave me a little leather coin pouch with the words 'good luck' on the front," tells Acushla-Tara. "Apparently it's an old wedding tradition and it only holds one coin.
"Mum had put a coin from 2014 in it – the year Paul and I got together. That pouch was given to her mum, my nana, when she got married. Nana's now passed away and I was incredibly close to her, so I was very touched to receive it.
"Another beautiful gift was a cutlery set from my late Nana and Poppa. They'd bought my sister Chelsea a cutlery set as a wedding present 11 years ago, but because we were triplets, Nana bought two more for when Melissa and I got married."
In a nod to their shared Irish heritage, the cake was Guinness and chocolate flavoured.
Speaking through tears, Acushla-Tara continues, "It was so emotional opening it, knowing they bought that such a long time ago and it's the last gift I'll ever get from them. When I was in my phase of being like, 'I'm never getting married!', in the back of my mind, I did think, 'Oh, I'm never getting that cutlery!'"
The couple's signature humour was evident in their exchanging of "precious" rings. Before Acushla-Tara went to place Paul's ring on his finger, she said, "I want everyone to know that Paul is very excited to enter his Gollum era."
In detective mode with The Gone co-star Richard Flood.
Meanwhile, she is so enamoured with her Village Goldsmith-designed engagement ring, which features a peach-coloured morganite gem with a koru, that she didn't want a wedding ring.
The day culminated in a fun-filled reception, where the bride's family surprised the newlyweds with "one of the most moving moments of the day".
Acushla-Tara tells, "My siblings got up and Melissa did a pao [impromptu call] speaking of the support they were giving our union. After a very meaningful speech, they then sung us a waiata, before being joined by my cousin and my brothers' mum to perform two beautiful haka. We weren't expecting that!"
While guests tucked into a decadent Guinness chocolate wedding cake created by Vicki Eats, most were unaware that Acushla-Tara was wearing a knee brace under her dress and had changed out of her stilettos into sneakers. A knee injury meant there was no first dance.
But with hearts sealed and their cheeks in pain from smiling so much, the loved-up pair have excitedly headed off to Te Aroha for a postnuptial holiday. The actress grins, "It might not be top of most people's lists as a honeymoon destination, but because of its place in The Gone, it became a significant part of my life.
"We're going to soak in the mineral pools, and do the local pub quiz with my auntie and uncle. I wanted to climb the maunga, but that's not going to happen now because of my knee. But Paul can gallantly carry his new wife up there on his back, right, honey?"
Like any good husband, Paul nods enthusiastically and quips he'll do anything for "the love of my life". He concludes, "Committing to Cush and celebrating our love is so restorative. It's everything I could've dreamt of, really. Being married to her is the best feeling in the world."
Photography: Valo Photo & Cinema,
Hair & makeup: Laura King, Claudia Rodrigues
Dress: Paperswan Bridal Boutique,
Jewellery: Lulu's Collective,
Flowers: Branch and Bloom,
Confetti: Inkberry Calligraphy,
Cake: Vicki Eats, @vickieats
  • undefined: Fleur Guthrie