All Black Ardie Savea’s Fijian fairytale wedding as he marries his childhood sweetheart Saskia

''I can't explain it, but she looked amazing and I may have dropped a tear or two – all my groomsmen did too! ''
Ardie Savea wedding Saskia Hartmann-Hechenberger

With his baby daughter Kobe in his arms, and his brother and former teammate Julian by his side as best man, emotional All Black hero Ardie Savea couldn’t help but well up as he watched his beautiful bride and high school sweetheart Saskia Hartmann-Hechenberger emerge on to a Fijian beach in a fairytale white gown.

“She just looked perfect,” Ardie, 25, tells Woman’s Day. “I can’t explain it, but she looked amazing and I may have dropped a tear or two – all my groomsmen did too! It was such a beautiful moment to see her walk down the aisle with her mum.

“What made it more special was when Kobe recognised her coming, pointed and said, ‘Mama!’ Plus Julian had his little girl Jude, and his other daughter Cora was standing next to the bridesmaids, so it was perfect.”

“FIt was such a beautiful moment to see her walk down the aisle.” Photo: Hollow Creative

Meanwhile, in her stunning ivory-coloured, mermaid-shaped French lace gown designed by Jane Yeh, Saskia, 24, was tightly clutching her bouquet of white orchids and avoiding eye contact in an attempt to contain the tears that started flowing as soon as the local band began playing Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect”.

“It’s quite meaningful for our relationship – like the line where he says, ‘We were just kids when we fell in love,'” explains Ardie, joking that he was planning to sing Saskia down the aisle himself.

“He thinks he can sing – can you imagine?!” laughs the bride, who has supported the athlete through a whirlwind rugby career, which saw him make his debut for Wellington at age 18, then join the Hurricanes, before making his All Blacks debut in 2016.

Despite a stressful morning, in which forecast thunder-storms threatened to move the dream beachside nuptials indoors at the Sheraton Fiji Resort in Nadi, the two recited their vows as the sun shone down, with one-year-old Kobe watching on in a cute Zara dress.

The stunning bride wore a French lace gown by Jane Yeh Photo: Hollow Creative

Ardie, who looked dapper in a beachy Barkers jacket and shorts, then slipped an elegant diamond band by Village Goldsmith onto Saskia’s finger and the Wellington pair were pronounced Mr and Mrs Savea.

The festivities continued with a seaside reception, where guests including Hurricanes player Chris Eves enjoyed canapes, coconut-rum cocktails and a buffet dinner.

After the newlyweds cut their chocolate mud and vanilla sponge cake, Ardie and Saskia’s parents entertained the crowd with speeches, as did his former All Black brother Julian, who offered simple words of wisdom from his marriage.

“If there’s one thing that you need to know, it’s that Sas is always right – no matter what,” joked the French-based player, who’d flown in from Toulon with his wife Fatima, their daughter Jude, who was born two days before her cousin Kobe, and Cora, his daughter from a previous relationship.

However, the highlight of the reception was when Saskia surprised guests with a traditional Samoan dance, taught to her by one of Ardie’s best mates shortly before the big day.

“It was beautiful,” says Ardie proudly. “She surprised a lot of my family with that. Dancing, especially in front of people, is totally out of Sas’ comfort zone, so it was just amazing having her do it.”

The pair then enjoyed their first dance as a married couple to Christina Perri’s romantic “A Thousand Years”, although it’s still Saskia’s arrival song, “Perfect”, that best reflects the pair’s love story, which started in high school. “Perfect” is also the word they use to describe the timing of their nuptials.

Saskia surprised her new husband with a traditional Samoan dance Photo: Hollow Creative

While Ardie casually proposed shortly after Kobe’s birth, the two have reached a whole new level in their relationship, largely due to Ardie’s growing efforts to defy traditional masculinity and open up fully about his emotions.

“As a male and a rugby guy, I found it hard to talk about or share my feelings with Sas,” Ardie explains.

“I put up a brick wall and it probably wasn’t helping our relationship or making Sas happy. But then when Kobe came along, it was a wake-up call. Ever since, I’m more open and I can talk to Sas about feelings.

“Even though I feel really vulnerable and it’s uncomfortable at times, I’ve seen that it’s made my relationship grow to another level. Especially in the last couple of months, we’re really finding out about ourselves and understanding each other more.”

“It’s a male thing,” adds Saskia, who has a Bachelor of Commerce in Management, Economics and Criminology.

“It’s that old-school masculinity where you have to ‘be a man’ and not talk about things. As a woman, I got aggravated at times because it’s like, ‘Just talk to me. Tell me how you’re feeling!’ So this has definitely helped and we’re probably the best we’ve ever been. It emphasises that now’s the perfect time to get married.”

The wedding party included baby Kobe, Ardie’s brother Julian, wife Fatima, his eldest daughter Cora and baby girl Jude Photo: Hollow Creative

After nearly a decade together, Saskia says the wedding was “a long time coming”, but it was always on the cards for the couple, who both admired their parents’ strong marriages. Although her father sadly passed away when she was seven, he had such a strong “old-school, true love” for his wife Bianca.

Meanwhile, Ardie credits his Samoan-born parents Masina and Lina for constantly showing love and compassion to him and Julian while growing up.

Asked how marriage will change their relationship, the rugby star replies, “It probably won’t happen. Hopefully, we remember it’s just a title and we can continue to be the same as we have for the past 10 years.”

As well as being parents, the couple are kept busy running the sportsman’s year-old label Ardie Savea Clothing, with him focusing on fashion and Saskia handling the business side of things. But already there’s talk of expanding their adorable family.

“Kobe will be a big girl soon and fingers crossed Sas wants another one!” grins Ardie.

“He would love lots and lots and lots of kids,” adds Saskia. “Having one is enough at the moment, but we’ll definitely have one more.”

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