As he's watching his beautiful bride Hanna Tevita make her way up the aisle towards him, All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder is tearing up.
"I was so blown away, my stomach just dropped and I was gobsmacked," he gushes afterwards. "She's so beautiful."
But as soon as Hanna reaches him, Nehe forgets the long-held traditional order of weddings and leans in for a tender kiss.
"I didn't realise you weren't supposed to," he says with a cheeky smile. "I couldn't help it, she just looked so beautiful."
"And I'm like, not yet!" laughs Hanna. "That part comes later!"
"Ooops," he shrugs. "I jumped the gun a bit!"
It's been seven years since Hanna and Nehe first met at a bar in Palmerston North, and their love story, a tale of two opposites attracting, began.
"I don't think either of us thought then that we'd be together for the rest of our lives!" laughs bubbly Hanna, who recently graduated law school and is now practising in Wellington.
She also acts – she starred opposite Temuera Morrison as his daughter in the local flick Fresh Meat.
"We were so young when we met – but then it was soon clear that this would be a forever thing. And here we are!"
And Nehe – the talented, humble former All Black and proud Hurricane, who looks set to play in France next year, looks like all of his Christmases have come at once as he bustles around on the morning of his wedding.
It's a gorgeous day in Tauranga, the perfect middle spot for Nehe's East Coast whanau and Hanna's Wellington family to converge for the couple's special day.
With the weather defying all stormy forecasts, the hot spring sun is beaming down as Hanna, 25, begins her preparations with her four bridesmaids, Sophie Gorrie, Danielle Warren, Caity Kerehoma and Emma Tevita, and four of her other best girlfriends, just five minutes down the road from their stunning venue, Black Walnut.
There, Nehe's also getting ready with his boys, Eru Milner-Skudder, Jason Temara, Bronson Marshall and Otere Black.
"We're just having a few beers, but now I just want to hurry up and get ready!" tells Nehe. "I'm trying to find stuff to do now; it's only when I don't have anything to do that I'm starting to get a bit nervous – are my vows all sussed, is my suit ready…
"But I can't wait for the time when we can call each other husband and wife – it's never been something that we've thought about too much. But now I'm so excited."
Meanwhile, thanks to a few champagnes, Hanna's cool, calm and collected as her bridesmaids help her into her stunning Trish Peng custom gown. The dress, in classic white crepe with a modern straight neckline and dramatic side mesh cut-outs, is breathtaking – as is the bride as she clips in her six-metre long cathedral-length veil.
"It's completely different than what I thought I wanted," she nods.
"I wanted a long-sleeved, fully beaded dress, but when I started working with Trish, she was able to capture my design. We couldn't decide between a straight neck or a cowl, so we made another dress that I'll put on at the reception with a cowl neck, in a satin/silk blend."
Finally, it's time for the short drive to Black Walnut, where Nehe, 28, looking dapper in a custom-made Barkers suit, is anxiously waiting for his bride in front of 125 of their closest family and friends, including his All Black teammate Ardie Savea, 26.
"I never thought we'd have this many people – and then I remembered I'm half Samoan," jokes Hanna later.
"Man, I was so nervous, my heart was pumping," admits Nehe.
"Honestly, it was only five or 10 minutes, but it felt like an hour. I just wanted to get this show on the road. It was way worse than before a rugby game. This threw me so much more – it was the unknown. I'd never had these feelings before."
At 3.15pm – a whole 15 minutes ahead of schedule, in what must be a first for a bride – Kiwi musician and friend of the bride and groom Louis Baker soulfully sings the opening strains of Sam Smith's "Latch", and the bridesmaids pile out of two black and white Range Rovers.
"I was too excited!" Hanna says. "I just wanted to get down there; I was chill. I don't know what it was. I wasn't that nervous. Let's do it!"
With the adorable flower girls – Nehe and Hanna's nieces Te Atakura, Wairangi, Atiria and Amelie – leading the way, followed by the bridesmaids in elegant Shona Joy slip dresses, Hanna emerges on the arm of her proud dad Esau Tevita.
"I was so happy walking down that aisle," she tells. "I was just so, so happy."
The pair's celebrant Pale Sauni welcomes the guests, before inviting Hanna's cousin Phoebe Prescott to deliver the reading "On Marriage", by Kahlil Gibran.
"Love one another, but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup," she recites, to knowing smiles from the bride and groom.
Finally, it's time for the vows, which the happy couple have written themselves, and for Hanna, this is when the nerves kick in.
Hanna promises Nehe – or Neheneens, or Neens, as she likes to call him – her love. "People like to point out that we're opposites for that whole notion that they attract, and I agree to a certain extent.
"People would describe you as an introvert, kind, caring and reserved, while people would describe me as an extrovert – some would say loud – but I prefer passionate, expressive, animated. But one thing we have in common is that we both love fiercely … when we do it, we do it wholeheartedly.
"I choose to love you, I wake up every morning and choose to love you, to do life with you, to support me. And you choose to love me too, and I thank you for that. I genuinely feel like I'm the luckiest girl in the world to be loved by you."
Then Nehe promises Hanna his everlasting devotion, loyalty, respect and unconditional love for a lifetime.
"Hanna, you've captivated me, motivated me, you've surprised me, inspired me, and you've also challenged me like no human being ever has. In you, I have finally found all I ever dared to dream was possible, that I deserved, or have."
And with the exchanging of their Culet wedding bands, Nehe and Hanna are proclaimed husband and wife – and Nehe finally gets to properly kiss his bride before walking back up the aisle as a married couple to Louis singing the Diana Ross hit "Ain't No Mountain High Enough".
"Walking down together was my favourite part – it was the best feeling," says Hanna with a smile.
After some quick photos and a dress change for Hanna, it's time for the laid-back reception in Black Walnut's impressive glass house. Normally a wet-weather back-up location for couples tying the knot, Hanna begged the venue to let her host the party in the gorgeous building.
"We're the first ones to do it," she says happily, entering the glasshouse through a spectacular light tunnel, made with metres and metres of fairy lights.
It's a true multicultural extravaganza – Hanna's Siva Samoa performance doubles as the newlyweds' first dance when Nehe joins in, and the rugby star is treated to a moving haka by family.
"That was a really special moment for both of us," he tells.
Adds Hanna, "We took a minute to sit down at the reception and look at each other. We both couldn't believe we were married – we'd done it, and everyone we loved was sitting in front of us. It was the best day of our lives!"
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