She's an in-demand Hollywood actress, but Anna Hutchison spent the week before her wedding working as a tour guide, showing her Los Angeles-based friends and her Boston-born groom's family around some of the most stunning parts of Aotearoa.
The tribe of travellers went caving in Waitomo, jet-boating in Taupo, bathed in hot springs in Rotorua and hiked out to Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel. "We figured if we were asking people to come all this way, we had to show them the absolute magic of New Zealand," grins the former Shortland Street and Go Girls star, who was born in Auckland but now lives in LA.
"It's been such a rad week. I've never been more proud to be a Kiwi."
However, Anna, 32, and her husband-to-be, talent manager and film producer Mike Gillespie, 36, have saved the best spot for last – scenic Mudbrick Vineyard on Waiheke Island, where they're set to tie the knot on a hilltop overlooking Auckland City and the Hauraki Gulf.
The pair planned to exchange vows outdoors, but steady rain sees the 80 guests instead gather inside the winery's luxurious lodge to watch Anna walk down the aisle in a gorgeous silk fishtail gown by Ines Di Santo, to the tune of Ed Sheeran's Tenerife Sea.
After the ceremony, she tells Woman's Day, "I've played a bride a couple of times on film and TV, and worn the most amazing made-to-measure costumes in shows like Spartacus and Legend of the Seeker, so I felt very relaxed about everything, but as soon as I saw Mike, the emotion hit me."
And Anna's groom is similarly overcome. "She looked so beautiful, it put tears in my eyes," Mike later recalls. "I was feeling fine as I waited, but when I saw her, I got very emotional."
Under an arch decorated with white roses and olive branches, the celebrant, former Shortland Street actress Jacqueline Nairn, who has known the bride since they starred in a play together 15 years ago, says of the couple, "How much they laugh together is inspirational – it's the love that everyone aspires to have."
And sure enough, the bride and groom, who met while making a movie in Melbourne in 2012, are giggling and whispering words of love in each other's ears as Jacquie goes on to describe how Mike took Anna by surprise when he popped the question last year, on a decidedly unglamorous, rainy evening in Paris, while she was wearing a puffer jacket and he was in a holey shirt.
In his self-penned vows, Mike promises, "I vow to always be by your side to protect you, to always give you the first sip of my coffee. I promise to always love you, hold you, kiss you and be with you forever – and I vow the rain will go away! I vow we'll be together forever. I love you."
Anna, her voice breaking as she struggles to hold back tears, replies, "I'll love you forever. I promise to be faithful, loyal and always support you. I promise to always be encouraging and loving."
The couple then swap rings – a diamond band for Anna and one made from a meteorite for Mike – with both declaring, "I will cherish you, I will respect you and I will love you with all my heart."
Once pronounced husband and wife, the couple share a lingering kiss and suddenly Mike's vow is realised. The rain that has been falling all day finally lifts and the lovebirds walk back up the aisle to Stevie Wonder's classic Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours, showered with white rose petals by their guests.
After having photos taken amid the vines, splashing mud on the train of her dress in the process, Anna grins, "Every single part of today has just been so magical. Even the rain made it feel so much more intimate, with all of us gathered under one roof.
"And now it's gone away, we can celebrate outside, but it wouldn't matter if it was still teeming down – the whole point of our wedding day was just to proclaim our love in front of our loved ones and I couldn't ask for more than that."
Nodding, her new husband adds, "It was the most beautiful ceremony and we were having a good time up there but also speaking from the heart. Now we're enjoying the gorgeous scenery with all our friends and family from Boston, LA and New Zealand. It's perfect."
Having flown from California with her boyfriend Josh Edwards for the wedding, Funny Girls star Kimberley Crossman tells us, "As soon as Anna walked in, I felt really teary. I'm just so happy she's found her person. She's been such a great confidante and ally for me in LA, and it's so much fun being her friend."Radio star Dominic Harvey adds, "Anna looks so radiant and beautiful, and it means a lot for me to be here. She's a great friend from way back, ever since she came in to do an interview when she was Delphi on Shortland Street, and we've done a few runs together, so it's wonderful to be a part of her day."
As the sunset turns the sky a fiery fuchsia, everyone heads down to the vineyard's restaurant, where they dine on beef, lamb, kingfish and scallops, followed by wedding cake filled with Anna's favourite Anathoth Farm raspberry jam and slathered in cream-cheese icing.
"Basically, every single yummy thing New Zealand has to offer is on the menu," tells Anna.
"Mike and I are both obsessed with the food here, and I've had so much fun tasting cakes over the past year – I swear it's the key to stress-free wedding planning."
After dancing late into the night, the newlyweds head off on honeymoon, where they'll sail a yacht around Queensland's Whitsunday Islands, with a bonus few days in Byron Bay. Their next step, Anna hopes, will be starting a family.
She enthuses, "I've wanted to be a mum for years, so hopefully we're able to have little bubbas. That would be so wonderful."
But for now, Anna grins, "Just being married is fantastic. I'm so fortunate to have found someone who makes my days better, more fun and more colourful, who supports me and encourages me in everything I do. I couldn't be more excited about growing old with Mike. He's the perfect person for me and it's a treat to go through life together with him."
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Woman's DayAug 18, 2019