Four years ago, Art Green took a chance on love. Desperate to meet his special someone, he signed on to New Zealand's first-ever season of The Bachelor, a spontaneous decision that would prove to make him the happiest man alive.
Had it not been for that reality show, the handsome star might never have met Matilda Rice, his soulmate, his constant, his closest friend and on this day, on the sandy shores of Waiheke Island, finally his breathtaking beach bride.
It's a stunning sunny afternoon at the lazy seaside spot where Art and Matilda are preparing to exchange their vows. More than 100 of their closest family and friends have turned out to witness the romantic event, but it's the presence of one unexpected guest that has given the couple their true fairytale ending.
While only the most eagle-eyed among us might spot the teeniest of bumps under Matilda's elegant Trish Peng gown, the delicate folds of the slim-fitting silk fabric are hiding an incredibly special secret.
"We're having a baby!" Matilda reveals as she runs a maternal hand over her tummy just moments before walking down the aisle.
"Art and I are absolutely over the moon. We always knew we wanted to start a family, but never imagined we'd be lucky enough to share our special day with our wee son or daughter. It's truly so special to have all three of us here."
Their exciting news, which will be shared with their guests later in the evening, makes the couple's big day just that much more special, and the emotion between Art and Matilda is virtually overflowing.
Watch: Art and Matilda's love story. Article continues below.
"Today, not only do I marry my best friend, but also the mother of our baby – I must be the luckiest man alive," gushes Art, 30. "We can't wait to tell our little one how they were such a special part of Mum and Dad's perfect wedding day."
It's only fitting that the easy-going pair have chosen to wed on scenic Waiheke Island, the place where Matilda, 28, grew up and developed her enduring love of the ocean.
When it came to scouting for the dream venue, the couple's only non-negotiable was a waterfront setting, so when they happened across Oakura Bay, a secluded slice of heaven, they fell instantly in love.
It's here, looking out at the dazzling, sun-kissed Hauraki Gulf, speckled with boats and framed by a rugged green coastline, that Matilda's day begins.
Surrounded by her bridesmaids – big sister Chloe Rice, Art's sister Emily Hlavac Green, and her besties Georgie Thomas, Steph Brown, Steph Smith and Kelsey Baker – Matilda is as relaxed as ever as she prepares for her big moment.
With the temperature a scorching 27 degrees, the bridal party – dressed in matching breezy, silk gowns – have parked themselves on the shaded porch, where they are enjoying fresh fruit and strong coffee.
"I was prepared to be a bundle of nerves, but I couldn't feel more at ease right now," smiles Matilda. "It's already been the best day, surrounded by my favourite girls laughing, reminiscing and doing face masks. The anticipation is killing me – I just can't wait to see Art."
Indeed, excitement is reaching fever pitch as planners, caterers and florists dart about the venue, putting the final touches on their modern beach wedding.
By the water, draped in Italian linen, and adorned with delicate lilac and white lullaby roses, stands the arch where Art and Matilda will say "I do".
Inspired by the natural surroundings, charming cane daybeds with plump white cushions dot the shoreline, leading to an impressive, glamping-style tepee by Gypsy and Co, which awaits guests to later dance the night away at the twilight reception.
Within its walls, no-one is more frantic than the team of florists from The Little Flower Shop, who've had to source hundreds of beautiful blooms and dried lavender the day after Valentine's Day.
"Honestly, the reason I've remained so Zen throughout is because of our wedding planner Sophia, who's taken all the hard work out of it," explains Matilda.
"Today is about love, not logistics – and Art and I were determined to keep it that way."
Meanwhile, Art and his groomsmen – a collection of his closest buddies from school, Matt Simms, Alex McGregor, Dave Morrison and best man David Slack – have been chilling out at a nearby villa.
An early-morning dip followed by a hearty Paleo brekkie, as well as some good-old fashioned ribbing from Art's buddies about his questionably high-waisted Working Style suit pants, has filled the morning.
But the calm nearly turns chaotic when an excitable Art arrives at the venue ahead of schedule, very nearly spoiling the surprise of clocking Matilda in her exquisite custom-made dress, which features a low back and glamorous cowl neck, revealing a string of precious pearls gifted to her by her grandmother.
As the Black Quartet musicians ready their instruments, the first beats of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven cue the bridesmaids to begin their walk down the aisle.
One by one, Matilda's besties – dressed in a complementary mix of ivory, purple and stone – make their way towards a nervous Art, who's looking handsome in his hopsack wool suit jacket and beach-ready espadrilles.
At the sight of his sister Emily, Art's eyes well up and then the tears fall as Matilda makes her debut on the arm of her proud father Ken. Clutching her bouquet of dried lavender and flashing her infectious grin, she's the most exquisite bride.
"I'm amazed I held it together as well as I did," an emotional Art later tells us. "As soon as I saw her, I felt my quivering bottom lip go and then the waterworks were all on. I was in absolute awe of how incredibly beautiful she looked coming towards me, and I just felt this intense rush of happiness and pure joy like I've never experienced before."
At the altar, Art clasps Matilda's hands in his, steadies himself with three giant breaths and whispers softly to his bride, "I love you so much."
Following a reading by Art's grandfather Dick Hlavac, the couple pledge their heartfelt vows, both united in their promise to always love, cherish and value each other, and commit to a life full of fun and laughter.
"I never knew true love until I met you," Matilda begins, pausing between sobs. "I know our love is special because of the way you make me feel each and every day – relaxed, safe, unbelievably content, happy in my own skin just as I am and as if I can take on anything that comes my way.
"I promise to always cherish our family, to respect you and your needs, and to love everything about you. And most importantly, I solemnly swear to never schedule a dinner that starts after 7.30pm as I know how much you hate that."
When the laughter dies down, Art blinks back tears and vows, "Matty, you make me feel like the luckiest man alive because every day when I open my eyes, your little face is the first thing I see.
"You're intelligent, funny and beautiful in more ways than the word has meaning, and you've shown me a warm love that I didn't know could exist. Matty, you're my world and the thought of spending the rest of my life with you makes me happy beyond words. I love you so much."
Finally, after exchanging their wedding bands, designed by Art's cousin Libby, of Libby's Fine Jewellery, the celebrant pronounces Art and Matilda husband and wife, and the two share a sweet kiss.
It's an amazing climax to their enduring love story, which began in 2015, when Art, the dreamboat gym junkie, debuted on The Bachelor NZ, baring his heart and soul on national TV in the hopes of finding his dream girl.
Of the 21 Bachelorettes vying for his love, one woman struck the Bachelor as someone special. "Her smile gave me goosebumps," recalls Art of meeting Matilda in that very first episode of the matchmaking show.
Their chemistry was electric – and viewers at home noticed it too. While the show would go on to see the Bachelor build connections with other hopefuls on a series of weird and wonderful dates, his heart always belonged to Matilda.
"I'm forever indebted to The Bachelor for bringing me Matty," smiles Art. "There's a great chance we might never have met otherwise – we didn't mix in the same circles or have any mutual friends.
"When I went on the show, I did so with an open heart and open mind. There was always the chance it wouldn't work out, but the optimist in me hoped I'd find my forever person, the one I could build a beautiful life and start a family with. Falling in love with Matty is more than I could've ever hoped for."
In the four years since the show's finale, Kiwis have been captivated by the relationship, which has gone from strength to strength. The cute couple went "Instagram official" as soon as the series wrapped and skipped the country shortly afterwards for a week of romance in Rarotonga.
"We look back on that holiday with such fondness – we were like a couple of giddy schoolkids," recalls Matilda.
"Everything was new and fun, and we were just so into each other. It feels like I've lived a lifetime with Art since then, but none of that fun and passion has ever disappeared.
"We remain each other's fiercest supporters and closest friends. Life is just immeasurably better with Art in it."
Three years after that trip, the couple returned to their favourite island oasis, but this time, Art was carrying some very special cargo – an engagement ring.
An unforgettable sunset proposal was the first of many relationship milestones for the pair, who have since travelled the world, and adopted two rescue kittens named Brian and Christine.
More recently, Art and Matilda have bought their first home, a "pokey but full-of-potential" fixer-upper in Warkworth, which has seen them realise their dream of living off the land – with the help of some feathered flatmates, five chickens named Moira, Deborah, Linda, Tanya and Susan.
But it's the expectant parents' latest adventure the couple are most excited for, with baby Green due in September.
The couple will never forget the moment they discovered the news that would change their lives forever, although they hope to one day forget the stench of the roadside public toilet where it happened.
Following a relaxing Christmas break, as the couple were driving north to ring in the New Year with friends in Whananaki, Matilda – who had an inkling she might be pregnant – urged Art to pull over so she could buy a test.
"I don't know what came over me – all of a sudden it was like I had to know," recalls Matilda. While trapped in a bathroom stall at a skate park somewhere in rural New Zealand, the seconds felt like hours for the couple who were absolutely "shell-shocked" to see the test was positive.
"It was a moment of joy, disbelief and fear, but most of all happiness," tells Matilda.
"We were absolutely over the moon," adds Art, smiling. "Having a baby is the ultimate way to cement our family. It's been an incredible ride as just the two of us, so we know it's only going to get better when we become three. I'm just so excited to be going on this adventure with Matty."
Having made it safely through the first trimester, Matilda hopes her morning sickness will finally subside. Over the past few weeks, it's become somewhat routine to wake up for "a cheeky vomit", followed by Art bringing her breakfast in bed – usually peanut butter on Paleo toast.
"It's about the only thing I've been able to keep down in the mornings, to try to subside what feels like a constant hangover," explains Matilda, who was getting more and more nervous her bridal gown might not squeeze over her growing middle.
Laughing, she adds, "I must be the one of the only brides in history who puts on weight before her wedding day. I'm lucky my dress had a bit of wiggle room I was able to move into, which meant no last-minute alterations!"
Unfortunately, Matilda's baby news means she won't be able to take to the stage in Dancing with the Stars when the show premieres later this year – but she'll be hoping for a call-up the next season.
"I'm gutted I won't be making my dancing debut, but I'll be watching and supporting from the living room – and taking notes," she says.
With the formalities of their big day done and dusted, and their first photos taken as Mr and Mrs Green, the beaming newlyweds make their way into the reception venue to hooting, hollering and rapturous applause.
With the sun now setting on the coastal spot, the tepee is aglow with festoon lighting and a statement jewel-encrusted chandelier, a lucky last-minute addition sourced by Matilda, which adds a luxe feel to the beach theme.
Inside, ice-cold beers and Batched Espresso Martinis circle the room as guests seated at long tables feast on a gourmet, platter-style dinner of king salmon, Southland lamb and seasonal veges – and later, a greasy hit of fried organic chicken.
Peppering the courses are a string of heartfelt speeches made by family and friends that all attest to Art and Matilda's perfect pairing, but it's the couple's surprise baby reveal that earns the standing ovation of the night.
"The timings worked out perfectly to share our exciting news with all the people who mean the world to us, and who we know will be such a big part of our baby's life," says Matilda. "We feel so lucky to be surrounded by so many supportive family and friends, who will love this little one like their own."
Following a romantic first dance to Neil Young's Harvest Moon, guests are invited to kick up their heels too, but after a long day on her feet, it's the mum-to-be who's quietly looking forward to a warm cup of tea and a lie-down.
"We truly couldn't have wished for a more perfect wedding," beams Matilda. "Hands down, this is the best day of our lives. Everything went smoothly, the weather was absolutely stunning and we were surrounded by so much love.
"I count my lucky stars every day that I met Art. He has shown me the true meaning of love. Today marks a new chapter – the first day of the rest our lives – and if the last four years of loving Art are anything to go by, then I know they can only be amazing."
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