Black Ferns captain Sarah Goss' love and laughter-filled wedding

''I can't explain how lucky I am that this perfect girl chose me to be her husband. What she's accomplished in life so far has been amazing. Hopefully our kids inherit her ridiculous fitness levels and work ethic!''

By Laura Weaser
It's a warm summer's morning and Black Ferns captain Sarah Goss is standing in friend and teammate Kelly Brazier's Bay of Plenty home, preparing for a milestone match – her wedding to fiancé Conor Hirini.
Just hours away from saying "I do" to her partner of four years, the 26-year-old World Cup champion is unfazed amid a flurry of activity, exhibiting the same cool-headed approach she displays when leading her team to victory.
"I was a bit nervous when I woke up at 6am," Sarah admits, "but now I just want to get down to the venue and get married."
She and mental health worker Conor, 25, spent most of the night before setting up their rustic-themed wedding at Phoenix Valley, a haven of native plants, birdsong and glistening streams nestled just 15 minutes from Tauranga.
But in keeping with tradition, the couple parted ways for the night, with Conor and his groomsmen spending their morning in a quiet beachside bach down the road. He admits, "I didn't have breakfast this morning, so I must be pretty nervous!"
It was in 2016 that Conor popped the question while the pair were on holiday in Fiji, topping off a mammoth year in which Sarah took home a silver medal for rugby sevens at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The proposal was a "massive surprise", she says, adding, "It wasn't until the end of 2017 that we thought it was time to set a date and since then, I've really enjoyed planning a wedding."
Making it unique to them was important for the couple, with Sarah explaining, "The biggest thing I found was not listening to other people's opinions and what they want for your wedding, but we've been pretty good at saying, 'Thanks, but that's not us.'"
True to their word, the wedding feels like a celebration of the love and laughter these two share in all aspects of their lives, with 120 guests arriving at Phoenix Valley to find Conor and his groomsmen – Brandyn Laursen, Atu Henare, Casey Watson and Luther Hirini – all dressed in linen suits from Hallensteins, gathered under a wood and toetoe arch.
Though she's usually a stickler for punctuality, Sarah and her bridesmaids are uncharacteristically late due to traffic delays, forcing the celebrant, Olympic heptathlete Sarah Cowley-Ross, to calm the nervous-looking groom.
When the bride does finally arrive, it's a grand entrance, with Sarah travelling at speed down the valley floor behind the wheel of an open all-terrain vehicle in honour of the couple's rural roots.
As soon as it stops, out bounds the couple's beloved dog Booker, who's wearing a wreath of white flowers around his neck as he enthusiastically makes a beeline for Conor while the crowd coos. Booker's followed by four bridesmaids – Sarah's sister Rachael Rakatau, close friend Sarah Martin, and fellow Black Ferns players Portia Woodman and Kelly.
Three are dressed in elegant black dresses from Showpo, while Kelly has opted for a smart singlet and black pants. Sarah quips, "Seeing Kelly in a dress would have been really weird for us!"
As the bridesmaids walk down the aisle to Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up", Sarah and her father Alan share a special moment, wiping away tears and embracing.
Sarah in action for the Black Ferns.
Dressed in a Made with Love chiffon and lace gown, Sarah floats down the valley toward Conor, who can't take his eyes off his beautiful bride. After a quick hug, the groom takes her hands, which he holds throughout the ceremony.
"Today is a celebration of two very special people who have found each other, fallen in love with each other and today, formally, in front of family and friends, make lasting commitments to each other," begins celebrant Sarah.
"We are brought here today because of Conor and Sarah's love, strong as ever and ready to embark on married life from this day forth."
Conor's brother Xavier later has the crowd and the couple chuckling as he gives a reading from the Peter Andre song Mysterious Girl, then it's time for the bride and groom's self-penned vows.
"You have shown me nothing but kindness, affection and love, and I promise to do the same for you as we grow old together … Hopefully you will continue to love me and, one day, even as much as you love Booker," quips Conor.
In turn, Sarah vows, "I will respect you as my best friend, my sidekick and my husband. There is little to say that you haven't already heard and little to give that is not already freely given. I am yours in every single way."
After the exchanging of rings – Conor's a black titanium one and Sarah's a stunning diamond band, both from Michael Hill Jeweller – the official paperwork is witnessed by the mothers of the bride and groom, who are both called Ronnie.
After being pronounced Mr and Mrs Hirini, and sealing their union with a kiss, Conor tells Woman's Day, "I can't explain how lucky I am that this perfect girl chose me to be her husband. What she's accomplished in life so far has been amazing. Hopefully our kids inherit her ridiculous fitness levels and work ethic!"
Sarah says having this official commitment is "really exciting", adding that taking Conor's surname is a big step in her sporting career. She'll wear her new jersey for the first time when the Black Ferns play in the New Zealand Sevens this month.
"It's really exciting to share this moment with family and friends," Sarah grins. "We were so happy with the relaxed atmosphere. It sucks we can't do it all over again!"
Proud pooch Booker poses with the happy newlyweds.
"I can't explain how lucky I am," says Conor. "She's amazing."

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