When Breakfast presenter Anna Burns-Francis was in the thick of wedding planning, there were moments when she wondered if she'd made the wrong call by choosing to have not one, but two celebrations.
Being wed in an intimate church ceremony with close family, followed by a big party a week later, had seemed like the easier option when she and her beau Simon Gordon got engaged in New York a year ago. Yet in the lead-up, it dawned on Anna that she had perhaps doubled her bride-to-be workload.
"I hadn't quite calculated it would mean two florists, two photographers, two venues and twice the number of emails to arrange everything!" she laughs just days after saying "I do" to her now-husband Simon.
But on Saturday 29 July, when she and her partner of three years exchanged their deeply personal vows at St Joseph's church in Wellington's Mt Victoria, with just a handful of their nearest and dearest watching on, Anna, 37, knew they'd made the right call. Being married in such a peaceful and intimate way was just how the couple had imagined it.
"It felt incredibly meaningful and very much that this marriage is for us," says Anna, who joined TVNZ's flagship morning show at the start of 2023 after several years in New York as US correspondent for 1 News. "We were able to tell each other the really important things with no distractions. It just felt very comfortable and very right."
Anna and Simon's wedding celebrations began on the night before their big day, with the bride and groom's families converging at Simon's parents' home on the Kāpiti Coast. While the day had been a little stressful after the couple's four-layer wedding cake was damaged in the overhead locker on the plane from Auckland to Wellington, by the time they sat down with their loved ones, they were finally able to relax.
"There were definitely a few stressful moments and the cake situation wasn't ideal, but I remember that night Simon handed me a glass of wine and said, 'This is it'.
We knew we'd done everything we could. There was nothing more we could organise – no more emails to be sent or things to be ordered.
"Our wedding was finally here. I had a sense of total calm and knew that everything was going to work out."
And when they woke the next morning, they were delighted to see blue skies and bright sunshine for their big day.
"It was one of those ones when everyone's saying, 'You can't beat Wellington on a good day'," recalls Anna, who got ready for the wedding at a hotel with her mum Robyn, while Simon, 36, and his family decorated the chapel with flowers and fairy lights.
Anna – who had two wedding dresses by Australian fashion designer Rebecca Vallance – made for a breathtaking bride in a stunning long-sleeved gown with ostrich-feather sleeves, which she wore for the ceremony, and a chic silk evening dress at the wedding dinner. The broadcaster teamed both with a fabulous pair of gold Manolo Blahnik heels.
"I bought the shoes before I even bought the dresses – I just had to have them!"
Simon tells us he was blown away when he spied his bride for the first time, with the pair meeting on Oriental Parade for pre-wedding photos. "She looked absolutely incredible," he says. "I just couldn't believe how amazing she looked."
Cricket fanatic Simon, who works in the tech industry, then managed to convince his bride-to-be to fit in a quick visit to the Basin Reserve, insisting they couldn't miss the chance to have wedding photos at "the best cricket ground in the world". Anna laughs as she tells us they entered the iconic grounds through the men's toilets. "Very glamorous!"
Finally, it was time for the couple to head to the church to marry. Anna admits she felt a rush of nerves as she stood at the top of the aisle on the arm of her mum. But when she saw her smiling husband-to-be waiting at the other end, she took a big, calming breath and slowly made her way towards him, with strains of Opus 36 by Dustin O'Halloran playing in the background.
"I remember looking at Simon and feeling so happy because he was smiling at me and he looked so handsome in his wedding suit," says Anna.
Their celebrant Jo Breese welcomed everyone and started the proceedings by acknowledging lost loved ones, including Anna's dad, who died several years ago.
"That felt like a really lovely way of including those special people in our day," tells Anna.
Simon's mum Jenny did a reading from The Prophet on marriage, while friend Holly, who lived in New York with Anna, read a poem, which she adapted to include New Zealand references.
Then it was time for Anna and Simon to exchange their vows, which they'd written themselves and saved as a surprise for each other. While they'd been calm, cool and collected until this point, both the bride and groom choked up as they listened to each other's words. Anna says Simon's vows in particular were incredibly beautiful, and tears were rolling down her cheeks as he promised to love her and take care of her forever.
Anna tells, "We say 'I love you' all the time, but Simon's vows were just incredible. I felt like he perfectly captured how loved I feel by him."
And Simon adds that exchanging their vows in such an intimate setting felt particularly meaningful.
"For me, it felt like we had time just to be together and to appreciate the day – we weren't pulled in millions of different directions."
After exchanging their rings, the couple was pronounced husband and wife – a joyous moment neither will ever forget.
They celebrated with Champagne, before Anna slipped into her evening gown and the wedding party headed to Wellington restaurant Boulcott St Bistro.
It was a special night of speeches, joy and much hilarity. And fortunately, the kitchen staff were able to rescue the cake that had been damaged on the flight!
"They patched it up, so all was not lost," says Anna with a smile. "And that's one thing I've learnt through this – after all that planning and all that stress, things like the flowers and the cake don't matter. All that matters is that Simon and I were married with the people we love around us."
While they loved their intimate wedding, the newlyweds – who met three years ago after being introduced by friends – were thrilled to mark their marriage again back in Auckland with a fabulous party at the Glasshouse in Morningside.
With 120 friends, many of whom had flown in from around the world, the newlyweds celebrated with more heart-warming and hilarious speeches, a Champagne tower and dancing well into the night.
The party continued the next day with a brunch turning into an all-day-and-night affair at Hotel Ponsonby. "We arrived as they opened the doors and were the last to leave!"
Needless to say, it was a tired yet happy couple who boarded a plane to Langkawi in Malaysia for their honeymoon last week. Speaking to Woman's Day before they jetted out, Anna said she couldn't have hoped for a more wonderful way to celebrate her marriage to the man she loves.
"This really feels like the start of a new chapter. We're both feeling so lucky to have each other and to have been surrounded by all the people we love. It was unforgettable."
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