Shorty star Courtenay’s beautiful big day

The actress and her long-time love Chris tied the knot in an intimate, emotional ceremony
Pictures: Curate Weddings

It’s not unusual for the wedding day to be all about the bride – her dress, her hair and her flowers. And make no mistake – when one of our favourite Shortland Street actresses, Courtenay Louise, married the love of her life, Chris Read, all eyes were on the beautiful 30-year-old as she embarked on a somewhat-nervous walk down the aisle.

But not before Courtenay, who plays Monique Strutter on the TVNZ 2 soap, had ensured her special guy had his moment in the spotlight too.

“I organised a surprise for him,” explains Courtenay. She speaks exclusively to Woman’s Day as the couple relax on their “mini-moon” on Waiheke Island.

“I recorded myself making a speech to Chris and saying a lot of really nice things about him. Our MC and good friend Tyler Christie played the recording, mixed in over the top of some music, just before I made my entrance.”

Laughing, Courtenay adds that the desired effect would have been “Chris out-of-control crying”, but her groom appeared cool, calm and collected. Chris begs to differ.

“It actually really lifted the heart rate and got the emotions up,” the 32-year-old confesses. “Hearing Courtenay’s voice was a lovely, totally unexpected surprise. It was a nice way to set the scene for the wedding day, and for our friends and family to appreciate the way she feels about me.”

Smiling, Chris adds, “With Courtenay, life’s never boring – I’m constantly on my toes!”

The newlyweds, who fell for one another while both working at an Auckland bar, have been together for 10 years. Life has changed and their careers have evolved, but their commitment to one another has remained steadfast throughout.

Theirs is a relaxed and genuine love. Their conversation is peppered with laughter as they share details of their nuptials, held at Mahurangi’s elegant Tu Nguta Villa, 45 minutes north of Auckland.

The affair was intimate with just 58 of their very closest friends and family. Courtenay and her wedding coordinator/celebrant Lisa Langsford opted for an outdoor ceremony so guests could enjoy sweeping views across the coast. But just an hour beforehand, torrential rain forced a change of plans and the entire setting was moved indoors.

For Celebrity Treasure Island contestant Courtenay – who had spent the morning with her glam squad from Glow & Co, along with her “incredible” Shortland Street makeup artist Jasmin Hansen – it was a minor blip on an otherwise perfect day.

Final touches with (from left) Li An Huang, Emily, Jerome and Julia.

“Chris and I had woken up together after such a nice night with our bridal party. The boys had gone to the pub, while the girls did face masks and ordered Thai,” recalls Courtenay. “It was super-special to take that moment, just the two of us, in the morning before the chaos began.”

She, her matron of honour, sister Julia Hampton, and bridesmaid, close friend Emily Parks, along with “bridesman” Jerome Rieke, relaxed. They listened to music, got ready in matching pajamas and headbands, while Chris struggled with a bowtie blunder.

With mum Charmaine Hampton.

“For some reason, I thought it would be a really good idea to tie a proper bowtie, instead of choosing one of those clip-on ones. In hindsight, that was a bit of last-minute stress I definitely did not need,” he laughs. “Thankfully, YouTube helped me out!”

Dressed and ready to go, it was time for Courtenay, in a pearl-encrusted custom two-piece Trish Peng creation – one of three looks she arranged for her big day – and Chris, in a classic made-to-measure tuxedo from T Begg Tailoring, to meet at the altar.

“I love my parents so much,” says Courtenay, “but I decided I didn’t need them to give me away. I wanted to walk down the aisle by myself as an expression of me giving myself to Chris and as recognition of us cementing this strong relationship that we have.”

With James Vincent McMorrow’s Higher Love ringing out through the venue, amid a sea of candles provided by hire company Revel and Light, Courtenay – somewhat damp from waiting outside during one of the day’s downpours – began her walk.

Chris says the first thing he noticed when his bride rounded the corner towards him was that she instantly relaxed.

“She looked absolutely amazing – her dress was incredible,” he enthuses. “When she spotted me, her shoulders dropped. I could see the stress and panic of having to rearrange the venue for the bad weather just left her.

“When we met at the end of the aisle, we just settled into one another and it was beautiful.”

Against a backdrop of magnificent white roses, from Auckland florists FlowerMe, the couple pledged their love. Courtenay told Chris, “My most treasured part of our story is that we have grown up together. Not only that, but we get to grow old together! So starting this new chapter of our life – wherever we go, whatever we do – I know in my heart my home is you. I love you.”

Chris swept his gorgeous bride off her feet!

For his vow to Courtenay, Chris promised to support his new wife’s dreams and encourage her passions. “Knowing that your happiness is intertwined with mine,” he said. “I will laugh with you, cry with you and dance badly through life’s adventures with you by my side.”

Dancing badly, laughs Courtenay, is definitely part of this couple’s history. She says she and Chris had spent “hours” trying to practise a first dance at home, only to end up in fits of giggles as it dawned on them they were unable to get it right.

“Dancing is a really, really big weak point,” she grins. “We’re both horribly uncoordinated!”

But as the thrilled newlyweds made their way back down the aisle, this time to the Whitney Houston version of their entrance song, and straight into more rain-soaked photos, the thought of their upcoming dance performance was a million miles away.

And when they triumphantly entered their reception to Abba’s Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) and cut the red-velvet cake – expertly baked by Courtenay’s dear friend, former Shorty co-star and new mum Rebekah Randell – it was clear they’d have the incredible support of their wedding whanau, no matter how ludicrous their moves were.

Rebekah made the wedding cake.

Courtenay says the reception itself was a “true highlight” of the wedding day.

Her second look carried Courtenay through the dinner service. The look meant simply removing the sleeves of the Trish Peng bodice to highlight some of the jewellery she’d worn from The Diamond Shop, including a sapphire ring, a stunning tennis bracelet and four-leaf clover earrings.

Guests indulged in Champagne, oysters, salmon, and beef while speeches celebrated the couple’s decade-long relationship with humour and memories.

But Courtenay was itching to let loose.

“During the mains, I leant over to our DJ and said, ‘Come on. Let’s get this show on the road!’ and 10 minutes later, the music was pumping and we were doing our first dance!”

For the party, Courtenay had Trish design a separate dress – a mini the bride describes as “iconic”.

She gushes, “Honestly, it was the most beautiful dress I’d ever seen in my life. I felt like I was wearing an actual cloud.”

And the dreaded dance? It went off without a hitch. Set to the Billianne cover of Simply The Best, Chris says the couple even attempted a lift.

“I was a bit worried I’d get tangled up in Court’s skirt,” he reflects. “Luckily the whole thing went smoothly! We had the best time and our guests danced the night away.”

Chris and Courtenay will soon head back to work and start planning a trip to Europe for later this year. However, the couple are taking a few days to relax first. They say their wedding was everything they’d wanted. They feel “excited and just really, really happy” about the future, which may well include a baby.

They were in sync for their first dance.

Courtenay smiles, “Having a family is something we’d very much like to be in the position for within a year or two. We have friends who have young kids and we absolutely adore them.

“It would be amazing to go into that next phase of life and start that new chapter together. We’re definitely keen!”

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