Weddings

Kirstie Stanway and Gareth Thorne’s carnival of love

The Sky Sport presenter married partner Gareth Thorne in a three-day festival full of fun
Nat Symonds

Standing at the altar, looking into the eyes of her very-soon-to-be husband as she reads her wedding vows, sports presenter Kirstie Stanway can’t quite believe the magnitude

of the moment.

Finally tying the knot with the partner she met eight years ago, Gareth Thorne, it’s an occasion filled with love and celebration… until, in the couple’s typical fashion, it’s overtaken by competition.

“I totally won the vows,” Kirstie laughs to Woman’s Day just moments after becoming Mrs Stanway-Thorne in Central Otago’s gorgeous Gibbston Valley.

“Yeah, only because you completely ignored the word limit our celebrant gave us,” grins Gareth, a freelance TV director.

On cue, in the middle of her vows – in which she promised to always partake in silly games, to keep Gareth “on his toes” and to love him endlessly – a packet of CC’s corn chips arrives at the altar.

Love amongst the vines: “There was so much crying and laughing and hugging.”

“I promise to keep fuelling your chip addiction, no matter where in the world I have to locate your favourite brand from because they’re discontinued in New Zealand,” Kirstie, 30, says to peals of laughter from their 75 guests and surprised delight from her groom.

“Ah, well,” Gareth, 37, says later. “What’s a wedding day without a little competitiveness?”

It’s a stunning morning in Queenstown as Kirstie and Gareth – or “Kirst and GT” as they’re known to friends – prepare for their non-traditional festivities on the back lawn of Gareth’s mum’s house, Vintner’s Cottage.

Guests mingle in Gareth’s mum’s backyard.

But the beaming sun and blue sky mask an exhausting week for the pair, who were unsure about having the wedding in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.

“We both felt so awful about what was going on up north,” explains Kirstie. “We genuinely didn’t want to have the wedding because we felt so bad and we didn’t know if my family from Gisborne was going to be able to make it. But eventually we decided we needed a little bit of love and celebration, and my family got out of Gisborne in time, so we pushed on ahead.”

For the normally very chilled-out Kirstie – “Literally nothing usually fazes her!” says Gareth – it’s been an incredibly stressful week.

“It’s weird,” she tells us just before the ceremony. “I’m never like this. I think it’s just the fact there were so many people around and so much to do, and you just want everyone to have the best time.”

With a festival-style tepee set up for the reception, and their family and friends chipping in for the food – Kirstie’s Ngāti Porou whānau has brought the kaimoana, while other family members have made grazing platters, brownies and desserts – it’s a real hive of activity.

Family and friends brought the kaimoana.

Also, the fact that the sports-mad couple divvied their three-day extravaganza into “the pre-game”, “the big day” and “the post-match” didn’t help minimise the to-do list – and neither did the fact the pair might have “pre-gamed” a little too hard, leaving them with plenty to do on the morning of their wedding.

Blissfully unaware of any chaos around her as Gareth sorts everything out – including calling for an ambulance for a guest’s broken ankle – Kirstie spends the morning getting ready with her bridesmaids, before slipping into her stunning Hera Couture silk gown.

With bridesmaids Natallia Edwards, Johaana Jackman, Shararah Nadali and Tasmin Burt.

“As soon as I saw this dress, I fell in love with it,” the Sky Sport presenter and SENZ radio host smiles. “I wanted something really simple. I was never the girl to dream about the Cinderella dress or anything, but when I put this one on, I knew it was mine.”

Special treasures for the bride.

And it’s the perfect frock for the perfect day as she makes her way outside to greet Gareth for their “first look” photos. Kirstie taps her groom on the shoulder, he turns around and they both dissolve into tears.

“There was so much crying and laughing and hugging,” tells Gareth. “I don’t think we actually said anything for 10 minutes. But I couldn’t stop looking at Kirstie. She was so, so beautiful.”

First look at his bride.

After a few snaps, it’s finally time to make their way to their ceremony, where their friends and whanāu are waiting. Taking up his position at the top of the aisle with his groomsmen, Gareth watches as Kirstie walks down to Justin Bieber’s Purpose – a special song for the pair, who saw Justin perform at Coachella.

Celebrant Grace Rhynd, a dear friend of the couple, welcomes everyone and invites Kirstie’s cousin to perform a karakia to begin the ceremony. “As you all have seen, the love these two share for one another is endless, deep, unconditional and infectious,” she says. “It is this infectious positivity and easy-to-love nature that drew them to one another.

“As you commit to one another today, you promise to move together as one through the highs and lows of life. You are both committing to spend the rest of your lives together as soulmates.”

Then it’s the vows, with Gareth praising his bride’s joy and excitement for life. He adds, “I promise to keep adventuring with you, picking bugs out of your huge eyes and going on bike rides, even though you constantly fall off – use the brakes, not your feet! I’ll keep dancing in the kitchen, stealing hydrangeas and cooking feasts, and I promise to watch every single minute of TV you do… live!

“KST, I never thought I’d get the fairy tale, but you have given it to me and I promise I will do everything I can to make you the happiest girl alive.”

Let’s get this party started! Groomsmen Hamish and David Thorne, plus Gareth’s son, whoop it up with the newlyweds and the bridesmaids.

And Kirstie, after handing him his beloved CC’s, says she’s the luckiest person in the world to have Gareth. “The thing is, it’s never enough time with you and the way it disappears, we’ll be 80 before we know it and still those two idiots, playing pick-up sticks with spaghetti pasta and trying to grubber-kick into a lamp post, which, again, I won.

“As long as I’m with you, life is good. You’re the one. Always have been. Always will be.”

“I couldn’t stop looking at Kirstie. She was so, so beautiful.”

After the pair exchange their Guys Gold and Zoe & Morgan rings, Kirstie Ngarangi Stanway and Gareth Stuart Thorne are declared husband and wife –Mr and Mrs Stanway-Thorne. As Kirstie is gifted with a stunning, specially made kakahu cloak by her mum and dad, the couple walk back down the aisle to the synth-pop tune Shelter by Porter Robinson and Madeon.

“Kirstie and Gareth, as you move forward in this new adventure together, kia mau ki te tūmanako, te whakapono me te aroha,” says Grace. “May you hold fast to hope, faith and love.”

Kirstie dons her kakahu cloak.

Guests are then invited to move through to the impressive seafood table – crayfish, pāua and kina are piled high next to a very impressive charcuterie platter, pizza from food truck Francesca’s Mobile Pizza and, instead of a cake, Trumpet ice creams – and start enjoying the reception.

An impromptu haka was just one of the surprises.

Kirstie and Gareth’s final surprise, a silent disco with headphones, then takes over the dance floor, with former All Black Mils Muliaina spotted jamming to the Spice Girls. Fellow team- mates Israel Dagg and Stephen Donald are also in attendance.

Kirstie’s Sky TV mates (from left) Mils, Israel, Ken Laban and Stephen.

“I honestly can’t believe how perfect this day has been,” reflects Kirstie, who has changed into a party dress from Treasureboxx. “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this. I don’t think I’ve cried more in my entire life then I have the last few weeks, but when I said ‘I do’, it was the greatest feeling in the world.

“As long as I’m with you life is good.”

“I know that I’m right where I’m meant to be, with the person I’m meant to be with. I’ve had some pretty amazing days in my life, but nothing will ever top this. This is the life that I was meant to live, and I’m just so happy and so lucky.”

Pictures: Nat Symonds. Makeup: Liv King. Staging & decorations: Gather & Gold, Queenstown Wedding Hire, Visual Events Queenstown. Car: Armstrong’s Dunedin.

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