Weddings

Here come the brides! Melanie and Leah’s amazing big day

Surrogate mums say ‘I do’ in the town where they first fell in love
Melanie and Leah holding hands in their wedding dresses with their bouquets

When Melanie Arthur and Leah Kerr first met 10 years ago, they could never have dreamed of the moment they would face each other at the altar, vowing to love each other forever, while their seven-month-old sons looked on from the front row of the chapel.

Back then, they were both married to men and busy raising two kids each. Their daughters joined the same theatre class and became best friends. The mums then developed a close friendship of their own. By 2021, it had evolved into a surprise romance, which would lead them to this unforgettable wedding ceremony.

The Weekly first met Melanie, 41, and Leah, 37, in September 2023, when they were both pregnant with each other’s babies. Using the same sperm donor, they had conceived through IVF, with Melanie carrying Leah’s egg and vice versa, and were due to give birth six days apart.

Melanie and Leah holding sons Alfie and Charlie on their wedding day
The happy brides with their wee best boys.

As it turned out, the boys were born 12 days apart. Alfie Alan Arthur-Kerr arrived on November 1 and Charlie Elias Arthur-Kerr on November 12. On June 7 this year, the brothers – looking dapper in tiny suits and suspenders – were the guests of honour at their mums’ “fancy boho” wedding at Queenstown’s Stoneridge Estate.

Although Melanie and Leah live in Nelson (both worked as secretaries at Nelson Hospital before going on maternity leave), they chose the destination wedding because they have beautiful memories of a trip to the picturesque South Island town they took three years ago, before they became an official couple.

“It was our first holiday together,” Leah recalls. “We fell in love with Queenstown…”

“And then we fell in love with each other,” Melanie finishes.

Holding hands at the altar as the celebrant speaks
The couple wrote their own romantic vows.

Their four teenage children from their first marriages – a boy and girl each – played a special role in the wedding ceremony. They arrived in style in a Bentley and walked up the aisle first, ahead of the brides.

“Then we walked up the aisle together, holding hands,” Leah says.

Both wore champagne-coloured gowns: Melanie’s from Elodie Bridal in Wellington and Leah’s from Bay Bridal in Motueka. While they’d tried dresses on together, they didn’t know which the other had chosen until just before the ceremony, with only their kids present. “I got to the chapel slightly before Leah and stood with my back to the car. Then when Leah arrived, I turned around,” Melanie says. “Leah was stunning. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ Absolutely stunning.”

“So were you!” exclaims Leah.

There’s a romantic story attached to Melanie’s outfit. She had desperately wanted to wear a glamorous cape for the winter wedding, but when her dress ended up costing more than Leah’s, she gave up on the idea, wanting to keep costs down.

Melanie and Leah with the sons' godparents on either side of them on their wedding day
From left: Godmother Winnie Earl, holding Charlie, brides Melanie and Leah, and Alfie with godparents Ruth and Al Sutton.

So, Leah hatched a plan. She ordered the cape, pretending it was for herself. When it arrived, she tried it on, and Melanie, of course, loved it. “Then I put it on her and said, ‘There you go, there’s your cape.’”

“It was so sweet!” Melanie gushes.

It’s obvious that kindness and deep care are the cornerstones of their relationship, but it hasn’t always been easy. Taking the plunge and choosing to be together was a massive upheaval for both their families and has taken some time to adjust. But they weathered that storm together and, likewise, supported each other through their simultaneous pregnancies and the joyful but exhausting early months with Alfie and Charlie, who both suffered from colic as newborns.

Walking out of the chapel hand in hand while being showered in flower petals

Wedding celebrant Andrew Bell, “a beautiful person with a beautiful heart”, spoke movingly about their early challenges during the ceremony.

“He managed to reference that we’ve been through some ups and downs, and had some tough decision-making. But he did it in a really positive, personal way,” Melanie says.

The couple wrote their own vows. Melanie admitted, “I just about bawled my eyes out all the way through mine.” She told her new wife, “I can’t promise you the world, but I can promise you my world. You and our children are now my priority.”

Another personal touch came from their bouquets. They had carefully selected artificial flowers online and combined them to fit the colour scheme, dusky pink and blue, with accents of cream and navy blue. “It takes a bit of research, but it saves a lot of money, and they won’t die, so we can keep them forever,” Leah says.

Melanie and Lead in their wedding dresses on the top of a mountain, a large body of water behind them
After the ceremony, a helicopter whisked Melanie and Leah off for some alpine wedding photos.

They paid tribute to their shared Scottish heritage with a handfasting ceremony, using tartans from their clans, Kerr, Robertson and Arthur. Leah’s mum, Sandra Hughes, and Melanie’s mum, Kim Robertson, and stepmum, Cheryl Arthur, each tied a ribbon around the brides’ hands, creating a Celtic knot to symbolise their new bond – literally tying the knot. “That was a nice matriarch moment,” Melanie says.

She and Leah share a passion for music. They walked down the aisle to “their song” – How Long Will I Love You?. A tune originally produced by the Waterboys, and later made famous by Ellie Goulding.

After the ceremony, they were treated to a helicopter ride over snowy Queenstown – spectacular, despite the frozen fingers! – before rejoining their guests for the reception. They enjoyed a three-course meal and a showstopping cupcake-stand cake. The DJ, from Mountain Beats DJ Co, kept people on the floor all night, including a first dance for the brides to Only Us from the musical Dear Evan Hansen. The lyrics couldn’t have been more fitting: “What if it’s you / And what if it’s me / And what if that’s all that we need it to be / And the rest of the world falls away? / What do you say?”

Melanie and Leah kissing on the mountain top in their wedding dresses
The bouquet featured artificial flowers so they can be kept forever.

Melanie and Leah were particularly touched that the DJ managed to find a rendition with two female voices. The stage version features both a male and female voice.

It was an intimate wedding party of just 30 people, including the brides. It meant everyone present was deeply important to them. “We wrote them individual notes to go in with the wedding favours, saying why it was special to us that they were at our special day,” Melanie says.

Alfie and Charlie were well looked after while their mums let loose. A friend had volunteered to be nanny for the evening.

The couple took advantage of the fact that all their parents were gathered in one place, including Leah’s mum, who’d come over from Australia. They arranged to have their sons christened at St Peter’s Anglican Church in Queenstown the day after the wedding.

Christening the boys in a bowl of water
The day after the wedding, the newlyweds celebrated the double christening of their sons with their family and Reverend Dr Michael Godfrey.

Faith is a meaningful part of their lives, especially for Melanie, who used to run the cathedral choir in Nelson. It was important to them that their boys be christened by someone who completely accepted their relationship. They found that person in Reverend Dr Michael Godfrey. “He was really excited for us,” Melanie says. In fact, they formed such a connection with him while planning the christening that he ended up attending their wedding, the day prior, as a guest!

At just seven months old, Alfie and Charlie are already showing their unique personalities, with Charlie the more laidback brother. Alfie seems to be drawn to the spotlight, spending plenty of time on the dancefloor during the wedding and charming everyone by splashing in the holy water during his christening.

“They can both roll, but Charlie doesn’t really care, while Alfie is all over it and trying to crawl. He gets all around the room just by rolling,” Leah says, laughing. The boys have also started to interact with each other more. “They see each other and hold hands and have a little chat.”

Melanie and Leah walking under a temple-like structure in their wedding dresses
Melanie in her beautiful cape from Leah.

Catching up with the Weekly three days after their dream wedding, the couple were still pinching themselves. “We keep looking at each other and saying, ‘Hey, wifey!’” Leah says. Melanie adds, “We’re very grateful that in 2024, we are able to get married and call each other wife.”

The following day, they were due to fly to Italy for a five-week honeymoon, babies in tow, taking in Milan, Venice, Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast and Rome. And after that? They have a lifetime together to look forward to, with many more chapters of this remarkable love story.

Credits

Wedding photos: Miles Holden

Location: Stoneridge Estate Queenstown

Christening photo: Madeline Bethwaite

Hair and make-up: Yanisa Boon, Charm Beauty and Christie Lekner, Tussock Hair and Make-up

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