As an Olympic kayaker who's competed in countless races across the globe, it takes a lot to make Tauranga-born Mike Dawson nervous. Yet the sports star can't stop shaking as the gentle notes of "All I Want is You" by Barry Louis Polisar start to play and he looks down the aisle for the love of his life, his beautiful bride and fellow kayaker Martina Wegman.
"It's actually quite funny how nervous I was," laughs Mike when Woman's Day catches up with him after the ceremony.
"But standing up there with my friends and watching Martina wander down through the trees – that was pretty epic. To be finally getting married is really special. It's another big step in life we're taking together."
The simple, rustic-style celebration has been a long time coming for Mike and Dutch-born Martina, who first met at a kayaking competition in 2009, going on to enjoy a long-distance friendship that slowly developed into romance.
With their shared love of water and non-stop training to make it to next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo, it seems only appropriate that the pair are tying the knot on the edge of Lake Rotoiti, just 20 minutes from Rotorua.
As the lovebirds stand together under a canopy of trees, it's the perfect summer's afternoon, with a light breeze coming off the lake. But most importantly for Mike, 32, and Martina, 29 – they are surrounded by all their closest friends and family.
"It was pretty humbling how many people travelled from all around the world to come," tells Mike.
"We had Martina's family out from Holland, a bunch of friends from Australia, Europe and everywhere. With the nature of our sport, there are some close mates who we've lost on the river over the years, but we're thinking of them today."
Once the pair are declared husband and wife, the deal is sealed with a kiss before the party commences down the road at Mike's parents' bach. Guests are served homemade kombucha and snacks whipped up by Martina, while a burger truck pulls up to serve the main meal, dished alongside Mike's own ale.
"Me and my mate brewed 130 litres of beer – it took us about two months!" grins Mike proudly. "We tried to put a little personal touch on everything and made sure this wedding just really represented us as a couple."
For Martina, the most important thing was finding a frock that paid homage to her heritage.
She smiles, "I wanted a dress from the Netherlands because it was important to have that taste of home in the wedding. I had three days back there a few months ago and looked in three different stores, but I was instantly drawn to this dress."
The relaxed beauty certainly seems the opposite of a stereotypical bridezilla and says the only debate the couple had during the planning process was which side of the lake to have the ceremony on. Everything else just fell into place.
"We also tried to make the wedding as waste-free as possible," tells Martina.
"We used compostable products for eating and we gave our guests natural mosquito repellent because we were by the water. Lakes and nature are really special to us, and it's important to look after our environment."
The bride made the bouquet, using flower and leaves from a friend's property close to the lake. And to finish off the perfect day, Martina's father Erik performed a song he had written himself.
"That's probably one of my favourite moments. My dad hadn't written a song since he was 17, but he's always been a singer. I knew he was going to perform on the day, but I never thought he would write us a song – it was a beautiful moment and I got quite emotional."
It was the wedding Mike and Martina had dreamed of, but there's no honeymoon on the cards for the newlyweds – the bride is heading straight back into training in Australia just a week after the big day.
"It is strange to be saying goodbye to each other, but it's all good," tells Mike.
"We're excited to be training for the Olympics and our life is a honeymoon with all the travelling we do!"
While Mike says he's proud to call Martina his wife, she's not sure much has changed.
Laughing at her new hubby, she says, "Our wedding was about having a celebration with the people we love. When you've been together for so long, it already feels like you're husband and wife!"
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