Before the ceremony even begins, it's clear Olympic rower Emma Twigg's wedding is going to be anything but traditional. As the sports star prepares to marry her girlfriend of two years, Charlotte Mizzi, in her home-town of Hawke's Bay, there's still one very important question to answer – who will be walking down the aisle first?
The 80 guests gather at Black Barn Vineyard's River Room and watch Charlotte's brother Nick toss a coin to decide the running order, while her nephews Rico, nine, and Louis, seven, run up the aisle to tell the brides the result.
The notes of Lany's I Love You So Bad begin to play and Charlotte is the first to make her way down the path in a beautiful knee-length lace frock by Sydney label Lover. Moments later, Emma emerges from her wedding car – a sparkling new Toyota Hilux – wearing a simple, silk Juliette Hogan dress.
"I really wanted to go last – Emma didn't really care," reveals Charlotte, 33, after the ceremony on January 10.
"But in the end, I loved going first because it meant I got to watch her walk down with her dad – I cried when I saw her!"
Going against custom, this isn't the first time the loved-up pair have seen each other in their bridal gowns.
"We went shopping together because we wanted to know that we liked each other's dresses," laughs Emma, 32.
"We both only really wear frocks when we go to weddings and awards nights, so we're not experienced shoppers. It was fun but anytime we saw any really proper big wedding shops, we freaked out. We'd walk in, look shell-shocked, then walk out!"
As the ceremony gets under-way, there's not a cloud in the sky. Looking out on Hawke's Bay's Te Mata Peak, it's the perfect location for the adventurous and athletic couple, whose first date included a 46km trek around the Tongariro Northern Circuit. It's also a special spot for Emma, who grew up dreaming about having her wedding there.
"Ever since I was a little girl, I've always ridden my bike through the Tuki Tuki Valley, or in more recent years with my training," explains Emma later that day.
"It was my parents who actually came across the River Room, and Mum remembered me saying that I've always wanted to be married in the Tuki Tuki Valley, so it all just worked out. It meant we had a slightly smaller guest list than we'd hoped for, but at the end of the day, we're actually stoked with that because we feel like we've got all our favourite people here."
When asked if that little girl on her bike would be happy with her wedding day, Emma gives a broad smile.
"Honestly, the way this day has turned out, it couldn't have been better," she gushes. "The people, the scenery, the sunshine – it's all perfect, just how I imagined it!"
As the ceremony continues, it's full of laughter and inside jokes about empty toilet rolls and how to cook broccoli correctly.
But despite all the silliness, it's clear the pair share a deep love and they can hardly take their eyes off each other throughout the day.
"You are my missing puzzle piece," Emma reveals in her vows. "You make me feel like the luckiest girl in the world."
Wellington-born Charlotte, who is commercial manager for Northern Districts Cricket, declares she's never known a love like this before and wants to "wake up next to that face for as long as I live".
But not long after their beautiful vows, the girls have the crowd erupting with laughter yet again as they struggle with exchanging rings.
"It's the callouses on her hands from rowing – I can't get the ring on!" Charlotte yells out to her friends and family. After the bands are finally in place, the ceremony comes to a close and the happy couple are announced as Mrs and Mrs Twigg.
"No-one can pronounce my surname anyway, so it was an easy decision for me!" laughs Charlotte. "It was actually very straightforward in the end – we were quite relaxed about whose it would be, but we knew it was going to be the same, that was important for us."
The couple's goal was for their nuptials to be a "big party with friends and family", so once the formalities are over, the rest of the afternoon and evening are all about eating, drinking and dancing.
But despite the day of fun, the upcoming Tokyo Olympics is never far from Emma's mind and she was even training on her wedding day!
"I went for a bike ride with one of my bridesmaids, Lucy Spoors; she's a world champion in the Women's Eight. We went for a wee ride through the valley just like I did when I was younger, so it was quite a cool way to start the day."
Charlotte laughs and gives her wife a cheeky smile, "Just a lazy two and a half hours or something before she had to get her hair and make-up done at 9am!"
While planning a wedding in the same year as the Olympics might sound stressful to most people, Emma says it was easy with her beloved by her side.
"I've locked her in now and I've made a good choice because she's the number-one organiser and takes all of that stress away from me, which is awesome," boasts Emma.
While her hectic training schedule means there's no time for a honeymoon just yet, the pair couldn't be more excited to begin their married life together.
"What I'm looking forward to most is working together to achieve our goals," smiles Emma.
"We both have things we want to achieve over the years and we want to do that together. We knew we wanted to do that within a week of meeting each other. Now it's just so cool to finally be able to do that as wife and wife!"
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