Standing at the altar on a perfect autumn day, radio host Paul "Flynny" Flynn is hit by a wave of nerves. As a marriage celebrant, he's played a leading role in more than 300 weddings, yet today he is the groom and emotion is running high as he waits for his bride Jo Whitaker to arrive for their clifftop nuptials on Auckland's stunning West Coast.
When he hears the first strains of the bagpipes ring out above Karioitahi Beach, played by Jo's dad Merv in a nod to the family's Scottish roots, it's perhaps no surprise that tears begin to fall. The dad-of-four might be a dab hand at weddings, but as he catches sight of Jo heading down the aisle towards him, on the arm of her brother Darryn, he is blown away.
"She looked beyond stunning," tells More FM's Flynny, 43, taking a moment to share his joy with Woman's Day. "She was smiling her beautiful smile and I just felt so lucky that it's me who gets to spend my life with this woman. It was totally magical and I guess that's why the tears started. It's good my groomsmen know I'm an emotional man because they had plenty of emergency tissues in their pockets!"
Held at Castaways Resort an hour out of the city, Flynny and Jo's wedding was everything they dreamed of and more. While the days leading up to the big event brought menacing weather, the wet and wild conditions finally gave way to a weekend of blue skies and sunshine. Their outdoor wedding could go ahead, much to the relief of Jo and Flynny, who never gave up on their dream of a clifftop ceremony.
"I woke up in the morning and looked outside to see the sun shining – and a double rainbow!" marvels Jo, whose seven-year-old daughter Bella was a proud flower girl. "If that's not a sign, then I don't know what is! I was surprised by how calm I felt. I wasn't nervous at all. I was so happy and excited, I couldn't wait to get started."
With 100 of their closest friends and family watching on, their marriage signalled the start of a poignant new chapter for the pair, and it's through laughter and tears that they exchange their deeply personal vows. Holding hands and gazing into each other's eyes, Jo, 41, tells her husband that loving him is easy.
"I'm so lucky I get to do life with you," she says. "You're the most incredible person I know. I promise to always remember that laughter is life's sweetest creation and I will never stop laughing with you."
And Flynny – who is dad to Jack, 17, Leo, 14, Mickey, 11, and Alex, eight – tells Jo that finding each other feels like "the greatest miracle". He promises to look after her for life and to never let her down.
"I won't let a day go by without letting you know how much I love you. Let's sing, dance, chat, laugh, eat delicious food and drink good wine until we die… You are beautiful on the outside, but your spark and incredible personality makes you the most beautiful human I have or will ever know."
The pair, who got engaged in December, have been together for two years, but their story begins in 2014 when, in a bizarre twist of fate, Flynny officiated Jo's first wedding.
While they became Facebook friends at the time, it wasn't until years later – after both Flynny and Jo's marriages had ended – that they reconnected. Sparks flew on their first date and they knew early on that they'd found their forever love. Together, they set about building a life with their big, beautiful blended family.
For Flynny, who has been open about his anxiety struggles over the years, finding someone who loves him for who he is has been a revelation. He and Jo share a similar sense of humour, and a love of life, music and adventures. They also confess to being hopeless romantics.
"We both feel strongly about marriage and about celebrating the fact we've found each other," says Flynny. "It's an amazing feeling knowing we'll be together through life – in the good times and the challenging times – because I wouldn't want to be doing this with anyone else."
"I love Flynny more every single day," adds Jo. "He's my person – it's as simple as that."
After being pronounced husband and wife, Jo's dad Merv plays his bagpipes again as the loved-up newlyweds skip back down the aisle, their delighted guests cheering and clapping, then head down to the beach for a photo shoot.
"I know some people don't like going away for photos, but for us, it was beautiful," says Jo. "The sun was going down, the beach was gorgeous and it felt like we were in a movie."
Flynny agrees it was a pinch-yourself moment. "We kept looking at each other and being like, 'Oh, my gosh, we're actually married. We did it!' I have never felt so happy."
Afterwards, they re-join their guests for a rollocking evening reception back at Castaways, with Flynny's More FM co-host Jay-Jay Feeney acting as MC for the night. "She was brilliant," tells Flynny. "She was funny and entertaining, but it was also very personal and very special because she knows us both so well."
With George FM radio host General Lee as DJ, the dance floor is heaving all night long, lit up by a giant pink neon sign saying "Jo & Flynny". The bride laughs, "When Flynny ordered it, I was like, 'Are you for real?!' but it was so cool! The atmosphere in the reception was incredible."
Speeches by family and friends bring both laughter and tears, with the stars of the night being Flynny's youngest son Alex and Jo's daughter Bella, who each take the microphone to welcome their new step-parents into their families and speak of their happiness.
"That made it so special," says Jo. "Bringing families together isn't easy and there have been plenty of bumps in the road, but to see those two up there was unforgettable and very emotional. That was such a highlight."
When Jo and Flynny leave the reception at around midnight, they are farewelled with an impromptu haka by a group of friends. "It was spine-tingling," says Flynny.
But back at their chalet, he struggles to help his wife out of her stunning gown. Flynny laughs, "There were about 50 buttons, but I couldn't even work out how to undo the first one! I didn't want to break it, so Jo called her friends."
Her friends arrive, get Jo out of her dress and stay on partying with the newlyweds till 3.30am! The happy couple then head to Waiheke Island for a mini honeymoon, with plans in place for a Thailand adventure next year. For now, though, they're happy basking in newly married bliss.
Flynny says, "The day was so special and so perfect, we're still over the moon. I thank the universe for bringing us together because Jo truly is everything I could dream of and more. We just love the bejesus out of each other. Being married to Jo is the best feeling in the world."
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