My big Disney wedding: Paul Henry’s daughter Bella tied the knot with a Cinderella-themed ceremony

And the fairytale didn't end there... Bella and Julyan also hosted a Mad Hatter's Tea Party reception.
Bella Henry wedding

It may come as somewhat of a surprise to hear he’s a great fan of fairytales, Tinkerbell and magic dust, but indeed, one of the things that gives Paul Henry true joy is the enchanted world of Disney.

Ultimately though, his three gorgeous grown-up daughters are his greatest source of delight − and last Friday those elements combined for a dream day as Paul walked his youngest, Bella, down the aisle in a Disney-themed celebration, complete with his own custom-made Mickey Mouse-inspired suit.

The Sunday papers called him ‘the world’s scariest Father of the Bride’ after hearing rumours the wedding was taking place, but his new son-in-law Julyan Collett (31) says he now knows a different man to what people may have seen on the telly.

“He’s an incredible father to these girls and I get to see that side of him,” smiles Julyan.

Bella (27) agrees and says he’s “secretly the world’s biggest softie”.

It’s a statement that’s certainly hard to disagree with when the man is wearing a suit featuring sequined love hearts and Mickey Mouse ears.

Paul surprised Bella with the special suit, which he had made from pure New Zealand wool by RJB Design, complete with embroidered Mickey Mouse hands arching across his back to form a love heart.

“I think the designers really enjoyed doing it too, because I would venture to guess that not many people would go that far!” laughs Paul, who

is also now a grandfather to eldest daughter Lucy’s two-year-old son, Rei.

“What I loved about Bella’s theme was that it wasn’t over the top, crass or tacky – if anything was over the top it was me, really. I mean, my suit was on the cusp of [Sir] Elton John, wasn’t it?”

Paul had a Disney-inspired suit custom-made as a surprise for Bella on her big day.

Bella – who, like Paul, also has a soft spot for all things Disney and has visited Disneyland parks all over the world – came up with the idea to subtly incorporate it into the wedding.

For the family, the appeal of Disney is still being able to see the world through the lens of a child.

“There’s so much magic in a child’s eyes and the older you get [the more] you lose it,” says Bella.

“I know that’s what Dad especially loves about Disney – there is always that magic.”

In fact, he loves it so much he’s been looking at buying a membership to Club 33, an exclusive Disney group.

“It’s a bit like a Koru Club within the park, but I think I’ll wait until I have a few more grandchildren before I do that!” he laughs.

Getting into the car proved interesting!

With the help of her wedding planner, Boheme Events, Bella dreamed up a Cinderella-themed ceremony and a subtle Mad Hatter’s Tea Party reception, featuring mismatched china and whimsical touches.

There was also an Aladdin area outdoor for guests to sit back and relax in and a fairytale carriage, which sat outside the glasshouse venue in Mangawhai’s Te Whai Bay Winery.

The bride opted for a princess-style gown and Swarovski crystal tiara, instead of a veil.

“I really wanted that princess style – it’s so clean and it ended up being my dream dress,” beams Bella, who took her ideas to designer Trish Peng.

“Getting married seems like a very religious thing to me so I didn’t want anything too revealing. I wanted to be conservative with a high neck and a massive skirt.”

Julyan also chose his own suit – in a dark, forest green velvet hue – as the pair both wanted something a little different to the norm that reflected their personalities but was still very formal.

Their families made up the bridal party, with Bella’s two sisters serving as bridesmaids, Julyan’s brothers his groomsmen, and his nieces and nephews as their pageboys and flower girls.

Rounding out the bridal party were their two mini Pinscher dogs, Herman and Dobby, who wore little suits.

As Can’t Help Falling in Love played, Julyan says he could barely watch when his love walked up the aisle.

“Bella had given me a very good indication of what she was going to look like, so I thought I was going to be pretty well prepared for that moment,” he shares.

“But I wasn’t. I saw the car pull up and I couldn’t look without breaking down, so I stopped looking.

“Then my brothers gave me a nudge. I looked up and saw her walking down the aisle and I absolutely lost it because she just looked perfect. You have a vision of what your wedding will be like and how it will feel watching your partner walk towards you to become your wife, but it was so much more than I expected.”

Both say the day went off without a hitch, exceeding their expectations – “I literally had the most amazing day of my life,” coos Bella – and officially bringing the two together more than 10 years after they first met.

Bella was just 16 when she first laid eyes on Julyan, after Paul’s partner Diane Foreman arranged for her to have a summer job doing promotional work for her ice-cream company.

Julyan had also signed up and the two were paired together, spending that summer driving around Auckland’s hotspots, all the while developing a strong friendship.

“I wanted to marry Julyan as soon as I met him, but it took him a while to realise that’s what he wanted!” laughs Bella.

Julyan – who both agree is the calm, measured one of the two – says the pair had more of a ‘strictly friends’ relationship, particularly as Bella was still just a teenager.

They kept in touch only occasionally, but after both being in serious relationships and growing up a bit he reached out to her again four years ago. The pair have been inseparable ever since.

“Soulmates always find a way back together,” said their celebrant Jonny Rudduck.

During the ceremony Jonny joked about Bella dropping not-so-subtle hints about when Julyan may ask her to marry him, particularly after

they moved in together.

“One day, babe!” was always his response, but after a Bali trip came and went along with other opportune moments, Bella almost gave up hope it’d actually ever happen.

However, unbeknownst to her, Julyan had a plan.

While he’d been nervous of Paul at the start – the very first time Bella took her beau to meet her father he answered the door in a robe, something Julyan described as “a bit daunting!” – they’d come to respect one another, knowing they each wanted the very best for Bella.

Julyan sought Paul’s permission to ask for Bella’s hand, and asked if he would be involved in the proposal itself too, given they were due to meet up in Croatia aboard [Olive, the stunning boat Paul built and named after his best friend and much-loved mother], whose ashes are also on board.

Julyan and Bella travelled through Europe together, with the soon-to-be groom carrying around the engagement ring in his backpack.

Paul, meanwhile, planned for Olive to arrive in Venice, Italy, in the early morning, where they would hold a photoshoot.

In true Paul fashion he had the captain pull a rather dangerous U-turn in the middle of the channel to land them, perfectly framed, in front of St Mark’s Square for the sunrise – an exquisite backdrop for a photo… or a proposal.

The family posed together before Paul stepped away and Julyan surprised Bella by dropping to one knee.

“What an extraordinary privilege to be there while your daughter is proposed to,” exclaims Paul.

“Julyan is very thoughtful. Bella is quite full on, I mean she’s absolutely gorgeous and a beautiful person. I wouldn’t say she’s hard work, but she knows what she wants and can be reasonably forceful with it, so he has his work cut out for him.

“But they are a lovely couple and he is very thoughtful of me and the closeness I have with my daughters. I’m very protective of them, as all

fathers are, but I suspect that I may be even more so.”

Paul was also incredibly touched by how the couple included his late mother in both the engagement and the wedding.

A seat was reserved next to Paul at the ceremony with Olive’s name on it, they took family photos together amongst the olive groves, and made a nod to her when they raised their first glass together.

“I’m a traditionalist and even I didn’t know this, but apparently you don’t have Champagne at a wedding, at the beginning you have a glass of sherry – it’s something to do with the fortification,” tells Paul.

“Anyway, they had bottles of port there with their nan’s name on it and the quote, ‘Are you courting yet?’ Because it’s something my mother would always say to her. Those details were so cool and just so wonderful to see.”

But Paul says his favourite part of the day was the ride in the Porsche from where they were staying to the venue.

“She was really nervous, with this huge wedding dress wrapped around her,” he smiles.

The couple took wedding photos in an Olive grove as a way to remember Bella’s late grandmother.

Bella says while she got ready early and planned everything down to the last detail so that wouldn’t happen, the nerves still kicked in on the drive.

“Daddy just wanted to start talking about himself and what he was doing, and I was like, ‘I can’t talk about this, I’m getting married.’ I felt like I was having a panic attack!” she laughs.

Paul was just keen to distract her, finally saying, “Well, there’s no going back now, is there!”

He provided even more of a welcome distraction when they arrived at the venue, says Bella.

“He was going, ‘Oh, where do we walk? Do I shake his hand? Where am I going?’ So I had to be the one saying, ‘The music has started, Daddy, we just need to get down the aisle!'”

As for talk that his father-of-the-bride speech would have Julyan quaking in his shoes, Paul says it was hardly the time, or warranted!

“Look, I know I have been scary in the past, but by the time you get to the wedding the horse has bolted,” he laughs.

“If you were wanting to have a go at your daughter’s partner, you shouldn’t be waiting until they get married to say your piece. At that point you’ve already made your decisions, and my girls have all made the right decisions so far.”

Bella says her father’s speech was actually very funny, and Julyan got away lightly – “Daddy decided to have a go at my sister’s husband instead of Julyan, which was really funny.”

Paul says the most important part of his speech was getting across what was vital to him for their union.

“The girls are fed up with hearing me say this, but the three things I need their husbands to provide are security, happiness and fulfilment. If they can provide those things you can’t go wrong – and I believe Julyan can and will.”

Now, the newlyweds say they are looking forward to planning a honeymoon – and another ceremony in Vegas with friends who couldn’t make the big day.

Beyond that, they just want to enjoy one another’s company.

“I’m just really excited to be Julyan’s wife. I really want to enjoy us two, our dogs, and eventually our kids. I really want to find a nice bit of land up here in Mangawhai, get our white picket fence and create our happily ever after together.”

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