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Weddings

Shortland Street star Ben Barrington marries his bohemian dream bride Kristie

A storm almost ruined his proposal in Fiji - and rain threatened to derail their big moment once again.

By Cloe Willetts
As a cool breeze ruffles through the white wedding marquee, laughter and cheers erupt as Shortland Street star Ben Barrington spins his beautiful bride around in circles.
Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl blasts through the DJ's speakers and a crowd of well-known faces – including fellow Shorty actors Michael Galvin, Oliver Driver, Sam Bunkall and Ria Vandervis – gather around the strobe-lit dance floor and sing loudly as the couple groove for the first time as newlyweds. It's exactly six years to the day they met.
Suddenly Ben's best man Will Hall – who played doctor Kip Denton on the Kiwi soap – glides on to the dance floor with a series of disco moves, followed by members of the wedding party and the '70s hit "That's the Way (I Like It)".
After months of vigorous weekend sessions with Dancing with the Stars choreographer Matt Tatton-Brown, who Ben met when he competed in the 2015 showcase, the newlyweds end their surprise routine falling into each other's arms.
"It was fun and cheesy because we both like disco and '80s movies," explains Offspring actor Ben, 42, chatting with Woman's Day after his intimate wedding.
"The dance was definitely one of the highlights of the day, but also the most fun part of the planning!" beams Kristie Fergus, 39, who married Ben one year after a storm almost ruined his proposal in Fiji. On the morning of their big day in West Auckland, rain has again challenged their plans.
"It's been the driest summer on record and we didn't have a wet weather back-up option," Ben laughs. "The whole idea over the last 10 months was to have guests mingle around the beautiful pool area with canapés and cocktails."
But 10 days before the wedding, the weather forecast predicted rain.
"Kristie panicked because she was getting texts from her friends saying there might be a cyclone!"
After rushing around just days ahead of the ceremony to find marquees and tents, the groom spent his wedding morning hastily covering outdoor props with tarpaulins.
Ben and Kristie's daughter Harley amuses the guests as wee page boy Freddie looks on.
But thanks to the weather gods – or Ben's determination it wouldn't rain – the overcast sky lightens by afternoon.
And as the couple's 100 guests arrive to mingle under poolside umbrellas and sparkling festoon lights, it's barely spitting.
The wedding location – a spacious lawn with palm trees and a pavilion – is the home of Kristie's boss and the headquarters for Osmosis skincare, where she works.
The make-up artist laughs, "At first, I thought people were joking when they suggested we marry here, but it's perfect. Now when I pull up to work every day, I'll be reminded of my wedding!"
Sipping cocktails dubbed "Puff's Pinky" and "Mow Chow's Mule", after Ben and Kristie's pet names for each other, friends gather on the lawn, sheltering under trees and holding umbrellas.
Metres away, there's a waft of food from the Raj Tents marquee, where caterers Little Wolf are prepping a decadent dinner to top off the afternoon's grazing table.
Dressed in a striped Barkers suit, Ben beams as he heads towards the aisle, where a rustic arch sits adorned with toetoe.
Thanks to the florists, Floral & Styling – Flower and Hunt, and the help of Kristie's dedicated bridesmaids, a wall of 1800 dried hydrangea blooms fills the backdrop.
"I'm really excited!" tells Ben. "It's just going to be over so fast, so maybe I should tell a story or something while we're under that arch."
The celebrant suddenly announces the bridal party's arrival, followed by excited whoops from guests and the playing of the couple's fave love song November Rain, by Guns N' Roses.
Son Ollie and her dad Ross take Kristie to her groom.
Ben's jaw tightens with emotion and he takes in a long, deep breath. Not only is he waiting to see his bride, but their adorable two-year-old daughter Harley appears clutching a basket of petals.
Wearing a silky mauve dress, a mini version of the classic Victor Bridesmaid gowns worn by Kristie's bridal party, Harley shyly refuses to walk down the aisle with the equally adorable page boy, Will's son Freddie, two.
But as a bridesmaid walks the teddy-clutching tot on her hip, Ben starts to well up. He affectionately waves at his wee girl, who sits in the front row, before his attention is pulled to the stunning bride.
Beside Kristie is her father Ross and 16-year-old son Ollie, and a long train flows from her embroidered lace Rue De Seine gown. Finished with a mermaid tail and custom-made sweeping straps, the stunning frock was an easy find for the bohemian-loving bride.
A sweet moment with Harley.
"I tried on about six dresses and got down to two, and the girls all cried when I put this one on," she tells us later. "I knew it was the dress."
Ben shakes hands with his stepson Ollie, who he's helped raise since he was 10, before Harley runs up and reaches for her mum. Kristie picks up her daughter and the couple take turns cuddling her for the rest of the ceremony.
It was inevitable the kids would play significant roles in Ben and Kristie's big day, which has been a long time coming after they first locked eyes in an Auckland bar courtyard in 2013.
"In the tradition of Kiwi matchmaking, you get hammered and hope," says Ben, whose dry humour won over the woman he calls his "cool and sexy Westie".
When the pair shared a first date walking their dogs at Western Springs, Kristie brought along Ollie. She tells, "I'd never let Ollie meet men straight away, but I knew with Ben it was different. It felt right."
Ben agrees, "Ollie was a really nice little boy and I was really comfortable with the fact she had a son. We all got along and it was just easy."
Now, with a bigger brood and a home they love surrounded by bush in Titirangi, Auckland, the couple wanted a wedding that represents their relationship – fun, laidback and family-oriented.
The pair's mothers, Penny and Maree, are asked to light candles in honour of late grandparents and Ben's aunt Debbie, who sadly passed away from breast cancer in 2015.
When Ben lost his beloved family members during the first two years of dating his bride, it was Kristie he credits for "just doing the things that needed to be done in that time".
Eventually, he had to say goodbye to their nights drinking red wine together when he flew to Australia to film Offspring, where his agent suggested he remain for his career. But following his heart, Ben chose to return home for love.
For today, the Almighty Johnsons favourite has selected a reading from Captain Corelli's Mandolin, a romance novel he read as a bachelor in Greece 10 years ago.
"It's a beautiful story set during World War II, about a love affair between a Greek girl and an Italian soldier," Ben explains. "I just really loved reading it, so I found a passage about falling in love."
When the extract is read aloud, he wells up.
Of course, humour also weaves its way into the rituals, when Ben dramatically attempts to wriggle the wedding band up Kristie's finger, towards her salt and pepper diamond engagement ring, which was custom- designed by New York jeweller Alexis Russell.
"Hold on to me!" he jokingly tells best man Will, who clutches his waist and pretends to pull him back.
When the couple say their shared vows, it's Kristie's turn to cry. She reads from a piece of paper, thanking her husband for his generosity and support, while Ben puts his acting skills to use and recites his part.
When he stumbles over a sentence, Ben declares, "It's just like me at work!" as his co-stars laugh.
Among his friends is former The Bachelor NZ Jordan Mauger, who met the towering 1.93-metre groom before his reality TV dating days. Jordan, who has since appeared in Bachelor in Paradise and Bachelor Winter Games, credits Kristie for settling the man who was once out "playing silly buggers".
A picture of happiness: Kids Ollie and Harley made the day just perfect.
Jordan laughs, "Ben, Will and I were strutting bachelors in Auckland for a while, and I guess I'm the only one out of the three of us who isn't tied down now! But what Ben and Kristie have, it's beautiful and I hope to have that for myself one day."
Ben later admits he'd expected to choke up. "When Kristie walked down the aisle, it was just like I imagined. I knew I'd be absolutely overwhelmed and fall apart."
Michael, who plays Shortland Street CEO Chris Warner, had also anticipated a few tears from his co-star.
"Ben's a softy deep down," he reveals. "I share a changing room with him and he rings Kristie like five times every day for these really loud, shouty conversations. He's a very devoted husband and has definitely calmed down a lot. He was a bit of a nut for a while – a bit of a wild man."
As the bride and groom are taken around the venue for wedding photos, Kristie asks to hurry it along so they can spend time with their guests.
"You don't say to people how you feel every day, especially when you barely have time as a parent," she explains. "Actually standing up there, telling Ben how I feel, I got emotional."
Ben and Kristie with their bridal party (from left) Vanessa McGregor, Nick Reeves, maid of honour Amie Wallwork, best man Will, her sister Paula Fergus and Ollie.
After months of wedding preparation, juggled with parenthood and busy careers, the couple have decided to save their honeymoon for later in the year.
Kristie smiles, "We want to go to Europe for three weeks in October, but we've taken a week off work to just chill out together, which will be nice."
Ending a fun ceremony with plenty of dancing, eating, drinking and laughing – and luckily, no more rain – the newlyweds admit that something feels different about their relationship after pledging their love for one another in front of family and friends.
"It's in the same way as becoming a father – something inside you changes and you just feel like a different person," Ben says, taking his new bride's hand.
"Now I'll be a husband, six years later, the way it's always supposed to have been."
Ben with his Shortland Street pals (from left) Sam Bunkall, Ria Vandervis and Michael Galvin.
...and with his Almighty Johnsons bros (above, from left) Dean O'Gorman, Emmett Skilton and Jared Turner.
The boys bust some moves before Ben hits the floor with his bride.
Ben hits the floor with his bride.
In the marquee, arrangements by Floral & Styling – Flower and Hunt amp up the romance.
A feast by caterers Little Wolf awaits the guests and the happy couple.
Friend Rachael Brown whipped up the cake, with its lovely layers of chocolate, fruit and lemon.
Kristie stands in front of the wall that was made with 1800 dried hydrangea blooms.
The beautiful bride is a bohemian dream in her embroidered lace gown.

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