Real Life

Anna Jullienne’s dream wedding

When James dropped to one knee in a stylish Berlin restaurant Anna was thrilled. "I think that when you fall in love with the right person, you just know it's the right step," she says.

When Shortland Street star Anna Jullienne describes her family to others, there are particular adjectives that spring to her mind. "Strong, slightly crazy... and highly emotional!" laughs the brunette.
Kiwi actress Anna (27) was raised by three generations of women - her late great-grandmother, whom she called Nana; her grandmother, nicknamed Bebe; and her mother, Mary. And all three were a special part of the day Anna wed her soulmate, James Kermode, in a deeply romantic summer ceremony. Her Nana, with her in spirit and remembered by way of an antique ring tied to the bride's bouquet; her mum, beaming from the front row in the marquee that housed Anna and James' 90 guests and later making a touching speech; and Bebe - Beverley Shaw - who accompanied a radiant Anna down the aisle.
Anna admits she, too, has inherited all the emotional traits of the many matriarchs in her family. Recalling the moment she began her short but tearful walk towards a visibly nervous James (27) to the strains of Hope, by Kiwi band Fat Freddy's Drop, the actress - who plays nurse oaia Jeffries on Shortland Street - says the torrent of feeling that washed over her was "overwhelming!"
"In fact," says Anna, as the pair relax with a glass of bubbly, having just tied the knot, "I felt overwhelmed from the moment I woke up this morning - more than I ever expected, actually."
It didn't help that she'd had a restless night's sleep, after spending a quiet evening "in jammies" with her bridal party. "But I knew the adrenaline would get me through. And I had a face full of makeup so I was fine! "Having Bebe at my side was so lovely," Anna continues, "and she held it together quite well... until we began our walk. And then, I just focused on James and that got me the rest of the way down the aisle."
Meanwhile, James, a commercial property manager, was also struggling to contain himself as Anna, resplendent in a strapless, floor-length silk chiffon gown by Lusan oandongus, took her place at his side. "Seeing Anna, I felt an absolute flood of emotion," he says with a shy smile. "She looked so beautiful. It was awesome. I'd been really worried about how the day would go because we'd both poured so much time and effort into organising it, but all of that disappeared in that moment."
The couple had planned a ceremony, led by celebrant Helena Dixon, that reflected their sturdy relationship - grounded in friendship - and their hopes and dreams for the future.
Although they had known each other from their teenage years, and met many times since, it wasn't until their paths crossed at a party one fateful evening just over five years ago that they began to fall in love.
"We talked all night and I remember thinking, 'You're not bad!'" recalls Anna, with a coquettish glance at her new husband. "I think, before then, we'd both had preconceived ideas about who the other one was and, when we finally got to know each other, we were both taken by surprise." Giggling, she adds, "Had I known how amazing James was, I would have spoken to him a lot earlier!"
Marriage was something the smitten pair discussed early in their relationship. Although Anna was raised in a fairly unconventional household, teeming with women, she knew the traditional notion of marrying your one true love was something she wanted for herself. "I always wanted to get married, to take that step with someone," she explains. "It meant a lot to both of us to think about making that commitment."
Also, says Anna, she and James were "a good match - suitably similar, but also suitably different. I liked that my partner moved in a slightly different world to my own. one extrovert actor in a relationship is enough!"
So in 2008, when James dropped to one knee in a stylish Berlin restaurant while the couple were travelling through Europe and asked Anna for her hand, she was thrilled. "I think that when you fall in love with the right person, you just know it's the right step," she says.
Returning to New Zealand and to her high-profile role on Shortland Street after a six-month break, Anna excitedly set to work planning their special day. Big decisions such as where the wedding would be held had to be made without James, who remained in Europe for work. "But I checked out Anna's first choice online and it was perfect," he says of The Estate, an exclusive, privately owned home and wedding venue on Waiheke Island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf.
And when he did get home, after almost a year away, he got stuck in organising the "big ticket items" such as the marquee, choosing the wines, and dealing with caterers. "Also," laughs Anna, "he sorted out everything to do with his groomsmen, which was great. It's like herding cats with those boys!"
one of the biggest challenges the couple faced together was choosing appropriate readings for the wedding. "We found it so hard," laments Anna. "There were a lot of options, but so many of them weren't really 'us'. Then Amanda Billing [who plays Dr Sarah Potts on Shortland Street] loaned us a collection of New Zealand poetry called oy Heart Goes Swimming. It's a beautiful book, and from it we chose a poem called Inventing You by Kevin Ireland."
It wasn't only Amanda who helped to make their day so special. other members of the Shortland Street family pitched in too - actress Beth Allen's fiancé Charlie ocDermott was the DJ, Fleur Saville's partner Jon Harding sang and played guitar, and Kiel ocNaughton filmed the wedding through his company, To the Bride and Groom.
Then came the hardest task of all - putting their most private feelings for one another into words. "We sat down and wrote our vows together," Anna says. "And it wasn't as challenging as we initially thought it might be. Helena had lots of ideas and showed us some of the vows other couples had used, which helped us to start thinking about our own. Then we wrote down our ideas and read them to one another."
James says that although he isn't a fan of public speaking of any kind, he felt it was vital he speak from the heart rather than use standard vows. "Absolutely essential," he says. "It wasn't someone else's wedding - it was Anna's and mine. My vows to Anna were really important and it was essential that I write them and say what I mean." And, he adds, laughing, "I can confirm that I managed to practise them without crying once!"
However, in the emotion and romance of the moment, both Anna and James wiped away tears as they pledged their love to one another on a hot, windy Auckland afternoon. "Anna," James began, "you are my best friend, my love. I love your tenderness, your warmth, your strength, your honesty. I admire your sense of life and greatly respect you. Today, as I become your husband, I promise to give you the best of me. I promise to be your faithful supporter in good times and bad. I promise to treasure you, to be honest, to encourage. I promise to respect and love you always."
"James," Anna then replied, "you are my rock, my strength. With you beside me, I know I can overcome any obstacle, rise to any challenge. You are my best friend, my love and I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you. I promise, as your wife, to be the best that I can be for you. I promise to always nurture our relationship, to make sure it grows. I promise to respect you and love you always."
And when the newlyweds were finally introduced as a married couple to their equally teary friends and family, a huge cheer erupted, and Anna and James left the marquee as or and ors Kermode. "I never imagined that I would change my name," reflects Anna, "but I tried to get James to change his to Jullienne and he wasn't having a bar of it! I'll keep my maiden name for work purposes but I do like the idea of having the same surname as my future children."
And, yes, James and Anna say they hope they'll have a family some day soon. "Although there's no big rush!" says Anna. "We're relatively young so we don't feel the need to get started straightaway. It's something we definitely want at some point, if we're lucky enough."
For now, there's a honeymoon in Queenstown to enjoy - "Wine-tasting and nice dinners. I can't wait!" squeals Anna - and a marriage to begin. Will being husband and wife change things? "It's pretty good right now, " says Anna, "so hopefully it will stay the same, except that I have a whole new ring on!
We're each other's best friends and James always lets me be who I am. Sometimes that's loud and full-on and sometimes I'm quiet and reserved - but, either way, he lets me be that person. "There's nothing that he would like to change about me. Well, maybe there is, but he's never let me know it!" James laughs, and nods in agreement. "I can't wait to have Anna by my side, for my whole life. I just love to spend time with her." Catching himself, he grins, "Gosh, is that cheesy? It is! It's terrible! But it's true."
For not the first time in a thoroughly moving day, Anna's eyes fill with tears. "I'm looking forward to doing everything in life from now on with James. It's crazy to think back to that party where we fi rst spoke - we could have easily kept ignoring each other, not talking to each other, and we wouldn't be here now. It's lucky we did."

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