Real Life

Jonah Lomu: Love healed my heart

As All Black legend Jonah Lomu and Nadene Quirk exchanged vows in a clifftop ceremony on a blustery Wellington weekend, they were just happy to become man and wife in front of close family and friends

As weddings go, it wasn’t conventional. The bride wore green, the couple arrived together, the ceremony doubled as a memorial to the family’s dog, the ring bearer had saved the groom’s life, and the DJ almost missed the whole event after the engine of the plane he was in died in mid-flight.

But as All Black legend Jonah Lomu and Nadene Quirk exchanged vows in a clifftop ceremony on a blustery Wellington weekend, they were just happy to become man and wife in front of close family and friends – including Jonah’s once-estranged father, Semisi.

The wedding day began with wind and rain, but the sun came out just minutes before Nadene’s father, oervyn walked her down the aisle in five-inch Jimmy Choo designer stilettos and a one-off, forest green Roberto Cavalli strapless gown that Jonah calls “a one-off dress for a one-off lady”.

While Jonah looked dashing in his custom-made suit, the couple’s young boys, Brayley (2), and eight-month-old Dhyreille, took the prize for cuteness in miniature Dior outfits.

The pair were married by the bishop of their church, exchanging rings presented to them by Zo breakfast radio host Grant Kereama – the man who gave his kidney to save Jonah’s life. Family friend Catherine Laban sang At Last while the pair signed the register.

Nadene admits nerves almost got the better of her in the hours before the wedding, but Jonah was typically laid-back. “I’m pretty chilled about it all – I’m marrying my best friend,” he says. “And after all, I’ve had two practices at marriage!”

Jonah (36) and Nadene (33) made the decision to marry in New Zealand rather than France, where they are now living, determined that Jonah’s father would see them become husband and wife in the short time he has left.

“It was important to have the family together,” says Jonah, whose tumultuous relationship with his abusive father was revealed last year. “Dad has diabetes, and kidney, liver and heart problems – we were told last November he wasn’t likely to see Christmas.

He’s basically a ticking time bomb. Because of our history, we haven’t been together for my entire rugby career, but having my own boys has made me realise how important it is to have that relationship with my father. I am stubborn, and I do hold grudges, but we’ve sorted it out and I really wanted him to be here today. If Nadene hadn’t made me mend my relationship with Dad, he would have passed away without my ever fixing the rift. Now he’s here to enjoy the day with us.”

But while Semisi was able to be there to see Nadene and Jonah tie the knot, one family member was missing – the couple’s dog, Pumbbah, who died in November when he stepped between their son Brayley and a neighbourhood dog who had got into their garden. His ashes and picture took pride of place on a mantel at the venue, and every place setting featured a feather – his favourite chase item.

“I know a lot of people won’t understand why Pumbbah’s death is part of our wedding, but he meant the world to us,” explains Jonah. “He was the first member of our ‘family’ after Nadene and I got together, when we didn’t think we’d be able to have kids. To us, he was that kid. And he died protecting the family.

“The boys are such a reminder of what’s important. I was always told I’d never have kids and now I have these two running around, tearing it up.”

The couple aren’t sure if they will add to their brood – “Whoo – I dunno,” laughs Jonah. “We’re happy with our two. If we’re blessed with a third, that’d be wonderful.”

Jonah says his schedule doesn’t even leave room for a honeymoon. “I’m busier than ever – I’m booked up until 2013 at the moment,” says the rugby great, whose first coaching clinic opens in Milan this year. “So the jetsetting won’t change. But Nadene’s always known that about me. We know who we are and what we want.”

“I’m madly in love with Jonah,” says Nadene. “With our two boys, marriage just completes the package.”

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