Real Life

Ladi6 shares her secret: We eloped!

The musical couple’s magical day came as a big surprise

As the sun set over Samoa’s beautiful Litia Sini Beach Resort, singer Ladi6 and her life and business partner of 12 years, Brent Park (or Parks, as he is better known), said “I do” – their 11-year-old son Philli and two witnesses their only guests.

“It was magical,” Ladi tells of their surprise elopement. “We stood on the beach, surrounded by lights. As we began our ceremony, I turned to look behind me and I saw that our son had tears streaming down his face. That got us going! So Parks and I called him over and the three of us formed a semi-circle in front of the celebrant.”

The intimate ceremony was very different to the one they initially had in mind after Parks proposed in Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, last year. “I got carried away with the wedding planning,”

Ladi admits. “I wanted this massive celebration but then it just turned into lists! We had 300 people to cater for. The questions took over – ‘Do people have food intolerances?’, ‘What colour do I want the umbrellas to be?’, ‘Do I want yoga sessions running?’ I just thought, ‘What the hell is this turning into?!’”

For Parks (34), the rigmarole was also difficult to deal with. Ladi says getting her fiancé onboard with any of the planning was tough, and she began to fear she’d be “working” the wedding on her own when it rolled around.

The festoon lights that lit up the beach were the only remnants of the much larger wedding Ladi had originally planned.

“I can tell Parks isn’t into something when he withdraws,” she tells. “I’d remind him about a meeting with the wedding planner and he’d say ‘Who is that again?’” Parks explains, “All the stress was related to the wedding, not to us getting married, and I questioned what we were doing it for.”

The decision to elope was a weight off the couple’s shoulders. But it involved telling Ladi’s large family that they wouldn’t be a part of their big day. Ladi, Parks and Philli kept the secret right up until the day before they left for Samoa – easy enough for the boys, but Ladi had to tell a few white lies along the way. A sketch of her elegant off-the-shoulder silk and embossed lace wedding dress by Auckland designer Tanya Carlson that she’d pinned to the fridge almost blew their cover.

“My younger sister Bonni saw it and asked, ‘So are you getting this dress made?!’” Ladi recalls. “And our friends kept asking, ‘So what’s going on with the wedding?’ Now it wasn’t the wedding that was stressful, it was the secret!”

The couple had to tell Ladi’s manager, Rebecca Caughey, so she didn’t book any gigs during the busy month of November. Friends were the next to know. Their reactions ranged from crying to screaming, to one friend putting her fingers in her ears and refusing to listen. But the most difficult audience was yet to come.

Ladi invited immediate family to a dinner to celebrate her 33rd birthday and told them they were leaving for Samoa to get married the very next day.

“My mum cried,” Ladi recalls. “But once she’d processed it, she wrote me the sweetest letter. It’s my most cherished wedding gift. She told me she’d gone home and cried, but then realised we were doing the right thing for ourselves, and she gave us her blessing.”

For the couple, there was only one place to have their wedding. In 2009, they were at Litia Sini – in the Lalomanu area – when the devastating tsunami struck. They escaped unharmed and have continued to visit ever since.

Ladi says seeing her son show his emotions as she and Parks read their vows was the most moving part. Until then, he’d been mostly pragmatic about it. “When I had asked him if he was excited about Mum and Dad’s wedding, he said, ‘There was never going to be a time when you and Dad weren’t going to be together anyway.’ I said, ‘Oh, honey, there were a few times! But it’s good to know you’re secure in our relationship!”

Ladi, Parks and son Philli spent the day relaxing before the intimate sunset nuptials.

There are no plans to add to the family yet. For now, planning extends only to a party for friends and family on Auckland’s waterfront next year. But there may still be a few who don’t know the couple have tied the knot – until now. “Our lifestyle and the way we raise our family is not traditional,” explains Parks. “I think our friends would be surprised if we’d married in a traditional way.”

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