Real Life

Our big fat cheap wedding

As the years of their engagement ticked by, Vanessa Whittaker had almost given up on ever marrying fiancé Justin Eleftheriou.

Having four kids meant there was always something else to spend their money on. It didn’t help that Justin (30) considered himself a hopeless romantic – “As in, I’m hopeless at being romantic,” he laughs.

Full-time mum Vanessa was constantly teased by recently engaged friends who claimed they’d be married before her. But luckily for Vanessa (29), Cupid intervened.

When a friend suggested the pair enter a competition to win a wedding through Christchurch’s Classic Hits 97.7Fo, Vanessa found herself nervously outlining her case live on air. Days later, she and Justin had an early morning visit from DJs Patrina and Dave, who showered the family – including Jerome (12), Anna-oarie (9), Addison (5) and Ethan (4) – with confetti and told them they’d won.

“We were rapt,” Justin recalls.

Despite the paltry $977 wedding budget that was their prize, the DJs assured the nervous couple they would have a “beautiful” wedding. And they were right.

To Vanessa and Justin’s amazement, local businesses called the station every day offering outfits, rings, venues, photography and the like for a fraction of their original prices. The $1500 dress was bought for $1 and the rings, worth $1000, cost 50 cents. By the time the big day arrived, the couple were blown away to discover they’d ended up with a wedding worth $10,750 – more than 10 times the original budget. The radio station spent just $330 of the allocated $977.

“We were so grateful for everyone’s generosity,” says Vanessa.

With just over a week to prepare, the first thing they had to do was round up family and friends to join the celebration.

“And I was kept busy every day with beauty treatments and rehearsals,” Vanessa says.

Justin says it was exciting to find out what was happening on a daily basis.

“It was less stressful too, because the station was organising it.”

As the radio station was to broadcast the ceremony live on the breakfast show, Vanessa had to get up at 3:30am on the big day, “but that didn’t stop her from sipping bubbles while getting her hair done,” Justin grins.

After a traditional night apart, the groom was overwhelmed to see his bride walking to join the wedding party in the very public location of Latimer Square. The scene attracted many toots from passing cars. After exchanging vows on air, it was off to a breakfast reception, then photos and a late lunch.

“We were exhausted by the end of the day – but I was not getting out of my dress,” Vanessa laughs.

“In fact, it was so good, I wish we could get married all over again!”

By Stacey Anyan

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