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Sarah + James \\ Captured By Dawn Thomson Photography

A refined dreamscape destination wedding in a luxury lakeside lodge overlooking Lake Wakatipu and the snow-capped mountains of Queenstown. Sharing a love of travel and adventure Sarah and James said I do, in one of their favourite destinations with a romantic lakeside ceremony. Trusting in their florist Gypsy from The Vase, who Sarah gave full creative freedom, meant the day was filled with the most beautiful hues of florals. While photographer Dawn Thomson captured all the soulful moments of the day, including a helicopter ride shoot in the mountains before heading back to the incredible Matakauri Lodge for an elegant celebration with their nearest and dearest set before a dramatic backdrop as the sun set behind the mountains.

“I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, If you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes, without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.” Excerpt from The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

How did you meet and how long have you been together? 

Sarah is a veterinarian and James brought his dog Storm in as an emergency on New Years Day in 2014. James also had a business next door to the clinic and after a few months of talking to each other on our way to work we finally went on our first date together and never really looked back.

How would you describe each other? 

Sarah is a beautiful soul.  She is intelligent, sexy and perfectly complex. I adore every aspect of her being.  I could not imagine life without her. James is adventurous, compassionate, generous and the most courageous person I know. Together we make a great team and adore taking adventures together.

Tell us a little bit about the proposal and your engagement?

James and I set out for a picnic at one of our favourite beaches near our home. James had a family friend make my engagement ring which he designed and gave to me. The afternoon was complete with champagne, fruit platter and a fortuitous rainbow as the sun was setting. It was simple but perfect. James was a few days later deployed with the army for 6 months and when he came home we went travelling and volunteering in Africa for another six months. I wouldn’t say we had a normal engagement but we certainly had an adventurous one.

Tell us about your wedding style. What influenced your planning for the day?

We had decided to get married in Winter in New Zealand so we knew that it would be cold. This influenced the style of dress I wore and I also knew I’d need a jacket to brave the NZ winter. James and I are fairly easy going and so we had chosen a beautiful location that we knew would speak for itself and didn’t want to detract from that. Our focus was to only including things if they were meaningful to us. We didn’t really pick a style but instead picked vendors who we loved their work and gave them freedom to create and have fun with our venue.

Why did you choose your destination? 

The first holiday we ever took together was to the South Island of New Zealand and we felt it had a powerful and grounding effect on us. We loved the idea of going back to get married. We had initially intended to elope but once our friends and family found out where we were going they wanted to come along too so our elopement turned into a small destination wedding. We chose the Matakauri Lodge for its location and also so that we could have everyone stay with us, relax and enjoy themselves for the weekend.

What was your favourite detail from the day? 

My favourite detail from the day were our flowers. I had given Gypsy (from The Vase) a very brief idea of colours that I liked and the rest really was up to her to create something beautiful that would suit the setting at the lodge. I cried tears of joy when she presented me with my bouquet for the first time. It was so wonderful having surprises throughout the day and somehow made the whole day feel more spontaneous and special.  

What was your favourite moment from the day?

We loved our ceremony. James and I had taken the time to write our ceremony and vows. We had tried to include elements of fun and surprise and include our guests into the ceremony as much as possible. Being vulnerable and sharing our love and commitment to each other with only our closest family and friends is a moment that we will cherish forever.

What does marriage mean to you?

Marriage is a way for us to formalize a spiritual bond and make a commitment that we feel we already share. We consider marriage to be a partnership of equal participation. Our aim in marriage is to jointly create and accept the risks that come with binding our lives to another individual. In doing so we hope that our unity will create a happiness that will exceed our own individual self.

Who were your stand out vendors?

Choosing the right photographer to capture our day was important to both James and I as we knew that this would be the record we would have in the future to look back upon. Dawn Thomson was wonderful to work with and provided us with more than just spectacular photographs in the end, she was a blessing in suggesting other local vendors who were also amazing to work with. We loved Dawn’s documentary style of photography and her attention to small moments and details. Dawn was such a pleasure to spend time with on the day and we appreciated her creative ideas and input into our day.

Gypsy West from The Vase provided the most spectacular floral art for our wedding. I didn’t know what to expect on the day as we had given her freedom to create something that would suit the stunning backdrop of the lake and mountains. She truly went above and beyond for us and was such a joyful person to work with. Our guests still comment on how beautiful the flowers were.

Advice for other couples planning a wedding?

Our only advice is to decide on what is meaningful and important to you and focus on that. Try not to get caught up in the little details that don’t really matter. Try not to over plan the day, for us the most enjoyment came from the unexpected moments that weren’t planned.


Photographer: Dawn Thomson Photography |  Venue: Matakauri Lodge | Florist: The Vase Flora and Foliage | Cake: Matakauri Lodge – Cheese wheel tower | Bridal Gown: Gemy Maalouf from Accapella Bridal | Hair: Boho Bridal Hair | Makeup: I Am Makeup | Suit: Sergio’s Menswear Queenstown | Shoes: Florsheim shoes | Stationery: Paperless Post | Celebrant: Tracey Maclaren | Wedding Rings: Meakins Jewellers | Transport: Over The Top Helicopter | Catering: Matakauri Lodge

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