Chelsea New Zealand's Hottest Home Baker judge Julia Crownshaw could produce a three-tier wedding cake at a moment’s notice – but when it came to her own wedding, after a proposal that she thought was going to end with a hospital visit, the 31-year-old opted for something offbeat.The TV3 judge and her partner of five years, Andrew Blackford, were married at Lake Rotoiti in a do-it-yourself Kiwi wedding. More than 100 family and friends, including fellow Hottest Home Baker host Colin Mathura-Jeffree and Andrew’s best man, Ben Crawford, winner of The Block NZ, watched the couple say their vows.
For something old and something borrowed, Julia wore her mother Maggie’s wedding dress – a beautiful chiffon gown, with a frilled hem, delicate polka dot velvet details and a belt sewn by her grandmother, Eggie, in 1974.
Andrew got quite emotional when he saw his bride standing before him beneath an archway of blue hydrangeas.“ Julia looked so beautiful,” he says. “I think she downplayed how she would look because it was her mum’s dress and it wasn’t new, but she looked amazing.”
“I always knew I was going to use Mum’s dress and I wanted there to be that emotional link. I like that it’s had a past life,” says Julia.
“I didn’t want it to be all about an expensive dress. We wanted our day to be a celebration of the family and friends that brought us to this point.”
The couple organised and planned the wedding on their own and held the ceremony at the old family bach, where as a child Julia learned to water ski on a bathroom door. It was important to the couple to put their personal touch on the day.
They decorated the ceremony and reception venues themselves. Lanterns and patchwork bunting, handsewn by Julia's stepmother, Gillian, were strung across a marquee at the reception venue – another bach at the end of the bay.
Guests sat on hay-bales and patchwork picnic blankets as they sipped homemade cocktails, and jam jars filled with handpicked hydrangeas adorned tables. Not surprisingly, the baking judge insisted on making the cake for her own wedding – a delicious whisky fruitcake with candied orange, dark chocolate chunks and kirsch cherries, served slightly warm with custard.
Instead of walking down the aisle, the stunning brunette arrived in a vintage lake boat, and walked down the jetty with her father, John. The customary first dance was replaced by fireworks and a tequila ceremony.
“We’re not big, over-the-top people. This wedding was more about fun," says Julia, who first met Andrew, an engineer, in London at a rock concert.
“What I love about Andrew is he grabs life with both hands,” she adds. "He’s romantic in a non-traditional sense. Rather than him buying something
for me for Valentine’s Day, we would rather go out and do something together. He will spend hours and hours teaching me how to single water ski. ”
The ceremony on the lawn of the bach was full of humour. Andrew’s sisters, Hannah and Sarah, brought the house down with their reading of tips from the year one students in primary school teacher Sarah's class. The advice included, “Make sure you don’t look at each other when you kiss, otherwise it might be a little gross,” and
“Don't forget your wife’s name.”
Andrew popped the question last year on the white sands of the Bazaruto Archipelago, off the coast of Mozambique, but the proposal didn't go to plan.
“He suggested we go for a walk on this long beach, so we did, but he was acting really weird. I actually thought he had malaria,” says Julia.
“He was sweaty, shaking and incoherent and I was thinking I was going to have to take him to hospital – but it turns out he was just nervous.”
After the ceremony, the guests stepped aboard three boats for an hour-long cruise around the lake to the reception venue. The bridal party waved to guests as their boat, Cappy, weaved in and out.
“The lake is a very special place to us, and we wanted to share it with our guests," says Julia, who spent summers here when growing up, playing watersports with her family.
“It’s become super important to me now too, and I have lots of good memories from this place,” adds Andrew. He spent much of last year camped out at the bach while he started his adventure canopy tour business in Rotorua.
Julia, who owns dessert company Dollop Puddings, wanted all the food to be homemade. She, her mother and aunt, Anna, spent hours in the days before the wedding making jars and jars of their own preserves, which were served to guests with locally made cheese, followed by delicious gourmet rolls with fennel and pork.
After weeks of preparing the food, Julia spent the morning before the ceremony taking a stroll down the beach in Mount Maunganui, before getting ready with her mother and bridesmaids, while Andrew opted for a whitewater kayak down the Kaituna River – which Julia only found out about later.
The couple are planning a big overseas skiing honeymoon next year, but in the meantime they are content to lay low, enjoying being husband and wife.
“I’m just so excited. It feels like the beginning, and this day solidifies our relationship,” says Julia.
Photos: Michelle Hyslop