It wasn’t an auspicious start. The night before Kerre Woodham’s wedding to her partner of 15 years, Tom McIvor, blood had been shed and the groom spent the night sleeping in the car. But it wasn’t as bad as it sounds – set upon by bloodthirsty mosquitoes that loved his fair Celtic skin, Tom locked himself away to get some sleep before the big day.
When planning the wedding, Kerre was determined to keep it simple and stress-free – she was more Bridechilla than Bridezilla. How many women go down to the beach for a swim with their mum and aunties on the morning of their wedding?
She wanted a day that she and Tom could enjoy and that is what she got. “Nothing can go wrong because we’re surrounded by people we love and who love us,” said Kerre beforehand.
There was plenty of magic, starting with the moment when Kerre, escorted by her mother, Colleen, appeared before Tom and their guests in her stunning Tanya Carlson gown. There were audible gasps, and as she made her way to Tom’s side there was spontaneous applause. Yet even the dress had only just made it to the wedding, having been whipped up in three days.
“Tanya hung the fabric up against me on Tuesday,” reveals Kerre, “and said, ‘What will we do?’ The poor thing has been making beautiful wedding dresses for Olympians who are tall columns of muscle and then I come in and she had to use all her fabulous dressmaking techniques to slim and minimise.”
Tanya also created a false hem, allowing the bride to wear towering shoes, reducing the height difference between 190cm (6ft 3in) Tom and 155cm (5ft 1.5in) Kerre.
“I said to Tanya, ‘I’ll never be able to stay in those wedges all night.’ She said, ‘Don’t worry about it’ and created a false hem that my friend Sarah cut off after the photos. Then on went the glittery sandals and I danced all night.”
And so it all came together perfectly – in the end. Kerre says friends were so worried that although the wedding date had long been set as February 2, by Christmas very few firm arrangements seemed to be in place.
“I was ambushed at the end of last year by the inner coterie who made me go through a checklist of what needed to be done and then they all breathed a sigh of relief. “I am known for my last-minute personality. I just had a horror of it being over-produced and over-planned.”
While some things ran close to the wire, Tom jumped the gun when it came to one piece of the wedding ritual. Instead of waiting for the ceremony, he started wearing his ring several days beforehand.
“I’ve missed wearing a ring,” says Tom, who has been married twice before. Kerre has been proudly wearing her spectacular engagement ring, chosen with the help of daughter Kate, for several months.
“I love the ring,” says Kerre. “It’s a big sparkly disco ball of a cluster diamond. Kate said it had to reflect my personality – loud, sparkly and fun. And the first day I wore it I was running out to do a book tour and I missed the turnoff to the airport because I was admiring the way the light came off the diamonds.”
Tom chose a traditional, classic band for himself, but Kerre doesn’t have a wedding ring of her own yet. “It took forever to get the engagement ring,” she laughs. “I might get one a bit later.”
If it sounds like Tom didn’t have a lot to do with planning the wedding, that’s because he didn’t. Kerre is definitely the organisational brains of the couple.
“He pulled one out of the bag when he found the most perfect Pablo Neruda poem for his speech,” says Kerre.
“That was how he won me all those years ago. He flew back from Japan, gave me a Zambesi coat, a book of Pablo Neruda’s poetry and an armful of flowers and said ‘Now you wait for me.’ I was bowled over.”
In one nod to tradition, Kerre stayed out of sight until the ceremony itself. But many guests who arrived with just an hour to go found Tom roaming around the venue still in a T-shirt. He had a last-minute wardrobe malfunction – a stubborn stain on his shirt that refused to move – and had to make an emergency dash into Whitianga township to find a replacement.
He wasn’t the only one with a last-minute job to do. Weekly columnist Wendyl Nissen was charged with finding flowers and, in a town without a florist, could be seen beside the road harvesting wild blooms.
The venue was the beautiful Simpsons Beach, Coromandel, waterfront home of Kerre’s aunt and uncle, Mary and David Bodle. The Pacific Ocean provided a stunning backdrop and the sound of the waves a dramatic soundtrack to the event.
Like the engagement ring, the ceremony reflected the bride’s personality – short and to the point. It was conducted by celebrant to the stars and former Breakfast co-host Kay Gregory and attended by around 40 close friends and family.
Kay acknowledged several important figures who could not be present. Among those who had passed away were Kerre’s dad, Mike, Tom’s parents, Jimmie and Annie, and Kerre’s nana, Cherry. Also on the minds of many was Sir Paul Holmes, a friend and colleague of numerous guests, who had passed away the day before.
There were readings by close friend Di Stewart and Kerre’s daughter Kate and son-in-law Ranko Berich. Kay pointed out that Kerre would soon be able to say two words she had never uttered before in her life: “My husband”.
To cap off the event, as if nature herself was giving her approval to the union, a delicate mist – “Irish mist,” said Kerre – rolled in off the sea.
After the ceremony, Tom and Kerre – who is changing her name to McIvor – had the party they wanted. It was a do that saw former deputy prime minister and Commonwealth secretary general Sir Don McKinnon rubbing shoulders with larrikin Wellington actor and director Danny Mulheron.
In one corner All Black coaching legend John Hart was deep in discussion with former SAS commanding officer Jim Blackwell. The man who made Kerre a marathon runner, Gaz Brown, and his wife Weekly fashion editor Lucia Tigri-Brown chatted together while cartoonist and funny man Tom Scott, who drew a cartoon for the wedding invitation, talked to journalist (and Lady McKinnon) Clare DeLore.
In one departure from the norm, the guests included Kerre’s ex and Kate’s dad, Alistair Roberts, who attended with his wife, Sarah. “He is a lovely man and he’s really cool,” says Kerre. “We had Christmas together. He’s married to a fabulous woman who we all love.”
Kerre’s brother, Tony, was master of ceremonies and showed that Kerre doesn’t have a monopoly on wit in the family.
Although much of the event was low key, it was with a twist, beginning with Bollinger champagne. Yes, guests were served fish and chips in newspaper on the beach, but the newspaper was a reprint of the New Zealand Herald page that carried a story about Kerre proposing to Tom on Leap Day 2012. And along with the promised fish and chips there were lamb cutlets, mini burgers, spring rolls and, later, a sumptuous buffet.
The speed with which the wedding was organised is in sharp contrast to the time it took for anyone to propose. “We talked about it on and off over 15 years,” says Kerre. “But I wasn’t a little girl who dreamed of being a bride. When Kate and Ranko married [18 months ago], it was wonderful to see their courage and commitment to one another and that they expressed that with friends and family.
“I thought I’d denied friends the chance to weep tears of laughter watching me waddle up the aisle. So I said to Tom, ‘If I was to ask you to marry me, would you?’ and he said, ‘I’ve been trying to marry you for years.’ I took that as a yes and waited until Leap Day. That way he would be my first husband, I wouldn’t be his third wife.”
As for Tom – who regular readers of Kerre’s column might be forgiven for thinking earned his living being Irish, but in fact works in child psychology – he pronounced the wedding good “craic”. He later said being married felt “very comfortable”.
A few days before the wedding, Kerre was even able to look forward to it: “It’s like when I fell in love with Tom. It wasn’t sky rockets and bells and whistles – it was just the quiet certainty that he was the one. And with the wedding it’s just the quiet certainty that we’re doing the right thing.”
Kerre did not receive any payment for this story, but at her request donations have been made to Coromandel organisations: Mercury Bay St Johns Ambulance, Hot Water Beach Surf Lifesaving Club and the Whitianga Fire Brigade.