It was a Southland wedding that was more Kiwi than pavlova and paid homage to all that they love about New Zealand heartland.
When Fred Shandley proposed to Dr Josie Parker during a stroll on Stewart Island, the 46-year-old police detective knew their wedding would be a day to remember.
And when he walked into the ceremony to a soundtrack of 1970s TV shows – including The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch, which the 51-year-old Invercargill radiologist had secretly arranged to calm her husband-to-be’s nerves at the altar – he knew he’d found his original woman.
“I didn’t want one of those weddings where you get stuck with the same people, sitting at the same table all night – Fred and I wanted everyone to be relaxed,” says Josie, who gave their wedding reception a “Food and Wine” festival theme, complete with a kai moana tent, a replica vintage Four Square store and a Mr Whippy ice-cream van.
“It had everything I remember from my childhood in the ‘70s. We wanted the kids to enjoy the day as much as the grown-ups.”
The couple’s Southland wedding day began dark and stormy, before the sun broke through late in the afternoon, just as the bride arrived at Invercargill’s historic St Paul’s Church. The soundtrack gave way to the traditional wedding march as the bride floated up the aisle in a blush-coloured, sequinned sheath dress with mermaid tail detail and a pink tulle veil.
Josie’s bridesmaids – her sister Donna Parker (53), friends Bernadette Gourley and Antoinette Lal, and Fred’s daughter Kaitlyn (12) – were all resplendent in blue, while the groom’s line-up included his brother Philip (36) and old mates Donovan Clarke and Chris Casey.
“I wasn’t sure about the blue suits,” jokes Fred. “They looked a bit too much like my police uniform!”
Josie’s sons, Michael and John, gave their mother away in front of a congregation that included Kiwi dress designer Tanya Carlson – one of Josie’s friends from her days as a student in Dunedin.
Fred’s son Noah (9) had one of the day’s most important tasks – he was entrusted with the care of the wedding rings in a case chained to his arm!
After the service, the bridal party chugged away in The Remarkables bus to have photos taken, while guests adjourned to the couple’s large suburban section, which had been set up festival-style. “That had to be one of my favourite parts of the day,” remembers Josie.
Every detail of the couple’s wedding was a reflection of their lives. Each table boasted its own specialised theme. “Building Safer Communities” was covered in replica police cars – a nod to Fred’s occupation – while other themes included “Something Old”, “Little Black Dress” and, of course, “Love and Romance”. There was even a replica of Fred’s beloved fishing boat, Te Wheke – much to his delight!
While a vintage typewriter was on offer in the corner for guests to type out wedding messages and a photo booth allowed guests to create their own mementos of the day, food was very much the focus.
A row of tents offered a range of culinary delights and at 6.15pm, after a Maori blessing by family friend Harry Moeke, the catering team swung into action. The Divine Canapés tent offered a range of bite-size treats, and at the Western-themed “Pimp my Steak” joint, guests enjoyed steak sandwiches with caramelised onions, homemade tomato sauce and shiraz syrup.
No Kiwi food festival would be complete without a Kai Moana tent, and the 200 guests queued for a taste of beer-battered blue cod, whitebait and paua fritters.
A salad bar catered to the health-conscious, supplying dishes of roasted kumara and orange and ginger with orange poppy seed vinaigrette.
Even the children weren’t forgotten. The newlyweds used their married name to create the McShandley’s burger tent, positioned next door to the makeshift Four Square store, which stocked everything a kid would want – candy floss, crisps, Foxton Fizz and gummy sweets. And a games zone kept the kids entertained during the speeches.
“I’m apologising to the bridesmaids now because I’m going to have to fire them for being too beautiful,” began Fred, before informing guests of Josie’s addiction. “She’s one of the world’s most expert shoppers,” laughed Fred fondly.
Josie also had her say on her new husband.
“He’s a geeky techno whizz who can do anything on a computer – but his DIY skills are practically non-existent!”
A moving waiata and spirited haka by Fred’s whanau hailed the cutting of the wedding cake, before the dancing began and guests partied into the wee small hours before finally heading home, declaring this the most fun wedding they’d ever attended. “That’s exactly what Fred and I hoped for,” says Josie contentedly.