Occupational therapist Vivian can’t pull her wedding dress over her knees. And although four children have changed her body since she tied the knot at age 18, Vivian’s love for her husband Dave has not faltered.
Vivian’s parents were both apprehensive about her getting married at such a young age, but the couple proved their critics wrong.
Vivian has endured hardship and heartbreak since walking down the aisle of her family church in Ranui, Auckland, wearing a size 8 organza dress. Holding up her dress today is still an emotional experience.
“It was surreal taking out the dress – in some ways it is just as dream-like as when I got married,” says Vivian, who is mother to Renee (22), Matthew (18), Talia (16) and Hosanna (13).
“The whole day was a haze of love – it was the best decision that I ever made.”
For an 18-year-old bride, Vivian was mature for her age. Her parents both suffered from mental illness, sometimes leaving her to care for herself from the age of 10. And after their wedding day, the couple faced more challenges.
Their two-year-old niece, Aisling Symes, went missing in October 2009, only to be found dead in a drainpipe in West Auckland eight days later.
Shortly after the tragedy, Vivian’s eldest daughter Renee developed Guillain–Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease which left Renee paralysed and on a respirator for seven weeks. Over the past three years, Renee has been slowly regaining movement in her body, muscle by muscle.
“Watching Renee go through this has been hard, but you deal with what you’ve been given in life,” says Vivian. “So much has gone on for Dave and I, but our love is so much richer now.”
Although she is now several sizes bigger than she was on her wedding day, Vivian is not fazed by the fact she can’t put her wedding dress on. “That dream has long since passed, but I wouldn’t want to get it on now. I might have been skinny then, but now I feel quite confident and strong.”
Emma Rawson & Kelly Bertand
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