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Kaik­oura hitch: Our wed­ding jit­ters; Ta­nia putts away the pain

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - CONTENTS -

Most cou­ples con­sider their wed­ding to be one of life’s mile­stone mo­ments, but Sheena and Michael Mercer have more rea­son than many to re­mem­ber their big day.

The Ka­iapoi cou­ple had in­tended to marry in Kaik­oura on De­cem­ber 3 last year. The east coast town­ship has long been a reg­u­lar sum­mer hol­i­day haunt for the former teen sweet­hearts, as well as be­ing a favourite div­ing spot of Michael’s.

Their per­fect day had been planned down to the finest de­tail. The cer­e­mony would be held at spec­tac­u­lar Ohau Point, over­look­ing a nearby seal colony and with an un­ri­valled vista of the coast­line. Koura Bay Lodge, with its views of the penin­sula and ocean, was booked for the re­cep­tion.

But a fort­night be­fore the event, the deadly 7.8 mag­ni­tude earth­quake hit on Novem­ber 14. The main roads into Kaik­oura were buck­led and rup­tured, there was no power or in­ter­net and no-one was sure how long re­cov­ery might take.

The lov­ing cou­ple were dis­traught. Michael’s stag do was sched­uled to be held in Kaik­oura the fol­low­ing week­end and the best man lived there. They had friends

and fam­ily fly­ing in from Aus­tralia and they had their three adorable daugh­ters – Ge­or­gia, eight, Har­low, five, and three-year-old Mia – ex­cit­edly wait­ing for their fairy­tale mo­ment as Mum and Dad’s flower girls.

“We were all dev­as­tated,” tells Sheena. They dis­cussed post­pon­ing the wed­ding, but de­cided they had reached a point in their re­la­tion­ship where they felt ready to re­ally com­mit to each other.

“We’ve been to­gether for 11 years and have three chil­dren. It was a bit like, if we don’t do it now, when are we go­ing to do it? So we de­cided to go ahead but move it all closer to home.”

Michael man­aged to get in and out of the quake-struck town, tak­ing food and help­ing re­lo­cate some of the 56 tonne of paua stranded after the seabed was lifted by around 1.8 me­tres.

Aisle sort it!

Sheena, with just a fort­night to re­or­gan­ise what had been al­most two years of plan­ning, stayed home and posted a plea for help on a lo­cal brides’ Face­book page.

“We had a Christchurch pho­tog­ra­pher and cel­e­brant who were go­ing to travel up to Kaik­oura, so that was OK. But we had to get a caterer and a venue. Try­ing to find a venue at short no­tice was the main stress.”

But the com­mu­nity ral­lied. They were con­tacted by wed­ding plan­ner Emma New­man, who put them on to Lace­bark, a ren­o­vated barn-turned-func­tion cen­tre not far from their home in Ka­iapoi. It had only just opened so was avail­able for their day. Then Ea­ton Drink Co. came on board to do the cater­ing, of­fer­ing to repli­cate the menu and pro­vide free canapés.

Mean­while, the cou­ple never lost sight of what was hap­pen­ing to their friends in Kaik­oura. “We don’t have fam­ily in Kaik­oura,” ex­plains Sheena, “but we just love the place. We’ve spent a lot of sum­mers there and a lot of our friends have moved there. Our first thought wasn’t the wed­ding, but whether they were OK.”

She and Michael asked Koura Lodge to do­nate the $1300 de­posit they had paid for the venue hire to the re­cov­ery ef­fort. “They were lovely peo­ple,” ex­plains Sheena. “They had plenty to worry about – we just told them to dis­trib­ute it as they saw need.”

And then it was De­cem­ber 2, the day be­fore the wed­ding. Best man Nathan Jolly was still stuck in Kaik­oura. There was talk about char­ter­ing a plane to pick him up. But luck was with him and he man­aged to make his mate’s big day after a car­load of other wed­ding guests found an “off-road” route through a farm.

After all the dis­rup­tion, the day it­self went off with­out a hitch. In fact, Sheena cred­its the earth­quake with mak­ing it even more spe­cial.

“It made us re­ally look at what was im­por­tant to us and what the rea­sons we were get­ting mar­ried ac­tu­ally were,” she ex­plains. “We had an in­cred­i­ble day.

“When I look back on it, it seems like it was meant to be ... Ev­ery­thing just fell to­gether. I’ll never for­get it.”

She says she and Michael are think­ing about re­new­ing their vows at some stage – in Kaik­oura.

When the earth­quake hit, Sheena and Michael (with, from left, Har­low, Ge­or­gia and Mia) re­alised their vows were more im­por­tant than ever.

Love triumphs! With their gorgeous daugh­ters as flower girls, the bride and groom said “I do” on what turned out to be “an in­cred­i­ble day”.

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