Te Aroha celebrates its royal wedding
Under grey skies reminiscent of a typical English spring day, the Union Jack whipped in the wind next to a fluttering Stars and Stripes.
Royal china dating to the Queen’s visit to New Zealand in 1953 was laid on tables groaning with club sandwiches and scones with jam and cream.
Tea towels adorned with the faces of the monarch hung from bunting above.
Befitting its name, love was the theme of the day in the typically sleepy Waikato town of Te Aroha on Saturday.
Royal enthusiasts donned hats and tightly belted coats for a local celebration of the nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Some wore their original wedding dresses to partake in a mass recommitment ceremony in the shadow of the mountain at midday.
Among them were Auckland couple Avalon and John Fryer. They led the procession of ‘‘royals’’ dressed as the Queen and Prince Philip for the day.
They’d travelled down to support organiser Angela Thompson - a devout royalist who’d organised the day.
‘‘This is the first time we’ve done [Philip] and the Queen. We have been Camilla and Charles before.’’
The couple were not devout royalists, but believed the royal wedding gave people a fantastical hope.
‘‘Meghan is a commoner and it’s a focal point that you can achieve ... it’s a change in the monarchy and a slightly more liberal energy,’’ Avalon said.
‘‘It also gives people an opportunity to forget their own hassles in life.’’
The Fryers canned plans to renew their vows on their 50th wedding anniversary next year and instead joined others at the flagpole at midday.
Along with them were Paeroa couple Robin and Colin Moore.
The pair met at a dance in Taranaki and have been married 29 years.
‘‘I’d been on my own for six months and my friend took me to a solo dance group.
‘‘The first person I met was Colin. We’ve been together every day since.’’
Robin wore her original wedding dress made from netting and lace tiers and trimmed with a hooped bottom.
She made it herself, taking two days to sew the gown to match two pale pink bridesmaid dresses she had her daughters wear.
‘‘I just think it’s really nice to renew your vows after all these years we’ve been together and had a really, really good marriage.’’
She anticipated the royal couple would be feeling ‘‘very nervous’’ approaching the ceremony.
Meghan, she expected, would wear a sleek, fitted gown, ‘‘nothing too poufy’’.
‘‘I’ve followed the royals since I was a child and I just think it’s wonderful to have someone like that to look up to.’’
And their advice for the royal couple was to ‘‘just look after each other and care for each other first’’.
At midday, an injured back meant Colin had to sit out the vow renewal, but a proxy from the audience was brought in, amid cheers from the crowd.
A scattering of other couples also joined hands to re-cement their love.
‘‘Love makes the world go round,’’ the appropriately named celebrant Wanda Brittain told those in the crowd.
‘‘Love makes you think about someone else, more than you think about yourself.’’
As the rain threatened, she reassured those re-tying the knot.
‘‘Rain on the wedding day is very lucky - it means you’re going to have a happy and fertile wedding.’’
She asked whether those present wanted to renew their commitment to each other, to which a resounding ‘‘we do’’ rang out.
The couples were then asked to seal the deal the ‘‘old fashioned way’’. That was Robin’s proxy’s cue to leave.
‘‘We all need love in our lives,’’ Brittain finished.
A mass flock of pigeons were then released into the skies before the day adjourned inside to a feast of tea, scones and cucumber sandwiches served on Thompson’s china.
Originally from Berkshire, just outside Windsor, British born Thompson has collected 8000 pieces of china.
Among them were Harry and Meghan’s wedding china, Kate and William’s engagement pieces and the Queen’s 90th commemorative set.
The Te Aroha local hoped to watch the royal wedding with Bill, her husband of almost 60 years, at the local hospital, where he’s recovering from a stroke.
Angela Thompson serves the royal party, Rebecca Osborne, James Williams and John Howlett.