The Old Church - Georgia & Sam


How many true love stories begin with a girl looking across a crowded room and locking eyes with an 'energetic, sweaty, mess'? Sam must have had quite the pulling power as his future bride, Georgia, was seduced by the dashing airforce pilot (ok so I had to get that bit in early to off-set the sweaty mess vision) as he was grooving away on the dance floor of the Beer Barrel in Palmerston North (affectionalty dubbed 'Paradise City' by the new Mr. & Mrs. Hatrick).

Fast-forward five years and we're all in the luxe surrounds of The Villa at The Old Church, near Napier. Georgia and her besties are about to get dresed and are going through the alphabet listing all the cool words that sum up her very-soon-to-be-husband. I cannot possibly comment on what popped into my mind when they came up short at 'F'. Some things are best kept between husband and wife. Talking about husbands...Sam was on the far side of Napier in the Esk Valley, suiting up and mentally and emotionally preparing for his 'First Look' with Georgia...

Georgia and Sam didn't have any particular theme but wanted things to look gorgeous and classic, and for the entire day to be relaxed and fun for their friends and family. Having the photos first was a key decision to achieve a day like that and it gave them extra time together to share the wedding day buzz. I call this 'wedding foreplay' because it really does help build up to the massive emotional rush of exchanging vows.

Hawke's Bay was the obvious destination de jour because Georgia grew up here and knew how incredible the hot summers and winery venues were. "It was a no brainer. As we live in Auckland, we wanted somewhere that 'had it all' that it required less moving parts on our part. The day we arrived at The Old Church and were shown around by Jade Barber, we said 'lock us in'. It has so many gorgeous spaces from inside the church to the gorgeous grounds and the luxurious villa. They made it all too easy, plus that had a great reputation, delicious food and divine local wines," explains Georgia.

Taupo celebrant, Samantha Johnston, was an old uni flatmate of Georgia's, and had all the inside goss on how the couple met and got engaged. I loved listening to her yarn about how they got engaged while I was shooting the ceremony. It was such a typical Kiwi love story that I thought I would share it...

the old church wedding venue

"On a Thursday evening in November 2016, a little over a year ago, both Sam and G were on Waiheke island for a few days. G was bringing home the bacon, while Sam was being a man of leisure – golfing and spending time in the sun. The ring had been burning a hole in Sam’s pocket for months. Trying to be a Sneaky-Sam was tough work – there were a few instances where Georgia nearly caught on. With the weather over the next few days turning to custard, Sam decided it was now or never. He rattled his dags, sorted a cute wee picnic and then went to the pub to calm his nerves. Sammy went to pick up the love of his life but she took longer than expected. He waited and waited and waited. Minutes passed, but to Sam, it felt like hours. Georgia was having a great chat and spinning yarns with work colleagues.

Finally, she emerged and they drove to Man O War Bay for a picnic. Eloquent and flattering words were spoken by Sam, G went weak at the knees and with a trembling hand, Sam presented Georgia with a gorgeous ring. She obviously said yes! As here we all are today."

Having been to about 600 Hawke's Bay weddings over the past 14 years (!!!) one thing I notice is how rushed it can be right after the ceremony, in order to pack in canapés, family photos and then bridal party photos before the reception. Because Georgia and Sam had all their beautiful photos in the can already, they had an hour to chill out, enjoy the amazing food from the Orton Tailored Cuisine crew and have genuine conversations with all their friends and family. To me, that's the definition of a fantastic wedding, even if it did mean shooting during the middle of the day (we made up for this by sneaking in some photos in the late afternoon light while guests were seated).

Saving the best till last, Georgia says her First Dance with Sam was one of the highlights of the day, and I expect every single guest agreed. Together with choreography by Nerida Cortese from First Dance, they started out with a traditional slow dance with lots of fancy frills, but then busted out a funk routine to Bruno Mars' 24K Magic. "This caught everyone by surprise and had the crowd in hysterics! As part of the routine we started to pull out guests at random to join the floor and by the end, everybody was groovin'," says Georgia.

The Old Church is one of our favourite places for shooting after dark so we'll leave you with this last lovely little image shot by Andrew at the end of what was a truly epic wedding day. And because nothing beats experience, we've shared below Georgia's feedback on all of the awesome Hawke's Bay wedding vendors she and Sam used on their day in case you're looking for inspiration for your own wedding one day.


Georgia & Sam's Dream Team:

Venue: The Old Church, with Orton Tailored Cuisine.

Photographers: Eva Bradley & Andrew Caldwell. 'You guys were awesome! You brought the perfect amount of fun & enthusiasm to the day but were absolute professionals at the same time! You helped fill the day up with happiness from naughty bridal party games to making kids laugh with fart noises. Your experience in the industry really shows and you're worth every penny!'

Hair & MU: Rachel Haworth & Anna Scott. 'These two ladies were absolute professionals and you can tell they are both passionate and love doing their jobs. Both of them have an eye for detail. I received so many glowing compliments about the bridesmaid's hair and makeup. You guys were awesome!

Dress: Martina Liana from Felicity's Bridal (Auckland) 

Suits: Three Wise Men

Bridesmaids Dresses: Evolution Clothing

Bouquets: Laura Jeffares 'Laura absolutely met the brief with 'bold and wild' to contrast with the white dresses.'

Cake: Kathy Alo, Party Starters (Auckland) 'My gorgeous work colleague went above and beyond to produce the most delicious and awe-inspiring cakes! I am truly blessed to have such a talented and kind friend.'

Band: Ma Shot Pa 'What a find you guys were! These guys played all the crowd pleasers and really worked the floor with people dancing the night away. We had so many rave reviews about this band.'

Celebrant: Samantha Johnston. 'In the build-up to the big day, there are so many moving parts. Samantha really took ownership of her role with her love of organising! This made writing up the ceremony too easy.'