Disaster to Happy Ever After - Jenny & Neil, Valley D'Vine


Weddings are all about turning long-held dreams into reality, but for Neil and Jenny, their wedding turned to a nightmare before it even began. Having paid their venue in full, it went into administration, taking with them thousands of dollars worth of hard-earned savings. It seemed like a saddest end to what should have been a fairytale story for this couple, until the Napier wedding industry pulled together to help give them the dream they had saved so hard for…

Jenny and Neil met each other before their ceremony in a secluded corner of Linden Estate in the heart of the beautiful wine-growing area of Esk Valley, just north of Napier. Linden Estate is home to Valley d’Vine restaurant, run by local legend, Greg Miller, who wasn’t so much a knight on a white charger, but a chef with a huge heart and a knack for turning on a good party. He donated the venue and fed the couple’s entire crowd of friends and family for free, and helped bring together a bunch of other awesome vendors to donate or subsidise many other aspects of their day.

Understandably being a wedding with so much heart to it, we had a really cool time getting ready then shooting the (huge!) bridal party in (and above) the Esk Valley. The morning had been a total pea-souper in Hawke’s Bay, closing the airport and making the beautiful landscape the region is famous for vanish completely. But the theme of this day was very much about great things coming out of bad situations and on cue the fog cleared and we had one of those crisp, bluebird days we are so well known for here in winter. But it WAS winter, and Jenn and Neil wanted to capture the romance and intimacy of the season, so we left the sunshine for the moody interior of Linden Estate’s enormous purpose-built cellar, which had been scaled down in size with clever use of wine barrels and then beautifully styled by Alex at ‘I Do Glamour’ (who also donated her time and styling items, and even learned how to arrange flowers pretty darned quick when poor Trista at Botanical Lane broke her finger the day before the wedding).

The best thing about winter weddings is that we get to shoot in the most beautiful late-afternoon light, and this gives the photos a magical quality that just doesn’t happen during summer. And because Hawke’s Bay’s weather is usually mild even at the end of July, we all enjoyed some chilled out wine-time as the sun slipped behind the hills of Esk Valley.

I always like to make sure our couples have a little bit of time alone after the overwhelming process of getting hitched then saying ‘hi’ to everyone they love. Jenn and Neil had given me some smoke bombs to play with so we made our way to a nearby paddock and Andrew and I proceeded to recreate the fog which I’d been desperately wishing away all morning.

Wedding days run a little like chapters of a book; getting ready….meeting up…having photos…exchanging vows…drinks with guests. I love the way the emotion and energy changes so much between these chapters and it’s cool to be part of the reception when the pace, noise and laughter really goes into overdrive.

As we know, the wife always has the last word so when it comes to their wedding day, I’ll leave it to Jenn to wrap things up with her thoughts about getting hitched in Hawke’s Bay…

‘Our day was absolutely beautiful, we were overcome with love and support from the people in Napier. The weather on the day was breathtaking, our venue shone with an absolute winter glow. Our day went smoothly and it was filled with laughter, joy and fun as we became husband and wife. We will treasure the memories from this day for ever.’


Photographers: Eva Bradley & Andrew Caldwell

Venue: Valley D’Vine & Linden Estate

Styling, Planning, Floral arrangement: I Do Glamour

Florals from: Botanical Lane

Vehicles: Hooters & Mercedes Benz Hawke’s Bay

Hair: Tania Gunning (Wellington)

Makeup: Beauty Essentials Hawke’s Bay / Rachel Taylor Makeup

Celebrant: Nichola Nicholson

DJ: Eager Entertainment

Dress: The Bridal Company, Australia

XO Table: The Love Light

Cake: Jenny’s clever mum.