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Saying "I do" in 2022

A newlywed couple in the back of a van in the wilderness. Photo by Charlotte Kiri Photography.
Sascha and Kieran Wall swapped a 100-plus guest list for an elopement at Wānaka’s Glendhu Station after Kieran’s UK-based family were unable to attend due to border restrictions.

It’s been, shall we say, an interesting couple of years – and not least for the wedding industry. For a status update on new-reality nuptials, a planner, photographer and celebrant share emerging wedding trends. Words: Anna Wallace Photos: Charlotte Kiri Photography


Hot on the heels of two weddings in one week, Christchurch wedding planner Emma Newman is ready to put her feet up. But her passion for celebrating a couple’s love reignites in an instant.

Over the last 18 months, Emma has helped her clients navigate the stress of events in changeable times. Adjusting dates is one thing, but making sure all suppliers can do it is another. “Some of my couples have had to change dates three or four times!”

These experiences have clarified the advice she gives to the recently engaged. “I ask what a client’s risk profile is – if it’s low, they might want to keep things small; and if it’s high, they can push on with bigger plans.”

Emma now has a new column on her spreadsheet showing which suppliers are certified double vaccinated, and invites state these requirements up front.

For prospective newly-weds who’ve been holding off, given all the uncertainty, Emma advises not to let the big day dictate your other life plans. A number of her clients have become pregnant or had babies recently. “You can always do it later on or have less alcohol – I like couples to know they’ve got options.”

Live-streaming and recording weddings has become more widespread, with guests unable to fly in from abroad, and Emma expects this trend to continue.

Less formal seating arrangements have become more popular. Head tables and even round tables have been replaced with food and alcohol stations, pass arounds and lounge furniture.

The size and sentiment of weddings has changed. In scaling back the numbers, many brides and grooms have found the affair to be “more them”. Such commitment ceremonies have always been full of love but “if people are able to get together and everyone is safe, speeches reflect that gratitude and joy,” Emma says.

Whether it’s arranging a marquee decked out in lounge furniture, or a white-tie event at a renovated historic house, Emma likens a wedding planner’s role to that of an insurance policy “when you can’t get insurance policies for weddings anymore.”

Emma is starting to book up in 2023 so, while grooms may look at her sideways when discussing far-away dates, she suggests couples make early enquiries with suppliers.

Emma Newman Events

biancaandruss sneakpeek charlottekiriphotography 17
Snapped celebrating with helicopter photos at Double Cone, Bianca and Russ Hopper married at the Winehouse, Queenstown, having had to postpone their first wedding date due to Covid-19 lockdowns.


Like Emma, Wānaka-based husband and wife duo Bruno and Charlotte Kiri Cretney, who run joint photography and videography business Charlotte Kiri Photography, have noticed that more clients are booking video than ever before – to record and share their wedding with those who can’t be there.

“Quality photography and videography are more important than ever,” says Charlotte. “The biggest shift we’ve seen is couples prioritising people over stuff for their weddings, which is pretty amazing. There’s a big focus on candid coverage and incorporating those they love, especially grandparents and parents.”

The pandemic has also seen a rise in elopements and intimate gatherings, which Charlotte predicts will continue. “They make my heart happy as we really get to know the couples and guests on the day,” she says. “This is often when I feel we do our best work as the stress is much lower on everyone and you can base timings around good lighting.”

Charlotte has noticed modern, photo-friendly dress styles making a comeback, such as the classic custom tux and bow tie, couture and avant-garde wedding gowns, and dresses in pastel colours rather than traditional white.

Bruno and Charlotte are excited to see the couples who had to postpone finally marry this year. For the newly engaged, they recommend reaching out to suppliers early, as they’re predicting next summer will be a “huge wedding season”, especially if the international borders open.

Charlotte Kiri Photography


The second national lockdown was very different to the first, says Hannah Lind, a Central Otago celebrant. “People knew we weren’t going to be living Mad Max-style for long, so it gave them valuable time to think about what they really wanted for their big day.”

As a result, Hannah has seen couples throw out the year-plus planning cycle and get hitched within a few months. And they’re culling the lengthy guest list too. People sometimes feel pressure to have a big wedding, she says, but couples are increasingly celebrating in front of a select group. Booking out a boutique hotel for a ‘minimony’ or hiring a holiday house for the party makes for an intimate yet easy-to-arrange affair.

After Christmas, Hannah officiated a ‘surprise’ wedding. What was ostensibly a birthday dinner pivoted to a wedding without the guests knowing until 15 minutes beforehand. “It takes away the stress of input from everyone and there’s no time to get worked up,” she says.

Hannah loves being part of weddings that represent what matters most to the couple, whether it’s a busy blended family changing their minds in lockdown and booking a whole hotel out for their nearest and dearest, a couple in their 70s tying the knot at the whitebait stand where their friendship grew into more, or those eloping for their own reasons.

“I hope this trend will continue. Seeing these people on their wedding day – they look more relaxed than the people who do the big wedding thing because they feel they have to.”

While Hannah has seen a rise in the number of contingency plans (if the event is postponed, cancelled or numbers need to be limited) and adheres to health and safety protocols, her advice hasn’t changed: “Do what feels right to you and choose suppliers who you want to hang out with!”

Hannah Lind Celebrant

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Keen mountain bikers Philippa and Michael Armstrong had an international wedding at Bike Glendhu mountain bike park in Wānaka.
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