When their original wedding plans became way too stressful, Chelsea and Barry decided there was only one thing to do – elope! And look, if we have to be honest, eloping to a winter wonderland where snow capped mountains are your backdrop, the whitest, freshest snow is underfoot, and you’re set to toast with a glass of Baileys in celebration, sounds like the most wintery perfection there is. “Our original wedding was supposed to be a 2020 summer vineyard wedding in Marlborough, NZ” explains Chelsea, “but covid had other plans! We postponed the wedding indefinitely, however as covid stretched out, we decided to elope. It was a tough decision to make knowing Barry’s family in Ireland and my family in South Africa, and then by default my family in NZ, wouldn’t be there.”

Chelsea and Barry sought out photographer Kate Craig-Brown and noticing she has elopement packages, knew this was the answer to their prayers.  And letting go of what was, and embracing what became, is the solid advice Chelsea advises you to take.  “If you are covid eloping, take time to accept that this is not going to be the original wedding you planned, but be open to it being even better. Sit down and decide what elements are going to be most important to you for the day (for us it was photography and being stress-free) and prioritising this. Remember to include special details to make your day YOUR day and go with the flow. The day will go by really fast.”

So how did Chelsea and Barry’s story begin? In Chelsea’s words “Barry is from Ireland and came to NZ for a year abroad, I am from South Africa but grew up in NZ. We met on Tinder and it so easily couldn’t have been! I had just finished studying and was moving to Marlborough for a job and he was in Mid Canterbury and meant to be flying home in a couple of months. He spent another year in NZ and we just made a long-distance relationship work before both deciding to go back to Ireland. We spent a tough year in Ireland before deciding to move back to NZ, where we’ve been since.

We had our first trip to Queenstown together in May 2019 for Barry’s birthday. We were in the gondola overlooking Queenstown when Barry said he had a question to ask and my heart immediately started pounding! I could see him reaching for his jacket pocket and as he was pulling out the engagement necklace he had designed, my mind immediately went to ‘he’s joking!’ so I kept asking if he was being serious after he asked me to marry him! We have a good laugh about it now!”

The day started with dried blooms. “I am very indecisive and was so unsure what I wanted for flowers as our day had changed so much from the original plan. I looked at lots of inspiration photos and paired photos next to photos of our attire. I kept coming back to dried arrangements and went with my gut. The flowers arranged through our photographer Kate’s package – I sent her the inspiration photos and on the day opened the most beautiful dried bouquet arrangement I have seen in my life!”

Barry’s attire from YD Clothing was pretty straight forward, “Barry knows what he likes in a suit so we just tried a few on and he picked one he liked most!” Chelsea found her dream of a gown at To Cherish Bridal. She remembers  “I had a very specific idea of the dress I wanted and I ended up choosing the exact opposite! I went to two wedding stores with my best friend, the first had the exact dress I had in mind and lots of other beautiful dresses so it felt hard to choose.

But the second was where I found my dress! My best friend and I each got to pick about five dresses each for me to try on and the one I chose was her pick. I was not expecting to have a ‘the one’ moment but as soon as I saw myself in it I had the moment, it’s hard to describe. I felt like a bride and it felt like me at the same time.

I was torn whether to go for a traditional veil or the ‘wings’ I ended up wearing on the day, but took the risk and went with the bridal wings and it created some beautiful photos. Everything else was practical wear for the climate!”

The couple kicked off their day with words of support from family and friends – asking them all to write letters they could read together on their wedding day. “It was really special” remembers Chelsea.

Ditching the stress, meant Chelsea and Barry wanted ease, so they worked with their photographer Kate Craig-Brown on booking one of her elopement packages, a plan they are both thrilled they chose. “We chose Kate based on her beautiful photos and her complete package. When we decide to elope, we decided we would prioritise the photography/videography and a stressless day for us.

I have to admit, the original wedding planning process was very stressful for us and I didn’t particularly enjoy it so having an elopement package was great, Kate took care of almost everything and the in-depth guide she provides to her clients was so so helpful. Kate’s package covered everything from organising the celebrant to the flowers to the run-time, and let’s not forget those stunning photos! We were lucky enough to have some great, great vendors organised through Kate.

Andrew Bell, our celebrant, just had the warmest smile and nature, which made me feel so comfortable and at ease and he even went above and beyond and printed some of the letters from family and friends for us! And Thomas Rees, our videographer, was so cool, calm and directive on the day, again just making us feel more at ease.”

The one word these two use to describe their wedding ceremony officiated by Andrew Bell? “SURREAL! Surreal that we were finally getting married, surreal that we were eloping, surreal that we were in the most beautiful place we had ever seen, besides a lake, on a snow-covered mountain.

Andrew, our celebrant, made us so feel relaxed and comfortable but I would be lying if I said we both weren’t so so nervous that it was all just happening! It was strange to have our wedding day completely not as we originally envisioned, without our families there and a part of both of us wondered if we were doing the ‘right’ thing by eloping. We look back now and are so glad we did the day for us and we got to say our vows with just us in the most beautiful place. It was right for us, and we know we will get to celebrate with our friends and family at another time. We used the reading ‘Clothes of Heaven’ by Irish poet W.B Yeats as chosen by Barry’s parents and it was beautiful.”

“We absolutely love the beautiful scenic photos on top of Cecil Peak,” says Chelsea of the couple’s favourite shot of the day. ” But I think my personal favourite was one of us facing the camera but looking at each other at Lake Erskine like we get to take on the world together.”

Masses of congratulations to you both Chelsea and Barry! What an utterly magical day you had and how thankful we are we got to share it. Thank you both and thank you to Kate Craig-Brown for sharing today’s celebration with us.