When the bride and groom arrive at their reception rising through the floor with a Wurlitzer organ at full throttle, you know this is a very different wedding. Fun was essential. Catherine and Julian combined American and Chinese cultures and their own sense of style to create a unique celebration.
"Julian wanted to be the one playing the Wurlitzer! He didn’t get that wish, but surprised me at the reception by having a grand Steinway piano set up, and singing to me. It was really special as he’d composed the song for my 21st birthday.
The couple came to New Zealand as children, Catherine from the USA and Julian from China. They were keen to express both cultures throughout all aspects of their wedding.
The bridesmaids’ dresses (stylised traditional style and colour) and groomsmen’s suits were specially designed and made in China when Catherine and Julian visited last year. "I think the outfits really brought the blend of Chinese and Western themes out well,” said Catherine.
"On that trip to China we found the golden table linens, table-settings and gift guest fans. We also had our likenesses made into a cake topper, which was a bit of fun and real surprise to our guests when they noticed it on our multi-layer, multi-flavoured wedding cake.
"I changed into my red Chinese wedding dress for the dancing at the reception. Red is the Chinese wedding tradition as white is a Western tradition. Julian and I are keen salsa dancers, so our ‘first dance’ was something really special,” she laughed.
Catherine and Julian knew that the food they offered their guests was very important. Being overseas for several months before the wedding, they also needed to have total confidence in the wedding arrangements, and total trust in the people responsible.
"Ruth and Paul’s reputations preceded them. We knew with Ruth at the helm everything would be perfect, and Julian was very taken with the fact that Ruth still actively cooks. We both come from families where sharing food is important.
"Ruth took our ideas, and added suggestions to fill in any gaps. We were never told 'it can't be done’ during the organising process and the day ran so smoothly we fully enjoyed every moment.
"Several guests with dietary requests were catered for easily. We couldn't believe it when Paul told us that there were no leftovers, absolutely all the food had been eaten!
"When you go by the motto that the best guests are those who eat the most, we must have the greatest friends indeed!
"Southwards had the advantage that we could make it totally our own, with a big dance floor and all the toys like theatre lighting, grand piano and that subterranean entrance via Wurlitzer. Wow!”
Catherine shopped for her dress in Auburn, Michigan, near where she grew up. She says it’s particularly special that one of her aunts picked the dress and her Grandma chose the veil. "As soon as I tried the dress on, I was sold on it”.Looking back at their big day, Catherine and Julian agreed they are "really happy” with how it all went.
Catherine summed it up: "We are both traditional people, and we wanted our wedding to have traditional values for both of us, and that also reflected our own personalities. We had a wonderful day: definitely what we were after!"
Photos courtesy of Paul Howell