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Aussie Couple Go Trans-Tasman For Extreme Wedding

Aussie Couple Go Trans-Tasman For Extreme Wedding

Warm climes may be the "traditional" wedding choice but one Australian couple has bucked the trend, opting for a special winter wonderland wedding at New Zealand’s Aoraki Mount Cook this week.

Melinda Gaughwin and Gary Cook, from Bridgewater, South Australia, chose snow over beach for their special day and braved near zero temperatures to tie the knot on the Tasman Glacier.

And if being at 6,900ft surrounded by the spectacular snowcapped Southern Alps and New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mount Cook, wasn’t memorable enough, 34-year-old Melinda sprang a carefully planned surprise on her groom by singing her own wedding vows.

Wedding celebrant Denis Callesen, who is also the General Manager of Tourism at Aoraki Mount Cook, says he’s officiated at more than 200 weddings and hearing a bride singing her vows is a first for him.

“Melinda has a lovely voice and her vows, which were lyrics from Songbird, were heartfelt and very moving. The absolute silence and beauty of the location made the moment even more intimate and powerful,” he says.

After the ceremony and photos, the newly weds went on an afternoon hike up the Hooker Valley before retiring to the iconic Hermitage Hotel, one of New Zealand’s most romantic retreats, to enjoy a candlelit dinner at its award-winning Panorama Room.

Melinda and Gary say it was a far cry from what they would have been doing if they had a traditional wedding at home.

“We were just blown away by everything today – it was beyond our wildest dreams,” says Melinda. “I can’t imagine a more perfect setting to celebrate one of the most special days of our lives.”

The Hermitage wedding planner Nyree Schaar (pronounced Ngaire Shaar) says a trend towards ‘destination’ weddings was emerging with more couples moving away from the idea of a traditional wedding in their local church or at home to weddings in very special places.

“This wedding season is our busiest ever. We’re seeing more and more couples, particularly those from Britain, America and Australia, choosing to wed in the incredibly special surrounds of Aoraki Mount Cook. Last year we hosted 24 weddings in total but by the end of March this year we will have already hosted 28,” she says.

Ms Schaar believes the increase could be attributed to several factors

“More people seem to be waiting until later in life to get married which often means better financial security and the ability to pay for their own wedding rather than rely on their parents. This gives them more control over the cost, location and who they choose to invite.”

Mr Callesen says the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and World Heritage Area is the perfect choice for those after a ‘destination’ wedding.

“The natural beauty, isolation and versatility of locations we have here give weddings the real wow factor, whether they’re casual, formal, traditional or adventurous.

“Panoramic views of lakes, rivers, glaciers, icebergs, Mount Cook and the Southern Alps mean couples can choose their dream summer or winter wedding backdrop to help make their day truly unique and memorable.

“Flights and landing locations for helicopter-assisted weddings are obviously weather dependent but if there are delays couples seem happy to stay, soak up their surroundings and enjoy a bit more romance,” he says.

Some of the most popular ceremony locations at Aoraki Mount Cook are:

• Helicopter up to Liebig Dome (pronounced Lee big) (7600ft) at the edge of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park looking back to Aoraki Mount Cook. Rated 17th best wedding location in the world according to UK newspaper The Independent

• Fly by ski-plane to marry in the snow or on the Tasman Glacier

• On the shores of Lake Pukaki with its beautiful turquoise waters and Aoraki Mount Cook towering in the background

• Blue Lakes Shelter, a quaint stone building nestled in the Tasman Valley

• Braemar Dome (6,600ft overlooking Lakes Pukaki and Tekapo)

• On the lawn in front of the historic Hermitage hotel with Aoraki Mount Cook as a backdrop

• The Hermitage Snowline Bar with its roaring open fire and comfy leather chairs

Couples can find out more about weddings at The Hermitage or within Aoraki Mount Cook National Park by visiting www.hermitage.co.nz.

Click to enlarge

Melinda Gaughwin and Gary Cook on the Upper Neve of Tasman Glacier

Click to enlarge

Melinda and Gary closeup

Click to enlarge

Melinda, Denis Callesen and Gary


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