If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be a wedding planner on the beautiful island of Espiritu Santo, honestly, I would have said “no way”. Yet here I am, living on Aore island, a wedding planner assisting brides and grooms plan their dream day on a tropical Island.
Seven years ago my husband and I came from New Zealand to settle on lovely Aore island, just across the Segond Channel from Espiritu Santo and we have not regretted one single moment of that decision. Initially I had no intention of starting a business and it is strange how your life’s journey can change when you least expect it. One day, my good friend and one of the island’s resort owners, knowing my skills and personality, asked me to coordinate the weddings at her resort. She explained that whilst she loved hosting weddings, it took many hours of organising – time which she did not have. The idea did appeal to me: back in New Zealand, I had coordinated and planned events for charities and I was more than confident that I had the skills necessary to create a very special day for such an occasion. And besides, what better business could there be than to help couples plan one of the happiest days of their lives? So I said yes and ‘Get Married Vanuatu’ was born.
I was so excited when I received my first booking. It was ‘game on’ and over the next seven months, the bride and I communicated via e-mail and phone calls, finding the best options for their requirements and budget, organising the event and finanlising the all-important documentation neccesary. I was a very busy wedding planner and loving every minute of it. Eventually the day arrived and at last I would have the chance to meet the people with whom I had been so closely involved over the past year. And, oh my goodness, what a wonderful couple they were. I instantly knew that all was going to go well; we chatted and laughed and I put all those last minute worries to rest: all that was left to do was to wait for their wedding day. When the ‘D’ day arrived, I was feeling rather nervous; my tummy was doing flip flops and my mind working overtime. I silently asked the universe to please let it all go well and most of all, do not let ‘Island Time’ exist today. Honestly, I don’t think the bride was as nervous as I was. In the end, I had nothing to worry about. All the planning came together perfectly, the sun shone, the water was blue and the day was joyous and happy. The couple had the most gorgeous wedding, I cried, and their guests had the greatest day.
That was three years ago and today I still feel that same excitement and cry at every wedding. I just can’t help it, they are all so beautiful. Through the years, I have organised small weddings for just the bride and groom who want to elope or for those who don’t want the fuss of a big wedding. Like the couple who sent invitations to their family from the airport just before boarding the plane to Espiritu Santo. I have also helped those brides and grooms who do want their family and friends with them to celebrate their special day. No matter how many people have been present, they have all been wonderful, happy, unforgettable occasions.
All the ingredients that are needed for that perfect tropical island wedding dream come together in Santo.
I cannot say that there has not been the odd hiccup happening from time to time. Like the wedding cake that survived a 30 minute boat ride and looked great as it went into the resort’s chiller only to be found two hours before the wedding by the bride and myself sunk in the middle, partially tipped over and looking absolutely disastrous. I was mortified and in a total frenzy as I apologised profusely to the bride. To my surprise she calmly said, “Why don’t we just put the cake in cocktail glasses and make them all pretty and serve it as desert?” Phew, what a relief to hear those words and the cake turned out to be delicious. On another occasion, we sent the bride and groom off to a deserted island for photos, canapés and Champagne but somehow the Champagne glasses didn’t make the hamper. It turned out to be for the best though, as they had memorable photos of them drinking champagne out of a bottle! And then, there was the time when the marriage celebrant forgot his glasses. He had to read the service with the paper so close to his face that everyone found it difficult not to laugh. It took a little longer than usual for the wedding ceremony to be completed but the couple actually found it wonderful as it broke the nervousness they were both feeling and brought some lightness and humour to the occasion. Even though I was mortified when these incidents happened, the brides and grooms loved the little hiccups as they added to the specialness of their day. All the ingredients that are needed for that perfect tropical island wedding dream come together in Santo. With a relaxed atmosphere, long white sandy beaches, magical crystal-clear Blue Holes, acres of swaying coconut trees, and a variety of resorts with their own special uniqueness, Santo stands the test of a romantic wedding and honeymoon destination. And there’s not a teaspoon of hustle and bustle to be found.
As a New Zealander, working with people from such a different culture has also been a highlight of my work. Absolutely nothing seems to faze them and there is never a problem that they cannot solve. We have lots of laughs and at times of stress, it is refreshing to find people who take things in a remarkably relaxed way. Through my relationships with local business owners who provide such important things as flowers, transport, photography, wedding cakes, string bands and custom dancers, I have been able to depeen my relationship and my understanding of a culture quite different from my own. While being involved in business in this region, I have come to realise the importance of tourism for the local economy. All too often, the northern islands are overlooked with the subsequent disadvantage for the community. If along the way I can help support the local business sector through my own business I will be one of the proudest business owners here. I feel very privileged to be able to live and run my business on this beautiful Vanuatu island called Espiritu Santo, and to be able to share its beauty with couples in love is just the cream on top of a fabulous cake!
Helen from Get Married Vanuatu can help you organise your dream tropical wedding. For more information check her site www.getmarriedvanuatu.com , ph+678 7738687.
Story by Helen Powell. Photography by Groovy Banana