25 Jan 2022

Covid-19 Omicron outbreak: Wedding squeezed in just as NZ moved back to red alert level

9:12 am on 25 January 2022

First published on NZ Herald

By Lydia Burgham

A Waikato couple's fairytale wedding was pulled together in just a few hours following the announcement that New Zealand was headed back into the red traffic light setting.

With just a few hours' of warning, Waikato couple Stef and Danyon Cuneen were married on Sunday evening. Vows were written on the back of real estate leaflets, a hairdresser was summoned from her hangover, and a dress was procured.

Yesterday Mel Brown spoke to the Herald in place of her newly-wed sister - who right after her nuptials was busy back at her job as a nurse. Brown says her sister and brother-in-law were determined to sneak in their ceremony at Lake Karapiro before the country moved back into the red traffic light setting.

"We were all watching the announcement at 11am, and my sister has had to reschedule her wedding twice," Brown explained of Cuneen's plans to get married in 2020 and another date she had to pull the plug on.

"I mean, she still could have got married in red, but it kind of takes away the party vibe of it.

"She's a nurse, so she's thinking of other people. But I think they were just tired of it all.

"So we have a family chat on Facebook and she just put in there 'F*** it, let's get married today.'"

As the eldest sister, Brown chimed in with a sense check.

"I said, 'Are you serious?' And she said, 'Yeah'. So were like, okay, we can do that."

The sisters banded together and pulled off the impressive feat in just six hours. Brown called her hairdresser who was able to do the make-up, luring her from her hangover with the promise of earning some cash.

There was one main dilemma, however: the dress.

The photographer, Clare Gordon, had a spare dress on hand.

But it didn't fit.

So one of Cuneen's bridesmaids came to the rescue and brought along a wedding dress that the bride ended up wearing for her special day.

And, of course, every great wedding needs a cake. A friend happened to have a spare one that was never picked up by the customer.

The wedding arch, pictured above, was found in someone's garden. Brown's husband picked it up with a trailer and hammered it into the ground.

The details were all set, including food from a local restaurant who heard about the couple's story and rallied together to feed the 50 guests able to attend.

Friends even trekked from as far as Waiheke Island when they heard the ceremony was happening.

"From a nurse's point of view, she just thought that if this is the start of the next Covid wave, then by April [their wedding date] we could be in a really bad place," Brown says.

"She made the choice and we just didn't go back."

Brown says the ceremony was emotional for everyone involved.

The best moment was "100 percent when her husband saw her.

"There's a beautiful photo of him having a good ol' cry. He's a bit of a softy.

"But getting to actually walk down the aisle and them saying their vows - which she actually wrote on the back of a real-estate pamphlet at my mum's house because she had no paper ... "

Brown says their mum was "very overwhelmed by the whole thing".

"There was a disappointment for her at first that it wasn't going to be the wedding that she thought she was going to have for her last daughter. But she spent the afternoon in the kitchen making the buttonholes for the boys."

As the couple settle into the first day of their married lives together, Brown says she knows her sister and new brother-in-law are made for each other and is really proud of everyone who helped pull their wedding together in just a few hours.

"I know that those two are meant to be and I'm just really proud that we pulled it off for her and she got the day that she wanted."

- This story first appeared on the NZ Herald