The Bride Wore Red in New Zealand

waiheke new zealand

I met Jana on my first trip I took away from home, a year of living and studying in France at the tail end of law school in Montreal. We disliked each other almost immediately upon meeting in September, each bristling at the other’s direct and assertive spirit. But then we realized we were merely recoiling at meeting what was essentially another version of ourselves, albeit from a different country. From then on we were close to inseparable. We spent afternoons drinking tea and talking in the university dorms, we wandered town, arms linked, singing at the top of our lungs to the horror and dismay of some residents (who thought we were far too cheerful for our own good).

For that year in France I chose head for the South, opting for warmer Aix-en-Provence instead of somewhere with a higher chance of snow. Proximity to Spain, and the (retrospectively twee) images I had of skipping through fields of lavender sealed the deal. Jana and I met in the same programme, both studying for a French Maîtrise. My specialties were economic integration and EU intellectual property law, both completely irrelevant to my subsequent years as a lawyer in New York, but a lot of fun. We took air and space law together, we improved our French, and we hung out for several months before Jana, who was only there for one semester, headed back to her home in Amsterdam.

I then spent much of the last part of my year skipping class and instead running around Europe, capitalizing on cheap flights and student rates on the train systems in France and Spain. When my dorm-mates, many of whom were French, asked why I would leave their country, I explained that a frequent trip from Montreal was Toronto — a 6 hour drive. With everything so close together in the EU, how could I not explore? Thankfully I had already worked as a summer associate at a law firm in New York, and had thus saved enough that I could take advantage of how many countries were squished in close proximity.

One of those trips, in the second half of the year, was to Amsterdam. I met Jana’s family and friends, ate “war fries” and experienced the glory of stroopwafels. We parted ways not knowing when we would see each other, but confident in our friendship and the technology that would help keep the bond together over larger distances.

In the years that followed, our travels took us to disparate places for long sequences, but we managed to squeeze in short visits. I came to London where she was working to raise awareness for anti-human trafficking, and she visited in New York prior to my giving notice and starting this site. We coincided once more in Bangkok in the early days of my adventures, sharing meals, catching up and ringing in 2010 on Khao San Road. Up util her wedding, however, it had been almost four years since I saw her. After another short time in London, Jana had moved to The Gambia with a Kiwi man she met in the UK; they were both doing wonderful work in anti-human trafficking and education.  I hadn’t managed to visit Africa, and though we chatted on Skype, it was a poor substitute for in-person hugs.

Attending my first New Zealand wedding

So, on January 26th, I booked a very last minute trip to New Zealand, to be a witness at her wedding on a rock at the edge of the sea. Stepping off the plane and into the Auckland airport, I cried like a baby when I saw Jana again, both of us folding into a long hug while her Kiwi (a lovely gentleman named Gregor) patiently stood by for introductions. As with Nadia in Costa Rica, Jana wore wore red — a theme for my best friends, it seems — and the wedding was the smallest I’ve attended, with 5 people and an officiant.

It was intimate, the sun was shining and the landscape was awesome in every sense of the word. I felt humbled by their unpretentious declaration of love and by their desire to keep it simple. They had friends and family around the world, and knowing all of them could not be aggregated in New Zealand, they opted for a small ceremony instead.

A beautiful day for a new zealand wedding on Waikheke
A beautiful day for a wedding on Waiheke
Waiheke island wedding
Jana and I after the wedding, feasting on seafood
Waiheke island wedding
A delicious (and gluten-free, thanks to the care of my hosts!) barbeque feast on the eve before the wedding.
Waiheke, wedding in New Zealand
What an incredible place to get married.
wedding in new zealand
Wedding venue: could be worse ;)

I’ve already posted a longer photoessay from my brief visit around New Zealand’s North Island, but wanted to do a short post about the impetus for my travel to New Zealand. It was a magically beautiful place, and I’m so glad that I had such a wonderful reason to be there.

New Zealand from the air
New Zealand from the air



24 thoughts on “The Bride Wore Red in New Zealand”

  1. Looks like a stunning wedding. As an Australian, it’s a little embarrassing that I’ve never been to New Zealand. But I plan to change this in the coming couple of years! It looks like an amazing country to hike and explore in.

  2. You continue to amaze me with your travels your adventures and the way you build and nurture friendships over time and distance.

    You’re amazing!

  3. Jodi with SHORT HAIR? How did I not know this? You looked super cute of course but in my mind you just have long hair, period. Before that pic I could not have imagined you without your signature long, thick hair (gorgeous) hair.

  4. Kimber Lee Falkinburg

    Nice to see the “normal” side of you. Seriously, I love that you shared this personal slice of life with us. Thank you. I did not love the notation on olives and have decided (after eating a scrumptious soy paper wrapped Red Dragon sushi roll at Maiko in Austin) that my T-shirt will express my hatred of seaweed! Take that!

  5. Technology is amazing, isn’t it? I recently met up with an old classmate from when I went to school in Hong Kong, here in Canada! We hadn’t really had a face of face conversation in over 11 years but thanks to Facebook we were able to reconnect and go for a coffee! Anyway, the wedding location looks stunning! And have so much fun in Greece! That’s one place I would really like to visit as well.

  6. I studied abroad on the South Island and failed two classes because my friend, Amy, and I bought a tiny green hatchback called The Gremlin and drove all over. I always wanted to honeymoon there…just need to get married first :). The flaw in the plan. Great post & pics!

  7. Wow what a lovely story and a friendship that has lasted over the years. And what an incredibly small and intimate affair and one of the nicest wedding venues I’ve seen a photo of! Oh and olives aren’t that bad ;). I used to hate them but now I’ve been warming up to them more and more

  8. I honestly think that New Zealand is THE most beautiful place for a wedding. I randomly got invited to a stranger’s wedding in Tauranga while I was living in New Zealand and, aside from the beautiful setting next to the water, the Kiwi wedding traditions and the fact that I was welcomed so warmly into a stranger’s special day was so humbling and made me fall in love with New Zealand even more. So glad you got to share this special day with your friend Jodi. Waiheke is a gorgeous place :)

  9. Gorgeous. I love these kinds of stories, of international friendships which endure despite distance and not seeing each other often; I was just reminiscing about my trip to Slovakia last year to see a really dear friend from when I lived there a decade ago. When I first left Bratislava she truly believed we’d never get to see each other again. Always makes me sad to even think of her feeling that it was impossible – and I’m glad it wasn’t.

  10. Beautiful pictures. Waiheke is near the top of my list for places to get married and I hope to live there one day. Great to hear that you enjoyed your time there.

  11. It is simply heartwarming to see and remember that real friendships and soul mates never change regardless countries of destination and origin, and time and distances just have different dimensions for them.

    And what a perfect country for a marriage – it is impossible to think for a more picture-perfect place for an occasion ;)

  12. Love that in the grand scheme of things you’ve barely spent any time in the same country, but that you’re still such close friends, that’s so sweet :) Sounds like you had a beautiful trip!

  13. What a beautiful bride and setting! My friend got married in Laguna Beach, California and I thought nothing could top it until I saw these photos. Totally idyllic.

  14. Lovely. Your stories restore my faith in humanity (if only briefly, cold-hearted scoundrel that I am)

  15. Even though I am an expat Kiwi living in Australia and going to retire in Thailand with the most wonderful Thai lady you could meet, I still say New Zealand is the most beautiful and wonderful country on the planet.

  16. Looks like a beautiful wedding. I just left NZ a couple days ago. It was an amazing country with so much stunning landscape….there are worse places to get married.

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