“We wanted to celebrate the way we know how and that's to party,” says Tori Tafua (nee Wiki) of her long-awaited wedding to her fiancé of nine years and father of their three kids, Stu Tafua.
The couple, who have been together since they were 15, always knew they wanted to end up husband and wife, so when Stu dropped a proposal into his speech at Tori’s 21st birthday in Fiji, it didn’t come as a big surprise. In fact, his unconventional speech was like the entrée to the big, unconventional wedding that followed almost a decade later.
“Being engaged for nine years, I'm sure you can imagine all the different ideas we had during that time for our wedding,” says Tori. One thing the couple agreed on early was that a traditional sit-down wedding wasn't for them.
“We wanted a relaxed vibe where there were minimal formalities, and we wanted everyone to mix and mingle all day instead of being confined to one table for the majority of the night.”
In the end, Tori and Stu settled on a wedding brief that reflected their personality and love for the nightlife: “Big party vibes with a lot of dancing and fun.”
Bringing the vision for their big day to life was more like planning for a music festival or rave rather than a traditional wedding (guests were also in for a surprise, thinking they were attending Tori’s 30th birthday rather than a wedding). The couple found a private plot of land outside of Christchurch in Rolleston, and got to work pulling together all the elements for what they called TAFUALAND.
“We had brought in carnival rides to make it feel more festival vibes and not like a typical wedding, we also had no formal seating. It was all cocktail set up, which was great as we wanted the whole vibe of the wedding to transition into the night time seamlessly and that it did!”
For the cocktail bar, the couple had five options for the special day: whiskey sour, lemon drop, whiskey old fashioned, snake charmer (kaffir infused vodka with lime sherbet) and, to make sure the dancing carried on all night, espresso martinis.
To balance out the dangerously good cocktails, guests grazed on a spread of plentiful nibbles by Beyond Platters, and for mains they had everything you’d expect from an upscale festival: food trucks served barbecue and burgers by Bacon Bros, Belgium waffles by Waffle Hause and fresh kaimoana from Fush Catering to keep everyone's energy levels up (and drinks down). Sweets and cakes were made by The Bake-ari.
A crystal clear black frame marquee housed their 120 guests for the ceremony, and plenty of tiki torches and neon lights around the venue set the mood when the sun went down.
Of course, music was a hugely important part of the event. The couple shared their first dance to an afrobeat mix, and Auckland session band The Levites kept the vibes rolling with four sets throughout the day and getting everyone on the dance floor well into the night.
Infusing cultural elements into their wedding was a special part of the day, too. Tori, who is Māori, did a Samoan Siva, taught to her by a friend’s daughter, and Stu, who is Samoan, performed a Māori haka.
“The haka was my most favourite memory, seeing our son up there with Stu really brought a tear to my eye. Also our ceremony: if you knew what it took to get there, you would know how special that moment was to the both of us.”
While the dress code for guests was a white-to-grey palette, the bride, groom and wedding party stood out in stylish all black: a head-to-toe Hugo Boss ensemble for Stu (down to the cufflinks and cologne), and for Tori, a striking black tulle dress that she found at a small New York boutique, worn with a chic slicked bun, custom-made fedora by Doff & Don, Mi Piaci heels and a spritz of Valentino fragrance.
Like the rest of the day itself, Tori’s dress was far from conventional: technically a robe/gown worn for pre wedding photos. “The lady I purchased it off was super shocked I was wearing it as a wedding gown,” she says, going on to encourage other brides to think outside the box when it comes to their look. “You don’t actually have to wear ‘a wedding dress’ to your wedding!”.
As for the rings, Tori says that they weren’t overly sentimental about them “because our style is forever evolving” - they chose matching Louis Vuitton rings and have plans to change them whenever they “feel the need to spruce them up”.
Other than the ceremony, Stu and Tori chose to forgo most wedding traditions. “Everything was really us. Stu decided to have his sister, who is also one of my best friends, in his line-up so that was really special and non-traditional.
“We had the privilege of having Marley Sola, our good friend, sing me down the aisle and also sing during the signing of the registry and the exit walk. He sang ‘So Into You’ (the Childish Gambino version) for my bridal song, then ‘Whakaaria Mai’ for our registry song and Candy Rain’s ‘Soul For Real’ for our exit song.”
To capture all the fun memories of TAFUALAND, the couple briefed two photographers. “One focused on the bridal party, ceremony, first dance, siva haka and our family (all the special moments of the day) and Kreatif HAUS who was to focus on the ‘party’ vibe.”
Unfortunately on travels after the wedding, the first photographer’s hard drive was damaged and the couple lost the photographs of some of the special moments during the ceremony. While most brides would be crushed, Tori didn’t let it dampen her spirit.
“At first I was so upset but then I guess, I realised that those moments were just meant for those who attended. Sly and the team from Kreatif HAUS pulled together the most magical wedding video that really showed our personalities and everytime I watch it I smile.”
For the guests of TAFUALAND, the following day was more afterparty than casual post-wedding BBQ.
“We had all of our family come back out to the venue and Stu’s parents put on a huge Samoan feed, the rides remained open for everyone's kids who didn't attend the wedding (we only had our children, our two nieces and one nephew at the actual wedding). The majority of our wedding party travelled from overseas and out of town (Amsterdam, Melbourne and Auckland) so they were here for a decent couple of weeks after.”
Looking back on their unique wedding day – which the couple paid for themselves and poured years of planning into – Tori is glad that they stuck to their guns and did what made them happy, not worrying about the opinions of others. They set out to “party the day and night away surrounded by everyone we love” and that was exactly what TAFUALAND gave them.