It’s 2.28pm on her wedding day, and Silver Fern vice captain Laura Langman is desperate to make her way out of her parents’ Waikato farmhouse and down the paddock towards her soon-to-be husband, Adrian Pooley (34).
Never mind that a few guests are still making their way to the linen-covered hay bales, or the tradition that decrees brides are supposed to run a little late.
Laura (27) knows sports science technician Adrian, who is a stickler for punctuality, schedules and organisation, is expecting her under the organza-draped archway that the couple made themselves, at precisely 2.30pm.
“If people are late, they’re late!” she says with a laugh as she adjusts her stunning Jane Yeh silk chiffon gown. “Let’s get this show on the road!”
It takes all of Laura’s self-control not to sprint down the aisle towards Adrian – the man she met five years ago and instantly fell in love with.
“I just want to see him,” she says. “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe this is happening!”
It’s a changeable and swelteringly humid Hamilton day, with a few downpours interspersed with thunderclaps and bursts of intense sunshine.
Laura has spent the morning staring out the window, praying for the clouds to part and the sodden grass to dry as she and her bridesmaids, teammates Jodi Tod-Elliott and Rebecca Gabel and friend Donna Affleck, get ready in their pre-wedding garb of Risky Business-inspired shirts and boxers.
“The clouds will burn off, don’t worry,” says Laura’s dad Greg, before putting on his gumboots and heading out to the paddock for last-minute preparations.
“Dad’s been thinking he’s Jim Hickey all morning,” Laura says, rolling her eyes.
And with a meteorological call that TVNZ weatherman Jim would have indeed been proud of, with only half an hour to go, the rain has stopped, the sun is shining and the 100 guests are (mostly) seated and waiting for the beautiful bride.
“I started to get excited when I saw the girls in their dresses,” says Laura, looking at her three bridesmaids who are dancing in the carport in their teal dresses with their skirts hitched up, trying to lure a nonexistent breeze.
She’s not the girliest of girls – mascara and lipstick normally give way to Deep Heat and strapping tape – but as her make-up is applied and she catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror, Laura can’t quite believe it’s her.
The nerves, that have been kept at bay with small sips of champagne and Swedish cider, are finally kicking in as Laura puts on her own gown.
“It’s the same feeling I get before the first centre pass of a game,” she says. “It’s like, please, just let someone in black catch the ball! Except in a game, there are six others on the court with me. This is just me.”
After a final veil adjustment, a reassuring smile from mum Christine, and a last scull of cider, Laura is ready.
“I just want to get out there and see Adrian,” she says.
“I want to run!”
But with a firm grip on Laura’s arm, Greg, a man of exceptionally few words, offers his daughter a compliment.
“Laura, I don’t know much about wedding dresses, but that’s the nicest one I’ve ever seen,” he says poignantly.
“Dad’s not one to say things like that,” she says. “It was pretty special.”
Finally, knowing the ever-punctual Adrian has been waiting under the archway for more than half an hour, and after hurriedly safety pinning Jodi’s broken dress strap, an impatient Laura and a stoic Greg set off for the paddock, walking through the field of maize and sunflowers especially planted by Laura’s brother John.
Nathan Collins and Shannon Lamb, friends of the couple, sing Edwin McCain’s I’ll Be, and as soon as Laura turns the corner and Adrian sees his bride, an enormous grin spreads across his face.
“She just looked so beautiful,” he says.
“At first, I was looking at her dress, because I knew how much effort she had put into picking the right one. Then I took everything in, and she was incredible.”
In her haste to meet Adrian, Laura reaches the altar after only one song verse and finally joins hands with her husband-to-be as the celebrant, former TV One Breakfast presenter Kay Gregory, welcomes the guests, including fellow Silver Ferns Irene van Dyk, Maria Tutaia and Casey Kopua.
Starting with a gentle dig at the couple’s phenomenal planning abilities – “they’re very organised people!” says Kay to much laughter – she reminds the couple and their guests that marriage is the most important commitment two people can make to each other.
“Their five-year relationship has a very strong foundation,” she says.
“These two just seem to match. In the time they’ve been together, they’ve shared so much. It just works.”
The couple then recite heartfelt vows they have written together. Laura had even put hers in Adrian’s Valentine’s Day card “because I wanted him to know what I really meant, in case I stuffed them up on the day,” she says.
The wedding rings are presented by Rangi and Wynn, Laura’s grandmothers. Adrian’s ring is engraved with Laura’s fingerprint, a surprise she had done the week before the wedding. Once exchanged, Kay pronounces Adrian Michael Pooley and Laura Robyn Langman husband and wife.
They then plant a kowhai tree next to their archway, an act of love that further cements their connection to the farm where Laura grew up.
“This tree is a little like marriage,” Christine says to Laura and Adrian as they dig; Laura not afraid to get her gorgeous dress dirty as she shovels earth in the hole.
“You plant the tree and you nurture it to protect it from whatever elements that may come along.”
As Nathan and Shannon play Phillip Phillip’s Gone, Gone, Gone, the new husband and wife make their way back up the aisle and straight into the arms of delighted family and friends.
“This day has just been unreal,” Laura says, hugging Adrian tightly.
“It sounds really clichéd, but it has been everything we imagined and more. I really wasn’t one to want to get married. I knew we’d always be together, but there was never that need. But I’m so glad we have. It has been the best day of my life.”
Adrian, who proposed to Laura a year ago in their Hamilton home with the engagement ring inside a Starbucks cup, can’t believe he and Laura are married at last.
“Finally,” he says. “I love her energy. It’s hard to describe, it sounds spiritual but it’s not. It’s just Laura. I love her.”
For Laura, the gravity of the ceremony is sinking in.
“It does feel different now,” she says. “I know people say nothing changes when you get married, but I feel a lot more bonded to Adrian now. I like looking at his hand and seeing the ring, it’s amazing.
“I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with Adrian,” says his beautiful bride.
About Kelly Bertrand
“I started at the Weekly after a two-week internship in 2011, which was part of my journalism studies. Basically, I hung around and annoyed people long enough to land a job as a staff writer, and I’ve been here ever since. I’m lucky enough to get to write stories ranging from the Kardashians through to the Queen, but my real passion is telling the stories of New Zealand’s sporting stars. Sometimes I can’t quite believe it’s my job to hang out with All Blacks and Silver Ferns! I absolutely love working at the Weekly, and feel really privileged to be part of this 83-year-old Kiwi institution. I’m also fond of Instagram, coffee and animals dressed as humans!”more of this author