Having four different wedding ceremonies in four countries has been a whirlwind for bride Wendyann Fuller and her groom.
Despite previously turning down a number of proposals from her partner of 23 years, when she finally accepted Dave Upton’s hand in marriage, the couple got hitched in style with four different weddings around the world – one on a Kiwi farm, one at an Australian vineyard, one in a gorgeous castle in the Netherlands and one with an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas.
“Getting married wasn’t something that I ever wanted to do. But when I finally decided to do it, I thought, ‘Why not do it with a big bang?’” Wendyann (61) explains.
“We wanted every one of our family and friends, both here and abroad, to enjoy our wedding celebrations. After all, they’ve waited a long time for this event to happen.”
Their first wedding, held in October 2012 on Wendyann’s brother’s farm in Waimamaku even made headlines.
Appearing in the Weekly, the colourful ceremony included 40 bridesmaids and 40 best men. The groom and his mates wore gumboots and shirts from their favourite rugby teams, while the bride and all her bridesmaids wore gumboots and tutus, and arrived at the venue on tractors. Wendyann – who wore the same red dress with a white overlay for three out of the four ceremonies – performed a gumboot dance.
“It was certainly a wedding with a difference,” she says.
“Not just because of the huge wedding party, but because it was going to be the first of our four wonderful celebrations.”
Wendyann first met Dave (70) as a teenager when he was her maths teacher at Aorere College in Papatoetoe. They met again 25 years ago at a high school reunion and Wendyann, who had always had a crush on him, asked Dave for a dance.
Sparks flew and a year later they moved in together. Although Dave proposed many times during their relationship, Wendyann didn’t feel the need to marry until recently.
“There were a lot of rings tossed my way, but I was waiting for the right time,” she laughs.
She finally decided to set the date because both she and Dave wanted their parents around for the ceremony.
“I just felt the love. After all these years, the love was getting stronger,” she says.
Although Wendyann wore the same stunning gown, the surroundings were very different.
“I wasn’t a ‘look at me’ kind of bride. I wanted to make it about my friends and made sure they enjoyed themselves.”
The second wedding was held at a vineyard in the Blue Mountains in Australia, a week after their first wedding.
The bride and groom even surprised their guests at the reception by dressing up as Sonny and Cher and singing I Got You Babe.
With the first two weddings completed, the jet-setters waited until July last year to finish off their celebrations.
The third was held in Las Vegas at a chapel where an Elvis impersonator was in charge of the proceedings.
“It was fun and so tacky,” Wendyann laughs. “It was a wedding that one would expect from Las Vegas.
“It began with the pink Cadillac, moved onto a tiny chapel and ended with our names flashing in bright lights. The whole event took about 30 minutes. Then we were thrown out into the diner for hamburgers and shakes, while the next couple arrived.”
Although the first three were fun and carefree, the final ceremony was elegant and beautiful, as Wendyann and Dave married at their friend’s castle in the Netherlands, a week after their Vegas jaunt.
“This was a fairytale end to our wedding roadshow,” Wendyann gushes.
“There were no footy shorts or gumboots at this wedding. It was full of elegance and I was on my best behaviour.”
The only friend to make all four weddings and be a bridesmaid at all of them was her childhood friend, Ruth Maspero.
“Needless to say, she earned the number-one bridesmaid title.”
Wendyann now lives in Australia as a PE primary school teacher and Dave lectures on a cruise ship. They return regularly to New Zealand to visit family and friends.
Wendyann is overjoyed she has finally said “I do” to the man she loves, and admits it’s hard for her to choose which of her weddings was her favourite.
“The weddings were all so different and I loved every one of them,” she says.
“I’m pleased I got to share it with everyone that I love – especially my husband.”