green wedding in Fiji
When charity workers Nicolla Birkby and Karl Place from West Yorkshire met by chance at a friend’s farewell drinks party, they both knew instinctively that evening that they had found ‘the one.’ They were right! And a short time later they sealed their love in the most spectacular way with a traditional Fiji wedding celebration, accompanied by native warriers
FINDING ‘THE ONE’
We previously worked in the same school but it’s fair to say that we didn’t exactly see eye to eye. By chance, we both attended leaving drinks for a mutual friend at a pub nearby to work. It was a lovely evening and we got chatting outside for a couple of hours and then I left. I knew Karl was ‘the one’ and left the pub that evening knowing it was a life changing experience – even though I knew so little about him. It was strange as we both didn’t expect to even get along, let alone like each other! I was at the end of a previous relationship and trying to tie up some awkward loose ends, whilst Karl had completed paperwork to leave the UK to take up work in the Emirates. Nothing happened between us on the evening that we met yet I instantly walked away from my previous relationship giving up all rights to my property, and Karl ripped up his paperwork and told his family he was staying in the UK. Remarkable as neither of us even knew if the other one felt the same. I knew straight away that I wanted to spend my life with Karl – luckily he felt the same. I never believed in love at first sight until that evening!
We were on a mini-break to Berlin to visit the Christmas markets. We were at the ice rink in Alexander Platz when he proposed. It was magical and romantic. It had been raining so we were warming up with a gluwein at the side of the ice rink and the next minute Karl was on his knee in a puddle asking me to marry him after only six months. Karl certainly had’t planned it as he proposed using a hair bobble as a substitute for a ring. Whilst it was unplanned, the magic of Berlin and it’s Christmas markets made it a perfect place for us and we like to be spontaneous anyway. We enjoyed coming home and chosing an engagement ring together just in time for Christmas.
We both love to travel and we are not particularly traditional. We enjoy being part of other cultures and wanted our wedding to be different and a once in a lifetime experience, which we would look back on and be proud of. We looked at so many venues and decided what was important to us. This included being the only wedding on one day. We wanted somewhere unique, different and where it was a private beach. We saw Viwa (love island) in Fiji and knew straight away that it was our perfect venue, offering tranquility, culture and beauty.
We were lucky enough to have a wedding planner in Viwa, Sheung Dawson who was amazing and accomodated everything we asked for. We made all our own travel arrangements and our wedding turned into a 40-day trip around the world with the wedding and honeymoon in the islands of the South Pacific. We enjoyed all the planning and having complete control over our itineary. We arranged flights from the UK to Germany and then to mainland Fiji. After a few days we flew on a seaplane to Viwa. Our return from Fiji took us to Tonga (via Aukland) and then on to Raratonga (also via Aukland). I couldn’t have asked for any better help to plan my wedding. Sheung answered all my queries and I emailed her regularly explaining exactly what we wanted.
We didn’t take any guests with us – it was just us and the beautiful people of Fiji. We started our trip in Germany and my cousin Andi and his wife Allie flew out to wave us off from there, which was lovely. The one thing that was important to us was making sure our wedding day was exactly what WE wanted it to be, after all it’s one day that we will look back on for the rest of our lives and we needed to be able to say we did exactly what we wanted and enjoyed every minute of it.
Getting the look
I initially bought a traditional ivory dress! After a few months I decided this was a huge mistake as Karl and I are not traditional and it just didn’t feel right. Karl was very supportive and we agreed that I would go dress shopping again. My friend Anne and I trailed shops looking for the right dress and just as we were about to give up we visited Celebration Village in Manchester where I fell in love with a green dress! I thought Anne would think I was being ridiculous but I tried it in on and my first words were “Karl will love this!” Anne’s first words sealed the deal “It’s very you”. A lovely lady called Bev made sure it was perfect for the big day and I will be forever grateful. I never set out to buy a green dress but I am so glad I did – everyone comments how unusual it is and it fitted perfectly into the backdrop of Fiji. When I got home that evening I told Karl I had found a dress and hinted it was a little different. His repsonse was: “Nothing would surprise me, knowing you it will be probably be green!” I just couldn’t believe it and I really tried to hard not to give it away!
I wanted to keep things really simple, a green dress was a statement enough. I knew I didn’t want veils and tiaras and decided I wanted a diamante headdress to drape over my face. This was really hard to find and I nearly gave up until I randomly spotted the perfect item in New Look the week before we were leaving for the wedding.
Karl and I had bespoke wedding rings made by Andrew Buckingham. Our rings each had the others finger print engraved on them.
I also bought Karl a watch on our wedding day as a surprise gift. The photographer delievered this to Karl’s room and captured the moment he opened it.
My hair and make-up was done by Lydia from Totoka. Lydia was great fun on the day and really made me feel special. My hair and make-up were beautiful. She attended our wedding and was on hand to make sure everything stayed in place all day, which was a lovely touch.
Groomed to Perfection
Being non-traditional Karl opted to wear a Fijian warrior outfit, which he loved! He wore a full length grass skirt and handmade accessories that took six weeks to create by local villagers. We had four witnesses who wore green to match my dress.
Our destination of Fiji became the theme for our wedding. We also had Fijian warriors to add character to our special day, which was amazing.
For our wedding flowers we chose Frangipanni, the main flower in Fiji – so I had a beautiful bunch held in a coconut to reflect the exotic venue. The colourful flower arch where we were married was simply beautiful too. We opted not to have a cake as there was just the two of us.
The ceremony took place on the beach at sunset and was framed beautifully with a flower arch. I walked down the aisle to ‘The Grande Finale’ (better known as the theme tune to ‘Edward Scissorhands’) which was a surprise for Karl as this is one of his favourite pieces of music. It brought a tear to everyone’s eye! I was escorted down the aisle by two Fijian warriors, which was just what I dreamed of.
The ceremony was so amazing that we lost track of time – I have no idea how long it lasted. We were married by a Minister from the mainland who was also the uncle of one of the staff.
To add a touch of local tradition, afer having rice grains thrown at us (no one told us this is the custom rather than confetti in Fiji) the Fijian Warriors did a ritual dance after the ceremony and involved Karl and then myself in the dance – this was amazing! My only regret is that I don’t have a video of it.
After the ceremony we had a candlelit meal for two on the beach, which was so romantic. The chef allowed us to choose anything we wanted! At the end of the meal I arranged for surprise fireworks to be let off – Karl wondered what was happening!
We asked the hotel’s resident band to play ‘To love Somebody’ (by the Bee Gees) as our First Dance.
We hired Rob from Three Coconuts to do our photography. Rob became a special part of our day and has captured every moment perfectly. We also had the wedding planner on hand taking pictures both on our wedding day and the following day, which was a lovely addition as Sheung captured pictures from a different angle. We really do have too many amazing pictures to chose from.
Sharing our special day with the staff at Fiji was magical – they went the extra mile to make our day truly a once in a lifetime experience from start to finish. One of my funniest memories was going back to the room and trying to decide who was to get out of their dress first, then working out how!
We did a 40-day trip of the south pacific from the UK via Germany – all in all it cost £11,000, plus spending money. That was right on budget!
After we were married we stayed on a couple of days at our resort, and then flew to Tonga so that Karl could swim with humpback whales in the wild before flying to Rarotonga.
Viwa Island Resort
Rob at Three Coconuts
Tell us about your wedding
Did you marry abroad? Whether you said “I do” on a palm fringed sandy beach or in a French Chateau, or even in an Icelandic winter wonderland with the Aurora Borealis dancing in the skies above, we would love to hear from you, and feature your wedding on our website .
“We wanted somewhere unique, different and where it was a private beach. We saw Viwa (love island) in Fiji and knew straight away that it was our perfect venue, offering tranquility, culture and beauty.”
Need help planning your wedding?
Brides Abroad, in conjunction with Brilliant Honeymoons can help you every step of the way, from finding the venue, arranging the details and helping with the paperwork to organising the flights, accommodation and transfers for you and your wedding party.