Today’s wedding is hands down one of my all time favourites. The stunning Lithuanian (now Kiwi!) bride met her oh so persistent Kiwi Boy on the other side of the world; and oh what an amazing love story it is! I am head over heels in love with every single beautiful image and detail in this wedding!
From the incredibly talented photographer Katie O’Neill…
“From the moment I met Kristina I knew she was a woman with fabulous style, taste, and had an amazing vision for the day when she would become Johnny’s wife.
On the day, I am looking at Johnny’s minute by minute excel spread sheet schedule and remembering that Kristina mentioned a few ‘traditions’ that would take place. Little did I know I was in for a photographers treat…. From a cross dressing mock bride and groom to a set of ‘challenges’ for Johnny to prove his worth to his beautiful bride – all in true Lithuanian style. Could it get any better?!? Cuisine, vodka, table dressings, vodka, kilts, vodka, costumes, vodka, traditional dances, vodka, poems, and more vodka- all heritage was acknowledged. This was truly an international wedding and I feel so blessed to have captured such a fabulous celebration.”
How did your love story begin?
July 2006 (it had to be 13th) Lithuania, Palanga (popular beach resort) heat of summer, couple days before my birthday, Johnny and Chunky (friend travelling with him) rocked up into the Palanga tourist Information centre (where I worked as a Tourism manager) looking for accommodation (as hundreds of tourists do). They weren’t just ordinary tourists – they were from New Zealand (not many of those around that part of the world!)
Our job is to look after the tourists, give out maps, give directions, tell what’s on in town, main tourists attractions, recommend where best to stay and eat and what not. So I straight away offered B&B (central, cheaper, and our office gets commission) So I personally took them to show around the place. Nothing flash but clean and they were ok to share a bed!
The next day boys came back saying smith broke in the loo. (“oh no, not for the weekend please”). I had to call the owners to get this fixed but they were nowhere to be seen. Boys just wanted to go into town and lie the beach etc. So I had to give Johnny my business card (as he was the one trying his Kiwi banter on me) and say if anything else went wrong in the weekend, just give us a ring. What do you reckon later in the arvo I get a text asking if I was keen to show two kiwi blokes around my beautiful town. “Sorry guys, but busy, getting things ready for my birthday”.
In the weekend I got another text asking if I wanted to join them for a beer in one of the local bars in town. I agreed to meet them after birthday dinner and drinks. Great opportunity to practise English anyway. Had a chat, pretty casual…and we parted. Boys seemed really nice, easy to talk to (Johnny was talking more than his companion).
They were touring Eastern Europe after Rugby season in Scotland. Told all about this beautiful country New Zealand…. and there it somehow started with short emails about their travel progress, then a postcard came to the office, then chatting on skype…then Johnny came to meet me in Vilnius (capital of Lithuania). Was great! And then he asked me if I would fly to NZ with him for his friends’ wedding and of course see this amazing country. Exciting and scary… My best boss in the world told me if I was to go with Johnny I will never come back (in the sense that he’s gonna steal my heart and take me away…. and she was right before I knew it myself!
It was best trip ever, regardless of being stopped and questioned by the customs, my luggage being lost and that Johnny was not there to meet me at the airport…my phone was not working, I was on my own on the other side of the world by myself…. Eventually I found him watching at the arrivals
screen looking for me!
After a year of long distance relationship Johnny, me and my 5 year old son Nedas moved to London (middle way between NZ and Lithuania). To either make it or break. After a couple awesome years in London, a few trips in Europe, surviving the Trans Mongolian Train adventure three of us made it to New Zealand.
It was Johnny who introduced me into adventurous sporty stuff – black water rafting, hiking, jandals, running, climbing mountains, skiing, Ray Mearssurvival DVDs for our “Sunday Church” TV sessions, and most importantly MEETING NEW PEOPLE who became my friends…good friends here in NZ.
How did he propose?
Johnny proposed on the top of Mt Taranaki and had carted a bottle of champagne all the way up in case I said “Yes”! After 2 years from that day and a new edition (Villas) to our family we tied the knot on January 18, 2013. We had about 5 months to prepare. Plenty of time!!!! The less time the less procrastinations! (My No.1 advice).
How did you stay within your budget?
Well we didn’t really have a set amount. We didn’t want anything flash but low key and relaxed as possible, friends and family gathering and party for 85 people. Abundance of food and drinks. We planned it to be as home/handmade as possible, we asked a few people to help out and contribute, use
ready available resources to minimise the costs. Without the cost of my family’s trip here, it was about $15000. It was a right amount for us, no regrets – that’s why we work and save).
What was your theme?
There was no set theme such as. But you could describe it as eclectic, simple, rustic, retro vintage, 50’s and what not – a healthy mix of styles, reflection of who we are as a couple and things we like. Of course, as I’m from Lithuania (a country with rich history and traditions) the whole thing had to have a Lithuanian Twist to it (even my husband didn’t know about the challenges he had to overcome until the day of the wedding) Long banquet style tables, vodka shots, Lithuanian music etc. Also we incorporated some Lithuanian traditions. Like Matchmaker, fake bride and groom roles, challenges for the groom, traditional greeting of the newlyweds etc. It was fantastic. Fun. Lots of laughter. and of course DIFFERENT.
Most of the decor was handmade by us and the helpers; lots of vintage/retro pieces that were sourced from op shops, borrowed from Heather (Johnny’s mum) and her best friend Aileen. Etsy website was my inspiration and source of ideas and purchases. As well as Pinterest for decor ideas that we could make ourselves.
Tell us about your beautiful venues…
The ceremony was held in Johnny’s parent’s garden on the farm (free). A few coloured tissue paper pompoms, rustics signs we made and hay bails covered with coffee sacks for guests to sit down were main focal points in the ceremony setting. Johnny’s mum’s green fingers and nature did the rest.
The reception was held at New Plymouth Boys high school “Pridham Hall” (Johnny works here. Donation to school). Originally we wanted to hire a marquee to put in parent’s garden. But we didn’t expect it to be so expensive!!!! So instead we decided to use that amount to cover my family’s trip to NZ for the wedding. Everyone’s happy and most importantly my mum, my sister with her little one and a couple good friends were able to come out.
What did you ‘Save and Splurge’ on?
We saved money by upcycling/recycling things: made napkins from old, vintage tablecloths; signs from pallets; hay bails for seats; glassware and linens for the tables from opshops and borrowed from friends; garden flowers for decorations; We used all the cutlery, tableware and dining tables from Boys High Hostel Dining room, chairs from Boys High hall.
We splurged on our Photographer Katie O’Neill. Personally for me it was important to have great photos of the day and local girl Katie nailed it!!!! Her portfolio truly reflected her personality and style – fun fun fun, jovial, light, lots of character, laid back, fast (opposite to slow, melancholic, sleepy photos if you know what i mean…). She was organised, took charge, knew what she was doing, patient, made us feel relaxed and confident (as both of us wanted as less posing as possible). We let Katie do her job! And we truly both enjoyed the before-wedding photo session.
What music did you play for those extra special moments?
We played I will wait by Mumford and Sons while Johnny was waiting for me, Saulala Raudona by Rasa when the girls and I were walking in, Love love love by Avalanche City while signing the papers, Make you feel my love by Adele (only if 3rd song is too short for signing) and Sunset by Avalanche City while Johnny and I were walking away.
In hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently?
When you reflect back on the day you think oh, I should have done this, we should have done that… but to tell you the truth we would not change a thing! It was perfect in its own way!
What is your advice for future brides to be?
The less time to plan, the less procrastination! A To-Do list always helps. Allocate jobs (you don’t really want to do yourself) to family and friends – and make sure you trust them and let them do that job. Make time sheets (who when where what time etc- it does makes everyone’s life easier and organised) and give it to all relevant parties – like your MC, photographer, caterers, etc
Ask a friend/family member to be your unofficial wedding coordinator – someone with a strong loud voice who’s able to direct the crowds (basically your meet and greet and direct-to-the-right-direction person).
Have your photos done before hand (if you are not too traditional) – takes a lot pressure off when you walk down the aisle and allows you mingle amongst your family and friends before the reception.
Less is more. Don’t buy if you can make it your self (or borrow if you can’t be bothered making yourself).
If you can’t sleep the night before, that’s fine. Relax. You’ll have plenty of time after the wedding!
‘Sveikiname’ to the gorgeous couple, and a massive thank you to the talented Katie O’Neill for sharing these incredible images with us.
Thank you also to Sandra Henderson who was the second shooter for this fabulous wedding (and Katie’s right hand gal!)
Photographer // Katie O’Neill Foto
Second Shooter // Sandra Henderson
Caterers // Murray and Robin Trowen (Murray is an amazing chef at Boys High)
Hair // Mode (Amanda & team)
Make-up // Samara Kurta
Dress // by Colleen Thorsen, French Knot Couture (USA via Etsy)
Jewellery // by Debra Powell, My Little Betty (NZ via Etsy)
Johnny’s Kilt // 21st Century Kilts, Edinburgh, UK
Boys’ shirts // Kingsway Menswear
Bridesmaid dresses // by Sally Sweetlove, (UK via Etsy)
Flowers // Lauren Vazey
Cake // Humdingers Cakes
Bus // Withers Coachlines
Cars // Adlams Vintage Citroens
Stationery // “I made the invitations myself. 45 rpm vinyl record put in its jacket. Imagine the reaction when you open a “please don’t bend” envelope and find an lp inside??!!! 🙂 We had some great comments from guests.”