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Saturday Morning Movie: Jaw Dropping New Zealand Elopement

What a way to kickstart a marriage! Forgoing the traditional wedding route at home, these two Floridians traveled around the globe to New Zealand and said “I do” among lakes, mountains and so much natural beauty, it’s almost too picture perfect to believe. Luckily, Sunshine Weddings – Film & Photo were along for the ride to capture it all – and even luckier for us, we get to enjoy the finished product right this minute!


Al Fresco

From Sunshine Weddings – Film and Photo… Floridians Kristen and CJ chose their wedding location on a remote lake in New Zealand because of our films. So there was a bit of pressure! They were the sweetest couple on their first “big adventure” together and asked us to photograph and film their day. The brief was to show off New Zealand to give family and friends a real sense of being there when they saw the photos and watched the film. Kristen and CJ’s ceremony was by Moke Lake, a remote pristine lake surrounded by mountains not far from Queenstown. As animals are a big part of their lives (Kristen studied and works with animals) we took them for a photoshoot in a sheep paddock with new lambs running free. For the ultimate NZ experience we sent their driver home and hijacked them to find some New Zealand native bush. A time of cool calm surrounded by birdsong which really rounded off the day.

For us the best part of working on Kristen and CJ’s wedding was sharing much of what we love most about NZ. In return they gave us the gift of their enthusiasm and being a part of a life-changing day. No one stopped smiling! Kristen told us her Dad cried when he saw their wedding film (the only time she’s seen him cry) and said it was the best film he had ever seen, so we think we hit the brief.

One thing too that Kristen didn’t mention – her ring was her Grandmothers and CJ’s ring was made by a local Queenstown jeweler from a New Zealand 50c coin. The rings are photographed in a Paua shell from their hotel room which is an iconic NZ abalone-like shell.

From the Bride… We met seven years ago in our hometown, Plant City, Florida. CJ was a senior in high school and I was a sophomore! He was the teacher’s assistant for our college level world history class and a tech in the drama program I acted in! I had such a huge crush on him for a while until a mutual friend found out and told him! We went on dates for a few months and then started dating! We have been together everyday since!

After being together four years, we went to Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida to swim with dolphins! CJ to my surprise had arranged for a dolphin to bring me a buoy with the words “Kristen, will you marry me?” on it! He also spent forever tracking down a ring that I had just mentioned I thought was pretty and never thought anymore of it. He tracked the lady down on Etsy. CJ had her make the same one and shipped it from California to him! Such a romantic!

We have always wanted to travel and see more of the world! When we got engaged, we made the decision to make good on that promise and start off our marriage with traveling. Since the beginning of our relationship, we always dreamed of seeing New Zealand in person so it was a no brainier once we decided to marry abroad!

We wanted to find the spot that screamed “I am in New Zealand!” Since our family was not able to come with us to see our big day and would only be able to see our video and pictures, being in a very natural, beautiful spot was pretty important to us.

We picked our location through watching Sunshine Weddings beautiful videos! When we first viewed the video of Moke Lake, it took our breath away. It was absolutely gorgeous and perfect! It actually is really coincidental because the video that we watched of the location that we fell in love with was actually a video of the wedding planner we ended up hiring! So she basically planned her entire wedding over again and she did an amazing job!

We did our planning a bit differently than most since we weren’t able to bring anything over to include in the wedding, and we didn’t get to see any of the preparations in person until walking down the aisle. But there was one personal element I made sure to include in our big day. My grandma basically raised me and absolutely loved CJ when we were dating. Unfortunately, she passed away before our big day. Before she passed, she gave me a necklace that my grandpa had given to her. On our wedding day, in our hotel, I wrapped her necklace around my bouquet stem so I could hold a piece of them during our wedding. It was something small, but meant a lot to our ceremony.

What’s our favourite memories of the day? More like, what wasn’t our favorite memory?! It’s so hard to pick a few when the entire day was absolutely amazing! Rescuing a baby sheep, hiking through the bush in my wedding dress, almost getting charged at by an angry mom sheep… I could go on!

One of the best memories of that day though, include that feeling of walking down the little bridge and around the hill to see the stunning scenery and set-up of the archway, and my soon-to-be husband smiling at me with the biggest grin! It was such a beautiful moment! I hadn’t had the opportunity to see Moke Lake, our flowers, archway, or anything in person until that moment. So it was so overwhelming to see all of it at once with the thought “I am the luckiest girl in the world, I get to marry my best friend in the most beautiful spot in the world!”

One other memory I would say is both my husband and my favorite would be when we were in the midst of doing our filming shoots, Scott decided the perfect shot would be with our feet in the water! So as my husband is helping me get seated on the bridge and helping me with my shoes, we sit down to see Scott waist deep in freezing cold water in his underwear! It was hilarious! Melissa said she hoped that was the first and last time Scott takes his pants off at a wedding!
I did my planning a bit different since it was in a different country, but I would definitely say in my situation there are a few things I would recommend:
1. Hire a wedding planner if you feel overwhelmed! Honestly, even if you don’t feel overwhelmed, I would still get one! Sarah made it so all I had to do was answer a few questions and show up! She took care of every bit of the details and I couldn’t have planned it better even if I had an extra year to do it! She knew the best places with the best prices for everything so it ended up saving me money in the long run too!
2. Hire a really great photographer/cinematographer! This is a big one! I can’t emphasize enough how much I love our moments that were captured by our filming/photo company we hired. The video made it even more amazing and it was so beautifully done that we could watch it over and over again and never get tired of seeing it. It was our own personal movie!
3. Enjoy your big day! If you do it right, you will only have one! No matter if it rains, snows, your dress button pops off and loosens it (happened to me), you get a few bugs in your veil (also happened to me!), no matter what happens… don’t sweat it! This is YOUR magical, amazing day and nothing should damper your mood!

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Photography: Sunshine Wedding Films | Cinematography: Sunshine Wedding Films | Event Planning: Simply Perfect Weddings | Floral Design: The Flower Room | Hair + Makeup: Collective Hair and Makeup | Celebrant: Phillipa Cook | Accomodations: The Rees Hotel | Wedding Arch: Queenstown Wedding Hire

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This Bride + Groom Arrived to Their Mountaintop Elopement in a Helicopter

Reason number 1,416 why you should hire a videographer for your wedding comes courtesy of this beautiful Bride and Groom: “Since most of our family and friends wouldn’t be able to attend, we agreed that having a beautiful video of our wedding day to share was a priority.” And thanks to Sunshine Weddings – Film & Photo, they got the video — and the wedding — of their dreams! See every magic moment from their special day now in The Vault!


From The Bride and Groom…Q: Tell us about yourselves. How did you meet? How did you get engaged?
A: (Jackson) Outside of my regular career in finance, I follow my lifelong passion for music. I met Maridith at a very old, very small church in Houston where I sang on Sundays. After many a hot summer Sunday catching each other for quick chats after the service, I finally asked her out. Several years and an overseas secondment later, I asked her to be my wife. Through her devoted love of travel, we have explored so many breathtaking parts of the world, and our wedding in Queenstown was definitely no exception.

Q: Tell us about any DIY or personal elements included in your wedding.
A: (Maridith) The gorgeous backdrop of Stoneridge Estate and Cecil Peak didn’t need much as far as decor, but with Jackson’s love of music, we had to include a little something special. By luck we found an amazing cellist, Tomas Hurnik, willing to travel from Christchurch for the day to play the most beautiful Bach suites. His music filled the tiny chapel and added the perfect personal touch to our ceremony.

Q. What did you envision your wedding being prior to planning?
A: (Maridith) While I’d always loved the idea of running away together, a destination wedding on the other side of the world wasn’t something Jackson (very much a traditionalist) had ever really considered. But once we started cultivating the idea of a “weddingmoon” to celebrate our marriage and his growing love for travel, it was full steam ahead! An intimate church ceremony, where we could both enjoy the day and really focus on the commitment we were making to each other was what we ultimately envisioned. Having lived for a while in Australia and always regretting not making it over to New Zealand, it didn’t take long to decide it would be the perfect place to begin married life and indulge in a honeymoon adventure.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the day?
A: (Maridith) In two words, relaxed and happy. We both wanted our wedding day to be one that we could look back on and remember all the little details and what we were feeling in those moments, creating a day that was relaxed leading up to the ceremony and that let every happy moment sink in. Having the amazing Minetta at The Wedding Company to organize all the vendors and details certainly helped to make that happen!

Q: Tell us about your choice of wedding location.
A: (Maridith & Jackson) That part was easy–once deciding on New Zealand as our destination, it essentially came down to “where do Melissa and Scott from Sunshine Wedding Films travel?” Since most of our family and friends wouldn’t be able to attend, we agreed that having a beautiful video of our wedding day to share was a priority. We came across Melissa and Scott’s films in researching elopement style weddings and fell absolutely in love with their work. From there, Queenstown and the magnificent views from The Chapel by the Lake at Stoneridge Estate was where we finally landed. Queenstown weather certainly delivered on the day, and we came back with a fantastic film and stunning photos that truly captured the best moments from the day.

Q: Tell us about your flowers, your gown etc.
A: (Maridith) I had the most gorgeous bridal bouquet done by Sarah at The Flower Room, Queenstown. The pale pink peonies mixed with peach roses and freesia were perfection. She also did my lovely bridesmaid Claire’s bouquet and a precious halo for her sweet daughter and our flower girl, Chloé. My dress was actually a round two selection! Breaking the cardinal rule of wedding dresses, I fell in love with another Tadashi Shoji dress after purchasing the first. The delicate lace and keyhole back of the second were exactly what I’d envisioned.

Q: Favourite memories of the day.
A: (Maridith & Jackson) We had so many memorable moments from the day! One of our favorite memories was getting to celebrate with a dozen friends who literally traveled to the ends of the earth to support and celebrate with us. We’re eternally grateful. The heli ride to Cecil Peak with pristine views of Lake Wakatipu after our ceremony is definitely another moment we’ll always cherish.

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Vault CTA

Photography: Sunshine Wedding Films | Cinematography: Sunshine Wedding Films | Event Planning: Minette Hope - The Wedding Company | Floral Design: The Flower Room | Wedding Dress: BHLDN | Ceremony Venue: Chapel By The Lake | Reception Venue: Cecil Peak, Queenstown | Hair + Makeup: Crew Stylists Of Hair | Bridal Boutique: BHLDN | Cellist: Tomas Hurnik | Helicopter: Heliworks

These Vendors are members of our Little Black Book.
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Colorful Queenstown, New Zealand Wedding

A beautiful film, a beautiful couple and beautiful words spoken by the groom, this sweet-as-can-be film from Sunshine Wedding Films is filled with heart. And has pretty as it all is, it’s the emotion that you feel in every moment that truly touches you, and to me, there is nothing better than that.



From Sunshine Wedding FilmsSarah and Siua are from Australia (Siua is originally from Dunedin, NZ) and they travelled over to Queenstown for their wedding. Family and friends came from all over – NZ, Tonga and Australia. The wedding reception was filled with impromptu dancing, cultural performances and possibly the most beautiful speech from a groom we’ve heard. Sarah warned that Siua could write Hallmark cards for a living and you’ll be able to tell why.

Photography: Alpine Image Company | Cinematography: Sunshine Wedding Films | Styling: Mint Events | Venue: Heritage Hotel, Queenstown

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Abby Capalbo

Design, Styling, Parties