None of it was meant to happen the way it did.
First they were planning to marry in June, then it was meant to be on a Wednesday, a month ago, atop the stunning Coromandel Peak.
In the end, Amanda Cheung and Ashley Ramsay tied the knot in a bit of a hurry, at the celebrant's house, with their families watching on Zoom.
In fact, when they woke up that Monday morning, less than 48 hours before New Zealand entered lockdown, they didn't even know they were going to get married that day.
The whole wedding was put together in a matter of hours, thanks to a community of kind strangers who had never met the tourists but, in a time of great uncertainty, came together to make their day more special than they could ever have imagined.
Canada-based Ashley Ramsay and her partner Amanda, from Boston, had been travelling around New Zealand when the pandemic hit.
The couple, who met while travelling and visited more than 20 countries together, had been planning the trip for a while.
"Two months in New Zealand, starting at the beginning of February, followed by three weeks in Japan for our pre-honeymoon before returning to Canada for our wedding in June 2020."
Then Covid-19 hit and brought the world to a halt.
"We found ourselves in Wānaka as Covid-19 was getting worse elsewhere in the world. We had visited for a week prior in our road trip, and when Covid-19 uncertainty started to build, we returned there and stayed put. We reworked our plans thinking we might be able to keep the back half of our trip through the West Coast of New Zealand and north to Nelson, but we knew we weren't going to Japan," Ashley wrote.
"We thought we had everything under control until it was announced that Canada and the US were going to close borders to each other for non-citizens. What would we do?" she explained, adding that their different nationalities could potentially stop them from being able to stay together upon returning home.
They ran through their options quickly. With a NZ visa until May 1 and their wedding booked for June in Canada, they decided one of the best courses of action, in the current situation, would be to change it, to ensure they wouldn't be separated.
"If we do it now, we would be immediate family and that would allow us to stay together even with the border restrictions."
"We immediately called our parents and they agreed that for now, it was safer for us to stay in New Zealand."
So a plan was hatched.
As they continued to check Covid-19 updates coming in from their homes in the US and Canada, they began to feel more and more sure they had made the right decision staying in New Zealand.
They were safe and they were together - they could figure the rest out as they went along.
It was now the week before New Zealand was to enter a five-week lockdown, although no one knew it yet.
Ashley and Amanda filed their New Zealand marriage licence form and found a local celebrant willing to help them. They booked a helicopter to fly them to Coromandel Peak on Wednesday the following week and decided that, just because it was getting done in a rush, it didn't mean it couldn't be the perfect day.
"Then, the next morning, the day after filing the licence request, we woke up to more news … New Zealand was closing its borders, to ALL international flights starting at the end of March, with a full closure until end of May at the earliest. Gimme a break! At least New Zealand provided some sort of timeline, but we had no idea how long the pandemic would last and we did not want to be half way across the world from family," Ashley recalls.
"We jumped into action again, securing a flight out of New Zealand the following Friday, back to Boston. We have more resources in Boston, so it was a tad easier for us than Canada. So our plan, as of March 20, 2020, was to get our wedding licence on Tuesday, marry on Wednesday and fly out on Friday."
Sounded simple enough, all things considered.
They met their celebrant, Gill, and "immediately hit it off".
"She asked what our plans were for clothing and we told her how we hadn't been prepared to travel with clothing for a wedding. We were thinking to go into town and buy any dress that fit. Gill had a great idea to post a message on the local Upper Clutha Facebook group to see if anyone had an old wedding dress they'd be willing to lend for the day."
What followed was a flood of kindness that the couple could never imagined to be at the receiving end of. People offered wedding dresses, flowers and any other help the two might need for their last-minute big day.
"Later that night, our Airbnb host came by and asked us if we wanted to BBQ with him in the yard and drink some beer. We love this country. Gill stopped by with four wedding dresses. We tried them on, and found two suitable options if the dress shop didn't work out the next day. Soon after, the bottle of scotch came out, it was time to call it a night. It already felt like a dream."
The following day, Gill took them to the bridal store, Novia Brides, where they got to pick their wedding dresses.
"We were floating on clouds. In all the stress, panic, and uncertainty, it was a moment of love, bliss and happiness, all through the kindness of strangers."
On Monday morning, with a plan coming together and a wedding two days away, Ashley and Amanda went for a stroll along Hāwea river. As they finished the walk, Ashley checked her phone and saw a missed call from Gill. A quick call back delivered good and bad news: their wedding licence had arrived (a day early) but New Zealand was about to go into lockdown - on the day they were meant to get married.
"We'd sadly have to cancel our helicopter dream wedding, but we were determined to at least get married. We decided to have the wedding that day, Monday, at our celebrant's house."
With plan A and B out of the window, it was time for plan C, which involved heading to the celebrant's house and getting married - that day.
"We hurried back down the trail to our car as fast as we could. We still needed to call our parents and let them know, eat, get dressed, and most importantly write our wedding vows," Ashley recalls.
"Somehow we managed to get all of that done, and we headed off to Gill's house as we played "I Was Made for Loving you" by Tori Kelly and Ed Sheeran, which was to be our first dance song for the Canada wedding. The words were ringing a little too close to home."
"A wee cry in the car" as emotions got the best of them and they were ready. A pandemic wouldn't keep them apart and wouldn't delay them becoming a family. It was go time.
"Gill had arranged for two friends, Rania and Charlie, to come at the last minute to be our witnesses to the wedding, and was able to pick up bouquets from Tracey, who offered on the Facebook page. She didn't have much time with the sudden change in plans, but said she could put together 'simple arrangements' … they were anything but! They were massive, and stunning."
"Wānaka has since become our temporary home in the lockdown. We settled in, and couldn't be happier in this community.
"We feel incredibly fortunate that our path found us here in these difficult times, and we cannot say thank you enough to those who made this day happen for us.
"We feel incredibly lucky. Our stress and planning were tested to their utmost ability. And in all, we were reminded of the power of love and community, and the kindness of complete strangers."
One month on from their big day, it's been a weird honeymoon period, spent in lockdown in Wānaka, but the couple have no regrets.
"This is an incredible community. I feel like us being here has been a lot nicer than if we'd gone anywhere else," Amanda says.
Their visas have been extended until September and, with international flights still suspended and days still filled with uncertainty about the situation here and back home, for now, they're staying put.
"We're lucky that we can keep working remotely from here," Ashley says. "We'll figure it out."
If you're going to begin your happily ever after, doing it surrounded by New Zealand mountains and the kindness of strangers is not the worst way to do it.
None of it was meant to have happened this way — but that doesn't mean it wasn't meant to be.