They've gone from being widowed friends to exchanging vows on Christmas Day - and thanks in part to Sir Elton John.

Dave Murray and Shirley Pidgeon, both in their late 60s, stunned their families by first getting engaged then immediately marrying on Christmas Day at their Crane Rd property in Whangarei.

The couple met at the North Haven Hospice where Mr Murray's cancer-stricken wife Susan spent time before succumbing to the terminal illness at her Kerikeri home just over five years ago.

Ms Pidgeon worked as a receptionist at the hospice and her husband of 40 years, Neil, died in similar circumstances nine-and-a-half years ago, five months after his diagnosis.


Their friendship began in the hospice before they ventured out on a date to a Sir Elton John gig in New Plymouth. The trip provided an ideal getaway for some serious talk in Dave's campervan.

"I am his [Sir John Elton] fan for life," Mr Murray said.

"Dave's daughter put a modesty curtain inside the middle of the camper and my daughter made sure I had enough money for my bus fare home in case I didn't like the man," Shirley recalled.

His daughters and grandchildren had already forged a healthy relationship with her at the hospice.

And after 40 years of marriage, Mr Murray's wife Susan, in the last week of her life, advised him to get a new woman in his life who could cook. Some two-and-a-half years after Susan's death, Dave and Shirley moved into a new home on their lifestyle block in Whangarei.

In March, Shirley said she dreamed of marrying Dave on the "12th of the 12th of the 12th" at 12.12pm. Dave appeared to decline but the pair secretly started planning Christmas Day nuptials.

With both sides of their families gathered around noon on Tuesday, Mr Murray spilled the beans.

The family members looked like "stunned mullets" - first at the announcement then, after a 10-minute engagement, at the arrival of a marriage celebrant.

On asking the new Mrs Murray what attributes attracted her to him, she replied: "We have a lot in common ... our motto is 'Live, love and laugh' - we do it everyday."