It was like the cherry on the cake ... it completes us. - Feleti Sofele
They met chasing a yellow ball across the AstroTurf of their popular Auckland tennis club.
Two years later Feleti Sofele was on court when he asked Janine Thirlwall to be his wife, after they bashed out a few sets during a holiday at the old Hotel du Vin south of Auckland.
There couldn't be a more suitable couple to marry under a tennis ball archway at centre court on the eve of New Zealand's premier tennis event, the ASB Classic.
And, at the Auckland Tennis Centre tomorrow , there won't be.
At 3pm Sofele and Thirlwall, wearing traditional wedding attire paired with the mandatory on-court footwear of tennis shoes, will exchange vows in front of those dearest to them, and a special guest ASB Classic player.
The Mission Bay pair were chosen from more than 25 couples across the country for the chance to wed on the court ahead of the ASB Classic.
The opportunity was perfect, Sofele, who manages an after-school tennis club and has volunteered at the classic for the past five years, said.
"It's so us. For both of us it was quite a dream. It was like the cherry on the cake ... it completes us."
The couple were waiting excitedly to discover which player would officiate at the ceremony — as die-hard tennis fans their traditions include never buying each other Christmas gifts, instead getting tickets to the tournament each year.
They're also pleased to be able to include so many of their tennis friends, and Thirlwall said others would be at a special after-wedding function organised by their Mission Bay Tennis Club friends.
"I just think so many people are going to have a good day. I mean, I know it's our day, but it just seems like everyone's excited."
She was still feeling surprised to be chosen, assuming their ages — Sofele is 45 and she's 50 — would stymie their chances.
"We actually thought they wouldn't want an old couple."
They had always planned to marry on a tennis court, figuring they would do so in their tennis tracksuits at their home club one day, but other financial demands — the most recent learning they must reclad their home — always took priority, she said.
So much time had passed since their on-court engagement, more than a decade, that Sofele had to pop the question again when he heard about the ASB Classic competition on the radio.
He was working late, so he phoned Thirlwall to ask if they should enter.
Most importantly, he wanted to check she still wanted to marry him.
"I rang her and said, 'This could be a funny question, but will you marry me?"'
She said yes.