When Letia Hill showed up early for her wedding in January this year, for once she wasn't running on 'Fiji Time'.

"I had to wait on the side of the road until all the guests had arrived so there was no Fiji time for once in my life," she laughs, referring to her native country's slower pace.

Letia, an administrator and EA at Northland DHB and Shannon Hauraki, executive chef and general manager at Absolute Caterers, met as teens. But it wasn't until their late 20s that they became friends while taking part in a cooking club with mutual friends each week.

"What would usually end up happening is, with Shannon being a chef, we just used to eat his food that he made," Letia laughs.


The two, both 35, became friends with Shannon developing a bond with Letia's boys Leigh-James, (now) 12, and Callum, 8.

"Shannon loves doing the same things as the boys - surfing, skateboarding, Play Station, basketball. He also coaches Callum's rugby team. He has had a lot of influence in their upbringing and is always teaching them new skills and responsibility.

"It was important to me that Shannon understood the commitment he was, not only making to me, but my boys before we got too serious. He already had built a relationship with the boys while we were friends so knew what he was in for."

Letia describes another turning point: "I will always remember the moment when he sang and played the guitar to me and we were just friends at this point but I definitely looked at him different since then. He later said that this was a part of his game plan to get me to like him. He has such a beautiful voice but I'm still waiting for the next time he is going to serenade me."

They had been together five years when Shannon proposed, organising a breakfast for Letia's family and his parents at her mother's house on Christmas Day.

"I didn't think anything of it as it was something Shannon did all the time. I thought it was odd though the boys were extra excited and so was my mother. Shannon stood up said a few beautiful words about me and the boys and then got down on one knee and proposed in front of our family. It meant so much that our family got to witness it and he had asked my two boys and also my father for their blessings prior."

The night before the wedding, the couple held a touch game and sausage sizzle for their friends and family at Toll Stadium. "It was my side against Shannon's. As we are both slightly competitive, we knew it would be a great way to get each family to meet each other and have some fun.

"Important note: my side won but it was tough competition!"

The wedding, held in a vineyard at Tutukaka before 180 guests, was a blend of the couple's cultures – Maori and Fijian. Among other touches, the flower girls wore tapa custom-made dresses while, ring bearers, Leigh-James and Callum, along with Letia's dad Jack, wore tapa shirts and the page boy wore a pounamu gifted to him by the couple.

Letia was transported via a family friend's white T Bird, along with her father and boys. After her early arrival, her nerves melted away when she spotted Shannon waiting at the other end of the aisle.

They signed the register to one of her late grandfather's favourite Jim Reeves songs playing in the background.

"He used to love singing to him and, while this was playing, his sister, who is in her 90s, stood up and sang it. It was such a beautiful moment."

On arrival at the reception, leis (shell necklaces) were handed out to guests as a welcoming from Letia's family, while the new couple and bridal party were welcomed with an 'overwhelming' powhiri by Shannon's family.

Later in the night, Letia and her bridesmaids performed an impromptu hula for Shannon.

While their reception was held at Shannon's workplace, he was under strict instruction to leave everything to his team that day, as well as switching his phone off.

"The rule was, Shannon was not allowed his phone for the day and the team knew not to call him about anything related to work. He wanted to always have Absolute Caterers do the catering as it is such a big part of him. He did really well to stand back, especially as they had three other events, including one major one going on that same night."

Both the Absolute Caterers and Toll Stadium crew rallied around to make the day special and the cuisine included a Fijian curry from one of Shannon's Fijian chefs and Shannon's famous award-winning Pina Colada Fritter. The cake, a semi-naked chocolate cake with peanut butter ganache, was made by Shannon's mum, from whom his culinary skills derive.

"Planning our wedding definitely had its stressful moments but I honestly loved my day," reflects Letia, now Letia Hauraki. "It was perfect and was truly the best day of my life. What truly made our day amazing was we are very blessed to both have big, beautiful families and friends we have made and shared who have now become a part of our family. The people who share your special day with, that is what makes your wedding."