By Jodi Bryant
Amanda Ashby sure knows how to make an entrance. In fact, the rumble from the Harley Davidson she rode into her own wedding resounded throughout the valley.
"Originally the idea was I wanted to do a burn-out but I didn't want to scare the kids so, in the end, I revved it so it rumbled right through the valley," laughs the motorbike enthusiast.
It was actually Amanda's now husband Nate who kick-started her interest in bikes. The newlyweds, whose families both hail from Kaikohe, had never crossed paths until they were set up 13 years ago.
"We just hung around in different circles, I guess. Nate was raised in the country and I was into sports but I became good friends with Nate's sister. She knew we were meant for each other and organised a beach date for us to get to know each other better… It obviously worked because he stole my heart straight away!
"We had similar upbringings and both have a love for fitness and training as well as the fact that we love kids. I guess it was a perfect match."
The couple now have five children, ages ranging between 2-15, who are into dirt biking, while their parents love road bikes, particularly Harleys.
"Nate has always loved riding motorbikes and got me into it. We love day-tripping to Cape Reinga or doing a scenic drive to Russell or Opononi through the Waipoua Forest. It's another world when you ride a motorbike. It's beautiful and peaceful and you lose yourself on the ride.
"The rumble and power you feel when you ride is incomparable, so it was easy to decide that a Harley was going to be the wedding entrance," says Amanda, adding that she rolled her wedding dress beneath her for the ride.
So, were guests surprised by the bride's mode of transport?
"Not really, I think they were more like 'Trust Amanda to do something like that!' I used to joke that I would wear sports shoes in because I would wear sports gear wherever I go. But I decided I'd better give the dress the justice it deserved and ride in in the dress and heels.
"Plus, they know Nate and I aren't very traditional and we wanted a wedding best catered for us."
Indeed, the wedding, held at Whareora's beautiful Willows on Abbey venue in late January, was not your typical. For starters, the bride only had ten weeks to plan it!
"This was actually our second attempt because the thought of organising it seemed overwhelming but, in November, Nate said to me, if you can pull it all off before February, then let's get married.
"He was actually joking but then he started freaking once I started putting the deposits down.
"We wanted it simple. We didn't want to get caught up in things that didn't matter and we wanted to be able to enjoy our day, not just as husband and wife but also as a family unit together with all of our children. We kept our guest list small at 70 to allow them to be able to enjoy the day with us, mingle with each other and share in the good vibes."
Amanda says the rustic theme and beautiful stretch marquee, which looked like a 'big white spider web', made all the elements that were usually unmatched, blend together nicely.
"It looked perfectly-planned because it all went so well together but our wedding people and venue host made everything readily-available to use the venue as a blank canvas to create the wedding exactly as we wanted.
"My bridesmaids were awesome and helped with all the small details that I might have otherwise forgotten. They entered the wedding venue behind us in a gorgeous black Chevrolet Bel Air."
Determined to incorporate their children into the ceremony, the couple's 'baby' was the flower boy, along with a friend's daughter, their girls were bridesmaids, their eldest son a best man while their eight-year-old walked Amanda down the aisle as 'father of the bride'. After the exchanging of rings, their children were each presented with a taonga by their parents to bind them together as a family unit.
"Then our marriage was announced as official husband and wife!"
Besides rolling up on a Harley, Amanda says the highlight of the day was 'how perfectly stress-free everything went'.
"I am so thankful for all of our wedding people on board that helped make our day beautiful and easy. We had planned a simple, stress-free wedding without too much fuss and it far exceeded our expectations. The day was just flawless."
The couple have recently returned from their honeymoon in Queenstown where they raced each other round the Highlands Motorsport Park in a Mustang and Ferrari and, of course, hired motor bikes to explore the scenery.