After cancelling the wedding that morning, Julie-Anne and James MacIntosh got married at their Auckland flat, the day the Prime Minister announced the ban on non-essential travel. Julie-Anne (Jia for short) is 30 and is from France; James, a supply officer in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, is 29 and is from Christchurch.
JULIE-ANNE: Our first date was the only Bumble date I ever went on. We went to the art gallery. He was very interesting. But he was also very interested – didn’t just want to know what my job was, how many siblings I had; he also wanted to know my opinions on things. He had a huge interest in art and literature which are things that I enjoy as well. In my previous relationships I was with guys who are going to assume that you can’t drive because you’re a woman, or that you take lots of time getting ready. With James, it wasn’t like that at all. He was just treating me like a normal human being. That was really refreshing.
Six months later, we moved in together. James is really not afraid to talk about his feelings. We were able to have conversations about “what you want out of life?”, “do you want a family?”, pretty quickly and quite naturally.
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I personally have always wanted a family but I’ve never thought about my “dream day”. I know that some people plan their wedding before they’re even with someone. I’ve never been like that. But after a few months with James, I knew he was the right person.
We had planned to go to France for my family to meet James. I thought he would propose after that. The day before we took the plane, I waited up for James who was working evenings. I was in my pyjamas. He came back from work and I asked if he was excited to be on holiday, and to meet my family. He told me: “Yes, I’m very excited to meet your family. But I would like you to introduce me as your fiance and not your boyfriend.” He dropped on one knee. He wasn’t too sure what my ring size was and what I would like, because I don’t wear a lot of jewellery. So he took some flowers from our garden and wove them into a ring, and proposed with that.
We thought that we would do a big celebration in France, in a few years. We realised that we wouldn’t be able to get married probably before 2023. We didn’t want to wait that long. So we decided to do something small in New Zealand on base, where James works, while still planning on doing a big celebration in Europe.
James and I had decided to sleep in different households the night before the wedding. He called me in the morning around 8.30am and said: “I’ve been sick all night. I’m not sure I can get married today.” I thought it was a joke.
He came home and we went to the doctor’s. I made the decision to cancel the wedding. It took a long time for James to reappear because he was on an IV drip. When I finally saw him around 12, he was feeling much better. He said: “Well, if we don’t get married today, who knows when we will be able to?” The Prime Minister had announced the alert levels that day. Having family in Europe, I was aware of how quickly it can get really bad. So he said: “Let’s do it.”
I was calling everyone to say: “if you’re still keen and you’re not too worried, come to our house at 4pm. Bring your own drinks. I want everyone to be gone by 6pm because James needs to sleep.”
We ended up having only a dozen guests. They all arrived with something to make the day or the ceremony better. Someone arrived with bread, someone brought ice, one of our guests was mowing the lawn. A friend pushed all the furniture in the corner, tidied up the kitchen, cleaned up the whole lounge so it would look nice. She pushed a dining table against the wall and found a lot of little objects that made her think of us – boardgames, Air Force things – and cut some flowers from outside for a bouquet.
The music started playing. James came into the bedroom to get me. We walked down the stairs together. We had a celebrant from James’ work who agreed to come to our house. During the ceremony, he said love had prevailed.
JAMES: After our first date I came home and a friend asked me how it went. I just said: “If I don’t get another date, I don’t care. I’m just so happy to have had a date with someone like that.”
When I was about 9 or 10, we had an exercise at school where you ranked the most important things for you – travelling, becoming rich etc. I put number one as getting married. Obviously I was never really interested in that in my early 20s. But I met her and decided that’s what I really wanted.
I pretty much knew after about three weeks of being with her. We’d discussed it, but I felt I had to wait a year – otherwise I knew it would scare family and friends. We were about to have a holiday in France, and I was going to meet her family for the first time.
I decided I would rather meet her parents how I intended to carry on, how I intend to live the rest of my life – as her husband. I asked a few friends: “How do you actually propose, what do you need to do, what do you need to buy?!” It probably wasn’t until maybe lunchtime on the day I decided right, it’s going to be after work when I get home.
The night before the wedding, I got food poisoning. I woke up at about 6am feeling a bit unwell. I’d had a few sherries and a couple of beers, and thought, “that’s strange to have a headache with that amount of booze” – only a little bit. I couldn’t sleep and started getting worse and worse, and vomiting. I drove very slowly to my friend’s house on base, and I said: “Help me! Have you got some plain food, water… I’m not in a good way.” They were like: “Are you serious?!”
I wasn’t improving and my friends dropped me back home. We went to medical centre; Jia was calling people saying it was off. Then the PM gave her address saying we were now in level 2. I was starting to feel better. I said: “OK, let’s do it today.” We started calling people saying we’re going to go ahead with it, in our lounge. I didn’t care about the formalities and the fancy things. I just wanted to have some people with us.
We came home and I went to bed, while our friend set up the lounge as a wedding venue.
Jia had no-one to give her away. We do like tradition, but we wanted to do some things differently. We decided, to show that this is an equal relationship, we will walk in together.
Seeing Jia dressed up, I didn’t get any kind of rush or anything. It just felt right. She asked how she looked, and I said: “Beautiful.” We asked how each other was feeling. The day before the wedding, my friend had given me some advice he’d had from his father, before his wedding, which was: on the day, you often fail to take time to reflect on what’s happening and enjoy the moment. He said: “Whenever you want to take a snapshot of the moment, squeeze each other’s hands.” I did that with Jia before we went down the stairs.