How to plan a wedding in a week (and why we did it)

Heads up – this post veers well away from our normal travel-related writing. If you’re curious to read more about how and why we planned our wedding in a week, read on, but we won’t be upset if our travel-oriented readers skip this post!

A wedding with a difference

Most people have around a year or more to plan their dream wedding. In New Zealand, as well as many other parts of the world, you need that much time to lock in a venue, a photographer, get a dress made, and so on.

Our wedding was a bit different.

plan a wedding

First, the back story.

We got engaged in Koh Tao, Thailand in late 2013. While living in Canada and the US in 2014, we started planning our wedding, and decided that it would be down the track once we had finished travelling and settled back in New Zealand.

plan a wedding

We were planning a destination wedding in Bali, Indonesia, in March 2016. This island paradise was the destination of our first overseas trip together, and it held a special place in our hearts. Weddings in New Zealand are exorbitantly expensive, with the average cost being around $30,000.

Yup, crazy.

So by going to Bali, we would be able to save a lot of cash and have a wedding to remember – a private villa on a beautiful island, a small group of close friends and family, lots of cheap food, interesting cultural experiences, and a great party. What could be better?

Nothing, we thought at the time.

plan a wedding

When we thought of our wedding, it was the ‘who’ that stood out the strongest – who would be there? Who did we want there? Who would still be our friends in twenty years time? The people, we realised, are the most important. It’s all about having the people you love around you for your special celebration of love and commitment.

plan a wedding

My (Petra) Dad was diagnosed with cancer not long before we set off for our trip to Southeast Asia in late 2013. Yes, it was that bastard cancer, but their was no immediate worry about a drastically reduced life expectancy – the doctors were fairly confident that Dad would have a number of years left and would be able to live a relatively normal life. Hence our plans to have a destination wedding in Bali – with us having an unsatiable travel bug, nobody was surprised when we announced our wedding would be there!

And then shit hit the fan.

plan a wedding

The Bali plan was all go until mid-April this year. Dad had been quite sick with numerous stints in hospital, and one Friday he received some devastating news – that the cancer had spread and the medication wasn’t working. He was told that he might only have weeks left.

Crap. That news changed everything.

When you get news like that of an immediate family member potentially passing on very soon, life becomes very simple. You spend all the time you can with that person, and you want to create happy memories to remember once they have passed. Of course, we wanted Dad at our wedding. But that wasn’t going to happen with our plan of the wedding in Bali – he just wasn’t going to make it that long, let alone be able to travel overseas.


So, the day after we received Dad’s horrible news, Shaun and I decided to plan our wedding for the following weekend in Auckland.

Yup, a mere seven days later.

Who does that?! And how?

Well, we did it.

A wedding in a week

It was a crazy, busy, insane, fun, happy week. All of our friends and family rallied around us once they knew what was going on (many were shocked as they hadn’t realised that Dad was sick), and we made it come together.


I don’t think I’ve made so many lists in my life as I did that week. We didn’t want to have a half-arsed wedding just because we had so little time to plan it and limited funds – besides the guest list of our closest friends and family, I still wanted my dream dress, and Shaun wanted an outfit he loved. We wanted amazing food, great photographs, live music, and dancing.

And we got it.

Numerous friends and family members offered their help. We are so lucky to have an amazing network of people around us that scrambled to do what they could when they heard of our plans.

We didn’t go without anything. I had an amazing dress that I sourced from Wellington-based designer Sally Eagle (she sold me a sample and sent it to me from Christchurch), gorgeous bouquets made by one of the groomsmen’s sisters, photography and videography by close friends, food cooked by Shaun’s Dad and his partner, live jazz from a neighbour, decorations by family members, bridesmaids dresses from a local designer friend, a Chevy Impala wedding car borrowed from a friend, and so much more.


On the wedding day, Dad was fantastic; he had been taking it easy the whole week and getting extra bags of blood pumped into him so that he was feeling as good as possible for the big day. One of my favourite memories is Dad walking me down the aisle and him giving a short speech during the ceremony. We shared a father-daughter dance at the reception and everyone was amazed that he was as sick as he said he was – he really didn’t seem it.


A sacrifice? We don’t think so.

Some may see our decision to plan our wedding in a week and let go of our destination wedding dream as a huge sacrifice.

Well yes, I guess it was, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way. You can’t turn back time and I know we would have regretted it for the rest of our lives if we hadn’t made the snap decision to change our wedding plans. As we realised, the people at your wedding are the most important aspect of the day – in the end, the minor details are so interchangeable.

It’s the people and the emotions on the day that you remember.

My Dad passed away a mere five weeks after our perfect wedding day. We are so, so unbelievably glad and grateful that we were able to pull off our wedding in a week, and that Dad could be there and have a great time. It is a memory that we will cherish forever.


In the end, the most important thing in life is people. Yes, we absolutely love travel and it will always be a part of our lives. But choosing between an undoubtably amazing destination wedding in Bali without my Dad, or a wedding planned in a week in Auckland with my Dad; well it was a no brainer.

Have you ever been faced with a difficult situation like this? How do you reconcile your travel vs. family/friends dilemmas?

. . .

Bride’s dress: Sally Eagle Bridal; Flowers: Mel Wheaton; Bridesmaid’s dresses: Amber Whitecliffe; Groom’s and groomsmen’s clothing: Barker’s Clothing; Photographer: Claire Scofield; Videographer: Catriona Goodey; Makeup and hair: Ali’s Makeup Station; Celebrant: Adele White


  1. Hi Petra and Shaun, congratulations for your special day and Petra, my deepest condolences to you.

    Over Christmas one of my best friends found out that her mother in law had terminal cancer. She was also planning a destination wedding for next year! But as we saw how her mother in law was faring they decided to bring the wedding forward and we planned it in 6 weeks. Not quite the 1 week you guys managed but full on all the same! It was beautiful having an impetus such as that pulled people together, people from all over came through in unexpected ways to make the day special and it’s something that I was so so so honoured to be part of.

    Like you said, an event like that is all about the people right?

    • Petra

      Hi Madeleine, thanks for your comment. I’m glad to hear that your friend managed to pull together her wedding in time – kind of sad but happy, right? It absolutely is about the people, at the end of the day nothing else matters – and in hindsight, it was even more amazing than a destination wedding would have been! 🙂

  2. Helen

    Wow, that’s an amazing post Petra! You were so brave and the wedding looks beautiful. It really puts the point of weddings in perspective. I had a conversation with Rich’s 95 yr old grandad about his wedding which was during the war. They had nothing as everyone was on rations, but all their friends and family brought any food they had to make the party. Congratulations! The day looked really special!

    • Petra

      Thanks Helen! It does, doesn’t it – the whole meaning gets lost amongst the decorations and the cake flavours sometimes! Glad you liked the photos – you can get some inspiration for your wedding 🙂

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  4. Congratulations on getting hitched! This post was so lovely to read, you could feel the love shining through in every single element. What a special way to honour your Dad – and you will always live on those amazing happy fabulous memories of the day. You looked gorgeous too!

    We just got married in March, after planning the wedding from overseas (I wouldn’t recommend it!). The one thing we wanted to come through in every single element was family. love. friendship. I didn’t give two hoots about the decor, I just wanted to spend time with the people I loved (and missed dearly, having lived away for 4 years). And it really was the best day ever – and we know that the things we wanted came true.

    Congrats again, and sending love for your loss xx

    • Petra

      Thanks Leah 🙂 Wow, sounds like planning a wedding from overseas was a mission! Sounds like you had an amazing day though. Thanks!

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  6. Wow, this post brought tears to my eyes! I had no idea you guys had been going through your own difficult times this year too, and I’m so sorry to hear this. What a special day, and to be able to celebrate with your dad there will be something you will treasure forever. Such an incredible and moving story! x

  7. I had no idea, what a moving story… I can’t imagine how difficult it must be not to be able to speak to your father anymore… You look beautiful in your wedding pictures and I am so glad you got married before your dad passed away and that you have those memories to look back on!

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