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PAPER & LACE A Spectacular Wedding In Samoa (on a budget!) by David Le Design & Photography 98

A Spectacular Wedding In Samoa (on a budget!) by David Le Design & Photography


Today’s bride Tamarin is not only a very creative, organised (super organised in fact!) and budget savvy bride!

Tamarin and Rene’s wedding day is nothing short of spectacular and the perfect example of how thinking outside the box can save you serious money (I cannot believe the fab flowers were picked from the side of the road!). Below you will find a gorgeous love story, fantastic tips and tricks to save some mulah. Enjoy xox

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How did your love story begin? 

It was back in the day when Vodafone had Free Calling weekends. I used to chat to a school friend on my rad 2004 Motorola cell and one day he had a friend over. He passed the phone over to this friend, René, and we got talking… we didn’t’ stop! René made me laugh so much that we exchanged numbers and began texting… We didn’t’ actually meet face to face for a few months but we had already fallen in love.

Before I said yes… we broke up. I knew at 15 that I was going to marry René but was also terrified of the thought of being with someone forever, especially so young. When we met up again five years later and René put his arms around me I instantly felt home. I knew my heart was right all those years ago. But like a bad romcom, I pushed him away and flew across the world to ‘discover myself’. René sold everything and anything he could to surprise me in Bangkok, Thailand and win me back.


Tell us about the proposal…

We travelled South East Asia together and then one day, after playing in waterfalls and hiking through the lush rainforest, we were walking home along the Mekong River when I suggested we take a boat ride while we wait for the restaurants to open…

It was a stunning evening; The full moon was setting behind a temple on a mountain. The air was warm, the water was still as the sky reflected its blue and pink hues onto its surface. We had the whole boat to ourselves. It was a scene from a (good romance) movie.

But René suddenly went very quiet. He was pacing around the boat to the point where I thought I had upset him… “What is it?” I asked. “Is everything OK?”. He put his arm around my waist and led me to the front of the boat. He fumbled around in his Travelers Pouch and presented the most incredible diamond ring I have ever seen. “Will you marry me?” he asked. “Me?” I replied, before tears of joy welled in my eyes. “Yes!” I cried. Yes.

We celebrated with lasagna and chocolate milkshakes for dinner. (Fade out)


What was your inspiration for the day?

Samoa is a postcard of natural beauty. Blessed with stunning land and seascapes, and friendly people who are proud of their country, it was naturally our main inspiration for our wedding. Samoa’s lush green fertile valleys, where banyan trees tower above the tropical rainforest canopy, inspired our wedding stationary and table settings.

The coastline, with sparkling white sand beaches and walls of sheer cliffs that drop straight into the Pacific, inspired our bridesmaids outfits and the soft beaches and crashing waves were why the boys wore blue. Samoa exudes a very special and mystic charm that I hoped to capture in our wedding.

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What were your save and splurge items?

Save Items Everything we bought, made, or booked for our wedding was a “save item”. We tried really hard to keep everything as low cost as possible and looked for alternative ways to achieve the best. The bridal party’s outfits, our rings, our decorations, our reception and everything in-between was bought on sale, borrowed, or hand made. It was all the little bits here and there that kept us under budget.

Splurge Items Our wedding was more than the wedding. We had all our friends and family we love in one place and all to ourselves for a couple of weeks. Everyone was on island time and in holiday mode so we were able to spend treasured time with with our family and friends and got to make so many special memories to keep forever. Spending a few weeks at a resort was dear and definitely was our main expense. But it was worth it.


What music did you play for those special moments?

The girls and I walked down the isle to Old Pine by Ben Howard and René and I danced to Ingrid Michaelson’s The Way I am. We had the Lovely Sopo Su’a-Elia perform for us. Sopo created such a fun atmosphere for our reception and played music to suit all ages. She also learnt our first dance song just for us! Get in touch with Sopo


In hindsight, is there anything you would do differently?

I just asked René this question and his reply was “save up more money so we didn’t have to only eat noodles and leftover cheesecake on our honeymoon”. I think for me, I would have liked to have had a video of the day. A videographer just wasn’t in our wedding budget and while our photographer captured all the behind the scenes, big moments and little details, you just can’t capture peoples laughs or your husband saying his vows while trying not to cry.


Do you have any advice for future brides?

Get off Pinterest! While Pinterest does have some great DIY ideas, it also has thousands of styled weddings that set unrealistic expectations of what is actually achievable for the average human, let alone budget.

Instead, work with what you have. We were married on a beautiful tropical island and while I love roses and peonies, it would have cost hundreds of dollars to fly them to Samoa from New Zealand. We walked along a local street and picked the wild flowers that were growing. Striking plants in the most vibrant reds, oranges and pinks were calling out my name! We used what the island provided and it didn’t cost a cent.



Photography The most talented  David Le Design & Photography

Flowers Picked from the side of the street, my gorgeous mother in law arranged the wild flowers into my breathtaking bouquet, button holes for the boys and our impressive head table arrangement. The Return To Paradise team spent hours weaving flora and fauna from their garden into meters and meters of lush garlands for our centerpieces.

Makeup Beauty By Lani

Hair Tia Afamasaga (contact via Beauty By Lani)

Cake I…. don’t like…. cake… ? Caroline from Caroline’s Kitchen in Samoa helped us decide on a cheesecake wedding cake instead! This was a great decision because you can never get sick of cheesecake – René and I spent the next week eating the remaining slices.

Cheesecake Favours Carolines Kitchen We wanted to give our guests wedding favours but because we were on a super tight budget we instead had put together mini cheesecakes in jar. These doubled as the wedding cake for guests and also let the kitchen staff know where to deliver the meals.

Brides Dress My ridiculously talented Mum spent hours designing and making my exquisite dress. I tried on so many different styles but none really suited my personality or weren’t appropriate for the tropical temperatures. One day we went into Centrepoint Fabrics in Ponsonby, Auckland and we found the perfect lace. Not to wedding-y but with delicate embroidery in a Moroccan style pattern. We had no idea what the dress was going to look like exactly but bought the fabric nonetheless. We went back to our car and squealed with delight like school girls!

Grooms Suit René went shopping with his mum and sister in Ponsonby, Auckland. He bought his pants “somewhere in town” and his luxury shirt from Nicholas Jermyn.

Any tip for brides on a budget? Sales! The girl’s tops were bought from Cotton On for $10 and the boys outfits were 2-for-1 from Hallensteins. My mum made the bridesmaids skirts and their accessories were bought from shops like Forever 21, Wild Pair. The boys brought their own brown leather shoes or borrowed from friends.

Venue Return To Paradise Resort, Samoa

Catering Return To Paradise Resort are famous for their world-class dishes and their international team of chefs designed exquisite meals, sourcing the best and freshest of local ingredients, to create a range of plates for our guests that had them talking for days!

Wedding Stationery I both designed and made it all. By making them myself I was able to spend a bit more money on the food for guests. It also meant I was able to create additional collateral that would compliment the invitations and continue the theme. I made door hangers for guests that included a schedule of the day, a map of Samoa and a small thank you letter. I made activity books for the children (and adults) and wrote love letters for our bridal party in the same style stationery. Because it was a destination wedding there was so much additional information that was needed to help make the trip to Samoa seamless and simple for our guests that I created a website to explore. I would send newsletter updates to those that had RSVP’d with things like flight deals, what to wear and places to stay.

See more Real Weddings.

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