Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern married her long-time partner Clarke Gayford on Saturday in an intimate ceremony held at a Hawke’s Bay vineyard. After years of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Ardern’s busy schedule as Prime Minister, the couple finally exchanged vows in front of family and close friends.
Years in the Making
Ardern, 43, and Gayford, 46, got engaged in early 2019 but had to postpone their wedding multiple times over the years due to various circumstances. Their original plan to get married in early 2021 was derailed by new outbreaks of COVID-19 in New Zealand, which Ardern said took priority at the time.
As the pandemic stretched on over the next couple years, Ardern remained focused on leading New Zealand’s response and recovery efforts as Prime Minister. She became a global icon for her empathetic leadership style and swift policy actions during COVID, but had little time to plan a wedding in between managing the crisis.
In late 2022, after winning re-election, Ardern announced she would resign as Prime Minister by early 2023, saying she no longer had “enough in the tank” after guiding New Zealand through tumultuous times. She passed the torch in January 2023 to new Labour Party leader Chris Hipkins, who took over as Prime Minister.
Finally free from the demands of leading a country, Ardern was able to focus on planning her long-delayed wedding to Gayford. The couple picked the Craggy Range vineyard in Hawke’s Bay as their wedding venue and sent out invitations to close friends and family in late 2022.
After years of waiting, Ardern and Gayford’s special day finally arrived on January 14th, 2023.
An Intimate Affair
Guests begin arriving at the Craggy Range Winery around mid-day, ferried to the exclusive venue by bus from a nearby golf resort where many attendees are staying. Tucked away on 250 hectares of Hawke’s Bay farmland, the winery offers total privacy for the high-profile couple’s special day.
Table 1: Wedding Venue Details
|Craggy Range Winery, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
|Accommodates over 200 guests
|Vineyards, on-site luxury lodges, helicopter landing pad
|NZ$25,000 a night
Ardern wears an elegant bespoke gown designed by Kiwi designer Juliet Hogan, featuring a cowl halter neckline and floor-length skirt. Her hair is styled in a chic updo and she wears a cathedral-length veil. The handsome groom Gayford looks sharp in a grey suit paired with a white shirt and navy tie.
The simple ceremony takes place under a floral gazebo on the vineyard’s sprawling lawn, overlooking rolling hills lined with grapevines. Only 80 of the couple’s inner circle are invited to witness the intimate nuptials in person. Attendees include Ardern’s parents, sister, and close friends such as Governor-General Cindy Kiro.
Vows are exchanged, rings slipped on fingers, and finally Mr. and Mrs. Gayford seal their marriage with a kiss. Cheers erupt from the small congregation gathered on white folding chairs to toast New Zealand’s former First Couple as they make their way back down the aisle together, beaming.
Celebrations Carry on into the Evening
After the ceremony concludes around 2pm, guests mingle on the lawn for champagne toasts while a lone bagpiper provides musical accompaniment. Droves of catering staff circulate with nibbles to sustain revelers before the main reception.
Festivities later move into an airy reception marquee for dinner and dancing. Long farm-style tables are beautifully decorated with floral centerpieces.
As daylight dwindles, strings of clear bulbs illuminate the venue and a live band keeps energy levels high. Sources say Ardern hits the dance floor to show off some moves with her groom. Laughter and joy fills the space as VIP guests let loose.
Around midnight, the music dies down signaling the end of formalities. Close pals, however, reportedly retreat to rented on-site lodges at the winery to continue celebrating with the newlyweds into the early hours. For two people accustomed to late nights handling crises, their stamina persists even on their long-awaited wedding day.
Drama Outside the Gates
While pure happiness radiates inside the wedding venue, there is a markedly different scene unfolding outside Craggy Range’s front gates.
A motley crew of around 35 anti-vaccine mandate protesters waves placards and shouts into megaphones from the side of the road. Messages like “my body, my choice” and “coercion is not consent” allude to policies Ardern enacted during COVID requiring certain workers get vaccinated.
Police monitor the situation but do not intervene as the protesters loudly make their anger at the former Prime Minister known. One officer comments the rally has been peaceful thus far.
The disruption, while likely audible from parts of the Craggy Range property, does not appear to dampen spirits on Ardern and Gayford’s big day. Guests traveling to and from the venue largely ignore the demonstration.
Inside the venue, celebrations carry on full-steam ahead without interruption well into Sunday morning.
For Ardern and Gayford, years in the making, their long-awaited union is finally complete. After tirelessly devoting themselves to the country for five years, New Zealand’s former First Couple now embarks on their own next chapter together.
What Comes Next
The Newlyweds do not disclose any honeymoon plans, but will likely keep future travels out of the public eye after spending so many years under constant scrutiny in the public sphere. Sources say they will continue residing primarily out of Auckland.
Close confidants, when asked about the couple’s future ambitions, say Ardern still has “plenty of fight left in her” despite stepping back from politics. Gayford will reportedly ramp up work on various environmental and mental health initiatives he has spearheaded in recent years.
There is also speculation the passionate pair of high-profile change-makers could launch some form of joint venture or foundation channeling their energies around issues like people, equity and climate justice.
Only time will tell exactly what Ardern and her husband do next, but one thing is certain: their shared commitment to tackling society’s greatest challenges will keep them busy.
And whatever they choose to do, they now boldly walk that path together, side-by-side for life.
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