Fresh flowers strewn across the beach of Aitutaki’s exquisite One Foot Island; reached by vaka over a crystal clear lagoon.
That’s the stunning image of a Cook Islands wedding being painted for New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and her fiancé Clarke Gayford this week.
As the couple enjoy a holiday in the Cook Islands with their one-year-old daughter Neve, tourist operators are keen to show them just how special this place is.
Back in New Zealand, there is lighthearted speculation that their prime minister is eloping. Veteran political commentator Barry Soper wrote yesterday: “Last Easter, Ardern got engaged to her partner Clarke Gayford and at some stage, presumably, a wedding will occur. Why not offshore, away from the prying eyes of the media?”
Cook Islands News sources expressed scepticism – but wedding celebrants were still happy to sprinkle some stardust.
A private wedding on one of Aitutaki’s secret motu might do the trick, said marriage celebrant George Williams – and if Ardern was looking for something extravagant, One Foot Island would be the best place to start.
Williams, who celebrates about 40 weddings a year, said any weddings in the Cooks would definitely involve the stunning beach and the couple sailing on a vaka over the calm and crystal clear lagoon.
Destination Cook Islands manager Nina Webb said if Ardern wanted privacy, she too would recommend One-foot Island or Honeymoon Island.
Ardern’s visit to the Cooks comes after
Cook Islands Tourism Corporation board members and senior management travelled to Aitutaki last week, to hammer out plans to improve lagoon health, signage, waste management, and visitor capacity.
Wedding celebrant Stephen Doherty said anything could be arranged for a special event like the New Zealand prime minister’s wedding.
On the poolside, there are a number of wedding packages widely advertised that involve setting up archways of fresh flowers. So too, romantic beach weddings hidden on Aitutaki’s private islands.
Aitutaki is prized for its turquoise waters. A wedding on the island would surely be an escape to paradise – or an escape of fantasy.