Aussie couple marry on Mount Cook glacier

An Australian couple are the latest to join what tourism operators say is a growing trend towards "destination weddings" in New Zealand with Aoraki Mount Cook an increasingly popular site.

Melinda Gaughwin and Gary Cook, from Bridgewater, South Australia opted for a winter wonderland wedding at Aoraki Mount Cook this week, braving near zero temperatures to tie the knot on the Tasman Glacier.

The Hermitage hotel's wedding planner Nyree Schaar said a trend towards 'destination' weddings was emerging with more couples moving away from the idea of a traditional wedding in their local church or at home to weddings in special places.

"This wedding season is our busiest ever. We're seeing more and more couples, particularly those from Britain, America and Australia, choosing to wed in the incredibly special surrounds of Aoraki Mount Cook."

This season had been particularly busy with the hotel hosting 28 weddings by the end of March, compared with a total of 24 last year, she said.

Ms Schaar believes the increase could be attributed to several factors, including couples marrying later in life. "[This] often means better financial security and the ability to pay for their own wedding rather than rely on their parents. This gives them more control over the cost, location and who they choose to invite."

As well as tying the know at t 6,900ft surrounded by the snowcapped Southern Alps, 34-year-old Melinda added to the occasion by springing a carefully planned surprise on her groom by singing her own wedding vows.

Wedding celebrant Denis Callesen, who is also the General Manager of Tourism at Aoraki Mount Cook, says he's officiated at more than 200 weddings and hearing a bride singing her vows is a first for him.

"Melinda has a lovely voice and her vows, which were lyrics from Songbird, were heartfelt and very moving. The absolute silence and beauty of the location made the moment even more intimate and powerful," he says.


After the ceremony and photos, the newly weds went on an afternoon hike up the Hooker Valley before retiring to the Hermitage Hotel, to enjoy a candlelit dinner at its Panorama Room.

Melinda and Gary say it was a far cry from what they would have been doing if they had a traditional wedding at home.

"We were just blown away by everything today - it was beyond our wildest dreams."

Popular wedding locations at Aoraki Mount Cook:

- Helicopter up to Liebig Dome (pronounced Lee big) (7600ft) at the edge of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park looking back to Aoraki Mount Cook. Rated 17th best wedding location in the world according to UK newspaper The Independent

- Fly by ski-plane to marry in the snow or on the Tasman Glacier

- On the shores of Lake Pukaki with its beautiful turquoise waters and Aoraki Mount Cook towering in the background

- Blue Lakes Shelter, a quaint stone building nestled in the Tasman Valley

- Braemar Dome (6,600ft overlooking Lakes Pukaki and Tekapo)

- On the lawn in front of the historic Hermitage hotel with Aoraki Mount Cook as a backdrop.