Dying woman's wedding wish

MONICA TISCHLER
Last updated 05:00 26/02/2013
Marae wedding
MONICA TISCHLER/ Fairfax NZ

WEDDING WISH: Debbie Harding, who has lung cancer, married her partner of 30 years Ario Tatai at Hoani Waititi marae.

Marae wedding
MONICA TISCHLER/ Fairfax NZ
DAY TO REMEMBER: Debbie wore a blue gown made by a friend.
Marae wedding
MONICA TISCHLER/ Fairfax NZ
MARAE HISTORY: The couple were the first to marry under the new pou at the marae.

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To love one another in sickness and in health is a vow not lost on Debbie and Ario Tatai.

On Saturday, Debbie, who has terminal cancer, made the difficult walk down the aisle at Hoani Waititi Marae in West Auckland to marry her partner of 30 years.

Debbie, 50, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011, which has now spread to her liver and brain.

It's a diagnosis that's made getting married to the father of her six children all the more important.

In true marae spirit friends, whanau and the community rallied together to assemble a last-minute wedding at no cost to the family.

The day was made even more special as they were the first to marry under the newly erected pou at the marae.

It took just one month to organise, with food, music, and a reception hall donated to the cause. The bride's dress was made by close friend Jennifer Mason.

''She made it in one night and did a lovely job. Blue's my favourite colour," Debbie said.

Debbie arrived in her sister's 1967 Mustang and said the day was an experience she will never forget.

''It feels good to be married. We've been together for 30 years so it doesn't feel much different but it feels good. I'm glad we did it.''

Ario, 49, is equally happy with the decision to marry his long term love.

''Today's been a big change in my life and has turned a lot of things around. I'm happy and proud,'' he said.

Debbie worked as a carer at Anne Maree Court Rest Home in Northcote and Ario was a truck driver before he became a fulltime carer for his wife.

Her sister Karen Ngamu is proud of the community for getting together to make the day a success.

''We wanted Debbie to be the centre of attention because she's always been in the background.''

''On Saturday, she was the centre of attention. She looked beautiful,'' she said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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