Married after four years 'from hell'

04:01, May 23 2013
Stuff Nation
Toni and Blair Newton.
Stuff Nation
Toni and Blair Newton.
stuff nation
Toni and Blair's place setting layout on old window panes
Stuff Nation
Toni and Blair's dandelion vials with "make a wish" tags on them
Thank-you note by present table, on an old typewriter.
Photo place settings for each guest

Blair and I met through a series of events in 2007, serendipity if you like. He lived in Blenheim and I lived in Christchurch.

After six months of driving up and down the Kaikoura coast at ungodly times on a Monday morning, Blair moved to Christchurch.

We bought a house and turned it into a home. We worked very well as a team, and at the time believed we had conquered all the dramas life could throw at us, especially in relation to home renovation. But we were not prepared for what was waiting for us. 

Stuff Nation
Toni and Blair Newton.

At Easter, 2009, Blair was diagnosed with bowel cancer. 

The news rocked us a bit, but more so our friends and family.  Blair went through a lot, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, four surgeries (and counting). 

After a year of hell, all seemed to be clear. During a whirlwind trip to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Blair proposed at the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel on our last day in Singapore in November 2010.


On our return, wedding planning was in full swing. I actually started writing a guest list on our flight home I was so excited.  

The date was locked in, the photographer, the caterer, everything was all booked in for February 2012. 

However, Blair's health took another turn. In September 2011 we found out his cancer had spread to his liver.

Another surgery was scheduled for October, so we quickly planned another whirlwind trip to Vietnam and Thailand. 

Because of his expected recovery time from this surgery, we postponed our wedding date to February 2013.

This then gave me another year to make the most of. Blair, while still undergoing chemotherapy treatment, got given all of the small tedious jobs - curling flags, sticking together wedding invites, etc. 

I spent my extra time personalising our wedding day for us and our guests. I spent hours trawling the internet for ideas. I searched for photos of all of our guests to use as table place cards (thank you Facebook), I even raided fields of dandelions to use the individual seeds in our favour bags. 

Some people, actually a lot of people, thought I was a little bit crazy. But I really enjoyed it, and to be honest, it kept me occupied and stopped me thinking about the reality of what Blair and I were going through. 

As our day drew closer, Blair's health was finally co-operating. We hadn't made a midnight dash to ED in a while and his energy levels were back up. All was going so well, well enough for him to knock together a full scale connect four board, and three easels for my recently purchased window panes, which would be our table layout.

The wedding day went off without a hitch. I received so many comments on all of the details I had made for the day, especially the photographs. 

I never really had a theme as such, I just collected things I liked. Old Mason jars for our table centers filled with lavender and pussy willow. Old books and wooden stands as our table numbers. A thank-you note displayed on an old typewriter (which I bought all the way back from a Whangamata antique store as carry-on luggage, Blair was not impressed!). Our table setting was displayed on old window panes with each pane representing a table. I bought a range of jandals and threw them in some old suitcases and labelled it 'dancing shoes'. 

I believe life is all about the small things. I am a photographer and it's always the small things when I'm doing a photoshoot that I look for. Whether it's a nice note left for you in the morning before you head off to work, or that look someone gives you to make you feel special, this is what life is about. 

I believe that in life we are so focused on what is coming next, that we lose focus on what we have in front of us, and what we have now.   

Although we have been through more than most couples in the last five years, we have such an amazing relationship, and are always on the same page when it comes to decision making about our future. It's very rare that people find this in life.

We are both so very lucky.