Pair to wed by graves
After a year marked by tragedy, Julie Wood and Russell McIntosh hope to find joy in the most unlikely of places - three South Canterbury cemeteries.
The couple plan to wed next month in Timaru cemetery and make additional visits to two other cemeteries before celebrating at a reception at the Timaru RSA.
It might sound like a morbid approach to marriage, but the couple say it's their way of remembering and including the loved ones they have lost.
"Our last year was one of the worst we ever had," Mr McIntosh said. "But we got through it."
In 2012 the couple reunited after a difficult break-up and bought their York St home, looking forward to a fresh start.
Then on May 11, the day they were set to shift into the house, Ms Wood's 28-year-old brother, Shane Braddick, was found dead just metres down the street.
"The police had the street closed off, and I was impatient to get into the house," she said. "They told me to go to the station after 12pm to find out when the cordon would be lifted. When I got there, they told me it was Shane, and I just started screaming."
Timaru man Johnny Grant Holman, 25, has been charged with Mr Braddick's murder. His next court appearance will be just weeks before the wedding.
"Having that over your head dampens everything," Ms Wood said. "But I'm not going to let [it] ruin one more moment of my life."
A small group of about 40 family and close friends will be invited to join the couple at Timaru cemetery for the wedding ceremony that will be held near the grave of Mr McIntosh's mother, Avis McIntosh. They will then visit the Geraldine cemetery where the bride's adoptive parents, Judy and Graeme Wood, are buried, and the Temuka cemetery, where Mr Braddick is buried. In both places they will take photos, lay flowers and have a glass of wine.
"We're not going to be standing there crying and moaning," Ms Wood said. "But if they can't come to us, we'll go to them."
Their arrangements have surprised many of the guests.
But Ms Wood said she's not bothered by those who are critical of the plan.
"Like the old saying goes, you might be hit by a bus tomorrow," she said.
"You might wake up and find that your brother is dead.
"People's opinions just don't worry me any more."
The Timaru Herald