Contractors and suppliers are arriving at the venue of Dame Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford’s wedding.
The former Prime Minister and her fiance are tying the knot at a luxury Hawke’s Bay vineyard today almost a decade on from their first date – and two years on from an earlier planned wedding which was scuttled by Covid-19.
The pair will exchange vows in front of family and close friends near Havelock North.
Shortly before 9am, a generator on the back of a trailer was delivered to the site.
Other delivery vehicles including a trailer load of white wedding chairs, several private security vehicles, and a waste management truck have also been coming and going this morning – with all vehicles going into the location having to pass through tight security.
A marked police car has also been driving up and down the country road on which the vineyard is located, while local residents have been driving slowly past the venue and taking photos and videos of the set-up, which includes a large white marquee where the post-wedding dinner and fine wines will be served.
The electric gates of the vineyard are closed, with a security guard standing nearby letting suppliers and staff in.
A protestor – one of about half a dozen outside the venue – is holding a placard stating “Lest we forget, jab mandates”.
Another protester is carrying a large black portable speaker and rap with anti-vax lyrics can be heard.
Hairdresser Tane Tomoana, who is doing Ardern’s hair, arrived at the venue shortly before 10 am, along with renowned Kiwi fashion designer Juliette Hogan.
Hogan is believed to have designed Ardern’s wedding dress and is a close friend of hers. Ardern regularly wore Hogan’s designs during her time as PM.
Craggy chef Casey McDonald could also be seen talking to Barbara Ward, Ardern’s close friend and wedding planner.
As the countdown ticks down and Ross Ardern prepares to welcome a new son-in-law to his family, the former Prime Minister’s happy father told the Herald he was “excited” about the big day.
“We’re all sorted, kind of, but I haven’t got anything to say to the media,” Ross Ardern said.
The Herald understands Jacinda Ardern will be wearing a design created by Kiwi fashion guru Juliette Hogan; a personal friend of the former PM, and someone whose designs Ardern has regularly worn before.
Throughout her time in politics, Ardern was a strong supporter of several Kiwi fashion designers.
The couple began dating in 2014, the year after Gayford, 47, a keen fisherman and host of Fish of the Day and Moving Houses, contacted the then-Labour list MP in 2013 to discuss concerns over legislation going through Parliament.
The venue – described as the “most Instagramable vineyard in the world” – was block-booked by the happy couple from Friday, including exclusive use of the accommodation and award-winning restaurant.
Ardern, 43, made global headlines when she became the country’s youngest leader and then gave birth to the couple’s now 5-year-old daughter, Neve, while PM.
She was internationally applauded for her empathy during the Christchurch terrorist attack in 2019, the White Island volcano eruption and the Covid-19 pandemic.
But in the days leading up to her wedding to Gayford, she, her partner and close friends and family have remained tight-lipped.
The Herald was told by someone close to the couple the former Prime Minister and her longtime partner had been determined to keep it that way.
“They won’t be doing any media [before the wedding],” a source said.
“They don’t really want to make any comment in the week leading up to their special wedding.”
The New Zealand Woman’s Weekly has previously published glossy spreads on Ardern and Gayford. Editor Marilynn McLachlan declined to say if the magazine had purchased rights for the wedding.
Another person who previously worked with Ardern in Parliament said the former PM wanted to keep the build-up to her nuptials as “private” as possible.
Several people who live on the winding country road where the vineyard is sited told the Herald they had been visited by security people in the weeks leading up to the wedding, who warned them to be wary of anyone who might try to disrupt the ceremony and the later celebrations.
It is understood security had also been checking venues, including the vineyard that was chosen, in mid-2023.
Some nearby residents had also decided to leave the area on the weekend of the wedding, with one saying he wanted to avoid “the circus”.
Preparations at the vineyard for the Ardern/Gayford wedding ramped up on Wednesday, with workers starting to erect a large marquee on a section of the location’s well-maintained gardens.
By Thursday morning, the white marquee – which was visible from the road, and from the summit of Te Mata Peak – had been completed.
A staff member from the venue told the Herald Friday was set to be a “big day” as grounds staff worked to ensure the setting was perfect.
Private accommodation at the venue can cater for up to 30 people.
A local claimed the vineyard was the obvious choice for the nuptials and that Ardern may be holed up at an exclusive retreat near the wedding venue.
“The winery is fully contained; it’s got gates and it’s easy to patrol and hard to access. If they are putting a marquee up, they will have more than 80 guests, they can’t fit any more. If it’s under 80 they put you in the restaurant, anything over you must be in a marquee,” the woman said.
Guests are expected to include numerous politicians Ardern previously worked with, plus people from the entertainment industry whom Gayford knows well.
The Herald has contacted former Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, former Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, David Parker, Dame Annette King, Darren Hughes, Helen Clark, Kiri Allen and Sir Trevor Mallard.
Some declined to comment, and others didn’t respond.
Inside the marquee, multiple large tables had been set up for diners to enjoy the top-notch food and wine the vineyard is known for.
The vineyard’s restaurant has consistently earned two hats in the Cuisine Good Food Awards.
Its current summer menu features eight offerings, including venison tartare, roasted Hohepa halloumi, pan-fried local fish and glazed lamb shoulder. Wine to match is a further $85.
In the lead-up to their wedding, Ardern and Gayford holidayed at a family bach in Tairua, on the Coromandel peninsula, before travelling to Gisborne, where Ardern was seen last weekend.