Partners in Paradise

Denarau Island, Fiji

Vows exchanged and marriage celebrated in the most idealic location on earth.

Sounds like something from the pages of a James A. Michener novel. The reality is, there’s something very special about a South Pacific wedding. Firstly, the fact that it is a wedding taking place in Fiji makes it special. Surely there is no more romantic place on earth that these South Pacific islands. Secondly, the simple ceremony of exchanging vows amid the swaying palms and pristine white sandy beaches epitomises the meaning of true love.

Dinah and I have been back to Fiji six times. We love the islands and the people. From lush rainforests to mangroves and coral reefs, Fiji is home to stunning fauna and flora and seemingly endless beaches and tropical islands set in crystal-clear lagoons. Our recent visit to Fiji was extra special as our son James was marrying the love of his life, Shelby in one of the most idealic locations on earth. The wedding was held at the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa on Denarau Island in early evening beneath swaying palms with the sun slowly setting across the blue lagoon.

The ceremony was simple with two bridesmaids, the bride’s sister Emily and best friend Katherine and two groomsmen, our sons Christopher and George in attendance. The bridal procession was led by our grandson, Finlay, followed by grandson Felix and Shelby’s niece Scarlett. Vows were exchanged and the marriage officially pronounced by the celebrant.

Party on!

Following the wedding and while the official photographs were taken, the 43 guests were treated to finger-food, chilled champagne and of course, Fiji Bitter. Following the photographs, the bride and groom arrived to meet the guests and partake in an outstanding reception in the Sunset Bure as the last light of day filtered through the thatched roof of the bure. The weather was perfect. A balmy evening and clear skies provided the perfect environment for celebration. The wedding spread was amazing. Traditional Fijian seafood, meat and salad dishes followed by sumptuous deserts. Then, the customary speeches. Shelby’s dad Ash was the MC and hosted the event. Family and friends spoke of the couple. Shelby’s sister Emily spoke of her close sisterly relationship with Shelby, as did Kathryn. Our sons Christopher and George talked about their relationship with brother James, growing up on the farm in Bathurst and those karting years. As father of the groom, I spoke on behalf of Dinah and I, of how proud we both were of James and how happy we were to welcome Shelby and her parents Ash and Margie into our family. The McCulloch family now consisted of Dinah and I, our three sons Christopher, George and James and their wives, Nikki, Sara and Shelby and our three grandsons, Finlay, Felix and Jules. It doesn’t get any better!

Celebrations continued long into the night with a DJ belting out anything-but traditional Fijian music. Much fun was had by all, including a few post-reception celebratory drinks in the lagoon-side Suka Bar. And the next morning….?

Dinah and I had opted to stay at the Sofitel Resort & Spa along with the rest of our family and of course, James and his bride-to-be, Shelby who were enjoying a heightened level of 5-star treatment in the Waitui Beach Club.

The Sofitel is one of a number of 5-star resort hotels on Denarau Island offering luxury accommodation for couples and families, with breath-taking views across lush gardens to the tranquil beach, lagoon and islands beyond. The swimming pool complex is amazing; an expansive series of interconnecting crystal clear pools that cater for adults and children alike, with more pool-side lounges than I have ever seen in one place before. There’s even a slide into one of the pools. The Sofitel is also a fantastic location for a wedding, offering outstanding facilities for both the ceremony and reception. You can more information on the hotel, events and wedding hosting at:

This was the first time as an extended family, we had all been together at the one time in the one place for nearly 3 years, and it was great. Besides the wedding, it gave us the perfect opportunity to enjoy some real family time together. But then, that’s Fiji.

Photo Gallery

Main picture: The Bridal Party: Emily, Katherine, Shelby, James, George and Christopher

  • Introducing James and Shelby McCulloch
  • Love is in the air
  • Arriving at the reception
  • Serenaded by the Fijian wedding band
  • The reception was held in the Sofitel’s Sunset Bure
  • The Bridal Party table
  • Cutting the cake
  • The Bridal waltz
  • And first dance
  • Everyone joins in on the dance floor
  • Our three grandsons; Finlay, Felix and Jules
  • The Bridal Party
  • The newly expanded McCulloch family