When Christine Anu tied the knot with her ‘partner and best friend’ Simon Deutrom, it was the fairytale ending to a romance that started in the schoolyard 25 years ago.
More than half a lifetime later, they’ve finally wed in a laid-back clifftop ceremony filled with laughter, tears, music and the colourful traditions of Christine’s native Torres Strait Islands.
‘I’m a mother of two, marrying for the first time at 40, and I didn’t want to seem like a gushing, try-hard young bride,’ smiles the singer, who never forgot her first love despite years of separation.
‘I perform in front of many thousands of people, so I thought I’d be pretty calm about the wedding. But I couldn’t believe how nervous I was on the day!’
Check out Christine Anu's wedding album
Christine was just 14 when she fell ‘head over heels’ for Simon at their school near Cairns in Queensland. He was the cool new kid from Darwin. She was a wild-haired tomboy from Mabuiag Island.
‘I fell crazily in love, but I wouldn’t hold his hand. That was all he wanted but I knew holding hands could lead to something else, so I didn’t want to be alone with him,’ she chuckles. ‘And then the school closed…
‘Not knowing if I’d see him again, my head and heart hurt like nothing I’ve ever known. That was my first broken heart.’
But that hurt was gloriously healed when the couple – who reconnected through Facebook three years ago – swapped vows at the peaceful Tumbling Waters Retreat on the NSW south coast.
Beautiful Christine, who shot to fame with the song My Island Home, was determined that the Sunday afternoon wedding would reflect her Torres Strait heritage. And it certainly did, from the moment she walked down the aisle accompanied by the Australian Girls Choir.
Dressed in the traditional costume worn by the women in the Torres Strait, they sang a haunting marriage song composed for the occasion by Christine’s mother, Zipporah Whap.
The bride looked stunning in a delicate ivory silk kaftan from Camilla, intricately beaded on the bodice and sleeves. Christine added her own flair to her gown with a custom-made bridal corset from Gallery Serpentine. Her posy-style bouquet featured white roses and orchids, and also pearls and seashells as ‘a reminder of the sea’, says Piscean Christine.
Proudly given away by her kids – 14-year-old Kuiam and Zippy, eight – Christine dissolved in tears while tenor Jonathon Welch, founder of the Choir of Hard Knocks, performed a moving acappella version of Ave Maria.
Before too long, everyone was reaching for the tissues as the Anu clan welcomed members of the Deutrom family with handmade black, white and orange leis, colours of her cassowary clan.
It was a whopper of a wedding party, with both the bride and groom greeted at the ‘altar’ by 12 relations and friends. Christine’s sisters Helen Anu and Kelam and Nekina Whap and Simon’s sisters Kara Budack and Sarah and Lisa Deutrom wore floaty aqua-coloured Camilla gowns. The men looked sharp in black suits with black and silver spotted waistcoats, and blue orchid buttonholes.
Simon beamed with joy when Christine’s nephew Robert Hyde got proceedings underway as official celebrant. Christine smiled, then wept, her feelings as changeable as the blustery weather outside.
‘I love you, you are my best friend,’ she told her husband-to-be. ‘I promise
to encourage and inspire you, to laugh with you, to comfort you in times of sorrow and struggle.
‘I promise to love you in good times and bad, when our love is simple and when it is an effort. I promise to cherish you and always to hold you in the highest regard. These things I give to you today, and for the rest of our life.’
After poetry readings – and more Kleenex – the pair exchanged wedding bands from Moi Moi. Saluted with loud cheers, the new Mr and Mrs Deutrom kissed, and kissed again, before signing the register.
Meanwhile, to the sound of drums and singing, Damien Elu performed a celebration dance commemorating Christine’s clan. Then it was time for speeches. Paying tribute to his new family, Simon said: ‘If I had to design a perfect son I’d make him in Kuiam’s mould and as for Zippy, she’s the bold and the beautiful.’
Turning to his wife, he was almost overcome. ‘Thank you for marrying me, my darling angel. I love you so very much. When I was young you touched my heart and started me on a journey that would last a lifetime.
‘You are the first woman I ever loved and you will be the last. You fulfil me and complete me.’
Choked with emotion, he eventually continued: ‘Christine is warm, loving and supportive. She’s an incredible mum who is extremely generous and giving,
genuine and insightful.
‘Bold and feisty, she is hot, hot and sexy.’
Loud whoops from the 95 wedding guests, including celebrities Casey Donovan, Paulini, Susie Elelman and Bianca Dye. ‘She still drives me crazy like that teenage boy all those years ago… She is everything I need – my partner, my lover
and of course my best friend.’
For her part, Christine did what she does best and serenaded Simon with a touching version of a song she penned recently. No wonder Chris, Simon’s brother and best man, summed it all up: ‘Your story is amazing and it’s a true modern fairytale.’
With the formalities over, it was time to party. Paulini and Christine’s band accompanied the bridal waltz with a soulful version of the classic At Last, while good friend Casey Donovan belted out Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody. Finally, before the tossing of the bouquet, Bianca Dye joined Christine on stage for a Party duet.
Afterwards, everybody piled onto a bus and headed for a late night meal at Tharen’s restaurant in Sydney’s Kings Cross.
‘I think we finished up at 5am,’ Christine laughs. ‘But I’d waited a long time to get married, and it was everything I’d ever hoped.’
By: Jenny Brown
Photos: Nigel Wright