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From time to time, there are Port Douglas Weddings in the news. Much to my surprise I ended up involved in one that did just that.

European Reality TV in the Far North

When Port Douglas-based dress designer Nancy Day and local marriage celebrant Rosina Santarossa got the call to work for a reality TV show, they had no idea how challenging getting ‘reality right’ for camera could be.

Sultan Sushi, a Belgian TV company specialising in action-packed reality shows, came to Australia to shoot the show ‘Wit Down Under’, the sequel of “Wit in Vegas’.

In both shows, the contestants battled it out to win their dream wedding. Six couples arrived in Australia in April for eight weeks and travelled around undertaking challenges, such as cleaning out crocodile pens and jumping out of helicopters. But TV or no TV, Rosina and Nancy were determined to make it as real as possible.

Rosina, as marriage celebrant, had responsibility for the official paperwork that she insisted be perfect and timely, which was no small order considering the identity of the final couple was kept from her until the last minute. “It’s lovely to have the day in front of the camera, but my responsibility as a celebrant came into play first,” said Rosina.

Nancy’s challenge was to make six dream dresses from pictures she was sent by the aspiring brides. She explains that the production company discovered her designs when they were booking accommodation at Silky Oaks Lodge. “The wedding coordinator there recommended my designs to the Director, so I made a toile (a mock sample) of the bodices and sent them to Belgium, but I didn’t receive them back until two weeks before the wedding.”

Three couples had already been eliminated, so Nancy had three dresses to make up. On the Saturday before the wedding, the brides-to-be came into Nancy’s shop for their only fitting. On Tuesday evening, Nancy found out which bride won, so she had one day to finish off the dress. To make matters worse, that girl’s dress was the most difficult design of the lot.

On Thursday May 18, Nancy and Rosina met at Palm Cove Wharf to be taken out to Double Island. It wasn’t all glamour though. “It was windy and rainy and cold,” said Nancy. “We weren’t allowed to look at the bride coming, we had to face the front and turn our heads, and we’re getting a sore neck and our hair’s just blowing everywhere.”

“I had my hair done before I went, but it was a waste of time,” said Rosina. “We waited until low tide to paddle out to a sandy cay for the wedding. I had to rip my stockings and shoes off.”

The wedding was romantic though, despite retakes. “I had tears rolling,” said Nancy. “There were four rainbows that day,” said Rosina. “The groom had never seen a rainbow before so he was ecstatic.” When the couple return to Belgium, they have to pretend they are not married, even to their family and friends. Nancy and Rosina also can’t divulge their identity until the show is aired in October.

Although getting reality right on camera was a challenge, Nancy and Rosina said they would love to do it again. And since this interview, Nancy has been advised the company loved the location so much that they would return to shoot a Dutch-version of this popular reality TV program, and she has already been approached to design the dresses.

While Nancy sits behind her overlocker in the shop space she shares with Ashley J lingerie on Macrossan Street, she explains that even though she is only being paid for the price tag on the winner’s dress (turns out the finalists ended up buying their dresses anyway), she feels the experience has been more valuable than anything.

Denise Carter CityLife Magazine – Cairns