“It was pretty much the greatest day ever,” Masterton mum Juliet Qualtrough says of her wedding on 7 February 2015.
Juliet and Hamish wed at their country home surrounded by loved ones, including their rescue dog Betty who acted as ring bearer. But the animal attendance wasn’t the only point of difference for these natural nuptials.
Rather than receive the usual wedding gift fare of platters, vases and the like, in lieu of presents the couple instead asked their guests to make a donation to the Mental Health Foundation.
“We didn’t want physical gifts. We wanted something that would hopefully keep giving to other people – that would give us greater pleasure,” Juliet says.
“We are very blessed with our life and we have everything we need and want,” she says.
The couple set up a Givealittle webpage and sent the link with the invitations. The guests embraced it fully, knowing how important mental health is to Juliet and Hamish.
Juliet lives with depression and anxiety while Hamish lives with a diagnosis of bipolar and is a recovering alcoholic; 2015 marks four years sober.
For Juliet, the official diagnosis came in the form of postnatal depression after the births of her three children. She keeps well by taking her medication, no alcohol, eating healthily and exercising at the gym.
Hamish enjoys practising mindfulness, a concept introduced to him by a social worker, and keeps active through his job as a football coach.
“I have experienced mental health issues throughout my life. I’ve spent time with psychologists and psychiatrists, and been in an in-patient clinic,” Hamish says.
Suicide attempts and alcoholism followed Hamish’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder and, around the same time, he developed severe arthritis, which forced him to leave behind a much-loved job as a vet.
“That was hard, I wanted to be a vet since I was four. I was pretty miserable and was lucky to get good treatment and good medication,” he says.
It was through a fondness for animals that the couple met: Juliet a SPCA inspector and Hamish the vet at the SPCA. Even though Hamish can no longer practise as a vet and the local SPCA branch has since closed down, he and Juliet enjoy looking after their brood and are turning their home into an animal shelter – another gift that keeps on giving.