Actress marries at St Peter's

Actress and Tourism New Zealand's brand ambassador in China Yao Chen wed  Cao Yu in St Peter's Anglican Church on Saturday. Photo supplied.
Actress and Tourism New Zealand's brand ambassador in China Yao Chen wed Cao Yu in St Peter's Anglican Church on Saturday. Photo supplied.

Queenstown demonstrated to millions of Chinese it can host a world-class wedding after the veil of secrecy surrounding the union of Chinese star Yao Chen lifted on Saturday.

Tourism New Zealand's brand ambassador in China, actress, micro-blogging "queen" and Christian, Yao Chen wed her fiance Cao Yu in St Peter's Anglican Church before 32 friends and family members.

The Queenstown office of the Orange Group was the wedding planner with support from the Flower Room, Cherry Blossom Cakes, Black ZQN and a translator.

The service was conducted by the Rt Rev Dr David Coles and the reception was held in Matakauri Lodge.

"She said on her website the service was simple, solemn and warm," Dr Coles said yesterday.

"We were happy to have the ceremony here as requested."

Security was tight as the bride and groom entered the church. A dozen personnel opened large umbrellas to protect the couple from unofficial Chinese photographers hiding in bushes.

Yao Chen is one of China's highest-profile celebrities and became Tourism NZ's brand ambassador in August 2011.

Since that time, her Weibo following, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter or Facebook, has more than doubled from 12 million to 26.2 million.

She is one of the top five most followed micro-bloggers in the world after the likes of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, and ahead of President Obama.

Yao Chen posted photos of her wedding and visitor activities in and around Queenstown on Weibo, sparking huge comment on New Zealand as a holiday destination.

Orange South Island operations manager Samantha Stirling, of Queenstown, said yesterday the wedding was a "big opportunity" for the resort and gave it "incredible international exposure."

Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd extended his congratulations to Yao Chen and Cao Yu.

"We're thrilled they chose to get married in Queenstown and enjoy some unique and memorable experiences here with close friends and family," Mr Budd said.

Yao Chen and her new husband stayed on in New Zealand and she began shooting the new Tourism NZ campaign yesterday.

Images from the photo shoot will invoke the magic of Middle-earth to build on the launch of Tourism NZ's global "100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand" advertisement in China which has been adapted for the market using a voice-over by Yao Chen.

The campaign intended to show the country of more than 1.3 billion people a New Zealand holiday is a rejuvenating experience.

Tourism NZ Asia markets general manager and former Destination Queenstown chief executive Tony Everitt, now of Shanghai, said Yao Chen as a brand ambassador had been "a huge success".

Tourism NZ could never afford to buy the same audience reach in a market like China.

"Working with these individuals helps extend New Zealand's profile and inspire travellers to follow in the footsteps of the celebrities they admire," Mr Everitt said.

China is New Zealand's second-largest tourist market.