A Place to Party: Venue-hunting

1 Nov

When Mr Big and I began our search for venues in the Hunter Valley, we had absolutely no idea where to look! Our initial jaunts up to the Hunter had us loving a specific place, Bimbadgen Estate, as their wines are delicious, their service is amazing, and the venue is stunning!

bimbadgen_something blue

SO BEAUTIFUL. Looking at the Bimbadgen Tower from the Vines. Something Blue Photography.

Unfortunately, they only catered for a maximum 110 guests, and it meant that half the guests would be sitting outside of the venue while the other half would be inside the venue. They also couldn’t fit a live band, an option that Mr Big and I wanted.

We were pretty upset! It was our dream venue, but we just couldn’t budge on the number of guests we needed and wanted to invite and sacrificing the potentiality of a live band. So, forlorn, we moved on. Before we did, however, we assembled a list of specific criteria that the venue needed to have:

  • It needed to comfortably fit approximately 120-150 guests and still have room for a dance floor and a live band.
  • It allowed guests to moves around freely inside and outside (the scenery in the Hunter Valley is gorgeous, if the picture above says anything)
  • It had good wine and food, with a good selection of seafood, red, and white meats (a must!)

So with our criteria, we decided to start out search.

Our first stop was at our good friend, Mr Google, and his missus, the search bar. Mr Google found us two useful websites: the Official Hunter Valley website and Weddings in the Vines. Both of them had a bountiful amount of information on the types of venues you can find in the Hunter Valley for both reception and ceremony venues. Weddings in the Vines even gives venue reviews, including features, history, pros and cons, as well as pictures!

The official Hunter Valley website was, more or less, filled with general information on things to do, eat, see, and stay in the Hunter. They also have a wedding-specific tab which points you out to different vendors located in the Hunter. They also has a magazine which gives you a good idea on where to go and what to do while planning a wedding (either locally or in Sydney) which you can download.

We listed all venues which could fit approximately 120 to 150 guests and whittled it down to a few. We then set a date to drive up to the Hunter and then started emailing out. Coincidentally, our two friends, the Docs Fantastic (a married couple with postdocs in Science!), were visiting before their move to Missouri. We took the day to tour them around the Hunter as well as visit some venues.

I don’t remember the exact order, but I do remember where we went!

Mount Pleasant Wines (A.K.A. McWilliam’s Family Winemakers)

Mount Pleasant Wines is a smaller vineyard. Mr Big and I’s favourite wine from them is the Fruit Wood. Its $6 a bottle, I shit you not! But getting past that. When we got there, we met up with their friendly wedding consultant, Rebecca where she toured us around and showed us where their weddings normally take place.

(Unfortunately, I can’t find credible images for this vineyard. But visit their website for some pretty pictures.)

The Yays!

  • Beautiful grounds with sprawling vineyards!
  • When the room is set up, it’s purty.
  • It fits 120 guests in the biggest room!
  • The reception space is also the cellar where all the yummy wine is kept.

The Boos!

  • It fits 120 guests (our minimum).
  • A ceremony on-location would be held on a slope in an area that didn’t particularly look romantic
  • We weren’t too sure if it could fit a live band
  • Because the reception space is the cellar where public wine-tastings are done, the room couldn’t be set up until after service was finished.

The Bighorn Conclusion: We really we’re comfortable with the boos, so we had to pass on this one.

Lindemans

Lindemans is quite a popular wine brand in the Hunter and, I think, in Australia (or maybe just New South Wales?). The vineyard itself is historical and well-renown throughout the Hunter Valley.

somethingblue photography_lindemans

Image on the left, a band playing in the courtyard; image on the right, the courtyard. Look how BIG it looks! Image via Something Blue Photography.

The Yays!

  • It’s a historical landmark. I’m a historical-whore (that didn’t sound weird at all).
  • I love exposed rafters and beams and they’re everywhere at Lindemans (see the photo above- right)
  • It fits 450 people.
  • It’s a magnificent blank slate.
somethingblue photography_lindemans2

Image on the left, playing “the shoe game” at Lindemans courtyard. Can you see how empty it looks? Also, I want to play that game at the wedding. Image on the right of the lovely couple dancing. Image via Something Blue Photography.

The Boos!

  • The indoor reception space which fits just the right amount of people for our wedding has pillars everywhere which interrupts the space quite a lot.
  • The space is maybe too big for us. See how much space is in that photo above-left? It’s cavernous.
  • It’s too blank a slate and Mr Big and I are incredibly uncreative (how did I get on the Bee again?).

The Bighorn Conclusion: Alas, despite my love of the courtyard, Mr Big didn’t like that our choices were limited to having pillars interrupt the space, or having too big a reception space. We (sadly, on my part) moved on.

Mercure Resort Hunter Valley

The Mercure Resort in the Hunter Valley is a hotel located right next to the stunning Hunter Valley Gardens. When we got there, we met with the wedding coordinator, Kristy, who greeted me upon arrival.

We chatted about the usual: our wedding date (we didn’t have one back then, more on that later!), our ‘theme’, and the number of guests. She then toured us around the Mercure Resort’s venues.

old word_mercure

One of the many old-world looking parlours in the Mercure Resort Hunter Valley. Image via Bella Photo Art, Photography by Bella.

The Yays!

  • The ambience of the actual rooms in the hotels are magnificent and very old world.
  • Guests get discounted accommodation!
  • One of their receptions spaces, their Shiraz Room, had an adjoining room that could be used for a photo booth, lounge areas, or even a “kid’s” section.
  • The Shiraz Room had a stage to display the newlyweds “like royalty”. (Insert Mr Big talking like Thor for a little bit)
semillon ballroom_mercure

The Semillon Ballroom, set up for a business meeting/conference/presentation. It’s huge in there. Image via Mercure Resort Hunter Valley.

The Boos!

  • The Shiraz Room has a parquetry dance floor (more on this below!) and ugly carpet.
  • The room a step up from the Shiraz Room, the Semillon Ballroom, had no windows or any form of natural light.

Now, before I conclude, you may be wondering, why was the parquetry dance floor a problem? Well, for those who don’t know what a parquetry dance floor is, it’s this:

parquetry dance floor

Parquet Dance Floor with ‘Wood Effect’. Image via Tops Marquees.

Usually, I don’t have a problem with it, but Mr Big took one look at it, turned to me, and gave me the ‘hella-no-scared-face’. You know, this one:

buffy_heck no_scared

It’s Buffy! Image via List of Reactions.

He later told me that he’s very un-co, and therefore, a parquetry dance floor? Not a good thing.

The Bighorn Conclusion: Unfortunately, the Shiraz Room didn’t fit the bill and the Semillon Ballroom was too “indoors”. Alas, we had to move on.

The Sebel Kirkton Park

Ah, the Sebel! This one got into our top-three, as the photos were stunning. We didn’t actually visit this one at the same time as the above venues, but later on. It was just Mr Big and I leisurely roaming around the Hunter. When we got there we were greeted by their wedding coordinator Ruth, who took us to all three ceremony and both reception spots.

The Yays!

  • A beautiful location! Absolutely stunning.
  • Guests get discounted accommodation.
  • The Hunter-Rothbury room, the reception space we were looking at, had extra rooms for potential use.
  • It’s an all-inclusive wedding space – accommodation, ceremony, and reception all in the one place. They also have a wedding coordinator with you throughout the whole day.

Now before I go on to the Boos and the conclusion, let me show you just how stunning this place is. Miss Big is a bad blogger, however, and didn’t get any personal photos, but there’s no lack of them. So with that being said, let me whet your appetite:

sebel_wisteria

At the Wisteria Walk, one of the ceremony locations. Image via Vibrant Photography.

sebel_entrance

At the entrance to the Sebel Kirkton Park Hotel. Image via Beautiful Moments, Photography by Cathy Crawley.

Now, with all that being said, you may think, ‘So, Miss Big, this is the one you chose, right?’. Well, hive, that wasn’t the case.

The Boos!

  • The reception space went against one of our major criteria: seamless entry and exit of guests inside and outside
  • No courtyard or sitting area for guests to enjoy the views
  • A parquetry dance floor (but it didn’t bother us as much as it was much bigger)
  • They didn’t seem to allay our problems when we inquired about a potential bug problem.

The Bighorn Conclusion: It was almost perfect and Mr Big and I were giving it some serious thought. That was until we got to the two in our top-three.

But for now, this post has gone on for far too long! I don’t want you guys getting bored of me!

Did anyone else find themselves almost swayed by a reception venue? Does anyone else think exposed beams and rafters are awesome?

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