A Place to Party: Venue-finding

4 Nov

Last time I left you with a list of potential venues, but we didn’t have anything solid just yet. The Sebel Kirkton Park Hotel was a great place, but there were a few things that Mr Big and I believed didn’t really work for our wedding. At the same time, we had also been looking at two other venues which I haven’t mentioned: the Hunter Valley Gardens and Tamburlaine Organic Wines. As you may have guessed, the Sebel Kirkton Park, the Hunter Valley Gardens (HVG) and Tamburlaine made up our top-three venues.

During our search, I had stumbled across the HVG…

hvg_ben adams

The Border Garden. Image via Polka Dot Bride. Photography by Ben Adams Photography.

…and Mr Big stumbled across Tamburlaine.


Tamburlaine Winery, exterior. Image via Polka Dot Bride. Photography by Cavanagh Photography.

The reception venues were both beautiful and, like the Sebel, there were pros and cons for them both. Before we move on, our criteria for the reception venues were:

  • Needs to comfortably fit approximately 120-150 guests with room left for a dance floor and a live band.
  • Allowed guests to move around freely inside and outside.
  • Has good wine and food!

We compared the two venues, including the potentiality of having the ceremony and reception at both, and this is what we came up with:

The Hunter Valley Gardens

The Hunter Valley Gardens (HVG) is a massive privately-owned garden which allows public entry (at a price, but that’s reasonable). It has a working restaurant onsite, the Garden Terrace, right next to one of the mini-gardens. Mr Big and I didn’t get to take a step inside as the wedding coordinator instead took us to the ceremony venues (more on that later!) but we checked out the specs through the website and the package given to us.

hvg_garden terrace

Unfortunately the best image I could find of the Garden Terrace. Image taken from the Hunter Valley Gardens official website, showing the Garden Terrace (left) and the outside courtyard and amphitheatre (right). Photography by Photography on Hermitage.

The Yays!

  • Definitely has some inside and outside flow, with an outside terrace that overlooks the Oriental Garden
  • There’s an amphitheatre outside specifically for the dance floor and a live band
  • The menu items look delish!
  • They give you discounts on ceremonies if you hold your reception there also

The Boos!

  • The room fits approximately 110 guests seated on round tables, so it doesn’t fit one of our criteria
  • About 60% of the menu items seemed to be too “fine dining”
  • The price per head wasn’t exactly reasonable

The Bighorn Conclusion: We loved the ceremony spaces, but the reception space wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. It didn’t fit our approximated guest list and the price per head was what ultimately made us change our mind. Otherwise, it’s a wonderful place for a smaller wedding.

With that, let’s move on to the next venue.

Tamburlaine Organic Wines

Tamburlaine Organic Wines is a working winery. They’re Australia’s largest producer of organic wines and began in the Hunter Valley in 1966. As such, they have vineyards located on their Hunter Valley property which have been used for photography by many weddings.


The vineyards onsite at Tamburlaine. Image via the Tamburlaine official website. Photography by Kelly Luker.

Onsite they have the Member’s Lodge where they hold receptions for weddings.


The Member’s Lodge at dusk. Image taken from the Tamburlaine official website. Photography by Renee Moore.

The Yays!

  • The venue fits up to a maximum 180 guests.
  • The venue practically looks after itself, with flexible packages which allow the couple to guide the look and feel of the wedding
  • There’s a wraparound porch around the Member’s Lodge with a sitting area
  • The menu is both extensive and delicious

The Boos!

  • If we invite 170 guests, we won’t have room for a live band
  • The walls are a dark blue, so may clash with specific colour schemes
  • Sparklers are considered a fire hazard, and therefore, a no-no

The Bighorn Conclusion: This fit everything we needed: it was big, but not too big; it was flexible; it had the seamless open-plan flow; a good food and wine selection; the ability to have a live band; and finally, great customer service.

I may be biased when I say this, but Tamburlaine had won our hearts hands down. Initially, we were super bummed about the sparklers, worried about the dark blue, and apprehensive about the guest count, but in the end, it really did all work out. With the flexibility, customer service, and the beauty of Tamburlaine, we decided to pay our deposit for Tamburlaine in October 2012 (more than a year before our wedding!).

We’re super happy with our choice and can’t wait to celebrate at Tamburlaine with our nearest and dearest.


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