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The Original Plan

13 Nov

Hey hive!

Let me indulge you in on a little something. This issue had, for the first 6 months of Mr Big and I’s engagement, been discussed heatedly. We went back and forth on this issue a lot, and sometimes, there’d be tears of frustration. I won’t lie and I’m certainly not the first bride to say so: wedding planning is stressful.

So what was this issue, you ask?

Well, hive, here’s my confession:

Mr Big and I didn’t want a wedding in the Hunter Valley.

It’s strange for me to say that, especially as my wedding is fast approaching now. Also, with stunning pictures like this, why wouldn’t you want a wedding there?

hvg_something blue

Taken at the Hunter Valley Gardens. / Image via Something Blue Photography.

So where did we want our wedding?

Well, we wanted it here:

chch botanical_rebecca bijl

Christchurch Botanical Gardens. Also, the bride wears a claddagh wedding ring! / Photography & Image via Rebecca Bijl Photography.

And here:

chch_trents

Trent’s Vineyard, Christchurch, New Zealand / Photography & Image via Jo Grams, Moda Fotografica.

So, in short, we wanted our wedding in Christchurch, New Zealand.

We had it all worked out, to the point that Mr Big and I were all ready to phone places and ask about packages and prices.

However, while waiting on our “auspicious” wedding date, days passed, then weeks, then months, and before long, Christchurch became a distant memory. We didn’t have enough time, we thought, to book the places we wanted, especially as the February 2011 earthquake had struck and a lot of the buildings which commonly accommodated weddings were either under repair or completely destroyed.

This meant places that were open, like Trent’s, booked up fast.

By the time we had our date, there were barely any spots left for Mr Big and I.

We weighed in on our options and, I won’t lie, hive, there were some choice words said between us. It became incredibly stressful for both of us. Mr Big was really looking forward to celebrating in Christchurch, especially as he thought that a wedding in Australia meant less of his friends and family being able to attend. Plus, weddings are expensive.

Australian weddings are even more expensive.

The average cost of a wedding in Australia is approximately between $36,200 and $48,296. That’s a lot of money. We were hoping a wedding in Christchurch would be more within our budget. And it would’ve been, had we had it there.

Luckily, as Mr Big and I tried to figure out what the heck to do for our wedding, Papa Bighorn came to the rescue. He offered to help us pay for our wedding.

The catch?

We had to do it in Australia.

You see, in Chinese culture, it’s customary for the parents of a bride and groom to invite family friends to their children’s weddings. This is considered polite and pays respects to the friends of the family. If we were to have the wedding in Christchurch, my parents wouldn’t be able to invite their family friends as they would not be able to travel over. Hence, a wedding in Australia was my parents’ preference.

With the offer, Mr Big and I reluctantly agreed, but we offered up another suggestion: we have the wedding in the Hunter Valley.

The Hunter Valley was a personal place for both Mr Big and I. Not to mention, just two hours away from Sydney and guests could use it as a mini-holiday.

So it was settled – Hunter Valley was our location.

It took Mr Big and me some time to adjust, but once we began to see the beauty of the Hunter Valley, our regret for not being able to go have our one-perfect Christchurch wedding faded. Plus, Mr Big was extraordinarily grateful and touched that his friends were willing to do the distance and travel over the ditch to celebrate with us. In fact, about 90% of Mr Big’s friends will be flying in from New Zealand to party with us in the Hunter Valley!

Despite the happy ending, I still wanted to have a part of our wedding in Christchurch.

But how? What could we do? I remember suggesting an engagement photo shoot in Christchurch. Mr Big looked at me like I was crazy and said, “then we have to fly the photographers over”.

Oh, right. Darn. I scrapped that idea and life went on. Until, we hit a lucky break. What was this lucky break, you ask? You’ll find out soon!

Did anyone else have initial plans that fell through?

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Honeymoon in my “Home Town” – The Bighorn Way!

14 Oct

Alternative Title: “Cool things to do in the Hunter”, according to Mr Big.

Technically speaking, the Hunter Valley isn’t really my ‘home town’. Sydney is, and if you want to be really specific, the Greater Sydney Area is my home town. But as I’ve already discussed the resort where our guests will be staying, I thought it might be pretty cool to also give you guys an idea on the awesome things our guests could partake in while they stay in the Hunter Valley.

As the Bighorn wedding is a “mini destination” wedding, a lot (like, 99.9999%) of our guests will be coming from out of town, either driving up from Sydney, flying interstate, or flying from overseas. Only two of our guests are “local”, and they’ve both since moved to Sydney.

I’ll break down the actual guest demographics in my RSVP breakdown (which I still need Mr Big to assist me with – he’s really good at data and Excel), but for now, here’s the Bighorns’ “Honeymoon in my Home Town”!

[Titles copyright the wonderful Mr Big <3]

Cool things to do in the Hunter #1: Meet the locals

http://www.huntervalleyzoo.com.au/

The Hunter Valley Zoo is a great place to get up-close-and-personal to native Australian animals. For those who don’t know, Australia has endemic (read: only within Australia) wildlife, such as the koala, the platypus, and the echidna. At the Hunter Valley Zoo, you can get all cuddly with a koala, pat a baby kangaroo (a joey, if you want to be pedantic) and even touch a crocodile (a baby one – they wouldn’t let you get near one of those big ones!).

GP_me_koala

Gettin’ all cuddly with a koala! / Personal image.

You can also feed kangaroos and emus, and even some non-Australian animals like domesticated animals, ostriches and deer. Side note: the ostriches scare the crap out of me!

Cool things to do in the Hunter #2: Get fat

http://www.hvchocolate.com.au/

The Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory sells just that – chocolate. Ok, well, I lie – they sell mainly chocolate. Their chocolate ranges from Belgium chocolate of the dark, white, or milk variety, to chilli chocolate, to the more Australian “macadamia” chocolate varieties, and more. They sell in bulk, they sell individual pieces, they sell bars, they sell hamper packs – you name it, they sell it. They even have ‘chocolate pasta’, which I haven’t tried yet, but it looks great!

HVChocolate_ChocRocks

Chocolate Rocks – Candy covered chocolate! A “staple” buy from the HV Choco Factory. Yummo! / Image taken from the Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory website.

For those wanting to get gag items, they even have adult-themed-shaped chocolates and sweets! And for those who can’t stand chocolate, they have fudge and condiments which are just as delicious! Their main factory is located in Lovedale, and you can actually see them making the chocolate!

Cool things to do in the Hunter #3: Be Cheesy!

http://www.smellycheese.net.au/

The Smelly Cheese shop is one of those places that you NEED to go to when you go to the Hunter Valley. They have a HUGE selection of cheeses at their disposal and if you want the full experience, they even have a walk-in fridge which stinks like, well, cheese. Mr Big and I often go here to get an assortment of cheeses to eat during picnics we have at the Hunter. For those who can’t stand a bit of fromage, they also have a huge range of gelato (Horny Caramel, yes please!) and even sell condiments, chocolates, and milkshakes, and coffees.

horny caramel

Homemade gelato from the Smelly Cheese Shop, including Mr Big’s favourite Horny Caramel./ Image from Les Deux Blog.

Cool things to do in the Hunter #4: Vodka!

http://www.hunterdistillery.com.au/

I’m not a big vodka fan, neither have I been to the Hunter Distillery, but from the likes of friends who are HUGE fans of the Hunter Valley area in general, this is a place you need to visit. The Hunter Distillery is relatively new and houses a range of spirits, including schnapps, liqueur, gin, and last of all, vodka! The range of flavoured vodka from the Hunter Distillery is impressive, including blueberry, chocolate, coffee, caramel, apple, and even chilli! If you’re a spirits fan, it’s definitely worth considering.

Cool things to do in the Hunter #5: Horse riding

http://www.huntervalleyhorseriding.com.au/

Another thing I haven’t done in the Hunter, but honestly think it would be awesome. The Hunter Valley is surrounded by gorgeous scenery, from sprawling vistas of farmland and greenery, to huge mountains (or ‘hills’ to the Kiwis) which overlook beautifully ripe vines. Driving on the road is pretty enough, but to get up-close-and-personal to the natural beauty via horseback would just be phenomenal. For those wanting a unique experience, horseback riding would be the way to go.

Cool things to do in the Hunter #6: Beer Tastings

http://www.bluetongue.com.au/Brewery-Cafe.aspx

Ah, the Blue Tongue Café!

The Blue Tongue Café is named after the brewery of which it’s attached to, the Blue Tongue Brewery. They sell their own beers at the café, and if you’re a beer lover, it’s a good place to go. I’m not huge into beer, but it’s a fun experience getting the beer tasting paddle and just downing all of the beers followed by a hearty pie. It’s a good option for lunch too, if you’re looking for a relaxing place to sit and chat!

beer paddle_bluetongue

The beer paddle at the Blue Tongue Brewery / Image taken from Hunter Valley Accommodation.

Cool things to do in the Hunter #7: Olive branch

http://www.tintilla.com.au/products/Olives

Tintilla Estate is one-of-many places in the Hunter where you can find awesome olive products, but it is Mr Big’s favourite place to go for olive-related products. They sell wines there, but Mr Big goes there for the olives (he’s an olive fan). From Tintilla you can also grab oils and condiments from the lovely people at Pukara Estate, who have to-die-for garlic oils which go splendidly with pasta. For all of your olive and oily needs, go to Tintilla – you’ll be glad you did!

pukara_garlic olive oil

The “Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil” from Pukara Estate – Mr Big and I’s favourite! / Image taken from the Pukara Estate website.

Cool things to do in the Hunter #8: Pretend to be Irish

http://www.harrigansirishpub.com.au/

Harrigan’s Irish Pub is yet another place that does a fantastic lunch. To be biased, this is my favourite place. Their lamb stew is AMAZING and their service is always impeccable, if not busy. For those of you wanting to try this place out, that’s something you gotta be aware of: it. gets. BUSY. The smaller the group, the easier it is to get a table. Otherwise, reserve, reserve, reserve. For those who like a pint of Guinness, this is the place to go. For those of you who like meaty, awesome food, this is also the place to go!

big ass burger_harrigans

The Triple-Beast Burger from Harrigan’s. Do you see that black thing sticking out of the burger? That’s a steak knife. / Personal image.

Cool things to do in the Hunter #9: Balloon it

http://www.winecountry.com.au/things-to-see-do/hot-air-ballooning

For those who aren’t deathly afraid of height (I’m looking at you Mr Big!), hot-air ballooning is a good way to see the Hunter Valley from a different perspective. I’ve never been, but apparently, it’s very beautiful. This is one of the pricier options, so for those on a bit of a budget, may not be conducive. However, for those who aren’t afraid of spending a little bit and who want to experience something that will take your breath away, hot air ballooning is a great option.

Cool things to do in the Hunter #10: A Horse and Cart

http://www.huntervalleycarriages.com.au/

For those who like the idea of a more natural experience, like horse-riding, but don’t want to ride an animal, like horse-riding, than a carriage ride is the way to go. Tours can be booked that take you around the Hunter Valley to taste wines, olives, cheeses, and much more. It’s a relaxing way to see the Hunter without the bothersome traffic that you get with a car.

Cool things to do in the Hunter #11: Preen, Primp, and Pamper

http://www.crowneplazahuntervalley.com.au/spa/

The Hunter Valley has some fabulous day spas which offer services such as massage, facials, manicures, and pedicures. The Tea Tree Spa is located onsite at the Crowne Plaza for our guests, so for any girls (or boys!) who want to get pampered, it’s the local ‘pamper’ spot!

Cool things to do in the Hunter #12: Cycle it!

www.huntervalleycycling.com.au

For those of you who like a bit of adventure, there’s always the bicycle trails. Bicycles (with helmets and map trails included) can be hired for the day to take you around the Hunter Valley, exploring the wineries in a way that is unique and exciting. For those willing to brave the summer and wanting to get a unique perspective of the region, cycling is definitely an option!

Cool things to do in the Hunter #13: GET TO THE CHOPPER!

www.slatteryhelicopters.com.au

For those of you wanting to see the Hunter Valley from above and who don’t like the idea of an open-air arrangement, helicopters may just be for you. The scenic flights start from $70pp, so aren’t ridiculously expensive. You’ll also feel like a movie star going in and out of these things as people watch you in awe. What’s not to love?

Cool things to do in the Hunter #14: Throw yourself out of a plane!

www.skydivethehuntervalley.com

For the adventurous type, skydiving might just be an option! Yet another unique way to see the Hunter Valley from above, as you’re descending down to the ground!

Cool things to do in the Hunter #15: Go off-road

There are heaps of nice off-road opportunities, so if you have the right sort of car for it, it can be fun. Mr Big has the right car for it, but unfortunately, sometimes, Life likes throwing a nasty at us:

go offroad_not

Poor Zoe! (Mr Big’s car, for those not in the know) / Personal image.

So, those with rental vehicles might want to re-think this activity…

However, if you have a 4WD, I totally recommend trying some off-road activities. There are lots and lots of dirt roads up in the Hunter Valley. 🙂

 

So those are our guests’ options, on top of the typical wine tours and tastings you can have! I’m sure there’re more activities which are out there, but I’ve run out.  What do you guys think? Do you think our guests will remain occupied during their long-ish weekend in the Hunter Valley? 🙂