Tag Archives: hunter valley gardens

Takin’ Love by the Horns: Champers, Cubes, and Camera Snaps

14 Oct

Our bridal party and bridal couple photographs were spread out over two locations: the Hunter Valley Gardens and the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley Resort. I don’t want to mix things up (since something else happened between these two locations) so I’m going to do it ‘in order’ so as not to muddle up the goings-on of the day.

Once the ceremonies were over, and all the guests had dispersed, the bridal party, photographers, and videographers settled into the Oriental Pagoda for lunch, champers, and this:

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Yes guys, GM Xboy blew up our inflatable companion cube (of the game Portal). He did it all by himself. We were actually very impressed.

Lunch consisted of sandwiches, alcohol, soda, and water. But mostly, our photographers kept Mr Big and I classy:

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My bridesmaids also touched me up a little:

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Aren’t they wonderful?

After that was all said and done, we decided we’d best spend the two hours of photography that came with the ceremonies and take overly romantic photos.

So we did (not really):

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To be honest guys, most of our romantic photos came after the bridal party photos. And our bridal party photos were awesome:

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Words cannot describe how much I LOVE this photo.

I took a picture with each of the girls:

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Mrs Big + MoH M&Ms

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Mrs Big + BM Proper

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Mrs Big + BM Superhero

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Mrs Big + BM Cupcake

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Mrs Big + Groom’s Homie Oddball (my little sister, 10 years my junior if you can believe it)

And Mr Big took a picture with each of his guys:

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Mr Big + BMan Hunter

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Mr Big + GM Xboy

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Mr Big + GM The Flash

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Mr Big + GM NB

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“I may be an a-hole, but I’m not 100% a dick.” = Mr Big’s response to ‘Why are you being a dick to GM Iron in this photo?’

After our bridal party photos, it was then time for the bridal party to go away and leave Mr Big and I to make out take lovely bridal couple photos. And if you’re wondering guys, yes, that waterfall in the background of these photos is the one we had just previously been pronounced as husband and wife. Isn’t it lovely?

Next up, Mr Big + Mrs Big = PDA.

[All photos by the fabulous Studio Something Photography.]

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Takin’ Love by the Horns: I ‘Wool’ Always Love You, Part I – Some Wine Please

9 Jul

It was time guys. Mr Big and I were standing literally inches from each other, unable to take each other’s eyes off the other. Meanwhile, Celebrant J, commenced the ceremony.

The ceremony was written in collaboration with Celebrant J. We took our favourite pieces, mixed, matched, added, and subtracted until we got to something uniquely us. I’ll talk more about it in my vendor reviews, but in short, everyone loved our ceremony.

For the sake of clarity and to keep the sincerity of the ceremony, I kept our first names as is:

It is my very great pleasure to welcome you to this most joyous occasion, Grant and Eileen’s wedding day. They are delighted that you all have been able to join them in this expression of their love for one another, especially those of you who have travelled great distances to be with them today.

Grant and Eileen are ecstatic that their experiences have brought them to the place where they are ready to fulfil what is theirs to accomplish in this life, to join the forces of their individual spirits, capabilities, and backgrounds.

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For Grant and Eileen, marriage means never being too old to hold hands, remembering to say ‘I love you’ at least once a day, and never going to sleep angry. It is at no time, taking the other for granted. It is standing together, facing the world. It is doing things for each other, speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways, and giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. It is not only marrying the right partner, but being the right partner.

The commitment they make today is made understanding each other’s weaknesses and accepting them, and knowing each other’s strengths and encouraging them.

And this is as love should be. However, love is not meant to be the possession of two people alone. Rather it is the source of a collective energy, an energy that gives you the strength to live your lives with joy and courage.

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For Grant and Eileen, marriage represents a solemn lifelong commitment to each other. It is walking this life together and helping each other through the ups and downs. It’s being the shoulder to cry on, the crutch to lean on, the enthusiastic ‘high-fiver’, the comforting hugger, and the encouraging presence. It is all about being a best friend, confidant, lover and the best partner each could ever want. They feel their relationship is still securely established in that blissful ‘honeymoon phase’, even though they’ve been together for a little more than three years. Something they hope continues for a long time to come!

Taking the vows of marriage in front of the many people they care about makes today so much more important. Not only are Grant and Eileen uniting, so too are both their families with Eileen joining Grant’s family as a [Mr Big’s Last Name] and Grant becoming a [Miss Big’s Last Name].

The journey that sees Grant and Eileen standing before us today began in 2010 when they met over the internet. After exchanging messages, they chatted regularly for weeks on end. Through their little talks, they got to know each other, paving the way for Grant to request meeting in person.

Upon seeing Eileen for the first time, Grant’s first thought? ‘She’s so little!’ (This got a few laughs!)

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That first date they had lunch, got to know each other a little more, and then watched their first movie together, the “very romantic” Christopher Nolan movie – ‘Inception’. To this day, Eileen still has the ticket stub to that movie – framed and proudly on display!

That first date they had lunch, got to know each other a little more, and then watched their first movie together, the “very romantic” Christopher Nolan movie – ‘Inception’. To this day, Eileen still has the ticket stub to that movie – framed and proudly on display!

Before long, they were seeing each other weekly. Eileen found happiness in their talks but also in the moments of quiet. And she found comfort not only in Grant’s touch and kisses, but by simply being with him. In his presence, she knew she could spend the rest of her life loving this man.

Grant knew he wanted to take their relationship to the next level when Eileen asked him to join her and her family on a trip to Indonesia and China. The fact that he was unofficially a part of the family made him realise he wanted to make it official.

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For Grant, that ‘magical moment’ – the proposal – in the magnificent Milford Sound, New Zealand, had been in the pipeline for weeks! This was despite their in-joke that Grant would only propose while intoxicated and would do so with a bronze pipe washer purchased from Bunnings to save money. So when Grant ‘casually’ proposed underneath ‘Sterling Falls’, Eileen was caught off-guard!

Her response, ‘Are you serious?’ had him thinking that perhaps he hadn’t been as traditional as some would expect… so down on one knee he went and asked again! Ironically, he had bought a washer for the proposal and incidentally left it at the hotel 2 hours away. Smiles all around, the momentous event filmed, and post-proposal group-hugs all added to that special day which in fact was Eileen’s 24th birthday – a day that Grant had promised to treat her to ‘something special’.

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Over time spent together, Grant and Eileen have become the best of friends. With their complementing personalities and unique and quirky sense of humour, they’ve lived life and loved the only way they know how: fun-filled and with enthusiasm!

They’ve settled into that ‘special place’ that everyone dreams of: love, contentment, and growing in understanding of each other. As a team, they are looking forward to supporting each other achieve personal goals, while pursuing their own individual dreams.

Everything that Grant has wanted in a life partner; Eileen fills that role. In his own words, ‘she’s affectionate, smart, funny, accepting, and somehow is not only the greatest friend I could want, but the best, most caring supportive partner I could hope for. I think it’s great that neither of us runs the life of the other, and that – having so much in common – we both have a lot of the same hobbies and interests.’

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Grant and Eileen value their time together. They act, not just as lovers and partners, but as best friends, sharing in-jokes and being able to lovingly poke fun at each other. Grant especially loves that they are both capable gamers and even when pitted against each other, he can still be proud of Eileen when she kicks butt!

Grant’s love for Eileen is unfathomable. She loves his intelligence, his deep breadth of knowledge and most of all, his very willing and generous heart.

With Grant, Eileen knows that she can be herself. She’s not afraid to show her weaknesses – and Grant has the ability to play to her strengths. His presence makes even the direst of situations that much less so. In her own words, ‘he’s a constant in a life full of inconstant.’

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As big dreamers, Grant and Eileen’s hopes and dreams for the future are already formulating. They want to travel the world and experience all life could offer; to celebrate every moment and tackle every problem side-by-side. Most importantly, they want to keep getting closer, the way they have since day one.

Grant and Eileen haven’t been happier. Their laughter is never far from their eyes and their love and respect for each other can be seen and heard in their words to one another.

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At this time, Grant and Eileen would like to take a moment to acknowledge the family and friends who were not able to make it here to share in this wonderful occasion, but who hold a special place in the hearts of those here. Specifically, the happy couple would like to recognise their families in New Zealand and Indonesia, who send their love and blessings for this union.

In recognising family, Grant and Eileen would also like to take a moment to acknowledge the relationship they share with their parents, [Mr Big’s Papa] and [Mr Big’s Momma], and [Miss Big’s Papa] and [Miss Big’s Momma].

At this point, Mr Big’s and my parents were called forward by Celebrant J:

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One of the closest relationships in life is that between caring parents and their children. This connection continues to grow and change as these children grow into independent and mature adults. As parents, the love that each of you has shared within your own marriages has been a legacy conferred to Grant and Eileen.

For them, marriage seems natural and you have offered them quiet yet inspiring examples of how it can be. You have encouraged them to live their own dreams and offered them support that has been greatly appreciated.

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Today, Grant and Eileen would like to take the time to honour this relationship. Grant’s parents, [Mr Big’s Papa] and [Mr Big’s Momma], and Eileen’s parents, [Miss Big’s Papa] and [Miss Big’s Momma], represent their families and all of us when I ask them:

‘Do you give Grant and Eileen your blessings, and pledge them your love, support and acceptance of this marriage?’

The Bighorn Parents: ‘We do.’

At this point, Papa Bighorn was supposed to grab my hand and place it into Mr Big’s hand, but because this isn’t a customary thing to do in Chinese culture, we had a hugging session instead, which later turned to a BIG GROUP HUG with all the parents:

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As I repositioned myself to stand in front of Mr Big, Celebrant J then read out the ‘monitum’, a legally binding statement that is compulsory in all marriage ceremonies in Australia:

Family and friends, my name is Jennifer, and as a Civil Marriage Celebrant, I am duly authorized to solemnize this marriage according to Law in Australia. Grant and Eileen, before you are joined together in marriage in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses, I am to remind you of the solemn, the serious, and the binding nature of the relationship into which you are now about to enter. Marriage, according to Law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

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Celebrant J then continued on with the ceremony, asking MoH M&Ms to hold my bouquet as I grabbed Mr Big’s hands in mine:

The hand which you each offer to the other today is an extension of yourselves, just like the warmth and love which you express to each other. Cherish this touch, be sensitive to its pulse, and try to understand and respect its flow and rhythm, just as you do your own.

Grant, I now ask you before all those present, do you take Eileen to be your lawful wife, to share your life with her, and pledge that you will love and honour her, with tenderness and affection, forevermore?

Grant: ‘I do’.

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Eileen, I now ask you before all those present, do you take Grant to be your lawful husband, to share your life with him, and pledge that you will love and honour him, with tenderness and affection, forevermore?

Eileen: ‘I do.’

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After we said our “I dos”, we moved on to the wine ceremony, a ceremony Mr Big and I wanted to incorporate for two reasons: (1) we’re in the Hunter Valley, the wine country of New South Wales, and (2) wine has a special place in our relationship. We split the wine ceremony into two portions: a wine ceremony ritual where we would drink and toast some wine; and a wine box ceremony, which unfortunately we didn’t get still photos of (but heaps on video and our stop-motion).

Today, Grant and Eileen have chosen to celebrate their union through the symbolism of wine. Wine has been called the symbol of life. It is like the blood flowing within our bodies.

The glass of wine symbolises the sum of your life experiences. It contains within it sweet flavours symbolic of happiness, joy, hope and love. This same wine also holds some bitter properties that symbolise sorrow, grief, and life’s trials and tribulations. Together, the sweet and the bitter essences represent life’s journey and all the experiences that are a natural part of it.

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As you drink from this cup, you accept the commitment to draw from your marriage all that you need to wash away the bitter flavours and savour the sweet.

Drink now, and may the cup of your lives be sweet and full.

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By sharing this glass, the two become one and the parts become whole; two paths intertwined, each separate, yet united in love. May all the sweetness that it holds for you be ever the sweeter because you taste it together, and may you find life’s joys heightened and its bitterness sweetened.

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At this time I’d like to draw your attention to the box beside Grant and Eileen.

They have written letters to each other expressing their feelings as they begin their marriage. In these letters, they have detailed why they fell in love and what they truly admire about the other person. The letters are sealed in individual envelopes and they have not seen what the other has written.

These letters have already been placed inside the box with a bottle of wine. Together they will seal the box, and on the happy occasion of their 5th year wedding anniversary, they will open the box, drink the wine together, and read each other’s letters.

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Unfortunately there aren’t any pictures of the actual wine box ceremony, but this photo shows you how the ceremony was laid out.

Grant and Eileen, by reading these love letters, you will be given an opportunity to reflect upon the reasons that you fell in love with each other.

I now ask you to place the letters in the box and seal it shut.

Next up, the vows and the big kiss! (OOOOooooooOOOOOO!!). Stay tuned guys!

[All photos by Studio Something.]

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Takin’ Love by the Horns: I Wool Always Love You, Part II – A Big Smooch

2 Jul

Once we had sealed our letters in the box, we went back to our positions at the front, once more holding hands. I could tell Mr Big was getting nervous – I know I was! It was time to exchange our vows.

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As an aside, when Mr Big and I got to thinking about our vows, we both agreed we wanted to write them ourselves. Not being a wordsmith, Mr Big was a little nervous about writing his vows. So when he was the first person to say them, he was feeling the pressure! I think he did pretty well though. Celebrant J also suggested we read our own vows to each other without repeating after her, which meant she was holding up our vows as we read.

Celebrant J:

We now arrive at a special moment, the moment where you try to bundle all of your experiences and emotions into words. The symbolic vows you’re about to make are a way of saying to one another that you both believe in all the things you promised, hoped and dreamed for one another. It is not just a proclamation of your love to one another, but a reflection of your relationship with each other.

Grant, will you now pledge your vows you’ve written for Eileen with the following:

“I call upon the persons here present
To witness that I Grant
Take you Eileen
To be my lawful wedded Wife.”

Mr Big:

I promise to put you first in everything I do,
To be the excited high-five when you’re happy, and the comforting arms when you feel sad.

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To truly listen when you need to talk, and to give good advice when you need to listen.
To be your superhero when you’re afraid, and to bare my soul when you see I hurt.

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To be yours and you mine from here til’ the end of the verse.
Eileen, I love you.

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After Mr Big said his vows, Celebrant J turned to me.

Guys – I thought I’d cry going down the aisle, and when I didn’t, I was pretty confident I’d be ok with my vows. The moment Mr Big said his though; I felt the tears start to build. So when it was my turn, I had to stop, breathe deeply, and then continue lest I start bawling.

Celebrant J:
Eileen, will you please respond with the vows you’ve written for Grant with the following:

“I call upon the persons here present
To witness that I Eileen
Take you Grant
To be my lawful wedded Husband.”

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Miss Big:

Grant, I don’t like clichés.
I like to think that I’m more imaginative than that, but when I think about you, all I can think about is the clichéd, typical semblance of romance – of a girl who loves a boy so much that everything is just so cliché.

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So when I say that you are my rock, you are the man of my dreams, the thing I look forward to in the morning and one of the last thoughts I have at night, I am telling the whole clichéd truth. Like one great spy said to another, you are a gift, a gift that I will treasure forever.

You are my sanctuary, my happily ever after, and my above and beyond. I know that with you I’ll always be truly happy. With you I can be exactly who I am with no judgement and no reservations. 

See that face? That’s the “don’t you dare cry while you’re saying your vows” face.

See that face? That’s the “don’t you dare cry while you’re saying your vows” face.

You make me a better person and I will strive with all of my heart, my mind, and every fibre of my being to be the best partner, lover, friend, and wife that I can be. There are no promises I can make that will ever encompass the love I have for you, so I’ll make it brief. I promise to laugh with you in the good times and stand with you in the bad.

I promise to stand by your side as we walk through life together, hand-in-hand.

But most of all, I promise to love you fiercely and proudly forevermore.

I'm pretty sure he almost cried too.

I’m pretty sure he almost cried too.

At this point, Mr Big went in for a kiss. It was unexpected, and caught most people off-guard (including our photographers, there’s no picture of it, haha!). At that point Mr Big stated: “Got an early one in”. This managed to make just about everyone – including the both of us – laugh.

With the mood lightened, Celebrant J continued on with the ceremony, asking BMan Hunter for the rings:

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Grant and Eileen, marriage is a state in which two people come together and create a union that is greater than the mere sum of two individuals. It is difficult to express in words the profound relationship that is love. These rings are a symbol of your love and regard to one another. From time immemorial, the circle has been an emblem of the sincerity and permanence of a couple’s love and regard for one another and their union. The ring is the symbol of the commitment which binds these two people together.

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The act of giving and receiving of rings reminds us that love itself is an act of giving and receiving. These golden circles are the natural symbols of enduring love. They represent an inward belief and trust in togetherness and an outward sign of love and commitment.

Grant, as you place this ring as a visible sign of your commitment in marriage on Eileen’s finger, please repeat:

‘Eileen, I promise to love, respect, and honour you.
I will always be there for you, with you, and beside you.
Let this ring be a symbol of our love, may it represent our today, our tomorrows, our future and our past.
As this ring has no end, neither shall my love for you.
As I have given you my hands to hold, so I give you my life to keep.’

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Eileen, as you place this ring as a visible sign of your commitment in marriage on Grant’s finger, please repeat:

‘Grant, I promise to love, respect, and honour you.
I will always be there for you, with you, and beside you.
Let this ring be a symbol of our love, may it represent our today, our tomorrows, our future and our past.
As this ring has no end, neither shall my love for you.
As I have given you my hands to hold, so I give you my life to keep.’

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As I slipped the ring on Mr Big’s finger, I could see the look of excitement on his face as Celebrant J began the next section of the ceremony: 

Grant and Eileen, marriage is the joining of two people, the union of two hearts. It lives on in the love you have for each other and never grows old, but thrives in the joy of each new day. 

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Today, before your family and friends, you have openly declared your love for each other. You have joined your hands, pledged your vows, and exchanged rings. You have not only made a commitment to each other, but to yourselves, to face life’s journey together. And so it is with great joy that I now declare you Husband and Wife.

Congratulations, and best wishes from all of your family and friends here today!

Grant, you may now kiss your bride!

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And he did!

We’re not done yet guys!

[All photos by the fantastic Studio Something.]

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Takin’ Love by the Horns: The Boys get Shorn and we Fake-Frolic down the Aisle

26 Mar

[Hi guys, I’m going to preface this post by apologising in advance. I know, excuses are poor, but the problem is I would really like to show photos in every post, and even though I have images to the wazoo from the actual day, I haven’t really got any leading up to it. My next post is clearly suffering from the lack of photos, so if I disappear again, I apologise. I’ll try to be better!]

Saturday started out pretty simply.

There was no more setting up to do at the reception hall, and that afternoon we would be having our rehearsal and the last dinner as an unmarried couple (it really wasn’t a “rehearsal” dinner, perse). We headed into the local town for breakfast, and afterwards Mr Big and his boys got all prettied up with a hot shave* at a local barber:

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Mr Big didn’t take pictures. But here’s the actual shop! Sorry for the iffy-lookin’ photo… / Photo from Tim’s Barber Shop.

After the boys had gotten themselves all prettied up (who says the boys can’t get pampered either!), we had a lunch consisting of leftover pizza from the Friday at our villa. Not glamorous, but we had a chance to catch up with a tonne of people. But not before Mr Big got the second woman in his life all cleaned up.

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Zoe, getting all cleaned up. (Yes, I’m referring to the car). / Photo by Mr Big.

At the same time I tried to organise with my family for the upcoming rehearsal. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say Papa and Mama Bighorn made it a little bit more complicated than it should have been.

When we finally got to the rehearsal site, we were late. Everyone else was waiting there in the approximately 40 degrees (Celsius) plus heat, except for my two bridesmaids, Cupcakes and Superhero (who got caught in traffic on the way up, darn traffic!), and De Papa and Mumma Big (who were unaware that they needed to attend). We walked up to the top of the Waterfall Outlook and were so happy to see shade – glorious shade!

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Basically what we saw upon our entry, minus those music stands (which we used to place signs for the wedding). / Photo by Mr Big.

After some time mingling, letting all the people there have a look around the ceremony site, and waiting for the arrival of De Papa and Mumma Big, we got underway! (Side note: BMs Superhero and Cupcakes later found out we were running late and they could’ve made it, but I didn’t want to pressure them. They did really well on the day though, so it was a-ok!)

We met up with our celebrant/officiant, Friend J, and she organised the boys up:

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In this picture: Friend/Officiant J, Mr Big, BMan Hunter, GM Iron, GM Not-British (NB), GM The Flash, and GM Xboy.

I wasn’t there when the boys got organised, but from what I can tell, they went through pre-ceremony dealings…

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Mr Big looks super focused!

And some questions were asked:

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I think he’s putting his hand up. That, or pointing. Also, notice the binder. GM Iron was more organised than I was.

Meanwhile, I was at the back (and when I say, back, I mean back) of the ceremony site, at the other end of our “aisle” (which is basically a loooong pathway under an arch). We had met up with our ceremony coordinator who was talking us through what would happen on the day, and what she’d be responsible for. We didn’t see much of our ceremony coordinator, and she wasn’t super responsive either, but I will admit that without her help on the day, our ceremony music would not have been timed so perfectly.

She wanted me to first demonstrate what I had in mind with the music, which ended up a disaster with a capital ‘D’. The bridesmaids were spaced much too together! Also, Groom’s Homie Oddball was a nervous, anxious, clueless and awkward mess (which was adorable, but at the same time, cringe-worthy).

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In black, BM Proper, and in white, Groom’s Homie Oddball. They’re spaced together too closely.

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You can just see the awkward oozing from her. That’s the expression of “WHAT DO I DO!?”

Our ceremony coordinator then told us she had an idea, and would signal when the bridesmaids would walk up. I don’t have any pictures of that, nor did I get any from De Papa Big (whose pictures I’m actually using, thankyou De Papa!). But her version of the whole thing was a success!

When I finally fake-walked up the aisle, we did a short run through the actual ceremony:

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Standing at the end of the aisle.

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Saying cheese to De Papa! And I think Mr Big is yelling at someone… I can’t remember who. Also, I love that hat!

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And finally, going through a quick rundown of the ceremony. Also, that combination of pink kaftan and dress is hideous. WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME!?

And that was that!

After a brief conversation about placement of our signs…

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My dad’s guitar stand which we ‘turned inside out’ into a sign holder. Ingenious? Yes. Cheap? Yes! / Photo via Mr Big.

… We briefly checked out the Oriental Pagoda and then I headed off for my massage (Lady Luck and Mr Big basically demanded I go – I was more than happy to oblige!). After a glorious massage, it was then time to gorge ourselves on meat have our last dinner as an unmarried couple!

Who else had an insanely hot rehearsal day? Who else got strong-armed into a massage? Why didn’t anyone tell me I look hideous in that outfit!?

(All pictures courtesy of De Papa Big, unless otherwise stated.)

* A hot shave, or a “wet shave”, is usually done with a “straight razor”. For more information on this type of shaving, go here. According to what Mr Big told me (so don’t take my word for it), a hot shave means less regrowth the next day and less razor burn.

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Tick-tock: Timing is Everything

29 Jun

On a Saturday morning, June 29, I woke up and came downstairs, seeing Mr Big bent over a writing pad and planning out the day-of timeline. A little early for that, doncha think? So I asked what that was about, and found out something that made my heart sink.

Apparently, Chinese tradition states that Mr Big needed to lead me out of my parents’ house at 11AM. Now this meant, at 11AM, Mr Big needed to get to my parents’ house and lead me out. There were initial problems to this.

The first problem is fixable. Let’s say Mr Big is at the door to my parent’s villa. If he leads me out, he’ll see me in all my white-dressed-glory, which ruins the whole “first-seeing-each-other-when-I-walk-down-the-aisle” thing. GP says that he can blindfold himself before he knocks on the door and we can do both traditions (not seeing each other before the aisle-walk, AND the Chinese tradition of Mr Big letting me out of the house). So… this problem is fixed, but the BIGGEST issue was the second one.

The second, and MAIN, problem was timing

Our civil ceremony was initially supposed to start at 11AM and we’ve told our guests this. This meant guests would be arriving at the Waterfall Outlook before 11AM. Now, if Mr Big lead me out of my parents’ house at 11AM, we’d ultimately get to the Hunter Valley Gardens by about 11:15AM. Which meant our guests would be sitting down  waiting around for about 15-20 minutes.

I didn’t want that to happen.

Not to mention that pushed back the civil ceremony, the official family photos, and the amount of time we get for the Chinese tea ceremony. However, like all problems, we found a fix, which meant being approximately 15 minutes late to the ceremony. We made our celebrant aware, and hopefully, guests will be ok with it. According to a number of our married guests and friends, it’s okay for the bride and groom to be a little bit “fashionably late”.

‘But what, pray tell, is this post about?’, I hear you guys asking. Well, guys, we’re counting down the days to the wedding, and I’m glad to tell you that we’ve got the day-of timeline tightened and neat. With the help of Microsoft Project, information from our vendors, and working throughout all of November and December to get this baby all set, I think we’ve definitely got a workable day-of run sheet.

So for those who want a few tips on how to construct what seems like a massive venture in the beginning, let me give you a few tips:

  • Get in touch with your vendors as soon as possible: I know this is an obvious one, guys, but seriously, this vastly helped in constructing our day-of run sheet. Our reception coordinators actually gave us the run sheet that they normally work off of, and that gave me a good idea on how to get started. I basically extrapolated this and then overlaid it with our own plans.
  • Communicate with your FI/partner: Another obvious one, but the amount of times I’ve put a plan into action and had Mr Big either improve on it or add details I didn’t know about are amazing. Mr Big and I are pretty good at communicating, and when it came to the timeline, it’s amazing what sitting down and going through it can do.
  • Durations are your friend: I know it’s not really easy to get things down to the finest minute, but I found that giving events a duration of time (1 min, 30 mins, 1hr, 3hrs, etc.) allows for a much easier “block” to work around. For example, I know the ceremony will start at 11AM to 1115AM and go for approximately 30 minutes. I made note of that in the run sheet.
  • Try and go through your run sheet as early as possible with important members of the “wedding team”: I’m not just talking about bridesmaids and groomsmen – remember that your ushers, parents of flower girls or page boys, DJ, MC, florist, and all other special attendants need to know what’s happening too. I sent my preliminary run sheet to all of my vendors and asked them to have a look over it. They were able to tell me where to tweak it and also give me their timings! This then assisted me in improving where particular things flowed in the run sheet. I also went through the run sheet a week early with other attendants (ushers, bridesmaids, etc.) in order for them to understand what I needed of them.
  •  If at all possible, print out and give copies to bridal party members: This is particularly important if you have a big group (like we do!).

I hope these tips help you all in planning your own run sheet! If you need any tips (or would like to see a copy of my own run sheet), please do PM me! 🙂 I’d post a template up on here, but I need to get cracking to last-minute wedding stuff!

Who else had some issues formulating their day-of run sheet?

So I’m sitting here…

15 Dec

…in my parents’ house, listening to my dad’s band playing outside (yes, my dad has a band) and thinking, “hm, what can I do?”. Then I realised, “hey, I haven’t written in my blog for a few!”

So here I am.

Not really that exciting, but there you have it. Anyway…

HELLO ALL!

I’ll start off with some exciting news. I recently signed up and was accepted into a blog called “Polka Dot Bride”. It’s not HUGE news, because it’s basically a blog that anyone can sign up for, but it’s been rather successful! My first (and so far, only) post can be found here:

http://www.polkadotbride.com/2012/12/and-we-open-the-door-and-step-inside/

So, yay for me! I know what you’re all thinking, “that’s a HORRIBLE picture of you!” but… it was the only picture I found where I didn’t look: a) horrible, and b) like I had an eternal wedgie. I will write more in Polka Dot, but it’s a minimum 750 words, so I thought I’d wait until I had substantial news which I could waffle on about. (Edit: Was just told that it’s not 750 min. YAY! I can write more without waffling)

I DO, however, have substantial news which I can post into this blog!

The other day, GP and I had a meeting with the fabulous Marlon and Redge of Onsight Films. We’ve seen their work and knew they did SDEs – or Same Day Edits. We loved what they did, and after meeting them, were even more set on having them as videographers for the wedding! GP’s so excited that he spent most of yesterday mulling over music to send the guys to potentially play during the SDE. Needless to say, after the excruciatingly long search to find an awesome, well-priced videographer who did SDEs, we are extremely happy with our choice!

Now all’s we need to do is book both the photographers and videographers in and we’re DONE! (with those components anyway)

In other wedding-related news, we’ve been thinking about a place for a rehearsal dinner. I’m not 100% sure if the Hunter Valley Gardens will let us do a ceremony rehearsal at the location, so I’ll have to check. However, the celebrant we intend on using includes the rehearsal into her fee and GP’s excited to have a rehearsal dinner at a particular place he’s been telling me about since we first went up to the Hunter Valley together. The rehearsal dinner will be vastly smaller than the actual wedding reception, but we’re excited to have one.

I’ve also had a sudden fascination with hydrangeas. They’re beautiful, big flowers and would cheapen bouquets a lot while still looking lush and awesome. I’ve decided I want to use them, though I still don’t even know if I want to give my bridesmaids bouquets. Ah well – I still have a little over a year, so here’s hoping I make up my mind!

I’m going to sign off now!

Ta-ta for now 🙂

– Eileen

A Bow to Tradition

6 Nov

Hive, you may have guessed that Mr Big and I are an interracial couple. Mr Big is a Kiwi with a Dutch background. He feels a strong connection with his Dutch roots as his Oma (Mr Big’s maternal grandmother) imparted him with a love of Dutch foods. And I’m a Chinese girl whose parents migrated over to Australia from Indonesia.Our wedding, therefore, is a melange of different customs, cultures, ideologies and ideas. As such, we’ll be having two ceremonies: a Chinese tea ceremony and a civil ceremony!

A civil ceremony, as most of you may know, is the typical ceremony without the religious overtones. Mr Big is an atheist, and I’m a Buddhist, so we believed it fit with us best. As for the Chinese tea ceremony, that may take a bit more explanation. For those of the hive who have followed past Bee blogger, Mrs Peony and Mrs Toucan, you may recall them having a Chinese tea ceremony as a part of their wedding day. They each explained the tea ceremony in great detail, with pretty pictures too!

Unfortunately, for the Bighorns, our tea ceremony won’t exactly be the usual.

As previously mentioned, we took one look at the Oriental Garden and did this:

This never gets old. Taken from College Times.

We wanted, nay, needed to have the tea ceremony at the Oriental Pagoda. It was perfect. And hence, we had to change our plans!

Now traditionally, in Chinese cultures, the tea ceremony was essentially the ‘civil ceremony’. Elders would be served tea by the soon-to-be husband and wife to honour and respect the family. Because Chinese society was very patriarchal, the ‘true’ tea ceremony only included the groom’s family being served tea, as the bride needed to please her future husband’s family in order to be accepted. She would serve tea to her family in the privacy of her parents’ home, as a ‘thankyou’ for raising her.

To me, however, a modern-day girl with a fairly traditional upbringing, the Chinese tea ceremony is about respecting my elders and honouring the families on both sides. To me, it’s beautiful. I love my parents; they raised me to be the person I am today. Mr Big shows the same love for his. And this tradition allows him and I to physically show them the respect and love we have for our parents. I also get to show some of Mr Big’s family my culture and they get to experience something new and exciting!

Most of the Kiwi (and Australian!) guests have commented on how excited they are to see the tradition.

In a typical, modern-day Chinese tea ceremony, the bride is picked up by the groom at her parents’ house. During this time, a Chinese tea ceremony takes place in which the bride’s parents and elders (great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, married siblings and cousins) are served tea. The groom then takes the bride from her parents’ house to the groom’s parents’ house where another Chinese tea ceremony takes place to respect the groom’s family (parents, great-grandparents, grandparents, etc.).

led out of house

A bride being taken from her parents’ house to her in-laws’ house by her groom. Image & Photography via Kellee Walsh.

Unfortunately for the Bighorns, the Chinese tea ceremony could not be performed in “typical” fashion, even before we saw the Oriental Garden. This was because of several problems:

  • Mr Big’s parents’ house is in Christchurch, New Zealand, located two hours flight from Sydney.
  • My parents’ house is located in the greater area of Sydney, Australia, two hours’ drive from the Hunter Valley.
  • Our wedding is in the Hunter Valley

Normally, these sorts of problems are resolved by either, (a) having the Chinese tea ceremony performed “properly” either the day before or the day after the wedding, (b) having the Chinese tea ceremony at the bride’s parents’ (or, if the case may be, groom’s parents’) house, depending on accessibility and location of the wedding, or (c) having the Chinese tea ceremony at the hotel on the day (a la Mrs Peony) before the greater parts of the wedding take place.

We Bighorns, however, really wanted to get the Chinese tea ceremony ‘recorded’ through professional photography (Mr Big loved the photos I showed him of past Chinese tea ceremonies), so option (a) was out. Option (b) wasn’t viable unless we did it in conjunction with option (a), so that was also out. That left option (c) which was going to be the plan until our venue-hunting threw this beauty at us:

oriental_pagoda_sunset

The Oriental Garden and Pagoda at sunset. Image & Photography via DC Images.

So, with the decision made that we would have the Chinese tea ceremony at the Oriental Pagoda, we decided that the Chinese tea ceremony will follow the civil ceremony. Because the tea ceremony will be in one location, Mr Big doesn’t need to ‘take me away’ from my family home and to his.

Instead, we’ll be serving our elders all at once during the ceremony. For those interested, I’ll give you a basic rundown!

The Order of Service

In typical Chinese tea ceremonies, the groom’s family is served first. However, as Mr Big’s parents and family aren’t well rehearsed in the way of the tea ceremony, my family will be going first.

The first in the order of service is always the parents of the couple. Therefore, in our ceremony, this will be:

Miss Big’s Parents

  • Papa Bighorn & Mama Bighorn

Mr Big’s Parents:

  • De Papa Big & Mumma Bighorn

Following the parents is usually the elders from the groom’s side starting with the paternal family and then moving on to the maternal side. “Elders” comprise of grandparents, uncles and aunties, and married siblings and cousins. Again, due to the nature of our tea ceremony, my family will be going first, and as I have a rather large family, the order of service will be:

Papa Bighorn’s family:

  • Uncle B and Auntie D
  • Uncle L and Auntie C
  • Uncle D and Auntie S
  • Cousin D and Cousin D’s Wife Y
  • Cousin L and Cousin L’s Husband P

Mama Bighorn’s family:

  • Mami & Papi (my godparents!)
  • Uncle Fung & Auntie Pin
  • Auntie Soo

Followed by Mr Big’s side of the family:

De Papa Big’s family:

  • Auntie Pen

Mumma Bighorn’s family:

  • Ado Big (Mr Big’s only uncle from his mumma’s side!)

My family is pretty big in comparison to Mr Big’s! Normally grandparents on both bride and groom’s sides of the family go before the aunts and uncles and after the parents, however, Mr Big and I have grandparents who are either deceased or unable to make it to the wedding. We will, however, commemorate them in our civil ceremony.

 

How to Serve Tea

Just like in a civil ceremony, the groom stands on the right and the bride on the left. When serving tea, the bride and groom usually kneel in front of their elders and offer the tea cups with two hands, a sign of respect. However, some couples just bow upon giving the tea to their elders. The elders sit in chairs facing the couple, and when receiving the tea, take the tea cup with both hands to reciprocate that respect.

After each elder receives and drinks their tea, it is typical to gift the couple with either monetary or non-fiscal possessions like jewellery. Monetary gifts are often received in ‘red envelopes’ or ‘angpao’. The red envelope is always offered with two hands and received with two hands as a sign of respect. Often times, gifts of jewellery received by the elders are adorned on the couple immediately upon gifting.

gifting the couple

The newlyweds accepting gifts from their elders. The top two images depict gifts of jewellery. And the bottom image depicts the gifting of what is commonly called a “red envelope”, or “angpao”. Image & Photography by Kellee Walsh.

Decorative Elements

The Chinese tea ceremony has a few bare essentials such as the Chinese tea set, and an altar or table to display photos or candles in recognition of the two families.

praying to ancestors

Top left, the altar to worship the ancestors; top right, praying to the ancestors; and bottom, the tea set for the Chinese tea ceremony. Image & Photography via Kellee Walsh.

This recognition can come in the form of family photos or a ‘unity candle’ with the dragon and phoenix, the symbol of the male and female in Chinese culture, respectively. Other things that can be placed on the altar are: white flowers, fruit and wine offerings, and burning incense.

The tea set is usually gifted to the couple by the parents of the bride as part of the “dowry”. In the case of the Bighorn wedding, my parents didn’t know about this tidbit, but Mama Bighorn was more than happy to purchase a tea set for Mr Big and myself. When we went looking, Mama Bighorn and I found ourselves in a shop that sold Chinese wares, from incense pots to statues, scrolls to tea seats. We eventually found some a few tea sets lying haphazardly near the door.

They were in different colours: blue, black, white, and red. After rummaging through, I saw a red and gold tea set with pretty patterns and good-sized cups. They were $AU30 each but Mama Bighorn managed to get it down to $AU25.

Want to see the pretty?

Chinese tea set!

Personal photo.

As for the tea itself, it can be served as either a sweet tea (for example, longan tea) or a standard tea (such as traditional green tea or jasmine tea).

lotus and date tea

Tea served with lotus seeds and red dates, symbolic of the newlyweds bearing children quickly and often. The sweetness of the tea is also supposed to invoke “sweet relations” between the families. Image via Are You Gonna Eat That?. Photography via Pelaez Photography (out of business).

Other things that can be used to decorate the Chinese tea ceremony are the ‘double happiness’ symbol, the dragon and phoenix motif, decorative firecrackers, and lots of red and gold which symbolise luck and happiness.

double-happiness

The Double Happiness Symbol. Image via Tumblr.

Some people even do lion dances (a la Mrs Toucan!).

lion dancing

Two lions holding a banner which, according to Mrs Toucan, reads “100 years of happiness together”. Photography via Robert Mirani Photography.

What to Wear

Traditionally, the bride wears a qipao, qua or a cheongsam, traditional Chinese dresses. Oftentimes these are decorated with embroidery of the dragon and phoenix or flowers.

the qua

Mrs Toucan in her qua. Photography via Robert Mirani Photography.

Grooms also have traditional formal attire, which consists of a Mandarin jacket and matching patterned pants. Although some grooms have updated that look:

traditional clothing

A groom in a traditional Mandarin jacket with knot-buttons and a classic mandarin collar but with black slacks. Image via Alante Photography.

However, in this modern age, some brides have taken to wearing the white dress to the tea ceremony and many grooms have taken to wearing the tuxedo or suit that they’ll be in all day.

Originally, I wanted to wear the traditional Chinese dress as I’ve never ever worn one, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. This is because, 1) it’s difficult to find an off-the-rack Chinese gown in my size (I’m petite but curvy with a little bit of chub – read: not “standard Asian size”), and 2) it would’ve been difficult to change from my white gown into a traditional red dress with the Chinese tea ceremony after the civil ceremony and at the same location. Therefore, I’ll be wearing my white wedding dress, but have incorporated some red into it to honour my Chinese heritage.

As for Mr Big, he’ll be wearing his suit, although he’s keen to wear his schmick silk black Chinese brocade jacket he bought in China. We’ll have to see what happens on the day!

All-in-all, I’m excited to have this as a part of my wedding. It’s a good nod to tradition and I love the meaning behind it. I’m super bummed that I won’t be able to wear a traditional Chinese dress, but honestly, I have no idea where to get one in Australia that isn’t mini-sized!

What do you guys think about the tea ceremony? Does anyone know where to get Chinese dresses in Australia!?

A Place to be Married

5 Nov

I’ve gone through the search for our reception, but I haven’t talked to you guys about our ceremony!

Mr Big isn’t religious at all and I’m of the Buddhist-persuasion. As such, our ceremony won’t be held at a church or a place of religion, but it’ll be a civil ceremony. Furthermore, due to cultural and traditional purposes, we’ll be having two ceremonies at our wedding: a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and a secular civil ceremony.

Our initial plan was to have the tea ceremony at the hotel, before we got ready for the big day, and the civil ceremony would then be held in a nice vineyard somewhere. It sounded simple enough, but alas, things did not go according to our initial plan.

And here’s why:

oriental_pagoda_sunset

The Oriental Garden at sunset. Image & Photography via DC Images

The Oriental Garden: an absolutely stunning location for a ceremony located at the Hunter Valley Gardens, or HVG.

In my previous post, I talked about the HVG and how it didn’t really make the cut for the reception space, despite the fact that it was a beautiful location. However, Mr Big and I just couldn’t let go of it as a place for our ceremony. The grounds of the HVG are stunning, and it’s really no wonder.

hvg_cavanagh

Absolutely stunning. Image & Photography via Cavanagh Photography.

Bonus? When you have your ceremony at the HVG, you get to have a 2-hour photography session. Which is great! The HVG itself has about 10 different mini-gardens to explore. They’re great for photography purposes, such as the Storybook Garden:

hvg_storybook

Image & Photography via Creek Street Photography.

As for the ceremonies themselves, of the 10 mini-gardens, four of them can hold ceremonies:

The Formal Gardens:

formal gardens

An aerial view of the formal gardens. Image via the Hunter Valley Gardens official website.

The Sunken Garden:

sunken garden

A shot of the gardens in front of the waterfall. Image via the Hunter Valley Gardens official website

The Oriental Garden:

oriental garden

The Oriental Pagoda at the Oriental Garden, where ceremonies are usually held. Image via the Hunter Valley Garden official website.

And the Lakes Walk:

lakes walk

The Lakes Rotunda at the Lakes Walk, where the ceremonies are usually held. Image via the Hunter Valley Garden official website.

Each of the four gardens has specific places which the HVG wedding coordinator recommends for the ceremony. The Sunken Garden itself has two places – the bottom of the waterfall and the top of the waterfall. When we first toured around the HVG, we were allowed to enter for free (yay for being the engaged couple!) and were toured around on a golf buggy. We were basically treated like stars for the day! It was awesome.

During our tour, our guide, the then-wedding coordinator Kelly, showed us around. Kelly was so fantastic and was able to answer all of our questions! She gave us the lowdown about what each bridegroom couple received when booking their ceremonies with the HVG. There was a fee attached (we knew that beforehand), but with the fee the couple also received:

  • A set number of seats and a PA system for the ceremony
  • A wedding coordinator on-hand to assist in all questions, queries, details and problems
  • Two hours photography with all-access around the HVG
  • A golf buggy to take the bridal party around the HVG on-the-day (girls in heels with no sore feet? Score!)
  • A wet-weather option inside their onsite Chapel (which, if this Spring has been anything, we won’t need)
hvg_chapel

The HVG Chapel from the entrance. Image & Photography via the Vincent Lai Photography.

She then gave us the grand tour!

The first stop was the Formal Gardens. We took a look and, though beautiful, it was much too… well, formal. It would be a great place for formal wedding, but our wedding was a little less formal, and a little more semi-formal. So, off we went to the Sunken Garden.

We took a look at the base of the waterfall, and it was gorgeous… but loud. The sound of the water hitting the base of the falls is soothing when you want some time to marvel in its splendour, but saying our vows over the din? No thanks. Despite its beauty, we had to give this one a pass.

Kelly then drove us to the top of the falls, called the “Waterfall Outlook”.

hvg_waterfall outlook

Image & Photography via Cavanagh Photography.

It. Was. Stunning, hive. That picture above does not even do it any justice.

The aisle, which you can see above, is lined with columns and arched with branches and wisteria. It ends at a balcony that overlooks the HVG. The waterfall isn’t loud at all from above so it makes the perfect ceremony location. Plus? It’s shaded, so we won’t have any of the Kiwis fainting in the summer heat.

It was the perfect place for us.

Get engaged at the base of a waterfall, and get married at the top of one!

Kelly then golf buggy’d us down to the Oriental Garden. We arrived, walked towards the Oriental Pagoda and Mr Big turned to me and said:

“We’re having the tea ceremony here.”

Now hive, I was of two minds. The first was stating that we had to be reasonable, that we had a plan in mind and we needed to stick to it.

The second was this:

Like – exactly my reaction. Taken from College Times.

I caved.

He was right, though! It was magnificent. But as I had said before, it completely changed our plans! So what do we do?

Well, it’s safe to say that we booked the ceremony venue a few days later (no suspense here!). We asked question after question about the ceremony and ensured we got everything in writing too (we’re paranoid) and the wedding coordinators (Kelly changed roles, and now our current wedding coordinator is Kylie!) have been nothing but extremely helpful!

They agreed to provide us with hot water, tables and chairs for the tea ceremony, and were more than happy to give us two ceremonies for the fee of one! Kylie has been great and has answered all of our questions. They’ve also opted to provide us with snacks and drinks (for a price unfortunately) for our bridal party!

All-in-all we think we’ve chosen a great place to be officially announced as husband and wife and to celebrate the elders of our family.

It’s making me excited just thinking about!

Has anyone else gone to a venue looking for a reception and leaving with an idea about their ceremony? What do you guys think about our choices?

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_cavanagh

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.

tamburlaine_vineyards

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.

tamburlaine_exterior_dusk

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.