Tag Archives: hunter valley

Takin’ Love by the Horns: ‘Ramming’ it all in

14 Mar

[That title sounds dirty. Snicker, snicker.]

Although we got married on a glorious Sunday in the Hunter Valley, guests started arriving on Wednesday. The first of these was FBIL Muso, Mr Big’s brother, who we picked up from the airport. Later that day, six members of my family from Indonesia arrived. That night was spent in relative quiet – I did some thank you cards for our attendants, bridal party members and parents…

screenshot_card

Screenshot from Photoshop. Obviously not the completed thank you cards, but the template.

Mr Big finished off some major projects…

Last-Minute projects

Mr Big’s status update when he completed said project. Also, he is a big fan of Will Ferrell.

And FBIL Muso got to know my family a little bit more. This included going through Papa Bighorn’s massive band equipment inventory and ensuring they had everything absolutely necessary for the wedding.

By this point, I had boxed up everything in containers to take up to the Hunter Valley…

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Case in point. Place cards boxed and ready to go!

And made myself an inventory list to ensure I remembered everything.

inventory_list

A printscreen of the list. That list was 6 pages long. And for some reason my laptop has decided that it wants to keep an invisible box on the screen. Stupid laptop.

I felt calm and prepared. Mr Big was just finishing off another last-minute project (poor guy was swamped with work up until that point), so I helped him out. We finished off the project that night and then hit the hay.

It was Thursday when everything became a hectic blur.

Waking up early, Mr Big and I began zipping around like crazy people to ensure we had everything all packed up and ready. MoH M&Ms and her boyfie, The Don, were supposed to arrive early that day, before 10:30AM, but had slept in. That pushed back the departure time for my parents, and did sort of annoy me, but Mr Big and I made the executive decision that, to hell with it, we needed to be up in the Hunter relatively early to ensure that everything was packed away in the reception space and ready for go-time.

We had a lot to pack. I wish I could show you images, but hive, it was so hectic. We did, however, manage to fit about 85% of our crap in two cars – Mr Big’s second love-of-his-life, Zoe (his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution) and my father’s old Mazda. Between those two cars we managed to fit:

  • ALL of the band gear, including amps and two keyboards
  • Basically everything for the ceremony
  • About 90% of the reception stuff

My wedding dress and veil, and the card box and chocolates were to be brought up by my parents. In the meantime, FBIL Muso, Groom’s Homie Oddball, I and Mr Big headed up to the Hunter Valley to check into the hotel, head to the reception hall, and start setting up.

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Missed a recap post? Catch up here!

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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?

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

So where did we want our wedding?

Well, we wanted it here:

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

And here:

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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?

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!).

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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? 🙂

Being Wed in a Land Down Under

20 Sep
“Living in a land Down Under
Where women glow and men plunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, and take cover.”
– Down Under by Men At Work

I come from a land Down Under. For those of you who don’t know where that is, it’s a little-known place called Australia, across the Pacific Ocean on the other side of the world (from America anyway!).

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Australia from a global perspective / Image via Wikipedia.org

The reason people call it the “Land Down Under” is not just because of that song by Men At Work quoted earlier, but because, relative to the rest of the world, Australia is located “Down Under”.

Unless of course you use my fiancé, Mr Bighorn’s, favourite map ever:

upsde-down-map

The “Upside Down World Map” – Down Under is now Up Over! / Image via culturalintelligenceblog.com

But with silliness aside, let’s continue!

Specifically, I live in Sydney which is located in the state of New South Wales. But my wonderful fiancé Mr Bighorn and I will be getting married in the Hunter Valley, which is a 2-hour-drive from there. For you visual learners:

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A map drawn showing New South Wales (inset, right) and the locations of both Sydney and Hunter Valley (inset, left) / Personal image transcribed using Google Maps and designed through Photoshop

 Now the thing with Australian weddings that one should know is the difficulty in communicating unique ideas across and planning a “unique” wedding. Unlike America, where trends are accepted quickly and spread just as rapidly, Australia is only really starting to grasp the “rustic”, “vintage”, and “quirky”.  Melbourne, which is located in the state of Victoria south of New South Wales,  accepts these more readily as the “crowd” there are very much into trends taken from high-end fashion and the like, be it bridal or no.

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A Vintage Melbourne Wedding / Image via polkadotbride.com, photography by Julia Jane Photography

Unfortunately, New South Wales – and more specifically, the Hunter Valley – does not fit the same sort of “lifestyle”. This is because the Hunter Valley is “country” New South Wales and things such as Pinterest aren’t grasped as greatly.

Mr Bighorn and I are, and always were, a “quirky” couple and also incredibly nerdy. So it’s been rather difficult planning a wedding while trying to infuse our personalities into it.

For example, I recall mentioning that my Maid of Honour will be dressing in a different shade of blue from my bridesmaids and got a, ‘GASP – that is so original, I’ve never heard of that before!’

Cue nervous laughter here.

I’ve also found it incredibly hard to find a wine box for the “wine box and love letter” ceremony we want to do and had to search high and low for parasols for my bridesmaids!

So for those Hunter Valley brides out there don’t be disheartened, because I have tips:

  • Make sure you have a clear “direction” in mind. Mr Bighorn and I don’t necessarily have a theme, but as we knew what we wanted, we were able to give our vendors direction on what we wanted and how we wanted it done.
  • Be patient. Sometimes you get frustrated because they don’t “understand XYZ” but it’s not their fault! With the world of the Internet, Pinterest and Instagram, information is taken on quickly by the younger generation and most of the vendors you’ll find in country towns (at least in the Hunter Valley) are used to a different way of thinking. So you city brides, be patient! It’s not their fault. Just stick with the first point and it’ll be aaaall good.
  • Make sure you get it in writing. This is one of those ‘duh’ things, but sometimes it happens that a bride or groom will forget to get it in writing. During times when Mr Bighorn and I weren’t too sure that they understood what we wanted, we got it in writing to read over and ensure that our ideas were understood.
  • Search around, compare, and search s’more. In Australia, in general, and pretty much anywhere in the world, the word “wedding” inflates prices. Therefore, wine boxes are expensive, cake toppers are expensive, wedding parasols are expensive. But with my good friend Mr Google I was able to find places that sold relatively well-priced merchandise for a fraction of the price! So it’s good to search, search, and search s’more! And don’t forget to compare prices too!
  • And finally, try to enjoy the experience! It feels good to share my ideas and inspirations to those who’ve never heard of them before. A part of me does feel bad for “taking” those ideas as my own, but that’s just what wedding planning is, taking an idea and adapting it to either your theme or vision! And of course, I never state that the idea is my own – I’d never be able to come up with something as imaginative or as beautiful as the ideas I’ve seen.

So those are my tips! Hopefully they’re helpful for those brides planning a “non-traditional” Hunter Valley wedding. For Sydney and Melbourne brides, I also recommend going to at least one session of One Fine Day, a wedding expo with a difference. They give great inspiration for brides looking for unique venues, vendors, and the like! For other brides in Australia, if you can make the trip to One Fine Day, I recommend it too. They have great photographers and videographers there who are wiling to travel, so take a punt! You may get lucky. For international brides who are planning on getting married in Australia, One Fine Day has an awesome website (linked above) with a list of the vendors. I recommend checking that out 🙂

Did or does anyone else have trouble communicating ideas to vendors? Did anyone have a hard time finding things for their wedding?

A Drink of the Gods!

16 Sep

So, last post I chatted to y’all about the food.

The spread we’re putting on gives everyone a chance to eat something we think they’d enjoy, so we’re pretty happy with our choice!

Another thing Mr Big and I needed to mull over was the beverages, and this task was a lot easier for us than the catering. At Tamburlaine, the packages include wine, sparkling wine, beer, soft drinks, and juice. They probably have water there as well (it’s just not stated on the package). We’ve also requested sparkling grape juice for the pre-teens who want something sparkly to drink during toasts (or just during the party).

The wine to be drunk will be either from the Wine Lovers Range or the Members Reserve from Tamburlaine Wines. The wines are said to be organic, and therefore, the hangover is meant to be less severe. We’ll be going for the Wine Lovers Range and over the course of the planning year-and-a-half, have sampled the wines.

Like the food, there were several things we needed to consider for our guests:

  1. My family and friends aren’t big wine drinkers. The wine I do manage to get them to drink are mostly the sweeter wines – Moscato, late harvest Rieslings, and botrytis.
  2. Mr Big is a BIG red wine drinker, which is ironic since he’s a Kiwi, and the Kiwi climate is better suited for white wines and milder reds, like the Pinot Noir. His favourite red drink is the Shiraz.
  3. I’m a white wine drinker. I love my sweeter wines, but really don’t mind anything else. I like my wines to be milder, and can drink red wines with a softer character.
  4. There will be Kiwis there, so we need to accommodate for them too. New Zealand is known for their white wines, specifically Sauvignon Blanc and Rieslings. That means we need a good range of white wines which will please the Kiwi palette.
  5. Not everyone is a wine drinker, so we needed some alcoholic beverages which weren’t wine. Enter my dad, who knows his beers
  6. There will be kids there and teenagers under 18! We needed to ensure they were happy with their drinks too. (The legal drinking age is 18 in Australia, as opposed to 21.)

With all of that said, here is what we’ll be drinking:

White Wines:

Red Wines:

Sparkling:

Light beer: Hahn Light

Standard beers: (choice of 2)

  • Tooheys New
  • Pure Blonde

Spirits: On a per consumption basis of $7 / nip

Non-alcoholic Drinks:

  • Orange juice
  • Water
  • Soft drinks
  • Sparkling grape juice

First off, let’s go through why we chose those particular wines.

Basically, these are the wines that showcased the flavours of Tamburlaine, and particularly, of Australia. I’m not patriotic (although I do like Australia), but we thought it would be pretty bad form to give Kiwis Sauv Blancs and Rieslings from an Australian winery. Hunter Valley is known for their Verdelhos, so we wanted to showcase this by using the Verdelho as a wine. The Marsanne was chosen because it was unique – it was mild, flavoursome, and easy-drinking. The Late Harvest Riesling was chosen for my family and friends – it’s not too heavy, it’s mildly sweet, and so, good to drink for those who aren’t really into wine but wanted to drink something alcoholic other than beer.

The red wines were easy to choose. Shiraz was chosen because Mr Big loves it, and it’s his wedding. He felt bad for wanting to choose it, since not everyone is a Shiraz-drinker, but I told him that, if we were going to have a wedding, the Shiraz needed to be present. The GSM is similar to the Marsanne – it’s unique, mild and easy to drink. I love drinking the GSM because it makes me feel classy, without the heaviness of the Shiraz. The Rose was again, another easy choice. It’s a red drink, but it’s not heavy like most reds. It’s a good one for my friends and family who don’t drink too much and want something mild.

Both sparkling wines were chosen simply because they’re awesome. Who doesn’t love drinking a bubbly beverage? What’s even better is Tamburlaine will be adding splashes of fruit juices to their Vintage Blanc de Blanc during cocktail hour to add some extra flavour. The Scarlett Bubbles is the closest thing Tamburlaine have to a Moscato, so I know my friends will be chugging that one down.

The rest of the drinks are pretty self-explanatory. For those who don’t drink wine, we have beer. Mr Big and I aren’t too fond of beer. He can drink it, I can barely drink it (read: get halfway through one bottle and give the rest to Mr Big). My dad, a big beer drinker, suggested those three, so we decided to go with his choices, since we trust him wholeheartedly!

The non-alcoholic drinks will be for our guests ages 0-17. My junior bridesmaid/Groom’s Homie Oddball will be of that group, so they’ll be drinking fruit juices, soft drinks, sparkling grape juices, and perhaps even water. We wanted to make sure the kids were happy with the choices of drinks, so we added the sparkling grape juice, particularly for the pre-teens like Oddball.

Spirits, unfortunately, are dished out on a per-consumption basis of $7 per nip. I’m sort of glad about this, because I don’t want (too many) shots at the wedding. If our bridesmaids or groomsmen buy a round of nips for a round of shots, well, ok, that’s their choice, but I’m not a big spirit drinker to begin with (it goes STRAIGHT to my head) so I’m sort of happy that spirits are on a per consumption basis…

And that’s our drinks folks! What do you think? Did we consider our guests? Do you think it’s good that Mr Big and I chose the Shiraz over, say, a Merlot? Do you think anyone will be bummed out that the spirits will be on a per consumption basis?

A Weekend at the Hunter: Wine Tastings, Cheese Platters, Good Food and Crappy Skin

9 Sep

Good afternoon good folk!

This weekend was AH-mazing.

We (GP, MoH M&M, M&M’s boyfie who will now be called Don, and myself) drove up on the Friday night to Broke, a smaller section of the greater Hunter Valley Wine Area. The journey there was CREEPY AS CRAP, as we had to drive through small country roads and it was literally pitch black all around us. Add to that listening to Nightvale podcasts which would make H.P. Lovecraft proud, and it was a creepy, thought entertaining, ride to the Rosa House in Broke.

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The Rosa House – an old-fashioned farmstay! ❤ // Personal image

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The view from GP and my bedroom // Personal image.

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The porch out back – with dining table, barbeque, and a stunning view // Personal image

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The stunning view! // Personal image

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The dining room and GP ❤ // Personal image

[Just to note: these were taken on the day we left, at Junior Homie Oddball’s request. She couldn’t come with us since she had to stay at home and so homework. She also had Chinese school on Saturday and didn’t want to miss it. She’s such a diligent kid!]

When we did make it, we settled in for two rounds of Dominion and then called it a night. The bed was uber comfy and I fell asleep almost instantly!

The next morning was glorious! It was a warm day (about 31 degrees Celsius) and cloudy, so enough coverage for it to be relatively cool. There was also a slight breeze, which made the day just that little perfect. We took M&Ms and Don around the Hunter Valley wine area and showed them the sights.

Despite the fact that my oldest sister is my MoH, she hadn’t been on any of the previous Hunter Valley trips with us, so hadn’t seen any of the wedding stuff at all. This trip was the first time she had seen the reception space and got an idea where we were also having the ceremony (I don’t think she’s been inside the Gardens where we’re having the ceremony either).

Anyway, we toured them around, bought (several) bottles of wine, had some gelato, and then went to the wine-tasting that was included as a part of the accommodation package. The particular place we went to was called Ascella Wines, and they do all organic wines. They also had an organic cheese platter and the cheeses were TO DIE FOR. The wines were pretty amazing too. At the end of the tasting, we bought a whole lot of Shiraz wine and some Pina Colada RTD-type drinks.

By this point, however, my skin decided to tell me to EFF OFF and had decided to break out. Now, previous to THAT, I was getting a few pimples too. So by the time we got back to the Rosa House, my eyelids had puffed out, my skin was hot and rashy and my face wasn’t looking particularly appealing.

I slept it off for a little bit and then we had to get ready for dinner.

Dinner was at Leaves & Fishes.

Now for those who don’t know Leaves & Fishes, it is an amazing little restaurant which catches its fish daily from the (man-made) lake which the restaurant is built on! It’s a nice little place with awesome atmosphere, good staff and most of all, AWESOME FOOD. Here’s a picture!

Photo

Us at Leaves & Fishes, stuffed from the food. From left to right: GP, myself, MoH M&Ms, and Don / Personal image.

(Can you not see how… blotchy I look? BLAH.)

Anyway, after an awesome dinner and conversations, we returned home, played some more card games, and then passed out for sleep. By the time I woke up in the morning, my skin was blotchy, my pimples had grown to enormous sizes, and I was looked haggard. GP managed to make me feel pretty, regardless, but BOY was I dreading the makeup and hair trial…

Next up, THE HAIR AND MAKEUP TRIAL.

Accommodating the guests!

18 May

Hey Hive!

On 18 May, Mr Big and I took a nice morning jaunt up to the Hunter Valley. It was an awesome and very fulfilling trip. We managed to get a lot done in the time we were up there. Among these things we have found our baker for the wedding (more on that soon!), bought A LOT of bottles of moscato (and also found out that a few vineyards up there recognise us by face!), picked up more empty wine bottles for our DIY project, and most importantly, looked at accommodation for our guests.

When we first started planning a vineyard wedding in the Hunter Valley, the first and foremost issue that was constantly brought up to us was ”where will the guests stay?”. Good question, Mr Big and I would say, we’ll try to find something. I searched high and low for a hotel that would fit our guests comfortably and also provide nice furnishings. It had to be affordable, it had to be in the Hunter Valley Wine Area, and it had to be nice.

The reasons we needed these properties were simple:

  • we have overseas guests coming and so we needed an affordable price point for these guests
  • we didn’t want our guests having to drive more than an hour to get to our ceremony and reception – ten minutes tops was our cap
  • we wanted our guests to enjoy their time staying at the Hunter

I’ll be honest, guys. I had no idea where to look. I had never stayed in the Hunter at that point and I knew of the hotels but had never stayed there before. So I was stumped people. I threw around a lot of suggestions to Mr Big: Mercure Resort, Cam-Way Estate, Sebel Kirkton.

All of my suggestions was taken with a “hmm… maybe…” by the fiancé and so it got to a point where – it being too early to really do much about the guest-accommodation problem – I let it go and put it on the backburner.

However, in August of 2012, Mr Big’s parents came to stay. De Papa and Mumma Big had previously come over to Australia in July of 2010, ironically a week after I had met Mr Big. They travelled up to the Hunter Valley, and during that time, they stayed in a two-bedroom villa at the Crowne Plaza Resort. All three of them loved it there, but when it came time to plan guest accommodation during our wedding in 2014, he had totally forgotten the Crowne could do group bookings. Luckily MIL/Mumma Big was savvy enough to tell us about it:

“We’re going to stay at the Crowne Plaza. It was lovely there when we stayed before,” said MIL/Mumma Big.

And I was sold.

Mr Big’s mumma is a lovely woman and has good taste in these sorts of things, so I trusted her judgment. A month or so later, Mr Big called the hotel and got a group booking! So, is this the end of the guest accommodation saga? Well, not quite.

When 12 months to the wedding tricked down to 9 months to the wedding, I asked Mr Big if we could potentially take a look at the hotel rooms at the Crowne. You see, the Crowne has both hotel rooms (deluxe rooms, king rooms, spa suites, etc.) and villas (two- and three-bedroom). So I wanted to ensure that, 1) the hotel would take your breath away, 2) the rooms would do the same thing. Unfortunately, April passed without us heading up to the Hunter (shame on us) but come May, I was eager for another trip up.

When we got to the Crowne Plaza, I immediately told myself that (1) had been fulfilled. It is a stunning hotel with absolutely HUGE grounds and a lake out the front. When we went for a tour around (in a buggy, booyah!) there were black swans floating serenely on the lake.

There are also heaps of things to do at the hotel itself like taking a trip down to the spa, hanging out in the leisure room (Xbox, the PlayStation, arcade games), playing on the various outdoors-y sports type equipment, playing giant chess and jenga (yes – you read that right) and swimming in their HUGE freaking pool.

crowne_chess and jenga

On the left, Mr Big and giant Jenga; on the right, giant chess in the balcony courtyard. / Personal images.

They also assist in guest transport, wine tours, and drinks (you can request the bar to be open earlier for your guests – yes you can).

We didn’t get to go inside the rooms, purely because there was a special event on (the Lovedale Long Lunch, which Mr Big and I want to do one of these days), but they gave us information and contact details of someone to contact who will give us a tour around these rooms.

We went away a happy future-bridegroom-and-bride and can’t wait to see our guests’ reactions to the sheer awesome of the hotel. We also can’t wait on the wedding day when Mr Big can get some amazing photos around the Crowne with his groomsmen!

Did anyone else inspect their accommodation prior to the Big Day? Who’s just as excited about giant Jenga? 🙂

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?

A hectic weekend!

15 Aug

Hey all!

So, the in-laws have left for Brisbane yesterday, which means life resumes back to its normal routine. The weekend was hectic but awesome. On Friday we ate at an Italian restaurant, “Gemelle Ristorante“. To all those who live in Australia, specifically NSW, I recommend you visit the place. The food is DIVINE. The dessert is DIVINE. The service is excellent and the ambience is beautiful. Parking isn’t too hard to find (there’s parking just down the road and a parking lot right next door).

On Saturday, GP, the in-laws and I went out shopping, first going to the Liverpool markets. After eating a bunch of awesome stuff we then jetted off to Cabramatta to pick up the cake (this will come in later!) and show the in-laws around. I took GP’s momma to look at flowers and was glad to find she loved them. Both papa-P and momma-P enjoyed the ‘Pappa Roti’ buns and milkshakes too. We then jetted off to my parent’s place for the *insert fanfare* ENGAGAMENT PARTY!

The engagement part was a success, something which made me extremely happy. The food was awesome, the entertainment was awesome, the drinks kept flowing and I got to see friends who I hadn’t seen in so long. I was also extremely happy to find that everyone enjoyed the cake my ma and I picked out. It was a white sponge cake with taro filling and fresh fruit on top. They all enjoyed it, even those who don’t normally eat Asian-flavoured cakes. I don’t have many photos from the night but it was a great night and I wouldn’t have changed it any other way.

That brings us to Sunday. My parents, GP’s parents, GP and I headed up to the Hunter Valley. That’s where we want to hold our wedding and we had a look around at different venues. We also bought some bottles of wine, cheese and visited the Hunter Valley Chocolate shop to ask about chocolate favours! Overall it was an awesome day and the weather stayed nice and warm throughout most of the day (with some wind, but not much). We’ve wittled down our venue choices to the Tamburlaine Organic Winery and Mercure Hunter Valley Resort. Both are absolutely stunning! That night we went to a Chinese restaurant known as “The Eight“. Their steak with foie gras is SO GOOD. They also do an ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS Peking duck. It was the parent-in-laws’ (elect) first time eating Peking duck and they loved it, which made my papa really happy.

On Monday, I worked in the morning so I didn’t get to hang out with GP and his parents at the Parramatta shopping centre, but I met them there and we headed off to my parents’ place for some traditional Indonesian sate (satay). It was a relaxing, awesome post-engagement lunch. After spending a few hours there we headed back home for a movie (John Carter – a must watch!) and then headed off to dinner at Top Ryde – an awesome steak bistro called Hurricane’s. After a huge dinner (I was so incredibly full!) we headed back home and went to bed.

Finally, on Tuesday, papa-P and momma-P left for Brisbane for the rest of their holiday. Unfortunately, GP left for Adelaide that night, so I’ve been staying with my parents for the meantime. But the weekend was awesome! 🙂