Tag Archives: hvg

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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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

The Sunken Garden:

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

The Oriental Garden:

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

And the Lakes Walk:

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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)
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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…

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

…and Mr Big stumbled across Tamburlaine.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Talking venues! and we have a date!

23 Oct

Hello readers,

How long has it been!? Sorry for the long, long absence guys. It’s been a quiet few months ’cause the fiance and I have been waiting and waiting on a date. We FINALLY have one! YAAAAAY! (It only took 6-and-a-bit months…). Now the wedding ride really starts. As the title suggests, I will be talking about different venues we’ve been thinking about (though the title could also suggest that the venues themselves can talk… but seriously, what kind of venue can talk?).

We’ve been looking at different places to have the reception and ceremonies, but we’re pretty sure we’ll be having our reception at Tamburlaine Organic Winery. We haven’t booked anything yet (a fact that completely confuses my parents) but we’re having serious conversations on places to have the ceremonies. We have about four scenarios with which to do the wedding which I’ve got written down in a Word file:

Scenario 1:

Civil Ceremony: Hunter Valley Gardens

Tea Ceremony: Hunter Valley Gardens

Reception: Tamburlaine Organic Winery

Scenario 2:

Civil Ceremony: Hunter Valley Gardens

Tea Ceremony: Tamburlaine Organic Winery

Reception: Tamburlaine Organic Winery

Scenario 3:

Civil Ceremony: Hunter Valley Gardens

Tea Ceremony: Place of accomodation (where we’re staying)

Reception: Tamburlaine Organic Winery

Scenario 4:

Wedding at the Sebel Kirkton Park Hotel

Scenario 5:

Wedding at the Hunter Valley Gardens

As you all may know (if you’ve been following the blog so far), we’ll be having two ceremonies: the ‘Western’ civil ceremony and the ‘Eastern’ tea ceremony. My mother was a little bit confused about the whole thing (even though I’ve been trying to explain it to her over the past six months) but I think we’ve settled that issue. Anyway, we’ve finalised that the civil ceremony needs to be performed between 11AM-12PM because of some cultural thing that states that I (eichanist) have to be handed over by my family to GP’s family between that time (otherwise known as the “Giving Away” portion of the civil ceremony). In Chinese tradition this means the groom drives over to the bride’s house, plucks her out of her family home, and drives to his parents’ house (where the tea ceremony will take place).

Of course, this is impossible if you’re having a mini-destination wedding like GP and me. Not only that, but GP’s parents live in Christchurch, New Zealand, so having the tea ceremony there isn’t really an option. So we figured that we can incorporate this Chinese tradition into the civil ceremony. When my dad ‘gives’ me to GP, I’m being relinquished from my family and being accepted into his. Or something like that. Now the only problem is where do we have the ceremonies?

Enter the five scenarios listed above.

All five scenarios have their pros and cons. We’re trying to keep the wedding within a localised ‘suburb’ of the Hunter Valley called Pokolbin (all locations are within this area) which makes travelling a lot easier for everyone. Tamburlaine and the Hunter Valley Gardens (HVG, for short) are about 5-10 minutes apart from each other. The Sebel Kirkton Park Hotel is located a little further away, but the distance isn’t huge. If we do use the Sebel Kirkton though, we’ll be using the hotel for all of the day’s activities. To make it more transparent, I’ll break down each venue/location and make note of their pros and cons.

The Hunter Valley Gardens (HVG)

The Ceremony:

As far as we can see, when using the HVG for a reception, you get to use the Gardens at a discounted rate for ceremonies. You also get the Gardens for 2 hours for photography (including a buggy to ride around in) and there’s a wet-weather option included (which is the onsite non-denomination Chapel). The photography and the wet-weather option is included regardless of the use of the HVG as the reception, but the discounted rate on the ceremonies is a bonus, especially because we’re keen to have both the civil and the tea ceremony there.

The Garden itself has five ceremony locations:

  1. The European Formal Gardens
  2. The Sunken Garden
  3. The Waterfall Outlook
  4. The Oriental Garden
  5. The Lakes Walk Rotunda

GP and I really liked the look of the Waterfall Outlook for the civil ceremony and the Oriental Garden for the tea ceremony. Because the Oriental Garden only sits a maximum of 70 guests, we’ll only be inviting family and close friends to this one. The Waterfall Outlook is in a shaded area, so guests won’t overheat in the sun (since we’ll be getting married at about the height of January). We’re also trying to think of what to do with the bugs, since there’ll be a lot of mosquitoes and flies about.

The Reception

There are two locations: the Tempus Two Barrel Room and the Garden Terrace. GP and I like the look of the Garden Terrace if we did the wedding at the HVG. It’s basically their restaurant in the morning. We haven’t been inside, but from what I’ve seen there’s a deck with rolling doors which open up completely to create a seamless inside-outside atmosphere. The deck itself overlooks the Oriental Garden, so it’ll be perfect if we have the tea ceremony there (guests could perhaps watch while drinking pre-dinner drinks).

The venue sits approximately 110 guests on round tables and 140 on long tables. Because we’re estimating about 120 people, we’ll have to use the long table option if we use this place. The dance floor itself is outside in an amphitheatre they have there, so a live band could be set up outside. It really is a pretty venue, though there are some flaws.

The HVG doesn’t have much in the way of seafood (which is a big cultural thing during Chinese weddings). I’m not too fussy about having seafood at the wedding ’cause I’m not a big fan of seafood. Another thing about the HVG is the cost per-head. The venue hire isn’t too bad, and on Sunday (which is when we’re planning on having the wedding) there’s a 50% discount. Unfortunately, the price-per-head for HVG for the Premium package (the best one they have) stands at about $20 more than the best packages of all the other venues we’re looking at. The Deluxe package (the next one down) is about the average price of the more expensive packages in other venues. GP also didn’t like the fact that the names of their foods sound too snobbish (e.g. “rabbit ragout on a bed of…”) though they do have more humble (and yummy-sounding!) offerings.

I also have a feeling that centrepieces and decorations are all “taken care of” by the venue, which takes the decisions away from us (the bridal couple). I would like a say on what goes where and how things are presented. I know GP doesn’t really have a head for decorations, but I’m sure he wouldn’t like the control taken away. It is our wedding after all. Need to remember to bring this up when we see them (hopefully I get a reply tomorrow).

Tamburlaine Organic Winery

The Ceremony

Tamburlaine do ceremonies on the lawn just outside the venue. There’s a little seating area with French-style chairs and tables and I’ve seen the pews they use to set up for seating. The setup is simple – 4 pews with satin sashes, rose-lined aisle, a wine barrel for signing of the Marraige certificate, and a garden arch. The lawn is not as pretty as the HVG, mostly just grass and Eucalyptus trees (very Australian). Some couples have gotten married in front of the manmade lake they have there, but that lake is mostly covered by reeds from the lawn (though looks stunning on the verandah at the back of the venue). We’re not too keen to have our ceremony here, but it is an option we should think about.

The Venue

Tamburlaine’s venue is called the ‘Member’s Lodge’ and juts out onto a manmade lake (the verandah I mentioned above) surrounded by reeds. It’s really pretty. Tea lights spatter the inside and outside of the venue and the venue itself is huge. It easily fits 150 people, so fits our guest list criteria. Like the Garden Terrace at HVG, doors can be opened to go out onto the deck outside, causing a seamless inside-outside environment. This is important for GP, as that was his one major ‘want’ in regards to the venue.

Decorated, Tamburlaine looks very pretty. My parents (especially my father) has an issue with the excessive use of white because of its symbolic interpretations to death in Chinese culture, but decorators should be able to change the colours (or spatter coloured tealights throughout). Also something I have to make mention of. The interior of Tamburlaine is a dark blue, so ‘wedding colours’ might be a little difficult to incorporate. Luckily we’ve picked out two major colours: red and yellow. Add blue and what do you get?

Beauty and the Beast colours.

I’m lame, I know…

Which brings me to the next topic, Tamburlaine gives you an enormous amount of flexibility when planning the wedding. They have a ‘make your own package’ deal where you can pick and choose what you like (and don’t like) to alter the per-head cost. This means you can tailor it to your budget. Food is also extremely varied: heaps of seafood, beef, chicken, lamb, duck, etc. The down side to Tamburlaine is the fact that you can only use their wines, but having tasted their wines, it’s not too bad. The sweeter wines are very nice, a fact which you need when tailoring to my side of the family (and my friends).

Sebel Kirkton Park Hotel

The Ceremony

GP and I haven’t been to the Sebel yet, so there’s not much I can say about it. The packages look okay, so do the pictures of the locations, but GP has some reservations against it. We’ll be checking the place out 3 November and I can give a more comprehensive rundown. All’s I can tell you is the Sebel Kirkton Park has three locations to choose from for the ceremony:

  1. The Manor Garden
  2. Between the Urns
  3. Wisteria Walk

Ceremony packages are only available when the reception has been booked with the Sebel.

The Reception

As above, we haven’t checked the place out. But from pictures I’ve seen, both venues – the James Busby room and the Hunter Rothbury room – have a courtyard which you can go out too. I’m not too sure if it’s as seamless as the HVG and Tamburlaine, but the interior (from picture) looks really good. The packages are well-priced too. Unfortunately, the cheapest one is only a ‘cocktail’ function, which forces GP and I into the next package up (we want a dinner-wedding). After our visit here, I’m sure I can give more information about the place.

 

That’s all for the venues. Not much of a segue, I know. In other news, I’ll be going shopping with my bridesmaids in about… a month from now. 😀