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How to choose your Wairarapa wedding venue: 10 things to consider

Wairarapa marquee wedding

One of the first decisions you will need to make as a freshly engaged couple, is where you will make your commitment to each other. It's a choice that could be easy and come naturally. You may find it challenging or overwhelming with such a lot of fabulous venues available. There are purpose built wedding venues, gardens, vineyards, parks, forests, farms, family houses, beaches, marquees, village halls, conference centres, hotels: you can get married anywhere!

But choosing your Wairarapa wedding venue can be made simpler when considering these 10 tips. I've packed in a tonne of venue suggestions and links for you too. Scroll down for a bonus Tip Number 11!

I'm Sarah: I provide outdoorsy couples who hate awkward poses, getting married in the Wairarapa, with documentary-style photography by a new best friend. So you will feel relaxed, and your photos will be an authentic memory of your day.

You may like to check out my Wairarapa wedding photography.

1. Meaning

bride and groom walking over rocks with trees on their wedding day, Wairarapa wedding photographer

Consider choosing a place that has meaning to one or both of you as a couple. These are my absolute favourite weddings to photograph, when the venue is personal. For Gemma, there was only one place she and Sam could be married, her grandparent's farm just outside Martinborough. Other family weddings were held here and the house, paddocks and hills resonated with many memories.

Another example of a meaningful wedding venue could be on the beach at Castlepoint. You may have spent your childhood school holidays at the bach eating fish and chips from the store on the waterfront.

What places have meaning to you?

2. Vibe

wedding party walking under arch of pink flowers, Wairarapa wedding photographer

What vibe or feeling does the wedding venue have? Is it vintage-y (that's totally a word!) and elegant like Rose & Smith at Tauherenikau; rustic and relaxed like the Castlepoint Station Woolshed; or leafy and eco-friendly like Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre?

Does the vibe of the venue gel with who you are as people? Does it reflect the style of wedding you want to have? If a venue is outdoors in a muddy field with a cracking cliff-top view and you imagine your 200 guests in black tie attire, it may not be the right venue for you. However if you want a relaxed celebration with your closest family and friends (and are cool with walking boots and wellies!) then that paddock is just right.

3. Location

chalkboard welcoming guests to an outdoor wedding, Wairarapa wedding photographer

In what area is the venue located? Do you whakapapa to that region? Does it have significance? For example you could have been born at Mount Bruce and love the little hall on the side of the road (Mount Bruce Hall). Henley Lake in Masterton could hold precious memories of your first date feeding the ducks. You may love spending quality time with your girlfriends on lazy wine soaked Sundays in Martinborough.

4. Size

newly married couple walking down the steps of a historic building, Wairarapa wedding photographer

How many guests would you like to invite? Don't forget yourselves, partners and kids <yay or nay>) and work out how many people your venue needs to accommodate.

A boutique venue like vineyard Poppies Martinborough have a very different feel to the larger Peppers Parehua: both are gorgeous.

Size matters for marquees too. Chat to Shelley or Rachel at Festival Hire with your guest list in hand to find out what sort of marquee would suit you.

5. Accessibility

grandfather in a wheelchair being pushed across grass at a wedding, Wairarapa wedding photographer

Consider grandad off-roading in his wheelchair; your 6 month old niece in her pram; and your partner's 98 year old Nonna. Can they tackle the hike over the sand dunes to the beach at Lake Ferry you have planned? Similarly are there stairs at the venue to enter or move between ceremony and reception areas?

6. Travel

bride and her bridesmaids outside with vintage wedding car, Wairarapa wedding photographer

What are the logistics of getting to the venue and where are your guests coming from? Do most of them live locally in the Wairarapa; will they come "over the hill" from Wellington; or further afield within New Zealand or overseas? How will people get to your ceremony and is that the same location as your reception? Things to consider include: driving distance and time; whether it's a sealed, gravel or four wheel drive only road; or whether you put on a bus for guests from a central pick up point to your wedding and back again (Tranzit can help!).

Also think about yourselves: how will you get there from where you are getting ready?

Some wedding businesses may need to travel to your venue. Such as your cake designer delivering your cake; your florist installing flowers and any hired tents and items being delivered and set up. Is travel included in quoted prices? Be sure to ask.

Travel times need to be taken into account with your photographer, especially if getting ready, ceremony and/or your reception are in different spots.

An example of an easily accessible venue from Wellington is Tarureka Estate in Featherston (1 hour drive). Mount Holdsworth is a great forest option only 20 minutes from Masterton.

Longer travel times aren't necessarily a bad thing. If the place is right for you it will be magical. We're so lucky to have such amazing coastline which can be up to 2 and a half hour's drive from Wellington. Don't forget guests will be unlikely to be travelling straight from home in Welly, the airport or ferry to your wedding. They will likely be staying the night before locally. Which leads nicely to my next point!

7. What's nearby?

grandparents sitting on a porch courch eating ice creams, Wairarapa wedding photographer

In the same vein as travelling to your venue, what sort of things are nearby? Does it matter that your getting married in the middle of nowhere? Sounds delightful!

Is there accommodation, camp grounds, things to do, beaches, cafes and/or supermarkets nearby? Are they necessary?

Some places might surprise you! The ruggedly beautiful beach at Ngawi is isolated, but the tiny villiage has everything you might need: camping, accommodation, kids playground, coffee and fish and chips!

8. What is provided/included?

groom and best man standing outside with portable kitchen, Wairarapa wedding photographer

If you're leaning towards an established venue, what is provided by them? Things such as space to hold your ceremony and reception; food and drinks; microphones and speakers; serving staff and cleaning (plus heaps more).

If you're considering private property or a marquee wedding, what do you need to arrange yourself? Stuff like: crockery and cutlery; tables and chairs; flooring and lighting; generators and porta-loos! Only you will know what level of organisation you're happy coordinating.

At established wedding venues there is often a wedding coordinator to guide you through the process and to make your wedding planning and day go as smoothly as possible. You can choose to do this on your own. I do highly recommend engaging a wedding planner. Not only do they relieve stress sometimes associated with planning a wedding; they are experts in bringing your vision to life! We are so lucky to have the amazing Paula Bevege here in the Wairarapa, one of the best wedding and event planners in New Zealand.

9. Bad-weather back up

groom assisting bride to walk down steps rustic woolshed, Wairarapa wedding photographer

What will you do if it rains (apart from have epic water droplet, moody cloudy wedding photos!)? Or is super windy, hailing or snowing (or maybe snow is what you're aiming for!). Wherever you choose, make sure there is a plan B. Make sure you love it as much as your plan A so you're not disappointed on the day.

The spectacular Lake Ferry Hotel has a gorgeous arbor outside perfectly framing the ocean view. However you can also move under the veranda or inside the venue if the weather turns bad.

10. Budget

bride with her bridesmaids walking down gravel path with trees, Wairarapa wedding photographer

And the final thing to consider when choosing your Wairarapa wedding venue is price. You'll notice I've left this 'till the end.

Because if the place is meaningful to you, has the right vibe, location, is just the right distance from wherever, has everything you want/don't want and Aunt Beryl can roll there: price doesn't matter!

Bonus Tip 11. Availability

happy bride with bridesmaid, Wairarapa wedding photographer

Oh and one more thing: before you start printing invitations, check your favourite place is available on your wedding day!

I hope these 10 things to consider will help you easily find the wedding venue that's just right for you.

I'm Sarah: I provide outdoorsy couples who hate awkward poses, getting married in the Wairarapa and Tararua regions, with documentary-style photography by a new best friend, so you will feel relaxed, and your photos will be an authentic memory of your day.

You may like to check out my Wairarapa wedding photography.

Lots of love, Sarah xx


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