Whether it be on a white sandy beach, under a canopy of tall native trees, or in stunning park-like surrounds, the coastal Bay of Plenty offers such a variety of wedding locations - people are simply spoilt for choice.
With most weddings held over the summer period, it makes perfect sense that this sun-baked holiday region should play host to the most celebrated, forward-looking day of a couple’s life.
From the moment of popping that emotionally-charged question to being chauffeured away to your honeymoon getaway, there are numerous details to consider as part of the overall wedding package.
The entire sub-region, including Tauranga, Mount Maunganui, Papamoa, Te Puke and Katikati is literally packed with wedding venues, caterers, designers, stylists, florists, entertainers, photographers and celebrants.
The first decision to make for those ‘tying the knot’ is usually the location of the wedding ceremony. This can be quite a tricky one, depending on the interests and tastes of both parties. Fortunately, this diverse region has a generous serving of scenic spots to meet all needs. Your choice of venue will depend, among other things, on the number of invited guests as well as the level of comfort you wish to provide.
While many elegant churches around the region continue to provide the answer for traditional wedding ceremonies, many locals opt for some of the more ‘fashionable’ venues on offer. With such a stunning coastline, it’s a common summer sight to see a shoe-less couple making their wedding vows on a Mt Maunganui beach - with the sand dunes, and offshore islands providing idyllic backdrops for the photo shoot. Bear in mind, it’s advisable to have a back-up option – just in case the weather refuses to co-operate. You don’t want the bridal party’s hairstyles messed up!
If you’d rather keep your shoes on and feet dry, then you could savour your ‘big day’ at the top or the base of iconic Mt Maunganui (Mauao) - or even perhaps the picturesque tip of Moturiki Island (Leisure Island) at the Mount’s main beach. It’s difficult not to be wowed by this beautiful focal point of the region.
Papamoa’s Bluebiyou Restaurant & Function Venue has been the chosen coastal spot for many a wedding. It caters for up to 100 people in the Pacific Deck or you can hire the entire venue for larger groups. Other prominent venues include Mt Maunganui Surf Club, and Baypark Stadium.
Over the harbour bridge in Tauranga is Sulphur Point Marina, a haven for boats and yachts which provides panoramic views of the harbour and Mauao. A lot of ceremonies are held here, or out on the harbour aboard various charter boats. Still on the Tauranga side of the harbour, for a touch of real class, there’s the city’s only five-star international hotel, Sebel Trinity Wharf and its Halo restaurant.
Another location that provides some picture perfect memories is McLarens Falls Park. It consists of 170 hectares of lakeland park set among pastoral farming and horticulture, containing one of the best botanical collections of trees in the North Island.
Tauranga is where you’ll find the bulk of popular venues that cater for both wedding ceremonies and receptions. They provide more shelter than the beach, with the bush, gardens, fountains and elevated views all on offer at different venues.
Up to 170 people often fill the Tauranga Yacht & Power Boat Club at Sulphur Point, and current bookings emphasise its popularity. A short distance away is Charthouse which holds up to 130 people and also offers impressive harbour views.
In the centre of Tauranga is The Elms. Tauranga’s most historic building, dating back to 1835, it boasts a chapel and beautiful gardens which make it an ideal central city spot for a wedding. The region has many other churches that are ideal for the big day – such as the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Devonport Road.
One of the oldest and most popular wedding ceremony and photo shoot venues is the Historic Village on 17th Avenue. It has a collection of original and replica buildings taken from early Tauranga and in a unique historic village setting, with gorgeous gardens and bush surrounds. The complex has one of the city’s most historic chapels.
A short drive south of Tauranga is Pyes Pa, with three popular wedding establishments, catering for both ceremonies and receptions. Olive Tree Cottage is an old homestead nestled on 40 acres of rural land surrounded by spectacular gardens. This popular venue provides a stylish alternative to a home-based marquee arrangement. Pixham Gardens is also highly regarded for ‘enchanting’ gardens with a lily pond in a tranquil environment. At Ambiance in Pyes Pa, the gardens were created with weddings in mind – and you can exchange your vows under a 40 year-old Copper Beach tree.
Heading north of Tauranga is the fast-growing, affluent suburb of Bethlehem. The well known art-deco Mills Reef Winery caters for all manner of events throughout the year, including weddings. The award-winning winery has seating for up to 140 people inside, and also offers a marquee for up to 300 guests on its sprawling 20 hectares, which features liberal plantings of ornamental trees, colourful flowering shrubs and a sea of agapanthus. An underground aged wine cellar with impressive vaulted ceilings is also available as a wet weather alternative. Helicopters can land on the grounds, for those who choose high-flying wedding transport.
About 20 minutes drive north of Tauranga is Te Puna, and three of the most sought-after venues in the region. Charlemagne Lodge combines a blend of original Victorian features and elevated views of the adjoining I’Anson Reserve. Cascade Fountain Gardens takes beauty and tranquillity to another level, inviting guests down a leafy pathway to a canopy of tall native trees and giant bamboo, complete with an old wishing well and waterfalls. Te Puna Quarry Park adds a quirky note to an array of attractive wedding venues. It is a community development of environmental arts, with panoramic views of the Bay of Plenty, stone sculptures, ponds and native and exotic plants.
About 30 minutes drive either side of Tauranga city centre are the rural towns of Katikati and Te Puke, both of which provide quality of their own on the wedding venue scene. Crindau Lodge is a remote executive retreat, offering a mix of Asia-Pacific style and majestic views of the entire Bay of Plenty. Fantail Lodge also located in Katikati, is one of New Zealand’s finest lodges, set amid 40 acres of gardens, with rocky creeks and subtropical plantations. Both venues provide the full wedding package. Finally to Te Puke, where Kiwi 360 – the region’s iconic kiwifruit theme park - provides 13.5 hectares of stunning park-like surrounds and orchards. This multi-purpose complex with its own restaurant provides a comprehensive package for bride and groom, including the unique option of romantic helicopter rides, making this one a top pick for wedding ceremonies and receptions.
The options are almost endless when shopping for the other all-important wedding service specialists. Local catering companies include Tauranga Catering, Kooks Catering, Alimento and Kiwi Spit Roast Company. You don’t have to look far to find marriage celebrants, planners, a horse carriage hirer, personalised poetry, bundles of award-winning photographers and oodles of other specialists.
All these ingredients combine to make the wonderfully balanced Tauranga sub-region undoubtedly one of the country’s best places to get married!
Researched and written by Dave Manville