Bullshit-free bride: My guide to finding a wedding venue in Auckland

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I used to keep a mental tally, when I was younger, of all the mature things I achieved that day vs the stupid things that let me down. For example, I might have come up with a witty retort to someone insulting me (unlikely, I’ve never been quick on my feet, unlike some of the silvertongued out there) but managed to trip and fall flat on my face in front of a crowd of people.

Well, if I was still doing that, I could definitely add crying on the streets of Avondale to the latter column. I can’t remember the last time I cried in public, and this was quite humiliating. We’d just seen our first possible wedding venue, which I had high hopes for (FIRST BIG MISTAKE). It wasn’t quite what I thought – smaller and dimmer than the stunning pictures I’d seen suggested – and the proprietor was both intimidating and reticent.

Interviewing is the worst part of my job, for me, especially in-person interviews. Love the writing; not so much the dealing with people. And it’s been a long time since I dealt with someone so … not forthcoming. Someone I had to drag every word out of. Not the kind of person I want to be dealing with when it comes to wedding planning.

We left, crossed the street to where T’s motorbike was parked, and I melted into a hot, teary mess. I think I was PMS-y at the time, and blubbed for about 10 minutes. It was a totally disproportionate reaction to the situation, but that’s what went down. Bridezilla, stay your ground.

So, not the most auspicious start to wedding venue recon.


The next place, while there was a bit of a kerfuffle to get there (a bit of phone tag, T having to work late and throwing our appointment into jeopardy, etc), was an entirely different experience. The staff were friendly but laid-back and instantly made me feel at ease. The deal was sealed when I learned the onsite chapel is being de-sanctified. I may have said this before, but neither of us is religious, so a church wedding didn’t feel right to me. A church that isn’t a church? So very, very us.

So it’s official: the Corban Estate Arts Centre is the place for us, with its little chapel, and its ex-wine cellar that’s now a function room.

Of course, it wasn’t as easy as that. We may only have visited two places, but before that came countless hours spent on Google, wedding forums, and so many venue aggregation sites.

I excluded so many venues that didn’t advertise prices simply based on their website. It’s pretty obvious which ones are swanky and beyond the budget. I emailed a couple more and got slammed with sticker shock. And of course, any venues that I’d seen in the pages of NZ Weddings (copies of which I sneakily browsed during my lunch hour at work) were automatically out. (Same for any business seen in that magazine, really. If they can afford to advertise in there, I can’t afford them.)

For anyone who’s interested, some other places I considered and discarded for various reasons were:

Aside from price, the other major issue was finding somewhere to hold both ceremony and reception. It was friggin’ impossible. Another two places I was seriously considering – and that would have been next on my viewing list – are Beaufords Totara Park and the Botanic Gardens, which would have catered for both parts of the wedding and had reasonable all-inclusive per person rates.

Choosing Corban means choosing DIY over convenience. The things about choosing a venue that is all about hosting events and has its own staff and does its own catering is that much of the work is taken care of for you. Going the other route may be cheaper, but it means YOU have to take care of all the logistics. The former sounds appealing in many ways – I’d quite like to peel off into the sunset at the end of the day and have that be that – but at the same time, I’m really happy with this choice. It sets the whole tone for the wedding and reflects who we are – down to earth, unfussy, casual. T suggested having a backyard hangi for our reception many moons ago, which I promptly quashed. But we’re both definitely more homestyle BBQ than we are get-dressed-up-and-visit-a-five-star-restaurant. This feels right.

And so it begins. There’ll be posts in the future, no doubt, about my adventures in planning a BS-free wedding. I don’t have the time, energy or headspace to deal with any drama, and that is going to be my guiding principle.

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