After Richenda and I finally settled on a guest list, we knew it'd be a pressing task to find somewhere to hold both the ceremony and reception. As a starting point, we come up with a checklist – what we want in a venue:
1. With Auckland's unpredictable weather, we need a place that caters to all and any weather.
2. Richenda's family is coming from Ireland and most of mine are coming from Perth and Tauranga – we want a place that showcases the scenic splendour of our fine city and country.
3. We love nature, so want a place connected to it – either with views of the sea or a lake, or surrounded by beautiful gardens and trees.
4. We have many foodie friends and are foodies ourselves. Really good food is important.
5. We want to avoid transport pressures, so a place that can cater for the ceremony and reception is necessity.
6. Because we have opted for a black tie dress code, we need a venue where black tie fits. Read: it has to be classy.
7. Again, to save transport stress (and to ensure a range of convenient hotels for our out-of-town guests) we want a venue close to the city.
Phew. Quite a list. It's a bit like trying to find the right person to marry. What are we prepared to compromise on? We don't even know yet.
We quickly establish there is an abundance of unique and engaging wedding venues in Auckland, and begin to investigate everything from intimate boutique wineries to the grand Auckland Museum – there, you can hold the ceremony in the (beautiful) surrounding gardens only a mere meander from the museum itself, where you can have the reception. Talk about showcase Auckland! We check out Puketutu Island, various venues and wineries on Waiheke and west Auckland, Mantells in Mt Eden and On the Water, Orakei... the list goes on.
I again make a feeble attempt to convince Richenda that simplification is a good idea. Big mistake – she bursts into tears. I have to console her, and quickly realise it’s best not to mention practicality or cost.
We go back to our priority list and, after much research, decide to make an appointment with The Wharf.
The staff suggest we attend an introduction evening, so we arrange one. The Wharf is amazing – clearly run by people who place a lot of value on food and wine. There are tantalising nibbles on offer that, we’re told, can be served on our big day if we so choose. The wine selection is broad, the staff attentive but not in our face, the fire burns gently, music plays, the view nothing short of spectacular... it’s a bit like when you're looking to buy a piece of furniture, a car or a home. You know the rules: maintain your poker face at all costs, and try not to show how much you want it.
The people that take care of this place are good, though. They walk us through a variety of options on offer as we stuff our faces with nibbles, a glass of wine in hand, creating the picture, if you will, of how our day could be. It's no time at all before we find ourselves being carried away in the fantasy of our big day.
I imagine Richenda and I holding hands up on the balcony, watched over and celebrated by our loved ones and friends. I can hear the gentle, delicate clinking of champagne glasses as we're surrounded in the soft smells of spectacular floral arrangements mixed with wafts of an enticing feast.
The icing on the cake is The Wharf management’s willingness to take care of all the details for us. As you can imagine, this is music to my ears, and worth (for low stress levels alone) making the necessary sacrifices and stretching our hard-earned dollar. How much is stress (or a lack of it) worth?
We leave knowing that if we can work out prices we can live with, this could very well be the first major stake in getting this wedding off the ground.