How We Chose Our Wedding Venue

Choosing your wedding venue is not an easy decision — at least it wasn’t for us. We originally anticipated having our wedding in Canada, close to where I grew up, before figuring out how much easier it’d be to plan if we had it in New Zealand.

After establishing the country where we’d have our nuptials, we set out to find an appropriate venue. We wanted to make sure our big day reflected us as a couple, so we narrowed our options down to two locations: Christchurch and Akaroa. Christchurch because it’s where we’re based and Akaroa because it’s more of a destination spot that still holds a lot of importance to us. Not only is it where we got engaged but it’s where we spend many weekends, including our birthdays and anniversaries.

We tentatively booked a beautiful venue in Akaroa, but later changed our minds. I felt guilty going back on my decision, but fortunately we hadn’t made a deposit. We both liked but didn’t LOVE the venue. The views were next level, but there were a few elements that weren’t quite ‘us’.  We both could’ve lived with these drawbacks had the price not been so steep. If you’re in a similar position, think carefully about your priorities. We ended up going back to the drawing board, this time looking at venues right in Christchurch.

As much as we wanted a destination with dramatic views and breathtaking landscapes, Nick and I are city people at heart. We live and work in the CBD and cycling is our primary means of transportation. It felt like a bit of a contradiction to get married outside the city and make our guests drive 1.5 hours to get to our wedding. I know that probably sounds absurd to most people, but we’re huge advocates for the rebuild and the prosperity of the city. We wanted to support our local vendors who make Christchurch such an attractive place to live. Plus, we had a sneaky desire to cycle to our wedding (or at least give our guests the option).

So, where to start in Christchurch? There are actually several incredible venues right in the heart of the city. We tossed up between Christchurch Art Gallery, The Great Hall and the Centre of Contemporary Art… all three are absolutely stunning options that would fit us perfectly. We then considered a few more historic options. Christchurch’s architecture is such an interesting mix of old and new and we realized how special it would be to get married in a heritage building as they are few and far between.

This is what led us to Local at Riccarton House & Bush. Dean’s Cottage is the oldest building in Canterbury and the thought of getting married in the bush felt pretty special. We hadn’t really considered Riccarton House as a venue despite being regulars at the Christchurch Farmers Market every Saturday. After undergoing renovations following the earthquakes, it’s looking as spiffy as ever. It’s also very spacious with excellent indoor-outdoor flow, and we like the idea of having options for different parts of the day.


So, we planned our visit and were blown away by the historic homestead. I don’t want to give too much away before our big day, but I’m looking forward to getting ready upstairs with my girls and walking down the beautiful old staircase before saying our vows amongst some of the oldest trees in the region, and dancing the night away.

There’s a lot of pressure attached to choosing a wedding venue. It’s usually the first big decision you make after getting engaged. It can be all too easy to blow your budget on an incredible venue (believe me, we almost did…) I urge you to think outside the box, look at restaurants, art galleries, gardens and halls. Friends of ours got married in a modest school hall and it was gorgeous!


New Zealand is a wedding destination, many couples travel from all over the world to get married here. The venues available to us throughout the country can feel infinite, even overwhelming. If you choose a venue that reflects your relationship and identity, you’ve set the tone for your big day.


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All imagery by Jillian Miller Photography.

This post was written in partnership with Local at Riccarton House & Bush, but all opinions are my own. 


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