Getting Married in a National Park: Mother Nature’s Wedding Venue

This guest post is by Terri Everett, The Dream Maker Destination Wedding & Events. Terri’s here today to discuss the logistics of getting married somewhere a little different – a national park. She’s one of very few operators who are able to marry couples within national parks, so she has a wealth of knowledge to share about getting hitched at Mother Nature’s wedding venue: New Zealand’s national parks.

Getting Married in a National Park: Mother Nature’s Wedding Venue

With a world fast changing in its attitude from traditional marriage, and the wide selection of options available to couples in New Zealand, it’s becoming one of the most popular and diverse wedding destinations in the world.

Many couples embark in making their own plans with a fear of losing their personal touch and saving their budget. But often the strain can become almost over whelming and detrimental to the couple’s future. Before committing to your Do-it-yourself wedding there should be some balanced discussion between the couple and any other members who will be involved in the finances and arrangements.

It is also advisable to consider an established professional events manager who works within the location and with the local industry providers.  This will without a doubt save you time, stress and often money. The local planner will also have the experience of any pitfalls, local weather conditions and tide times, legal access requirements and permits needed to hold an event. It is also important to check out your planner’s credentials and testimonials to give complete confidence in their ability to professionally help you with possibly one of the biggest days and investments of your life.

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Having a wedding in a different venue from the usual

There are many obstacles to master for those couples deciding to side-step the expectations of traditional marriage and choosing for a much more exclusive and practical option by combining wedding vows, perhaps with a honeymoon experience.

This style of event often inspires the more bespoke or intrepid couple.  You could choose from:

  • A panoramic mountain top
  • An ageless native woodland
  • Crystal caves and timeless rivers edge
  • A quaint boutique vineyard
  • Public garden
  • Soft sand beach island setting

We have also experienced wedding vows combined with sky diving, kayaking and sailing to name a few more unusual options!

Our couples also range in age, style and interest and the older couples love to envelop themselves back in time to some really historic venues of old family and rural farmsteads with limited access or vintage country stores trapped in time, many of which remain working museums by default, all of which can remain simple and yet a completely unique memory to the couples getting married or renewing their vows. The events can also be encapsulated in film or photo to be relived with family and close friends on they return home.

Restrictions and Logistics of holding your wedding in an unusual place

For any of the different event locations listed above, there are restrictions to consider. These are important to learn and understand before any commitment is made. For example, to hold an event using commercial operators (such as photographer), in a location like the Abel Tasman or Kahurangi National Park, you require a Department of Conservation concession permit.

The commercial operator must either have their own or work under a professional event manager who hold the events permit entitlement. This is important for many reasons, two of which are:

  • to maintain the conservation of these delicate wild life areas, as all concession holders are trained and contracted to work within the guidelines and rules of the department,
  • it means that these areas can be regulated and rules adjusted for the protection of the beauty and wildlife. It is also to insure as much as possible that visitors are not disappointed and have a positive experience and event.

Although there are rarely direct venue costs in these national locations to the couple, the concession holder does have to pay a fee per head back to the department.  This helps to cover the costs to maintain such beauty spots.  By using a concession holder, you know you are also contributing to that heritage.

Other locations may be private, Maori or council owned, and again require careful negotiation, or fees to be paid.  A wedding planner will already have established relationships with these organisations, land owners or have the knowledge how to approach them, again saving you disappointment but also working respectfully within the community of your chosen location.

Having back up plans for wedding ceremonies in case of bad weather

Choosing a location in nature does have its concerns and having an alternative back up in case of bad weather is very important. A good wedding planner will advise you on the options, but also design an event that can easily be relocated at short notice to the Plan B location, thus leaving little to chance.

Luckily in the top of the South Island, Nelson and Tasman historically have the highest sunshine hours in all of the South Island, but this still cannot guarantee good weather. It’s not only rain you want to avoid, it’s also low cloud for a mountain top wedding, strong winds on a remote location that requires a water taxi.  Most deposits will not be returned if the customer deems the weather not suitable themselves, it has to be the decision of the pilot or skipper who will not go in unsafe conditions. You have to be prepared to hold your event in the chosen location come what may unless the pilot of skipper make the final call not to go.

In this case, the event can often be transferred to another time or day but the law states that you must hold the ceremony on the location that is written in the application and certificate; you will only be given two choices therefore it is important to be emotionally prepared that either could be the place of your memories.

Back up plans for your wedding guests

In nature you will also need to look at other issues that could cause distress to your guests:

  • sea sickness
  • air sickness
  • allergies
  • access issues
  • shade for the elderly and young.

These are just a few considerations. Some of these situations can easily be prepared for with a basket of helpful items, such an insect repellent and antihistamine, sun lotion and drinking water, umbrellas and a first aid kit are some suggestions. Your planner will offer to bring these for a small fee or you can put your own together (check out the Be My Guest blog on DIYing your own Wedding Day Emergency Kit).

We strongly advise that if you do want a location with difficult access that you do not invite babies, toddlers and the elderly to the ceremony but let them celebrate with you later at a reception or live stream the event. Your planner can organise child care so parents can relax and enjoy the ceremony without worrying about falls, water ways and sun burn.

Having a contract with your wedding vendors

It is important that your providers have a contract to sign with you and this will protect you as well as them. A contract will give you confidence that time, care and consideration and likely some investment has been involved in the collaboration of it. It’s worth knowing if a solicitor has signed the contract off, as this will also be an assurance that your needs have been legally and fairly met. The contract will also bring to your attention considerations that may not have crossed your mind and a discussion can be had with your planner to clarify any issues or concerns in advance of any possibilities.

Finally a good wedding planner will always have on the top of their priority list safety for all – you, your guests, the team working with them and the general public. I always offer a free safety plan for any location I am working in and discuss with my clients their responsibilities. At this point a contract is agreed and the client has an opportunity to ask me to be responsible for some or all of the safety issues or they agree to take responsibility themselves.

How do you know you’re hiring a wedding planning or celebrant that is qualified?

Reassurance when selecting your planner and/or celebrant is to see their industry memberships and awards.   For example the National Tourism Industry Quality Assured award; Qualmark or Enviro Award or the Celebrants Association NZ (CANZ) or Tourism and Events Association and Tourism Industry Association NZ (TEANZ or TIA) or of course the Wedding Industry Experts Association (WIEA). Membership always comes with an expectation of a high level of service, which often includes adequate public liability insurance and assured customer satisfaction.  It also gives the customer an ability to contact those associations if the service they received did not come up to expectations and that industry association would investigate and limit the likelihood of further customer disappointment in the future. Industry associations also regularly update their members in law changes and important relevant information as well as offering regular education to keep members inspired and connected.

Awards are further evidence that you are working with a professional, who continues to upgrade and learn with a result of being recognised for the work they achieve.

Well, as much as this information is probably a little overwhelming and something that has never crossed your mind, I hope it’s educated you enough and given confidence that your budget is well invested in your chosen professional manager who will work with integrity and be easily at hand to help you create a wedding ceremony over and above your expectation when delivering your dream wedding or renewal of vows.

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One Comment

  1. As much of a headache as it might be to set up a wedding at somewhere like a national park, the end result is completely worth it!

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