On 18 May, Mr. Big and I took a nice morning jaunt up to the Hunter Valley. It was an awesome and very fulfilling trip. We managed to get a lot done in the time we were up there. Among these things we have found our baker for the wedding (more on that soon!), bought A LOT of bottles of moscato (and also found out that a few vineyards up there recognise us by face!), picked up more empty wine bottles for our DIY project, and, most importantly, looked at accommodations for our guests.
When we first started planning a vineyard wedding in the Hunter Valley, the first and foremost issue that was constantly brought up to us was “Where will the guests stay?” “Good question,” Mr. Big and I would say. “We’ll try to find something.” I searched high and low for a hotel that would fit our guests comfortably and also provide nice furnishings. It had to be affordable, it had to be in the Hunter Valley Wine Area, and it had to be nice.
The reasons we needed these properties were simple:
- We have overseas guests coming and so we needed an affordable price point for these guests.
- We didn’t want our guests having to drive more than an hour to get to our ceremony and reception—10 minutes tops was our cap.
- We wanted our guests to enjoy their time staying at the Hunter.
I’ll be honest, guys. I had no idea where to look. I had never stayed in the Hunter at that point, and I knew of the hotels but had never stayed there before. So I was stumped, people. I threw around a lot of suggestions to Mr. Big: Mercure Resort, Cam-Way Estate, Sebel Kirkton.
All of my suggestions were taken with a “Hmm”¦maybe”¦” by the fiance, and so it got to a point where—it being too early to really do much about the guest-accommodations problem—I let it go and put it on the back burner.
However, in August of 2012, Mr. Big’s parents came to stay. De Papa and Mumma Big had previously come over to Australia in July of 2010, coincidentally a week after I had met Mr. Big. They travelled up to the Hunter Valley, and during that time, they stayed in a two-bedroom villa at the Crowne Plaza Resort. All three of them loved it there, but when it came time to plan guest accommodation during our wedding in 2014, he had totally forgotten the Crowne could do group bookings. Luckily MIL/Mumma Big was savvy enough to tell us about it.
“We’re going to stay at the Crowne Plaza. It was lovely there when we stayed before,” said MIL/Mumma Big.
And I was sold.
Mr Big’s mumma is a lovely woman and has good taste in these sorts of things, so I trusted her judgment. A month or so later, Mr. Big called the hotel and got a group booking! So, is this the end of the guest-accommodations saga? Well, not quite.
When 12 months to the wedding trickled down to 9 months to the wedding, I asked Mr. Big if we could potentially take a look at the hotel rooms at the Crowne. You see, the Crowne has both hotel rooms (deluxe rooms, king rooms, spa suites, etc.) and villas (two- and three-bedroom). So I wanted to ensure that 1) the hotel would take your breath away and 2) the rooms would do the same thing. Unfortunately, April passed without us heading up to the Hunter (shame on us), but come May, I was eager for another trip up.
When we got to the Crowne Plaza, I immediately told myself that our first criteria had been fulfilled. It is a stunning hotel with absolutely HUGE grounds and a lake out the front. When we went for a tour around (in a buggy, booyah!) there were black swans floating serenely on the lake.
There are also heaps of things to do at the hotel itself like taking a trip down to the spa, hanging out in the leisure room (Xbox, PlayStation, arcade games), playing on the various outdoors-y sports equipment, playing giant chess and Jenga (yes—you read that right), and swimming in their HUGE freaking pool.
On the left, Mr. Big and giant Jenga; on the right, giant chess in the balcony courtyard / Personal images
They also assist in guest transport, wine tours, and drinks (you can request the bar to be open earlier for your guests—yes, you can).
We didn’t get to go inside the rooms, purely because there was a special event on (the Lovedale Long Lunch, which Mr. Big and I want to do one of these days), but they gave us information and contact details of someone to contact who will give us a tour around these rooms.
We went away a happy future bridegroom and bride and can’t wait to see our guests’ reactions to the sheer awesome of the hotel. We also can’t wait until the wedding day when Mr. Big can get some amazing photos around the Crowne with his groomsmen!
Did anyone else inspect their accommodations prior to the big day? Who’s just as excited about giant Jenga?