Botanical inspiration

Flowers and greenery play an important role in the decorating plans of most people on their wedding day. As an alternative to traditional flower decorations have you thought about using live plants instead? 

We recently had botanical expert and young entrepreneur Theo Spargo stop by for a visit at Old Forest School, and luckily for us, he bought some of his plants with him. Theo spent a little time decorating the tables and ladder in the Big Barn with some of his botanical wares. And the results were amazing. Not only do Theo’s botanical displays look stunning, hiring plants can be a very affordable option with the added benefit of the plants continuing to live a happy productive life after your big day.  

Theo Spargo provides a wide variety of botanical options that have been sourced and created in New Zealand, including unique vintage potted vessels that ensure character will be added to your space. Theo believes your space needs to be alive, captivating and lush.

If you’re interested in having a botanical display as part of your wedding day then Theo is your man. He will create a unique botanical style for your wedding, deliver to your venue, set up and then collect.

For more info or to get in touch check out

The ultimate old school wedding guestbook

Since we started having weddings at Old Forest School the original schoolhouse blackboard has been a favourite way for guests to leave messages of love and support for couples.

Depending on how old you are, writing on a blackboard with chalk is either extremely nostalgic or a completely new experience. Regardless of your previous chalking experience there’s something irresistibly tactile about writing with chalk, maybe it’s the chalk dust, range of colours or the occasional ear peircing chalk screech.

Some people choose to draw a picture, create a poem, write some lines or just leave a simple heartfelt message. Whatever the inspiration its a fabulous way for your guests to write a message plus it’s probably the largest guest book in the country. We’re sure the blackboard will continue to be a favourite of every one who visits Old Forest School.

Love at first sight

What happens when a 4 year old flower girl meets a pair of miniature donkeys? Love at first sight of course.

At a recent wedding at Old Forest School that’s exactly what happened.

This gorgeous young girl was having her photos taken with the bridal party but was was way more interested in cuddling the OFS miniature Donkeys (Teddy &Tim). And the feeling was obviously mutual, both Teddy and Tim stood very still for their enormous neck cuddles, or maybe they were just being good for the photographer.

Either way it made for some great photos and ever lasting memories.

Photos courtesy of

All set for another spectacular wedding season

Old Forest School is all scrubbed up and raring to go for another wedding season. Many of the buildings have had a fresh coat of paint, both inside and out, and really are looking their best. The gardens have been carefully prepared, the lawns mowed and the signage put back up. The tennis net is up and the old school wooden racquets are out. The festoon lights have been polished and are so ready to sparkle the night away. Once again the Little Barn looks set to be the centre of dance floor attention. Tippy has a brand new place, right next to the sports area, it’s absolutely the best vantage spot to enjoy watching badminton or gutter ball while sipping your favourite summer beverage.

The outdoor spaces are looking more than ready for a whole new group of people to discover, explore and enjoy over the summer months.

The Wisteria is all blooming and look fabulous creeping and climbing over many of our buildings.

A big, big thank you to some of our helpers who assisted with getting the venue ready to go this year.

The team from Sport Bay of Plenty who turned up to help us with the garden preparation. We greatly appreciate your support and glad you had such as good time at OFS.

And of course thank you to our ever present lawn maintenance team, Teddy and Tim (miniature donkeys) ably assisted by William and Wallace (Kunekune pigs) who worked tirelessly keeping the paddock grass trimmed and fertilised.

One Fine Day Wedding Fair in Melbourne

In early March 2018 some of the team from Old Forest School attended the fabulous One Fine Day Wedding Fair in Melbourne.

One Fine Day Wedding Fair was again at the Melbourne Showgrounds for two full days of wedding inspiration from some of Melbourne’s finest wedding vendors and suppliers, including photographers, florists, musicians, cake designers, venues, jewellery designers, stationery designers, fashion and accessory designers and more.

There was loads of amazing and inspirational suppliers, fashion shows and ideas on display.

Some that caught our eye, in no particular order were;

  • Luxe rustic is still huge, lots of vintage wooden goodness paired with plastics, metal, and natural greenery.
  • Solid colours are in with less pattern on display.
  • Plastic personalised signs everywhere featuring both names and messages from the couple.
  • Bright florals with lots of big, bold flowers.
  • Tons of dietary tolerant cakes and food (gluten and/or sugar free).
  • Selected retro items remain cool, like swizzle sticks in glasses.



New Outdoor Ceremony Spot

Not wanting to be upstaged by the new addition of The Fernery, the famous outdoor ceremony spot at Old Forest School has received an upgrade. The old doors and wall have gone replaced by a new reclaimed timber and tin arch. Already its proved a hit.



The Fernery

This summer there’s a new space at Old Forest School. It’s a botanical inspired space called The Fernery.

The space is filled with ferns and other plants.  Already its been a huge hit with couples, photographers and guests.

The Fernery is a great place to escape the hot sun, chill out and enjoy a drink with friends (its located very close to the bar after all).

There’s bound to be a lot more photos taken inside The Fernery over the summer.

Famous musos at Old Forest School

We’ve been lucky at Old Forest School to host some mighty talented musical folks. Some have been here for weddings other for reality TV shows on TV3.

Tiki Tane

Stu Larsen

MC OJ and Rhythm Slave

Luke Wilson

Joseph and Maia

Wedding venue making a difference in the environment

Old Forest School – Vintage Wedding Venue are proud supporters of the Rotoehu Ecological Trust (RET), here’s a few words about RET from their Chairperson Sarah Orton.

You can find out more at the Rotoehu Ecological Trust website.


Rotoehu Ecological Trust (RET) first became a concept in 2011, before officially becoming a registered charitable trust in 2013. We operate primarily in Pongakawa Ecological Area (650 ha), which forms part of the wider Rotoehu Forest Conservation Area (some 3,500 ha). In 2015 we added the Otari Block to our management area, bringing the total managed area up to 750 ha. The Trust manages the land in partnership with the Department of Conservation, and in particular looks after a Category One Site (one of only five in the country) of North Island Kōkako (Callaeas wilsoni) population of around 150 birds that is present in the forest. The kōkako are our keystone species and RET works on the theory that if we protect this endangered species then the whole ecosystem will benefit, particularly from pest control.

Rotoehu Forest is located some 30 minutes from Rotorua and Tauranga, on Rotoehu Road. In addition to the kōkako population, the forest is also home to whitehead, the New Zealand Bush Falcon, grey warblers, tomtits, geckos, and giant rewarewa, rimu and puriri trees. The Trust protects these native assets by carrying out weed and animal pest control including for possums, rats, mice, mustelids, hedgehogs, wild/feral cats, wallabies, blackberry, pampas and wilding pines.

In addition to working with the local Department of Conservation office in Rotorua, RET has also formed valuable relationships with other local and national conservation groups and entities including Kōkako Specialist Group, Kaharoa Kōkako Trust, Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust, Manawahe Kōkako Trust, Kōkako Organic Coffee, Old Forest School, Little Miss Rose Photography, Kaingaroa Timberlands, Ngati Makino, Te Puke Forest and Bird and Western Bay of Plenty District Council.

RET first came into contact with Old Forest School around 2013 when we were looking for a venue, close to our patch of bush, to hold a thank you BBQ for our volunteers. It was our first operational year as a Trust and out then chairperson, Murry Clode, recommended Old Forest School as he was friends with the owners, Su-an and Alastair McMahon. The Old Forest School has always been a beautiful and serene place, but back in 2013 Su-an and Alastair had only really begun to cherish it again after years of neglect.

For RET though it was, and continues to be, perfect. Over the last four years the relationship between Old Forest School and the Trust has flourished. Su-an and Alastair always love having the Trust, our guests and our volunteers out to use their beautiful facilities (indeed we frequently get told we need to make greater use of the School). In addition to hosting volunteer BBQs, the School has also hosted Kōkako Organic Coffee in their restored on-site accommodation last year when they came down to volunteer with the Trust, and again this year when Kōkako Organic Coffee returned, bringing with them local cafes Artisan and Abracadabra.

Su-an, Alastair, and their daughters Holly and Rose are always the perfect hosts, keen to show off their latest additions to the School, whilst making their guests feel warmly welcomed. The whole family take an avid interest in RET’s activities, always wanting the latest news on our kōkako, and working on new and exciting ways to further strengthen our relationship. Old Forest School’s ultimate goal is for the Trust’s activities to be so successful that they have kōkako in their backyard, adding to their dawn chorus.

Rose, of Little Miss Rose Photography Ltd fame, also professionally supports RET, acting as the official photographer and videographer. Thanks to her hard work and talent behind the lens, and with the support of her sister Holly, Rose has produced some outstanding photos that capture the very essence of the Trust’s conservation work, and the dedication of our volunteers. The fact that Rose managed to perfectly capture an elusive kōkako on her first outing into the bush is a source of annoyance for Roger, one of our Trustees, who had been trying to do the same, unsuccessfully until this year.

Over the last four years of running RET I have come to realise the importance of the support we receive from the groups and volunteers that we engage with. RET’s passion is for our conservation work, restoring and protecting a small part of our natural environment, enriching it for future generations, and ensuring the continued success of the endangered kōkako. But it is the reciprocal passion that we receive from our volunteers, Kōkako Organic Coffee and Old Forest School that truly helps to drive us forward. People like Su-an, Alastair, Rose and Holly take our passion and enhance it a hundred fold. We at RET as so lucky to be able to use the Old Forest School, and count them amongst our supporters, and more importantly, amongst our friends.

He aha te mea nui o te ao
(What is the most important thing in the world?)

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
(It is the people, it is the people, it is the people)

Maori proverb

Thank you so much Old Forest School

Sarah Orton
Chairperson, Rotoehu Ecological Trust

A pair of miniature donkeys arrive at wedding venue

Have you met the latest new entrants at Old Forest School – Vintage Wedding Venue. Teddy and Tim are a couple of 2 year old miniature donkeys.

Teddy (the shaggy one) and Tim (the not so shaggy one).

teddy-tim teddy-tim-2

We have rescued these lovely miniature Jerusalem donkeys. They haven’t been here long and are just getting used to trusting humans again. Both the boys love a gentle scratch.  Its a little too early for people to come into their paddock just yet sorry.

Make sure you say hello next time you’re at Old Forest School.

Couple of interesting facts about the boys…

Do you know why we are called jerusalem Donkeys ?

Have a look for the cross on our backs.  Legend is we couldn’t look at Jesus on the cross because it broke our hearts, so we had to look away, the cross left a mark on our back in appreciation of the loyal and humble service we had given.

Do you know we are a lucky omen for pregnant ladies ?

If you see a Jerusalem donkey whilst pregnant your child will be kind, well mannered and wise.