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).

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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.

A Soft Spot for Brides & Grooms at Old Forest School!

I married my hubby at the stunning venue of Old Forest School in December, 2014. It was the best day of my life, a busy crazy time, but like most weddings, it came together beautifully after a dash (a ton) of planning and organisation. Having married at OFS, I am extremely biased and overly proud. I can’t stop raving about it should a somebody spark up a conversation about becoming engaged or a whisper that they are on the lookout for a special venue.


My husband and I planned our big day from London, so I can relate to brides and appreciate how hard it can be for brides to find decorations in New Zealand. Something that might look remotely like the Pinterest board you have made of your dream wedding day.

Since returning home from London I have settled in Mount Manganui and continued my passion in marketing and events. I now work for a lovely inspiring company Eventfull. The first mission on my agenda was to figure out how I could support brides, who like me struggled to find beautiful décor for my day.

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I have to admit, Old Forest School is one of those magical places, where you don’t actually need a lot of decoration. The surroundings of this venue is naturally beautiful. But if you are anything like me, you might want a theme or splash of colour to tie your event together. Something that might interest you are our LED lights that glow beautifully inside our huge white globes, our natural wax LED candles for your tables, or our biodegradable confetti (just hose down and it will disappear).

As a local supplier, we would like to offer brides and grooms of Old Forest School 10% store wide (code supplied by Old Forest School, make sure you get in touch for the code). To find out more about what we products offer, check out our website or to gain ideas join our Instagram page, where we post our images of our products in a wedding setting.


We are always happy to help, so if you need any advice or support please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Lots of love,
Shaina Low



Wedding ideas we’ve spotted in Europe

We might not be at our wedding venue right now, but weddings are still very much on our minds. Over the past few weeks we’ve been travelling around Europe (New Zealand’s winter 2016). While we’ve been here we have been keeping our eyes out for some trends, ideas and inspiration for weddings back home in New Zealand. So here’s a just a few we have seen…

Lovelocks are huge.

Every city we visit there are plenty of Lovelocks. They are been locked onto bridges, fences, structures surrounding trees and old monuments. Here’s just a really small sample of some of the ones we’ve spotted.

OFS Wedding Lovelock 1OFS wedding Lovelock 2OFS wedding lovelock 3

Big word shapes.

There have been numerous 3D words made from various substrates appear all over the place too. They have been covered in street art, like the one in Sopron or grass, like the one in Budapest. They are heaps of fun and make a really BIG statement. How fabulous would it be to have your names or initials that your guests could intact with, decorate or use as a backdrop for photographs on your wedding day.

OFS wedding big wordsOFS wedding grass words

Having fun hanging stuff.

We’ve see a couple of really cute ideas to add some colour and fun by hanging things up. Like the colourful, bright umbrellas we stumbled upon in Split or the vintage lampshades hanging from some trees in London. They both instantly add a little bit of brightness and whimsy to any setting.

OFS wedding hanging umbrellas OFS wedding shades in trees

Stay tuned for more ideas and inspiration we spot in Europe over the coming weeks.

Fabulous food trucks in Europe

It seems just about everywhere you go in Europe there are wonderful, cute little food trucks popping up. This is definitely a trend that’s here to stay. There is something really special and irresistible about a passionate foodie serving delicious and diverse food from a small speciality food truck.

Food trucks are perfect if you’re planning a wedding with a more relaxed style or looking for something a little different. There are so many great food truck choices now. With options including paella, gourmet hamburgers, cupcakes, Mr Whippy, L.A. inspired Mexican, Peruvian, and everything in between. The hardest part might be choosing just which food truck (or trucks if the choice gets to hard) you want.

Here’s a tiny wee selection of a few we’ve spotted in the last couple of weeks in London, Edinburgh and Split.

food truck london food truck croatia food truck edinburgh

And if you want to take it to a whole new level, how about a food canal boat serving coffee and sweet treats. We found this little treasure on the edge of the canal in Edinburgh. Simply delightful!

food canal boat edinburgh

Weddings trends from Europe for 2016 and 2017

Right now its June 2016 and we are travelling around Europe checking out what’s going to be trending in weddings in 2016 and 2017.

We are on the lookout for dresses, flowers, styling and props that are being displayed in the windows of shops around the hip parts of London, from Oxford Street to Camden Markets. We’re also keeping our eyes open for design and styling inspiration we see in cool street art displays and music from international buskers.

These posts will be updated frequently so stay tuned. You can also check out our social media pages on Instagram and Facebook for more.

A taste of what’s to come, check out this awesome terrarium light installation and paper cone and butterfly dress from the High Street in Kensington.




Groom’s Wedding song for his bride

Adam McLean had a wonderful idea. Why not write and record a song to surprise his beautiful wife (to be)  Cayley for their wedding day on 29th December 2015 at Old Forest School.

Looking for some serious romantic inspiration? Just watch the video below. It was a huge hit when Adam played the video during the speeches. The guests loved it and needless to say, Cayley was totally blown away.

Let’s get you fit, strong and confident for your Wedding Day

This guest post was written by Jason Whitelaw from Beyond Fitness.

This is going to be one of the most extraordinary days of your life! With all the things on your list of things to work on for the big day – have you considered adding yourself? Your wedding day is the perfect motivation to kick-start a healthier you, and get you in the BEST SHAPE OF YOUR LIFE!

At Beyond Fitness in Tauranga we have helped a number of brides and bridesmaids to look and feel amazing for their momentous occasion in as little as 6 weeks! We would love to share a handful of our favourite tips to help you too…

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We love and encourage STRENGTH TRAINING for women! If you have doubts about incorporating a quality strength training programme into your weekly routine because you “don’t want to become bulky” PLEASE READ ON! We understand that there are certain stereotypes that fit with the idea of lifting weights. The purpose of this blog is to assist females in busting the myths and understanding the benefits of strength training!

*** (If you’re still not convinced by the end of the blog – try asking Su-an! As we know she has recently become a great advocate for strength training)

We recommend doing strength training at least 2 x per week, and here’s why…..
Strength training helps burn calories – resulting in fat loss!

You burn more calories during a quality strength workout, as opposed to steady state cardio exercise! Why? Your body recruits more muscles and therefore needs more energy to perform the exercises.

Strength training can boost your metabolism by 15%

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Following a strength workout your body will also continue to burn calories, a process commonly known as the “after burn” – your body must work to re-build muscle which requires extra calories. This may mean that you needn’t stray too far from your current diet in order to achieve your desired results ─ as long as you eat good healthy foods in moderation. (We can help you with this too!)

Strength training will add definition to your muscles

When you push yourself to lift weights, your muscles will get stronger and denser (not necessarily bigger!) – you will burn the fat on top of your muscle, and you will get that “toned” look that many people are after.

Strength training to boost energy levels and improve your mood!

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Strength training elevates your level of endorphins (natural opiates produced by the brain), leaving you feeling energised and alive. Strength training has also been shown to be a great antidepressant and tool for stress relief. It will give you a better night’s sleep, helping to calm the thousands of thoughts in your mind in planning for the big day!

A final note – we really encourage people to work out with their future husbands or wives / bridesmaids / groomsmen / friends / family members to share what can be an awesome experience and achieve great results together. There’s nothing better than having a loved one keep you accountable on your health and fitness journey.

Hopefully you can take something away from this blog, ladies. If you have any questions, please get in touch with the Beyond team.

Jason is excited to be tying the knot at Old Forest School on the 3rd of Feb 2017! Jason co-owns and operates the exclusive Beyond Fitness Training Studio based in Tauranga. Beyond Fitness specialise in personal training, group training and physiotherapy.

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In Jason’s words – “At Beyond we help improve the quality of life through increased health and fitness”. If you are interested in one of Beyond’s ‘Wedding Training Packages’ or some personal training please contact the team to find out more…. We would love to help and be a part of the exciting time you have ahead in planning your big day!

If you would like more information or to contact Jason…

email: info@beyondfitness.co.nz
ph: 07 571 6745


We know there’s no shortage of ideas and opinions when it comes to selecting the perfect wedding dress for your big day. Here’s four basic tips from us:

  • Make a look-book
    Start collecting images that you like. Tear out photos form magazines to paste into a scrapbook or setup a Pinterest board. Either way just start collecting ideas and images that appeal to you.
  • Sort out your budget
    Be really clear on how much you want to invest in your wedding dress. It will help when you’re making decisions about where to buy and the designs or labels that fit within your budget.
  • Think about your wedding location
    Where you get married will have an impact on your wedding dress decision. Getting married outdoors at the beach or inside in a more formal setting? You want to look fabulous but also remain conformable throughout the day.
  • Consider the temperature
    Depending on the time of the year you get married you may need to make allowances for being very hot, in the height of summer, or for being a little cooler, if it’s very early or late in the wedding season.

If you are still looking for some more wedding dress inspiration check out the  beautiful dresses from some of the stunning brides who have got married at Old Forest School.