We’re Kate and Ryan and we were lucky enough to get married at Old Forest School on January 16th 2021. We’ve been together for 15 years this August (we’re getting to the stage we’ve been together for longer than we’ve been apart!), and we met in high school when we were playing on the same sports team together. We’re based in Auckland- Ryan’s a teacher and I write the bits of the radio that people skip- and we consider the weekly grocery shop one of our top regular date night haha!
How we discovered Old Forest School…
It’s actually a little weird, so bear with us here; we discovered Old Forest School entirely by accident before we were engaged. We were looking for walks we could do around Auckland as all our favourite trails were under rāhui to protect the trees, and Old Forest School popped up as a location on Google. We had a look, thought it was absolutely stunning, but was most definitely wasn’t a walking trail in Auckland! When we got engaged two years later we remembered it, and quickly got in touch.
Old Forest School was the first and only venue we visited… and we had a great feeling about it as soon as we arrived! Su-an met us at the gates and we had a wonderful tour- I was immediately taken by William and Wallace!
We knew definitively by the time we got to the donkeys. Ryan’s Gran had passed away earlier that year and donkeys were her favourite animal- she collected figurines of them and each of her grandkids received one to remember her by. When we reached the paddock one of them started braying and Ryan turned to me and said, “Gran approves”.
If you can, book in to stay at Pukehina! I was convinced that on my wedding day I’d be a little bundle of excited nerves… but I wasn’t. There’s something so soothing and special about getting ready for your wedding day whilst listening to the ocean crash away in the background.
We had just over a year and a half between booking and getting married. The great thing about securing our venue meant that we were able to pick a date we liked and the process didn’t feel rushed!
We got married in January; we picked it for a few reasons… firstly because we got engaged in January 2019 and we liked the symmetry there (we had 2 years and one week between our engagement and our wedding days), and secondly because we both have extended family we wanted to come over for the wedding and the Christmas/January break seemed the most friendly for everyone’s schedules. Of course between booking and our wedding day COVID-19 became a thing so the boarders were actually closed for our wedding, but we still adored the beautiful summer day we had!
We had a very gentle vision of how we wanted our day to look- all we wanted was to be surrounded by the people we love, and be married by the end of it! That made booking vendors and things much easier during the planning stage.
We had the normal ups and downs of wedding planning; a couple of vendors fall through before our wedding day because of COVID and things- and we were able to laugh it off and say, “well we have our venue and we have a celebrant- we’re getting married either way! Oh we have a photographer now too, great, we’ll have photos. Oh yay! The food trucks replied- everyone’s going to be fed!”
I think knowing that the only people at our wedding were people we knew and loved really took the pressure off and allowed us to just create a day where we could share and celebrate.
I asked Flynny, a colleague, to be our celebrant. We had worked together for years, and I had seen him be a DJ/MC/Celebrant at my friends’ wedding a few months prior and I thought he did a great job! When I was wedding planning I was really aware that I didn’t want to feel awkward or like I was on the spot- I wanted my vows to be for Ryan first and foremost. A lot of celebrants were offering things like microphones etc for the service and that just so wasn’t what we wanted for the day, and I felt Flynny really understood that.
If we were definite about Old Forest School, we were just as definite about Rambo! Those two things were our must-haves. The photos that made us fall in love with Old Forest School were taken by him, and he has a wonderful way of capturing the love between the couples he photographed without it feeling staged which I loved.
We had a zoom call with him before we confirmed our booking, just to make sure all three of us were on the same page, and he zoomed us from a caravan as he was touring the South Island. Ryan and I were planning to do the exact same thing for our honeymoon so it felt like a good sign we had found someone great to share in our day!
I’m so so glad we spent money on our photographer. We love the photos and they really do prompt memories when you flick through them!
We had our wedding outside under the gorgeous sycamore tree. We loved it. The gorgeous blooms in the areas you walk through worked as nature’s decoration, and the archway was so beautiful we felt it needed very little additional dressing. We hung a macrame hanging behind it and flanked either side with toi toi… and that was that! How many other venues are so gorgeous you can do so little to them?!
We DIY-ed our wedding invitations, which was fun but definitely took a lot longer than we had perhaps anticipated! It is very nice to have a part of the day we can point to and go, “we did that”.
Our aisle song was the Vitamin Quarter version of “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. We picked it because we love it- it’s a fun, upbeat love song and home is wherever we are together. Finding the instrumental version was a real treat because it made it easier to “wedding up”!
We didn’t actually have a reception entry song- we snuck away for photos after the ceremony and then slipped back without fanfare, and when it was time for meals and speeches we just entered the barn with everyone else- again, we’re very casual!
Our first dance was to an instrumental cover of “Gold” by Koven- I actually recorded myself playing the music before our wedding day. It’s a song I like that always made me think of Ryan- I love to hold him, he’s worth his weight in gold to me, and even when I feel I ask too much, he gives it all to me. When I shared the idea with him he thought it would make a great first dance. We also loved the way lyrically the concept of home tied into our aisle song… though we went instrumental for both so that’s a little treat that only we really knew about!
Did we have a seating plan?…
Nope! We didn’t have one for the ceremony or the reception. To be honest our wedding was small, we were under 50 people total and it just felt like a little too much planning to me. Everyone managed to find a seat and it seemed to work pretty smoothly… but maybe we were just lucky!
The guest who travelled the furthest to attend our wedding…
Because of COVID this is a very short answer for us- nearly everyone was from Auckland, but one of Ryan’s cousins was studying in Dunedin so she wins top prize!
We booked a string of batches along Pukehina Parade- an absolute must do if you can!
We love food so it was really important that we had good food at our wedding. Because of COVID-19’s impact before our wedding day a lot of the small local vendors we contacted actually went out of business before our wedding day which was so heartbreaking for them; it also meant our plan for food really did keep changing!
In the end we served a grazing platter for our guests after the ceremony while Ryan myself and our wedding party went for additional photos (and a picnic!).
For dinner we had a taco truck which was just amazing- the service was really fast and everyone was happy because we had a few options of fillings, and for dessert we served up our wedding cake.
During the reception we had late night nibbles being served from another food truck- think fried chicken and other bite sized bits of goodness!
I really feel having two food trucks on site really helped us on the night; they were both able to tag team the service. For example, truck A took care of the grazing platter and picnic while truck B prepped tacos. Then truck B served the dinner and cut the cake while truck A prepped late night nibbles. I think this kept everything running really smooth!
The wildest guest antic at our wedding was…
Hahaha our sister trying to convince her very new boyfriend that since they were at a beautiful wedding venue with an MC present maybe they should just get married too? For what it’s worth they’re still together- he didn’t go running to the hills- and I reckon there might be some wedding bells on the horizon for them in the near future too.
We had a DJ because Flynny our celebrant was also our DJ and MC. I really wanted a DJ at our wedding- I felt like being able to play tracks people loved and knew would give a better atmosphere than live music would. One of my favourite memories from the night wouldn’t have happened without our DJ being there… and that’s seeing two of Ryan’s uncles absolutely jamming to Darude’s Sandstorm haha!
In a pre-wedding day panic 6 weeks out from our wedding we also hired Blume & Darling to be our wedding coordinators and wow were they magic! We really did leave them no time to help and only had everything half organised yet they swooped in and made sure it all entirely came together, and during the day they were amazing- picking up and delivering our florals to us at Pukehina, helping with safety pins when I broke a strap on my dress (I was a little too competitive during a round of badminton haha!), walking to my mum’s car during the reception to get her a change of shoes because they didn’t want her missing out on anything and so much more. The peace of mind they gave us pre event was more than enough to justify the expense… but then all the additional extra ways they helped and kept things flowing during the day really was just priceless!
We’re gunna be a bit cheeky on best savey item and say party favours- we didn’t have any and no one missed them!
On the morning of our wedding…
Ryan and I stayed together the night before our wedding- we didn’t want to be apart!- so the next morning we had breakfast together and then he went down the road to get ready. We were about 4 doors apart at Pukehina; myself, our mums and my bridesmaids all getting ready together, and Ryan, our dads and his best man all together too.
We had a photographer at each house with us as we were all getting ready which was really fun- I loved being able to see what the guys had all been up to when we got the photos back! We gave each other a letter and a gift of a scent to wear for the day as well the morning off, and our photographers captured us opening those too.
To be honest based on the photos both sets of the bridal party just got ready, had some laughs and loved the beach!
We got married at 2pm and deciding on that was simple… I messaged Su-an all confused about it and followed her advice haha!
I was SO less nervous than I had anticipated. To this day our wedding day is the calmest day of my life. Waking up and getting ready right by the ocean really set the tone to the day- I really found the sound of the waves really soothing as my hair and makeup was being done- and by the time we got to the ceremony I was just so excited to be married to Ryan! Dad joked I almost had us running down the aisle!
Ryan says he was less nervous too- he really relaxed properly when he arrived at the venue because it looked so beautiful, he knew he was on time and everything was going well, and said Su-an meeting him and saying hello really helped because she was just so happy and calm and made the day feel really real in the best way possible!
Best “on your wedding day tip”…
Kate: try and be as present as possible- it’s a beautiful day you get to experience and when days get tough in the future it’s little moments from now that’ll make you smile and feel all warm inside… so collect them!
Ryan: remember it’s your day so make sure you don’t spend it guessing what others might be thinking- who cares!
We loved the picnic spot with the swing and the donkeys! Some of our favourite photos are in front of that beautiful log wall too.
Our guests are still talking about…
What part of the day are they not?! Honestly, our guests still mention the venue to us- the animals, the atmosphere, the aesthetic- it’s been over two years now, but we will get little stories and memories shared with us quite frequently, it always surprises us!
The best memory from our day…
Kate: I have so many it’s hard to pick! The first one that came to mind when I read the question was from our reception. I walked to the taco truck and loaded up my plate and wandered back to the table. As I was meaning my way there one of the coordinators from B&D sees my plate and goes, “oh good, you grabbed Ryan food too- I’ll let him know to come join you at the table”. Ryan appears two minutes later, sees me and my plate and goes… “that’s just yours isn’t it, I’ll hop in line myself now!” I just loved the way he gets me and he knew that without me saying a word.
Ryan: Seeing Katie walk down the aisle, surrounded by a beautiful landscape with loved ones all around. As soon as the ceremony finished the donkeys brayed which was special as my recently departed gran considered them to be her spirit animal.
The best part about married life…
Kate: A lot of people said to me after the wedding, “it’s just the same though, isn’t it?” and for me it really wasn’t- I loved Ryan before our wedding and I love him now, but it really does feel different now that we’re married- Deeper, constant, more secure. The best part about married life is knowing I’ve got my best friend beside me on the good days and the hard days, the fun days and the boring days, and he makes every single one of them a little more radiant.
Ryan: 2 parts: A) Wearing my wedding ring, having never worn a ring before enjoy it and notice it far more than I had thought. B) Waking up to my best friend knowing that we were committed to staying together for our whole lives.
Photographer: Rambo Estrada
Florals: On My Hand
Coordinators: Blume and Darling
MC/DJ/Celebrant: Flynny – Wedding Celebrant
Caterers: Love Street Food NZ; Aloha Poke, El Cartel, The Caker
Bar Staff: Beacall Hospitality
Transport: Go Bus
Macrame: The Macrame Room