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Vanessa + Jamie // Queenstown Countryside Elopement Captured by Kate Roberge

After a romantic proposal in the beautiful gold-country Arrowtown, Vanessa + Jamie chose to celebrate with friends in Christchurch, before heading back down to the beautiful landscapes of Central Otago for a destination elopement in Queenstown.

An intimate guest list of no more than 20, set on the grounds of Manata Lodge, with lush countryside gardens and picturesque views of the mountainscapes. 

Acoustic tunes played, as the autumn leaves fell along the quaint ceremony aisle in the pristine garden grounds. 

Vanessa + Jamie said their vows beneath a wooden triangle arch spilling with florals. Elegant styling details on rustic tabletops and romantic garden blooms in an enchanting colour palette. 

After celebrations concluded, they stepped into a helicopter and headed into the mountains, where a dreamlike serenity set the scene for intimate moments quietly shared together as newlyweds. 

Beautifully captured by Kate Roberge Photography.

How did you meet and how long have you been together?

We met on a Dating App (Jamie had a fantastic cheesy pickup line) and we have been together coming up 2 years (IYKYK). We both said that from those very first online messages, we both just got this weird feeling that there was something different here.

How would you describe each other?

Vanessa describes Jamie as playful, fun, thoughtful, generous and LOVES a good pun. Jamie describes Vanessa as adventurous, loving, hard-working and loves a good wine…

Tell us a little bit about the proposal and your engagement?

It was our one-year anniversary and Jamie had organised a weekend away for us (destination unknown to Vanessa). Vanessa was told it was within a 3-hour drive from Christchurch but as it turns out she was lead on a wild goose chase and actually we drove 5 ½ hours to the beautiful Millbrook Resort in Arrowtown. Jamie knew Vanessa loved Arrowtown and wanted to go to Millbrook with him. At this point, Vanessa’s friends and sisters insisted he was going to propose but Vanessa was absolutely in denial.

After a beautiful dinner at Kobe restaurant on-site at Millbrook, we went back to our room where Jamie proceeded to start acting very strangely. We popped a bottle of wine and sat out on the balcony to enjoy a drink and that’s where he popped the question on a freezing winter night in Arrowtown that we will never forget.

Tell us about your wedding style. What influenced your planning for the day?

We looked at so many different ways to do our wedding. Elopement was so alluring to us for simplicity’s sake, but we also wanted our families to be involved. A big wedding was considered but deep down we knew that wasn’t us (even though we wanted all of our friends to celebrate this special time with us). We wanted to feel relaxed and calm on our wedding day, and we wanted to be able to slow down and make the day about us and make memories together.

We settled on a small intimate wedding with no more than 20 guests. We had our parents, siblings and children there, and we didn’t have a bridal party. It was a hard decision to not have our closest and oldest friends present, however, as a compromise, we decided to throw a big party the weekend before here in Christchurch. We invited everyone that would’ve been invited to a big wedding, and had a great shindig with a fantastic band. The night was amazing, filled with drinks, dancing and great people.

In terms of the wedding style, we decided to keep things simple. We wanted to keep costs down so we could spend that money on building our house and travelling (when we’re allowed!). So, we opted for a simple outdoor wedding on the Manata Lodge grounds (and no we did not have a rainy-day contingency ha-ha, risky business). We had a beautiful archway, simple seating, AMAZING florals and the most warm-hearted and personable celebrant we could have hoped for.

Vanessa’s younger sister Jessie played the Ukulele and sung Vanessa down the aisle to “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, which made the experience so much more personal to have her do that. We knew we wanted amazing and intimate photos, which is of course why we booked Kate. We also wanted to have a simple but amazing dinner on-site too. Vanessa’s sisters did an incredible job styling two tables in the Homestead where we would all eat, the boys got on the BBQ and cooked some amazing slow-cooked ribs, and we ordered the most delicious salads in from Taste & Savour. The day didn’t exactly go to plan. We received a phone call from the helicopter company in the morning saying the pilot didn’t think we would be able to fly later in the day due to weather conditions. Needless to say, there was no way we were going to miss the opportunity for some epic photos so we quickly proceeded to rearrange the day which meant bringing everything forward by 2 hours. Everyone hustled and turned up early to make this happen for us. There was no way we could’ve done that if we’d had a large wedding, and if all of the vendors we worked with hadn’t been so amazing. After the ceremony, Jamie, Kate and I flew up to Big Geordie Mountain with Over-the-Top helicopters for some incredible photo’s right before the weather turned. It was bloody freezing but holy heck the view was so worth it. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing with our family, eating great food and drinking beautiful Central Otago wine (and maybe a few bourbon & cokes in there too, Jamie is from Rangiora so I can’t hold it against him).

Why did you choose your destination?

This was more driven by Vanessa who is in love with the Central Otago region but also Central Otago held meaning to us, as we got engaged down there. We love the mountains and the fact you could literally get married anywhere down there and it would be the most gorgeous backdrop. We knew we wanted to get away to Queenstown/Central Otago and have our wedding down there but had no idea about the venue. We did so much research but none quite fit the brief of “cost-effective, beautiful, and easy for family to come and go from”.

Then, Vanessa stumbled across Manata Lodge through a google search. They didn’t have much of a presence online so it was pure luck she found their website. The limited photos they had looked beautiful and the Lodge & Homestead were perfect for us and all of our family to stay there. We loved the idea of being able to get married at the location where everyone was staying for ease of planning and logistics on the day. Manata has stunning grounds filled with beautiful trees and flowers, and the most incredible views of the mountains in the background. John and Nicola who own Manata Lodge were incredible hosts and helped with any questions we had, as well as assisting with organisation on the day and beforehand.

What was your favourite moment from the day?

I think for both of us it was the ceremony itself. Vanessa’s Dad & 7-year-old son Zak walked her up the aisle. Then when we were standing at the altar, with our family there with us, we both had the biggest grins on our faces. We were relaxed and calm, and it was just the best time.

What does marriage mean to you?

Marrying your best friend. Being comfortable and being loved and accepted for who you are, unconditionally. Always having someone in your corner, someone who has your back, someone who will catch you if you fall. Being someone who will support you, encourage you, build you up, someone who will celebrate with you when you are winning.

Who were your stand out vendors?

Literally all of our vendors were next level fantastic. The fact that most of them knew each other and had worked together before made the day that much more cohesive. We put our trust in them all and gave them all pretty vague briefs and they all nailed it. Our florals by Orange Blossom Design were so so beautiful with autumn colours, they were perfect for the day and I could not have imagined more stunning flowers. Kate Roberge was so relaxed as our photographer and put us at ease so much on the day, not to mention how amazing the photos have come out. Sarah Noble our celebrant was so warm and genuine, she really made the ceremony feel so personal. The ladies who did my hair and makeup (Beautiful Bridal Hair and JET Makeup) were so great turning up early and I was over the moon with how I looked on the day. Again, John and Nicola at Manata Lodge did absolutely everything they could for us, and we would highly recommend Manata Lodge as a small wedding destination for anyone.

Advice for other couples planning a wedding?

Really think about what you want from your big day as a couple. To us, it was wanting to spend as much time as possible with each other, not feel rushed on the day, and to be able to be in the moment as much as possible. We based our ceremony and day completely around that which is why we kept it small and simple.

Find yourself a celebrant that you gel with and will be supportive and helpful leading up to and on the big day, they are such a HUGE part of the day for you both. You absolutely can have a cost-effective wedding day that looks beautiful and that you will remember forever. Pick and choose what your non-negotiables are (for us it was having the wedding in Queenstown, having beautiful flowers, and having an amazing photographer) and spend good money on those things. There are so many ways. I would say, if you are busy people, hire someone to help you organise and plan your big day! We didn’t do that and managed to get away with it because we had a small wedding. However, it certainly took up far more time than I thought and was very very distracting from work and life. If we’d had a bigger wedding it would’ve been far more stressful and time-consuming and we absolutely would’ve benefited from a wedding planner.

Do you have a favourite quote or piece of your vows you would like to share?

Vanessa’s favourite quote from Jamie’s vows is: “I love the person that I have become around you. A version of myself that I didn’t know was missing. For example, I now dabble in beers other than Export Gold; I no longer think that working out with your partner is a terrible idea; and occasionally, I’ll allow blended up onion in our meals.” Jamie’s favourite quote from Vanessa’s vows is: “I love that you’re willing to try new things with me just to make me happy. I love you for your ability to laugh and to make everyone around you laugh. I love you for your infectious smile and beautiful brown eyes. I love you for letting me be myself. I love you for the sweet thoughtful things you do for me because you know it will make me smile.”


Photographer: Kate Roberge | Flora: Orange Blossom Design | Prop or Furniture Hire: Queenstown Wedding Hire | Ceremony & Reception Venue: Manata Lodge & Homestead | Bridal Gown: Pretty Things | Rings: Petersen’s Jewellers Merivale & Pascoes | Hair Stylist: Beautiful Bridal Hair | Makeup Artist: JET Makeup | Groom’s Suit: Sergio’s Menswear| Stationery: Starboard Press | Wedding Ring Boxes: Dreamadesign | Celebrant: Sarah Noble Celebrant | Catering: Taste & Savour (Salads) | Entertainment: Peti Seiuli | Transport: Europcar | Helicopter: Over the Top Helicopters

Want to read more insights into planning a wedding in Queenstown, New Zealand, or tips on how to nail your bridal portraits?! Check out Kate’s Journal here, and make sure you follow her on Instagram at @katerobergephotography

You can also find Kate over on our Wild Hearts Vendor Collection here. And dream a little more on the blog with the beautiful Winehouse Wedding of ROSA + NICK, here.

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