The more traditional elements of weddings are no longer front and centre for many couples, black-tie and formal dress codes are being traded for bare feet and beaches, arural, romantically rustic, DIY weddings are on the rise.

Whether it’s a family farm with towering teepees, or a quaint country hall, there are fantastic options to explore in Manawatu if you’re planning a wedding. 

Below is a snapshot of my wedding in Rangiwahia – a tiny farming community in northern Manawatu with a warm and thriving community spirit. While there are a number of talented vendors and beautiful venues for weddings in this regionhere’s just a taste of what’s on offer. 

Ian McKean Pinetum 

This unique, relatively unknown gem is tucked away in Rangiwahia, facing north towards mighty Mt Ruapehu and is where we said, “I do”. A pinetum is a collection of conifer trees and this one boasts one of the largest collections in the southern hemisphere, planted by a tree enthusiast and farmer Ian McKean, my husband’s late grandfather, on his family farm. The pinetum is part of the QEII National Trust  now, meaning it’s always open to the public to visit. It is an incredibly beautiful place to explore, with walking tracks weaving their way through trees. A short walk down a track lays a gazebo, which we adorned with homemade bunting, and haybales dressed in sacks made for makeshift seating. We chose not to decorate the space too much, instead letting the natural beauty and rolling hillside country as the backdrop, speak for itself. 

Wedding at Ian McKean Pinetum

Wedding ceremony at Ian McKean Pinetum

Rangiwahia Hall 

At the heart of the Rangiwahia community, lies the Rangiawahia Hall. The four walls have been a stalwart since the village’s beginning, with an uncountable number of community gatherings, centenaries, weddings, funerals and celebrations, passing through. It was the perfect setting for our wedding reception, and the cozy hall and vintage tea rooms fit our 125 guests snugly.  

Festoon lights draped from the ceiling, hanging above rustic slabs of timber that we’d pulled out from under the stage and dusted after years’ of rest. Paired with old church pews and form seats, the lack of any kind of uniformity added to the rustic charm. Locally foraged greenery decorated the table tops, alongside specially made coconut and lime soy candles, hand poured in a collection of mix matched glasses and jars that I’d scoured local secondhand shops for in the months leading up.

Rangiwahia Hall wedding table decor

Locally foraged greenery and secondhand shops helped decorate the table tops.

Photography

Manawatu based photographer Brad Bonniface is one of the most chilled out, relaxed people you’ll ever meet. He immediately makes you feel at ease, as he weaves among guests and locations as you get ready, most of the time you will be unaware he’s even there at all. He describes his photography style as documentary, and I can assure you he captures those moments you never want to forget.

Bride and Groomat Ian McKean Pinetum Rangiwahia

One of the amazing moments captured by Brad Bonniface

Flowers 

My beautiful bouquet was hand crafted by the talented Jill at Jillybud Florists on George Street, Palmerston North. Gladiolis were purchased from a local grower in Feilding who I’d met at the Saturday morning markets, carnations and gypsophila from Flowershop Hokowhitu, and proteas were flown down from Auckland in the safe hands of my grandmother. Friends and families gardens were also raided for lavender, roses and whatever else had bloomed in March.

Bridal bouquet rural wedding Manawatu

The beautiful bouqet

Accommodation 

Surrounded by lush, wild gardens, Hodd Cottage, part of Mt Huia Farm Stay, was the perfect location for my bridesmaids, parents and myself to spend the day getting ready. This charming three-bedroom cottage was homely and filled to the brim with rural character. It even had a friendly resident Pukeko who meandered around and acquired a taste for our champagne, jumping on the table and sticking his beak in our glasses. Mairenui, just down the road, was able to house 19 of our friends and other Air BnB’s in the area meant that other friends and family could camp out within a 10-minute drive of the hall. 

Relaxing on the deck at Mt Huia Farmstay

Priceless Moments 

And the best part about a rural wedding? Not knowing what’s around the corner. There could just be a flock of sheep blocking the road just as you’re trying to catch the last of the light at sunset, offering a magical and truly unique New Zealand moment in time, that’s literally priceless. 

Bride and Groom in Rangiwahia

A priceless moment

Article by: Jemma Robertson 

Discover northern Manawatu’s stunning rural landscapes and authentic experiences.

Here’s your guide to exploring what’s on offer off the main highway.