The Duke of Marlborough: a Destination Wedding just hours away

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When planning our wedding, we sought a destination to bring guests from all over the world together to enjoy a few days of New Zealand’s best scenery, food, drink and experiences. We searched for a spot that would really wow our international guests, but also be a holiday destination for our local friends.

While we settled on Coromandel and created a ‘from scratch’ wedding at a dry-hire venue, it’s only now in hindsight that I see how perfectly the Bay of Islands, and The Duke of Marlborough – would have fit the bill!


Photography: Levien & Lens Photograhy, full wedding on Paper & Lace

Just 3 hours up the road from Auckland, a Bay of Islands wedding has all the benefits of a destination wedding, just hours up the road. If you’re looking for a wedding venue that’s full of unique history and charm, romantic, beautiful and all inclusive for a large or intimate wedding, The Duke of Marlborough in Russell. You only have to see a few photos of the venue to see that it has the wow factor too. It even has the sunset we were after – its waterfront views are second to none. So, when staying here recently for a mini-break with Blair, I couldn’t turn down a personal tour of Russell’s best ceremony venues and vistas, and lunch with one of The Duke’s owners Bridget Haagh, and resident wedding coordinator and experienced celebrant Ida Birch (pictured below right).

In fact, I basically* attended a wedding at The Duke of Marlborough once (and it was beautiful)!
*by fortunate timing we were having dinner next door and even spied the gorgeous couple having their wedding portraits on the dock – (in fact Ida was the celebrant at the wedding I tried to crash).

Good food and wine are a given – The Duke‘s been serving alcohol since 1827 (legally since 1840 as NZ’s first licensed premises) and also serves the most beautiful fresh seafood and meat, as well as locally sourced seasonal produce.

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Tying the knot away from home, whether at a destination wedding overseas or organising within New Zealand in another town, it’s a must to have a good team to rely on. Bridget together with owners Anton, Riki & Jayne, has made that a real priority. As a celebrant, Ida really knows, and more importantly truly understands the needs of couples planning their weddings, and assists them to do so here with ease. It takes more than great scenery to make a destination wedding, and having everything in-house – a go-to list of recommended vendors – makes planning a breeze.  The team ensures that couples, families and guests are all really comfortable and organised, and constantly bring couples’ dreams of a perfect day to life.

Guests can be married at The Duke itself, at nearby Christ Church in the village (the oldest existing church in New Zealand, above via Emily Raftery) or Russell Chapel on the Olive Grove (among others) before venturing to The Duke for the reception (and staying on to enjoy its 4 star accommodation). The Duke of Marlborough not only has 25 rooms (soon expanding further) but also The Duke motel, and there are ample neighbouring baches.

Top line: Christ Church, Second: Russell Chapel on the Olive Grove

Bridget has been behind the complete transformation of The Duke over the last few years, bringing the historical building back to its former glory and making it perfect for weddings. It has a capacity of over 140 for a seated dinner, and more for a cocktail reception, while smaller weddings still feel intimate as the room is easily divided to make it smaller. The function room backs onto the sun-filled waterfront porch, so all guests can enjoy the majestic views of the Bay of Islands, and enjoy the history and charm of New Zealand’s first licensed hotel – you’re just spoiled by history here.

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It’s the perfect spot for a destination wedding, holiday experience for guests, and a honeymoon for the couple.

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Having experienced the space both as a restaurant day-to-day, and transformed into a wedding venue, as well as staying at the venue myself, and it’s just sensational.

Book a weekend away at The Duke to see what all the fuss is about and sample some of the delicious local food and over 100 wines on the menu (plus see this post on a Romantic Retreat in the Bay of Islands).

My favourite wedding at The Duke: Jess Burges/ Exposure NZ – Isabelle & Tim at Duke of Marlborough, Russell, Bay of Islands

See also Emily Raftery – Julia & John’s Wedding at Christ Church & Duke of Marlborough, Russell, Bay of Islands.
Levien & Lens Photography – Hana & Aidan at Pompallier Mission Gardens & Duke of Marlborough Wedding.

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