When wedding guests visit Wirrina Resort in South Australia, they don’t just get to see the golf carts – they actually get the keys.
The 85-room four-star getaway, which was recently refurbished, sits on 200 acres on the lush Fleurieu Peninsula.
Among its features is an 18-hole golf course, which offers the perfect setting for brides and grooms to say ‘I Do’ overlooking the picturesque Gulf St Vincent.
According to business development manager Sahil Chaturvedi, it also brings an extra benefit for guests.
“Because the course is so beautiful, we actually have a number of holes where couples can choose to get married,” he says, noting this often draws the resort’s 200-odd kangaroos for a stickybeak.
The real fun, though, is in helping guests get there.
“They can walk to the ceremony but, for a real point of difference, we also allow them to drive our golf buggies, which is something they love, as many of them have never been on one before,” he says.
“So you might see 10-15 carts heading off in a row, which is a nice exercise for everyone.” It also makes for great photos. And great stories for later down the track.
Sahil, who notes the convenience of being just an hour’s drive from Adelaide, says the resort, which has a spa, sauna and therapeutic massage, is set up to cater to weddings both intimate and large, across all sizes, budgets and themes.
For ceremonies, available spots include a gorgeous rustic cottage at the nearby camping ground and a dedicated spot near the marina looking out over the gulf.
For receptions, which can be carefully tailored to any budget and taste, Heysens Restaurant can comfortably fit 200 people for a sit-down meal, while the conference centre can hold up to 350 and also offers a mini bar outside.
Menus – which focus on famous local Fleurieu produce and seasonality – can be tailored across multiple courses or buffet-style arrangements.
Couples – who receive free accommodation in the high-end Fleurieu Suite – can also book out the entire resort, which perfectly primes it for destination weddings. In fact there are already brides booked in from as far away as Brisbane in 2016.
Part of the appeal is the ability to tap into a trend gaining favour among couples – and guests – worldwide. And that’s the supercharged destination wedding, where the wedding itself is the high point but the rest of their stay unfolds like a mini vacation.
Here are some ideas for how you could follow suit.
Some wedding guests love nothing more than a rare chance to take a breather, but others are keen to ring every lost drop of adventure and enjoyment from their mini break.
So, one great idea – perhaps when you send out the invitations – is to curate a potential program of adrenalin-charged activities and then offer to make a booking on their behalf. This could encompass anything from a spirited round of golf, a take-no-prisoners game of paintball, horse riding, tennis or volleyball to kayaking, biplane acrobatics or the chance to do battle with the giants of the sea. This is something Sahil notes as a specialty on the peninsula.
“Fishing charters run from the marina below the resort, and because we are in the gulf, there’s easy access to excellent deep sea fishing spots,” he says. There’s also great spots for surf and river fishing, as well as the promise of dolphin spotting.
Because of the time and distance involved, many destination wedding guests will take an extra day or two off work. So help them make the most of it by serving as a mini tourist information centre. Point them towards great cafes and restaurants that are a hit with locals.
Create a wedding website or Facebook page with links to museums and other historical treasures. Negotiate a great price for local tours or send them overseas – or at least towards the ferry that links to the unspoilt beauty of a region such as Kangaroo Island. They may choose to do all of it, or none of it, but at least you’re making it easy for them to go exploring.
Many brides and grooms go out of their way to make their reception family friendly, with thoughtful touches such as activity packs for kids. So take this concept a step further and cater for them the whole weekend.
At Wirrina, a safe, secluded and dedicated children’s attraction incorporates an arcade games and entertainment area, as well as a special kids room with a small movie station, board games and more.
On a side note, parents can hire babysitters to look after children in this area during the reception. If, however, you want to encourage them outside, there’s myriad other things you can do as a family. Mini golf is a great way to bring out a competitive streak, while an afternoon by the pool will tucker the kids – and parents – out. You could also identify a great place to have fish and chips on the beach or hook them up with a top spot for a surfing lesson.
Some people see a suggestion to bring their walking shoes to a wedding and hurriedly start planning to ‘forget’ them. But for guests who genuinely enjoy some exercise in the great outdoors, a destination wedding is the perfect avenue.
So, make plans to help them get back to nature. Source maps of local jogging and hiking tracks, hunt down the number for a local company that hires out bikes, or maybe schedule a brisk walk – or gentle amble – for the morning after the ceremony, with the promise of a great picnic lunch afterwards. Other great inspirations to suggest, or set up, include kite flying, giant lawn games or even a touch footy competition on the lawn.
Who doesn’t love a farmers’ market, or a cellar door? And destinations such as the Fleurieu Peninsula, which has a thriving scene, almost beg to be explored in minute detail.
From Wirrina, lovers of a good drop can hit the road to visit the renowned wine-growing region of McLaren Vale, trying everything from a shiraz to a cab sav before grabbing a bottle to take home.
There’s also weekend farmers’ markets in the region, plenty of food-themed festivals and the chance to buy everything from cheese to fresh berries direct from the growers. One great idea is to hire a mini bus for the day to take guests around or you could create wedding favours that feature a selection of the best local produce and gourmet goodies. It really is about a chance to eat, drink and be merry.
As Sahil explains, the ultimate aim in curating a bespoke destination celebration is to send guests home wondering where the time went.
“It’s about guests coming for the wedding but leaving with the feeling they’ve just had a wonderful getaway themselves,” he says.