Any event at The Convent Hunter Valley wedding is bound to be simply amazing. They do lots of weddings and they do weddings really, really well. They have an amazing team, in a beautiful location and they can tailor each wedding to suit your needs and style.
I have photographed countless weddings at this amazing wedding venue. And I can confidently say, that if you have a Convent Hunter Valley wedding, you will most probably have a fantastic wedding and a fantastic experience of planning a wedding.
This is my guide to having your wedding at The Convent and Circa 1876 in the Hunter Valley. Written by a wedding photographer who has photographed many many weddings there over the years.
The Convent Location
The Convent is located 2.5 hours drive from Sydney up the M1 or about 40 minutes from Newcastle. It sits in one of Australia’s best wine regions, Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley.
It has a very unique location and is basically part of a large estate consisting of three main buildings. The Convent, Pepper Tree Winery and Circa 1876. Pepper Tree Winery is a separate business and not associated with the others. The Convent is located at one end, Pepper Tree is in the middle and Circa 1876 is at the other end of the property.
The Convent and Circa 1876 are part of the Escarpment Group, which owns five luxury hotels and resorts. They have properties in the Hunter Valley and the Blue Mountains and all of the properties are beautiful wedding venues.
The Convent Hunter Valley
This beautiful property is a large Hampton property with European luxury interiors and an Australian country house feel. It consists of:
- Accommodation Rooms – recommend for wedding preparation.
- Restaurant Eighty Eight – hotel restaurant, occasionally used for weddings.
- Marquee – rarely used for weddings but available.
- Swimming pool & tennis court.
Circa 1876 is a multi-award winning, hatted restaurant. It is also the main location for most weddings. The majority of weddings at The Convent will have their wedding outside in the gardens, followed by the reception inside Circa 1876.
What I love about the food at Circa 1876 is that there is a true ‘paddock to plate’ philosophy. They have a chicken coop, beehives and gardens onsite which they grow and use for food. There is also a head gardener that looks after it all. And during a wedding ceremony, and during pre-dinner drinks, you can actually see chefs in the garden collecting fresh vegetables and herbs. Which is pretty wonderful to see.
The reason why it is called “The Convent” is because it was once home to the Brigidine order of nuns in Coonamble. It was built in 1909 to house a community of Irish born Catholic nuns who were setting up schools in Australia.
I found out this information while shooting a wedding at Circa and a guy said to me that he is from the town where this building originated from. I naturally thought he was crazy. But it turns out he wasn’t.
In 1980 the building was no longer being used and was in danger of being demolished. A joint project between Peppers Guest House, James Fairfax and Robert and Sally Molines (now running Bistro Molines), they carefully dismantled the building. The building was moved 600 kilometres from Coonamble and reconstructed to where it sits today in the Hunter Valley.
Back then, it was under the Peppers brand, until it was bought by the Escarpment Group in 2016.
One of my biggest tips for couples when organising a wedding is to try to get accommodation at the same place where you are having your wedding. By doing this you will reduce any unnecessary travel time, and because you don’t have to travel anywhere, it will definitely reduce your stress and anxiety levels.
There are four neighbouring properties just behind The Convent which offer boutique accommodation, which are good options for you and your family and wedding guests.
My two favourites would have to be The Woods, and Carriages Boutique Hotel & Vineyard. I have done Bride & Groom preparations at both these properties and they both offer great accommodation with lots of room in a country setting.
The good thing about Carriages is that there is also a small walking track that links it to The Convent, which is handy if you have guests or family staying in both.
But if possible I would recommend that you book accommodation at The Convent. It means you will be onsite for your wedding, making it so much easier for yourself.
It features 19 luxury rooms in its boutique accommodation. There are four rooms types:
- Deluxe Room – smaller rooms and a little bit darker.
- Superior Room – good rooms that open up to the balcony.
- Premier Room – These rooms are normally the Bridal suite. They are bigger and open up to the Balcony. I recommend you book this if possible.
- Garden Suite – Great rooms with lots of space. A bit further away from the other three room types. So a really good option if you are getting ready separately.
Pro tip – Book Convent accommodation early!
The Convent will hold multiple weddings every weekend. They may have a Friday, Saturday and even a Sunday wedding. So accommodation will book out early. So book it early to avoid disappointment.
And tell your guests to book accommodation early as well. It’s not unusual for the whole of The Convent to be booked out by one wedding. Also note, if there is a concert in the Hunter Valley, accommodation everywhere will book out and also increase in price.
Wedding Preparation at The Convent
I would recommend that couples both get ready at The Convent. It makes it much easier to photograph both of you as I can easily walk between rooms.
You can still get ready at the same place and not see each other.
Generally speaking one of you will get ready in one of the rooms on the top floor, while the other will get ready downstairs or out the back in the garden rooms. It makes it really easy not to see each other.
One of you will also leave for the ceremony before the other, so it is quite easy to avoid seeing each other if that’s what you want.
This couple below actually got ready on the same level with the same adjoining balcony. With rooms at each end of the balcony. One they were dressed, they did a ‘first look’, because they wanted to do some photos before the ceremony.
Wedding Ceremony Options
In their wedding brochure, they say that you can have your ceremony in one of six locations.
- Circa 1876 Gardens
- Grand Marquee
- Willow Tree
- Wisteria Garden
- Convent Fountain
The reality is that every single wedding I have photographed there has had their wedding ceremony at the Circa 1876 Gardens unless it has been moved because of rain.
The Gardens is, without doubt, the best location for your wedding ceremony. It has been designed to have a ceremony here.
The photo below was from my first wedding I photographed there. Back in 2012 when the place was called Roberts. It started getting more and more popular for weddings that the grass dies from wear and tear. It turned into more of a dirt track that they tried to grow back over the off-season. Then in 2016 or 2017, they put a path and paved area in, which looks lovely as well.
The main reason I like the ceremony location so much is because of the light. The sun will be behind the couple and it is filtered through the trees making the light even on faces and much softer overall. The direction of light is perfect!
Wet Weather Ceremony Options
If it does rain on your wedding day, there are a few ceremony options that I know of.
The Chapel would be a good wet weather option but only if your numbers are relatively small. It is a fairly small space inside there.
The Grand Marquee, located towards The Covent end of the property could be another good option. Particularly if you have large numbers.
The only place I have actually photographed a wet weather wedding on the property is on the verandah/deck of Circa 1876. Where the dance floor is normally located. As you can see it’s not too bad an option. It looks onto the vines, but can get pretty tight with a lot of people and photographically speaking… it is quite heavily backlit.
If it is only a really light drizzle on your wedding day, I would be pushing for an outdoor ceremony first. Use this only if you really need to.
Wedding Photos at The Convent Hunter Valley
The wonderful thing about having your wedding here is that you do not need to travel anywhere else to do wedding photos. It is set is such a picturesque location that all you need to do is walk outside and you are ready to take photos. Everything is in walking distance, so no transport is needed.
Here are a few of my favourite images from weddings around The Convent and Circa 1876 in the Hunter Valley.
The Convent Reception Venue Options
There are a few options for your wedding reception at The Convent.
- The Chapel
- Grand Marquee
- Restaurant Eighty Eight
- Circa 1876
I have never done a wedding reception in The Chapel or the Grand Marquee. But I have done one wedding at Restaurant Eighty Eight. And I think it was in Restaurant Eighty Eight because there was already a wedding in Circa 1876. Every other wedding at The Convent Hunter Valley has been at Circa 1876.
Restaurant Eighty Eight
Restaurant Eighty Eight is located inside The Convent building itself. It is ideal for up to 50 guests and is a beautiful intimate room that opens up to the Wisteria courtyard.
Circa 1876 Wedding Reception
Circa 1876 is where 99% of wedding receptions happen. It is set up perfectly for weddings. You have the ceremony in the garden, have drinks outside, then enter the French doors into this historic cottage and into this room…
Circa 1876 has been the location for so many beautiful weddings in the Hunter Valley over the years. It is an amazing wedding venue that has seen so incredible moments happen and every single wedding has been totally different but the love and celebration from family and friends is the same.
The ‘First Dance” and party afterwards happens on the deck adjacent to the reception room. So wedding guests can party the night away on the dancefloor or stay inside and drink and mingle.
The Convent Hunter Valley
88 Halls Road, Pokolbin, NSW 2320
I photographed my first wedding at The Convent Hunter Valley back in 2012 when it looked a little more rustic and it was under different owners. But they did beautiful weddings back then and they still do weddings extremely well today. The difference is now, people know how good a wedding venue they are and they are booked out every weekend.
When I look at wedding venues, there are three main factors which, in my opinion, make some better than others
- Location – A beautiful location with somewhere nice for a wedding ceremony. That has a decent amount of land so you can get a nice variety of photos.
- Accommodation & venue onsite – A wedding venue where you can do the whole day from beginning to end (accommodation, wedding ceremony, photos and reception) is a huge, huge plus in my eyes. It makes the day so much more relaxed for everyone and far less stressful. And it means you spend more time with your family and friends and less time travelling around.
- Staff & management – It doesn’t matter how beautiful a wedding venue is if the staff are not helpful or friendly. This includes owners, wedding coordinators and venue staff. It can ruin the whole wedding experience for you. So trust your instincts when looking for your wedding venue. If they are unhelpful when you enquire they are not suddenly going to be amazingly helpful and friendly on your wedding day.
The Convent Hunter Valley ticks all these boxes for weddings and even more. Cassie and her amazing team will make sure you have the wedding of your dreams and I can confidently say that if you have a wedding there, your wedding photos will be beautiful.
Hey, I’m Adam. I’m all about capturing couples in a relaxed, unobtrusive way with a bit of awesome!!
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