19 January 2024

Illawarra's triumph at wedding awards reinforces its position as a premier wedding destination

| Kellie O'Brien
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Ravensthorpe Estate wedding

A wedding at Ravensthorpe Estate in Albion Park, which won the Wedding Venue – Historic category at the Australian Wedding Awards. Photo: Supplied.

The Illawarra and Shoalhaven have come up roses at this month’s Australian Wedding Awards 2023 on the Gold Coast, reinforcing its reputation as one of the country’s premier wedding destinations.

South Coast wedding providers secured numerous accolades in the national wedding awards on 10 January, including four gold awards and several top five and top 10 positions, proving itself as an ideal destination for couples seeking a memorable special day.

From 55 categories, gold award recipients included Ravensthorpe Estate at Albion Park for Wedding Venue – Historic, Henry Clive Caravan Bar at Gerringong for Caravans, Trucks, Carts and Bars, making it their third consecutive win, Alterations by Jacqui in the Shoalhaven in Bridal Gown Alterations, and TJ Productions at Mollymook for Photobooth.

These victories complement the additional national Top 5 and Top 10 awards, including Top 5 recipients Bumpy Road Catering and Events in Bangalee and M2 Kitchen in Wollongong both for Catering, and Making Faces MakeUp Studio in Kiama for Bridal Makeup Artist.

Entries for the Australian Wedding Awards which represent a $4.5 billion dollar industry were a culmination of regional winners from the 2023 Wedding Industry Awards, which automatically become finalists from more than 30 regions across Australia.

READ ALSO Kiama makeup artist to the stars finds beauty in transforming Illawarra brides

Jared Barry, general manager of Barrington Group Australia that owns Ravensthorpe Estate, said it was great to see the Illawarra so well represented in the awards.

“I’ve been in hospitality for the last 15 years and to see so many vendors and other venues from the Illawarra up on the Gold Coast last week was amazing,” Jared said.

“Every year a few different vendors from the Illawarra are winning these awards.

“We’ve definitely stacked up nationally as one of the best wedding areas in the country.”

The historic Ravensthorpe Estate clinched the Wedding Venue – Historic award, marking a significant achievement in its first year under Barrington Group Australia’s ownership.

Jared acknowledged the excellence of other venues in the category and emphasised the importance of the awards to the business, having only taken it over 18 months ago from Jim and Deborah McCallum from Illawarra Heritage Accommodation who had it for 21 years.

“It’s probably more validating of what we’ve been able to do with the property,” he said.

“The previous owners set a really good foundation and a platform for us to add to what they’ve done over the last 20 years.”

He said the group had quickly seen the opportunity in the property.

“What Barringtons has done over the past 33 years is see an opportunity and we don’t hold back once we see it,” he said.

“We saw the property on a Monday and offered and got accepted on the Wednesday.”

READ ALSO A surprise proposal weeks before the wedding? Yes, please

He said the estate, dating back to the 1890s, boasted a rich history of weddings right back to its original owner, the area’s first physician Dr Arthur Wigley Bateman, his wife Anna Louisa and their 11 children.

“The first wedding was actually held in 1907, which was the eldest daughter of Dr Bateman,” he said of Mary Bateman marrying Jack “John” Raftery and having the reception at the house.

Jack later bought the property from Dr Bateman, with each of the suites now named after each of the previous owners.

The estate features three dwellings, a manor house built circa 1893, refurbished horse stables turned bridal suite, and the original physician’s house, encapsulating the romantic allure of historic settings.

“His physician’s studio is still on the property, and we use that as one of our other cottages, so we’ve renamed it the Bateman Cottage,” she said.

He said they were now working towards gaining approval for a permanent structure to replace the use of a marquee.

See all the winners and finalists of the Australian Wedding Awards.

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