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Aoraki Mount Cook perfect backdrop for a marriage proposal or wedding ceremony.

Jen Andrews - 09/09/09


Love and marriage New Zealand-style is on the up and up, if weddings at Aoraki Mount Cook are anything to go by. The iconic Hermitage Hotel, one of New Zealand's most romantic retreats, reported its busiest wedding season ever last summer.

Love was in the air there this week as Wellingtonian Mike Watt popped the question to long-term girlfriend Marrissa Bey.

Mr Watt had planned to take Marrissa to the iconic Hermitage Hotel at Aoraki Mount Cook and propose to her over dinner in the hotel's award-winning Panorama Restaurant.

To his delight, hotel staff came up with a cunning plan to help him make it a night to remember.

Together they surprised his bride-to-be with a romantic six-course candlelit dinner in the privacy of their top floor room overlooking Aoraki Mount Cook and the Southern Alps.

Mr Watt agreed to lure Marrissa away for a pre-dinner drink while staff set up the room.

Room set up just before the couple arrived back from a pre-dinner drink
Room set up just before the couple arrived back from a pre-dinner drink
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A waiter was supposed to lead them to their table but Marrissa was a little surprised when they ended up back at their room.

The couple were then treated to a sumptuous meal with the ring being served as the surprise 'seventh course'.

The bride-to-be was over the moon and immediately accepted.

Mike and Marrissa just after the big question was popped
Mike and Marrissa just after the big question was popped
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Mr Watt says they were both were blown away by the staff who put so much effort into making their night special and memorable.

"The Hermitage went above and beyond to make our special night spectacular. The hotel holds a special place in our hearts now and we'll be back for many years to come."

The Hermitage General Manager Andrew Cleverley says he was delighted with the way the proposal went and the end result, of course!

"We were really honoured to be part of Mike and Marrissa's special moment. It was very emotional for all of us and we're thrilled for both of them.

"I completely understand why people choose to propose or get married here. The natural beauty, isolation and stunning surroundings at Mount Cook set the mood perfectly and provide a real wow factor," he says.

The couple are not only planning to return to The Hermitage soon but are now looking into holding their wedding there.

Dream 'destination' weddings more popular at Aoraki Mount Cook

Hotel wedding planner Nyree Schaar (pronounced Ngaire Shaar) and marriage celebrant Denis Callesen, who is General Manager of Tourism for Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Village Ltd, believe the 60 percent increase is due to 'destination' weddings becoming more popular, particularly amongst British and American couples.

"The natural beauty, isolation and versatility of locations within the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and World Heritage Area give weddings here the real wow factor, whether they're casual, formal, traditional or adventurous," says Mr Callesen.

"Panoramic views of lakes, rivers, glaciers, icebergs, Mount Cook and the Southern Alps mean couples can choose their dream wedding backdrop to make their day a truly unique and memorable experience.

"The beauty and serenity of the locations add a quiet reflective atmosphere, making ceremonies all the more intimate and special.

"Quite a lot of the couples come by themselves to escape the pressure of families, social responsibilities and the cost of a big wedding. Flights and landing locations for helicopter-assisted weddings are obviously weather dependent but if there are delays couples seem happy to stay, soak up their surroundings and enjoy a bit more romance."

Some of the most popular ceremony locations at Aoraki Mount Cook are:

  • Helicopter up to Liebig Dome (pronounced Lee big) (7600ft) at the edge of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park looking back to Aoraki Mount Cook. Rated 17th best wedding location in the world according to UK newspaper The Independent
  • Fly by ski-plane to marry in the snow or on the Tasman Glacier

    Tasman Glacier snow wedding - Ashleigh Quinlan & Alistair Taylor
    Tasman Glacier snow wedding - Ashleigh Quinlan & Alistair Taylor
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  • On the shores of Lake Pukaki with its beautiful turquoise waters and Aoraki Mount Cook towering in the background

    Tekapo / Pukaki Canal - Dayle Pascoe and Lelly Suparman reflecting on their new life together
    Tekapo / Pukaki Canal - Dayle Pascoe and Lelly Suparman reflecting on their new life together
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  • Blue Lakes Shelter, a quaint stone building nestled in the Tasman Valley

    Blue Lake Shelter wedding - Esther Pullar and Arthur Pearce
    Blue Lake Shelter wedding - Esther Pullar and Arthur Pearce
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  • Braemar Dome (6,600ft overlooking Lakes Pukaki and Tekapo)
  • On the lawn in front of the historic Hermitage hotel with Aoraki Mount Cook as a backdrop
  • The Hermitage Snowline Bar with its roaring open fire and comfy leather chairs

Because of its range of venues, restaurants, accommodation and activities, The Hermitage caters for weddings or receptions of all sizes, from an intimate ceremony for two to a function with up to 300 family and friends. A dedicated wedding team takes care of every detail.

Couples can bring in their own celebrant (which may require a Department of Conservation concession) or use Mr Callesen who has officiated at more than 200 hundred weddings during the last 10 years and donates all fees to the local school.

"Living in a remote location means that the children of Aoraki Mount Cook Village sometimes miss out on opportunities their more urban peers enjoy. However this year, through donations and fundraising, the kids are going on an action-packed field trip to Wellington," he says.

Another reason why couples choose to get married at Aoraki Mount Cook is the diverse range of activities they can offer their guests pre or post-wedding. These include the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre with 3D movie, planetarium and museum, Tasman Lake/Glacier boat trips, scenic flights, glacier landings, hiking and mountaineering, heli-biking, fishing, and amazing local food and wine.

For those with a celestial interest, the region's also the best place in New Zealand for stargazing because of its brilliantly clear night sky and lack of light pollution.

Couples can find out more about weddings at The Hermitage or within Aoraki Mount Cook National Park by visiting www.hermitage.co.nz.



 
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