If I were ever to get married (again), I would elope to Tairua. It wasn’t something I ever would have considered, until speaking with Donna Brooke, owner of Sunlover Retreat and Celebrant by the Sea in Tairua, Coromandel Peninsula.
Of course, there are a few flaws in my plan. Namely, I live in Tairua, so chances of getting away with an intimate elopement would be unlikely. Elopement has an exciting, adventurous definition - “The act of running off secretly to get married.” The running off part implies getaway, runaway, Bonnie & Clyde-style adventure. Alas, I can’t very well “run off secretly” in my own hometown. But maybe you could! If I didn’t live in the Coromandel (and if I were in a marriage frame of mind), I would definitely elope to Tairua. Here’s why.
Donna has created the ultimate elopment set-up for runaway brides and grooms. Along with her husband Chris, Donna has developed the purpose-built luxury B&B, Sunlover Retreat. She is a registered marriage celebrant and she works with a cherry-picked team of the very best Coromandel-based wedding professionals.
A romantic at heart, with a soft spot for people of all walks of life and their colourful stories, Donna just gets it. “After officiating hundreds of weddings, I appreciate the authenticity of elopments the most,” she explains. “There is something so satisfying, so humbling and meaningful about witnessing and officiating this type of ceremony. They really are my favourite,” she admits.
She goes on to explain her take on elopements.
“Years ago, elopements were cloaked in a veil of shame. There might have been an unplanned pregnancy, or negative judgements about the couple getting married, so they would have to marry secretly, and go far away to do it. Times are different now. Couples make a conscious choice to have an intimate elopement. They are driven by many different reasons and that’s their business. My role is to make sure their wedding day is worthy, authentic and special.”
The essence of elopement is to celebrate the occasion by honouring the couple in a way that best suits them. Without the vast crowd, the financial outlay, the dreaded speeches and the dodgy DJ, what remains is a genuine exchange of love and intent between two people.
Donna says there are parallels to her roles as celebrant and accommodation provider. She brings a genuine duty of care to both roles, doing whatever she can to ensure her couples are comfortable, relaxed and happy.
She knows the Coromandel very well. For those who aren’t familiar, Tairua is on the doorstep of a veritable banquet of beaches and secluded natural beauty spots. It is literally a feast for the eyes, heart and soul and an amazing place to share an important day with the one you love. And if you don’t know where to stage your elopement, Donna does. She’s had a Tairua connection for many years and has lived permanently in Tairua since 2012. She’s often seen by locals out for an early morning walk with their dog Rover, and is quick to photograph and share a stunning sunrise. A keen nature lover, she is a sucker for a sunrise and, like the people she meets, she sees the uniqueness in every single one.
It was those famous Tairua sunrises that inspired the name of Sunlover Retreat. With a vision to provide couples with a “knock-your-socks-off” getaway experience, Donna and Chris built Sunlover Retreat to accommodate couples in luxurious comfort. The retreat maximises the magnificence of the area, with vast views, spacious outdoor living and total peace and privacy.
It is the perfect place to stay, following a very special day. Donna relishes taking care of all the details and logistics, drawing on her trusty team of collaborators to organise catering, photography, flowers and anything else you might want or need to make your celebration memorable.
Donna has enlightened me about the act of elopement. Just because you have chosen to elope, doesn't mean that your day isn't special. It is your wedding. There is reason to celebrate. Donna will make sure of it.