We're Fidel & Sarah, two alt-grunge-punk rebels who never outgrew the alternative 90's music scene and somehow became an acoustic wedding band. We lived in the Castlemaine / Bendigo region for a while, and they're still frequent stops on our wedding schedule, so we thought it'd be nice if we took you on a musical tour through the area.
Buckle up in the back, and hand us that mixtape from the cassette pile . . .
Hit play below for a rockin' good soundtrack to this article.
Let's do as all the melbourne cool kids do, and head straight to north-northcote (aka Castlemaine). Castlemaine has long been a refuge for fringe-dwellers - hippies, artists, musicians, hermits and now a plethora of young, urban city-dwellers are making the change for the trees.
And we're glad they have, because nowadays you'll find Castlemaine packed with live music, great food, and more and more wedding vendors every year. The wedding venues around here are fabulous - from cool wineries to theatres to cafes and private properties, there's plenty to choose from.
It's also an excellent region to explore for tiny elopements and intimate wedding ceremonies - with landscape ranging from dry scrub to oak forest to rocky outcrops. Check out tiny towns like fryerstown, vaughan springs, guildford and chewton.
We've got some secret wedding spots up our sleeves we discovered when we were living in the area - hit us up if you need suggestions!
The best thing about acoustic instruments is you can take 'em anywhere! Photo by Gold & Grit.
Bendigo & Harcourt
Bendigo is a bit of a hot-spot for conservative weddings - white-white everything and chair sashes and formalities that are outdated. Blergh. Not really our thing. BUT...
If you're up for a non-traditional wedding, why not consider something like a pop-up wedding? With all the excellent land surrounding Bendigo and Harcourt, and the dry warm climate, outdoor weddings are a definite option.
You could arrange something unique like a picnic wedding in one of the many pockets of national parks and conservation reserves. Or an elopement ceremony with a handful of close friends, followed by a catered pop-up dining experience.
Smaller weddings work really well. Most of the weddings we perform at have just 10-60 guests, but some go all out and reduce the guest list to just two witnesses to sign the marriage document (we also double as witnesses for no-guest elopements).
The Bendigo / Harcourt region has some excellent spots for elopements. Photo by Gold & Grit.
Heathcote too has some grand old spots for outdoor weddings. I (Sarah) used to live in Heathcote, in a hand-built strawbale house surrounded by scrubland and kangaroos - I loved it!
Whilst living there, I took many a day trip to nearby countryside areas like Tooborac and Redesdale, and the wineries like Tahbilk and Mitchelton in the Goulbourn Valley / Nagambie region.
Yet one of the best spots for wedding photos or an elopement is right in Heathcote itself - the Pink Cliffs Geological Reserve. It seems to change colour in different daylight, from soft apricot to a fiery pink. It looks like a surreal moonscape in wedding photos.
The changing colours of Pink Cliffs, Heathcote. Photo by Pierre Curry.
Maldon & Newstead
Fidel and I once lived in our vintage caravan in Newstead, and then later on in an off-grid mudbrick cottage in Maldon. We used to rehearse for our weddings from the balcony, with the wallabies and shingleback lizards as our audience!
Maldon & Newstead are both charming historic towns. Each is home to an annual folk music festival, and Newstead is well known for it's rockin Chopped Rod & Custom Festival which hosted many a great rock-punk-rockabilly band in its day.
And of course, Newstead is home to the infamous Butterland wedding venue - built in 1904, originally run as a butter factory and currently in the very capable hands of Greg and Katie. It's picturesque, and there's creeks, fields and old barns in easy walking distance for your hipster-perfect wedding portraits.
There are some gorgeous spots around Butterland, Newstead for your wedding photos.
Ballarat & Maryborough
Ballarat - home to great art, Kryal Castle and Sovereign Hill. Interesting tidbit, Fidel used to work as an old-time musician at Sovereign Hill - full costume dressup and all!
I wish I had a photo to share with you, but in lieu of that, here's me posing like a nong somewhere near the town.
When we're not playing wedding music, you'll find us posing in fields around Ballarat.
Anyway, back to weddings...
You could be forgiven for thinking that your wedding has to be a traditional sit-down affair. Parts of central vic are yet to catch on to the urban attitudes of weddings that are all about fun times, great food, rad tunes and happy memories.
But it's up to you to make your wedding whatever you want it to be, wherever you decide to have it. Don't be swayed by outdated notions. Dump every ritual that doesn't resonate with you, and focus instead on the kinda party you want your wedding to be. Something your guests will love, something that screams YOU at every turn.
Pick a wedding venue that speaks to you. Or just as easily DIY it - elope down by the springs in matching glittery jumpsuits, throw a hipster wedding in the park, or book out an airbnb for mini-festival wedding with a killer wedding band. See what we did there? ;)
All rugged up for mountain top serenades! This frosty snap by Gold & Grit Photography.
If you're planning a wedding in the Bendigo / Castlemaine region, there are a few special local vendors you should most definitely know about:
You know those people you fall in love with before you even meet 'em? Jac The Hitcher is our sista-from-anotha-motha. She's sweet as honey, covered in tattoos, and ready to rock'n'roll with rad musical weddings. We're keen as cucumbers to line up a bunch of killer alternative ceremonies with this lil legend. Just don't ask her to bake you a cake.
Jenny of Joyful Ceremonies is an absolute delight and she'll even plan your wedding for you! She runs the Castlemaine Wedding Collective and will hook you up with all the best local suppliers servicing the Castlemaine & Goldfields regions. Meet up with her for an icecream and she'll melt your heart with your down-to-earth awesomeness.
The dudes that run the Theatre Royal in Castlemaine have flown into town from Melbz and they are ROCKING the live music & gourmet food scene. What's better, you can have your wedding at the old theatre, in the gorgeous back gardens, or an intimate affair for 30 guests or less in Bistro Lola.
Boomtown Wine is another rad venue in Castlemaine - perfect for 50 guests or less. Great wine, and a good-lookin' industrial space. Tim & Pat are lovely fellas, and it's worth a hire just to drink their delicious wines! Just get a certain you-know-who to play your live soundtrack and your day will be smashingly good.
And two old favs we can't go past in the region - Butterland in Newstead and The Diggers Store in Campbells Creek. Many weddings have been had in these marvellous locations, and for good reason. Be sure to check 'em out.
Wedding photographer Pierre Curry and his lovely wife Lucie are locals and two of the sweetest humans we know - down to earth, gentle, quirky and endlessly enjoyable. As a fellow introvert, Pierre seems to know just how to capture couples without forced poses or any of that nonsense. An absolute top bloke.
Stina of Gold & Grit Photography is not truly 'local', but we've included her coz a) she's marvellous, and b) she's accompanied us to many elopementy-weddingy-things in the area - so we know fo shiz she'll travel here for you! She is a llama-loving, stick-playing, sparkling-rosé-guzzling sequin enthusiast. She's also the bees knees. We luv her. VINTAGE SHOPPING:
Ok, we know it's not strictly wedding related, but while you're in this area, you HAVE to check out the vintage shopping treasures. The op shops are great, but spare yourself an hour or three for the old Mill Markets in Ballarat and Castlemaine's Vintage Bazaar. You never know, you might find the perfect wedding ensemble! --
And remember, just like us, many melbourne-based wedding vendors are happy to head north for your country wedding.
Castlemaine Vintage Bazaar retro finds
Ballarat Mill Markets pirate wedding costume
Kickass Wedding Tunes
Like the songs on this article playlist? You might like our covers too. Check 'em out.