Simple easy service by one of Canberra's most experienced celebrants. Your best alternative to a Registry Office wedding - all for $600.

21 October 2009

The Formal Gardens at Parliament House Canberra ACT - fabulous, floriferous and FREE

Hello, and welcome.


UPDATE 18 August 2012:
After a long period of drought and unavailability, the Formal Gardens have been completely refurbished this winter by the team of dedicated creative gardeners who are responsible for their care. I expect that this Spring the gardens will be more beautiful than ever.

UPDATE 1 June 2012:
You can see all 23 photos, taken in the first long weekend in October. (We now have two in the ACT.) There are 23 photos and you can see them all in this Picasa web album. If you read this post first, I think you'll easily work out the references to the photos.

I said last week that I would tell you of an exquisite – and free – public place in our national capital for you to hold your wedding. It’s the Formal Gardens at Parliament House. As you can see here, in early October these gardens are in their prime. They are free, floriferous - as in 'lots of flowers' - and fabulous. They are also quiet, private and most memorable. I think of them as a living national treasure.

On the day I went to Parliament House to take photos for this blog, there was actually a wedding couple on the main lawn with their photographer. I think the photos they got would be stunning. Just look at the light, and the angles – what a backdrop! You'll find more of the photos I took on my visit to the Formal Gardens in my latest slideshow to the right of this blogpost. The photos are much larger there and you can leave a comment if you'd like to.

So, the lawns are a great location for photos after your wedding but I'm writing mostly about places for your ceremony. As you come into the Formal Gardens off Parliament Drive, there are enclosed courtyards on the right and left. I’ve officiated at a few small weddings in the courtyard on the right. It’s an elegant, surprisingly private space for a small wedding (ideal for about 35 or so). 

Years ago, before water restrictions, I took part in several ceremonies in the main part of the Formal Gardens, also called the Chinese Gardens. The annual flower displays were always thoughtfully chosen and colourful, the big beds of yellow roses, just lovely. The long memorial pool right down the middle was not ideal – guests had to stand either side of it during the ceremony, but that was OK. (I wish all public places were designed with wedding ceremonies in mind!). There was traffic noise but not enough to spoil things. 

Here's a photo of the lookout in the centre of the upper level. It's a great location for post-wedding photos with a panorama of eastern Canberra in the background.  You can stand at the end of this walkway and look down on the main part of the Formal Gardens, which is still worth a visit even though the annual flower beds are no more. There are memorials and plaques throughout the Gardens that commemorate significant events in Australian history and our international relationships.

At the entrances to the especially beautiful north or south side gardens, that descend in terraces down the side of the hill, there are grand pergolas of wisteria. 

The bride may come in from the top of the gardens, off Parliament Drive,

or she may make her entrance through the native gardens beside the Formal Gardens. 

My horticulturist son is part of a large team that maintains the gardens at Parliament House and they do a mighty fine job. The lawns and gardens always look immaculate and cared about. Owen is passionate about his work, and it shows. 

You can see in the photo above that the terraced side gardens are sheltered by the bush gardens all around them, and this also means they’re quite private. They’re also quieter than the main garden. 

In early October, the cherry trees are in full flower and pink azaleas create generous banks of colour. The lawns are lush and green. You’d have plenty of room for the bridal party, celebrant and about forty guests on one of the terraces. 

This is the garden on the south side in the late afternoon sun.

This is the garden on the north side

Unlike most public places in Canberra, you cannot book the Formal Gardens with the National Capital Authority. These gardens are administered by the Department of Parliamentary Services in Parliament House. Bookings are simple. Send an email to Facilities Management giving as much information about your wedding plan as possible, like time, date, number of guests. 

We are all well blessed I believe to have such beauty available to us in our national capital. That we can share it for free with the special people in life we invite to witness and celebrate a wedding is just icing on the [wedding]cake! I’d love to be your celebrant at this unique and memorable venue, as I’d love to be your celebrant at any venue you may choose. 

This weekend I'm going to a wedding at a place in the country that’s a great favourite of mine, either for a wedding or simply for a visit to enjoy the galleries and garden, and take Devonshire tea near the tall shady promenade of New Zealand poplars. This magnificent wedding venue, with stunning water features and lovingly tended gardens (by dedicated gardener Jeanine) is Crisp Galleries and Lavender Gardens on the Hume Highway at the southern end of Bowning. It’s owned and cherished by Helen, Peter and Sandy Crisp. Will tell you more in next week’s blog. 

If you’d like to email me about your wedding, please click here. I welcome your questions and comments. 
Till next Tuesday 

No comments: