Brett Halford and Kerri Brown said their venue’s destruction left them feeling lost. (ABC News: Anna Hartley)
A couple who planned to get married at the heritage-listed Binna Burra Lodge have less than three weeks to replan the wedding after bushfires destroyed the historic venue on Queensland’s Gold Coast hinterland on Sunday.
The old Binna Burra Lodge buildings were gutted by a ferocious bushfire on Sunday morning. (ABC News: Jennifer Huxley)
Kerri Brown and her fiance, Brett Halford, are now scrambling to find another venue — and the money to pay for it.
“It’s been a year of planning this wedding, and now I have three weeks to plan another one,” Ms Brown said.
“We felt lost, very overwhelmed, devastated, and just confused when we first heard the news.
“We have been in contact with a few venues, but trying to get the complete package with the accommodation, the ceremony and the reception all in one — that’s been a bit tricky.”
Bushfires destroyed the heritage-listed wooden lodge and parts of the surrounding rainforest on the weekend.
Strong winds and the remote location made it difficult for emergency services to access the historic 1930s site.
Ms Brown said she chose Binna Burra Lodge because it offered “the whole package”, with food, accommodation and photography among the inclusions.
“It was just the perfect view, beautiful surroundings — it had everything that we wanted all in one place,” she said.
Kerri Brown and Brett Halford are trying to remain positive and say they will get married “no matter what”. (ABC News: Anna Hartley)
Couple plans first anniversary at rebuilt Binna Burra
Ms Brown said she read recommendations for Binna Burra Lodge when looking for wedding venues online and knew there would be other couples in their position.
“My heart goes out to them, as much as the staff at Binna Burra as well,” she said.
“It’s a hard thing to happen so close to the time, but we have to deal with it.”
The Ipswich couple has been shaken by the news but has tried to keep a positive attitude.
“We can always start over and organise another wedding, whereas others have to rebuild or find their jobs, so we’re lucky in a way,” Mr Halford said.
“Nothing is going to stop the day from happening — we’re getting married, whatever happens.
“We have decided we will spend our one-year anniversary at Binna Burra — once it’s rebuilt.”
Binna Burra lodge chairman Steve Noakes said the site would be rebuilt to its former glory. (ABC News: Leonie Mellor)
Couples with wedding bookings ‘will get refunds’
Binna Burra Lodge chairman Steve Noakes said the fire came during peak wedding season.
He said aside from thousands of individual bookings, 15 couples had put deposits down to be married at the site between now and December and all would be refunded.
Mr Noakes’s daughter Courtenay held her wedding at the Scenic Rim heritage-listed site two years ago. (Supplied: Courtenay Noakes)
“I can confirm the Ipswich couple — and all couples — will be refunded,” Mr Noakes said.
“Obviously apart from the devastation of Binna Burra and all our staff having to find jobs, we also have our customers to worry about.
“Those who booked weddings are getting our priority attention — our staff have been working incredible hours to contact everybody and make arrangements.”
Mr Noakes, whose own daughter was married at Binna Burra two years ago, said between 50 and 100 couples got married at the lodge each year.
He said the business was working with others in the region such as O’Reilly’s Rainforest Resort and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to try to arrange alternatives for devastated couples.
Firefighters at the fire-ravaged ruins of the Binna Burra Lodge on September 10. (ABC News: Jennifer Huxley)
“We’d love to have more weddings at Binna Burra when we reconstruct — just give us time,” Mr Noakes said.
“We still have some existing infrastructure which would be great for weddings.
“Once we can get access and tidy up — that will take a few months — then we’ll build something new and more spectacular in this magnificent natural environment.”
Can you insure your wedding?
Amy Parfett, co-founder of online wedding planning service WedShed, said it was devastating when a couple’s big day did not go to plan.
“On average, people typically spend around 12 to 18 months planning and spend around $45,000 to $50,000 on their weddings,” she said.
The bride and groom plan to celebrate their one-year anniversary at Binna Burra Lodge. (ABC News: Anna Hartley)
“It’s a huge investment, not just financially but emotionally — a lot of couples put pressure on themselves.”
Ms Parfett said for those concerned about natural disasters affecting their nuptials, wedding insurance was an option.
“It isn’t very common, but as weather gets more wild it’s potentially something more couples could be thinking about,” she said.
“Luckily though it’s very uncommon for venues to be impacted by natural disasters, but when it happens it is a stressful situation to be in.”
Ms Parfett commended Ms Brown and Mr Halford for their positive attitude, and said they did the right thing by looking for alternatives straight away.
“I would also say try and focus more on the commitment you are making,” she said.
“Try to remember to think about the marriage being the reason for the wedding, versus it being about that one day, as important as that day is.”
Stuart Catt, the director of the country’s largest wedding insurance company, said most Australians were unaware such insurance existed.
He said wedding insurance was becoming more common as people spent more money on their special days.
“People just don’t know about it in Australia — it’s more common in places like the UK,” he said.
“But weddings are such a big expense, so it is important.
“From bushfires and severe weather, to venue closures and suppliers going bankrupt, things can go wrong, so I think people are becoming more aware of insurance as the years go by.”