Hawke’s Bay is currently buzzing with excitement as speculation intensifies about the highly anticipated nuptials of former Prime Minister Dame Jacinda Ardern and her longtime fiancé Clarke Gayford, scheduled for this weekend.

Rumours are swirling, and the picturesque region is abuzz with anticipation for the much-awaited celebration.

One of Hawke’s Bay’s most renowned wineries is looking pretty busy, as it’s fully booked over the weekend — coincidentally, the same dates when Ardern is said to be tying the knot. The rumour mill is providing plenty of entertainment for locals, with people eagerly speculating about the venue.

“Where is Jacinda getting married? Do we know?” one man at a Hastings bar said.

“My children and me were trying to guess yesterday where it will be. The Mission Estate Winery or Craggy Range, we were betting on.”

The region boasts over 30 wineries and cellar doors, adding to the mystery of the yet-to-be-confirmed wedding venue.

Despite the lack of official confirmation, excitement is palpable.

“I should imagine everybody is excited; they’ve waited a long time for that,” one woman said. “Good on her and good luck.”

Dame Jacinda and Clarke Gayford’s journey to marriage has indeed been a long one. The couple got engaged on Mokotahi Hill, above Hawke’s Bay’s Mahia Beach, during Easter weekend almost five years ago.

The intimate moment included a beautiful outlook, a member of the Department of Parliamentary Services and a dog trying to eat chocolate.

Originally planned in Gisborne, the wedding was postponed due to the impact of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. Late last year, it was moved to Hawke’s Bay, showcasing the region’s appeal as a wedding destination.

Tourism operators are seizing the opportunity to highlight the region’s attractions, from trails and art deco to golf and exploring the coastline.

Hawke’s Bay Tourism marketing manager Ben Hutton said the wedding opportunity was the perfect way to showcase the region.

“It’s a great gift for the region to have our name up in lights,” he said.

“We’re following along with the Jacinda Watch as everyone else but you know, there’s so many options, whether they’re out on the Hawke’s Bay trails or a bit of art deco or perhaps some golf or exploring the coastline. There’s just so many options.

“They could be anywhere in Hawke’s Bay.”

As for the guestlist, there is speculation about the presence of famous faces at the ceremony. A humorous invitation from Stephen Colbert suggests that some well-known personalities may attend the wedding.

But the big question on everyone’s mind – apart from the venue – is the dress. Residents expressed eagerness to see Dame Jacinda’s choice, with some anticipating a classic and elegant gown.

Despite the secrecy surrounding the event, there has been a whispered sighting of the former world leader having a drink on what is presumed to be a hen’s do along a Hastings strip earlier this week. Locals appreciated the private moment, expressing their approval of her choice to keep it low-key.

As anticipation reaches fever pitch, the region awaits the official toast, potentially just hours away from the much-anticipated celebration.

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