Weddings are usually multi-venue affairs, but there are definitely perks to having the ceremony and reception all in one place. With a venue like Zonzo Estate, which houses a farm, restaurant, and winery, you’ll want for nothing more.

Rod Micallef, the director of Zonzo Estate, is here to talk about their humble beginnings as a restaurant and how they became one of the most booked wedding venues in Yarra Valley. Fun fact: Rod met his wife at Zonzo Estate and of course, got married there!

In this chat we discuss:

  • Zonzo Estate’s unique approach to weddings
  • Zonzo Estate’s restaurant, farm, and winery
  • Advantages of having one venue for your wedding day
  • Creating a network of trusted suppliers
  • How to choose your all-in-one venue
  • A seamless wedding day at Zonzo Estate
  • All-in-one venue vs blank canvas space
  • Styling the venue tastefully
  • How Zonzo Estate stays on trend

Having a single venue for your big day isn’t always cheaper, but it’s a lot less work for everyone involved. Parking and transportation become non-issues since there is only one location. Guests can make themselves comfortable without having to think of a place to wait at until the reception. The couple isn’t rushed from location to location either, allowing them to go at their own pace. All in all, the day flows better and there are more opportunities for the guests and couple to mingle.

There are a few things to consider when choosing your all-in-one venue. Are there multiple sites? Weddings take a full day, and it can feel like a long day without a change of scenery. Ask about weather contingency plans and the overall flow of the ceremony and reception. Couples are also encouraged to meet the staff so they can gauge if they feel comfortable with them and their service.

Links & Vendors Mentioned:

Zonzo Estate

Vendor of the Week – Zonzo Estate

What Would They Know? Rod Micallef of Zonzo Estate

Find Zonzo Estate: 

On Polka Dot Wedding: Zonzo Estate

On Instagram: @zonzoestate

On TikTok: @zonzo_estate

On YouTube: @zonzoestate

Find Dorothy & the Polka Dot Wedding team:

On Instagram: @polkadotwedding

On the website:

This podcast was produced by Polka Dot Wedding

The Polka Dot Wedding team is honoured to conduct our work on the land of the BoonWurrung, WoiWorung, Eora and Kuring-gai people. We honour the traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders custodians of the land and pay our respects to Elders past & present.

Episode Transcript

Dorothy 00:01

You’re listening to the Feel Good Wedding Podcast, a podcast by Polka Dot Wedding. My name is Dorothy and I am the founder and editor of Polka Dot Wedding and I have been writing about weddings for over 16 years. In fact, I love them. I love everything about a wedding, but I know that a wedding is beyond the pretty. I know that so much goes into every single one of those details that have chosen, the tips and tricks behind it, the couple’s stories, and the vendor that brings it all to life, and so the Feel Good Wedding Podcast was born because we thought these are stories and conversations that we want to have and we’re really looking forward to having them with you as our listener. Can’t wait to show you what we have in store.

The Polka Dot Wedding team is honoured to conduct our work on the land of the BoonWurrung, WoiWorung, Eora, and Kuring-gai people. We honour the traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander custodians of the land and we pay our respects to elder’s past and present.

Good food and good wine are two of my very favourite things in the world, so when you find a wedding venue that has them both, you know you’re winning. Today’s guest is especially wonderful for both of those things. Our host today, Mary, Ms Rose, is going to tell us all about who we’re chatting to.

Mary 01:16

Thanks, Ms Polka. I really loved speaking with Rod from Zonzo Estate in the Yarra Valley. You can tell he truly loves weddings and his business. He’s all about creating the perfect day right down to the smallest of details for the couples which I loved hearing about. The focus of the chat was really around having one venue for your whole wedding day, the ceremony, photoshoots, and reception. We really did a deep dive into this topic. I had a lot of fun chatting about it, so I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did and I suggest listening with a glass of Zonzo’s Rosé. Definitely.

Dorothy 01:52

Or Zonzo’s Sparkling because I have it on good authority, that one is also amazing.

Mary 01:57

But look, any of them. Let’s do it.

Dorothy 01:59

Let’s dive on in.

Mary 02:03

Hi there. It is Ms Rose or Mary today with you from Polka Dot Wedding. Our guest today is Rod Micallef from Zonzo Estate in the Yarra Valley. This stunning venue has been around since 2007 and now is a firm staple on the wedding scene due to its picturesque location, incredible food and wine, and of course, the care and support the team offers to their couples. Look, I don’t want to do all the talking, so I’m going to hand over to Rod to tell us more about himself and his beautiful business. Thanks, Rod.

Rod Micallef 02:31

Thank you. Yeah, so I suppose we have been doing weddings since 2007 at Zonzo Estate. A little bit about me, before then, I had a restaurant in Abbotsford called E-Lounge. We were a pizzeria then. We gathered quite a bit of fame being there and that started in 1998. In 2005, we signed a lease out here in the Yarra Valley and created Zonzo. Took a couple of years for council permits, etc., so we opened in 2007 and never really intended on doing weddings. We were just going to be like a beautiful family restaurant with picturesque views and all those things. As we were building, obviously spent a lot of hours here and we had couples driving in and constantly asking if they could book a wedding here for when we were open. The first 10 probably couples that asked, I said, “No, no. We’re not doing weddings” because I was really quite nervous about that, doing weddings. My family migrated to Australia and we didn’t have a lot of family here or any really. Had some older cousins, but I hadn’t really even been to a wedding at that stage. It just felt like it was, I suppose, daunting to run a wedding when I hadn’t even seen or been to one.

My first couple I said yes to, after saying no to so many, the landlord’s friends, Agatha and Tony, they were our first ever couple. I remember we were still building and they booked in their wedding and we had pressure of a finish date. We had to open for the wedding. In between that time, I suppose what I did, I decided that I didn’t want to run the traditional wedding. I looked, I did a lot of research, at that stage, in magazines, wedding magazines, and online. I didn’t really want to run the traditional wedding. I didn’t want to do chair covers and table cloths. I didn’t want to have round tables and a stage for the bridal party, so I just decided that I was going to do it a little bit differently. Anyhow, I came up with this thing and I wanted to do an Italian feast, a wedding that we had the Italian feast. We do canapés outside, weather permitting, for that sort of initial, then move inside to a beautiful Italian feast where all the food like Italian family home will be placed in the centre of the table, and everyone will enjoy and just talk about food because at weddings, a lot of people don’t know each other sometimes so. It brings in a nice sort of conversation starter.

One big surprise is that I wanted to serve pizza at weddings as part of that feast. Anyway, I mentioned this to family and friends, and everyone said I was mad and crazy and I shouldn’t do that. The other big thing I think that people wouldn’t accept was that I wanted to run just two long tables and I wanted to avoid a bridal table because I thought as your first meal as a married couple, it’d be lovely to share it with your family on the same table and it’d be more inclusive instead of having different round tables. We’ve all been to a wedding where you think, “Oh, am I not a good friend? Why am I in this corner? Why am I on this round table? Why am I over here?” Still until today, we get guests coming up to the bar and go, “Oh, this is lovely. Everyone’s on a good table here. There’s just two beautiful big tables.”

Mary 06:01

There’s no random table.

Rod Micallef 06:03

Yeah. It makes people feel really good. Anyway, look, everyone said it was probably madness to try and hold a wedding this way. This was like 17 years ago now. It was a bit out there. It was a bit different. Look, at first, I probably did lose a lot of possible wedding sales because of that concept. I remember I’d get brides and grooms and couples just saying we want table, we want chair covers, and I’d just say, “Well, go somewhere else. I don’t want to have them here, please.” Then, we have other ones saying, “I want round tables and I want separate tables,” and I said, “No, that’s not what I do”. Eventually, I got enough trendy couples and couples that could see my vision to put their special day in our hands. We started getting beautiful imagery and etc. and it really took off. I think in a way, coming up with the two long tables, the feast menus, and all that sort of thing has influenced now a lot of the wedding scene in Melbourne, if not Australia also. It was challenging at first and I’m glad that I looked at weddings a little bit differently. I think I was really at an advantage by not having been to a wedding prior to operating one.

Mary 07:23

That’s perfect. That’s the thing. If you look back now, so long ago, like you’re saying, it wasn’t a thing to have these long tables, to have everybody sitting together. Look at it now. It’s the absolute done thing because you’re right, it is so inclusive. It is like a huge, lovely big family gathering. It is so the norm now which I absolutely love because at Polka Dot Wedding, we’re all about all inclusivity and everyone being included and loved and that really speaks to that same sort of ethos. I absolutely love that and I love that you went out on a limb, that you went with your gut, and that you also knew your business and that you had an aesthetic and a vibe that you wanted to hold true to and that you stuck with that. I think that’s fantastic. Like you said, it paid off because it meant that you could still have your venue looking the way that you want it to look and that sold itself to couples wanting that same look as well, which is fantastic.

Rod Micallef 08:22

Yeah, that’s vital. One thing you said there is having your venue look the way you want it to look and I think that’s extremely important. My advice to other venues if anyone is starting one or or running one is that you do guide couples in their styling and you do have final say in their styling because sometimes, when guests walk into a wedding and they could perhaps all be future brides, future grooms, future couples, I think the fact is, is no one ever assumes that the couple has been choosing the decor. They just think perhaps it’s the venue. Although it may look stylish and they think, “Oh, you’re definitely bumping with other couples’ choice” and things but if you were to have a wedding perhaps that doesn’t suit the style of your venue, then it could really impact you dearly, because photos all end up online now and it just doesn’t make the venue look to its best. I think it’s important that you do have couples that obviously agree with your styling and your venue. Generally, that does work its way out because couples will find a venue that they like that is appealing so usually the styling matches, but we had one earlier on in the piece that, for example, the bride wanted orange serviettes because it was her favourite colour. I remember agreeing to it when the room was set. Apart from the orange serviettes, it looked stunning, but they’ll really stand out and they were a bit too much for our room. Obviously, that made the bride very happy, but I just remember thinking, “I hope these images don’t end up on social media and everyone’s thinking that I chose these.” Perhaps it didn’t really suit the room. From there on, I just learned from that and said, “Well, I do have to agree with the styling that comes into this venue,” but now, it doesn’t matter so much. Now, we seem to get the couples that everyone’s so stylish and that is also beautiful.

Mary 10:27

And that’s the thing as well. For couples planning their day, I think a really important part of the planning is choosing a venue that works with the theme or aesthetic that you want to portray because instantly, if you choose a venue and it already looks how you want it to look, you’ve seen the styling that has been shown in photos and other weddings before, you know it’s going to look the way you want it to look. That could also mean that in terms of budget for flowers you bring in or styling that you bring in could be a whole lot less if the venue already looks in the same realm of the thing that you want, if that makes sense. I think it’s really important for couples to really do their research in the venue to know what it could look like and to say, “Does this suit my overriding theme of the whole day that I want?” I think that’s really important for couples and for venues booking these couples, I think that’s really important. Also because you’re a winery, you’re a working farm and a restaurant as well as the wedding venue, can you tell us about the winery, the working farm, and everything that’s part of Zonzo?

Rod Micallef 11:42

Yeah. Well, it’s an exciting place. We’re never standing still. It is so dynamic and busy because we do have an operating farm, which is great. We’ve got six to seven people in that team and those guys run the vineyard and just farm and fencing and all the things that day-to-day farming throws at us. At the moment, we’re planting new vines, so 70 acres of new vines, and that’s a lot of work. I think there’s well over 10,000 posts to put in the ground, heaps of plumbing, wire, all the things, and the plants arrive in September, so they’ll be going in the ground then. We’ve got our production facility, which is in Lilydale. That’s where we make our wine products and our spirit products. That’s another fun aspect to this venue. I think bringing all that back into weddings is that it’s nice to have a venue that makes your food, your beverages. It’s always looking beautiful because there’s so many staff looking after the grounds. It just sets a really nice tone. We always say we want to make the guests feel super relaxed, but then have serious service and serious food. I think we achieved that quite well. I see it out on the terrace area after the ceremony. The vines are right in front of the guests and they’re holding a glass of wine that has grown there and it just has a really nice feel to it. I do love that it is not just a lock-up shop sort of reception. We do run a restaurant as well. There’s a lot of moving parts that we have to put together to create those stunning weddings.

Mary 13:33

That’s actually really lovely in terms of the fact that you are a restaurant. The couples, if they get married out there with you, that’s a really beautiful sort of anniversary thing, isn’t it? For them to book a table and come out each anniversary to really relive their day and make it really special, it’s almost like you’re there for the wedding, but you’ve also got that option to continue through into the years to let couples celebrate their day going forward. I think that’s really, really special.

Rod Micallef 14:03

Yeah, it is. At Zonzo we always say to wander about or stroll around. The thing is though, the adventure only just begins on your wedding day. After that, you’ve got anniversaries, baptisms, if you’re fortunate, if you want children. The thing is, there’s so many other events we hold and we see the couples after and it’s so nice. I was a wedding coordinator and trying to run everything until we got to I think it was 44 weddings and I was doing emails, I was doing kitchen, I was doing every farm and all these things. It was all way too much. Then, I got my first wedding coordinator to come in and that was amazing help, but I still see couples that I was the wedding coordinator for and that friendship is there forever. It’s so nice. You deal with couples for probably 12 to 18 months before the wedding and in the lead up, obviously, it’s quite involved and then on the day. Even after years passed, the couples are still so grateful for that effort.

Mary 15:10

You create this relationship with them as friendship over that time if you’re lucky enough to really gel with people and create this friendship. The wedding happens and then you’re like, “Bye.” It, a lot of the time, can be done and dusted, so that’s really nice that you have that same opportunity to connect again and just see what impact having their wedding at Zonzo created for them, which is fantastic. The subject of today’s podcast is actually all about the pros and cons of having your wedding at one venue and we know that Zonzo are does have that covered. You have multiple ceremony and reception spaces, yes? That’s right?

Rod Micallef 15:50

Yes. We do.

Mary 15:52

Beautiful. Look, let’s kick it off with the good stuff. What are the pros of having your wedding at one venue?

Rod Micallef 15:58

Well, I think there’s so many advantages. In my opinion, the main advantage I feel is the comfort for guests. Most weddings is elderly guests and especially for them, for parents and grandparents, I think the one venue just makes it really, really easy, where they just go to the one venue, there’s no gap in between. For the couple, they have to think about entertainment in between and, “Where are our friends and family going to go for a couple of hours?” Quite often, people are traveling so they’re not going to go back home. They’re dressed up, so they’re in a suit and a nice dress and it might be middle of the day and where do you go. I think, without a doubt, that alleviates so much of that anxiety and stress on the day. Sometimes, obviously, the weather could perhaps be raining, windy or stormy, and just having it in the one venue just makes it super easy. One car parking, one place to go. Just seems to me to be really, really an ideal situation. I see a lot of it. We had one this week, for example. We get elderly couples come in and they just go, “I just thought we’d come for a drive and see where the wedding is because we don’t want to get lost on the day.” If they’re thinking that and that’s one spot to visit, imagine if they had to go to multiple places. I think there’s a lot of advantages. There’s entertainment between, straightaway, which is nice. There’s more interaction with the guests and the couple. I think that’s a really lovely thing. There’s no segregation, let’s say, where we get married, then the couple leaves, and you see them a few hours later when they’re having their introduction at the reception centre. I think they’re there and they’re available. I just see it after ceremony and everyone’s so happy. That’s often one of my favourite parts of the wedding whenever I congratulate them after the ceremony. To have the couple then jump in a car and shoot off, it’s like taking that moment and ending it, where it doesn’t end. They stay and then they start getting family photos, but they’re still there. I think people feel more connected to the day and it just seems to flow really well.

Mary 18:16

It definitely sounds a lot more seamless and couples aren’t rushed. I think that that is something I feel might happen a fair bit where you’re like, “Hang on, wait. We have to factor in all this time to get from A to B for photos and then be back to A after photos are finished,” whereas this feels like you can take your time with speaking to people straight after the ceremony. Yes, you might want to rush for certain light or that sort of thing, but you’re not rushing because you know that you’re going to lose a chunk of time, even just in transport. You’re right. It really does allow for couples to be with the people who are there celebrating with them, which is really incredible. I guess one advantage would be also working with suppliers who intimately know your venue, know its quirks, what will work, what won’t, are couples able to bring in their own vendors or do you do it all in house?

Rod Micallef 19:12

No, they absolutely bring in their own vendors. We love that, working with them, and some of the relationships we’ve created with the vendors is one of the pleasures of running this place. I think when you use vendors that are regulars here, we’ve got our recommended suppliers list and then we’ve got this list that’s also like, I don’t know the term. Let’s, for argument’s sake, call it the A team. It’s not called that, but there’s a team where we say, “If you choose all of these, then we give you some bonus things at the wedding perhaps and each supplier adds something as well.” The reason we do that and encourage that is because they do know the venue. If it rains, they know where to get the good photos. They just know exactly what to do, how to get it right, and they know their stuff, and everything just flows really nicely. It’s very understated how important it is to have vendors that work well together. We’ve seen and you know, you’re in the business, but if you get a videographer and a photographer, for example, that don’t gel, it can be a really difficult day. I think they’ll always get along for the couple’s sake, but at the end of the day, it’s just nicer if it’s all cohesive. I think same with florists and stylists and bands. When everyone knows and works well together, MCs, it’s just seamless and it works so well. Generally, it is the case anyway. I’ve got to say, it’s usually all very good, but having those relationships with vendors can be extremely important and I encourage venues to make those relationships and make them as good as possible. I think also concentrate on the relationships with the people that have that edge, people that don’t want to just do things the same all the time because it can look very boring. I think one thing that is challenging in the wedding industry at the moment, and not at the moment, it’s been for the last decade or so, but social media, obviously, it’s instant, and in the past for wedding venues, they’ve had time for change. If decor was a bit out of fashion or something needed to change, they had time because it wasn’t like snap a photo, online, someone thinks, “Oh, that’s not really what I want, that’s out of fashion, I don’t want to have that at my wedding.” Now, it’s so instant. It’s like if you don’t keep up with trends or you don’t keep up with style or you don’t keep changing and keep adapting and making each and every wedding look unique and special, I think you can really get caught out. You don’t want all the weddings to look the same, where you go, “I’ll get the same florist,” for example, “and I love that relationship, but that person never changes their floral. They decorate the room the same every time.” You don’t want to be in that position either, so I think it’s important to have relationships with multiple suppliers and also the suppliers that want to initiate change and trends in their industry.

Mary 22:09

Like you’re saying, those relationships, really fostering that so that if you do have X amount of, say, florists or stylists that you work with, knowing that you have that relationship and that rapport with them that you can talk about things like, “Ah, we need to change things up a bit. The last X amount of weddings have looked exactly the same, which might be what the couples want, but how about we go into these discussions with couples and throw some more ideas around and let them know what’s up and coming or let them know that they can think outside the box a bit because that just works for everybody involved?” That works for the couples. That works for you as a venue. It works for the other vendors. Like you’re saying, creating those relationships is so important, but even just from a point of for everybody who is involved on the day, you want everyone to get along. For couples as well, if a couple can see that their vendors are all really in tune with each other, they’re really having a great time, they’re enjoying the wedding too, it’s been put together with a lot of fun and love, that really shows, especially on the day. I think that’s something you really want from your vendors as well.

Rod Micallef 23:21

Yeah, it does. It creates such a comfort. It’s just easier for a couple not to have those stresses. You don’t want them thinking about vendors. You just want them to have a seamlessly good day and they don’t have to worry about what you’re doing, what the photographer’s doing, and the band and is the MC going to start speeches on time. It’s just really important to have those people, the right people, working at your venue is highly important.

Mary 23:48

And it’s just that peace of mind for everybody involved. In terms of the one venue thing, back on the peace of mind thing, having a wedding at one venue, is that partly cost-saving as well for couples or is it just more so about savings in terms of peace of mind, like guests traveling from one venue to another, having two different venues that you’ve booked? In your experience, do you think there is a cost-savings in that or is it more just a seamless, peace of mind ease for couples?

Rod Micallef 24:19

I can’t imagine a large cost difference. I’d imagine they’re pretty much the same. Logistically, obviously, it’s easier. Let’s be honest, some people can’t get married here and that’s the way it is because they’re religious and they want to get married in the church and they need to do that. That’s all fine and we get lots of that. I had to as well. I got married in a church and had my reception actually at Zonzo as well.

Mary 24:51

Oh, that’s beautiful. Of course you did.

Rod Micallef 24:53

So I have insight into your question here. I think the cost is probably no different, but logistically, it’s more work. There’s flowers to organize at church and there’s all the other bits that you have to organize. I think cost-wise, it’s probably nominal, but look, it is definitely easier at the one venue. I would say it’s easier if you’ve got the right crew and if the staff are ready and if the venue is. They have to be pretty sharp because obviously, there’s a lot of dynamics at play to have everything at the one venue as well and they have to be ready. They’re going to be ready and they’ve got to be really quite dedicated to their craft to make it seamless.

Mary 25:35

And that’s their job, isn’t it? That’s what you have to do. That’s the role. It’s creating these incredible events that are lifelong memories for people. You want to be on and you want to do it well and it’s exciting when it gets done well. It’s exciting. A lot of things happen, things come up, weather changes, all of that sort of thing, but I imagine that pulling off this incredible, exciting, lovely day for couples would be very, very rewarding. Being on and knowing your stuff, it flows into that for sure. Do you think there’s anything else that couples or vendors should keep in mind when they’re choosing one venue for a wedding? Is there anything that you can think of that couples might need to really remember about that or really know about that or all vendors working in one venue?

Rod Micallef 26:26

I think there’s a few things. I think one is that there’s probably multiple sites in the one venue, so it’s not too boring for the guests because weddings, they’re pretty long. It’s pretty much eight hours for a lot of people and by the time they drive there and get home, it’s like a day’s work. If it’s in the one spot, it can be a bit boring, so I think it’s nice if you could find a venue that the ceremony is a little bit of a walk away from the reception, doesn’t have to be miles, but you’re not having your ceremony and then your party in the same room, for example, or just outside the window. A little bit of, a little bit of mixing it up would be nice. I think another thing to consider would be weather options and making sure that there is weather options. If the ceremony was to be outside and, for example, consider what if it rains, what would happen then, and make all those considerations. I think have a really good think about that because it can be a bit uncomfortable if the weather isn’t right. There’s always ways around that but just consider those, what the venue can offer, I suppose, in those circumstances. And then, I would also consider the timing. I think timing is incredibly important in these scenarios. From ceremony to reception, or canapé that there is really good timing between those, so guests aren’t left wondering what’s going on. It’s not like, “Aw, ceremony’s half an hour, but reception for another half hour,” and things like that. We want it to be really seamless and just flows. The guests are just being constantly looked after and entertained. There’s those few little bits that I think are important. They’re not huge things. They’re just little things that do make a big difference.

Mary 28:31

In terms of what weddings will look like at one venue when it comes to arriving, getting ready, the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception, what does that generally look like, say, at your venue and how can you ensure that that is a seamless transition through the different parts of the day?

Rod Micallef 28:49

What we do is basically, we encourage weddings in our Cappella. We do have an outdoor ceremony also available. We’ve got a barn, an old barn that we probably don’t use as often now. Anyhow, the reason we don’t use that is because we’re going to refresh that, so we’re not booking that. It is popular, but we’re not booking that. We’ve got multiple sites. Basically, the sites are ready, the bump in for the florists and all their crew that needs to go in their little vans, etc., they’re all ready to go. Then, basically, the guests arrive. Everyone’s seated and this is where celebrant plays a key role as well in organising the guest to all be ready. When the couple’s ready to go, our staff are there waiting for them. Basically, we wait for them and we’ve got a particular section here where we wait with refreshments, just water to help them and be refreshed because they’re quite obviously nervous at that stage. The whole way through, if there’s a bridal party, we tell them when to start walking down. We do this all in the background and all hidden away, but we make that part already work so nicely and so smoothly. Then, one of our staff will sit in there just in case anything happens, but just sit in there and wait, and then we’ve got our radios and we radio up to the restaurant because these things don’t often run on time, obviously. They radio up and say, “Ceremony just finished,” which for us means that staff head down to the Cappella and then after photos are ready and what have you, we guide the guests up to the reception, and then we start the canapés usually, weather permitting, outside, which is lovely. If not, we use that barn space that we have. During that period, the couple usually are doing some family photos, photos around the vineyard, etc., on the farm, and then they have their intro and that all works, but forever in the background of all that is so much communication between our team and the suppliers. I think that is where the difference for that ultra professional feeling of a seamless event, it just goes unseen. The amount of planning and the amount of whispers, “This is going to happen and we want this now.” Now, I’ve been to a lot of weddings. I’m a bit older now. I’ve been to a lot of weddings. I’ve seen MCs try and start speeches while one of the couple is in the bathroom. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but…

Mary 31:51

No, it’s important.

Rod Micallef 31:53

Those little things, they all count at the end of the day. Those little things, a little bit of guidance because we do this day in day out and as much as couples absorb this day, plan it, those little things sometimes they’re not aware of, unless they’ve been in hospitality or this industry, they can easily miss things like that. That’s why we’re here to really guide and really help along the way. A lot of that goes unseen, which is what we do, but it’s really a big part of the day. I keep talking about our team, but they’re just so essential to making the right decisions and making things work. We always say there’s nothing too hard. If a guest asks me something, there’s nothing too hard. If you think it’s too hard, it’s time for you to quit and go home. It’s got to be that nice for the couple and for the guests.

Mary 32:47

That seamless thing again about how your couples plan the day, they plan this day for months or whatever their time period is, they do all of this work and it is so lovely for them to be able to have the day to not have to worry about any of this. Like you’re saying, a lot of the work on the day goes unseen by them if they’re choosing a venue or vendors or just teams who work really well together. That can happen all a lot of the time at the one venue and it’s a production, pretty much, the whole day for the team behind the scenes because you’re running on time frames that you don’t really want the couple to have to worry about. You want to be the ones behind the scenes making all of this happen in a timely manner and making sure that the vibe and the feeling is wonderful as well. I think for anyone choosing whether it’s one venue or multiple venues, having the right team, knowing that the team work well together goes back to that relationship thing. Knowing that the team work well together, I think would be really essential for part of that process, to make those transitions.

Rod Micallef 33:59

Yeah. I just think it is and just being relentlessly passionate about what you do. I will run around and if the groom’s shoes are a little bit dusty before entry, I’ve cleaned them. I don’t care because the photos are forever. Get a scruffy groomsmen and say, “Listen, tuck your shirt in, please. Give me your bottles of beer because these photos are going to be looked at forever. We don’t need beer bottles in the photos or a can of beer. We need your shirt tucked in. We need you to look your best. Later on when you’re dancing, do whatever you like, but there’s periods of time where it’d be much appreciated for a very long time to look at photos that are just amazing.” We’ve all probably seen groomsmen that don’t probably really care about the wedding. They’re just there to have a few drinks. They’re a bit scruffy-looking, whatever. Just pull them up and they all say, “Oh, yeah, sorry. Yeah, that’s true.” They’ll do and it’s not a rude thing. It’s just a nice thing. It’s just to ensure that the photos look good for everybody and everyone’s happy. Again, that may not need to be done, but look, for me, those images are important and they’re important to the couple and it’s a nice thing to have for the future and they don’t have to look at someone with their shirt untucked in their introduction. Little things, it’s always the little things, those one-percents really do count.

Mary 35:33

Everyone wins then. The couple wins because they know that they have a team who are invested not even just their day in terms of being a venue. You’re invested in how this looks for them, how their memories are going to then portray across into the years. Everyone wins, because they know they’re getting that attention to detail from you, and then when you have testimonials back from couples, they’re going to be there saying, “Ah, these vendors and this team and this venue, they were incredible. They were so onto everything.” If you’re there fixing little things or being part of the things like the photos and making sure they look okay, you’re getting amazing content straight away from that. Honestly, I think that’s such a win for everyone straight away and is really important as well. Now, you guys are not necessarily blank canvas space. How does an all-in-one venue, when everything is done for you, compared to options like a blank canvas space? Can you talk me through the differences and how they compare in your opinion?

Rod Micallef 36:37

Obviously, uniqueness is a big advantage of having a blank canvas space, but you need the time. You need the time to create. It’s probably going to be a lot more expensive, but you’re probably more likely to get a one-off wedding styled exactly to your requirements. That’s a really lovely option. I quite like it, but it is a lot of work, so you got to be ready to put into those. I suppose at that stage, you need to get some professionals involved because I think styling, etc., just to think of everything and have it right.

Mary 37:17

That blank canvas spot, that might be more for couples who are really invested in a very DIY wedding and absolutely love that aesthetic and the work, like you’re saying, there’s a lot of work that goes into it. If they’re really keen to create their day from the ground up and every element of it, then that’s a wonderful space to be able to do that, but there is a lot of peace of mind and ease that comes with being able to say, “Look, here’s my vision. This is what I love,” and being able to hand over a bit to professionals who know the space and know how it works and have done this many, many times to create a really seamless and really ease free sort of day as well, if there are any. What are the cons that we should consider when having our wedding at one?

Rod Micallef 38:04

I don’t want to say they’re cons. I think most of the couples we get that don’t have the ceremony here, just the reception, it’s usually for religious reasons and the parents and the couple really want to get married in a church. That’s not really a con. That’s just your beliefs and that’s great. Logistically, it’s probably just that little bit more difficult, probably for the guests. The couple probably wouldn’t feel it so much. I think that guests will probably need to fill a time in between. My suggestion would be perhaps to find a bar or a restaurant or somewhere that perhaps you could suggest the guests could go to in between, maybe middle ground between the ceremony and reception so it’s on the way with easy parking for everybody. That is a difficult thing to achieve. Perhaps, the other way you could do it, which is the way I did it, was really good timing. We had pretty much only a drive in between to start. The ceremony was to finish at the church and then they’re on just to drive straight to Zonzo, for example, and we start. There was no time in between. No one would go for a drink or anything in between, so that seemed to work quite well when we did it that way. That may not work for everybody. It just depends, I suppose. I was fortunate enough to know the priest and he would do that for us. He did the time we wanted. However, look, I think that the only con is that it’s just probably a little bit more difficult for the guests to fill in that gap in between. I’d much prefer when the couples are here for the whole thing. The other con, and you mentioned it earlier, is maybe for the couple and going to multiple photos. Jumping in and going to, say, I know a lot of people get married in the city, and then they drive off to St Kilda and get their beach shots and stuff and you’ve got traffic to contend with, car parking. You’ve got videographer cars, photographer cars, multiple cars because you’ve got bridal parties. Speaking to our regular photographers, traffic can be quite intrusive sometimes. Like you said, you got to plan enough time to get back on time. You’re really in the hands of the traffic and whatever else may be in your way on the day. That could be a con as well, but obviously, it’s your wedding day. It’s going to be beautiful, whichever way it goes.

Mary 40:45

That’s it. Things don’t always go to plan and you can plan as much as you like, but that doesn’t always mean that everybody and everything else in the world is going to play along with that. If there are any, which I’m not sure that I can think of, do you think there are any cons to having a wedding, the whole thing, the ceremony and the reception at one venue or anything to at least consider?

Rod Micallef 41:09

That’s a good point. Now, I haven’t really encountered many cons. Yeah, not really. I don’t want to sound like I’m saying that just because we do it. I really don’t…

Mary 41:19

You’ve been doing it for a while, so I think you’d…

Rod Micallef 41:24

I’m trying to think of the cons, but I really can’t think of any. It’s really nice, fun day for everybody. It just seems to flow. It seems to flow and it seems to work. There’s not many cons really about a wedding day. I love the industry because it’s so much fun. We’re dealing with people at their happiest moments and it’s just so nice. There’s not a lot of cons to that, but I’ll keep trying to think of a con as we go. I can’t think of one at the moment.

Mary 41:56

No, I have to agree with you. The most I would say would be if you’re looking for different ‘feels’ between, that’s a great word to use, but if you’re looking for a different vibe between, say, the ceremony and the reception, if you really want that to have a real segregated feeling of there is a ceremony and now here’s the reception, keeping that in mind when you’re picking a venue and saying, “All right. I need to know that I want to choose somewhere that has different areas for this.” Like you’re saying, if it was all in one spot, the lovely thing about Zonzo is that you do have different areas and a lot of venues do have that where you can have a different spot for a ceremony, can have a different spot for the reception. I think that’s maybe something to be aware of, is if you really want different looks in each one, then do the tour and speak with the venue to make sure that that’s something that can be achieved, possibly. That can flow, I guess, into personalising your day. How can couples personalise their day? When multiple couples are choosing the same venue to get married, how can each couple make their day look or feel a bit more like them when it is a venue that is booked quite often?

Rod Micallef 43:14

That’s a really good question. I’ve seen so many weddings here and very few are the same, amazingly. Without really driving it that way, it just tends to happen. We put photos on Instagram and online. The couple’s personalities really shine on the day and I think that they are all different. We’ve got our classics, which we love, which is the green and white florals. They’re just beautiful white tablecloths, just stunning bentwood chairs. They’re just so gorgeous and elegant weddings. Even if the florals are the same and whatever but the table settings are different, the configuration, we still run the two long tables, the bonbonnières are different, but the choice of food, we do multiple choices, so that’s different, the wines. They are still different. Amazingly, after so many weddings, they are still different and I think it’s because of personalities. No two couples are the same. They’re all different and they all like different things and it just tends to change.

Working with, like I said earlier, with suppliers that they want to be ahead of their game in their trade and they really want to push the boundaries and they’re willing to initiate change, and I think that’s what we do at Zonzo. That’s why we really like working with suppliers to do the same and want to be creative and bring new things into here. Quite often, I get suppliers telling me that this is the first time they’ve tried maybe these hanging floral arrangements or this sort of colour palette before. That’s really encouraging for me because it means that the couples that we’re getting here are like-minded and want to see different things as well. One thing that it does make it easy, on the other hand, if you’re not creative and you really want a beautiful wedding, you can look through all the past photos and simply say, “I want something similar to that,” so that helps too. That helps just weddings. For people that are probably lacking time and probably creativity, it can really help as well.

Mary 45:26

Absolutely. That’s the thing. Like you said, looking back on the photos to go, “Oh, I loved that. I didn’t love that part, but what if I can bring this in and coordinate with that?” Is that something in terms of your wedding coordinators who are really aware and very talented, who work with the couples and the rest of the team to create these days to be unique, what do you recommend that the couples can bring into conversations with your coordinators about creating their day to be a lot more unique to them?

Rod Micallef 46:01

I think the initial conversation with the coordinators would be exactly that, like what are they looking for, what are they looking to create, perhaps send some images through on the style that they’d like or, like you said, bits and pieces that they do like and things that they don’t like, and then we will endeavour to find the best vendors to help with that. The best florist. “I want this photography style. Who do you recommend?” All those sorts of things.

Mary 46:36

That’s fantastic. Is there any advice you would give to couples who are considering one wedding venue or anything that you think they should consider that maybe they hadn’t thought of?

Rod Micallef 46:45

I would say, obviously, have a look at a few, see what you think. Do consider the multiple stops, so you have that little bit of a difference. I think that’s important because it’s a long day and can probably be a bit boring. That would probably be a con that we mentioned before. If it’s not probably enough photo opportunities, if there’s not enough change up for the guests, it could be a little bit repetitive throughout the night. I would really encourage to go and meet the staff, meet the crew that’s going to be working with. I think it’s vital that you enjoy their company and you’re going to be working together on this event most of the time, probably 12+months. Not every day. Obviously, there’s a gap in between booking and there’s not much going on, there’s more for the couple at that stage but then, a few months before the wedding, it starts to get pretty intricate. You’d want to feel comfortable in the venue and with this staff that you’re going to be with on the day.

Mary 47:52

Absolutely. With weddings constantly changing, do you personally feel it’s important to make changes regularly to, say, the decor, the menu or other aspects of Zonzo to push out what doesn’t work or something that the couples have expressed that they no longer want and to bring in new things, to freshen up, and stay current? Do you have anything on the radar for 2023 that you can tell us about?

Rod Micallef 48:20

Yeah. I think that’s one of my most pressing thoughts always. Am I relevant? Are we on trend? That’s probably a good thing that I constantly think about that because I’m getting on 45 this year. When I started, I was 29, so I always want to be on trend. I always want to keep ahead of the game and initiate different things. We’re fortunate that we probably don’t get anything at this stage that doesn’t work here because we are very dynamic and we change pretty quickly. I’ve got a certain belief in this business where even branding, we never brand anything, for example, Zonzo – and we sit on it for 10 years and say, “Well, it’s time for a rebrand. We don’t do that. We’re just dynamic. I feel that we need to freshen up today, we’ll just do it today.” I don’t say it’s a rebrand.

It’s just an ever-evolving brand and that’s the same for our wedding business. It’s ever-evolving. We have that much communication between the team that if we feel that something isn’t working, it’ll be changed in an instant. They wouldn’t even run one wedding without it working. It’d just be that dynamic. For that reason, we don’t really sit there and say, “We have to change this this year.” For example, menus are things that are difficult to change. They’re not difficult, they’re really easy to change, but it just takes time. For example, when we decide to make a menu change and we have to sell it today, it doesn’t get implemented until 18 months, until all the weddings, because we don’t want to go and change something on a couple that they’ve signed up for something and we say, “Oh, now, we’re doing this,” for example. Menus do change, but obviously, they take time and we don’t change them instantly because we want to ensure that we do what we said we’re going to do. If that’s the menu wanted, that’s the menu you get. I don’t have anything game-changing to change on the wedding side of things.

One thing that we are constantly changing though is just ensuring our grounds look good, gardens, etc., staying on top of maintenance and things like that that are going to happen this year. New little photo opportunities and all those sorts of things, but that’s probably the main change at this stage. There are things to come. We’re going to be renovating our beautiful barn. That’s all drawn up and that’s all stunning, but that’s with council, so who knows when that’s going to come through.

Mary 50:54

That’s exciting though. That’s lovely.

Rod Micallef 50:56

It is lovely, but it’s such a long-term wait. It’s with council now, so say it takes the typical 18 months and then we get 18 months and then we’ve got to lock out a wedding period because we can’t build while we got weddings on, so we’ll have to have a gap. We’re booked 18 months out. It’ll just be a long wait. When that happens, that happens, that’ll be exciting. That’s one thing we’ve got. I do want to create that contemporary space there because I do love that, a contemporary space that couples can really put their mark on, like beautiful concrete glass and just really beautiful space that is ready to be styled.

Mary 51:35

A bit more on that blank space, isn’t it? Like you were saying, you wanted to work in that, that blank space sort of look as well and that’s really dynamic then for your venue.

Rod Micallef 51:44

Or given to opportunities.

Mary Jacoby 51:48

With some molding.

Rod Micallef 51:51

I do like that and that’s one thing that’s probably what we’ve got coming ahead, but not in the near future. It’d probably be four or five years down the track by the time all the permits come through and we lock off a period of weddings.

Mary 52:08

Yeah. You were saying you’re doing a lot of planting in September?

Rod Micallef 52:10

Yeah, that was vines. Better photo opportunities, all those sorts of things will happen. A lot of those plantings are going right behind the chapel window, which is even more special.

Mary 52:25

That’ll be stunning. On your vines and on the winery, I just have to say from firsthand experience, if anyone out there is a wine lover, the Zonzo Estate wines, they’re sublime. I had a glass or two of your Rosé out and about the other night, and it was delicious. Went down very, very well. That’s a definite plus in my book, a winery, and I know for many couples planning their wedding day, that’s a huge pull as well. Add it to the plus list.

Rod Micallef 52:54

Definitely. I suppose one of the advantages of getting married at a winery is that you can have beautiful wines. I dare say, the old days, those reception centre wines, they’re just terrible. That probably doesn’t happen now, but at wineries, you get the pick of beautiful wines and you can pick from our range here and it’s lovely and we’re really proud of what we’re doing in that space as well. For, again, changing things, today, we’ve launched our Limoncello Spritz, so that’s a premixed Limoncello Spritz, so we’re always changing. We’re always looking to do new things. That’s another fun thing. We’ll have that at weddings too.

Mary 53:46

That’s fantastic. I love Limoncello. Spritz, okay, bring it on. Like we were saying in terms of celebrating weddings after the fact, being at your venue and having the wines be from your venue is another fantastic way. Even if, as a couple, you can’t get out to have dinner on an anniversary, you can go and buy a bottle of wine that they had, that they shared on their wedding day with you guys and remember that as well, which I think is another way to really celebrate you as a couple and remember your wedding day and have that back. Buy a bunch, keep them tucked away there to pull out on that special occasion. I think that’s incredibly special.

Rod Micallef 54:31

Yeah. It’s one of the things we offer actually where, say, if you got married with us now, today in 2023, obviously we don’t have a 2023 vintage now, so we offer the couples to purchase their vintage of their wedding year after. Our shiraz you can cellar it for 20+ years, so a couple would buy a dozen or a couple of dozen. Once that’s released, because it’s the year after and they’ll buy a couple of dozen and they’ll pop them away, and every anniversary, they can pull it out for the next 25 years or whatever they want to do. It’s really nice because that was growing the time they got married here. It’s quite special to have that. I think that’s a really nice thing that we offer as well. We just mentioned it through email, but couples love that idea because it’s their vintage, that year that they had.

Mary 55:26

Rod, you’re a softie. You’re a sentimental softie, I love it. You’re definitely about making the memories.

Rod Micallef 55:32

Yeah. Well, it’s got to be, doesn’t it? I think one of the other pros I suppose, it’s not really what we’re discussing today, but the restaurant reception’s a bit of a pro too because you can revisit it. Otherwise, if you’re at a reception centre or ceremony venue, it’s hard to probably revisit that for any reason. Unless you get invited to another wedding there or whatever, you really don’t go in there, where here, you can come and visit for your anniversaries, etc.

Mary 56:06

That’s perfect. Look, Rod. That’s all I have to chat with you about today. Thank you so much for coming on and having such a really fun time and really giving us a lot to think about, a lot of words of wisdom for venues, other vendors, and couples. I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

Rod Micallef 56:25

Absolute pleasure. Thank you. Thanks for having me today. Added:

Mary 56:27

Thanks, Rod.

Dorothy 56:31

If you would like to find out more about the beautiful Zonzo Estate, head on over to We have a full post over there with everything about today’s episode, including all the links and a full written transcript, and of course, how you can book with the beautiful Zonzo Estate for your very own wedding day. We would love your thoughts, feedback, and ideas for the Feel Good Wedding Podcast, so make sure you send us a message, write us a review or send us a DM because we would love to hear from you. We’ll be back in another two weeks with another episode just for you.