We’re now a couple of months into another fabulous wedding season and already we’ve worked with so many new venues and vendors which we can’t wait to share with you all in the coming months. However, one magical place that keeps us coming back time and time again is…
Four years ago, one of Katie’s good school friends hired us to shoot her wedding at this amazing Yarra Valley winery. Back then we’d never heard of Stones, but after doing a quick location scout we were absolutely blown away. That particular day was sunny, but on the day of the wedding it rained non-stop, and we figured we had to drop all our location ideas. And then, as if by magic, Vonnie (Stones’ Creative Director) came straight up to us and said “I have umbrellas in every colour, and gumboots in every size. What do you need to make this happen?” It was basically the start of a beautiful working relationship, and we quickly learned that come rain, hail or shine, Stones of the Yarra Valley is a perfect venue year round (the personalised umbrellas and gumboots are just a fabulous bonus).
We’ve shot at Stones countless times, and yet every single wedding feels like it’s the first – amazing when you consider 1000+ weddings have taken place on the grounds! To celebrate this massive milestone, we snuck out of the office to chat to Michaela Violi, Stones’ longtime wedding guru (and keeper of the wedding date diary) to find out why this venue is so enchanting, and put her marvellous behind-the-scenes work centre stage.
Michaela, you’ve been at every wedding we’ve ever shot at Stones. What exactly does your role entail?
I’m the key contact for all the wedding dates at Stones of the Yarra Valley, working directly with Vonnie Frazer (a true creative force) on each wedding. I’m the first point of contact when it comes to venue availability. I get to meet happy couples, show them through our stunning spaces and then we sit down together to find their perfect date.
You once mentioned to us that this was your dream job. How did you get there?
I’m a local Yarra Glen girl and started with Stones as a restaurant attendant before moving to manage the floor, coordinate events and weddings, and finally taking over the role of contracting wedding dates. I’m now in my dream role at my dream venue, and it just keeps getting better.
We think your enthusiasm and sincerity with every single wedding is inspirational. It’s certainly a significant reason why you make our job so enjoyable when we come to shoot at Stones.
Thank you so much! Our collective commitment is to ensure that every wedding is the most important and significant wedding held on the property. No two weddings are the same. 1,000 weddings on and we continue to that commitment. We also know that by treating our vendors with the utmost respect, that enthusiasm and dedication will trickle down to everyone involved so that every last guest leaves feeling they were part of something incredibly special.
1000 weddings! Sounds like you guys need a party (hint hint!). We’ve heard on the grapevine that you’re booked out for years?
We are blessed with the fact that we are the custodians of a very special property in the Yarra Valley and we certainly get a steady flow of enquiries for weddings but we always seem to find a way of accommodating couples who are absolutely committed to getting married at Stones. In fact, we have only recently opened our diary for 2015 and whilst we are busy through 2014 we actually still have some weekend dates available early next year.
That’s great news potentially for couples who don’t want a long engagement. Personally we loved it when we shot our first ever Monday wedding at Stones, the guests were naturally thrilled too!
The first desire of couples is usually to get married on a weekend but the calendar is finite and we always say that once you have selected your life partner, you need to choose a venue that will also be with you for life. Wedding photos are very much forever and it doesn’t matter on what day the photos are taken. When you picture your wedding in 50 years time, you will be thinking of the atmosphere and location, not the day of the week. We are finding that more and more weddings are happening on weekdays. Lunchtime celebrations are also becoming more popular.
What’s your favourite season for weddings at Stones?
Stones of the Yarra Valley is simply spectacular every day of the year and I’ve been a part of beautiful weddings here across every season. The summer days are long, and guests love to dance out on the al fresco area on warm balmy evenings. Autumn with the beautiful change of colour on the vines in stunning. Stark winter days with amazing cloud formations over the Great Divide have produced some of the most incredible photos we’ve ever seen at Stones (and together with the lure of Northern Hemisphere honeymoons a lot of couples are now choosing this option!) and Spring with the lush bud burst and endless flower varieties is always a favourite. The short answer is, every season is beautiful in its own right.
Every time we come to Stones we say “We wish we lived here!” It truly feels like you’re our Yarra Valley extended family. Guests remark on feeling this way as well. Why do you think this is?
There seems to be some sort of ambience about the place that just makes everyone who visits so comfortable and happy. It’s best for everyone who enquires about Stones to come out and visit the property. The site is really very special and I often feel I am just trying to shuffle the diary to find dates for clients who have fallen in love with the place and refuse to get married anywhere else!
The Stables are the newest addition to the property, even though they’re one of the oldest buildings on the site. What was the vision when it was created?
We opened The Stables almost two years ago now and more recently feel we have found the right formula for the best use of this amazing space – smaller weddings (up to 60 guests) and private events, stunning dinners on Friday and Saturday evenings and tapas for lunch on the weekends. We are very proud of the restoration of what was a totally dilapidated space – the old Stables of the original St. Hubert’s winery site from the 1860’s. Whilst The Stables have become very popular for smaller weddings we are adamant that there will never be two brides on the property at the same time so weddings in The Stables are mostly lunch time celebrations or weekday occasions.
Steve (the business brain behind Stones) once told us that you could put together a dream wedding in two weeks. Would you seriously dare?
It’s true. Getting married at Stones is just so easy, we are a complete wedding planner for our couples. Once they have committed to a date here they receive a full list of what we call our ‘preferred suppliers’. Everyone from celebrants to florists, bands, accommodation, babysitters, transport, cake makers, hair and makeup etc. Only the best who we have worked with over the years make the cut. As Creative Director, Vonnie then makes sure that every wedding is unique, special and absolutely unforgettable, even if we only have two weeks notice.
Your final words of advice to anyone considering a Stones wedding?
I love that more and more of our couples are shunning tradition and celebrating their weddings in the way they want. Don’t be dismayed because you can’t get married on a Saturday night in March next year! Just remember that the family and friends who come to your wedding love you and will go wherever and whenever you ask. A Sunday night allows guests to have a long weekend. Weeknight weddings allow easier access to many suppliers and accommodation in the Yarra Valley. A lunchtime wedding give you spectacular views all through your wedding and the night to party. Never assume we’re too busy, because your perfect wedding date might just be available when you’d never expect!
Keep up the wonderful work Michaela, Vonnie and Steve and all at Stones. Thank you for sharing your beautiful venue with Love Katie + Sarah and congratulations again on celebrating your 1000th wedding (seriously, when’s the party?) xo