What Would They Know? Nichole Vartuli of Taronga Centre

by | Venue Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Polka Dot Bride
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Nichel of Taronga Centre

For the Sydney Harbour views and facilities alone, the Taronga Centre would be a wonderful place for a wedding – but add to that the sights and sounds of animals as part of your day and you have a recipe for pure magic. Strolling past the animal enclosures and having an elephant go about its day splashing and swaying from side to side, or a giraffe stretch out their long neck giving you an inquisitive look – well, these are soul filling experiences. And on a day when your heart is full with your loved ones gathered round enjoying the sights and sounds with you – what could be more special? There’s so much to love about Taronga Centre and here Nichole shares her thoughts on planning your wedding at this very special place.

Please describe the Taronga Centre and where it is in the grounds of Taronga Zoo?

The Taronga Centre is located within the grounds of Taronga Zoo Conservation Society in Mosman, just a short distance from Sydney CBD. The Taronga Centre is one of the most picturesque venues you’ll find in Sydney, with a floor to ceiling backdrop overlooking the Sydney Harbour, and views of the iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

Taronga Centre Mr Wigley Photography 2

Image by Mr Wigley

What are the unique features that stand out the most?

All Taronga Centre venues, including The View Restaurant within the grounds of Taronga Zoo, showcase the most breathtaking Sydney Harbour backdrop for your special day. All venues have a private balcony, which serves as the perfect location for your guests to enjoy the sunset while they have some pre-dinner canapes.

The Taronga Centre wedding package includes a complimentary one hour access to the zoo grounds, for the bridal party to capture some truly unique photo opportunities that you’ll get nowhere else.

Taronga Centre Alister Kou

Image by Alister Kou at AlisAlis

Please describe the spaces available for a wedding:

Harbourview Ballroom

The Harbourview Ballroom is the largest function space available for weddings and can accommodate up to 250 people for a banquet style wedding with a dancefloor, or it fits 350 guests for a cocktail event. The venue has a grand ceiling with 6 ceiling inlets and illuminated lighting that adds that extra warmth and glow in the room. It also allows for additional styling, for example fairy lights or floral garlands. Tall centrepieces are really popular to have in the venue; we recommend tall centrepieces with thin or clear frames so that views across the venue are not obstructed. The floor to ceiling windows with access to the balcony overlooking Sydney Harbour allows guests to make the most of the amazing view and the balcony is a real crowd pleaser, especially during canapes.

Harbourview Terrace

The Harbourview Terrace is located on the second floor of the Taronga Centre, above the Harbourview Ballroom. The venue accommodates up to 150 guests for a banquet style function with a dancefloor or up to 250 guests for a cocktail function.

The Harbourview Terrace is a slightly curved venue that faces the Harbour and has floor to ceiling windows on both the front and sides of the venue to allow for large amounts of natural light to fill the room. The ceiling is quite low so smaller centrepieces with taut drapery on the ceiling work great. The natural/pastel colours of the room and greenery compliment the venue surrounds. The Harbourview Terrace also has a landing platform at the entrance, which is great for a ‘wow’ statement (for example a floral arch) for guests to experience when they first walk into the venue.

The View Restaurant

The View Restaurant provides an exclusive dining experience in an intimate location for wedding receptions of up to 70 guests for a cocktail event or 50 seated guests, plus a designated area for a DJ or band. It is available for after-hour use and located in the grounds so that guests can experience a walk through the Zoo to get to the venue. The restaurant has a rustic look and feel, with wooden bentwood chairs that compliment the surroundings of the Zoo and retractable glass windows that open up to an outdoor balcony; perfect for summer evenings.

Taronga Centre Xtraordinary Photo Video 1

Image by Xtraordinary Photos & Video

How would you describe the ambience of the Taronga Centre and the spaces within it?

The Taronga Centre is quite a contemporary and sophisticated space with a natural ambience. It has an impressive open plan area, which gives our clients a blank canvas to personalise their event with their unique theme and make it their own.

Taronga Centre Captured by Kirri Kirishay Photography

Image by Kiri Shay Photography

Are these spaces available for the wedding ceremony too?

There are currently two spaces available for ceremonies to be held in the late afternoon — the Bird Amphitheatre and Seal Cove. These venues are a short walk from the Taronga Centre, so guests have the opportunity to experience the zoo’s atmosphere as they walk through the grounds.

The Bird Amphitheatre has a tranquil atmosphere and stunning panoramic views, making it the perfect outdoor location for couples to say their “I do’s”.

Seal Cove is an alternate undercover ceremony location, and is unique because of its floor to ceiling backdrop of the aquatic pools; it has a serene atmosphere and who knows, an Australian sea lion may even swim past to say hello.

Taronga Centre Creek Street Photography

Image by Creek Street Photography

Is the couple able to book different spaces for different parts of the day?

Couples have the opportunity to book a ceremony within the Taronga Zoo grounds and then hold their reception within the Taronga Function Centre. The private wrap-around balconies is a great location for our clients to host pre-dinner drinks and canapes, while their guests enjoy the spectacular sun set over the Sydney Harbour skyline.

Is there any part of the centre or any of the areas available, where guests can be near the animals?

Hosting your ceremony at one of the venues within the grounds allows couples and their guests to be immersed within the sounds and surrounds of Taronga Zoo. Your guests will be able to see some of their favourite animals as they make their way to and from the ceremony spaces.

Taronga Centre Daniel Griffiths Photography

Image by Daniel Griffiths Photography

How can a couple make the most of the space they choose for their wedding?

A key aspect of my job is working closely with couples, and providing them with the flexibility to customise their wedding day, including choosing when they want their reception to start. Most clients work with the timing of the sunset, and adjust depending on the time of the year. We encourage clients to maximise the length of time for their guests to enjoy the amazing views and breathtaking sunset.

As the Taronga Centre venues are versatile spaces, it makes it easy for clients to individualise their event, and add their own styling. We have a list of recommended suppliers, with whom we have amazing relationships with; however, clients also have the ability to select their own suppliers. If the client’s chosen supplier has not previously worked with the venue, we recommend that they arrange a time to view the space, discuss the venue capabilities and align the overall look with the theme the client is wishing to create. We also work with our clients to tailor their floor plan to suit their guest numbers, desired themes and entertainment needs. These are fundamental elements to ensure our couples get the most out of the venue space they have selected.

Taronga Centre Sweet Escape Photos 1

Image by Sweet Escape Photography

Because our wedding is being held at the zoo (surrounded by animals) are there any restrictions that we need to be aware of?

We do need to be mindful of our furry residents, so there are a few restrictions to protect the health and well being of the animals. Loose organic items, such as flower petals, and non-organic items like confetti and balloons can be quite harmful if they find their way into the animal enclosures. So styling within the ceremony spaces requires prior approval to ensure that all the elements comply with the health and safety requirements. Also, drone photography and cultural drumming is not allowed as these can be disruptive and startle the animals.

Taronga Centre David James Photography

 Image by David James Photography

 Are there plenty of photo opportunities that can include the animals?

The Taronga Centre Wedding package includes exclusive access to the Taronga Zoo grounds for bridal party photos. Our couples have the opportunity to select the locations they wish to visit for their photos and the animals have the freedom to roam between their outdoor or indoor spaces; our giraffes are quite the photo bombers!

There are also many scenic and historic locations nestled amongst the Zoo grounds including the stunning Elephant Temple, Bird Amphitheatre and newly built Centenary Theatre platform which has the most breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour.

Epicure is renowned for their food and excellent service. What does excellent service and your on trend and ethical approach to food mean?

At EPICURE, we are passionate about two things: creating food that is delicious and delivering a service second to none. Our Executive Chef and culinary team are dedicated to bringing our clients a great range of seasonal and on trend menus, with a focus on sourcing sustainable and local produce. As we are situated within Taronga Zoo grounds, it is imperative that our sustainable and ethical approach to food coincides with the Zoo’s International Conservation and Initiative programs. This approach — along with our spectacular Harbour views — is very popular with our international clients who seek the Taronga Centre as a destination wedding venue.

Taronga Centre Yulia Photography 2

Image by Yulia Photography

How do the couple decide on the menu and is there advice about matching wine, beer, or spirits?

As part of our wedding package, we offer the couple a complimentary menu tasting. Our menu tasting events are held within the venue throughout the year. These are hosted during the evening so that couples get the opportunity to view and experience the venue as they would on their wedding day.

During the menu tastings, our couples can speak directly with our Executive Chef to discuss all things food. Our beverage suppliers are also present and offer their guidance and expertise on partnering specific beverages with any of the menu items.

How much freedom/flexibility is there in planning the menu – for example is the couple able to have food stations set up, plan a signature cocktail to be served, or provide a food station for guests to fuel up before the drive home?

Our talented Executive Chef is more than happy to speak with our clients directly, to understand their needs and menu requirements — particularly weddings that wish to incorporate cultural aspects — to make their day unique and personal.

We showcase our menu offerings at various events throughout the year, such as menu tastings and bridal open days. Food stations and late night snacks are great crowd pleasers that get guests up and mingling, and avoids the need for the late night drive through!

Taronga Centre Mark Jay Photography

 Image by Mark Jay Photography

When a couple approaches Taronga Centre to plan their day – what is the journey that your team takes them on?

Once the client makes an enquiry, we invite them in for a site inspection where we showcase all our unique spaces and inspire them for what lies ahead. Our site inspections are mainly held during the set up of another wedding. This assists couples to visualise what a wedding at the Taronga Centre looks like. Once the client has made their booking, I am introduced as their Wedding Coordinator. I then begin the fun and exciting process of easing them into all things wedding!

I work very closely with all the couples in the lead up to their big day. I am always available to answer any questions and assist with items such as floor plans, schedules and suppliers. On the client’s wedding day, I am present on site overseeing their wedding set up, assisting with bringing the suppliers in and coordinating the all-important bridal entrance into the venue. Throughout the year we host bridal open events where our recommended suppliers showcase their amazing talents. These events are something that our couples really look forward to.

Taronga Centre Inlighten Photography

Image by Inlighten Photography

With the views and the animals creating a special ambience, what do you suggest for décor? What are some beautiful things you’ve seen lately?

Most clients love to keep with natural colours that compliment the surrounding greenery and garden spaces of Taronga Zoo. We are blessed with floor to ceiling windows that capture the Sydney Harbour water views and surrounding landmarks, which provides the perfect backdrop for any bridal table! Ceiling installations with low centrepieces that incorporate candles and up lighting around the room are also quite popular with our clients at the Taronga Centre.

Taronga Centre We are origami photography

Image by We Are Origami Photography

What do you love about working in such a beautiful and extraordinary venue?

I absolutely love working in such a natural environment that has a strong connection with animal conservation. Every wedding I have been involved with has had something special and my most honoured experiences have been just knowing that the client and their guests have had the most amazing day. It is so fulfilling to see many months — even years of planning — come into one special day. Every part of my job is very rewarding! Many couples touch base with us months after their wedding to share their most favourite pictures from the day.

Thank you Nichole for sharing your story. I wouldn’t mind a giraffe stealing the show and wouldn’t this be a great memory to smile about whenever you look at your photos! To find out more about Taronga Centre visit the website.

Headshot courtesy of Taronga Centre.

COMMENTS
  • Winter Wedding Blog News - Polka Dot Bride says:
    July 7, 2018 at 12:01 am

    […] Wedding at a Zoo? We meet the wedding crew at Taronga Zoo […]

    REPLY
  • Jo Belfiore says:
    June 12, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    Please, whatever you decide, do not go with Taronga Zoo. We had to reschedule our date as my father-in-law passed away (which they were aware of how ill he was) and they told us that we owed them $15500 on top of the invoice we had paid in full because of the date change. We asked for a break down of charges (we knew there would be some costs incurred) and they refused to provide them. After finally getting a hold of the general manager ourselves, he told us that the charges were only $1000?! Then, on the wedding night, they only gave out champagne flutes to half of the room during speeches and then gave the other half after the speeches. What was the point? On top of the sadness we were experiencing, they completely stressed us out. It was very hard to enjoy our wedding day.

    REPLY

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