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Villa Botanica Interview
In their short 6 years of existence, Villa Botanica has established itself as one of Australia’s- and now the world’s- most luxuriant and proficient destination wedding organisations. Founded by couple Janet and Ralph Hogan, the company describes itself as offering “the most beautiful and intimate wedding venue in Australia… that is simply unmatched anywhere.”
Despite pairing some of the world’s best facilities with a planning service of unrivalled conscientiousness, Villa Botanica maintains that it offers a budget for every bride. We sat down with the duo to find out how this company has broken away from, and sped light years ahead of the competition.
What sparked your passion for the industry, and how did you first establish your business?
Ralph: When we established Villa Botanica, we were looking to move away from the fast- paced jobs we held that offered rational, financial benefits, and wanted something that offered emotional rewards. I wanted to create a palace for my princess, Janet, in a way that involved my interest in art, antiquity and fine craftsmanship. So I created a waterfront oasis of organic architecture and gardens tumbling onto the black granite foreshore of Pioneer Bay on Airlie Beach, overlooking the Coral Sea and islands of the Whitsundays. My labour of love kept expanding until the day it became clear that our family home had a higher purpose, which we have now found in hosting people in this very romantic, private, intimate environment.
What range of products or services does your company provide?
Janet: Villa Botanica is our flagship venue, and set us on our path of specialising in destination weddings. We directly address and solve the problems associated with weddings away from home: the frustrations experienced by brides not being able to control the outcome of their wedding, receiving poor service, not knowing how much their weddings are going to end up costing, and when overseas, language issues. We provide a guided service that takes them step by step through the planning process, both in person and using our new online planner, ‘Poppy’. We have already hosted over 500 weddings and our vision is to become the foremost provider of quality destination weddings where both the venue and the service is nothing short of exceptional.
What, in your minds, differentiates you from all other wedding venues?
J: Simply put, the best of the best: the most exquisite venues, and the most exceptional service. We have an enormous responsibility to the couples’ family and friends to make it an unforgettable day, so our aim is to differentiate ourselves by making every wedding party’s jaw drop on arrival.
What’s the general process that you follow when a bride comes to see you?
J: After the bride’s made contact with us, we talk her through her vision of her wedding, and take her through the planning process and then the day itself. We explain the pitfalls of destination weddings, how to avoid them and then show her how we can ensure her wedding is absolutely stress free, fun and romantic. The relationship between bride and wedding coordinators is very long standing, and we know that our responsibility to her is far longer lasting than one day. We do our utmost to ensure that she’s as happy as possible in the process leading up to her wedding day.
R: We have a set of options pertaining to every facet of the wedding, within which the couple has an extraordinary range within that to express themselves- ranging from decorations to menu options.
J: Additionally, we’re in the process of adding the final touches to an amazing program called Poppy, which stands for Personal Online Planner, which will make all the information relating to the wedding instantly accessible, and effectively bring the wedding to her.
Our aim is to make sure our coordination had been absolutely airtight- not a minute of the wedding is unplanned, so on the day itself, the bride has no additional duties or issues to worry about. That way, when she’s walking down the aisle, she’s fully present and can completely immerse herself in the moment. Nothing is left to chance, so that the couple can have the most memorable experience possible.
What are some of your most popular products and services?
J: Undoubtedly, our venues are the star of the show- they’re aesthetically spectacular. In addition to our property in the Queensland, we’ve recently established our second venue in Bali, which is a real showstopper.
The incredible contrast between both our venues and many typical Australian environments gives the impression that you’ve been completely transported to a tropical paradise. Our service, similarly, has been carefully honed and is something we’re particularly proud of. We make sure that the entire wedding party is moved every couple of hours- from the ceremony location to the reception area, to the ballroom for dancing- so that the guests are constantly surprised and invigorated by the environment, and really absorb the experience in its entirety.
Additionally, we have an amazing staff who focus exclusively on weddings, and who work tirelessly to constantly refine their skills. Because we coordinate the entire wedding, our suppliers represent just about the whole spectrum, which means we remain in complete control of the entire event: florists, decorators, cake makers, hair and makeup, DJs, entertainers, transport, photographers, videographers, accommodation providers, tours and activities, we cover everything except personal items that the couple organise themselves like the dress and ring.
The other big drawcard, of course, is ‘Poppy’, as it puts the bride back in control of her wedding- whether the wedding is local to her miles away.
Do you normally offer a mock-up or run through of your product or services?J: Yes, we offer a run through of the planning process and the day itself which we present online to our prospective couples.
What is the most common misconception you have to deal with?
R: The fact that brides will be lured with a cheap entry level price with little idea of what their wedding is likely to end up costing. This is all too common with inexperienced or disorganized companies, and it’s the brides who end up suffering. So we ensure that we’re up front with the projected costs, which depend on how you want to personalize your wedding.
What advice would you give to brides who are in the midst of planning their wedding?
J: Getting married is a journey, and it begins when you begin planning your big day. How you experience those months in the lead up to the wedding very much affects how you’ll feel on your wedding day, so it is imperative to find the right sources to do the job properly. Take note of how your prospective vendors treat you before you take the planning process any further. How quickly do they respond to you? How seriously do they treat your enquiries? Make sure they’re up front, confident, and transparent about the cost. The stress that results from wedding planning is so often related to finances, so remember to set clear and realistic goals and boundaries for yourself.
What can brides expect from you in the future?
J: More venues and more once in a lifetime experiences, in Bali and beyond.
In addition, we’re developing an incredibly exciting couples’ workshop, which we’re calling the “Happily Ever After Workshop”. It centers on the idea that once you’re married, the best part of the life is now unfolding, and the workshop teaches you how to make the most of this phase of your life. It offers advice on the 4 keys areas we all need to address: direction (goals), mindset (undoing negative beliefs), energy (nutrition, fitness, meditation) and money (wealth creation.) And like we outsource the job of cake- baking, we’re hiring experts in their relative fields, that’ll include nutritionists, fitness experts, business and financial planners, and the like. We like to think of it as a blue print for life. Essentially, it provides all the information Ralph and I wish we had when we first got married, almost 35 years ago. And now none of our clients will have to learn the hard way!
To find out more information on any of the discussed subjects, or to inquire directly with the owners, visit http://villabotanica.com.au/weddings/.