What Would They Know? Fiona Deans-Dundas of Couture Wedding Planning

by | Wedding Planning Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom


Polka Dot Bride

Fiona of Couture Wedding Planning

I’m always amazed and delighted by the talented vendors we have in Australia in the wedding industry. Enter Sydney based Couture Wedding Planning. With a love of luxe, Fiona provides her trained eye to planning and styling your wedding. From helping source the wedding gown to handling the planning, bookings, and styling details, Fiona aims to take the stress out of planning your day, at the same time, using her creative talents to ensure your day will be perfect.

Fiona tells us, “7 years ago (10th Jan 2009) I married my best friend and started my own wedding planning business and have not looked back!!” And with her love of weddings still going strong, there wouldn’t be a better reason to plan for the ‘Couture’ touch to your day!

Please describe your background in events management?

I grew up in Zimbabwe and left at 18 years old to pursue my career in Event and Hotel Management by gaining my Bachelor of Commerce at the Blue Mountains Hotel Management School in Leura for my first 3 years in Sydney. I had a fantastic opportunity to work in some fantastic hotels such as the Ritz Carlton in Double Bay (now the Intercontinental Double Bay) and Observatory Hotel (now the Langham). Once I completed my education in Australia I moved to the UK for a year and worked in some amazing hotels in Oxford. I returned to Sydney to do my Masters in Accounting and worked at a bridal boutique while I was at University. This is where my love for weddings really started. I then worked in the finance industry for about a year and then decided to start my own Wedding Planning Business. That was 7 years ago now and we have not looked back.

How would you describe your business, Couture Wedding Planning?

Couture Wedding Planning is a luxury boutique wedding planning company based in Sydney’s North Shore. We love to get to know our couples over the wedding planning process and find out what inspires them and what they love and then go onto creating an exquisite wedding beyond their dreams.

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Image by gm photographics

Please describe your mission?

Our mission is to create memorable and successful events that exceed our couple’s expectations, nurture relationships and delight the senses. We work hard, laugh often, and invest all our energy into the creation of unforgettable weddings.

What is the information you find out when you first meet with the bride and groom? How do you proceed with the planning process?

At our complementary initial consultation, I like to meet with the couple at my Crows Nest Studio and start off by discussing how many people they are planning on having and what sort of ceremony and reception venue they envisioned for their big day. We then discuss the bridal party and their attire. Then what type of photography or videographer inspires them. We then discuss my favourite part – what type of styling they would like and how they like their ceremony or reception to look and feel. Also, if they had any particular colour or inspiration in mind for their flowers, cakes and stationery. Finally we go onto discussing transport and logistics and then finally entertainment and music for both venues.

Once the clients has confirmed they’d like to go ahead, we then go onto sourcing the perfect ceremony and reception venue, followed by the videographer and photographer and then we lock in all their other suppliers in over the coming months.

Budgets – always a challenge to manage. How do you go about helping the couple manage their budget?

Yes I agree Budgets are one of the most challenging elements of any wedding. Once a couple has confirmed they like to go ahead with my services, I normally put together an approximate budget for them either based on the total amount they like to spend on the wedding or based on the elements they would like to include if they don’t have a total cost in mind. I then communicate this to them to check if this is what they are interested in spending. I like to get approximately 3 quotes for them from each of the elements of the wedding so they can choose which service or product they like to go ahead. We may go onto investing in something that is a priority to the couple and then may go with more cost effective options for items that are less of a priority. Most of the time it is managing a client’s expectations, as most couples have no experience with how much weddings cost so by doing the approximate budget at the beginning this starts to educate them on the cost of items and prepares them for the planning process.

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Image by Inlighten Photography

What are the most important reasons for engaging a wedding planner?

  • It saves you a lot of time – having a wedding planner is like having your own personal assistant J.
  • We are here to reduce your stress levels and help with the decision-making.
  • We are here to streamline the process for the bride and groom through ever evolving to do list and to match the couple with their perfect suppliers.
  • We are able to offer the couples discounts that they would not normally be able to receive if they went direct to the supplier, as they are our clients.
  • We manage their budget, RSVP and timeline for them.
  • We attend their wedding day and make sure any little challenges that might come up on the day are solved.

How are you best able to use your connections with other vendors in the planning process?

Our Suppliers are fantastic – they go above and beyond for us and are all so creative and talented – they make our jobs so much easier. Suppliers we often work with, will probably provide us with discounts, which we choose to pass onto our couples, and if a discount cannot be provided then maybe adding value to their package. Our suppliers are also sometime able to source new styling items for us or try new ideas for us that my couple has envisioned as we have such great relationships with them.

Do you offer wedding planning packages?

Yes we offer 3 wedding planning packages. The Haute Couture is our full wedding planning package and is a very exclusive package available to 3 couples each year.  We limit this package to small number of couples so we can provide them with the exclusive and detailed service. This package is perfect for couples who have not planned anything for their wedding yet and require help sourcing both ceremony and reception venues as well as all their other suppliers needed for their wedding planning. This package also includes unlimited face-to-face meetings.  This also includes 12 hours of Wedding Day Coordination.  Our Haute Couture Couples will be provided with an Ipad so they can connect with their personal wedding planner and create mood boards and store all their documentation.

The Demi Couture package is perfect for couples who have booked their ceremony and reception venues as well as a few of their other suppliers so far but not sure what to do next and need help with organising the rest of their wedding and with tying all their ideas together. This package includes 15 face-to-face meetings and 8 hours of Wedding Day Coordination.

The final package is the Couture Coordination Package is perfect for couples who would like to plan their own wedding and source all their suppliers and just need help coordinating their wedding day.  I am also available on an advisory basis to help them with any questions or concerns they may have along the way. With this package you would be the main point of contact to your suppliers and you would attend all your wedding meetings on your own.  Then 3 months before the wedding we will create a comprehensive timeline for your wedding day and the package includes 3 face-to-face meetings so we can discuss the final elements with your key suppliers such as the venue, your photographer and florist.

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Image by Inlighten Photography

Are you also able to help a couple style their wedding?

Absolutely, it my favourite part of the wedding planning process as the styling affects every element of the wedding planning. Couples who book my Haute Couture and Demi Couture packages have my styling expertise included in these packages. Then a couple who have booked the wedding day coordination, includes my styling expertise on a advisory level.

Do you have a signature style?

My personal signature style is a very luxe, high-end wedding with a lot of personal accents, to create a lot of layers for the people that are experiencing them, both the couple as well as their guests. I am obsessed with flowers and love a good chandelier or two.

I’d say I have an adaptable style. I particularly love immersing myself in each of my couples’ styling ideas and exploring that theme or colour to its limits. For example maybe a bride would like classic white wedding or vintage rustic wedding or modern or great Gatsby wedding. My own style is always adapted to suit the wedding I am working on to ensure a very personal and unique approach.

What are the most effective elements couples can use to give their wedding ambiance and style?

Candle light is probably one of the most effective way to create both style and ambiance at any wedding and can often be a very cost effective styling option – we often source multiple pillar candles from Ikea or a good $2 shop to create another styling element and a bit of extra detail in additional to the traditional tealight holder.

How has wedding ‘style’ evolved over the years you’ve been in the business?

I don’t think my personal style has changed much over the years. But the availability of certain styling items in Australia such a charger plates, luxury linens and new chairs has certainly changed the styling landscape as brides are looking to social media such a Instagram and Pinterest and seeing what brides are doing overseas. This creates a demand for these items and so the suppliers in Australia are bringing in these items, that this new form of super brides are wanting.

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Image by Inlighten Photography

Are there any ‘rules’ in wedding styling? Or are there no rules?

I feel that the styling has to be both consistent in colour and maybe in certain styling elements, such as your motif being displayed throughout the ceremony on the church booklets to the menus at the reception. But other than that there are not really any rules, what ever the couple want or have envisioned can be created or brought to life – and just by discussing the styling as you go through the process, can remove any inconsistencies. Doing a mock up of the wedding planning styling before the wedding day can often highlight if there is a certain element that is not working or needs to altered.

Please describe some stunning ideas you’ve seen in wedding décor?

I adore floral chandeliers or other floral ceiling installations. I love beautifully draped archways as the centerpiece at your garden ceremony with a lush floral header.

I love to incorporate elements from the bride’s gown and from her invitations onto the cake – for example attached is a photo of one of my bride’s cakes which is a mini version of her Vera Wang Gown that Faye Cahill created for us, which included a lilac Grosgrain Belt (see image below).

I also love the little ideas such a personalized cocktail napkin with the couple motif on it for the canapés or new take on a guest book with a couple preshoot printed professional image with areas for guests to write their wishes in for the couple.

How do you ensure that your ideas remain fresh – where do you find your inspiration?

I find my inspiration from so many sources, when I travel, when I am shopping, from retail shop window displays to more digital forms like Instagram and Pinterest.

What are your favourite parts of the wedding planning process?

My first favourite part is going wedding gown shopping with the bride – there is such a amazing energy when you find the one and often makes everyone cry (including me), and my second is when the groom sees the bride for the first time – this moment is amazing to witness and often reminds me of my experience on my own wedding day and reminds me how amazing weddings actually are – they’re not just about a big party but two people that found each other and want to declare their love to each other in front of all the family and friends. Such a special moment!!

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Image by Inlighten Photography

What books are you reading at the moment?

Not so much of a reader – I am more of a movie girl and just fell in love with both The Dressmaker with Kate Winslet and Burnt with Bradley Cooper – they are both fantastic films!!

What do you like to do to relax?

I love to meet up with friends and have a lovely lazy brunch or yummy dinner. Love to catch up on my movies and a good mani and pedi session is the best. I love to travel at least twice a year – normally go away in the quiet time over winter and explore new places – we did Italy last year and this year I got to go to New York for the first time. Such amazing experiences!!

Thank you Fiona for sharing your story. Beautiful and imaginative styling at your fingertips. To find out more about Couture Wedding Planning visit the website.

Headshot by Simona Janek


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