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Are you a model, want to be a model or love the camera? If you answered “yes” then you are probably in the minority of brides and grooms; most dread the thought of being photographed. But it doesn’t have to be that way! The best way to get great photos and feel comfortable is to get to know your photographer and vice versa. The best way to do this is with a pre-wedding shoot and it’s a simple concept. You organize a shoot with your photographer before the wedding and if done right, it is an integral part of the wedding photography structure.

So, you’re struggling with the concept of another expense to an already costly exercise. Not true! Many photographers will have the pre-wedding shoot already included in the package. You can choose if you would like to purchase prints or not. Many couples actually choose to make a signature book out of their pre-wedding shoot. This is a beautifully printed photo book with images from the pre-wedding shoot printed on paper that guests can write their well wishes on at the reception.

From a photographer’s point of view, the main aim of the pre-wedding shoot is to get to know the couple better, what makes them tick, how they interact as a couple and how their individual personalities combine. This gives us great insight into what the wedding will be like, how to approach the day and in the end, capture the wedding to best suit the couple. Personally, we do all our shoots outdoors, at a location of the couple’s choice. This helps them feel at ease and is great if they want to include kids or their pets into the session. We have photographed a couple at their family farm because they have an emotional attachment to it and we have a shoot coming up at an airfield as they both love airplanes. So pretty much anything goes, we just make sure we have a good time and get some fun casual images.

So when you are going through the process of choosing a wedding photographer take into consideration the benefits of doing a pre-wedding shoot. If you’re not sure if you should book someone before the shoot, you will definitely know afterwards!  I will leave you with a lovely email we got from a couple after their pre wedding shoot, and it was the shoot that confirmed their booking!

” Hi Johl and Sarah,
Just wanted to thank you both for Monday night. Vin and I had such a great time, and are so excited that you will be our photographer for the wedding. Not that we weren’t before – just after Monday it shows that we really have chosen the right photographer. Hope you guys enjoyed it half as much as we did, and we got some great photos.”

Photography by JD Digital Photography

Ms Gingham says: Thanks to Johl for outlining the benefits of an engagement shoot. I absolutely love the idea of making a signature book out of the images … brilliant!”

About Johl: “I love my wife, my new baby daughter Lola, my two crazy dogs, the Melbourne football club, socialising with friends and family, sport of all kinds, tattoos, my job (if you could call it that, my friends think it is a well paying hobby), art in all forms, interesting people and good conversation.”

Learn more about Johl on his blog.

The team at Decorative Events have long been firm favourites of mine when it comes to Sydney wedding stylists. From every beautiful event I see them put together I gain inspiration and admiration. It’s lovely today to be joined by Marlo Leighton, a wedding stylist at Decorative Events and to get to know the “face behind the name”.

Tell me about yourself – your background.

My background is predominantly Floral Design and event floristry.

After studying Fine Arts at University I realised that my true passion was Weddings. This passion had been ignited and fostered throughout my childhood as my Mother’s love of soft furnishings and interior design was how I learnt the fundamental principles of colour and design. Our home was a constant source of wonder and inspiration. There were cupboards brimming with swatches of fabrics, tassels and ribbons; sideboards groaning with vases, glassware and dinner services in every conceivable pattern and colour. The inspiration was endless, and my passion was sparked. My sister and I would take turns each evening to design from this immense body of props a “one of a kind” table-scape to “wow” and impress those that dined. I was “home schooled” in the art of and joy of colour, fabrics and objet d’art and how to skilfully put them all together.

How did you get into the Wedding Industry ?

I realised that it was either through food or flowers that I would make my debut into Weddings and as I had grown up in a wondrous, enchanted garden, flowers were the obvious choice. I trained for two years in beautiful Sydney shops and then made my break for London. I worked as a freelance Floral Designer at a number of very beautiful, luxurious and quintessentially English establishments – Harrods, Claridges Hotel and the oldest and most prestigious Florist in London, Moyses Stevens. The scope and volume of work, the immense wealth and the innate appreciation of flowers, tested and developed my skills beyond anything available in Australia. Once I returned home, and after broadening my depth of experience in Event Floristry at a number of top hotels including working as the in-house Floral Designer at Palazzo Versace, I decided that my love really didn’t just end at Wedding flowers. I wanted to be an integral part of determining the design for all the decorative elements involved in an unforgettable Wedding. And so, here I am!

What do you love about this industry?

Weddings embody everything that is beautiful, romantic, joyous, and extravagant. There is no other occasion in one’s life where every tiny detail is agonised over; where incredibly large sums of money are unbegrudgingly and effortlessly spent on creating the most perfect, most elegant and undeniably beautiful affair, all with the intent to celebrate “love”. To be lucky enough to surround myself with beautiful things, to be able to advise and guide Brides through the incredible enjoyable and rewarding design process, and of course to share in what will no doubt be one of the most memorable and defining days of their lives is exhilarating and a privilege.

What/ Who inspired you?

For the sheer scale, grandeur and detail, the American Event Designer Preston Bailey is a Master. Although incredibly OTT, the sheer scale and intricacy of his designs; the creativity; the wholly unique approach to each of his events is a master class in “styling” an unforgettable event. I also find the Interior and fabric designers Trisha Guild and Caroline Quartermaine are inspiring in their fearless and skilful use of colour.

On a more humble and human scale, anyone who is brave enough to put their own stamp on their Wedding, and isn’t afraid to showcase their own innate style and personalities is an inspiration, and a joy to work with.

What do you offer that sets you apart from others in your Field?

Personally, I offer sound and comprehensive experience in very large scale Weddings and Events. With my years of Floral Design I also bring a deep knowledge of all things Floral – which is of course, an integral and intrinsic part of a Wedding. As an event Florist I have not only designed but constructed, built and executed everything that I have dared to dream up! When you know how things are built, not only will your designs work, but you are able to think a lot more laterally and develop much more interesting, unique and creative concepts that suit Brides who want a Wedding with a difference.

Decorative Events offers this same wealth of experience, depth of skill and an unrivalled knowledge of the Events and Weddings Industry. DE has throughout the years always been at the forefront of setting the trends, and the whole Industry looks to its lead. With a wholly original business model, the Company offers a host of unique in-house services, where anything and everything a Bride desires can be designed and constructed on site. Among the numerous staff are carpenters, artists, printers, seamstresses, drapers and builders that would make any Theatre or Production Company jealous! Through this highly specialised and creative team, Decorative Events has proven time and time again that it can deliver a seamless, stunning and inspiring event that is the envy and joy of all who attend.

The long and positive track record proves that a couple can have the utmost confidence and trust that the standard and quality of service is the same as they would set themselves. To trust that your styling company will deliver on the day is priceless.

Do you offer an Australia wide service?

We travel to all areas of Australia. From a country Estate in Tasmania, to a vineyard in the Margaret River. If the couple desires us to be involved, we will and can make it happen! We also have one of the most comprehensive and enviable selection of linen and napery available in Australia and we readily post our specialty linen to any Australian address.

Do you offer packages for bridal couples – so they can choose the level of service they require?

Our emphasis is on providing a bespoke, and individually tailored wedding service which can be as simple or as involved as the Bride desires. Brides are welcome to engage our services no matter how small their requirements are. We offer a comprehensive hire service of a plethora of beautiful wedding items, as well as the personalised styling service, and we pride ourselves on being able provide every conceivable item, or service needed to create an unforgettable Wedding. From centrepieces, to floral arrangements, to table linen and chairs, to all aspects of lighting, staging, rigging and draping. No wedding is too small or too large. There is just such a depth of knowledge, expertise and creative flair within the Company that provides a level of service that is beyond any I’ve come across.

Describe the process you and the couple go through.

This varies of course; however, typically the Bride comes to the Showroom once their venue is booked. We then have a lengthy consultation where I ascertain the couple’s desires for their day, their style, their personalities, interests and passions. We then endeavour to design a scheme that draws upon all this information, which will compliment and embody the couple, as well as showcase the beauty and features of their chosen Venues. It is a process that evolves and adapts to the requirements over time and is extremely enjoyable.

Do you see a particular incoming trend?

I think there will be a strong movement towards colour. White has been the dominant trend for the past few years, but as more and more blogs and magazines showcase the colour driven weddings that abound in London and America, Australian brides are understanding how beautiful and individual a Wedding with a cleverly designed colour scheme can be and how the colour injection can generate mind blowing photographs and a sensory feast for their guests.

“Package” Venues are losing their appeal as couples want their discerning Guests to be inspired and awestruck and their Wedding to be memorable and exciting for all – not just themselves!

Where do you see Decorative Events in 5 years time?

I feel that Decorative Events already offers an exceptional standard of service, unrivaled creative flair and innovative style. Our longevity speaks volumes as to the level of confidence, expertise and professionalism invested in the Company, and the respect the Company commands in the Events Industry. I think Decorative Events will continue to be the benchmark, setting trends that others follow. The passion, the drive and determination is palpable, and the Company will continue to grow, inspire, create and lead the industry.

What is your number 1 tip for Brides?

Don’t be swayed by friends and family who don’t share your vision for your day. Trust in your taste and engage a professional to make that vision come to fruition. Your stylist will fine tune, guide and tweak your vision to perfection and that way your Wedding will be a true reflection of yourselves and not just a re-hashed manufactured version of countless others before you.

Tell me about a wedding you have styled that you particularly loved.

I love unusual themes. Recently a couple approached me with the theme of the Disney movie “Up”! Visually it was a feast and ripe with ideas for styling, and I thoroughly enjoyed the task of extracting colours, themes, and elements to incorporate in their Wedding décor and was touched by the deeply romantic undertones of the movie!

Another Bride came with a theme of Marie Antoinette. This allowed my mind to run wild, and I relished the task of sourcing luxurious fabrics for draping, cloths and napkins and countless props from specialty stores. I handmade colourful banners with gold embossed monograms; bought masses of fragrant roses and floppy frilly peonies and cut crystal vintage vases and the most exquisite afternoon tea china sets complete with scrumptious cakes. It was so lavish, yet personal and the photos were perfection! It was a Stylist’s dream!

What are your favourite wedding ideas?

Wedding scrapbooks. From a stylist’s point of view, these are priceless! For a Bride, the whole process of coming up with a theme, colour scheme and style can be completely overwhelming, as most love vintage style yet want a modern twist; want glamorous though feminine; and want shabby chic though love cocktail chic! The simplest and most definitive method of defining your style for your day is to collect and save images and collate them in a scrapbook. A style and colour palette quickly emerges which is an invaluable tool for the stylist who can expand, develop and finely craft your ideas into a truly creative and personal reality.

What do you love about Australian Brides?

What is refreshing about Australian brides is the willingness to break with tradition and formality. Most couples, when asked to list their priorities for the day always start with simply wanting a fabulous celebration and for their guests to have a rollicking good time! A laid back, positive and fun attitude will guarantee a fantastic time is had by all – and most importantly by the couple themselves.

What are the biggest styling mistakes you see brides making?

There are a number of them but one of the most common is underestimating the importance and value of good lighting. For larger venues, individual tables need to be spot-lit, otherwise the decoration they have agonised over for the tables is lost in the vast, dimly lit space of the room. Light boxes for vases of flowers to stand on are an important investment if pin-spotting isn’t an option. Also, candles and electric lighting have two totally separate yet complimentary and vitally important roles to play in creating the ambience and mood for the space. You can never have enough candles. That’s a fact. Candles are not there to light – they are there to create the romance and twinkling ambience. If a venue has a no candle policy then pick another, and always ask for a light demonstration at night prior to your Wedding night – you don’t want any fluorescent surprises!

Another mistake is adhering to the popular phenomena of having to match the exact shade of the Bridesmaid’s dresses with the Reception chair sashes, flowers and every other aspect of the wedding. I’m not certain where this trend arose from, but it really makes no sense. The dress colour should firstly suit the girls, and in turn the flowers for the bouquets should complement the dresses. This is it. The colour scheme for the Reception is a completely separate consideration that has to complement and enhance the Venue, not fight it.

The other common mistake is the belief that if the Venue has a particularly unsightly feature that it must be somehow covered and masked. This is often a very costly and ineffective solution as it only serves to draw attention to the feature rather than mask it. The best approach is to draw attention away and trick the eye to look elsewhere and this is usually with lighting. This way the lacklustre features are skimmed over and the guests concentrate on the beautiful features you’ve cleverly enhanced.

What are 5 clever ideas to create a stylish wedding?

Choose a soft and muted colour palette. Pick shades of the same colour, and keep all the shades either warm or cool, rather than different or even contrasting colours. This creates depth, texture and evokes a sense of harmony, elegance and timelessness.

Make sure your Venue has beautiful or impressive “bones”. If the grounds are lovely, the scale and proportion of the spaces are harmonious and the architectural features are appealing then the amount of work and money needed to practically beautify the spaces is a fraction of those that are not. With good bones, Couples can spend their styling budget on just that – styling and not essentials like chair covers, acres of drapes to cover ugly walls, and ambient lighting.

You can never have enough candles! If your budget doesn’t stretch too far, then simply have a plethora of votives, pillar candles and candlesticks on every surface in the room. The ambience, romance and warmth they provide is priceless.

Remember to design for night. Things may look too bright or garish in the day light, but just remember colours soften and change with the ambient lighting of the room, and the colours may be perfect for the night time context.

Similarly, what looks right during the day often fades and dies in the ambient night lighting.

Concentrate on the finer details and personalise where you can. This will set your Wedding apart, create interest and make it more memorable for your guests who are there after all to celebrate you!

Thank you for joining us today on Polka Dot Bride, Marlo! You can find out more about Decorative Events and the work that they do making weddings beautiful by visiting their website.

A bouquet to remember

Our story starts with Mel. In September she and her boyfriend, Matt bought their first house. In November, they started knocking down the walls and announced their engagement. In December, she was offered her dream job, which would relocate her and husband-to-be to a remote village in the Philippines. In January they almost finished renovations. In February they were married. And by April, a new country full of exciting experiences awaited their newly married life together.

When we first meet our couples, we like to gather as much information as possible to greater understand who they are as a couple and what they want from their day.

It was overwhelming just thinking about all that Mel and Matt had on their plate. And yet, whenever we spoke they were calm, collected and amazingly in control. When it came to talking flowers, Mel was wonderfully easygoing. We started by looking at her gown, a stunningly simple and elegant Mariana Hardwick dress. The bridesmaid’s dresses were fun and pretty suiting their garden wedding setting. Matt’s attire was smartly suited but not overly booted!

Tip: Mel showed pictures of her dress, her bridesmaids dresses and fabric samples. Something we advise all our brides to do. This is a great starting point as it enables us to create designs that will complement the dresses. Also, if your man is unable to attend the consultation, don’t forget to ask him what he might want to wear!

Mel’s style, personality and what she envisaged for their day all played a huge part in the planning of her flowers. What made Mel and Matt stand out from the crowd was their approach to planning their wedding. Although under huge stress, they were always wonderfully and positively in control. Their strength, passion, intelligence, worldly, practical and spiritual natures were a source of inspiration when designing their flowers. Her bridesmaids all had very strong and different looks and Mel wanted to embrace this. Her sense of fun, vivacity and passion to be individual was the starting point for her bouquet and she was completely happy to leave the creative process to us. The only direction Mel gave was that she loved the natural, unstructured feel and loved the look of a contemporary trailing bouquet.

Tip: When looking for inspiration for flowers and styling think about the look you want to achieve. Nature doesn’t come with guarantees. The flowers that you had your heart set on may not be available in the season you are getting married or may have been destroyed by the weather. If you remain open-minded you’ll never be disappointed.

The process of creating the bouquet came together quite organically. There was no pressure to have any preconceptions of what the final result would be before choosing flowers. This allowed for an instinctive and natural process with flowers chosen for their colour, texture and form. It was an eclectic explosion, representing elements of Mel’s personality; her strength, passion, vibrancy and of course the sense of celebration her’s and Matt’s day would encompass. The bridesmaid’s bouquets also included quirky elements of ornamental kale and apples. Buttonholes were designed with Matt’s laid-back and fun personality in mind.

Mel and Matt dared to be surprised on their wedding day. Having faith in our work and trusting our understanding of what they envisaged. As a florist, this process was an amazing, creative experience. Allowing a design to come from an instinctive understanding of the couple and a freedom to let nature express itself in all its glory (with a little help from some creative floristry fingers)!

Following their wedding, Mel sent through these words: “I could not have dreamed up a more beautiful and unique bouquet – thanks so much – I got so many comments from people saying it was a work of art!”

So … advice for excited brides-to-be planning their big day? Along with all the usual approaches to finding inspiration for flowers and styling (Polka Dot Bride of course) think about these things.

  • What words would you use to describe your style/relationship/the important things in your life?
  • Describe what you envisage from your special day?
  • What atmosphere and experience do you want to create for your guests?

Start with these things and inspiration will follow. When it comes to flowers, this is the moral of our story …. Give a florist wings and they will fly!!! Dare to be surprised on your big day. Trust in our ability and be inspired by our passion. You won’t be disappointed.

Photography by Flos Florum

Ms Gingham says: It really is hard to know how to approach choosing your flowers so what better person than a florist (and a super talented one at that!) to show us the way. Thanks to Emma and the team from Flos Florum for sharing their gorgeous work with us and for inspiring us to think outside the square!

Emma says that her motivation is to create bespoke wedding flowers that will remain captured in your memories and photographs forever.