Working with celebrities and pushing creative boundaries is all in a day’s work for this event stylist. Amber’s a professional creator, dreamer, and list maker.
When things go wrong
“I don’t think I’ve ever had an event where something didn’t go wrong. And that’s our job. When the client doesn’t know that anything has gone wrong, we’ve done our job properly. There’s definitely an expectation that at least one thing will be difficult or not as expected. You can plan and plan and plan but things just happen.” The unique aspect to event styling and planning is that “There’s creativity in the original design, there’s a lot of work to make sure it happens as it should, but then there’s also creativity in problem solving. In taking something that might not be ideal and making it amazing.”
Where should ‘Contact Stylist’ sit in a wedding timeline?
“From a styling point of view, the idea is that they’ve booked their venue. Apart from that they don’t really have to have done very much because the styling decisions can actually inform a lot of the other decisions.” Having worked with clients at different stages of their planning, Amber says that starting with your stylist early makes it “a lot easier for them to go to their other vendors and say, ‘this is what we want to achieve’. It’s added value for them. That’s not necessarily what people think of when they … hire a stylist, they don’t realise that it’s going to inform their dressmaker, pastry chef, … I think it can be a real added value for them.” This timing for a wedding is usually a year out from the big day. “We do get 2 years, especially from clients who are planning from overseas. They tend to be more ‘I need to pin these things down because I can’t be on the ground’.” Naturally corporate clients and parties have a shorter lead up.
“After we’ve met with the client and we’ve got an idea of the expectations then we put together a proposal for them which will include all sorts of things.. style sheets, it might have floor plans, it might have initial stationery designs, it might have some sketches of particular design elements. Our proposals are really thorough. They’ve become a full style guide that we use to then produce the event, and like I said, our clients can take those to other suppliers as well to inform other decisions.”
Production mode begins after design sign off. Early in the build-up invitations will be sent and stationery will be created, then near event time “it’s things like buying flowers at the market. Then on the day … we do the install, then following the event we come and take it all away again. The days of are pretty intense actually.” It’s not unusual for venues to require the Red Creative team to pack up at midnight. The end of an event, and especially of a wedding, can be an emotional time. “The other thing is that it’s so temporal. You’ve spent a year or two years working with the client, then in 24 hours you’ve turned the whole thing around. It’s the beginning of the end of the relationship with the client. That can be sad when you’ve really got to know someone quite well.” Amber says that what intensifies this “is that we tend not to take on too many clients in a season so that we can devote quite a lot of time and energy to each one of them.”
Destination weddings with a surprising twist
Amber loves sharing her country’s stunning landscape with couples travelling to New Zealand for their wedding. “I think there’s a lot of desire to want it to look great, but it’s hard to do that from somewhere else.” While meeting “face to face is great” it’s not essential “because a lot of the process is visual design that we bounce back and forth”. That way “before we even get too far into the planning phase clients are, I’d say, 90% confident of what they’re going to end up with”. “It’s been 11 years now so I’m pretty good at conveying what we’re trying to achieve.”
A destination wedding commonly involves flying to a faraway land. These clients “see New Zealand as a luxury destination to have their wedding.” While this describes half of Amber’s destination wedding clients, surprisingly, the other half are “people coming home to have their wedding. So, they might live overseas but their family lives here.” These two types of client create a very different wedding. Coming home to marry often revolves around the family home, while the wedding of “a client who is maybe going to fly in a few guests, is going to be a lot more intimate and luxury high-end … Those sorts of weddings tend to be multiple day celebrations. They’ll have after-parties and pre-parties to make it worthwhile. If you’re going to helicopter in guests and pay for their accommodation, you’ve got to make it a big party”.
Clients can choose between styling and planning packages with Red Creative. “If you’ve booked a full wedding planning package with us you might say ‘look here’s my budget, I really can’t be too involved, can you take it from here?’. We then run the decision by you. Whereas with styling you’re making those decisions. When you come to us we might say ‘oh actually how about we tweak this’ and make suggestions. I can’t help it, I’ve been doing it so long I give away a lot of free advice.”
Pulling off events for over 600 people
A gala for 650 people sounds daunting, but it’s no problem for Red Creative. “Yes, we do lots of big gala dinners around conferences.” The complexity of pulling off events of this scale isn’t “necessarily the amount of guests, it’s more to do with the timeframe. Some venues will only give us 2 hours to turn things around, so those are the times you need a big team. I bring on a lot of contractors for the season … good contractors are really important, and difficult to find, but I’m working really hard these days … trying to build up the industry.” Amber’s working to develop a “new wave of people with the skills required to pull off events like that. People have been sold a lie that they can go to university, do an events management degree” and they’ll be equipped to start working. “We find a lot of people are really under qualified, and there’s not a lot of money in the industry so you don’t want to spend a lot of time upskilling yourself”.
Another way Amber can cater to large scale events is by working “really closely with a lot of suppliers in the industry. I don’t keep any stock if I can avoid it, so I work with hire companies and tell them the events I have coming up that season, the sorts of things I’m looking for, and ask whether they’d look to buy some of them things in, let me use them exclusively, then hire them out afterward. It works really well. I think they also appreciate that they’re getting a bit of insight into what might be coming up in terms of trends. Those relationships are really important for pulling off large scale events.”
While Amber remains wildly busy, she’s spending less time travelling to clients and more time giving back to the industry she’s helped drive for more than a decade. Red Creative’s recent workshops were “a way to build some community around our (previous) studio space, and I guess share the love a little bit.” Amber says that sometimes the “industry can behave as if no one has ever had those ideas before, or done those things before.” Instead, what makes stylists unique is how they put an event together, using their unique methods and experience.
We're the creators, the dreamers, the planners, and list makers. The lovers of all things heart-felt, unexpected and authentic. We're the florists, stationers, designers and makers. The boundary-pushing, out-of-the-box thinkers and we can't wait to meet you!
Whether you're planning an intimate wedding with only a handful of your nearest and dearest, a gala dinner for thousands or hosting your clients at your annual do, we'll bring the wow to the party.
CREDITS (in order of appearance)
Header Photography: Kate Grewal Photography // Assistant Photography: Caron Nicole Photography // Cake: Made From Scratch // Millinery: Natalie Chan Boutique // Hair and Makeup: Sarah Knight Hair and Makeup // Styling: Red Creative // Wedding Dress: Joanne Fleming Design