Changing rooms

Transforming a dull hall or a bland function room into the venue of your dreams is easy – once you enlist the help of a professional

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The heaviness of 1970s-style wood-panelling is masterfully counteracted with reams of billowing white fabric, strings of light and sparkling candelabras in this wedding designed by Blue Parrot Company See page 396 of Issue 38 for stockists.

Words by Ann Russell

Do you know your spotlights from your fairylights? Can you tell a hydrangea from a hyacinth? These questions and many more will arise as you try to get your head around dealing with venue décor. If it all starts to feel overwhelming, it might be worth thinking about hiring a professional venue dresser so that you can enjoy a picture-perfect day.
When it comes to décor there’s lots to bear in mind. No bride wants to be stuck sorting chair ties on the morning of her wedding. By that point the centrepieces should be in place and the venue transformation complete, leaving your hands free to hold a champagne flute.
When your guests arrive at the venue, flowers and lighting will provide the initial wow factor while little details are there to fuel pre-dinner conversation. Whether you’re planning a show-stopping flower fest or going for understated style, there’s a whole range of specialists out there who can help bring your day together. Read on to find out what the pros recommend.

GET ONLINE

How did brides manage before the internet? Wedding planning typically involves hours of online research and it’s the single best source of décor inspiration, according to our experts. Lindsey Hunter from Get Knotted (get-knotted.net) explains: “Pinterest boards are a fantastic place to start. Brides see so much on the internet that it’s a good way to gather together your thoughts.”
Emma McKinnon from Supernova Events (supernovaevents.co.uk) agrees: “You might be attracted to a range of décor ideas but don’t know how to bring it all together. I’d say around 70% of brides have a theme or colour in mind when they approach us but they aren’t sure how to make their ideas a reality.”

DARE TO DREAM

Don’t be frightened by blank space. Most venues offer a clear, uncluttered canvas so you can decorate the room to suit your tastes. It’s perfectly acceptable (and lots of fun) to let your imagination run wild; just bear your budget in mind and only spend on the most important elements. “We can look after everything from lighting, flowers and linen to little details like charger plates and candle holders,” Emma says. “The first thing we ask brides to do is close their eyes and imagine their wedding, then think of a few words they would use to describe it.”

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Left: Ribbed pink Mercury votive, £7, The Wedding of My Dreams, Right: Large gold charger plate, £1, Poundland.

CONSIDER YOUR VENUE

Whether you’ve chosen an elegant ballroom or a rustic barn it makes sense to match your décor to your venue. A 5ft diamond-studded candelabra will look out of place among hay bales at a barn dance so tailor your choices accordingly. Décor expert Lindsey admits: “Each venue poses a different challenge. Marquees are essentially a white box so an injection of colour and height is needed to add interest. In stately homes there’s limits on what you can stick to walls, while warehouses and village halls are typically a completely blank space. It’s important for us to do a recce of new venues so we’re aware of these logistics.”
Greg Anderson of Blue Parrot Events (blueparrotcompany.com) views venues very practically: “When working with a new venue we pay attention to details like the dimensions of the room, the capacity and the various light sources,” he says. “Very few brides will have thought about the location of plug points at their venue. That’s where our expertise can be helpful.”

Very few brides have thought about the location of plug points at their venue. That’s where our expertise can be helpful.

BE PURSE-FRIENDLY

Every bride is on some sort of budget and knows how important it is to keep an eye on costs. You might think venue dressers are outwith your price range but hiring a professional shouldn’t cost the earth. Write a list of four or five decorations you’d like to incorporate into your day – a dramatic flower arrangement or some carefully designed centrepieces could provide the perfect finishing touch without breaking the bank. “From the outset I’m realistic with brides about what they can achieve based on their budget,” Lindsey says. “When all the elements of décor come together it can be expensive so I provide a detailed quote early on in the process to manage expectations.”
Emma adopts a similar approach to managing prices. “We offer a free design consultation where we discuss the couple’s ideas then we create a mood board and personal quote with a full breakdown of costs.”

COLOUR IS KING

Colours can cause chaos for venue dressers if suppliers haven’t communicated with one another. “I’ve seen mistakes happen because several different suppliers bring the wrong shades and the colours all clash,” says Emma.
There’s an easy solution to this problem, says Greg: “We start with base colours that are linked to the wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses or other wedding attire and work on a complementary colour palette that we theme throughout the décor.”
A lack of colour can be just as problematic, according to Lindsey: “It’s a mistake to have everything white in a marquee – it makes the individual touches just fade away. I think colour and contrast are really important.”

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A colourful selection from Talking Table’s Floral Fiesta collection, prices from £3 for small treat bags.

SHOW YOUR PERSONALITY

“We’ve had brides wanting their pets involved in the wedding and couples who have incorporated their job roles into the venue décor,” says Emma. Greg agrees that touches of personality will make your wedding décor unique. “Personalisation has been really popular in the last year. This doesn’t just involve printed products but is more about unique items like giant illuminated initials and customised dancefloors.”

ENJOY STRESS-FREE PLANNING

“Brides are paying for a service so we’ll give them exactly what they want,” Emma promises. “We’ve been doing this all day every day for the last ten years, so we are able to bring a wealth of experience to the table along with a range of contacts and skills that brides might not have.” She adds: “The lead-up to a wedding can be very stressful and we can take a weight off your mind.”
No request is too unusual for Greg, who has dealt with all manner of décor challenges. “One bride wanted the ceiling drapes changed in her venue reception room,” he recalls. “It sounds simple but these were 30ft off the ground and part of the existing hotel décor. We managed to install the white drapes she requested and the finished result looked fantastic. I think the couple would have struggled to organise this type of alteration themselves.”

DO IT YOURSELF

Your bank balance might struggle to cope with a full venue décor package but there are ways you can achieve a professional look yourself. “Brides on a budget should focus on lighting or flowers. Investing in two huge pedestals for an entrance hall makes an immediate impact and can be supplemented with candlelight,” says Lindsey. “Scale is really important too, so make sure things don’t look lost on your tables.”
Emma agrees: “Flowers make the biggest statement and linens can transform a standard function room instantly.” She advises: “Do lots of research, triple check everything, get help, allow enough time and always have a plan B.”
If money is tight Greg recommends concentrating all of your attention on one area of your day. “Lots of couples spend money on things that aren’t seen by the majority of guests,” he says. “I’d recommend focusing on the reception venue, as that’s where people spend most time.”

RELAX ON THE DAY

As the big day approaches, it’s important to keep in touch with your venue décor team to ensure everything is ready and to inform them of any last-minute changes. “We keep brides updated on progress before the event to relieve any last-minute nerves,” says Lindsey. “We also liaise with the venue and check off all the final details.”
Highlighting the importance of having a venue dresser to hand, Greg adds: “There’s lots to do on the day itself, from arranging chair covers to co-ordinating access to the venue. Many couples forget that some venues require the removal of wedding decorations immediately after the reception finishes. A professional planner can deal with all the deliveries and collections on their behalf so you’re free to completely enjoy the day.”

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A verdant marquee scheme masterminded by Get Knotted.

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Left, Lace heart decoration, £4.99, Love table confetti, £7, hearts table confetti, £7, heart placecard holders, £8.99 set of four, Retreat Home. Right, A lush mirrored table decoration made by the talented ladies at Supernova Wedding Design.

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A flash of colour, indigo in this case, picks up the hue of bridesmaids’ dresses, Blue Parrot Company.

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Left: Abundant blooms enliven a classic white chair courtesy of Get Knotted. Centre, Pastel tissue paper garland, £8.50, The Wedding of My Dreams. Right: These white folding chairs can be hired from Get Knotted from £2.50 each. See page 396 for stockists.