Dressed to impress: should you shell out for a wedding stylist?

Lemonbox Studios
Lemonbox Studios use a leaf-clad pergola above the top table, accessorised by upside-down plant pots, to create a verdant look at Killearn Village Hall (run by Three Sisters Bake)

Professional stylists don’t just have fabulous props for decorating your venue, they also have brilliant ideas that will get maximum value out of your budget

Words by Sarah Howden

Strange as it seems, it almost doesn’t matter if your reception is held in a building with a stunning Georgian façade or one that’s made of plain old bricks and mortar. After all, once you and your guests are through the front door, it’s really only the inside that anyone will see. (Your photographer may prefer a scenic backdrop for the outdoor shots, but lots of couples make do with a local park or garden if their venue’s prettiness is not up to scratch.) What all this means is that decorating the interior of your venue is how you can convey your own unique ambience and set your celebrations apart – something Lindsey Hunter, a stylist at Get Knotted (get-knotted.net), knows all about: “Décor is vitally impor­tant to set the scene for the day,” she says.
Laura Ryan, of event planning and styling consultancy Lemonbox Studios, believes it’s the décor that reflects the couple’s personalities. “A lot of Scotland’s beautiful venues are quite easy to identify, so décor and styling add that all-important twist and create something truly unique and personal. It’s all about finding that key thing to make it different, be it a theme, something personal to the couple, or inspiration from the venue itself.”
Inspired? Scotland’s top wedding stylists reveal the best ways to dazzle with décor.

Lighten up

“Nothing makes a difference quite like lighting does,” says Natalie MacMillan, co-founder of Lemonbox Studios. “You don’t have to make do with fluorescent strips when you could have soft intimate lighting that sets the mood for the day.”
“Lighting is a must, especially if your budget is small,” declares Lindsey of Get Knotted. “If you can’t afford a lot of flowers, go for groupings of atmospheric lighting at different heights. You can eke out your leaves and have smaller standalone flowers displayed too, but lighting can be just as imposing and dramatic as flowers – and it’s much cheaper.”
According to Heather McGowan of Make Believe Events, the right lighting will always make an impact. “Using uplighters to cover walls with colour can entirely change the look and feel of a space. Combine with the ambience of fairylights for a spellbinding look. Lighting is great if money is tight – a whole room can be covered with one of our uplighting packages for £250.”
If it’s a magical look you’re after, Make Believe Events specialises in installing lanterns by the Hanging Lantern Company. “Festoon lighting, fairy­lights or hanging lanterns are a must for marquees,” says Heather. “The expanse of white walls and ceilings can really wash out a particular look but adding in some of these items breaks it up and adds interest.”

Flower power

“Floral arrangements have always played a key role in decorating a venue, and we work closely with the florist throughout,” says Laura of Lemonbox Studios. “Ceremony backdrops are really popular as are floral features above the top table. It’s all about creating drama and a focal point. Flowers dress the space and make a big impact in an area that might otherwise be featureless.”
Lindsey of Get Knotted advises couples to be clever with their choices in order to get the most for their budget: “Flowers undoubtedly have a transformational effect but you have to be realistic with them – and how much they cost. It is very expensive and time-consuming to create floral displays.” For drama on a budget, she says, make the most of in-season flowers and create volume with foliage.

All in the detail

Janice Grimley-Evans of Blue Thistle Weddings and Events firmly believes that it’s the little touches that make a big impact. “The details are what makes your wedding meaningful and memorable,” she points out. “The finishing touches also pull everything together and create a beautiful flow to the day.”
The team at Lemonbox Studios are fans of hiring statement dining chairs rather than chair covers for a dramatic effect. If the carpet is not up to much, they even suggest putting down a temporary overlay on the floor to create a whole new look.
Linen chair covers will turn generic chairs into elegant showpieces, but you can go further than that. What about authentic whisky barrels for statement and rustic poseur tables? Or fabric wall hangings, themed linens or a timeline portrait gallery of the bride and groom’s relationship? You could also break up the space with food features such as popcorn machines, sweet stations and ice-cream carts.
But Janice warns couples to take their time in deciding what to do. “Carefully study your venue and consider how your ideas will blend in with it and not clash. Look at photos of previous weddings at the venue and see what worked and what didn’t. Oh, and don’t feel you have to match everything to the colour of your bridesmaid dresses.”

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Give me a sign

“Signs are big just now,” says Laura of Lemonbox Studios, “especially big light-up letters that spell out the bride and groom’s initials. But there are many other props you can use as signs.”
These can set the tone for the day, create a talking point and – of course – be functional. Why not display your seating plan in an over-sized vintage frame, or hang table plans from tree displays? Tell the story of how ‘you’ became ‘us’ with personal anecdotes in print. Flower girls can carry statement banners, chair backs can have romantic quotes on them, signs can become portrait shot props. The options are endless.

Sitting comfortably

Lindsey of Get Knotted recommends creating breakout areas in which guests can chat and relax. “If you do this, it’s good to fill this space with interesting and fun pieces of furniture – we have cream inflatable Chesterfield sofas, for example, that people love.” Illuminated bars, outdoor furniture, light-up letters – it’s easy to dress to impress.

Lemonbox Studios
Left: A function room has been given a romantic feel with hanging lanterns and fairylights from Make Believe Events Right: A stunning top table set-up by Lemonbox Studios

Get creative

“Really look at each venue closely before you book one,” stresses Natalie of Lemonbox Studios. “There’s a belief that hiring a stylist will cost a lot of money, but it can actually save you cash and give you something truly unique. Picking a cheaper venue with a blank space and transforming it with the help of a stylist can be a much more affordable option.”
Lindsey of Get Knotted adds a final note of caution: “Look at the venue’s colour scheme to see if it will work with what you have in mind. There are some things you simply cannot change without a massive budget. And if you don’t have the right canvas – or blank canvas – it can be very hard to get the look you’re dreaming of.”