April Sacko Owner, Lead Stylist and Planner from Olive Studio shares the design and planning of Eunice and Rob’s gorgeous Berkeley Fieldhouse Wedding.
How did you creatively use all the natural attributes of the Berkeley Fieldhouse venue in the design and planning of Eunice and Rob’s wedding?
It is of utmost importance to revolve a design around a venue’s aesthetic. There is nothing more amiss than a wedding design that feels completely out of context. It’s like wearing a ballgown to a beach wedding. Sometimes couple’s need a person that isn’t emotionally invested to reveal this obvious reality. Often couple’s dream venue is not what they end up with due to budget, availability, timelines etc. It is critical for a planner to shift the vision if a couple is set on a design that doesn’t match the venue. Luckily Eunice and Rob’s vision coincided with the Fieldhouse quite beautifully.
The Berkeley Fieldhouse has this wonderful rustic vibe, meshing the beauty of the natural outdoors with the inside. The naturally lit white canvas space with a bit of eclectic farmhouse sets the tone for a natural, earthy, and laid-back design.
One of the best features of the Berkeley Fieldhouse is the great patio space. Completely set in the heart of the city, this patio feels like you are on vacation. It is a great vibe! Eunice and Rob wanted their décor to match this feeling, and so we determined a colour scheme of green, white and gold. The couple was on a fairly tight budget, so we eliminated florals from the design and focused entirely on using a combination of greens.
In order to utilize the wonderful feature of the spanning windows, we opted to keep the look light and airy. Crisp white linens served as a backdrop to the dark emerald greens. Creating depth using various textures of wood, metals and glass balanced the tables and brought a bit of natural whimsy to the space.
How involved were Eunice and Rob in the design process and what is your approach for incorporating ideas and aspects of the personalities of your couples into the design while still creating a stylistically unified outcome?
Eunice and Rob were quite involved with the design process of their wedding. They had a lot of ideas and Pinterest inspiration which was a great help in unifying their dream design. Often it is helpful to know what couple’s actually do not like as opposed to what they do like. This can help isolate their style and personalities quite quickly.
A planner or stylist’s job is to support the couple in their decision making while adhering to their budget, timeline and feasibility of their requests. While everyone is capable of dreaming up wild and exotic designs, they might not have the faintest idea of how that may fit into their budget. My job is to present a realistic plan, while streamlining the couple’s aesthetic into a tangible game plan. It is important to find out what the main objective is for a couple to have a wedding celebration. Is it the party? Is it a chance to reveal your thoughts and feelings through speeches? Or is it about a spectacular dinner?
Revealing the motivation of each partner is crucial to understanding where the focus and budget should be spent.
If a couple hardly cares about décor, and wants to be dazzled with an 8-course meal, then you know where the focus should be. When helping couples unify their design, I compile all their “must have” requests and then go to the drawing board. I create a vision board with two options for design. The designs are based off of their requests, and some couples have more of a tangible vision than others. Some people may only have a request of a colour scheme or a feeling, while others might be very specific about the look of the reception tables or room and just want someone to put that vision to life. Once I present the vision board, the couple chooses the one they like best and makes any modifications needed. From there, they can choose how involved they are in the process. Eunice, in this wedding’s case was fully committed to DIY’s and personal touches as she has a true talent for these things. We did a lot of these projects together, and I am okay with that. If there is a true division in a couple with design, I offer suggestions to make both couple’s happy. Sometimes, a person has to bend for the other, but overall there is generally a solution that makes both happy.
What are some of your strategizes you use when you are designing your tablescapes?
The most important element when designing a tablescape is to know your audience. Will the group be a party group? Will they be focused on drinking and mingling or will they be into a fine dining experience? Will the dinner be buffet style or served? In Eunice and Rob’s case, they certainly had a party crowd and knew that the main focus would be mingling and enjoying one another after the dinner. They had a sit down, served meal which meant that there would be limited traffic during dinner itself. They also had the max capacity of guests so movement of bodies, was an important factor when arranging tables.
We opted for long harvest tables joined together running parallel with the windows. This look would be the most impactful stylistically but also allow for great conversation capabilities for guests. While this does limit movement during dinner, we were okay with that since the only people truly moving during dinner were the servers.
Once the table style and set up was determined, we played off the long harvest table look by enhancing the length of the tables with green garland as the centrepieces. This garland again paralleled the shape of the room and the tables. Next it was important to consider how many plates, glassware’s etc. would be at each place-setting. This would determine how much more room would be on the table for décor elements. There is nothing worse than overloading a table so much that guests feel they need to dismantle the design in order to effectively talk or eat. We opted to keep things simple. Lighting is very important to me as I started my career in photography. When the sun has set, the lighting is the only element that sets the tone for the room. And it should feel romantic and special. Candlelight in my opinion is the only way to make a room feel warm, cozy and romantic.
There is no light that replicates the flickering of a real candle. With that being said, we chose a variety of hurricane votives heights and filled them with white pillar candles. The clear glass votives glistened in the daylight and at night, they allowed the room to fill with a beautiful amber glow which simultaneously created the mood we wanted and also allowed for great photo taking!
“A designer knows she has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”& Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. What are your
thoughts on this quote in relation to wedding design?
In art school, I learned the elements of art which are stylistic features that communicate a design: line, shape, colour, texture, value, volume, space. All of these elements are equally important factors to consider when creating design and they all have a relationship to one another. As a result, a design feels complete when all of these factors are considered. Some designs might be very simple and sparse, while others may be busy and full of colour. Regardless of the overall look, a designer understands that a useless addition to a design only takes away from the message.
The moral of the story is to check into your design and make sure you are not adding just for the sake of adding, if the message can be told with less. This is certainly a great motto to have for all kinds of design.
What are some of the best choices you made that helped keep the wedding on budget while
not compromising the overall design and wedding experience?
Florals are a huge contributor to wedding design budgets. They can run up to unimaginable costs depending on the type of flower, if it is in season and if it is local or imported. Many couple’s dream of huge floral installations and designs until they see vendors quotes and are shocked at reality. While I am a huge flower lover, I am also an advocate of slashing a budget with wise floral decisions. There are a variety of ways to ensure you are keeping your vision while maintaining a budget.
1. Choose flowers in season and locally grown. Your florist can help you choose alternate
flowers that will help you achieve the same look if all your flower choices are exotic or
out of season. Be open to the professionals.
2. Design head tables using bouquets from bridal parties. This saves on the cost and allows
you to showcase your most featured flowers.
3. Utilize your ceremony flowers in your reception set up. Your ceremony is often under 30
minutes long, so choose a design that can be reused for your reception. This saves a lot of
money and isn’t so wasteful!
4. Greenery can also be expensive, so get a florist to help suggest cheaper options when it
comes to greenery. Loose leaf garlands will also save you money as opposed to an actual
handmade threaded garland that is time consuming and will cost you in labour.
Furniture rentals can also be costly features for a wedding. I am an advocate of choosing
a venue that comes with furniture that appeals to you. If your first request with a venue is
to eliminate everything in the venue, this is going to drive your cost up exponentially.
Sometimes people are so focused on an item that they hate that they can’t look past
changing it. Often however, if you incorporate these items into your design with
intention, they suddenly don’t appear as offensive. Eunice wasn’t a huge fan of the
Fieldhouse’s silver chairs, for example. Instead of covering the chairs or switching them
out for a minimum of $9 per chair plus delivery (which can total to about $2000) I
convinced her that they would look like they belong. Since there are already many
grey/silver elements offered in the Fieldhouse package, I encouraged her to save her
money. It’s not as if the grey is an eye-sore. It was just that it wasn’t her ideal choice. In
conclusion, the chairs weren’t a “must go” and so she could save that money and use it
towards something else of focus.
What does being a professional photographer bring to your experience as a stylist and inform the way you design and plan a wedding?
I think that starting as a photographer has given me a one up on my capabilities to design. I always consider elements that create a good photograph like lighting for example. Lighting is the most important element of photography. It can make or break a photo. Whether the lighting be natural or synthetic, these have to be considered in all design. A gorgeous ceremony arch built in direct sun at the time of wedding vows can be a huge con. A couple squinting and sweating in the blazing sun is never a good look. These elements should always be considered before a design is started. Opting for a different ceremony location, a different time for the ceremony or adding an element of shade is crucial to making that moment memorable in a positive way! When I planned my own destination wedding for example, I only had photos to base my vision off of. I had chosen a ceremony location virtually but when I got to the location I went to that spot at the same time of day that my ceremony would be and knew it would be the demise of the experience. The lighting was patchy from the sun dispersing through the trees. This would be UGLY in photos. You could get a scenario where I might potentially be half in sun and half in shade. Or even just your nose in the sunlight. Yuck! This is the most unflattering lighting and a photographer has little control to make that better. I quickly changed the location. Even though it was more of a serene view, it wasn’t worth it. I chose open shade instead. Sometimes we have to accept reality versus a vision, and a planner or stylist will not hold back on telling you the reality but offer an alternative solution.
You built several fun engaging guest experiences into the wedding experience including the flower stand, the children’s play area and the photo booth and what does this add to the
wedding day experience?
Guest experience in my opinion is the most important element to a wedding. Guests want to be dazzled and busy. It shouldn’t just be about food. For me, entertaining should entice all kinds of people. It should evoke an interest in everyone. Whether it is for the foodie, the dancer, the drinker, the model; it should aim to make experiences for all! Going home with a memorable story of a wedding, means that you were successful at hosting your party! So, entertain your friends and family and do it with experiences that also reflect you as a couple. Eunice and Rob have a lot of friends and family with kids, and so it was important for them to ensure that the kids had something special too. This also helps the parents enjoy their time without constantly entertaining their kids. The couple are also into photography so it seemed fitting, to have a WOW-factor photo-booth where friends and family could play to their hearts content. The flower crown station was an additional surprise that allowed guests to get their creative juices flowing during cocktail hour.
What was some of the best feedback you got from the couple about decisions that were made that paid off the most?
The best feedback I got was the addition of the guest experiences into the wedding. I think the most noted guest experience was the “Find your Table” experience. Instead of simply reading your name on a chart, this activity was a surprise for most guests. It evoked a lot of laughter and encouraged conversation amongst guests.
This experience was really a job we almost quit on, since it required a lot of work from the couple. It was homework heavy which I wouldn’t put on many people because couple’s hire a stylist and planner in hopes to be alleviated from work. Eunice, however followed through with my encouragement and made it happen! The seating chart was a compilation of every single guest’s baby photo. The photo was taken from their Facebook account or social media and then we turned into black and white and printed it as a polaroid to be cohesive. This required a lot of sneaky work and took an immense amount of time gathering and looking for baby photos. In some cases, a baby photo was impossible to find, so we ended up using a generic baby photo from the internet.
Each photograph had a corresponding table number on it, so when guests found their own baby photo hanging on the wall, they would take it and find their corresponding table number. A driftwood and copper photo stand that I made would then host that photo for other people to enjoy. This project was unique and guests had a blast exchanging and sharing stories from their past with one another!
How has your business evolved and adapted over this past year and what advice would you give fellow entrepreneurs at this time?
This past year has been difficult for my business. Covid has changed the dynamic of weddings and shifted the focus on micro weddings and elopements. Couples have been patiently waiting for it to end, but I think most are coming to terms with the notion that they have to bend with the current situation. As a result, couples are focusing on down-sizing their wedding and celebrating with a smaller version of their initial idea. What is great about micro weddings, is that you can really focus on treating the VIP to a WOW dinner or ceremony. Where you might have been limited with décor before, it is now a place you can dazzle! Couples are going all out with intimate dinners, BBQ parties, pig roasts, cocktail parties and things of that nature. Some have in mind to host a huge party in the future and some opt to just go all in with what they can now.
Whether a wedding be planned for 30 people or 200 people, the process is really the same. Now budgets can stretch a little farther for a luxurious experience from top to bottom. I remind my clients that getting married is about celebrating their love, unity and admiration for one another.
In a time like now, I do not have tons of encouraging advise really. Most vendors in this business are suffering immensely. This is an unnavigated, unprecedented time that no one has the answer to. For the entrepreneurs that have working business, I say hang in there. Modify your business as you can to stay in the game. Keep your chin up and take a rest when you feel the burden boiling over. I do believe it will come back. Do what you have to, to stay positive. For new comers, I say, even when times were great, this is a tough business. It is competitive and saturated. But, if you work hard, be collaborative, and do what you love with passion, you will succeed. People will always follow positivity and passion.
Photographer : Olive Studios
Venue: Berkeley Fieldhouse
Florals : Botany Studios