Laura Olsen of Laura Olsen Events discusses the process of designing romantic, rustic, modern weddings at Airship37 wedding venue Toronto.

In an interview you did on the NYE wedding you did at Airship37 you say that your biggest rule for design is to keep things simple and timeless. How did you apply the principle to this Kerry and Mark’s wedding design?

Bride Kerry wanted a chic and clean design full of soft shades of white, but also wanted to soften the industrial vibe of the space. While I normally wouldn’t go quite as far with white beyond it acting as base, I felt it was important in this case to help it feel more open and to create a backdrop for the other beautiful pieces we wanted to act as focal points.

Airship37 has been described by Toronto photographers as an ideal location for photography with its abundance of natural light and interesting industrial accents. How important is it that a venue be a great setting for photographs?

What I absolutely love about Airship37 is that it’s a bit of a chameleon. The white walls and concrete floors offer a great base to so many different styles whether the clients’ look is romantic, rustic, modern or a combination of many. The space easily takes on the appearance of the style you bring in.

What were your various professional roles on this wedding day and how did they work in conjunction with those of the other vendors?

Kerry and Mark brought us on for styling and month-of coordination, two services that compliment each other well, especially in this space. Since it’s a large, blank canvas, it’s important to give the the aesthetic plenty of thought and design with intent so that you’re using your design budget wisely by creating focal points throughout the space. Styling offers assistance in sourcing and full management of your floral, cake, stationery and rental vendors and creativity to laying out your floorplan. Month-of coordination is the perfect add-on to finalize the remaining vendors (photography, videography, DJ, officiant, etc.) that you have been working with on your own. It’s the perfect final addition to allow the venue to focus on what they do best, offering great food and beverage service, and us to ensure we’re supporting both them and the remaining vendors in the best way possible.

What are your thoughts on the main benefits of having your wedding designer on hand for your wedding day?

This circles back to my point above about designing with intent. It has taken me years to refine my style and it’s still growing and evolving with every wedding that I do. What I’ve learned is how important it is to have someone give you an experienced, objective view of your ideas. Instead of doing 15 different things and adding decor everywhere you look, it’s better to put efforts and focus into doing a few important things really well. It may not necessarily save you any money, but it doesn’t also mean you will end up spending more either. It will, however, ensure you spend your money on high quality results by professionals who truly know what they are doing and how to make something stand out as an individual item, but also contribute to the overall design.

What advice would you give a newly engaged couple?

First and foremost, I would encourage them to sit down and think about the type of wedding they want to have. Include the people and things that mean the most to them even if it’s not in the traditional way. Think about themselves actually living out their wedding day. For example, does the thought of a grand entrance and head table terrify them? It doesn’t necessarily need to mean that a sit down dinner is off the table, but maybe that tradition is something they simply don’t include and they just take your seats along with your guests. Next, write out a list of the things they consider non-negotiables, the things they dislike about weddings they have seen or been to in the past, finishing off with the wish list items. From there, I’d suggest sitting down and giving a long and hard look at preparing their budget as I don’t think enough couples do sufficient research on exactly what things will cost before they delve into signing contracts. I’ve created a helpful blog post that has a free wedding budget calculator that I would encourage them to check out.

The outdoor urban space at Airship37 became part of the wedding design. How was the outdoor space designed and tied in with the overall wedding design.

Since weather is usually really lovely the first half of September, we knew guests would likely want to be outside. We wanted to dress it up a little bit and so we brought in boxwood walls and shrubs to create some extra beauty to the outdoor space. A somewhat last minute decision was to have a tent outside that we draped with taupe fabric and gorgeous metallic geometric chandeliers. Had it not rained, we would have taken the roof and walls off the tent, inspired by those gorgeous Southern California weddings we see filling our Pinterest and wedding blog feeds!

How did Kerry and Mark present their wedding vision to you? What was your process for bringing ideas to their vision?

For Kerry, it was important that we create a soft, romantic look in the space. She originally wanted to drape the ceiling, but I encouraged her to rethink the idea and see how we can draw the eye down to the tables rather than up towards the ceiling. By creating a focal point in the centre of the room above the head table, we tricked the eye into focusing on that rather than the industrial lighting of which she wasn’t as fond. I wanted to do something a little warmer than white for the linens, but Kerry insisted that we go that route so it took a few tries to get just the right selection of the linens, but that’s ok! Sometimes you need to mull over options before you can make the final decision. And ultimately, I’m so glad she stuck to her guns about the white linens because we ended up with the perfect layers of elements on those tables.

In the initial phases of the design process what are some of the design references you turn to for inspiration?

This really changes for me with each client. I always ask them for their passions or interests as a couple to begin the process of where to look for inspiration. Regardless of their interests, I look outside of the wedding world for inspiration as I think it brings a unique element to each wedding design. Perhaps it’s something from architecture, or the way the wind softly blows through curtains when your windows are open on a spring day, or even the soft warmth of candlelight that evokes a certain emotion or look.

What is on your bookshelf currently that you want to get to this year or favourites you like to revisit?

I was gifted the book ‘In the Company of Women’ that I am so excited to dig into. I’m also a huge fan of biographies about women of importance and would like to re-read the trilogy about Josephine Bonaparte, wife of Napoleon. I had the chance to visit her ‘cottage’ home in Paris a few years ago and it would be so good to reread it now with the visuals in mind.

When a couple is expressing their hopes for their wedding day how do you help them prioritize  their plan of what is important to them?

When we first sit down, I like to dig through the visuals a client has saved to best understand the look and feeling they are after. We then categorize elements into must haves, dislikes and wish list items and set a budget. From here, I can determine how to best use their budget to create the most impact. We can determine what will get the most focus based on how much emotion they feel towards it and how to repurpose it throughout the day.

A common thread in your wedding design at Airship37 is that you so effectively interweave the florals in modern industrial statement pieces. What is your process for this?

Ah, I’m so glad you say that! I just can’t pass up hanging something from a ceiling when the opportunity exists. And the Airship37 team is so supportive of my ideas and helping me make it not only safe on install, but beautiful. I know it’s trendy to include greens and florals extended from the ceiling, but I also hope it’s something that never goes out of style. It’s a way of making things feel even more luxurious and also more intimate when you bring a portion of a high ceiling down closer to guest proximity.

In all honesty, it’s something I add to the list as soon as I hear about a wedding at Airship37 so I make sure that I plan for it when working on the design. The one thing you have to be mindful of, is how that piece affects both the ceremony and reception if having both on site. It needs to feel fluid with both the ceremony and reception designs and not feel like it’s something that is awkwardly hanging out until it serves its main purpose for the evening reception. I use it as a focal point as well, to draw the eye where we want to place focus or attention, such as the head table, or the bar, or cake.

The wedding design had a mixture of textures and decor touches that created a warm elegant feel in the space. How do you begin to layer these design elements?

Since we had such a strong white base, I knew that we had to be soft in the additional elements we added. The overall feeling they wanted was romance so I had to think about varieties in texture and subtle changes in colour to keep with the neutral palette. We decided to layer a warmer white mesh linen on top of the standard white to soften things a little and make it feel a little more rustic. We used cafe coloured napkins to add an extra layer of dimension on the white linens and to tie in with the light wood of the cross back chairs. For accent linens, we used soft taupes with a hint of blush in a variety of fabric types, including a more luxurious think satin to weigh the base of the design down slightly since everything was so light and airy colour wise.

What was the process for choosing the colour palette for this wedding? What are some of your favourite colour combinations?

I think white is so important to add to every single wedding. There’s something fresh and romantic about it, but it does need to have some depth added or else it just feels like too sterile. Adding the soft taupes, champagnes and natural woods helped everything to feel a little more rustic, without losing its refinement. Im such a sucker for soft palettes, but I always think there needs to be some sort of depth to ground it and add a little bit of masculinity to it all. Right now I’m super into soft shades of champagne and taupes!

What are some of the principles of effective table styling?

It’s incredibly easy to overfill a tablescape so my first rule is to keep it to the necessary items and not to add bulk. You need to be practical and think about how the table is actually being used. All elements need to be the proper scale to the size of the table and you need to leave breathing room. This isn’t just so each element you have added can be seen in all of its glory, but so that you have room for the things that arrive during the meal itself. Think breadbaskets, butter dishes, salt and pepper, cream and sugar – all things that are added after guests are seated.

I’ve seen so many guests move centrepieces off the table onto the floor so they have room to actually eat. What a shame to spend all that money on a beautiful floral arrangement and then have it be tossed aside! Instead of adding a bunch of stuff to the table, think about how you can do each element a little differently. For example, think about upgrading the table numbers to something that adds to the design, rather than just being functional. Doing this well means you don’t need to add something else to the table just to make it pretty.

Which choices do you think paid off the most on the wedding day?

Definitely utilizing the outdoor space to its full potential was important for this particular wedding. Adding the the boxwood walls invited guests up onto the raised deck and the satellite bar on under the gorgeous tent draped with liner with interesting chandeliers gave everyone a little more breathing room. I also think that while the ceremony arch and greenery chandeliers were so simple, they were really well done which meant we didn’t need to add too many other things to compliment them.

You have designed several gorgeous weddings at Airship37. What are some of the advantages of having experiences in a space?

Especially when you are repurposing a room from the ceremony to the reception, its important to be creative in making different experiences in that same space. You are limited in the amount of time we have to transition the room so you have to be smart about what you bring in. My favourite thing is when the guests see the space flipped and something repurposed from the earlier events. I think it’s valuable to put your time and attention into specific areas in which your guests will be hanging out or where you want to put their focus. The head table and the bar are the two main areas I can think of so I try to make those carry the ‘wow’ factor of the design.

What were some of the wedding trends you saw in the 2016 wedding season that you liked and which ones do you see continuing into 2017?

I felt like 2016 was an important year for couples learning to be more intentional with their wedding design and plans. Placing importance on a few exciting elements of the day as focal points rather than having so much to look at that you leave feeling like you missed something visually. Everyone is skipping the traditional head table and I’m so down with that. It feels much more intimate and comfortable for not only the wedding party not to be on display, but also for the wedding guests to feel like the head table is actually approachable! I’m hoping the trend to use greens everywhere continues. The look really lends itself to so many different styles.

You are a master at designing seamless wedding design that allows the decor to flow seamlessly through the wedding ceremony and transform for the wedding reception. What are some of the considerations for planning this so effectively?

Thank you! I like the challenge of designing something that serves a double purpose, really getting the most for your money. I can’t stand seeing a gorgeous, luxurious ceremony set up that serves absolutely no purpose once the ceremony is complete! It’s certainly my own character coming through, but I like being budget conscious even if my clients have more money to spend. If I can save them a few dollars or stretch their money, I’m all game. The trick is to give something a purpose at every moment so it doesn’t ever look out of place. For example, a ceremony backdrop that converts to a head table or bar backdrop is a great way to repurpose something from one space to the next.

What wedding theme would you love to design in this space in the coming year?

I would love to do something with striking black elements to contrast the white space. Think black tie – strong black decorative pieces in a variety of textures and fabrics softened by more feminine tones!

Who were the other vendors involved in this wedding and how did you co-ordinate and orchestrate everyones efforts?

Ashley Elaine Florals did the gorgeous floral elements of the day and was a dream to work with. She’s worked with me in this space on a few occasions and we just work together so well, especially here. She managed to add just the right amount of feminine touches balanced by just the right amount of greenery. Megan Laura Photography was the perfect match for Kerry and Mark with her light and romantic style of photography to beautifully contrast the industrial vibe of the space. Landscape Sculptures and Eventure helped us with the outdoor decor and they did a beautiful job taking our vision and softening the look.

Kerry and Mark chose Airship37 which is a industrial modern space. What was your advice to them based on this venue choice?

I think the biggest challenge was convincing Kerry that the industrial ceiling was ok to pair with her romantic vision. Not only would it have been quite the commitment financially to drape the ceiling, I’m not sure if it would have had quite the impact she was hoping. So instead, I encouraged them to focus on embracing it and complimenting it rather than trying to hide it.