For your eyes only (but especially for Ryan and Melissa)

It’s a bit tricky starting out in this business, feeling out how to brand our company, refining what to tell prospective clients when I’m asked, “So what is it that you do?” Essentially, ID Bohemia is a full-service event design and planning company, but our specialty is art direction. What this means for our clients is that while our services range from advising them in all elements of their event—from creating the feel of their invitations and promotional material to choosing venues and vendors (i.e. graphic designers, printers, caterers, photographers, musicians, etc.)—to designing, building and installing custom décor, what we are truly about is distilling the minutiae of our clients’ lives, reinterpreting that vital essence, and realising it into something they can see, touch, taste, smell and hear at a fabulous party. Much more than picking out chair covers, theme colours and centrepieces, iD Bohemia’s raison d’être is to show our clients (and their guests) just what makes them so wonderful and amazing, via the experiential platform of event design and the visual language of art.

For Ryan and Melissa, the couple I first blogged about here, I was asked to do the bridal party flowers for their wedding by Ryan while on a camping trip after showing him some photos of my work

that I happened to have in my camera (my visual notebook). He was so excited I was compelled to accept.

Because of the challenges of finding a reliable supplier of fresh flowers near Ucluelet on Vancouver Island and then of storing them somewhere in the lodge where the wedding will be taking place, I wanted to do the flowers with the permanent botanicals available to me locally. This would also allow me to spend more time with the couple once everyone arrived in Ucluelet (they are my friends, after all) as I could do the arrangements ahead of time and bring them with me when Aaron and I drove to the island.

At first, Ryan and Melissa were reticent about silk floral for the arrangements. I don’t blame them—silk has gotten a bad rap from a lot of people, including from me until I actually saw the range of quality available on the market today. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, good permanent botanicals are so realistic as to have people sniffing the arrrangements and asking how often to water the plants. They were definitely good enough to catch Ryan’s discerning eye on that camping trip. I sent them the link to my blog so they could see more arrangements I’ve done, and planned to meet them in High River to talk further.

When they saw this arrangement, blogged about here,

it was love—hot pink floral love. They were inspired (yay!) and they wanted me to do more of the centrepieces and décor, as they were still thinking of real flowers for the wedding party. I encouraged them to have one person make the centrepieces and personal flowers (as they are called in the industry), whether me or someone else, to ensure the most cohesive visual impact from the ceremony to the reception. As our conversations progressed, we set up time to meet so they could hear my proposal and see my suggestions for flowers, and to get them familiar with the sheer breadth of floral stems available.

The initial proposal was based on what they told me they wanted (simple and elegant), what I’d seen in their home and what I felt would go well with the existing environment in the Rainforest Beach Lodge, the chosen venue for their wedding—rich, warm colour, antiques and touches of utility-cum-art. I imagined a balance of old-world colour, warm wood and galvanized metal, and looked to Thai-born designers Sakul Intakul and Ou Baholyhodin for inspiration with composition, specifically their work with chicken wire and stucco mesh in “Tropical Flowers”, like this


and this.

Of course, as with any initial proposal, there were elements they liked and elements they didn’t like. They both liked the more modern, edgy, sexy feel I was going for, and Melissa liked the painterly colour scheme I’d suggested. They’d mentioned to me that they wanted tropical flowers like orchids and lilies (“No flowers from Grandma’s garden!”), and liked the flowers I’d chosen. However, I underestimated what Ryan meant when he asked for colour. I took it to mean colours like they had in their home: dark and rich. Imagine my surprise when the only arrangement he gravitated towards in the books I showed them was a super-saturated hot pink cattleya orchid in a jet black vase,

and most of the florals he liked were vibrant oranges, yellows, greens and reds. “High contrast,” he said, “and bright bright colour.”

When we all went for ice cream later, I asked him why he wanted high-key, saturated colour when I’d only ever seen him wear earthy-neutral tones, like brown, dark green and black, and their home, while certainly colourful, was not the flashy colour he showed me in stores. He smiled. He explained to me that given limited resources, any money he spends tends to be spent on gear (for hiking, which favours those deep, rich, earthy tones), but that the colours he wears from day to day weren’t necessarily reflective of the mood he wanted for the wedding. Back to the designing board, I went.

I admit, somewhere in talking about colour relationships and budgets and flowers, I began to lose sight of why I got into event design in the first place. I remember noticing at a very young age how people at parties were always so happy. They ate the best food, looked their best and put their best selves forward. And it wasn’t that they didn’t have troubles—relatives were still sick, the car still needed fixing and bills still had to be paid—but it just seemed like for that evening, they allowed themselves the luxury of forgetting about their “real” world, focussing instead on enjoying themselves. Looking back now, how could they not have had a good time?

As Aaron and I planned our own wedding, I realised that a lot of what goes into a successful event is not flowers, or seating arrangements, or music or even food, but rather the joy that comes with knowing who we are, doing what we enjoy and being surrounded by the people we love. And it’s not that flowers and seating and music and food are not important (people still compliment us on our choice of peacock feathers for the arrangements), because they are, but more than anything else, we let our choices be an expression of the love we have for our life together, our careers, our family and friends. And, remembering this, I knew how to move forward.

To be continued…

{edit: This originally very long entry has since been split into smaller sections for digestive ease. 🙂 }

Thoughts and essays on the art and design of experiences, spaces, things and living from Christina and I-D BOHEMIA

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