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Venue styling

The secret to putting on a successful event is the same whether you’re organising a wedding or a once-in-a-lifetime royal coronation. Planning is the key, and while couples thinking of their big day have not been waiting quite as long as King Charles III, it always takes time and effort to bridge the gap from 'Yes' to 'I do'.

Sarah Fowler is the founder of Maidstone-based All You Need Wedding Styling, recently appointed by the Corn Exchange in Rochester as an official supplier for weddings and events at the historic listed venue, located just off the cobbled high street in Northgate.

With its high ceilings, tall windows and exquisite chandeliers, it’s a wedding and events venue that exudes grandeur and a sense of occasion, including a visit by the late Her Majesty, The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh back in 1962. It’s the perfect canvas for Sarah and her team to carry out their work.

We caught up with Sarah ahead of her first styling of the Rochester Corn Exchange for some hints and tips on styling your venue for a perfect event, whether it’s tying the knot or wearing the crown.

Tell us a bit about your business

'I started the business a couple of years ago, after planning our own wedding with my now husband and business partner Andre.

We began by doing igloos, tepees, garden dome dining parties and light up letters then slowly started picking up more weddings - doing 100 last year and with 224 booked this year. It’s busy.'

Tell us about how you came to be appointed as a supplier for the Rochester Corn Exchange

'We met the venue team a number of times at the Detling Wedding Fair, which is a great place for suppliers like us and venues to attract business and build relationships. They liked the style that we did and asked if we’d like to join the team as a recommended supplier for them.'

Tell us about what you'll be doing to dress the venue ahead of the Kent Wedding Fair

'We are dressing the grand staircase with lots of foliage and garlands of blue silk flowers as well as setting up the Prince’s Room for a ceremony. This will showcase what it could look like for people attending the wedding fair upstairs, as they begin to plan their big day.'

What’s the process you have gone through to agree this display?

'We’ve made a mood board to show what we'll be doing and to give them an idea of how it will look – and then sort the flower order.  It’s not going to be a ready-made piece, so we’ll be on site the day before putting it all together.

If we have not been to a venue before and someone has asked us to dress it, we always recommend a site visit so we can walk around, take a look at each area and give advice on what we think would work best.'

What advice would you give to someone who comes in and says ‘style my wedding'?

'We always start with running through every aspect of their day beginning with the ceremony, then their wedding breakfast and reception, leaving bouquets to the end.

It’s very important for people to do it in sections, so they can really concentrate on exactly what they’re going to need for each part. Otherwise, it can become a bit jumbled as to what they actually want.'

Start with the ceremony and the rest will follow

'We always say to our couples to work out what they want in their ceremony first because some décor could also be used later at the wedding breakfast, saving on cost.  For example, the registry table. We would normally do a floral spray that goes on there, but it can then be moved straight to the top table.  Repurposing décor is a good tip to follow.'

Colour matching is not always the way

'A lot of people try to match their décor with bridesmaid dresses and things like that - and get a colour in their minds, as a result.

If you’re not necessarily having your bridesmaids sat at the top table then do not worry about having everything in say navy, for example. You can express your colour choice in other ways without having to match everything.'

Fake flower power to leave guests guessing

'Use fresh greenery and silk flowers as much as you can to save on cost, especially for displays only seen at a distance.

The quality of silk flowers today is really good with the fresh greenery helping to disguise they’re not the real thing.  We try to help our couple to work within their budgets - and this is one thing they can do to save money.'

When only fresh flowers will do

'With our bouquets, they are always fresh but the things that people will not necessarily be looking at closely - like décor or centrepieces - do not need to be. At the end of the day, it’s up to the couple but it’s a choice we like to give them.'

Deciding between the must haves and the extras

'A lot of couples do not really know what they need when it comes to décor or table setting. There is the bare minimum and the optional extras. Our advice is always to think of the practicalities first.

You’ll need place names and table numbers because people will need to know where they’re sitting, but when it comes to charger plates or an upgraded napkin, all of that stuff is just a nice to have. Again, start with the budget, talk through with your wedding planner or supplier about what is needed and take it from there.'

What styling elements need to be considered?

'The styling elements include chair covers, charger plates, candles, napkins and stationery. Place names, menus, table numbers, the seating plan and welcome signage all class as styling too.

The rest fits under floristry, so the centrepieces, the top table deck or any large installations. For example, if they’re in a marquee and they want a large floral hoop.'

Do you receive any extravagant luxury requests?

'If we get shown a picture of what someone has liked - or has an idea - we like to accept the challenge and will give it a go, so yes some of the requests can be quite extravagant.

Asian weddings can be really grand with stage backdrop sets up, for example. We also have requests for balloon ceilings, paper lanterns and floral ceilings. It very much depends on the couple and the wedding they want - be it a large-scale affair or something more intimate.'

What are the trends you’re seeing at the moment?

'Definitely whites and greens at the moment with sage green as the main colour incorporated within chair styling, table runners and so on plus white and green flowers.

There’s also a taste right now from the weddings we’ve been booked into support for white screens with a subtle blush pink incorporated throughout. The other one that’s really popular this year is a dusty blue - not light blue or navy, but somewhere in between.'

What’s special about the Rochester Corn Exchange?

'It’s such a big space that it can really work for any type of wedding, a blank canvas with unique features that couples can make their own.

The Queen’s Hall has the balconies that have the displays already there and lots of different quirky elements that are a dream to style - and help us as stylists in deciding what would look perfect in that space.'

How will you decide what goes where?

'We’ll work what looks right where, by walking the venue, seeing how the light falls and just how the space might feel when a couple walks in. In the Prince’s Hall you can naturally tell how a ceremony would work in there, with the shape and set-up of the room. With the grand staircase, it’s such a nice space to dress, the perfect spot for a picture opportunity and to showcase what it could look like for a wedding day or event.'


Kent Wedding Fair, organised by White Sky Events returns to the Corn Exchange, Rochester from 10.30am until 2.30pm on Sunday, 17 September. Entrance is free.