The one day that we want everything to look and be perfect is our wedding day. Stylist, floral decorator and event planner, Christopher of Christopher Saban has an eye for detail, and the many skills he has attained over his work life attest to a love of quality, good design, and beauty and elegance. His skills in knowing when the decor, flowers and styling are just right, and where adding another thing will make everything look over styled, in superb organisation down to the last detail and ensuring that everything is executed perfectly, and in translating your ideas into a wedding day that you will remember always – that’s gold. Let’s join Christopher as his story unfolds.
How did you decide on planning and styling weddings and events as a profession? How long have you been in the wedding industry?
Growing up in the country many of my earliest memories are of being with my grandmother helping her in the flower garden and of the wonderful meals she would prepare for family celebrations.
Since moving to Sydney I have been connected to the wedding industry since the 1990s.
I studied fine art at the National Art School in Sydney and worked as a studio assistant in a cake decoration studio in Paddington called Sweet Art. It was my job to make up all the batches of butter cream icing and help hand paint sugar flowers. Over time I started to do the consultations with the clients and would use my drawing skills to do up the designs for their wedding and celebration cakes.
I then moved into wedding stationery design and floral decoration. Flowers became my new passion and I spent the next 10 years doing wedding and event flowers and styling.
Becoming a wedding stylist and planner was really the natural progression of all the best experiences I had in childhood and over 20 years of work experience. I love working in the world of natural beauty, generous hospitality, I enjoy looking after couples as they prepare for their events and designing beautiful things that make their wedding day extra special.
Image by Peter Wallace Photography
Are you known for a particular style (the ‘Christopher Saban touch’?)
In the design briefing I have with my clients we discuss the ideas they have for the colour scheme and styling in depth. We look at references, pictures and fabric samples to help visualise, so they can decide what they would like to have.
Often the initial ideas evolve during the process of sourcing and finalising all the details. So it’s a real collaboration and we often discover new ideas along the way together.
I like to encourage layering of all the elements of the stationery, flowers, textiles, furniture and lighting to create beautiful spaces for the ceremony and reception. No matter what look we are trying to achieve I encourage the use of good quality elements. You don’t always need a lots of everything, rather whenever possible choose things that are well made, local and good quality.
I love flowers to be generous and very natural in styling. Linens should always be good quality and there should be candles everywhere. For me these are the key elements of styling at a wedding. The goal is to create an effortless sense of sophistication and beauty.
Image by Peter Wallace Photography
What, for you, always finally pulls your design together?
Sometimes we are on site for days, with marquees going up, lighting installations and teams of vendors working away. With a detailed run sheet for the production, everyone knows exactly what to do and where to do it. My assistants and I often spend over 10 hours on site and that’s before the event starts.
As the final touches go out onto the tables, it’s the beauty of the flowers that visually brings the room together. The stunning colours and textures of the flowers and foliages never fail to impress. The last details we are usually checking on the day are that the flowers are perfect and the cutlery and glassware are perfectly aligned.
Is it harder to plan and style a smaller wedding than a large wedding with a large budget? What are the challenges you face?
The planning that goes into both is very similar, the preparations tend to follow a similar timeline and clients always need to be guided through decisions on things like the venue, ceremony, invitations, catering, styling and vendors.
We treat all events with the same respect and attention to detail that they deserve. Even things that look simple on the day require careful consideration and a plan to ensure that it all runs the way the clients would like it too.
On larger events I do work with larger planning and styling teams to prepare and produce all the details on the day.
The logistics behind the beautiful styling are key to running a successful event. I love to organise things and find I can happily work on a spread sheets for hours, checking everything is correct.
Do you offer packages at different levels of assistance?
Sure, we have a range of packages available for wedding planning, event management, the day wedding coordination and styling.
You can choose the level of support you feel you need. Keep in mind that after the complimentary initial client meeting, we will tailor the packages to suit your personal requirements. We are really flexible in our offering and focused on providing great customer service.
What is the nicest thing about planning and styling a wedding?
It is really rewarding after spending so much time working with my couples in the planning and preparations to see them so happy on their wedding day.
Image by Christopher Saban
Do you take a moment on the day to take it all in and enjoy the ‘finished product’?
Sure, when we do the final walk through at the ceremony location and then at the reception location. It is important that we ensure that everything matches the design plan and the floorplan, so we do a walk through with the team to check off our styling and production lists. It’s in this moment that I often feel moved by the beauty that we have been part of creating.
You are also a floral decorator. Do you find this gives you better control over the finished look of the wedding?
Clients often ask me to arrange the flowers for their events. The natural beauty of the floral decorations really enhance any space. It’s such a key element to the finished look, so it means we have much better control on the finished look of the wedding.
I also arrange things like linen, vases, candles, chairs, furniture and lighting. Some clients are really busy and ask us to do all of these things and the flowers so they can concentrate on their busy careers.
Another aspect to this is that we can save costs for our couples when we have less vendors delivering and setting up on site. That said, of course we are happy to work with any vendors the client might prefer.
How would you describe your botanical ‘style’?
I like modern romantic flowers, with a fresh, natural and unstructured feel. I choose lots of foliages and textures to add interest. Some of my favorites are Peony, David Austen rose, Gardenia, Magnolia, Poppies, Hydrangea, Ivy berry and Pieris. One of the favorite parts of the job is making wedding bouquets at 7am in the morning on the day of the wedding.
Do you see some colour or styling trends coming through for 2017?
As always it’s so personal, I just encourage couples to have any colours they love. It’s then my job to make it work by introducing complimentary colours to make it all work. There is a lot of interest for next year in navy and white, nautical inspired. Also fresh plant inspired greens from lime to emerald.
Image by Peter Wallace Photography
Do you have some secret locations that you love – that are not the normal locations (or venues) that a couple might consider?
Many of my wedding planning clients are making more original choices for their venue, where they can really create a personalised event experience. Warehouse buildings, art galleries, photographic studios, forests and country sheds are some examples of more original spaces you can choose.
Do you have some tips you can offer to the bridal couple when planning their wedding?
When planning your wedding, location, food, service and pricing should be at the top of the check list when searching for the perfect venue. No matter whether your styling is elegant, rustic, contemporary or glam, make sure you look for spaces that are neutral in colour scheme and offer versatile floor plan layouts. As most wedding receptions are held in the evening make sure you visit the venue at night, as the mood of the lighting is one of the most important things “style-wise” to consider.
You must know Bali well, as you offer your services as a wedding specialist here. What do you love about planning and styling a wedding in Bali?
There are so many beautiful places in Bali that provide the perfect backdrop for a wedding. Areas such as Uluwatu, with its dramatic cliffs and sweeping ocean views and the lush green tropical paradise of Ubud, are two of my favorites.
We work with a combination of vendors from Bali and Australia to ensure that our clients get the best of both worlds. The hospitality of the Balinese people is legendary and the weather is stunning most of the year.
The thing I love the most about destination weddings in Bali, is its usually a series of events rather than just the wedding day. It can start off with a beach bbq to welcome guests, fun outing days with golf, shopping and massages. Some clients do a rehearsal dinner the night before in their villa compound or bright sunny breakfasts overflowing with fruits and flowers, with the wedding to follow just before sunset. With good planning you can create an unforgettable destination wedding experience for your selves and the guests.
Image by Peter Wallace Photography
Do you have any recommendations for short breaks – either in Australia?
If it all gets too much and you want a break from the wedding preparations, there are lots of amazing places you can go to recharge yourself before the big day.
Barossa Valley is also a great place to get away for a food and wine weekend. (Try the Jacobs Creek Retreat.)
Bali is an ultimate location for a short break. I love to stay at The Layar in Seminyak, it has cool design and 5 star service. Close to all the best bars and restaurants.
Thank you Christopher for sharing your story. Such attention to detail is hard to beat – and having your wedding details styled to perfection is something we all dream of. To find out more about Christopher Saban visit the website.
Headshot by Peter Wallace Photography.