Creating some of the most prestigious parties and events, Lavinia Stewart Brown is one of our favourite wedding planners. Our lifestyle editor sat down with her to discuss what makes her work so spectacular and what’s next for Stewart Brown events.
What led you into wedding planning?
My first job was on the picture desk at GQ magazine, and I absolutely loved organising everything and pulling lots of elements together for the shoots. I quickly realized though that I wanted to change things up. I wanted to still being doing something fun and creative but also be more client facing and make people happy. That is when I decided to get into Weddings and events, which was over 10 years ago now. There is something very special about meeting two people in love and helping them plan the most important day of their lives. Getting to know the couple really well, and then watching them on their Wedding Day, fills me with happiness… and after organising probably more than 100 weddings, I still shed a tear when they say their vows!
What is the first thing you advise couples to book when wedding planning?
Most of my weddings tend to be in marquees instead of venues, so once a date has been set, I work closely with the couple on the look and feel they want to achieve for their big day. I start with a mood board showing different marquees and décor ideas and then discuss the type of food and service they want. After these initial conversations, I can book the key suppliers in, such as marquees, production, caterers, and florist. Another two key elements are the band and photographer, as depending on the time of year and lead up time, the good ones can get booked up, so I always recommend confirming these straight after.
How do you deal with things going wrong on the day?
I am pleased to say that this is not something that happens very often, thankfully! However, somethings are sadly out of my control, such as when I am asked if I can change the weather forecast! When things do go wrong though, I always stay calm and take a step back from the situation while quietly thinking through the best way forward. My aim is always to ensure that no one at the wedding realises anything went wrong to begin with. I know I have done a good job when the client tells me afterwards that if there were any hiccups, they didn’t even realise!
How does the planning process begin at Stewart Brown events?
It’s key for both me and the couple to understand exactly what they want on their big day. There are so many different styles and trends, getting to know the couple and understanding what they want to achieve is vital. I am lucky to work in a visual industry, so I love creating mood boards and talking through options with my clients piecing everything together bit by bit. We work closely so I make sure we have everything spot on along the way, and the clients are always feeling comfortable and happy.
Where do you draw inspiration for your wedding planning from?
Mostly Instagram and Pinterest. Instagram for looking at what Wedding planners abroad are doing, and Pinterest for my mood boards. I also love snapping random things on my phone that I see out and about. Whether it’s in antique shop, or a hotel, if I see something like a fun lamp shade or tablecloth, you will find it in my iPhone gallery.
The biggest wedding trends for 2023 are?
I think the ‘Wedding Cake’ that is not a cake is going to be a big one. I had this two years ago for Camilla Elphick’s Wedding, where she opted for a giant pavlova instead of a Wedding cake and it was so fun. I seem to be discussing this topic with a lot with my current brides whether they want a dessert station, a croquembouche or a few food truck serving different puddings. Another is table details. More now than ever, are people choosing to invest time and budget into what’s on the tables. There are so many different styling and décor options now, whether is patterned cloths, personalised napkins instead of placement cards, bespoke hand painted candles… the list goes on. Lastly, something I have been suggesting to my clients for years and most of my couples have said yes this year…. a ‘wow’ bar. Something different that makes the bar a focal point like a stunning floral installation.
Do you have any non-negotiables when it comes to wedding planning?
No but there are a few things that make me very nervous! The main ones are when clients say lighting is not important to them and they don’t set aside budget for it, as I truly believe lighting can make or break a party! Another is when a family member or friend wants to make the Wedding cake. I have seen this go wrong more times that I would like to admit, and I don’t like to be hiding under a table while the bride and groom pose for photos trying to discreetly hold up tiers of a wedding cake while trying not to be seen!
What are your suggestions for couples who want a beautiful wedding but have a tight budget?
Narrow down your guest list to only the most important people and from the onset, discuss exactly what is important to you and what is not. For some people it may be the amount of flowers they have. For others, the type of food or variety of drinks offered.
What was your own wedding like?
It was almost 4 years ago, and I honestly wish I could do it all again! I had a reasonably small (100 people) destination wedding in the Algarve, Portugal. I planned the Wedding myself and got an event planner to run it for me on the day. I am lucky enough to have planned quite a few things across Europe, so know how these things work and amazingly, everything I liked, my husband did too. I knew immediately that I wanted a Mediterranean theme with lots of blues and white. We had a lovely service in church followed by drinks, dinner and dancing all outside at a big private villa over-looking the sea. My favourite part was the dinner around the swimming pool, with festoons hanging over our heads and candles floating in the pool. It was so romantic. I sourced beautiful polished wooden tables and special crockery which I loved. My husband and I had the best day!