FOR THE first of our series on wedding reception settings organized by leading wedding planner Rita Neri, events stylist Charo Sy of 7 Lily (tel. +63917-8117080;  631-1578, 466-4369) went for a nautical theme consisting of white floral arrangements and navy-blue cotton napkins and table runner with red and white trims.
A trained interior designer, Sy envisioned her wedding setting, which consisted of a presidential table and several guest and satellite tables, as an ideal alternative for weddings held at a posh yacht or beachfront venue. She even had each napkin appliquéd with a red letter S, the imaginary couple’s supposed family initial.
“S actually stands for Sy,” she said. “I might as well think of other uses for these napkins after the shoot.”
Sy complemented the entire arrangement with crystal tiffany chairs made of acrylic from Maru de Ocampo. The Peninsula Manila, venue of the shoot, provided the china, flatware and table linens.
Since this series was mainly intended to give future couples an idea of the various possibilities available to them as they plan their wedding receptions, Neri chose The Conservatory, a more intimate venue compared to the hotel’s Rigodon Ballroom. Everything can be scaled down or amped up depending on the couple’s budget and wishes.
For her white floral arrangements, Sy combined such blooms as amaryllis, hyacinths, peonies, phaelenopsis orchids and roses. In keeping with her nautical theme, she accented them with red bamboo sticks, blue hybrid roses and periwinkle hyacinths.
“Using white flowers can be quite tricky,” she said. “You have to make sure that they remain fresh during the reception. Unlike most colored blooms, white flowers tend to wilt and turn brown easily.”
Imported white hydrangeas can be problematic. Exceptions are hardy white orchids and carnations. Some colored blooms are no hardier than white ones, but most don’t easily turn to an unsightly brown.
Although Sy is partial to using white blooms for their “clean” and refreshing qualities, she doesn’t push them—unless clients insist—when dealing with Chinese-Filipino couples. Not a few Chinese-Filipinos still associate white with the dead.
To give the presidential table a feel of luxury, she added decorative elements such as chrome and pewter vases and vessels into the mix. Since some guest tables weren’t big enough to accommodate such elements, she settled for coiled rhinestones as well as twisted silk cords and tassels in red, white and blue.
“Minimal use of vivid colors is ideal for providing some contrast,” said Sy. “At the same time, they soften a predominantly white table setting and keep it from becoming too stark.”
An events stylist works with a wedding planner and the couple to help the latter achieve a cohesive theme. It normally takes four to six months to plan a “normal” wedding, said Sy.
“But booking a church and venue for the wedding reception requires more time,” she said. “Ideally, the couple should book these venues a year before the wedding day before sitting down to attend to details.”
As owner and creative director of 7 Lily (the name isn’t grammatically wrong, she clarified, as it’s based on an actual address in Beijing), Sy formed the company several years ago after getting additional training in flower arrangements in Hong Kong.
“I got burned out doing interior design work,” she said. “I wanted to try something new.”
She decided to accompany her husband in Hong Kong, when he was first assigned there for work. To keep herself from becoming bored, Sy enrolled in flower arrangement courses.
“We’ve done all sorts of themes, from elegant to avant-garde,” said Sy, who also styles debuts, anniversaries and corporate events. “I’d say I’m more partial to classic styles with a twist. I call it understated elegance.”
One of the most difficult assignments she has handled so far was preparing the main ballroom of a five-star hotel for 1,000 guests. Aside from bracing themselves for the big volume of people, they had barely one and a half hours to transform the ballroom to an ideal wedding venue.
“We couldn’t enter the venue much earlier because it was still being used for another wedding,” she said. “During such instances, I make sure that I hire additional hands to help me and my team do the job. It was a tough one to pull off, but by some stroke of luck and sheer determination, we managed to.”
Apart from the wedding planner, Sy tries to work closely with the venue’s lighting people as well as the sounds supplier.
Oddly enough, Sy has yet to attend or personally witness a client’s wedding. She and her team leave the venue before guests start arriving. But she makes it a point to leave one or two staffers behind to attend to contingencies.
Still, she can’t help herself from getting goose bumps after seeing first hand the ballroom’s dramatic transformation.
“For some reason, I know in my heart if an event would be perfect just by looking at the venue,” she said. “And true enough, a good number of my clients text or e-mail me the next day expressing their appreciation.”
Special thanks to Rita Neri ([email protected]; 0922-800-8393); Stephanie Chong, Christine Rosell and Joy Lopez of the Peninsula Manila; Maru de Ocampo for the Windsor crystal chairs; and Noky Dungo-Gatmaitan of Printsonalities for printed materials, including menu cards.