Well where do I start. Well I could start from a milestone birthday celebration in Summer 2005. I was approaching an age I had decided should either pass quietly – or with a year of celebrations of the last “cough” years, doing things I had never done before, experiencing places I had never been (Kenya with Mr Smith; Dublin with my dearest girl [and boy] friends) culminating in a party to end all parties. An awards style evening, a marquee dressed to perfection, great food, great wine, but most of all great company. I organised the entire event. It was nine months in the making and I often refer to it as my “mid-life crisis pregnancy”. I cannot lie – it was the catalyst which resulted in my deciding to launch my own event dressing company just 12 days later!
But was it the start? Not really. As early as the late eighties I realised I had a passion for designing “the finishing touches” to events. Mainly engaged by friends and family to create the little extras for their own events and occasions. For years I mulled “is there a market for this?”. The internet was relatively new then and access to research such possibilities limited. So I pushed all thoughts to the back of my mind.
At just about the same time I took up a position on one of the local branch committees for a national professional vocational institution. In a very short space of time I was installed as Treasurer and quickly onto unofficial events secretary. For many years I was their driving force when it came to their events – and indeed socially and via my day job found myself slipping naturally into organising so many gatherings, training events, seminars etc.
So what does event management have to do with being venue stylist I hear you ask? Now I firmly believe that to be a stylist you have to understand how the wheels turn – not just your own. Your venue is the “stage” and the dressing is the “lights and effects”. Without all aspects working naturally, easily together you have the makings of real mash-up. Which is why – when I decided to explore the opportunity to create a one stop shop venue styling business my first stop was a very trusted friend in the hotel industry. They had many years in managing weddings and had seen some reasonable – and frankly some pretty appalling attempts at dressing them. Not withstanding wanting to understand the potential to make a living, I wanted to be sure we didn’t arrogantly enter the industry, pretending we knew it all, and completely overlooking those with so much more insight, experience and facing so many more challenges than us. Sadly it is a failing we see too often these days with start-up wedding ‘businesses’, too eager to launch themselves into the wedding industry, label themselves experienced without getting the foundations in place.
Those first two years were invaluable to us. We worked with just a small number of varied venues – hotels, public hall, masonic lodges and golf club. Each with very different set ups, clients and therefore challenges. It wasn’t just about how quickly we could build a portfolio – but how robust a reputation we could build. Trust, reliability, honesty, respect – you cannot buy them nor find them in a photo album. We also feel very fortunate to have worked at a time when chair covers weren’t popular (really? yes indeed – it’s hard to imagine a time chair covers weren’t the main means of dressing an occasion). I fact it would be some two years before chair covers started to be used to dress entire rooms as standard in the North West – and not simply the folly of the more affluent. During that time we would have to learn some very creative ways to dress rooms without the obvious, and easy, option. A skill we still use to this day when called upon.
So that was it. 17th August 2005 Occasions by Design was born in the North West of England. In 2006 we began our transition to Scotland – buying our home and potential premises. We split our time for the next three years, continuing to build our confidence, reputation and portfolio before finally settling full-time here in 2009 and re-branded Highland Occasions by Design.
I look forward to sharing some of our learning over the years – and some of the inspiration which helps us continue to love styling venues for all manner of occasions.
Highland Occasions by Design,
Banffshire AB37 9DL
Tel: 07976 918185