An Interview with Sarah Balfour
From Session Musician to Celebrated Wedding & Event Planner
How do you create an atmosphere in a place or venue that just doesn’t seem to have one?
It’s all about imagination, about projecting your vision onto a virgin space.
The first event I arranged in 2004 was a Moulin Rouge extravaganza for more than 200 guests. The venue was an empty studio with white wall strip lighting and no furniture. It all looked terribly depressing. But by keeping images of Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor from the movie in my head I transformed it into a Parisian nightclub, complete with can-can dancers, champagne fountains, candelabras, Drayton feather boas and tables piled with gorgeous food. The party was a great success, everything looked amazing and I’m still contacted and spoken to about it.
What was the secret of your most successful party?
I like to think all the parties are a success because I pour my heart and soul into them. One stand out event was a Mozart street party in London. All the musicians were dressed in elaborate, powdered wigs and I went for a dramatically camp theme with a purple and pink colour scheme as well as lavishly dressed footmen, Mozart themed cocktails and canapés served on violin shaped trays. It was an extraordinary street party with over 50,000 people celebrating Mozart.
Does success always mean extravagance?
Success means a great party and everyone having an incredible time. I like to stimulate all of the senses in our events but this need not be extravagant.
I stress to clients that I don’t like to lose sight of what the occasion is – and I encourage them towards balance. Good, organised event planning ensures a successful and seamless flow of events on the day. Each of our clients has a status report which is regularly updated and therefore leaves no stone unturned. It’s my bible!
Of course we always want the venue to look fabulous but this need not be extravagant. It is totally up to the client. We come up with plenty of ideas and options that adhere to the client’s budget, taste and style. The same applies to all other aspects of the event. With the right balance you can create the perfect vibe and atmosphere.
The crowd is also a huge contributing factor in making the party a success. I have done plenty of events where the room has been bursting with love. This is something money can’t buy!
Is the best way to plan a wedding to let the host just leave you to it?
It doesn’t matter who the host is – anyone can worry about whether people will have a good time at their party. I promise to lift the stress and encourage my clients to enjoy every stage of the planning process. I am always available to my clients and keep them up to speed by showing them checklists and constantly reassuring them, but essentially they trust me to get on and deliver a fantastic event.
Does being a musician give you the edge?
Well it definitely has its benefits! I understand how the industry works and my contacts mean I can always get the very best music for a party and what’s a party without music? I constantly monitor emerging talent and keep up with shifting themes, trends and tastes whilst remaining respectful of those who love tradition.
My two jobs work hand in hand. I have applied myself to the piano for more than 30 years with joy, persistence and determination. These traits are a part of me and I pour all of them in to Orchid.
How does it work being a performer too?
I sometimes play the piano at really key moments at my clients’ weddings such as when a bride walks down the aisle. I like to make this moment as poignant and special as possible. I encourage the bride to choose a piece of music that is meaningful to her and then I play it for her on her big day.
As musicians, we learn how to relate to people – how to speak with emotional intelligence. Furthermore, as a pianist, you learn how to engage your audience and hold their attention, and it’s the same thing when presenting ideas to clients. I develop extremely strong relationships with my clients. They trust me and believe in me and my ideas.
This is a 4 part interview following Orchid Event’s award for Bespoke Wedding Company of the Year by the Luxury Travel Guide Award
Since launching Orchid Events, founder Sarah Balfour has become a highly sought-after wedding and event planner. Her company has rapidly climbed to elite standard, has offices in the UK and Israel and is now the first choice for a highly distinguished clientele. Orchid Events works with over 2,000 trusted suppliers to create spectacular weddings in the UK and across the world. Sarah has created a truly luxurious wedding planning service offering bespoke, tailor-made services to every bride and groom-to-be, whether their dream day is traditional, contemporary, classic or unusual.
Orchid Events’ bespoke approach to wedding planning allows clients to rest assured that their special day will be unforgettable, whether they envision cascading flowers in a medieval castle, bohemian chic in a hip art gallery or relaxed island vibes on a faraway beach. The LTG judging panel was particularly impressed with how Sarah and her team ensure a stress-free wedding planning experience and perfection in every detail.