An Interview with Sarah Balfour
From Session Musician to Celebrated Wedding & Event Planner
You do a lot of work in other countries especially Israel and Italy. How did that come about?
Whilst holidaying in Israel as a pre-graduate, I was invited to play at the Hyatt Hotel in Jerusalem. From there I was spotted and asked to perform at concerts all over the country and in the process I developed an affinity with Israel and so wanted to do some work there too. Most of our clients in Israel are from overseas. But being abroad means you can bring together an intoxicating mix of different cultures and traditions to create an unforgettable event.
10 years ago, we planned the wedding for a UK couple who adored Italy and had been to Ravello together on holiday. It was such a special place for them, they had to get married there. We too fell in love with Ravello; its romance, weather, amazing food and history. We found a venue called Villa Cimbrone, where Gretta Garbo used to holiday, and the wedding was magical.
We love working in Italy; it offers so much, especially for weddings. You have incredible venues from historical 15th century Venetian Palazzi to hidden gem Masserias in the south. It’s bursting with romance and magic, not to mention the phenomenal entertainment and exquisite food. We have organised weddings and parties all over Italy, and we have built a fantastic portfolio of contacts there.
We are currently working on another Asian wedding in Puglia – a four day event – where we get to enjoy four different Masserias each with their own charm and steeped in history.
We are also planning a small intimate wedding in Spoleto, Umbria. It will feature a week of events. It’s a current trend for people to make a weekend or week of an event, especially if it’s far away. In Umbria we have embraced the incredible nature and food from this region and its fantastic local music scene.
Who are your biggest influences?
My great grandfather, Al Tabor was a renowned violinist and bandleader. He was the original composer of the Hokey Cokey – so it must be in my genes. However, he sold the rights for very little and didn’t make much money out of it! I think that this has influenced my determination never to be exploited as a musician.
My parents were hugely supportive; they gave me the freedom to choose and follow music. They worked hard and made sacrifices so they could afford extra music lessons. I was taught by the best teacher that money could buy. I remember my dad listening to me practice my pieces day and night. They have a great work ethic, which I inherited, and they always believed in me and knew that I would achieve my goals.
Another huge inspiration in my life is my piano teacher Jean Anderson. She was awarded the British Empire Medal from the Queen last year. Jean not only taught me how to play and perform, but I also learnt from her, vital life lessons. All of her teachings will stay with me forever. She towers with strength and wisdom, and is truly inspirational. She handles the turbulence and challenges of life with dignity, poise and composure. She has given me the confidence to succeed and I am indebted to her.
What do you look for in a wedding venue?
The venue needs to strike the right tone for the event. You have to take the vision, wishes and individual requirements of the couple and find something that will complement their style and make their special day unique and enduring.
With any venue you have to assess a vast array of features. Among many others, you have to make sure that it ticks all the boxes in terms of size, location, look and feel. This includes the exterior and interior spaces, accessibility and time restrictions.
We spend time scouting great venues, and with Orchid’s magic, our events are unforgettable and stress free.
When offering such an extensive portfolio of musicians and bands, how do you ensure quality?
All the musicians and bands that are signed up to Music by Arrangement are handpicked by me. Being a musician and performer means I’ve learnt on the job and know what to look for. Alongside technical skills, I think being a musician means you also have an instinct for picking out the very best in those who perform and play.
What do clients typically look for in a wedding band?
High energy and lots of personality from the front line to ensure the dance floor is pumping all night! The singers should also be charismatic for that extra magic. A band that can read the crowd and know how to ensure the dance floor is full is absolutely essential.
For those with a larger budget, is it ever possible to get their favorite musician to perform?
Yes absolutely! Subject to touring dates of the artist.
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.