Nobody wants a bare hall in a country club any more,” says Sylvia Weinstock, the cake-maker of choice for three presidential clans (the Trumps, Kennedys and Clintons). No, rather than standard décor, staid group photos, cookie-cutter sponges and restrained bouquets of roses, she says today her clients want to make a “standout visual statement” with unusual touches that capture the imagination and provide guests with that all-important “wow” factor. All four wedding tastemakers Beyond talked to agreed that modern couples want a personalized occasion that takes into account their style, quirks, dreams and tastes to create something truly unique.
If it all feels less formal, stiff and regimented than in previous eras, there’s a reason. “Most brides are not 18 years old any more,” says Weinstock. “They are career women and some are paying their way.” Which means greater bridal autonomy? “Yes,” says Sydney-based super-florist Saskia Havekes, adding that directives “rarely come from the family any more”.
Which may also be why weddings have become smaller and more intimate, offering the few guests who are invited a higher-quality experience. “I’m from Texas,” laughs Rebecca Gardner, go-to wedding planner for Hollywood and fashion royalty, “so I know all about huge blow-out receptions, but it definitely feels like they’re on their way out of style.” Yet some things remain the same. “The bride wants to look beautiful,” says Christian Oth, the No 1 lensman for the style cognoscenti. “The guests need a drink!” adds Rebecca. “And the cake needs to taste delicious!” laughs Sylvia. No change there, then.
The Next Gen Photographer
“So much has changed in wedding photography,” says Christian Oth. The globetrotting lensman, who started photographing brides 15 years ago and counts Sean Parker and Alexandra Lenas and Amanda Peet and David Benioff as clients, laughs when he says, “It used to be so bad. It was full of formal, staged line-ups that felt stiff and self-conscious.”
Oth was at the forefront of a new style of nuptials photography, more candid pictures with a photojournalism feel. But there was a problem. “The bride still wanted to look beautiful,” smiles Oth, “and lots of photographers doing this new style didn’t know how to photograph a woman so she’d look good. How she should cross her legs, how to get a bride into a pose without her looking stiff.”
So his style was born. Authentic, but still flattering, softer without being syrupy. And Oth sees it as his mission to “add to the energy of the wedding, not disrupt it”. So what are his tried-and-tested tricks for loosening up a nervous bride? “I’ll always ask her to twirl around once or twice.”
What’s changed? In the past few years, says Oth, “brides have become much more visually savvy; they’re really into the photos.” To that end, “they’re all in search of the next beautiful venue. Now I’m doing a lot more destination weddings.”
And with that, Oth heads off to catch his flight to the Maldives…
The Coveted Cake Maker
Sylvia Weinstock’s cakes have a fairytale quality that elicits an involuntary intake of breath from even the most hardened wedding-goers. All her creations showcase impeccable taste and artistry, which is surely what attracts her star-studded clientele (she counts heavyweights Oprah, Robert De Niro, Ralph Lauren and Jennifer Lopez among them).
What’s her trademark? Spellbinding sugar flowers, from blowsy roses to whimsical lilacs to heart-stoppingly gorgeous peonies. Perhaps the ultimate example of her talent was the 10ft-tall, 13-layer cake (it had different-flavored sponges and fillings) for Ivanka Trump’s marriage to Jared Kushner, which had cascades of handcrafted lisianthus, roses, lily of the valley and baby’s breath in beautiful creams and white.
Sylvia doesn’t just decorate with flowers, though; she can create galloping horses, dogs, shoes and houses from her ingredients, adapting her cakes to suit each culture: “In Japan they want more fruit, in the Middle East they like sugar. The English like fruit cake, Americans prefer sponges, often chocolate.” So popular are her cakes that Sylvia has been traveling the world, teaching cooks how to recreate her masterpieces. Her brand is now licensed in countries like Japan and Kuwait, with more collaborations planned. Which means soon brides all over the world will be able to enjoy a slice of heaven.
The Star Scene Setter
“All brides I know want a non-wedding,” laughs Rebecca Gardner, the go-to event/wedding planner for ultra-chic It Girls like Margherita Missoni and Lauren Santo Domingo. “They all want a great party with a jolt of whimsy and delight.”
And providing this is Gardner’s specialty. “Brides have seen everything now,” she smiles, so she goes the extra mile to conjure up breathtaking “visual installations” that create a memorable talking point. Examples? She has suspended hand-painted butterflies over tables, constructed magical woodland scenes under centuries-old oak trees and delivered Bacchanalian tablescapes with an excess of sugared fruits (“so outdated, they’re funky”).
There’s always something magical, ethereal and irreverent underpinning her work. And all her weddings are highly personalized. “You want to reflect the bride’s style,” she says. Gardner is adamant that guests’ enjoyment should be key. Hence, she’s a stickler for maintaining a free flow of drink, and for flattering lighting (often provided by hundreds of twinkling candles) because “that way everyone feels pretty”.
So what’s the secret to her success? “For me, it’s about making the whole process joyous.” she laughs. “After all, it’s often a year-long relationship with the bride.” Anything else? “I never say no,” she adds with pride. “My job is to create a dream!”
The Fantasy Florist
“Luxurious blooms in large quantities,” says Grandiflora’s Saskia Havekes when asked to describe her company’s signature wedding style. The Sydney-based florist, who works for clients such as Elle Macpherson, Cate Blanchett and Miranda Kerr, adds that her arrangements are “less structured, more as if they were just picked from the garden”.
Her flowers are luscious, sensuously full and gloriously real. And often her arrangements are given “an elegant twist with fresh greens, berries and herbs” to create a “rustic earthy feel”.
After years of minimalist white, Saskia’s love of riotous colors feels modern and refreshing. “Color is huge,” she says, adding that “jewel-toned” blooms create a “lovely party atmosphere”. And for the ceremony and bride’s bouquet, where white or pale is often a requirement, Saskia introduces a sophisticated “dusty nude tone”.
Riotous colors? Loose, thrown-together arrangements? Do such looks rattle family members who might be footing the bill? “Traditionally, the groom’s family would pay for the flowers,” says Saskia, “but now most bride and grooms pay the bill together. This means there’s a much stronger sense of style and personality coming from the bride.”
What’s the bride’s No 1 request? “There’s a strong desire for the flowers to be a conversation piece,” she says. And in this Instagram age, who would expect less?
Leading lensman Christian Oth has introduced a more candid, spontaneous feel to wedding photography
Sylvia Weinstock (top) is a cake designer to the stars, including Robert De Niro and J-Lo. She adapts her extravagant creations to suit each culture; some cakes are 10ft tall
The wedding planner Rebecca Gardner is a stickler for free-flowing drink and flattering lighting. “That way everyone feels pretty,” she says