Ask the Experts:
The Event Designer
“Choose seasonal, locally grown flowers to avoid the markup due to a strong euro and rising fuel prices.”
Remco van Vliet
You’re a third-generation flower guy from Holland. The real deal!
My father did work for the Dutch royal family, and when I was 13, I made the queen a bouquet. At 18, I moved here to work at a flower importing company. After that, I was hired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to do arrangements for the Great Hall.
And now you’re a high-society event designer. What does your job entail?
We design every aspect of the event—from the flowers, tablecloths, and glasses, to the chairs, floor plans, and lighting. We like working with Bentley Meeker Lighting and Frost Lighting.
Do you get brides who make impossible demands?
I had one who had 40 people in her wedding party and wanted all of them to stand under the chuppa. We did that, for a price. I have to say, once a groom’s involved he’s worse than a bridezilla. Sometimes I learn that the bride and groom are realizing for the first time that they have very different interpretations of what’s beautiful.
Which venues do you love working in?
The Mandarin Oriental and the Rainbow Room have amazing views. I also like the Puck Building and Skylight.
What would you advise couples to put in their venue contract?
That there isn’t an early function on the day of your wedding. They’ll double-book, especially if it’s a hotel, and then your vendors will have less time to set up. Personally, I like to come in the night before for setup.
A large part of your job is obviously the floral design. Which flowers do you love?
Thistles are masculine and nice to add to arrangements of roses or peonies. Sandersonia is an elegant, bell-shaped flower. I love fiddlehead ferns, begonia leaves from Peru, and craspedia—little yellow balls that add texture. For fall, I like seeds, pods, and berries. My brother is a partner at a flower importing company, so I get first pick. I can find flowers that aren’t in season when you want them, and I can usually get a good deal—though these days, with the price of fuel, it’s sometimes irrelevant. I have clients who don’t understand why their sister’s wedding that I worked on four years ago cost so much less!
How can couples cut costs?
You can do something special with common flowers, such as sunflowers, or certain roses from South America. Fill several small vases with one kind of bloom. It’s monochromatic, very peaceful, and a lot less money. Don’t spend time decorating the cocktail hour; the reception is the most important. And the ceremony is not the place to show off with décor.
What would you do for a couple who wants a winter-themed wedding?
All white: white velvet, white-flocked branches, glass icicles, frosted chargers. Or, silver branches with white orchids and hanging crystals, ice-blue silk dupioni linens, crackled-glass votives. No red-and-green, no primary colors.
What do you find cheesy?
Anything that floats in water—submerged flowers, floating candles. Or, anything that involves hanging flowers upside down. Huge bouquets and strewn rose petals make me cringe.
Goblet Photograph Courtesy of Party Rental
From the Winter 2008 New York Wedding Guide