Meet the Dream Team: Southern Belle Styling & Events

Win Your Dream Wedding 2015 Dream Team member Ashley Hibbard of Southern Belle Styling & Events reveals some of her trade secrets.

  • Story by Styling by Southern Belle Styling & Events

Win Your Dream Wedding Dream Team member Ashley Hibbard of Southern Belle Styling & Events reveals some of her trade secrets.

What led you to work in the wedding industry?

In high school I worked at a scrapbook store, creating custom-made memory books. One of my clients got engaged and asked if I would help design and style her wedding, and I ended up creating all the bouquets and flower arrangements and styling her ceremony. From there I did bits and bobs via word of mouth simply because I enjoyed it, while going to university then getting a corporate job. While working in the corporate world, I looked for any excuse to throw parties oozing with creative details, until, after his 30th birthday party, my boyfriend, now husband, put his foot down and told me to follow my heart and turn my passion into my profession – and Southern Belle was born.

What’s your favourite trend when it comes to wedding styling?

Unique colour palettes! As beautiful as pink is, it’s refreshing this season to see brides being drawn to more unique colour schemes, and even ditching a colour scheme altogether. One of the most beautiful weddings we’ve ever designed and styled started without one. I worked with the couple to choose dresses, flowers, stationery and styling details that were cohesive and naturally formed their own colour palette. It takes patience and constraint to pull together a “no colour scheme” wedding, but rather than looking forced and contrived, the end result can look far more elegant and relaxed, and more representative of a couple’s style. Some other notable wedding we’ve curated whose colour palettes evolved this way include a blue wedding in Nelson; a berry-toned Waiheke wedding complete with blackberry plants; and a citrus and foliage wedding in Napier. 

How can hiring props be a cost-effective styling option?

One of my favourite quotes is from the architect Charles Eames who said, “The details are not the details. They make the design.” So many brides tick all the big items off of their wedding checklist – gown, venue, cake, flowers, etc – but although they’re all important, the details are really what pulls together a visually interesting event that leaves your guests with a lasting impression. Unique architectural elements, customised signage, relaxed lounge areas, styled vignettes of quirky knick-knacks, coffee-table books, candles and the like are all easy ways to add a little oomph to you day and tell a story in your photos. Unfortunately, buying all of these items yourself adds up really quickly and takes a lot more time than anticipated, then after the wedding you're left with the hassle of cleaning wax off 100 candleholders and trying to figure out where to store everything or how to sell it. By hiring these items, you save yourself the time and hassle, plus you have access to a much larger range of quality items. Our hire collection has been sourced from countless shopping trips in New Zealand and abroad, and contains a large range of custom-built items that don’t exist anywhere else, enabling you to truly create a one-of-a-kind event.

What advice do you have for the bride who’s a bit lost when it comes to deciding on a wedding theme?

I recommend that my clients pick three items they really love, then try to figure out what the common thread is between them. Whether they have similar colouring or textures or speak to a certain era, this is a great way to narrow down your style and set you on a path to create a cohesive celebration. If you’re swimming in Pinterest pins and can’t figure out how to merge all of your ideas, I’d highly recommend booking a consultation with a stylist. Our job is to look into all of your inspirations and figure out what the underlying theme is and how we can reflect that in the design of your wedding. 

Weather worries aside, what’s one key advantage of choosing an indoor venue?

It can generally save you money on hire as the floor plan tends to dictate the layout and flow of the event. For example, the head table fits in one spot, the cake table is framed by an architectural detail somewhere, the guests enter at one point and are drawn through the space based on the floor plan. With an outdoor venue, you have to create all of this through styled areas that mimic the flow of an indoor space, but it does give you complete creative control. You don’t have to work around strange paint colours or odd artwork, and have free rein to create a space that is 100 per cent reflective of your style. 

How can simple styling be done well?

There are two ways to do this. One, by carefully curating a handful of design elements that are cohesive yet visually unique, so that they help tell the story of your wedding. And two, by curating large collections of simply designed items. For example, three plain glass vases placed on a table don’t say much on their own, but replace them with three unique vases that are different shapes, colours and sizes and you have a talking point. Conversely, add another 10 plain glass vases and you have a collection that will also reflect light and colour. 

What’s one of the more creative or extravagant ideas you’ve ever executed?

I’m so excited about an upcoming wedding of ours. The theme is lights and we have metres upon metres of fairy lights, festoon lights, seed lights, Edison bulbs, our custom-made ‘LOVE’ marquee sign and more. With an overstuffed leather lounge suite, suspended rose chandeliers and thousands of twinkling lights, I know it’s going to be a beauty!


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