Irina Raza was so keen to work in wedding planning she knocked on every industry door she could find. But when none of them opened, she went into business for herself.
As the owner and founder of Forever Weddings in Sydney, Irina already had experience in event planning when she came to Australia for a holiday two and a half years ago, fell in love and decided to stay.
In tune with starting a new life came the inspiration for a more specialised niche. And that turned out to be weddings.
“I was waitressing at a venue called Bar 100, which was a location featured on the TV show Don’t Tell The Bride,” she recalls. “They did a ‘60s style of wedding, and I remember looking at the styling and thinking ‘Oh, they should do this’ and ‘They should do that’. Then I realised: ‘I really want to do weddings.’”
So that’s exactly what she did.
With a passion for helping brides on even the tightest budget, and a role well described as a wedding muse and collaborator, Irina’s specialties are styling, and also co-ordination on the day.
Her portfolio includes everything from an engagement party cum surprise wedding to gorgeous outdoors celebrations.
This made her the perfect person to share a lookbook that includes both weddings she’s worked on, and tableaus that offer great inspiration.
This was one of the earliest weddings I was involved with and I think it beautifully illustrated the impact you can make with a small prop. The groom was from New Zealand and the bride was Spanish, so the message on the chalkboard was a way of saying ‘You’re from different parts of the world, but this is your spot. This is where you start your new life together. It is where everything begins.’ It was a wonderful message that perfectly encapsulated the meaning of the day.
Styling insight: Small props used well can add large doses of character.
This photo was actually taken from the same celebration, and the flowers and colours that featured in the bouquet and the entire wedding were used to decorate the cake. It was very simple and very beautiful. The bride herself made the costumes for the champagne glasses after I saw the idea on Pinterest. Because she has a business making children’s dance costumes, and they were on a very tight budget, we actually made a lot of things together. And that’s what I always say to my couples: even if you have the smallest budget we will make it look like a royal wedding.
Styling insight: Consistency in colour and tone adds an elegant and expensive air to any wedding.
This arrangement was taken at a flower market when I was looking at blooms for a wedding. To be honest I didn’t think the bride would want it, as it was quite unusual, but she thought it looked really cool. What I like about it is not only the colour and contrast, but also the fact that those small bulbs are full of potential and, just like the marriage, are getting ready to burst into a beautiful bloom. It’s almost a promise, that: “This is just the start. This is the day where the rest of your life will begin.”
Styling insight: Contrasting size and texture are a wonderful way to add visual appeal.
This is from a wedding where the bride wanted something really simple and stylish for her flowers. What gives it a nice little point of difference is that her bouquet is mainly white, and the reason this works is that her dress was not. You actually find quite a few brides these days are moving away from white gowns, and that creates a wonderful freedom to incorporate the colour in bouquets.
Styling insight: Take your colour cues from the wedding gown and bouquet and then feed them through the entire wedding palette to ensure it matches up.
All flowers have personalities, and I love to match them with the bride and groom’s character and the atmosphere they’re trying to create. For example, I use a lot of peonies as they’re a real attention getter and they work for almost any wedding. They take up a lot of room and they create a really soft and beautiful feel. Sunflowers are something I used for another wedding and the combination of colours was really cute. The blooms looked so fresh and happy and they perfectly matched the couple, who were smiling every single moment.
Styling insight: There’s flowers to match every mood. For something elegant and sophisticated, consider a calla lily, while something like a hydrangea is perfect for a garden wedding and ranunculus bring beach wedding bouquets alive.
Just like personality, all flowers also have their own story and meaning, so I love choosing ones that are meaningful for the couple. It’s a classic, but my favourite is red roses, because they reflect the idea of having passion in your life and the desire to spend the rest of it with the person who’s beside you. Something else I like is orange blossom, which means purity and innocence. I think it ties in perfectly to the bride in white and to the idea of a new beginning together.
Styling insight: Carnations aren’t the first flower you might think of for a wedding. But they’re actually perfect as they mean ‘pure deep love’. Check out some more floral meanings here…
This couple wanted a London style theme of wedding, something very classic, and what’s more classic than a London bus? One with a bouquet and ribbon on the front to mark it as wedding transport. What people mightn’t realise is there are quite a few places in Sydney that have them, so they’re not that hard to source.
Styling tip: Once upon time, more attention was paid to the mode of transport that took the bride and groom home after the wedding. But these days, couples often use their arrival at the ceremony to set the tone for the celebrations to come.
Cheese wheels are actually my favourite type of cake. At this wedding, the bride and groom loved the idea so much they had it for their actual wedding cake. It was styled really beautifully with a simple wooden base and some classic white flowers and it looked beautiful. For something more traditional though, what I usually suggest to couples is they have one cake, which is a dessert cake, and then have one of these later in the evening, maybe after they’ve left, when the dancing and drinking are in full swing. It lets the guests have a nibble and is a handy way to stop them drinking too much on an empty stomach.
Styling tip: Cheese wheel cakes can be served either just as the cheese or in a tableau that includes everything from crackers to paste to fresh fruit. Get some more ideas here…
For weddings, I always try to find a cake topper that looks like the couple as I think it’s more personal and more fun that way. It also makes for a beautiful souvenir. Instead of keeping a piece of cake in the freezer for a year they can just buy a new cake on their anniversary and put this on top to celebrate. It definitely tastes much better than year-old cake.
Styling tip: A cake topper is a great way to express your personality. You could have your names spelt out by sparklers or even feature a family heirloom. Get some more ideas here…
This is one of the most fantastic, yet inexpensive, decorative touches you can create. It looks a million dollars, but in reality only costs about $2. To make them, I simply bought fresh pineapples and painted them gold. They fitted in perfectly with a theme that was a little bit vintage and rustic. And yes, to answer the obvious question, you could split them open and eat them, as you can get edible spray paint. But why would you want to when they look so good? If you’re not into pineapples, you can also try this with other fruit; I think the effect is especially eye-catching with apples.
Styling insight: Fruit in general makes for a great decorative element. One terrific idea is to attach your place cards to apples.
I think it’s very important to carry the same floral colour scheme through the wedding for a sense of continuity. It doesn’t matter so much the size and shape of the flowers, but I definitely think you should stick to the same shades. Where size and shape should come into play is when looking at your gown. For example, with a big dress a modest bouquet works best. Likewise, a bigger bouquet will perfectly balance out a more modest gown.
Styling insight: If you’re on a budget, sticking to a colour rather than a specific flower can help you save money as you can focus on buying bigger – but fewer – blooms.
My usual approach to a venue is that I love to make it very warm and inviting with flowers, mirrors and candles. One of the great things about mirrors is they can really help to make the most of a space. For example, if you have a small space you can put them along one wall and it looks amazing. Candlelight is something else to always use where you can. It looks really beautiful, and I think it helps to soften the atmosphere and make it really romantic, as do fairy lights.
Styling insight: Electric candles can look as great as live ones.
At the end of the day, Irina says it all comes down to bringing the bride and groom’s vision to life, and then taking the stress of the day out of their hands.
“What we really want is for couples to feel like guests at their own wedding,” she says. “If that happens, we’ve done our job.”
It’s a desire that ensures she pours her energy into crossing every T and dotting every I. But at the end of the day, the real passion comes from something much more sentimental: “I’m just so in love with love.”