Bibbidi bobbidi boo! Event designer Rebecca Gardner has the magic touch when it comes to expertly curated experiences and has been making waves in the wedding industry and beyond with her jaw-dropping fête designs for many a brand, including Moda Operandi, LoveShackFancy, Carolina Herrera, Carnegie Hall, the St. Regis, and more.
Gardner’s ideas are often other-worldly—giant red tassels hanging from ceilings and cascading paper butterflies on tables topped with hundreds of candles. Truth be told, she’s the real-life fairy godmother of the design and event world, a woman who makes the seemingly impossible, totally possible.
Even though Gardner—who hails from Savannah, GA, and is based in New York City—only oversees one to two weddings a year, we sat down with her in an effort to try and capture some of that fairy dust, so we can pass it around so to speak.
Here, the event planner extraordinaire takes on the four seasons—wedding style—and shares her whimsical and wise tips for creating an event that looks like a fairytale, so much so that it pretty much has to end with a happily ever after.
Favorite fall colors?
“Avoid the dreaded ‘autumnal palette’ by pairing fall colors like tobacco leaf or ochre with jazzier colors such as pink or chartreuse or lavender.”
To pumpkin or not to pumpkin?
“I don’t care for pumpkins.”
Fall flowers to embrace?
“Dahlias in gigantic ‘dinner plate’ size are the star of fall weddings. They don’t need any other accents. I like them in shades of petal pink and chocolate. Any bride who is getting married in the fall should look at Pauline de Rothchild’s table with a pink cloth, napkins, and kale centerpieces as a reference.”
Color ideas for a fall wedding?
“Fat pink and brown Dahlias tied with double-faced satin ribbon with trailing loose ends that cascade down and around place settings. A hodgepodge of ecru French damask tablecloths starched like hell with big monogrammed napkins. Choose a delicate china with a gold rim.”
Ways to decorate fall tables besides flowers?
“Maple trees are their best in the fall. You could put small plants in the middle of the table and scatter dried leaves around the place settings, like we did for Carnegie Hall’s 125th anniversary. There were also small silver Revere bowls full of walnuts and pecans for added interest (an excuse to use more silver).”
Winter colors that you love?
“I love winter weddings, partly because of my love for red. Red pairs well with the sherbert pastels that you see in a bouquet of Icelandic Poppies during this season. We designed a party at The Lambs Club with yards and yards of Lee Jofa chintz in red and white and put it on everything. Twisting poppies dressed the table with Herend’s Green Bouquet china. It was a youthful twist on December.”
If a wedding is in December, how far should you lean into the holidays?
“Embrace the magic of twinkle lights, scent of live garland, and sculptural quality of blooming bulbs. Pray for snow.”
Favorite holiday touch on the table?
“How about traditional party crackers with paper crowns, fancy chocolates, and a riddle to get the conversation going.”
Spring flower of choice?
“It’s no surprise that spring has the best flowers. My favorite is the fritillaria with their unusual bell-shaped blooms that seem to bow in reverence. Be warned, they smell like pot. It’s also a great time to use masses of optimistic yellow daffodils and allium with sculptural purple balls.”
Anything to avoid?
“I much prefer the striking colors and geometric shapes of these flowers to peonies which are commonly chosen for weddings.”
Unexpected ways to approach a spring wedding tablescape?
“This is a great season to use wildly colored chintz fabric for tablecloths. We planned a mock ‘afternoon wedding at home’ for Carolina Herrera’s bridal campaign which was inspired by a luscious Rose Cumming chintz. It was an old-fashioned afternoon affair. The housekeeper made the imperfect cake, the mother of the bride enlisted the Garden Club to do the flowers, the champagne was expensive, and the buffet was covered in sparkling heirloom silver. I like the idea that this was an authentic celebration of family and love—this bride will have many future occasions to outshine.”
Fresh ideas for decor?
“Spring is all about fresh greenery like myrtle topiaries and maidenhair ferns. They’d look great in Christopher Spitzmiller faux-bois cachepots. Forgo the flowers and use an exaggerated abundance of lush plants to create an outdoor oasis. We designed a party at The Highline Hotel for interior designer Suzanne Rheinstein to mimic old New Orleans. The space was filled with 45 feet paper palms, caladium, and ivy. These handmade elements were tucked inside an installation of live plants of all kinds, and it made the Ramos Gin Fizz taste like Napoleon House.”
The best flowers for summer?
“Foxglove comes in summer and offers such height and drama. I prefer these tall soldiers grouped together in an arrangement of one type for impact. I think Thumbelina must use the blossoms as tiny sun hats. This is also the time for fragrant heirloom roses. Insist that your florist buys the best from Rose Story Farm in California. They will ship anywhere.”
Outdoor table ideas?
“I’m dying for someone to hire me to do a picnic wedding with meticulously arranged straw baskets, wandering string musicians, and servers in crisp linen aprons. I’d have little folding stools for ladies to perch and Victorian lace parasols. Think A Room with a View, and avoid anything rustic.”
Indoor table ideas?
“If it’s too hot to be outside, bring paradise indoors. This attempt must be bigger and better than the real thing. We did a summer wedding in Texas with a stylish and confident bride who let us build a room as if from The Garden of Earthly Delights. There were palm trees with pineapple trunks, banana topiaries, and cascading birds of paradise. It was a hit.”
Tablecloth that is a classic summer print?
“Cabana stripes are a bold and fresh and remind us of the ocean. Do them in blue and white with Chinese export à la Carolyne Roehm, or in yellow and white with generous arrangements of color-blocked sweet peas in trippy blown glass vases by Paul Arnhold. Oh . . . and . . . menu cards in Happy Menocal’s playful illustrations. If tables happened to be around a pool, I’d hire a gaggle of synchronized swimmers to perform with a brass band. Huge umbrellas in the same stripe with white fringe would keep guests shaded.”
Anything to avoid?
“No matter how long you’ve dreamt of a summer wedding outdoors, consider the comfort of your guests and prepare for the worst. Also, no to droopy hot flowers!”