Sunday, November 14, 2010

Creations that birthed out of emotions...

Last week, I finally got the time to take a look at the pictures of our recent works. Those pix brought back memories. The second part of 2010 was the most trying part of the year for me. A lot of mixed emotions as I went about doing the day to day business. It was the same emotions I went through when my granny passed on.. and yet the Lord has been gracious, I have never made so many fundamental life and business decisions in a short span of 4 months. I knew He stretched me, I understood it was another leap of faith I need to take in every decision. Now looking back, every decision seemingly seem rush, yet every decision He has carefully planned for me.. I stand in wonder.

Blogging is always to me a reflection, and not so much about publicity... It is my way of therapeutic expressions, and I know esp when my youths in church are always reading.. somehow it was also my way of educating the next generation how to treasure passion and inculcate perseverance and faith in the midst of pursuing our passions. I hope you are blessed to see the works that are birthed out of pain as well as much love. To God, be the glory...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Life is beautiful...

Birthdays always mean somethings to your heart, as much as you don't want to admit it. And every year, as I approach my birthday, I can't help to wonder what will take place on the actual day. This year, the same thoughts lingered in my mind.

6th Oct is a date I do treasure.. The number 6 is always special to my heart. Some say it is a number of the serpent, some say it is a number of man.. I will choose to believe the latter. It is a number that speaks of man's weakness made perfect in God's likeness..

Last Wed, my children Pastor celebrated with me over a simple but intimate lunch. We have a good one in Royal Copenhagen in Taka.. and I spent some time alone in my spa manicure, and taking down thoughts over the past year, esp the past months' occurrence.. The joy of good memories made me drop a sms of my reflections to a dear pal of mine, and unknowingly, my pal misread my intention and a happy sms turned into a disappointed note.. before I could even wonder, came another call from another pal, that she had confirmed breast cancer... it was a birthday seemingly filled with disappointing news.. and a part of my heart was really down, and while I was driving around in my loss... somehow God quicken my spirit and reminded me, Hannah you have a choice - to have faith and pray through for yourself and your pals, or you can choose to mourn over yours and your friend's current situations.. Life is full of choices, and what you choose to believe determines the very destiny in your life.
On that day, I chose to pray, to praise and to rejoice. I attended the church prayer meeting and rushed to the hospital later to encourage my pal. I went back home decided I choose to forgive, I choose to let go, I choose joy over sadness, I choose love over hatred. I choose God over self.

Last night I watched the movie : Eat, Pray & Love.. and I was inspired. Two things I came back refreshed. The author help me to realise 2 truths :

- Ruin is not always disastrous, sometimes it is a gift. It leads the road to transformations
- Sometimes to lose balance in love, is to find balance in life. When you thought that loving someone causes you to lose yrself, to lose your balance. Unknowingly it is the beginning of finding the real meaning of balance in life - i.e. to let go, to trust God, and eventually trusting yourself.

Today, I found a new strength, a new freedom and energy. I received a call from my pal : her cancer is controlled, and there's no signs of cancer spreading to any part of her body, the scan reported. I made a call, and was happy to know there are new openings and new business opportunities. But most important, I received a prompting in my heart : God is in control, Hannah, it's time to let go of the past, to explore the unknown future and wonders together with Him. This is life - it is filled with journeys of the unexpected, the discovery of life in many expressions.. so we can continue to eat, pray and love. Life is beautiful, I love life, and I want to live the best of every moments.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The wedding of the year in Seychelles

I just arrived at the hotel, checked in, and received a message that the Tatler magazine is out and Eng Hong, our photographer partner has posted our wedding on the blog. Our Seychelles wedding was featured.. and I just can't sleep despite I was very very tired... I logged onto 39east blog and joy filled my soul.. it was an article that was written with exact accuracy to what happened in the wedding. All the hard work from my team, the precised drawings right to the exact measurements of the trellis (400sqm large area to cover), the exact colour coordinations of the lanterns at each row within the huge trellis, the beautiful and intricate floral arrangements done by Harijanto from Boenga, the long hours of coordinations and supervision by my team from the first moment we touched ground to the 4th day when the event took place all paid off... See the link at 39 East images

God, you did it again thru us and for us.. I thank You for the great weather and the perseverance you have instill in me and every one who makes this work... it is another Heaven's Gift from You...I know greater things You will do thru us and for us.. I love you Daddy, the lover of my soul.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My heart may not understand, but God knows what's best for me...

I will be flying off in 6 hours' time.. and yet my mind is fully awake, I just could not sleep.. somehow my mind is back to the active mode again, and I know it is an indication that God is preparing me for something which my mind cannot comprehend... something I require faith to venture into.

These past few months has been a trying time for me... nobody really knows nor understands what went through my heart and mind, but I know I need to press on, and believe all things happened for a purpose beyond my limited human mind.. and I know God is preparing me for something I have yet to understand nor even envision. It is so strange, the verse "Faith is the substance hope for, the evidence not seen", just kept ringing in my spirit.
Just as I am writing my thots in this blog, a small little voice speaks :

- Hann, trust God, He knows what He is doing, the journey ahead may seem uncertain, but it is a sure step to fulfill His promises in you and thru you, and He will fulfill the very dreams you have had for long

- Hann, stop listening to all the lies around you, it's time to shake off those dust and spread your wings and mount up your wings like eagles, it's time to soar above the distractions that try to hold you back..

- Hann, rest in the Lord, the battle belongs to the Lord, what the enemy meant it for evil, He will turn it for good for His name's sake..

Yes Lord, 7 yrs ago, I have the same fear but You have shown yourself faithful these 7 years.. and I know you will perfect what You have begun in us...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Lord knows what we need to carry on....

I have just finished a long call with a client's brother, who was questioning about some final details pricing with us, and I have had just finished a wedding with extensive setup last week, and now in the process of creating another big one I have dreamt about and can't wait to see the final expression for this coming week. And during that conversation, I was discouraged, because it was the same educational journey we need to go through with most clients, the questioning of our works and what it worths. And the past 2 weeks, I have not slept much and my team have not stopped working. Mentally, emotionally and physically I am tired. I don 't blame anyone, I have learnt to accept it is a process we have to do to
justify what we do.

And interestingly, when my soul was disheartened, I received an email from the parents of my couple from last Sat's wedding -Mr Richard Magnus and Mrs Eileen Magnus who surprised me with their thank you notes, and when I read it, my heart was lifted up, the Lord knows what we need to carry on... and I tear as I write this blog, Lord, you are the best hubby I can ever dreamt to have.

"Hi Hannah,

As part of our reflections and thanking God for His blessings on Step/Daniel's wedding we thank the Lord too for you.

We have many expectations. You delivered them all. The spatial ambience was magical, creative and imaginative. The placing of the lights in the Flutes walkway, the careful shadows on the trees as well as on the trellis which was sensitively decorated brought the right sparkle. The symbolic swing, stef's and daniel's theme, hanging naturally from the tree was a masterful touch, a touch that made the leap to genius. The foundational church event, the reception which was the social needed transition between the church event and dinner, and the dinner itself was carried out flawlessly. The solemnisation was well choreographed and executed with the processional. Solemnity was respected as vows were made, and ordinary rings become wedding rings, communion celebrated, exhortations made, blessings released and declarations of a marriage made. The tea ceremony took place meaningfully and sensitively. There was a relaxed mood at the reception. The buzz flowed with champagne. wine and canapes from Flutes. The atmosphere at the dinner was purposefully understated yet dignified and joyous. Nothing ostentatious. The marquee earned its reputation in the midst of the lush greenery. The dinner hall was ambient cool throughout which was a pleasant surprise. The music was of years gone by was discreet. Flutes cuisine was savour extraordinaire. The service was impeccable. The wine flowed to the occasion. The guests enjoyed themselves. There was an overflowing of fellowship and friendship. The dance floor was invitingly adequate and came to life with the evening. The MC was great. The speeches were brief. The tribute demonstrated love. The celebration seemed endless.

It was like a symphony orchestra that came alive in the hands of an expert conductor. It was our blessings that we had you as the conductor. Several of our friends had said it was an exceptional event and many still talked about it.

Well done Hannah. Thank you. You made an extraordinary event memorable and magical."
Richard Magnus

"Hi Hannah, we continue to receive compliments from many of guests about how wonderful Stephanie and Daniel's wedding was and how much they enjoyed themselves. Many called it a wedding with a difference and left with a warm feeling.
The entire setup wowed our guests, and the garden was transformed. Thank you for the lovely touches you put in and pulling in the various vendors to produce such a beautiful setting and atmosphere.
We came to you because of your exacting standards, and you certainly delivered."
Eileen Magnus

Monday, September 13, 2010

Serving the Rich...

Have just completed a wedding with extensive setup, all went really well.. and everyone has fun. When you saw almost more than 100 guests dancing on the dance floor out of 250, you knew you have done the job. Yes, I was very very tired, couldn't wait to go home, it was an outdoor setup of a fully aircon-tentage linked to a fine-dining restaurant, and now we are tearing down all the 7 days hard work in a day.. that's our job, all the hard work for that 1 day finally removed in a day.

This year, we are serving more and more high-end clients, not just in the aspect that they are rich, but they are very influential in the society and the community. I looked back at the journey I have walked through these 7 years, God has been gracious to me and my team. We have gone through intensive and steep learning curve to be where we are today. Serving the rich is not just about knowledge and skill one needs to acquire, it is an attitude of humility and service we learn to cultivate continually within ourselves.

I was teaching one of our youths when he was sharing about his dream. Just like in ancient times, every king has his butler, cup bearer and special crew to take care of his well being. Often we stereotype this group of helpers as mere domestic servants, but in reality, they need to know their field well enough to be able to serve their kings well. Remember Nehemiah in the bible, he was the king's cup bearer. I don't think his role was just checking whether the food and wines were safe for the king's consumption.. he must have been trained to know the different types of wines, the different ingredients within the dishes that would satisfy the king's taste preference. The level of knowledge he had to constantly filled himself with, and the precision he had to be acquired to do his job well to continue to gain the king's trust and attention, that when he eventually asked the king to allow him to return to his homeland the build the broken walls of his nation, the king not only grant his requests, the king gave him resources to do what he desired.

Why would a king be so generous for a mere servant? I believe Nehemiah is beyond just a servant, he was a trusted confidant and friend for his master, and the years of humility and willingness he had demonstrated before the king has enabled the king to trust this man.
That was one thing I am always reminded. I am a wedding consultant, but I am also a butler. When I first came into this industry, I came in with much ideas and creativity, but the first thing I really learnt was to being humble and willing to serve my clients, and today the rich. It is only when you learn how to serve the couple and family, you learn to be connected with them, and that's when their dream becomes your dream and vision for their wedding.

Often this area in my life will be stretched and tested again and again, and during those times, I marvelled at how the Lord has enabled me and team to pass each experience. It was never easy, but the precision and depth He has trained our hands and minds to work amazes me. Lord, teach me always to be humble, to be passionate and never to lose heart to serve the rich.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A bold voice of Hannah Chong has spoken

I have been silent for many months.. in fact since 2010, I have been quiet in the blog. One part of the reasons was I was really busy creating weddings I have dreamt to create, the other side of me was there were so many gossip and rumours which some players in the industry strive to create about me, that I was really really angry and disturbed. And I think it's high time I speak what I need to speak to the readers and to the local industry players who are certainly watching me.

I have left the corporate world because I want to pursue what I love, but at the same time I don't enjoy the politics in the corporate world, and I thought starting a small firm like mine will not erect much politics anyway, until I became popular, famous etc whatever you call it. The unkind words that were circulating around have affected me and the people I love and respected, and all these years, blogging to me was only a form of education to the readers as well as a form of self therapy where I get to review my thoughts life.. so often I am careful what I write, because I do love my readers, esp my couples.

Today, I decided I need to be bold to express how I have gone and still going thru as an entrepreneur and as a wedding planner in Singapore , a country that is supposed to be very efficient, very open-minded.. but in reality we are in many ways pretty narrow-minded in the ways we think or compete with one another. I wish we are truly open and I still believe one day, Singaporeans can embrace excellence as much as be gracious to one another, esp to people in the industry and to those who serve us.

The last few months, I was so busy, but I have no time to catch up with my contractors/artists I respected. And only in July, I finally got to meet some of them. The news that came around to me were shocking and unfair :

Someone spoke to my florist , "Why should you be loyal to Hannah if she's not loyal to you. Afterall, you are the one that made her famous?"
Another gossip "Hannah isn't the concept creator, she just copy designs from Preston Bailey or from the magazines"
Another remarked "Hannah doesn't take commission from suppliers, but she takes more margins than anyone.."
Another concluded "Hannah is not as good as she claims to be, she overcharges etc etc etc"

I pondered for a long while, and wonder why are people in this industry so unkind.. why are they so foolish not to realise by killing their very own kind, they are killing themselves. I never need to explain to anyone what I do, because I do have the guts and the capabilities to do what I do. Today, I intended to take the risk to share who Hannah really is to you, and let you be the final judge.

Yes, I get inspirations from magazines, and my benchmark of success is never measured against anyone in Singapore. I have always been taught by my mentors, the world is the standards, look beyond the borders. I spent money and time travelling across to the other side of the world to be inspired and to believe this is where my benchmark should be. I admire Colin Cowie, Preston Bailey and David Tutera and many others out there who hold a vision of what they do. They are what they are because they never stop learning, never stop believing, never stop inspiring and be inspired. And every of my works are indeed inspired by these great men in the event industry, but it is also coupled with the personality and creativity of Hannah Chong. Take a look at every of my designs, you will understand what I mean. It is never just Preston Bailey's duplicate, etc, it is always a product I have created with all the inspirations we gathered and further developed, and most important, it is an inspiration derived from my couple's story. That's the reason our corporate tagline is always "Your Story, Our Inspiration".

Which player spends more time than me to critique the staging designs, hires a team in house to do the sets drawings before hiring any contractors, takes time to do press check of all printings even as simple things as invitation cards, goes to meet cake chef and discuss about the designs on her own, spends time reviewing the lightings in every event, instead of leaving to the contractor, spends overnight in the hotel to ensure all setup is accurate and precise as what she has presented to the couple, and even willing to threw in money for more flowers, more lightings, reprints etc to ensure what is delivered is perfect as what she has envisioned, when her own couples didn't even expect that of her. I think no one is as crazy as me..

We are not claiming we are the best. But we do know what we do, and we truly strive to do every part of our works to the excellence level I believe in. Yes, I don't believe in taking commissions, because commissions to me is a fee a contractor pays to a planner/agent for recommending a client. It is a marketing fees. And that's no right or wrong about taking commissions. But for us, we never behave like an agent, we take time to do research, take time to conceptualise, take time to design and redesign, we owns our own internal team of designers I build to do what we do. And for every concept, it is more than just the decor, it is an integration of the concept, the staging, the floral sets, the lightings, even the musicians and the special corners to become the final product of what we envision.

And because of that, I am very fussy, I choose my suppliers, and I don't allow couples to determine the suppliers. The reason is simple, the drawings are from us, unlike some.. and the vision is birthed from us to the couple. Who knows better than ourselves to decide the vendors whom we think can do the job. And our vendors are like my close siblings, without them, I won't be what I am today. But without me, they won't deploy the vision I am seeing.. The cherry blossom trees wedding is a good example. It is not complete if we are not the one that create the painting ( with my in house designers) and give to the florist, without Brenda, the trees will not be erected to be as pretty as it was.. and without my lightings crew and my photographers, it will not become trees that can blossom like in a spring to an autumn time (all in a day).. it is not just one vendor who did the job and make it a wow factor.. no no no... it is a combination of many vendors with their expertise, and with Hannah as the brainchild for that vision. All my vendors from florists, sets contractors, lightings, photographers, musicians etc etc are my beloved, and I protect them as close to my own. Yet there are people who are jealous because they do not believe I have the favour of men.. and to tell you the truth. I am favoured not just because of what we do, not just because vendors like me, but because there's a God up there who takes care of us. Period. I love what I do, I believe in my team (in house and my vendors), and no one can take away that, except God.

And I have seen how gossip and rumours have killed the players in the industry for stupid reasons merely caused by jealousy and envy. Someone told me there are approximately 300,000 weddings in Singapore in a year, and think about that, even 0.1 percent of that is equivalent to 3000 weddings. Can 2 contractors serve 3000 well, can 10 planners serve 3000 well? let's say I make a mistake, and that is only 30,000 weddings in a year, isn't 300 weddings for those who can pay us still too many for the players.. In other words, there are enough weddings for everyone.. so why kill one another.. we are not open minded enough, we are very very narrow-minded.

In conclusion, this is Hannah, all my blog posts are true reflections of who I am. I can't bluff long in my blogging. Ask my staff, ask my vendors or even my couples who have been with me for years, they will tell you who we are. And trust me, we will go beyond Singapore.. I am just tired of the narrow-mindedness here... the world is the real market, why spend time talking behind someone's back killing one another, when we have so much to do in the real world.

My prayer is this : God, open our eyes to see beyond ourselves.. and let you be the judge of all words and works.. To God be the Glory. Amen

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Be Gracious, Singaporeans... and learn to enjoy.

Today, I was in the church service, and pastor shared about what causes discouragements. And interestingly he mentioned about Singaporean lifestyle.. we seem to work so much, then when we go for vacation, we never really rested.. but our minds are still working. And before we realise, we are back home to work again.

I pondered for a while about our lifestyle as Singaporeans, and compared to my experience with my recent trips in Seychelles. Singaporeans are definitely hardworking, driven and often too demanding.. yes, we can be perfectionists. Our environment, and the way we are brought up in this island has made us to be this way. We are always striving for excellence, and tolerated little for any standards lower than that. But the long term result is : we become kiasu (behaviour that expresses fear of losing), impatient and often we become less gracious... which I have begun to see more and more as I worked in this industry.

I was just comparing the clients I have served these past 7 years. We have a good pool of expatriates, foreigners, as well as Singaporean clients. And among all, the weddings that guests really enjoyed and are spontaneous tend to be the former i.e. expat and foreigners' weddings, or when one of the couple is a non-Singaporean. In the past I often wondered why those weddings are generally more fun to be in, and more interesting to plan.. and today I concluded some observations :

1) Singaporeans have failed to see that wedding is a celebration, not a showcase. It is not all about how well the wedding looks, but rather how great the wedding is felt. When the host learns to let go and enjoy, the guests' emotions are influenced as well. We often hear parents say I want the guests to feel good.. but often I wish to remind them feeling good is a community effort, when you choose to feel good, the people around you will somehow be rubbed on to feel likewise)

2) Singaporeans, pls do not be so conscious. I always love the sight of guests jumping onto the dance floor and dance, party and have fun. But it is hard to see that from a traditional Singaporean wedding esp it is held in Singapore. I could still remember I did a Bali wedding for a group of Singaporeans aunties and uncles.. and my bride was surprised that her relatives danced so much in Bali, something she has never seen when she was with them in Singapore. Why is this so? We care too much what people say about us, and allow that subtle voices to prevent us from being true to ourselves.
Breakaway self-consciousness.. and you will start to enjoy the freedom to being true, being yourself. It's ok to laugh over yourself, you are what you think you are. So stop becoming what people think you are, but learn to accept yourself, and be true.

3) A perfect wedding doesn't mean a perfect rating score. What makes a perfect wedding? I often asked. Is it all about 100 points for good service, good food, 100 points for a beautiful gown, beautiful bride, it is all about 10o points for impressive aesthetic setup etc etc..??? NO NO NO.. it's not abt scoring 100 points. We are not taking exams, we are creating and capturing moments.
Every moment is personal, sacred and subjective. What one envisions a perfect wedding is not the same from another. So instead of worrying whether you can score the perfect score for your wedding from all your guests, learn to be live in that perfect moment you have desired of.. when you are happily married, when you enjoy every minute with your loved ones, when you dance your heart out and have a good time..

I have so much stories to share with many couples.. and esp to Singaporean couples. I am proud to be a Singaporean, don't get me wrong, and I am a true breed Singaporean as well.. but having worked in this industry for long, and having travelled so much, I have come to a conclusion : learn to enjoy every moment you live in, learn to let go, and learn to experience the pleasant surprises God has created for each of us.
And for Singaporeans esp, let's learn to be gracious, when there is grace, there is true beauty..something can be planned, something is God's given. And life is perceived all together differently when you see thru the eyes of graciousness.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

One unforgettable week experience in Seychelles...

Just touched ground in Singapore, and so much to share with all my friends about my week experience in Seychelles. It was filled with drama, anxiety, excitement, cries and laughter.. the first wild ride that I have ever had in my entire 7 years of wedding planning, but it's worth it all. I know this project is a launch pad from God to prepare us for the international projects we would have in future.

Seychelles is an island with many islands contained around it, with a population of only 80,000 people, out of which 20,000 are in working community, and only 10% of the population are really well to do. The community is so small that everyone knows everybody, and the way to do business is really through relationships and network. Family ties are very importantly regarded in Seychelles, and everyone is careful to give due respect to one another, when working or coming together. In other words, if there's a quality matter in someone's works, one has to address the concerns in a friendly and respectful manner hoping the best the instructions could be carried out as discussed.

The wedding venue is Le Bourgeois restaurant at Le Meridien Fishermen's Cove. I could still remember how the venue was chosen. When we did our first site visit, the couple had already chosen another new venue they loved. But to me, that venue was nothing spectacular, yet since my couple loved it, we had no problem on the first venue, and had worked a concept based on the first venue overall. Then on the last day of our site visit, I asked the bride whether I could have lunch at Le Meridien Fishermen's Cove, since I heard so much about it. The moment I entered the hotel, I fell in love with the coastline and the viewing deck, and without thinking, I asked her : Why didn't you consider this venue. I could still hear the very words of bride saying : Hannah this place is too small for our wedding size, it can only take about 80 pax. So me being Hannah, asked : are you sure, I would love to discuss with the GM about it. So Mr Olivier Francais met us with us. And we made him walk through the viewing deck and started discussing how many tables can we put on the deck, so from the initial 80 pax, he compromised to house 150, to 180, to eventually 230 pax.. can anyone imagine what has happened. A venue that is meant for only 80 pax, we are now extending it to house 230 pax guests. The hotel has never done a sit down dinner for such size. Yes, Hannah is crazy.. but I could see the guests seated at the crescent shape of the viewing deck in front of the coastline, and looking at the waves, and the scenery, the fireworks.. what a sight. I love it.

26 May
We touched ground in Seychelles airport about 11pm, and Hari brought an extra small box of orchids intending to serve as additional flowers we want to bring for the couple. The rest of the flowers have already been packed into the air cargo. And never did we expect the customs officer refused to allow us to pass the 1 hand carry item through customs, and intended to destroy it since we did not have the documents he was looking for to justify the entry, and created a scene which was unnecessary. In the end, we had to have some other means to retrieve the box. Lesson learnt : When planning for events in remote islands, assume the worst restriction in customs, and never take any single chance.
2 am in the morning, my lightings experts, Sue came back troubled, sharing with me what had been going on in the past 2 days of setup prior our arrival. I was disturbed, it seemed like the local contractors given to us has issues over our leadership and much challenges are envisioned to follow. Eventually I just prayed: Lord, grant us the favor of men, so whatever we have envisioned for this event would come to pass.

27 May
We woke up early, prepared the team for the wedding rehearsal. And we were then told that there was a power testing in the timing we had, so there will be no power running in this part of the island. The event is regarded so important that the authority had to test the powers in this part of the island, to ensure the event has sufficient power to run the event on the actual day. We went through the rehearsal without any sound system, we were well prepared for this last minute change. Rehearsal went well, and I was ready to go on site for the actual constructions.I can't wait to see the outlook of the trellis which we have conceptualised and designed for the local contractors to build. Because of the extended size we have created to house 230 guests, we needed to build a shelter to house all the guests in view of the weather. When it rains in Seychelles, it is as bad as in Bali or Singapore or maybe worse, the rain comes in all directions in huge drops. Initially we explore the use of tentages, but the odd shaped of the crescent coastline and terrain is not feasible and it would look ugly. I still remember in one of those nights I was reviewing the concept, and I saw the existing Gazebo with some trellis within the hotel, and suddenly the inspiration came, why don't we build trellis along the coastline all the way from the walkway to the end of the restaurant instead of using tentage. I shared my thoughts with my in house architect, Irene, and we started working on the drawings. When the drawings was finally out, we love it, and we know it would be a beautiful sight. But we also knew this is going to be a very intensive and extensive setup. Imagine local contractors building a trellis area of 400sqm meter on the viewing deck of a coastline.. the amount of wood we need to use, the amount of labour we need to deploy, the limited time we have, yes it is insane.

So what you see now, is the process of building the trellis on 27 May 10. I have to say, it looked incomplete then, and my heart was beating fast.. can we finish on time, O Lord.
The trellis supposed to be completed on 27 May afternoon, so that the lightings crew could start their work which is another extensive job required, and then my floral team from Hari's end can begin his work.. clearly we could see what has been delayed.. The roof has not been even covered. O Lord, I know for sure we can't afford any rain, do another miracle for me again Lord.

28 May
One more day to the actual wedding, and everyone started to panic in the final deliverable. I worked up at 6.30am, went to site by 8am, and could still see many parts of the trellis undone. The father of bride was giving orders since the contractors are all related to him. Eventually I have to calm him down to assure him all would be well. Deep within, I was stretched. My team went around checking the installation of the roof, the painted trellis, the lightings, the canopy for the hanging flowers. The culture in Seychelles is pretty amazing, unlike in Bali, people do work all the way to midnight to get the job done. But here, because the working community is so small, and family ties are so important, we have had experiences when workers leaving site early because they want to spend time with their family, or they are tired, they couldn't work anymore.. so in that 3 days of building, we went through emotional pacifying and begging to make people stay. I found it hilarious.. but somehow we completed the trellis the evening on 28 May. God thank you.

Even the leaves for the canopy, we have to keep reminding the local supplier to ensure they brought in enough leaves for my florists to get the work done. We need to build approx 100sqm canopy for the bridal area. You must realise Seychelles is unlike Singapore, nor even Bali, it is so remote, equipment here is really really limited. We did not have proper ladders, materials etc, everything had to be either purchased from overseas, or we needed to get it from natural resources. When the local supplier told me he would get the leaves from me, I was expecting him to order the leaves from somewhere, only the day before, I realised he and his team were chopping leaves from the jungles, I was speechless. So on and off, we have to instruct him to cut more leaves. It was quite a teasing sight. I could see Hari and team rushing to put the canopy up with whatever little resources we have. But Hari never fails us always, we did the canopy within 3/4 a day, despite we only have 1 pretty poor conditioned scaffold to use. Eventually the 400sqm was completed in 3 days.

Our next challenge was the lightings and sound installation. We never seem to have a consistent pool of workings working for us. Often you see me & team calling up the lightings contractors to ask when was the team coming. and there were many explanations which up to a certain time, we really think it has become excuses. But like I say, because everyone knows everyone, no one dare to put force onto any. But I have to admit, me & Sue did not go easy with these guys.. there were trashing, and humbling persuasion. I concluded, they have not seen what we can do, and they naturally questioned our leadership and vision. For a good case, we are only required to bring the lanterns, and the installation of bulbs and lanterns were to be handled by the local contractors, but so much delay was experienced, we decided to do the hanging of lanterns ourselves with the bulbs that already installed by the contractors. We just could not risk waiting for the contractors to do it later than we required. Our photographer, Eng Hong ended up hanging the lanterns with 3 of us gals supporting his ladder and assisting him at 9pm to 1130pm, while we are still waiting for the contractors. Who can ever imagine that!!. But thankfully I am also glad we did it, at least we could control how the final look is liked. Despite we have given drawings and measurments and positions of the lanterns to the contractors, still I could see problems could go wrong with not precised installation. Yes, Eng Hong was God sent, I was grateful and at the same time sad, this is not his role afterall, but somehow when we are alone in the island, every member of the Singapore team becomes important.

29 May
Finally, the day has come. we slept only 3 hours, and last night, I spent some moments in the night just crying and praying to the Lord. I was overwhelmed by the project, not so much of the scope of work, but the local challenges and emotions arose in this event. I wish we didn't have to prove what we can do, but rather are giving time to perfect what we have envisioned. But it's alright for us, it was a project that definitely sharpens us.
No one in Seychelles has seen such wedding created in this extent, no wonder they called it the wedding of the year. For us, we know what we can do, but for the locals, it is their first, so it is pardonable. My team learnt to work within the local restrictions and found joy to laugh about it. So in few hours, the wedding began, and I got dressed up, ready for the party.
Hari did his final touches, and I must say, I always love his final moments, somehow he would get it through beautifully. Even though for this project, Hari was only engaged for the flowers and canopy, but it was not as easy for him because of local availability and resources. Everyone worked so long hours, and had so little sleep. I could tell we were all tired, and often when you are tired, you become less patient. But in the end, we had our memories.

Now, there is one thing I want to make mention particularly for this event to be successful. It was the hotel and team we have chosen and worked with. Le Meridien has a great GM - Olivier, without him and his team, none of this can happen smoothly.
Just imagine, for a hotel to allow us to expand the size of the dining area with extensive structure, which is a first for them, the amount of compromise and flexibility they have given us and the couple is beyond imaginations. Imagine the loss of business and guests stay for those days. Imagine the mess of construction processes they tolerated. I just have to say I love this man and his guts.. he has faith or rather he has extended his grace to us. Beyond the permission, he added initiatives for the settings, they brought in new table linens (from Heaven's Gift), new customised seat covers, new furniture for the buffet lines etc.
And I remembered on the last night after we had all the lanterns hanged up, Olivier invited us for a drink around 12midnight.. we ended up laughing at all the silly things we have done together.. and it was a great time of encouragement.

So you must be wondering, how did the wedding go? Everyone partied till 3am. The father of bride called me up the next 2 day, and say, Hannah, thank you thank you, send all my thanks to all in your team. Everyone in town is talking abt the wedding. I teased him : So any regret... No of course no, despite we have our rough wild journey in the beginning, but all was worth it. And I can't help but reminded him : even God is on our side, 3 days of no rain during the setup, and after the wedding is done, showers came only after we took out the paper lanterns.. what a timing... what can you say, God is so gracious, He is in this wedding from the beginning to the end. And my heart is reminded : Our Father in Heaven never leaves us in any situations where He will not be with us. Despite all the back pains, sleepless nites, scars and emotional challenges we have to carry.. but God is in it, and I am so thankful.

30 May
We slept a bit longer, and repacked everything, ready to go home. But again due to waiting time for contractors, we only managed to get all settled by evening. We celebrated Sue's birthday at Hilton Hotel, and it was another beautiful resort, I would love to do one wedding there.

31 May
Me & Irene woke up early, sent Sue to airport. And have a early breakfast, no hurry.. just enjoying ourselves. Today, the team except Hari (as always he has to rush back, poor thing), went for a tour in the island for the first time. We drove along the coast, took lots of pix, and visited Four Seasons. And I thought life now seems back to normal, no more drama.. before I knew, I sprained my ankle had a swollen one, I next hit a rock, and the car tyre was flattered on this rocky road coming out of Four Seasons. And Sam was my saviour, he replaced the tyre... and all was safe. haha,.. yes this is an unforgettable trip really for me.. I laughed at every moments of the preparations and the stay in Seychelles.

So what are my final thoughts?
This is a beautiful island.. God's craftsmanship is observed for sure.
This is an interesting island, an island that reminded me that the world is so small, yet the world is so different.
Finally it also reminded me, the journey to a wedding is always stressful, filled with anxiety, doubts, fear and excitement... but the only way to make it through beautifully, it is to come to realisation : God is in control, and He loves us too much to tarnish our dreams. In fact, He always make things beautiful in His time.

I believe more great projects to come.. and we are definitely sharpen for the future and ready for the journey ahead of us.
Lord, I just want to say : Above all that has happened, I love You.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

One more week...

This week we were all swarmed.. I spent time setting up my mac, and getting my files all transferred from my old pc, since it was infected with virus and that was not good. And in one week's time, I will get to see one of the wedding creations we have designed and have dreamt for long. It is our first overseas assignment that has such extensive setup and construction, building approx 300sqm trellis along the coastline...You can imagine all the works we need to do..

Yes, it is the wedding in Seychelles. It is not a destination wedding, but rather an overseas assignment for us. We are privileged and honoured to be considered by a Seychellen couple to create their dream wedding. There were lots of works, tension and anxiety involved, after all, no one in Seychelles has ever hired a planner from overseas, and no one has done such extensive setup in Seychelles for a wedding. So I could understand their sentiments. And as anxious as they are, I am as excited to see.
This is also the first time, that our designs are deployed by local talents, and the control becomes so critical, it was stressful to manage the diverse standards. But I really want the asethetics to be well managed, in the end, we decided to bring our own floral team up. All I knew now is the Lord must go before us for this wedding, lots of challenges, lots of natural restictions, all the impossibilities but there's only one goal - we want to see it happen, we want to see the impossibilities become possible.

And in the midst of all the preparation and stress, something happened within my soul... something refreshes me from within.. I saw the vision of Heaven's Gift for next 7 years, and it got me really excited.. and I finally understood the joy of being loved... and there's so much I wish to share.. but the time is not right..
One day, all will be revealed, and for now I just need to be patient..

In His time, He will make all things beautiful. Thank you Lord for everything You have given me. Thank you thank you. Help me to continue to believe.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pls trust the experts

I have been awoken up at this hour, not by sweet dreams, but by an unexpected call from a client who felt we have changed our design concept which she did not approve. And after talking for 15 mins, then she realised she was not looking at the same drawings we were talking about. It was a mis-interpretation of hers, and best of all, she has not finished looking at the rest of the other drawings before she concluded her thoughts. SIGH....

Honestly I was very disappointed, more than furious. After all the precision, and the efforts we put in, sometimes clients still do not seem to believe in us. And the way we were questioned, I often wonder how long do we need to show others what we can do, before they can simply trust us.

Yes, it is granted that wedding is once in a life time affair, and most couples are anxious of the outcome. Yet I often wish the couples could realise, we are entrepreneurs and experts who are passionate in what we do, and who has built a brand that we believe in. We are humans who have emotions like anyone.. and as experts, we do hold the responsibility of delivering what we have committed..

Lord, give me the strength and patience to continue this journey of creations in the midst of disbelief, uncertainty and doubts,.. when I look at artists like Colin Cowie, David Tuttera & Preston Bailey, I was encouraged, they must have gone thru even more than what I did.. Teach me to be wise and continue to persever.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A new me, or rather it has always been me..:)

Just came back from Bali, and it has been a long long while since I put my hands into doing the actual floral arrangements for this wedding. We did not have the budget to fly any of our florists down to Bali, so we decided to work with local Balinese florists, and styled the look ourselves based on the concept we wanted -Pretty summer gardens in exotic Bali.

And I am proud to showcase the works. We customise our own lanterns, we believed God for great weather, and it was a fine day. The other side of Bali was having storms, while on the hillside we were in, were shining brightly with cool winds. Isn't God amazing.. and He gave us the best sunset we can enjoy.. At the end, every partied, even my couple could not believe that their relatives were dancing hilariously on the dance floor.. they had a great time.

And yes, I had a hair cut, real short, but chic. I love it, it was back to the look I had when I first started Heaven's Gift. I always had short hair prior to starting my own business, love the carefree, love the sporty look. Then I came to the wedding business, where parents were wondering did I look too young to plan their children's weddings.. so I had to grow my hair to look "old" and "feminine". Yes, it helped in some ways.. but after all these years, I think short hair still fits me best.. that's the real me. And I love it.

2010 is just so special.. I felt a new energy, a new love and a new outlook.. I can't explain. Somehow I know it will be a great year of great discoveries and fulfillment.. I can't wait for Him to unveil what's in store for me..

Friday, March 19, 2010

Love inspires

Strangely, I seem to find time to blog only when I travel. I suppose in those moments, you review what you need to do for the trip, repack some items, and in the midst of the busyness of travel packing, you often have thoughts you ponder.. and I do have mine at this moment.

Last few weeks were crazy time for us, we have clients flying all over to see us, having meetings after meetings, and we have had 2 house parties to plan. It was a crazy 2 weeks. Precised planning with a client who knows what she wanted. I thought it was just a simple house party, but the precision was straining initially. I can't deny at the beginning it was stressful, to work with another skilled event planner cum designer, and you both rub onto each other (all aspects of energy and creativity).. and the irony is at the end of the two parties planned within 2 weeks, we connected, and somehow we found another good old pal whom we could hang out with. Isn't life amazing, that's what I love about my job.

This year, we achieve our bookings earlier than we expected. God is truly good, He promises amazing increase with rest and joy, and I believe strongly we have and will continue to have. I met some of the most amazing and lovely couples. The love and quirkiness they have with each other, the joy and fun in exploring the creations we have with them just thrilled me.. and in the midst of all, I experience love.. love that I cannot comprehend, love that I know God has brought within me..

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Inspirations and 2010...

Am currently in Bali, and it is only through moments like this when I am alone, I get to have some space to think of about what I look for in 2010.. and honestly, 2010 will pass us by so quickly. As I travel from places to places, deals are closed, projects are conceptualised, and travel plans are made in advance, and seems like this year, I will be travelling more than I can imagine.. but I do hope I get back to the States again to be inspired and inspire.

I was looking thru one of my partner's website, and it was a great presentation of what he does. I pondered about the people who have inspired me to create and continued to dream and be romanced. My family, the people who stand by me to give me the space to do what I want to do. The partners I have in the industry, from every florist, every technician, every entrepreneur ..each of them brings into my life an aspect of creations... a longing within my heart always to do more, and believe for more.

The year 2010 marks the beginning of completion, the year of divine order. I somehow knew this year is going to be an amazing year for many who believes. And I can't wait to see what God has in store for us. So what is my goals in 2010 :

  1. Believe, believe & believe. I believe beyond my imaginations, something great is happening
  2. Be Happy, Be Yourself. The greatest thing man can ever have - is to be content to being himself and the contentment that all is well.
  3. Bless others as you will be blessed. I want to inspire, but I want to learn to give even more. My God & my family has taught me : Freely freely you give, freely freely you receive.
  4. Finally I want to be inspired and be romanced. Someone shared with me this, and it is so true : To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage. So I will love deeply, and believe I am loved deeply.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I am back for more fantasy weddings...

Yes, finally Hannah's back blogging. I have been so so busy since last July, from designing the new office and showroom, to travelling around learning and creating more spectacular events. And the time with Colin Cowie in Hong Kong in last Sept was inspiring.. and the last 3 months, we were just back to back with events after events and my hectic travelling schedule.. and in the midst of all, I told myself I need to spend time with family and friends, so I planned our parties (yes it is job hazard), but I had one of my best Christmas party with my partners and New Year family reunion.

Just finished watching the movie "Julie & Julia" one night, I was reminded I need to be back to write my blog, to keep the passion to inspire and be inspired. And I love to share with you two of the weddings we last created , both of my clients are amazing, the crowd was great, the mood was right and everyone was on the dance floor.. that's the sight I always look forward to have in any wedding..

So to me, weddings are spectacular, overwhelming and yet sweet and intimate. I still tear in some of the speeches moments, and I am thankful for that, I know weddings will still be dear to my hearts. And 2010, we will create more fantasy weddings.. and it will be a year of weddings across borders. So stay tune..