What makes a great event? We sat down with Sadie Gardner, founder of the sought-after couture floral and event service known for its impressive and memorable style.
Sadie Gardner is a sought-after wedding and event planner headquartered in a former Grand Forks train depot. Her space (which was also once a dance practice facility) gives her a small oasis to display or store the vast array of décor she’s amassed from past or for future events. The hum from her walk-in floral storage cooler is constant, and from nearly every spot within the space, a soft light seems to sparkle across a unique decorative piece. Her work—and her passion—is on full display.
We sat down with Gardner to learn about her ten-plus years in the ever-evolving event and wedding sector, which trends are coming or going and what she believes is crucial to putting on a great event.
Sadie Trusts Her Gut
After taking floral design classes during her time in medical school, Gardner was inspired by the allure of arranging flowers for a living. She figured out the economics and realities required to do the job full-time and then started a website promoting her services. Only two months later, she quit her job. In Minneapolis, where her family lived at the time, she established an event and floral service that performed 80 weddings in its first year. By year two, that number had doubled to 180 weddings. “I’ve always worked to pull a client’s ideas together and to bring them to life,” she says.
Before her husband and young family made a move to be closer to family in Grand Forks, she knew she would establish a new Sadie’s space for the region. With more than 1,000 weddings to her credit now, Gardner says she still has the same feelings about the career she has pursued ten years after taking those floral design classes. Clients and weddings or events in this region are different than those in Minneapolis. “Wedding’s here are significantly larger,” she says. In Minnesota guest counts would top out at 250 people. But here, guest counts typically start at 400 people. In this region, clients are also very willing to try new ideas or use new décor and themes as long as Gardner is able to help them visualize what she has for options.
In her train depot headquarters, all of the décor is available for rent. Most was acquired for previous events, but Gardner also buys or acquires new items for her new clients.
Admittedly, Gardner says she is borderline obsessed with finding new and unique items for her clients. For most events, she finds an item she likes and then builds from that. “I kind of know when I feel like all the pieces are put together right,” she says. “I can just feel it in my gut.” If she wasn’t looking for new events and wedding ideas or working with couples or organizers to help them reign-in and realize their vision, Gardner has a simple and quick answer to the other thing she would do that would be as fulfilling: I don’t know.
-Of all portions of a wedding that are influenced by trends, Gardner says themes are it. Themes always come and go and in some cases, she will spend an entire summer planning events that are all a take-off of the same idea.
-For the past few years, wedding themes have trended towards glamourous or feminine styling that included gold and blush pink color options. Before that, rustic style weddings were popular.
-In the future, modern style weddings with an eclectic feel will dominate. Think clean lines, unique textures and asymmetrical designs.
Sadie’s Signature Look
Gardner works to maintain scale and proportion throughout her spaces. The overall asthetic matters, she says, adding that big and showy floral pieces help to define an event. Décor items or flower arrangements should all follow in a sized-right pattern throughout a space.
Make Your Own Event Memorable
For anyone planning a large-scale event or wedding, Gardner offers a simple piece of advice. “You should think of it [the event] as if you were hosting it in your own house,” she says. “Make decisions on what you would want to do from the food and drinks to the table settings to the invitations. When people do that, events always feel more welcoming.”
The Ultimate Re-Do
If Gardner could re-do her own wedding, she would opt for fun. She would hire a live band, have food stations, activities for kids and all of it would be in a clear tent. Gardner hasn't styled a wedding with a clear tent, but someday she hopes to.
Flowers Are Hard Work
For every guest at a typical Sadie wedding, roughly 15 to 20 minutes is spent on flower arrangements. For a 300-person event, that equates to roughly 90 hours. For every event that features flowers, Gardner begins working on the arrangements on Tuesday if the event is on Saturday. “Floral work takes an understanding of timing and what will or won’t last,” she says. “I want the flowers to be big and full on the day of the wedding. I don’t care about the other days.”
Most flowers come from wholesalers. She loves tropical varieties, wishes people would use more tulips and knows most brides don’t understand how finicky certain flowers can be. For most weddings, Gardner believes roses, hydrangeas and peonies work well. In a 2,000 square foot space, buckets of flowers will normally fill half a space. For a 400-person wedding, Gardner will use 1,000 hydrangeas and 1,500 roses.
Post-event, clients are free to take any flowers they can. In most cases, remaining flowers are rearraigned and donated to the hospital or other organizations. G
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PHOTOS BY: MANSTROM PHOTOGRAPHY