Planning and Styling with Paula Christie

Episode 3 - The Wedding Guide Podcast

Meet Paula Christie from The Small Things Co. where they event plan, style, design and hire everything you need for weddings.

What is The Small Things Co.?

Paula Christie: We started it because we got married ourselves, which I think a lot of great wedding businesses do start from that. And I sourced quite a few different items for our own wedding from overseas and locally as well. And after our wedding I really wanted to hold on to these items. And I’m quite entrepreneurial so decided that it might be a good idea to hire them out. So I put them up on Gumtree inside hiring them out, and then it just kind of took off, when I bought more things, made a website, made an Instagram page. Bought more things, you know things and more things, and went from a garage into a shop and now into a warehouse. So yeah.

Pete The Celebrant: Where are you based?

Paula Christie: We’re based in Abbottsford, yeah so quite Central. And we yeah, so we do decor hire. And we also do event planning, styling. We do proposal planning and styling.


Pete The Celebrant: Is that (proposal planning) becoming more of a thing?

Paula Christie: It is yeah, which has actually been really cool during COVID we’re actually, um, yeah I’ve been getting a few inquiries about people wanting to propose and wanting help with that and you know it’s, I think guys want to make sure it’s really special and it’s like really nicely set up and you know they want us to take that over and do it for them.


Pete The Celebrant: Do you think there’s a greater expectation for better proposals because of Instagram?

Paula Christie: Yeah, for sure. I mean, that comes down to everything to do with weddings really like, it’s the Instagram weddings for the Instagram proposal is true, you know, all that stuff and people want to have it really beautifully documented and they want to make sure that, you know, the right persons are taking photos or video for them and the moods right and just, you know, that sort of thing and they want to be able to celebrate with their new fiancé and not have to be worrying about all the logistics before and after. So that’s what we do, which is really cool.


Pete The Celebrant: What are some ways you help people propose? I’ve never even heard of a proposal planner.

Paula Christie: We did one for Nile and Marissa, and we did that up in the dandenongs and did a big picnic set up; rugs, basket and all by candlelight. We orhanised all the wine and cheese and all that sort of stuff. And the photographer was hiding in the bushes ready to go. So yeah, we set all that up and they surprised her by kind of going through a walk and then, yeah, arriving at this really beautiful setup to pricing and then they were able to leave. Sure, go into the thing and then we packed it all up again. So, yeah, it makes it really smooth.


Pete The Celebrant: So after I moved down from Sydney, and I had a friend, come to me from Sydney and he asked if I could help him propose. I was like yeah of course I help you, so he sent me like a box or two boxes of cranes on strings and I hooked them up over trees in Melbourne Park going to the botanical garden and he booked out the rose pavilion and I put them all around there… you’re doing that, and getting paid for it.

Paula Christie: Exactly. It’s amazing. Yeah and I mean like it’s good for us because you know we can do that with the clients and then they might want an engagement party styled and then they want a wedding style. You know, so you can kind of be on a bit of a journey with them from the start.

We’re very much about logistics and making those logistics really easy for people. Yeah, and whatever that looks like because I think you know people have these really cool ideas, and they want to throw an event like a wedding, but they want to make sure that they can actually just turn up and enjoy the day and not be worrying about all the bits and bobs, and they feel like family members as well they want to make sure they can just enjoy the day. Yeah. And so that’s a really big part of what we do in our service is providing that to people and allowing them just to enjoy their event or whatever it is without the stress.

reception styling

Jess and Jesse Taylor Wedding, Pete The Celebrant and The Small Things Co. together at Half Acre

How to plan a wedding stress free?

Pete The Celebrant: So do you feel like that’s the biggest thing is that you take the stress off couples yeah and you just like you guys chill. You have a great day.

Paula Christie: Exactly. Yeah, like, even when it comes down to decor hire, you know, people often they really want a particular items and then they tell us “we just found you and you have everything that we need.” Yeah, and that takes away stress immediately for them because the sourcing like me, for us, the sourcing does take a really long time and I’m always on the hunt and always seeing what’s out there and finding out, I’ll set my eye on something and I’ll find it, who makes it and I get it in the quantities that we need. And so for a client to be able to just find us online. Find the items they want, book them in, Yeah, get us to deliver them get us to set them up. Yep. We’ve packed them up, we bring them back, we clean them, it just makes it so much easier for them.


Pete The Celebrant: How do you find out what people want? How do you plan for them?

Paula Christie: Yeah so it depends what they like. So let’s say they come in for a hire appointment. Because we do hire consultations with clients. Usually we start off with: what have you seen around? Whayt have you got your eye on? Because that really becomes the building block for everything else that that they might need so they might go “I really love your brass taperholders” and I’m like ‘okay cool, so you like quite minimalistic you want some, some brushed gold elements. Okay, so maybe you might want to have some brushed gold cutlery to match that. Do you want to add some black in there’ and just building it up and looking at it that way. But generally, when we’re consulting clients we kind of unpack the day chronologically. So okay, what’s the first thing you’re going to see? Do you want a welcome sign? what would you like it to look like at the. Ceremony; chairs, backdrop, all those elements, and then going on to the reception entry details wishing more details bar tables router table, and just unpack it that way and just work through each element and build that look for them.


Pete The Celebrant: So it sounds like you’ve got multiple packages or multiple ways you can help couples. Some couples can simply come to you and they can get the basic knives and forks. And then people can come to you and say, We want a great wedding. But we don’t have time. can you help? I just want to get married. Can you make this look really cool, I don’t know how but I do want to be in Hellomay.

Paula Christie: Haha, Yeah, so we offer, our absolute basic is for them to hire from us, for them to come pick it up. They go and style or get a friend to style it, they bring it back and that’s the most basic thing, then we offer like this delivery service in there if they want that, but then we do offer if they want to hire from us. We put together a look for them with our hire pieces, and then we come on the day with those hire pieces and style them for them. And then we come back that evening and pack it all up, which is a real selling point because it’s the night time that sucks.


Pete The Celebrant: Yea, well we were at a wedding a few years ago in Daylesford and I remember it didn’t finish till midnight and you were there to pack it all up at the end. I remember staying in an extra room you and Tom booked because of how late it finished. I really appreciate that by the way! I was going to drive back home, but I was exhausted. We even had breakfast the nest day, great fun! You can imagine, when you get to that time of the night like some weddings finish so late, you don’t be packing up, or you don’t even have to ask friends and family after a huge day.


Paula Christie: Yeah so it’s really great that we could just come, we kind of swoop in once everyone’s left and pack everything up and take it all back to supplies and that sort of thing. So, yeah, so we also do use that’s like our highest selling packages. like a base package. And then we do an on the day styling coordination so that package. We meet with a client and we kind of put together the look for them and guide them a little bit but they actually go away and plan and design their own wedding, and source their supply as a source they napery sources stationery all that sort of thing.

But then, around about a month out we pick it up, often, and we kind of take over the reins of the planning, and then the week leading up we’ll go and collect the napery and the stationery, make sure it’s all sorted and ready to go and then on the day we do everything. So we will coordinate the ceremony to make sure that the bridesmaids know when they’re walking, the groomsmen know where they’re meant to be, you know, all that, the music’s timed properly. We start the ceremony, we pack up the ceremony, style the reception to all of the table elements and, and then come back and pack it up that night as well.


Pete The Celebrant: That’s huge.

Paula Christie: Yeah, it’s huge, but it’s great, I love it.

Pete The Celebrant: Can you do more than one wedding a day?

Paula Christie: We have before if we split up our team and I think, I think we’re probably going to have to, you know, in the next season it’s going to be a little bit crazy time.

But I think yeah we’ll probably end up having extra staff and, and we’ve got a really capable team at the moment that I know. Our three full timers could easily go and oversee your wedding, great team. Yeah, very capable and yes so I know that will be fine.
We’ve done a couple on one day.
But then yeah also we do a top package which is where we design the entire wedding. Sorry, it’s, it’s like the second package we do everything on the day but we also completely design the wedding. Okay, and source all the supplies and do all the budget management and everything is there we see the entire thing, everything, everything.


Pete The Celebrant: What’s the most popular package?

Paula Christie:Normally middle packages are the most popular, just because people really love and don’t mind doing their own planning and actually enjoy the process. but they kind of want you there, as almost like as a bridesmaid that they’ve, you know, to just like bounce ideas off and, like, along the way. Yeah, then someone on the day that just can really know and just take over.
I hear a lot of grooms say, with “what’s the most important thing to you”, they’re like, I just want to enjoy my day stress free, I want to turn up, and just know that everything’s going to be done and my partner isn’t going to be stressing.

And so yeah that’s really a selling point, I guess. But yeah, the other, the other two factors are still super popular too. It just depends what people feel like they need really.


Pete The Celebrant: I think that being able to be present on the day is really important. That’s one thing that when I did the podcast with Michael Briggs or Briggsy, he said “The couples that get the best pictures are those couples who are present.” And I imagine what you do is you help couples, actually not stress about the day. They’re not worrying about friends and if they’re organising it or not, you’re just on it! And because you do weddings, every week, you know what to look for. It’s just that it’s something that only someone with their experience can give you.

Paula Christie: Absolutely, yeah. And, like I always say that we are the problem solvers with a smile on our face. Yeah, like someone who’s goes up to us and says “this is happening has gone wrong” Oh, okay, cool, we’ll fix it, yeah okay on to it, It’s fine, you know, no one’s gonna notice and, and I put a really high importance on like guests not really seeing you control that everything’s kind of happening. We’re like little mice that are working behind the scenes getting everything going with all the candles lighting everything’s beautiful, and they walk into the room and you’re not there. And it’s like, I like that I like to just kind of be behind the scenes and making sure everything’s working.

Paul Christie, from The Small Things Co.

How do I start planning a wedding?

Pete The Celebrant: If couples, say they want to go that either the first or that second package. They just want to pick some things up, or they want to do the planning themselves.
What’s the first thing newly engaged couples should do?

Paula Christie: My first question is and it’s kind of like a yucky topic but it’s budget. Like you wouldn’t mind talking about money but when it comes to weddings like and if we’re if we’re organising for them, we need to know how much they’re willing to spend. So we always start with budget. And I always talk to couples about and I actually asked them in our very first form. “What is your budget for styling?”. And, a lot of people say I don’t know, or, I don’t know how much these things cost.

But what it should actually be is how much can you afford. How much do you want to spend, and then breaking it down and it’s okay. People are scared to set a budget because they, they’re scared they’re gonna be unrealistic, you know, and because they don’t know how much things cost.

I think it’s good to sit down as a couple and go through “how much are we actually willing to spend on this thing”, because it can, it’s endless like, it’s like renovating like you could just keep going and keep going. So it is good just to talk and go “Okay, our budget is, say, 50 k for the entire wedding. Which is probably the average these days. I think it’s time to go oh my gosh, like a concert, or a wedding, but it is it’s probably the average these days. A lot of people are spending, and then divided up so think about, write a list of what you feel like you’re going to be spending your money on you can jump online and find some budget lists for weddings as well. You know reception. Then all your look stuff, like your wedding dress, your suit, your hair, makeup, your rings, and all the styling elements and just break it all up and try and assign how much money you’re willing to spend on each item.

And then when you start getting quotes from suppliers, you can fill in next today how much you’re getting quoted in stock kind of getting a bit of a sense of where those figures actually fit. So even wedding dresses are so hard to budget for because the majority of wedding companies do not have the price of the wedding dresses online. So people fall in love with a wedding dress and they don’t know the price until they email – but they must have that dress!


Elopements can be stress-free with The Small Things Co.

How to budget for a Wedding?

Pete The Celebrant: So, do you provide couples with a budget list with recommendations for couples?

Paula Christie: Yeah so when a couple books us for any of our styling packages we actually have an online client lounge that we use. So we invite them into that and we like have their whole entire wedding just in this really great space.
In there is a budget manager, so they can put in the estimate, they can put in the actual price, how much they’ve already paid, how much they owe, they can set themselves reminders. So that’s really a really cool tool to have. And in terms of clients, not knowing how much things are going to cost. If they come in and show me on Pinterest or Instagram I really like these or whatever. I can say them “okay, you need about this much for that” because I mean just from experience, I can tell them. They might come in and say I’ve only got 10 grand to spend on all the look stuff, the flowers the stationery, the napery, the furniture hire, the decor.

You know 10 grand I’m like okay cool well for 100 chairs that’s already 6 grand. So, we might pull some things around here and you can kind of give them some realistic ideas of how they can use their money.

Pete The Celebrant: I can imagine that it’s that’s really helpful, because you can ask friends and friends will help. But of course it’s helpful to have someone who does a whole range of weddings, with someone to be considered in you know. Because there are people who love doing big weddings on a big budget and some who are on a smaller one.

So a question I’m wondering and always want to know about different supplies and vendors. What are you thinking about on the day.

Paula Christie: Well, I have a really good run sheet to start off with on the day. I work with the way my brain works. So I write out a run sheet of all the things that need to be done and how things need tp be placed. We usually have the styling brief with us as well, because there’s always lots of questions that I’m being asked left right and centre and I can get distracted, on to those so at least my team always know, this is what we’re working on, even if Paula goes missing for half an hour because she’s dealing with something else.

On the day. Let’s say it’s our top package, we actually go to the ceremony rehearsal we put a couple in the week before, to make sure that everyone knows what they’re doing and timings right so on the day where they’re at the ceremony we’ve made sure that, you know, the flowers are opening, the chairs are straight, the ceremony booklet, to the welcome sign sitting perfectly, all that sort of thing.

We talked to the celebrant about, you know, when the brides arriving. And you know we help to Cue the music, make sure her dress is all perfect. We signal for the bridesmaids to walk in at the right time and bride to walk in, and then we go hide away during the ceremony.

Then afterwards we will often move items from the ceremony to the reception. So let’s say they’ve done a really beautiful floral backdrop and they really want that behind the bridal party at the reception, then we’ll do that. Just so things are getting used twice and, you know, there’s no money wasted essentially.

And then at the reception we are doing all the place settings, making sure the cutlery is straight, the menu is placed down in order, the napkins are tied properly. Overseeing the florist coming in and what they’re doing, like we always work with florists that we completely trust, but you just always want to make sure that you know, the couple are getting what they wanted.

And that happens majority of the time, and then yeah, just doing all the styling elements overseeing the furniture coming in. Whatever suppliers are on site, just make sure that’s all flowing really well. And then we usually sneak off when guests start to arrive, or light all the candles and then then sneak off, and then they enjoy the night and then we come back, usually just before the bride and groom leave and, and we just kind of hide away and try to catch them on the way out, say hi.
Also, the majority of the time the Venue coordinator has it all under control, however we’re also there to help.

The Small Things Co. preparing a Wedding Reception

What do you wish couples knew?

Paula Christie: I think a kind of a what we’ve been talking about around logistics and all that sort of thing. I just think it’s better to spend a little bit more money to have someone else doing all that for you so that you’re stress free. Yeah, yeah, it’s quite often likely that hire part of our business, couples will come pick up a couple days before their wedding. And they’ll bring all the hire stuff back on the Monday and they just say “I wish I just got you to pick it up from the venue” you know cuz they’re like tired. Or their family members are exhausted from the night before and dropping it off for them.
And say like just that extra like logistical thing can be a bit hard for them. So yeah, I definitely think that’s a good thing to think about. And, and just to also think about your guests and, you know, what if you don’t have someone doing it professionally who is doing it.

For instance, if you’re leaving the venue to pack up your wedding for you, which some venues will do. They’re generally going to try and get your parents to get everything into their car. So your parents are there, they have had a massive day, they probably have sore feet and had quite a few drinks. And they’re trying to get all these boxes of stuff into their car and you know, it just it can be a bit awkward for them. So that’s one thing. So logistics of it.

(Paula asks me what wish couples knew – to summarise I wish couples didn’t cause themselves stress organising about a rehearsal. As long as I know the flow of the ceremony then we’re all good. All we need is quick 20minute meeting before the day.
Organising a meeting with everyone there before the wedding can be full on. As long as I know what you want, I’ll create an awesome ceremony and you don’t have to stress)


Paula Christie: Yeah, I remember even for our own wedding day like. I remember it was such a weird feeling walking into the ceremony as the bride, because I’d thought about the ceremony for so long. I really thought about how I wanted it to feel, how I wanted it to look. The mood that I wanted to set. And I walked in, and everybody’s staring at me. I didn’t get a chance to take it in, you know, I mean a chance to see the room or to like, say hi to my friends before I will do you know anything I was walking, everybody was staring at me. Yeah, and I almost felt like I was like a fly on the wall like watching myself.

Yeah, and I was just so blasé throughout the whole ceremony, I’m glad our pastor just knew what was going on. Yeah, he has the runsheet, and we just went with the flow. But I was in a blur and you are in a blur on the day and you don’t want to be thinking about logistics you don’t want to be thinking, ‘where am I meant to be’, every time.

Our emcee came up to us during the reception and said “okay it’s time for your first dance now”, and I was like, ok yep, show me when you need me, you know. So you are relying on other people to really tell you where to be and what you meant to be doing because you don’t have a watch on, you know, you go and you’re in lala land.


Pete The Celebrant: Did you find the day went really quick?

Paula Christie: So very fast, it goes so quick and I was so thankful if anyone’s ever considering having a videographer or not I was so thankful that we had a video. You can watch it later. And to see I’m guessing during our day in the moments that weren’t there that we were off getting photos or whatever, you know, and to see their reactions and just see yourself walking down. You know, it was just, It was just a really floaty moments


Pete The Celebrant: I think that’s really important for couples here and I actually did a episode with bottlebrush Films last week, and I hear a lot of times like this like you always get a photographer. Yes, of course! Are you gonna get a videographer? They’re not sure. And I think that that’s a really good reason why you would get one because on the day there’s this much going on.

table Styling

Gold Cutlery anyone???

What's your Best Advice for Couples?

Paula Christie: I would say “You do You”. It’s your wedding day. Yeah, it’s your style. It’s your event, and you do it the way that you want to do it. Yeah, you know there’s yes there’s parameters of how to do a wedding what you should include what it should look like and less of a thing but in the end it’s your wedding day. Yeah and you make it feel like it’s it’s yours, and it’s you as a couple and make sure your name represents you and sure you know people are just like they’re just sitting in a restaurant, eating dinner, they need to like they’re at your wedding and that there’s elements of you in that day.


Pete The Celebrant How do you recommend the couples that?

Paula Christie: Yeah, I think it can be like, what are your favourite foods and have those foods in your day. Do you prefer wine over beer, have more beet on your drink list, or wine on your drink list. It could be that in your styling that you have a particular feel or colour palette. That really represents you.

If you are someone that wears a lot of black then do something moody and Lux and, you know, very Melbourne sort of feel, you know. If you’re someone that really loves being outdoors and you know you’re all, you’re really into being at the beach and surfing, you know, making a more of a light and bright and summery feeling colour palette like it can be something as kind of broad as that or it can be having some really beautiful elements in there that represent you, you know, even your favours to your guests could be your favourite cookies or, you know, your music. The music style if you’re just not someone that’s into DJs and going out dancing like maybe you’re going to more so have a band. Yeah, that’d be more kind of jazzy and that people can enjoy sitting down but can also get up and dance Yeah, just some things that some elements that really represent you and your personalities and what you enjoy doing and how you enjoy spending your time.

But I knew a couple who loved reading and both of them gifted their favourite books to their guests; so that the groom gifted his favourite book to all the males and the bride gifted hers all the female guests, and wrote a little note the front page and that sat on each individual persons seating place.

You do you. And you do it the way that you want to do it because in the end, you want to look back and love your day.


Pete The Celebrant: I think we’ve covered everything, it’s been a great chat!

Thank you for coming on the podcast!

Paula Christie: Thank you!

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Planning your wedding and need a Melbourne Celebrant – Look no further, you’ve found me! I’ll guide you through the whole process; vows, paperwork, story writing and stand by you on the day to deliver the ceremony you desire. Let’s talk!

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