ABOVE: Sarah setting up an event in the home of a regular client; floral decor by RVH Floral Design

Music is my first love and always will be with me in everything that I do; music is at the core of who I am – it’s in my heart and in my soul!”

Sarah Balfour, Orchid Events

Sarah Balfour is obsessed with detail and the creativity of her company Orchid Events knows no bounds – you only have to check out her social media accounts to see why she’s considered one of the best event organisers internationally. Beautiful images of spectacular events co-ordinated along with other well-recognised event suppliers such as celebrity florist Rob van Helden and top caterers ’By Word Of Mouth’, plus video from prominent venues including the Natural History Museum, Claridges Hotel and Abbey Road Studios, demonstrate Sarah’s ability to produce highly memorable occasions both large and small. Her ‘instantly likeable’ energy and enthusiasm is felt by everyone she comes into contact with and to say she’s a force for good in this world would be an understatement. Here we meet to discuss the specifics of what her company Orchid Events offers, with Sarah’s professionalism and generosity of spirit coming over loud and clear with her every word…

ABOVE & BELOW: An opulent wedding staged in The Orangery, Kensington Palace

Bringing together the worlds of music and events is a true passion of mine – one which was born out of a ‘Eureka!’ moment I had over twenty years ago…”

Sarah Balfour, Orchid Events

NS: “Sarah, what initiated your transformation from musical artist into a fully-fledged event designer?”

SB: “Music has always been the signature tune to my life and I’ve a musical heritage from my great grandfather, Al Tabor, who was the composer of the ‘Hokey Cokey’; my own career started at the age of fourteen when I won the ‘Young Musician of the Year’, then I moved on to studying music at Leeds University. Later I released an album of classical piano solos, ‘Keyed In’…”

I’ve had the honour of playing alongside world renowned artists such as Seal and Charlotte Church…”

Sarah Balfour, Orchid Events

“Following graduation, I began working as a session musician performing at many of London’s most iconic venues including The Grosvenor House Hotel, Claridges, The Dorchester – also The London Palladium and Wembley Stadium, having the honour of playing alongside world renowned artists such as Seal and Charlotte Church along the way. However, I developed a distrust of the agents who were supposed to be representing me but left me feeling exploited. So, I decided to manage myself and found that other musicians trusted me as an ally; out of that, the company ’Music by Arrangement’ was born and is still going strong today! I remember the actual moment that bought music and events together for me happened during a 1940’s themed party to celebrate the launch of the first ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ film. Playing piano to the cast, crew and guests, and seeing the beautifully curated theme from the lighting through to the tables-capes, the floral decor and the presentation of the canapés… it all sparked something within me! As I was playing piano, I was wondering how I could create a similar event myself and how I might have produced it differently…”

It’s a joy to work globally on these creative events – whether they’re parties, corporate events, weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs or immersive tours!”

Sarah Balfour, Orchid Events

ABOVE: Sarah outside the Mehndi event venue, The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. Sari outfit by: Cherie D.

ABOVE: Impressive detailing at a Mehndi party produced by Orchid Events at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

NS: “Over the years, which venues have become your favourites, and why?”

SB: “This is a tough question to answer with a ‘top’ list! When you get to work across the globe and in so many iconic venues and locations each one finds its way into your heart. However, those which link to my passion in the arts and music rank very highly on a personal level…”

“I love each and every moment that I spend in the Victoria & Albert Museum, it’s such a unique venue. The nature of the space demands that each event is conducted with precision timing from the seamless set-up to the break-down. You have to be on the top of your game here and the V&A’s excellent team, fronted by the lovely Nathalie Glaser (Head of Events) are welcoming and supportive; it’s one of London’s finest!“

“Claridge’s has got to be high up on my list, it holds so many special memories! In my time as a musician pre-Orchid Events, I played the piano for many events at the hotel – also, my parents celebrated their marriage there and in 2022 it was my turn! And, as Orchid Events, we arrange the annual Christmas Choir at Claridges. As it’s ‘quintessentially British’ and a hugely iconic brand, I’m delighted to continue working with this fabulous hotel and the brilliant team, fronted by my friend and colleague, Mathilde Maitre…”

My career started at the age of fourteen when I won the ‘Young Musician of the Year’…”

Sarah Balfour, Orchid Events

ABOVE: Sarah plays the Steinway at a recent event at Abbey Road Studios; Sarah with Giles Martin

“Another venue I love is Abbey Road Studios; this venue is a magical place for me. I feel the musical history in every fiber of this building as if bass is vibrating through the floorboards! As a musician, I’ve been to Abbey Road many times and had the honour of working with Sir George Martin, manager of The Beatles. To be back there recently orchestrating a lavishly elegant 50th birthday for a client was a dream! Not only did we dress Studio 1 as a jazz club for the evening – taking stylistic elements from the legendary Ronnie Scotts club – we had the opportunity to work with the fantastic team at the venue who went above and beyond for us, in particular Claire Renfrew and Samantha Rosenthal, who helped to coordinate each element and going on to create the most amazing event. For me, the highlight of returning to Abbey Road studios was playing the grand Steinway piano at the party that so many greats had played before me, and having Sir George Martin’s son, Giles, come over and sit with me on the night was amazing!” 

ABOVE: Sarah with Belgravia-based florist, Neill Strain; right, with mentalist Lior Suchard

NS: “One of the most fundamental aspects of event production, in my opinion, is securing a reliable team of suppliers that can interpret what you’re aiming for, the vibe of the event, the wishes and personality of the client and also introduce constructive ideas of their own – would you agree?”

SB: “Yes! Working with a trusted team of professionals is everything; the relationships we’ve built over the years – and also blending with exciting new suppliers – keeps us consistently creative and with an ability to deliver client experiences of exceptional quality. Professionalism, a high standard of work and mutual trust are all hugely important to us. We’re delighted to have worked on many events with suppliers who deliver these qualities time and time again… for instance, we adore working with Sue of ‘Lavender Green’ and her amazing team of florists! Also, the wonderful Simon Lycett and Rob Van Helden, and we’ve also started working with Neill Strain, who’s hugely talented! The skill of employing a floral designer for an event is to choose the one that best aligns to the creative brief and we’re blessed with having such a rich talent pool to choose from! Our ‘go to’ event caterer is ‘By Word of Mouth’; with over three decades of experience, they’ve been a leading name and are pioneers in luxury catering – they always impress us with their culinary skills…”

ABOVE: A scented floral detail by RVH Floral Design; Sarah’s ethos for Orchid Events

NS: “So much goes on behind the scenes as well, that guests are not necessarily aware of – the design and production that can take months to prepare… which company or companies do you rely on in that department?”

SB: “Ah – a HUGE shout-out to ‘Wise Productions Ltd’! They’ve been by our side on so many events, working closely to imagine our designs into perfected reality. The recent transformations of Studio 1 at Abbey Road and The Natural History Museum were out of this world! We have total trust in the Wise Productions team and we look forward to working with them on more events. ‘Light Fantastic’ is another of our trusted, ‘go-to’ production companies. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Andrew Maxted for a number of years now and he’s become a dear friend too! I’m also very excited to be working with Daniel Morris-Gibbons from ‘Bespoke Events London’ whose vision and interpretation of the brief injects yet even more creativity and excitement into our events! What’s great about having these well-cemented relationships – having worked so long with them – is the trust we have built up together over the years, the loyalty and support, and the way we all go above and beyond for each other. I am truly blessed to have met the people that Orchid Events has introduced me to…” 

ABOVE: An Indian wedding staged by Orchid Events at The Natural History Museum, London

NS: “Is there a specific period during a the year when most of your events take place, and how do you schedule them?”

SB: “Our busiest time is ‘Quarter 2’, year on year, consistently over the past twenty years! Having this regular pattern has meant that we’re able to set aside time during the quieter periods to work on the business itself. This year we’ve been focusing on our branding, which we’ve been releasing through our social feeds, a reworking of the website and on an event to celebrate our 20 year anniversary. In fact, this year will be busy for us throughout the year, for many exciting reasons!”

ABOVE: Sarah setting up an event in the desert in Israel

What runs through each of our Orchid Events is our unwavering attention to detail, and flawless finish…”

Sarah Balfour, Orchid Events

NS: “There are many global event organisers out there – what would say is the USP of Orchid Events and captures your signature style?” 

SB: “I’ve always been a firm believer that a truly successful event is one which reflects and represents the taste and style of my clients and therefore allows them to shine – it’s their moment, after all – therefore, I never force a certain style onto them. Through listening to my clients and learning about their life, I formulate designs which are as individual as they are. My role as an event designer and orchestrator is simply to listen, steer and advise… One event we plan may be classically elegant and timeless in style, another beautiful and glamorous and the next, quirky and funky! However, what runs through each event is our unwavering attention to detail, and flawless finish… “

ABOVE: Orchid Events – Dramatic lighting for a Bar Mitzvah held at The Londoner ; delicate floral styling for an outdoor wedding in Puglia

NS: “Which overseas locations have you been asked to secure on behalf of clients, and what has been the attraction of that particular location?”

SB: “I love a destination event! Having worked all over mainland Italy and Sicily, Portugal – mainly in the gorgeous coastal town of Cascais – and in Israel, Orchid Events has built up an international portfolio of ‘hidden gem’ venues and excellent suppliers who align with our fundamental core vision, professionalism and drive for luxury, bespoke, high-end events. I’m particularly excited to return to Sicily this year, having recently been introduced to the owner of a luxury home who rents it out for events; the location has all the qualities we expect for a client of Orchid Events and it will make the most stunning location for a celebration. I’m also going to be working on a birthday party in Marrakech later this year. What’s invaluable to our clients, is the advice we offer, ensuring their overseas event runs smoothly and to absolute perfection!”

Our luxury VIP tours in Israel are particularly special with flourishes of surprise elements to entertain and enthrall our guests…”

Sarah Balfour, Orchid Events

ABOVE: Musical entertainment at a masquerade ball event at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

NS: “I know from my own experience in event design that the process is both challenging and exciting – what are your thoughts on the organisation aspect?”

SB: “One of the biggest challenges when working on large scale events is supply timelines; this is especially so when sourcing rental items as that can sit outside of our control. Working with our clients on the finer elements, occasionally we have to implement ‘Plan B’ when the first choice just can’t be sourced for their particular date or unfortunately the number of items available to us can’t be matched to the scale of the numbers required. However, again, this can always be resolved which is where having a solid network of trusted suppliers pays off!”

NS: “What or where gives you most creative inspiration for your Orchid Events projects?”

SB: “Inspiration is all around and I’m a firm believer in writing down every thought and vision I have – you never know how a tiny spark of an idea can grow into a design! I’m hugely influenced by music and the arts; lyrics, paintings, photographs and colours fill my notebooks as well as dreams! Yes, my notebook is ready at the side of the bed for those nocturnal creative moments! However, I can be inspired just as much from watching a good movie or from the theme of a book I’m reading as I am by nature whilst out walking my dog…”

ABOVE: A staircase at the One Marylebone venue tastefully decorated by the team at RVH Floral Design

NS: “Who would be your dream client and/or project?” 

SB: “For me, there’s nothing more exciting than being given freedom to unleash creativity and I love working with clients and on projects which allow for this! Total trust is the key to unlocking the path to this creative process and when it has been established, I can then orchestrate everything in the event from the overall look, to music and entertainment, and down to the finest details and stylistic flourishes. I’d absolutely love to work on more South Asian weddings – the pure beauty and spectacle of the event is like a story unfolding. Whoever that dream client is, they should feel like a guest at their own event with lasting moments to remember, enjoy and cherish. For us, it’s not good enough to simply meet our clients expectations, we really aim to go above and beyond, making them even happier than they expected to be!”

ABOVE: Styling and design by Lavender Green

SARAH ON GIVING BACK: “Music allows us all to be immersed in a moment in which special connections happen. As and when I can, I strive to give something back – to offer moments of joy so that we can feel this powerful, shared experience; I’m so enormously grateful to be in a position to do this. I’ve been working with Asal Shirazi, who set up the ASA Foundation (Autoimmune Support & Awareness Foundation) for their first charity event which is being held on 28 April 2023, at the Mayfair Hotel. It’s been a pleasure to assist in coordinating this event which will spotlight the charity and its mission to improve the mental and physical health of autoimmune disease sufferers through awareness and education. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to give piano recitals at Hammerson House, North West London, a home for Alzheimer and dementia sufferers and for the patients at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov). Another very special moment for me happened in the Tongabezi school, Zambia. I was visiting with my husband whilst on honeymoon and, having stopped for an impromptu play of the chord sequence of Pachbellbel’s Canon on the school piano, a group of the students spontaneously joined in singing a beautiful melody which they had learned for a memorial service for the founder of the school. These are life affirming moments, albeit through fleeting connections, but ones which I will never forget…”

WEBSITE: http://www.orchidevents.co.uk

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