The events industry took the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, which had people quarantined and following social distance protocols.
Instead of wallowing in despair, event stylist Teddy Manuel got up on his feet not only to recalibrate his career but to help his colleagues deal with the crisis.
Advocating not only exquisite floral craftsmanship but also creating a more vibrant community, Teddy took the leap of styling intimate weddings amid the pandemic while making informative YouTube videos for event stylists and aspirants.
An aeronautical engineer, Teddy landed in ballrooms instead of airports and steered his company, Flowers and Events by Teddy Manuel, to the “divine intervention” he saw when he was just starting out.
As an event styling pioneer, Teddy talked about the inspiring beginnings of his company, current trends in the industry and the joy of creating memories through gorgeous events in TribuneNOW’s Pairfect, livestreamed on Daily Tribune’s Facebook page @tribunephl every Wednesday at 2 p.m. and hosted by editors Dinah Ventura and Francine Marquez.
Daily Tribune (DT): How did you start in your profession?
Teddy Manuel (TM): I was praying in Baclaran (church), asking God to lead me to a place or to a job that would make me happy. I didn’t know what kind of job it was or what kind of place it was — all I prayed for was what would make me happy. And then it all unfolded. Event styling was an emerging industry back in 2000. There weren’t a lot of event stylists back then. All people knew about were caterers and florists. But event stylists focused on transformation, creating ambiance and conceptualizing the theme — creating a concept or mood for the client. Hindi pa siya uso noon (It wasn’t the trend then). Maybe we were the second batch of event stylists that introduced it. During that time, I was working while freelancing as an event stylist. I also did covers for magazines. I had photo shoots for them. I said, “Lord, is this the sign I need to re-route my career or to detour?” And I listened, and the rest is history.
DT: Can you describe your recent engagements? How has it been in these times?
TM: Last March, I was supposed to have a celebrity wedding. So our couple decided to have the flower arrangements donated to different charities and hospitals. I created bouquets. I thought, “Why not take a video of how I arranged the flowers?” I thought it would be a good way to stay in the scene and be an inspiration to the rest of my event stylist friends. I felt I needed to stand up for them. I knew how depressing it was with so many refunds, so many cancellations.
At the same time, we were gradually having intimate weddings. I think I’m also one of those suppliers who started from the house. We didn’t know the safety protocols, but we had to start it. Gradually, you have to start something to gain confidence so that, eventually, we can start and move forward.
DT: How does it go on your end in styling?
TM: We have to undergo either rapid testing or antigen tests. Now, we normally set up a day before so we would have enough time for the couple to sanitize their house. And on the day, we are not there; we just give them instructions on how to light the candles. So, everything’s done a day before. And then we just go back the next day.
DT: Is it less costly?
TM: It seems the same because now it takes us three days just to set up. In terms of labor, we work longer hours nowadays. As stylists, we work in measurements so clients sometimes get surprised that it’s almost the same rate. That’s because we still work with the same area although in terms of layout, it’s more spread out… But at the end of the day, it’s the essentials that are most important — backdrop, bouquet and table centerpiece.
This is the best time to get married because suppliers now have collaborations. For example, we had a package that had a wedding gown, cake, photo and video and a bouquet or centerpieces from me for an amount of P150,000. In the real world, that would have been just the fee for the event stylist. Now, it’s nice to see a collaboration with suppliers. We give special packages because we are all trying to save.
DT: What does it take to be a successful event stylist like you?
TM: It’s important that you focus on your craft. There are two major skills that you have to develop — the floral design and the event styling part. With the wide exposure on social media, it’s hard to focus. So you always have to put your personality in what you do. Generally, all event stylists are good but, of course, that taste, that special touch, that kind of experience that you want to share with the guests when they enter the ballroom are important. That’s why I came up with my masterclass because when I was starting, it was so difficult.
DT: What are the trends right now when it comes to intimate weddings?
TM: Zoom weddings. You need an event stylist because you need a nice backdrop. You need more three-dimensional backdrops so it would look good on camera. When you’ve invited only 20 people but will Zoom with a hundred more, you need to come up with a nice backdrop. Another trend is when it comes to flowers, we encourage clients to buy local again so love local instead of importing which is so steep nowadays. I now use flowers from Baguio, and in that way, we help out our farmers.
DT: Did you experience crying at weddings?
TM: I never thought that flowers transcended emotions. For you, you just did your job but for them, it’s a different meaning. That’s the time it sinks in, and I see how I delivered experience and emotions to it.