THE ROCKY TERRAIN OF YANGSHUO IS THE LAST PLACE YOU’D EXPECT ANYONE TO HOLD A MUSIC FESTIVAL. Yet the rustic Chinese town, just south of Beijing, became the setting for one earlier this year. Picture fevered festival goers, flower crowns and all, partying to live band performances and electrifying DJ sets — all against a backdrop of looming, misty mountains.
No, this wasn’t some bucolic edition of Coachella that nobody told you about. It was the work of The Wedding Atelier, a bespoke wedding planning company spearheaded by Lelian Chew.
No Stone Left Unturned
Lelian founded The Wedding Atelier in 2013 and has been in the business of bringing dream weddings to life ever since. With offices in Singapore and Hong Kong, The Wedding Atelier’s clientele reads like a Forbes list of Asia’s wealthiest, mostly counting members of the elite in China, Hong Kong and Indonesia.
If a wedding is supposed to paint the perfect picture of the bride and groom, consider Lelian the da Vinci of matrimonial ceremonies. The 37-year-old leaves no stone unturned when getting to know her clients, going as far as befriending their family and friends for an intimate understanding of them.
Take the aforementioned wedding, for example. “The couple we worked with are big music festival-goers, so we created a music festivals for them as a wedding in the mountains in China,” shared Lelian. “When guests walked in, they were completely shocked. They were like, ‘How did this happen here? This is incredible.’ Yet, there was nothing else that can represent the couple as well.”
Keep It Exclusive
This commitment to detail is a skill honed from her eight years as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. Consider The Wedding Atelier her personal challenge of building her own business from scratch.
Now in its sixth year, the business has also given rise to a sister company, The Floral Atelier. Today, Lelian works exclusively with just 10 to 12 clients a year.
“I’d rather work with fewer clients and create more events for them, because we really spend a lot of time getting to know each and every one of them,” says Lelian. She is also one of the few wedding planners who is personally thanked in her clients’ wedding speeches.
She shares what goes into every wedding she works on.
What was the first wedding you worked on?
The wedding was a multi-million dollar affair and I was one of seven wedding planners. It really opened up my eyes to what this industry could be. I saw a need for someone who could run things a little bit more professionally.
When designing a wedding, where does your creative process begin?
The inspiration is always the clients. We do multiple events over multiple days, and I love how each event shows a different facet of the couple. It’s important for us to get a very well-rounded impression of them.
Do you take wedding trends into consideration?
You do one wedding in your lifetime, hence that wedding needs to be something that can stand the test of time. Many times I feel that the weddings that we do should set trends. We shouldn’t be following anything. People look to us to hear about what’s going to be the next big thing.
What are the difficulties in coming up with a design that everyone’s happy with?
The main challenge for us is ensuring that we don’t repeat venues or ideas. The first thing that brides and grooms say when they come to us is, “I don’t want it to be like so-and-so’s wedding. I want it to be better.”
We’re working with clients who are used to the best in life, not second best. The challenge for us is to constantly improve and come up with something creative.
When do you consider a wedding a success?
It’s a success only when the after party music starts and everyone hits the dance floor and they’re all smiling and laughing. The biggest success is when we get affirmation that we’ve done a good job, not just from the bride and groom, but from the 200 attendees who are there as well.