“Give me a story to tell and I’d be happy to tell it,” says Ron Wendt, whose job requires him to create shock and awe upon entering a room. His striking floral designs and event décor create unique atmospheres for New York’s elite galas, balls and social gatherings. His work ranges from private celebrations and weddings to grand charity balls like The New York School of Ballet’s Winter Ball at Lincoln Center, where Wendt creates enchanted worlds that transport guests with pure child-like delight. Haute Living checked in with this lover of beauty about his approach to work.
How did you begin your event planning and floral design business?
I have a strong garden design background and was asked to bring that sensibility to a luncheon hosted by a luxury brand. I brought my love of flowers indoors, and an events business was born!
What is your favorite flower to work with?
I love them all, really. There is a right time, place and season for every flower, but since you asked—peonies, peonies, peonies! I love flowers that have a lyrical quality—flowers that retain their natural personalities—whether it is a fern’s fiddlehead unfurling; or a clematis blossom on its vine reaching across an arrangement; or a peony aging into something even more beautiful, like in a baroque painting.
You’ve styled many elegant New York events. What is your approach, and what was your favorite?
Every event and client is different. If the event is for a private client, I strive to have an essence of that person evident in the décor—after all, it’s their event, not mine.
If it’s a corporate or philanthropic client, there is more often a message or a story to be told. Either way, it’s personally rewarding for me to unveil that interpretation. My favorites [include] several weddings for families who had deeply touching backstories. Through design elements, we honored those stories. It was beautiful and ethereal and I was in tears, but very happy. I also did a three-night birthday party in Paris with a different theme each night—that was pretty spectacular!
What is your favorite type of event to do?
We do a lot of events for luxury brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany’s. I love to study another designer’s creation—like a piece of jewelry or a fashion line—and offer an environment or ambience in tune with it.
What is your greatest professional pet peeve?
A potential client who won’t share their budget can be difficult. I give my clients the absolute most I can for their event budgets. Knowing what is realistic, we can then prioritize items and make the most of every budget.
Are weddings particularly challenging?
With weddings, the client is often taking that business and creative journey for the first time, so it’s a new experience for them. I wouldn’t call it a challenge because we are working together for a common goal. It’s a beautiful, magical and meaningful evening for families.
What are your upcoming projects, and what kind of flowers will you incorporate for the fall and winter?
We have several parties during Fashion Week, private events and then social galas including the Associates Committee of the Society for Memorial Sloan Kettering sponsored by Valentino at The Four Seasons Restaurant. And of course the holidays bring gorgeous jewel-toned dahlias from late summer into fall and peonies from New Zealand make winter more bearable.
What are the most delicate and easily wilted flowers?
Often white flowers are the most delicate, but we plan and order flowers early so that they have time to be conditioned and hydrated for their optimum appearance for an event.
What is one item you can’t work without?
Interview by Mimi Lombardo