The Day I Became A Better Stylist


I remember the night as clear as day.

It was one of our first events, and my husband and I were doing a mock-up of how the dessert table would look like for that party (the theme was Cat in the Hat). After displaying all the dessert jars and containers, and having been satisfied with the output, I told my husband to pack things up.

And then the unthinkable happened.

The table was one of those foldable ones with the bendable legs. My husband, perhaps in his rush to set up the table, forgot to lock the legs. So when he moved the table in one direction, one leg suddenly gave way, and all the glass jars fell on the floor in a loud crash. Amidst the heap of broken glass, my husband and I simply looked at each other in mute dismay, too tired to even produce a single squeak.

That was back in 2013, more than five years ago. Thankfully, everything turned out pretty good in the end:

cat in the hat dessert

A dessert set-up I will literally never forget: Xavi’s Cat in the Hat Party 

As you might have guessed by now, that was NOT the day that I became a better stylist. It was actually the night that I learned how to avoid being a bad one!


When I think about the year 2018, I only feel blessed. Yes, event styling can be a cruel mistress. She’s demanding of your time, quick to judge, hard to please. But underneath it all, if you put in the work and do things right, event styling is possibly one of the most rewarding jobs of all time:

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2018 was also the year I felt that Party Magic had crossed some kind of threshold. In other words, I felt that we had soundly beaten the 2017 version of Party Magic. Knockout punch in the first round, really.

Some highlights from our year:

2018 was the year we first styled a Filipino-Chinese engagement (also known colloquially as tinghun). It was both an exhilarating, and terrifying experience.

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I believe that all people are innately attuned to stories; facts and figures leave you with that cold, calculating feeling, while stories and people make you feel warm. Tell a person a good story or joke, and watch it spread like wildfire.

For a tinghun celebration, I believe it is also very important to convey a message, and a story. For this setting, it only makes sense to create a montage of family photos, from both sides (the bride and groom). It is also essential that the photos include at least 3 generations: the grandparents, the parents, all the way down to the grandchildren (including the siblings of the bride and groom).

If you present all of this within a rich and ornate setting, the story comes out effortlessly:





Party Magic also partnered up with Delightful Little Darlings for a pro-bono photoshoot for the children of Cancervants.  Despite how hectic the styling calendar can be, I wanted to find a way to give back. Thankfully, Den of Delightful Little Darlings contacted me, and I gladly said yes!



The brave people at Cancervants work hard to promote awareness and garner support for pediatric cancer patients. Part of their activities is raising awareness and money to support the medical needs of various children with cancer. For more information, click here.

2018 was also a year of experimentation; the Party Magic team and I were able to pull off parties that we would never thought was possible.

Such as, Ellie’s Gymtastic 7th Birthday:




Thank you to Cocoon Studio for these pictures!

And Ava’s MasterChef Junior party:

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Thank you to Starfish Media for these pictures!

Now if you are still reading up to this point, you are in for a treat, because here are the little nuggets of truth (and I’d like to think, wisdom) that I’ve learned over the past year, which I believe greatly helped me become a better stylist:

1. The building block of the stylist-client relationship is trust. On top of this, a rapport should be established. I find it very useful to connect with the client and understand their core, so that I can tell the right story.

When this happens, the magic just flows.

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Maria Sofia Ysabel’s 7th: a party filled with laughter and tears

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You can really feel the love in this picture of Sofia’s family

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Lola, crying with tears of joy while watching Sofia sing. Thank you to Delightful Little Darlings for these photos!

Of course, I’m not saying that the styling is the sole reason why a family truly enjoys their party. In the end, an event is a team effort between all the suppliers: stylist, coordinator, caterer, and venue. Not to mention the most important factor: the family itself.

The very best the stylist and other suppliers can do is to create a smooth, error-free, and beautiful event, so that the family can just enjoy and live the moment.

2. I’ve come to realize that styling is 80% preparation, 20% last-minute inspiration. Doing it 100% preparation, 0% last-minute inspiration might result to a nice, even beautiful party, but I find that some (not all) of my best ideas happen 1-2 weeks before the event, or sometimes even during the set-up of the event itself!

Case in point – the idea for Archer’s photo-op area came to me during the week of the party itself:



Archer’s first birthday at Enderun Tent

This happened when I was browsing through photos of Enderun Tent, and realized that its mostly white exterior and relatively low ceiling would be perfect for streams of balloon garlands simulating a sky filled with long, undulating clouds.

Here’s a metaphor to how styling is like: it’s more of cooking than baking. Baking is all about precision and discipline in execution, while cooking is a combination of precision and the indefinable element called art. And art happens during the most unexpected times, sometimes, even at the final hour.

3. Styling is an art form. And like every art form, styling is an expression and self-extension of the stylist herself. As such, every stylist has her own unique style; every stylist is special, because not every one is the same. 

This is something I think I should start saying more often to our clients. If you are the type who likes a ceiling filled to the brim with balloons, then I will be the first person to suggest that you choose another stylist, because that simply is not my style. If you try to force me to do something like that, the result would be mediocre because I am not being true to myself.

So study each stylist’s past works carefully, and only choose the stylist who has a style that you connect with more on a personal level.


JC’s Greek-theme party. Thank you to Delightful Little Darlings for this picture!

And with those reflections, I now turn to 2019 filled with hope and anticipation. Because this time around, it’s time to beat my 2018 self!



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Michelle Lao

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By Michelle Lao

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