Event planning in Bali: everything you need to know, from rain stoppers to deco ideas
Whether it’s your dream wedding, an anniversary, or a fancy baby shower, the tropical paradise of Bali is the perfect destination for throwing an event to remember.
Island of gods and demons
Bali might look flawless in pictures, but the truth is there are tropical storms, strong winds, wild waves and burning sun – it’s an island in the middle of the tropics after all. One of these wild weather occurrences – or even all of them! – can easily happen on your carefully selected special date.
And the weather is not the only possible trouble. You will be dealing with the local suppliers, drivers and waiters who are likely to be abundantly helpful but run on island time – which you, the manic event host, may find a touch stressful. The language barier is another issue that can cause communication meltdowns and unmet expectations. Luckily, for every problem there is a solution, and here in Bali even the impossible IS possible. Take climate control for example: you can avoid rain by hiring a Rain Stopper – a special ‘white magician‘ that will clear the skies above your venue by singing mantras and completing sacred rituals.
It may sound like hocus pocus, but it is actually an official profession, and from what we’ve heard, it 100% works. If you have the power to control a storm, dealing with the rest should be a piece of (wedding) cake. You will just need an experienced helper to do all the dirty work for you.
Where to celebrate?
The island has a variety of scenic spots, breathtaking enough to make the heads of your guests spin. The edge of a cliff with panoramic ocean views; lush jungle filled with wildlife; emerald rice paddies as seen in the Nature Lovers Guide; beaches of all colours; villas full of antique furniture; you name it, Bali has it. For the pure luxury seeker, check out Alila Uluwatu set on the top of a cliff, it’s a hard one to beat. Semara Luxury Villa Resorts, Khayangan Estate, The Istana and Karma Kandara are also fantastic options for serenity and class.
Perfect beach venues are Kaki Lima By The Sea, Villa Gajah Putih, Morabito Art Villa and Atas Ombak. Lovely quiet Candidasa has something to offer, while Amankila Resort is simply stunning. In Ubud, investigate Panchoran Retreat for a rustic, boho vibe that doesn’t skip past luxury; Maya Ubud for a spiritual feel, overlooking the sacred jungle river; Kupu-Kupu Barong Villas and Tree Spa for the eternity pool floating over the rainforest; and The Four Seasons Hotel for its legendary lotus pond. We feel for you – it’s a tough choice indeed!
Bali is a world-class event destination, so there is no shortage of event planning companies. You can find a planner who specialises in Japanese weddings only, or a team that can set up the most pretty baby shower imaginable – you name it, someone will know how to nail it. Depending on your occasion, style and budget, stick to major planners like Beyond Events Bali, Chic Events or indie companies with a more personal touch like Paper Diamonds, The Love Of Events, Splendid Bali, Plan A, The Mighty Works and so many others.
We hooked up with two event planners with a hankering for all things Bali, and asked them to share their tips on how to create a day full of joy and avoid the most common mistakes.
Teneale Harley worked as an event organiser at Chic Events Bali before moving to New Zealand where she founded her own company, The Love Of Events. She’s certain the controversial island of Bali was one of the best teachers she has had in her career. Here is the priceless knowledge she’s willing to share:
Always book a ‘Rain Stopper’. I never knew about this until my very first event in Bali and I was 100% converted after that: I literally saw the clouds part before my eyes. It is the Island of the Gods after all.
Find a planner, and a reputable one! If you’re coming from overseas, you need someone who can be your eyes and ears on the ground. Do a little bit of research before you commit (to the event planner, that is) as you don’t want to land up in the back end of some dingy bar for your big day! Also if it’s your first time to Bali, some general research will be very useful – start with the basics like the visa issues and the cost of renting a villa.
Don’t go cheap on the spirits: food and beverage will be one of your most costly items in the budget, but please don’t go down the path of using ‘local’ spirits like Arak. Your token friend that already gets a little rowdy will be the next Spiderman come Hulk, and nobody wants an intoxicated guest taking their event’s centre stage.
Be somewhat practical when finding the venue to host your event (this is where you planner can help). It is all well and good finding your dream villa, but your guests and suppliers may not even attend if a 3 hour mountain hike, then a boat, followed by a 4 hour bus ride are required to get there.
Wherever you decide to have your event, it is nice to offer the gesture of organizing transport for your guests back to the main part of town or the place where most guests are staying. This way, you know everyone will eventually go home and they will get there in one piece.
BE OPEN MINDED
Be prepared for mishaps and remember that often times the mishaps are totally out of anyone’s control and you need to roll with the punches. So when there are gale force winds on the cliff edge where your reception was supposed to be and those pretty shell chandeliers aren’t hanging just perfectly…it’s time to step into plan B! And no, there isn’t a ‘Wind Stopper’, I already checked!
Event planning in Bali: tips from Natalie Palmer-Tin, Creative Director of Paper Diamonds
Natalie Palmer-Tin creates weddings, Birthday parties and baby showers that are chic, fun and bespoke. An Australian-Indonesian who picked Bali as her second home knows how to highlight the best the island has to offer so you can enjoy your special day as much as possible. Here is what she advises:
Determine your budget and look early! These two things will help you get an idea of how much your perfect idea will cost and you can use that as a starting point.
Bali is warm, so a cold towel and a cold welcome drink when you first arrive to any event is something every guest appreciates and starts the day off nicely. Team this up with some relaxed music either from an iPod or a live band and you will be setting the tone from the very beginning.
Remember, Bali is famous for it’s very special perception of time called jam karet, a ‘rubber time’! Create a rough run down and try to stick to it but don’t be too precious about the timing. Some things will speed up, others will lag. The best thing to do is to use it as a guide and only prioritize the important things, for instance, if it’s a wedding, make sure you leave for your bridal photo shoot before the sun sets and it gets too dark, your guests can congratulate you later.
The devil is in the details. Chair style, flowers, lighting choice, the menu. Make sure you think about all of these things and stay within your theme. It’s easy to end up mish-mashing many different looks and themes so try to keep focused by keeping your color palette to a maximum of 4, one being the strong neutral base. You should also determine a title, for instance, “glamour” or “bohemian”, as this will give you a clear sense of direction. Color is your friend but don’t overdo it. To keep costs down, use local flowers but remember, tropical means bright.
Stationery is also a vital part of any event. This is one of the simplest ways to make your event more personable. Invest here. Or, if you’re on a tight budget, search for free stationery templates online (there are plenty these days!), buy some nice paper and print them out at home.
Give yourself enough time to negotiate, problem solve and get more quotes. Sometimes, what you assume things will cost just isn’t so. There is nothing worse then trying to find a new supplier at the last minute. This will sometimes mean you will either have to pay more then you anticipated or compromise on the quality.
WORD OF MOUTH
Use word of mouth as much as you can. There is nothing better then good feedback. The best people aren’t always the ones with a website. Ask other people who they used and what their experience was like, then meet with your suppliers in person if possible. If language is a barrier, bring a friend who can help translate.
Always follow up with written confirmation. There are many moving parts to planning an event and things can sometimes get “lost” – especially here in Bali. Your event is not the only one your vendors are working on, so if you’re ever unsure or need to lock specific things in place, make sure it’s written in an email, SMS or note (make sure you photocopy) and confirm that they have received it.
It can make all the difference. For something romantic and intimate, use warm light. For a livelier party, use colored and moving lights and focus this on the allocated dancing area. Make sure dinner time is bright then dim down for the party. You can lead the schedule by controlling the lights.
And last, but certainly not the least: HAVE FUN. Both of our advisers agree on this wholeheartedly.
Things can get stressful and nothing is perfect – even in Bali. At the end, you need to make sure that you did your best and enjoy your hard work on the day. If the flowers didn’t come out exactly the way you planned, it’s okay; you’re probably the only one that will notice anyway.
Have a drink, a dance and spend some time with your friends. That’s what it’s really all about.
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