On the outside, the building that houses the Simple Wishes shop seems like any other industrial building. Its insides are filled to the brim with decor, boxes, glassware and other table accessories, and freshly delivered flowers. It’s busy, with the staff running around to check the stocks. We’re guided up to the second floor, which is the shop’s showroom—at least I thought it was the showroom. Turns out, this is where Debbie Huang lives.
“Welcome to my humble abode,” she laughs as she ushers us in. Her home is modern and stylish—the walls are a chic gray, the furniture a mix of wood and steel, with bursts of teal and yellow that add color and character to the space. Everything looks like it was put there carefully, so carefully that I wouldn’t have thought it was an actual home had she not told us.
Debbie is the woman behind Simple Wishes, one of the pioneering firms in Cebu that offer event styling services. She’s been in the business for 17 years now, catering to different customers and providing only the best service she can offer.
She shares that her children are her main source of inspiration for why she became an event stylist. “It started when they were small. There weren’t a lot of options for us back then,” she recalls about the times she had to prepare for birthdays and celebrations. “When I travel, I would bring back everything from paper plates to party hats to balloons, and save them all up for their birthdays. It was from planning my children’s parties that my friends started to see my work, and in turn I saw my untapped potential. Through that, I started organizing events from children’s birthday parties to weddings. Through the support of family and friends alike, I was able to build a career out of my passion.”
Running an event styling firm does not come easy, but Debbie loves her job and the challenges that come with it. “I work long hours, have to meet countless deadlines, and am on call 24/7,” she says. “This is the career I chose to love, and that I thrive in.”
Seventeen years is a long time to dedicate to an industry, but Debbie shares it’s all thanks to her clients. “Some of them have become like family to us. We’ve been with them from their courtship stage to their wedding day, and from their children’s christening to birthdays,” she shares. “It feels really special to be a part of every milestone. We’re happy to help make every event more special to the best of our abilities.”
Having been doing this for a while, I’d imagine it was a challenge to constantly come up with fresh ideas for the clients. “Taking the time to get to know your clients and hearing out what they want and need for their event is crucial in creating variety,” Debbie says. “Without knowing your client, it would be difficult to suggest themes or ideas to them. Getting to know their likes and dislikes really helps in making each event unique. We always want to do something different and push the limits of our capabilities. Every event should be a showcase of our creativity. No one wants to attend the same-looking event every time.”
Though her hours keep her busy, she makes sure to dedicate her downtime to her family. “We really love traveling. There are only a few weekends in a year when we’re not busy with events, so whenever this happens we always plan for our next family trip. My kids are all grown up now, and they understand how time-consuming my job can be so we use this time to bond,” she divulges. “I always look forward to time that I can spend with them. My kids always remind me that life is too short to not be enjoyed. Inspiration also comes from everywhere, especially when you’re in a different place. There is so much to see and learn from other cultures.”
Debbie’s 10 Tips for Entertaining at Home:
1. Know your audience. It’s very important to know what kind of activities or décor a certain group will be more responsive to.
2. Choose a theme. Choosing a theme makes everything so much easier for you; you will be able to put things together more efficiently.
3. Get creative. Use whatever you have at home and get creative. Mixing and matching items gives good results.
4. Add personal touches. Adding personal touches to everything shows that you’ve put a lot of thought for your guests.
5. Include something fresh. Adding fresh greens, flowers, or even fruits to the table will go a long way.
6. Prepare something homemade. Always try to make something fast and healthy that people will enjoy.
7. Don’t forget the pica pica. No matter how much food you have prepared for dinner, people always stay longer when they have something to munch on while they share their stories.
8. Include the 5 senses. Always include the 5 senses when planning any party. Always remember to play appropriate music as soon as they arrive because no one likes a quiet dinner party. Find scented candles and leave them on for 15 minutes before your guests are expected to arrive.
9. Don’t make arrangements too high. A successful gathering entails everyone being able to converse with each other freely. Make sure that you don’t block the person seated across with your décor.
10. Enjoy. At the end of the day, you should know how to enjoy all the work you put in. Let loose, grab yourself a drink, and worry about the mess the morning after!
Originally published in the Zee Lifestyle October 2017 edition.