In conversation with Renata De Thomasis Events about the beautiful Romeo and Juliet style shoot at Berkeley Church event venue Toronto.

Romeo and Juliet has been adapted many times for film, stage, musical and opera. If your style shoot were to reference one of these formats which would it be?

For this shoot, I would say the most literal reference was the film, especially the iconic scene where Juliet took the potion. The lighting, candles, imagery of crosses and the intense colors created such a strong mood, which is what we wanted to base this shoot on.

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“One of the play’s most consistent visual motifs is the contrast between light and dark, often in terms of night/day imagery. This contrast is not given a particular metaphoric meaning—light is not always good, and dark is not always evil. On the contrary, light and dark are generally used to provide a sensory contrast and to hint at opposed alternatives.” 

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 There is a beautiful tension between light and dark in your style shoot how did you achieve this?

I wanted to use The Berkeley Church as the backdrop as the lighting (of the stained glass windows) creates such a nice mood, and we contrasted this with the darkness of the florals, seating and stationary, and added warmth through the candles and gold elements. Our photographer (Laura May) also is amazing and worked with the lighting of the space so well.

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If Romeo and Juliet were here getting married as your clients (not in secret) what would they be prioritizing for their wedding?

If Romeo & Juliet were getting married and were my clients, that would be a dream on so many levels. An obvious thematic element of the play is love, which is such a wonderful thing; so planning something for two people who are marrying for love, versus money or social position, (which in their time was a dangerous and radical decision) makes it that much more wonderful. But I would have to say their priority would be twofold: their ceremony and the reception. The ceremony as it’s the most important part (in my opinion) to any wedding, and it really gives the couple a feeling of love and connection. And the reception as this in this play, family, art, culture & entertaining plays a huge part so the reception would have to be epic, a copious amount of food and alcohol!

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One of the more important instances of this motif of lightness and darkness is Romeo’s lengthy meditation on the sun and the moon during the balcony scene, in which Juliet, metaphorically described as the sun, is seen as banishing the “envious moon” and transforming the night into day (2.1.46). 

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Romeo and Juliet first meet at the Capulet’s feast. If you had to chose a location in the play where the style shoot takes place could it be at this masquerade feast or would there be another point in the play where the style shoot could occur?

We based the style shoot on the iconic scene (of the movie) where Juliet is taking the potion. Instead of taking the literal route of rows and rows of candles – although beautiful – we wanted to create a canopy around the table as a different interpretation of this, whilst creating something unexpected.

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The furniture has such an elegant comfortable feel to it. Do you see a trend in recent wedding planning towards the comfort and experience of the guests?

Yes definitely! I love having different types or variations of chairs to create interest for seating; either mixing different types of chairs or having different types of seating (couches, benches, etc.) is a really fresh take on seating!

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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Romeo and Juliet Act II Lines 45-47.

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The flowers are stunning in the style shoot they have such a beautiful range of wild to highly stylized creating a wonderful tension. What was your thinking behind the floral design?

When thinking of floral design, I wanted all deep, dark and rich tones. The flowers really set a specific tone and mood, exactly what I was going for!

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“Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.” William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.

This quote is beautifully written on the handmade calligraphy invitations. This concept is very relevant to how couples wish to feel at their wedding, creating a moment of awe in the event they have created for themselves and their guests. What are some of the ways this moment can be achieved?

There are different ways to achieve this, depending on the couple. A lot of couples now do the “first look” with each other before their ceremony. This is when they have a private moment with each other and the bride and groom see each other for the first time. It’s a moment full of emotion, angst, love and excitement. Another way is to go in a different direction and emphasize a lot of details at the wedding – I did an event once where (the theme was “The Secret Garden”) and we had “secrets” about the couple placed throughout the room. For people who know the couple, it brought them back to those memories, and for people who weren’t as familiar with them, they got to take a closer look into their relationship.

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Many themes of the play are referenced in this multi-layered stunning style shoot, pulling in the viewer. With so many themes which ones did you select to reference?

There are countless themes in Romeo & Juliet so I wanted to keep it minimal so it wasn’t so much going on. The main themes referenced were love, art and culture, and family.

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How did you chose your palette? Did you reference period cues from Verona, Italy?

With this palette I definitely looked at Verona, Italy for references and cues. This is essential is styling events, but especially when you have a specific theme for a styled shoot. The Veronese art is famous for their use of lighting and color and its portrayal of space- Berkeley Church was a great fit for this, especially with the style and shape of the venue itself. Architecture was also huge, and still is, in the 14th/15th centuries, so the location was so perfect.

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The poisons are references in the enscripted bottles. They fit in without creating a macabre effect, how did you achieve this?

To avoid a “macabre effect” I think it was a combination of a few things: the style and shape of the tag, the font and color choice and also what the tags themselves say. It’s so interesting (with this type of thing) that even one small element can change a specific look or change directions completely.

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What was the biggest success of this style shoot?

There wasn’t necessarily one element that was most successful about the shoot; everything really tied together so well, and if one element was missing, the next wouldn’t have worked as well.

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You use the backdrop of the Berkeley Church and the stage beautifully utilizing all the inherent textures as an artist with their materials. How did you manage this?

The stage itself is such a statement in this venue – we designed the tablescape on top of the stage as the exposed brick (wall) is the perfect backdrop for any event, however especially this particular theme.   The purple lighting we used brought out all of the cooler tones and elements of the shoot, and was a great contrast to all of the warm tones.

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What was your conversation like with the photographer? How did you translate your vision stylistically to the end product with the photographer?

Our photographer is amazing and so easy to work with – I had shared with her the inspiration board pre-shooting so she got a feel of the overall look and what to expect. She is so creative so I knew she would capture everything perfectly.

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The birch trees and twig overlay frame the setting so beautifully and create a nice tension and textual rustic grounding to the shoot. What was thinking behind including these elements?

We used the scene (of Juliet taking the potion) as our foundation for this shoot and wanted to create a canopy-like structure over the table as a huge statement piece. D&D are so imaginative and created this dreamy, whimsical yet statement piece, all made of birch and twig, and it fit so perfectly over the table. Renata De Thomasis photoshoot - berkeley church.3

The carefully placed flowers on the gilded leaf plates create such a beautiful element. What was the origin of this idea?

This actually came up while shooting! The roses had such a rich tones, and were huge so we had to shoot them in a way to showcase them. I love mixing warm tones because it creates such a stark image: red and gold are a no-brainer and complement each other so well!

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The menus for the style shoot are titled a feast, what is this referencing in Romeo and Juliet and how would this extend to a full wedding?

The word “feast” was referenced so many times in the play, and was so fitting with the time, so (Paper & Poste) knew exactly what to write! The word could still be utilized on a menu, however again, it would have the suit the particular theme and style of the event. What I loved about these menus was their shape and texture; they were made into scrolls for each place setting, with vintage-paper and uneven edges. It was the perfect touch!

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If you were to translate this style shoot into a wedding for a client at Berkeley Church what elements would you expand upon?

I would absolutely love to style this shoot into a wedding at The Berkeley Church because the colors are so unusual and surprising for a wedding. I would definitely expand on the florals, lighting, candles and paying attention to the details of glassware, cutlery, china, etc. I would want the guests to feel like they are under a starry sky witnessing this beautiful event; I would hang glass globes mixed with candles and florals spewing of the globes, dark single roses hanging – a mix some whimsical elements with the romance of the candles would be such a sight to be under. Candles would be everywhere in different colors, sizes and shapes, to create a real sense of intimacy and warmth. The tables would definitely be long harvest tables, paying homage to the time of Romeo & Juliet, whilst creating such a strong statement. It could be really interesting to have a wall of “love locks” and have each guest attach a lock; for more usefulness and feasibility, there would be some type of drawing of locks and have each guest sign their “love lock” and utilize this as the guest sign-in book. The elements are endless – it just depends how far the couple would want to take it!

Styling & Production: Renata De Thomasis Event Plannning and Design

Venue: Berkeley Church

Cake: Nadia & Co~

Stationary: Paper & Poste

Photography: Laura May Photography
Florals: d&d Floral Designs
Rentals: Happily EVER After Events INC