In honor of World Elephant Day, we’re going on a Pacific Northwest safari with The Perfect Occasion. Based in Oregon, owner Andrew Calvert is a luxury event planner and floral designer who created a unique styled shoot that blended together the rugged beauty of an African safari, the Pacific Northwest’s signature aesthetic of overgrowth in flowers and foliage, and the spirit of wildlife conservation. Below, Andrew provides more details about this Pacific Northwest safari and what it was like to work with three of the most stunning models we’ve seen to date – Liz the elephant and cheetah siblings, Khayam and Mchumba.
GO: What was your inspiration behind this styled shoot?
A: Having animals and pets incorporated into weddings or events is becoming increasingly more popular. Always wanting to think outside the box and wanting to push the boundaries of what is considered ‘the norm,’ I thought it would be amazing to create a tabletop styled shoot featuring exotic animals that people don’t normally get to see or interact with in their everyday life.
GO: How did you choose the location for your Pacific Northwest Safari?
A: Growing up with the famous wildlife conservation park, Wildlife Safari, basically in my backyard, it was a no-brainer that this would be the perfect location for a styled shoot featuring breathtaking animals. After meeting with several of the park’s staff members and trainers, there was no doubt that it was just the right spot for this project. It was awesome to witness the love they exude for the animals they care for 24/7, as well as their enthusiasm to be a part of the shoot.
GO: What was it like working with live animals, and what’s a fun fact you can share for World Elephant Day?
A: To be able to work alongside the trainers and these perfect animals was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Every animal is always treated like royalty. They were washed, groomed, and pampered in preparation for the photoshoot. Throughout the shoot they were given the utmost care and respect, never harmed, or made to do anything they didn’t want to. Witnessing the relationship between the animals and trainers was truly breathtaking and inspiring. It is claimed that elephants think humans are cute, similar to how humans think puppies are cute! As a lifelong animal lover myself, I sincerely hope this is true and that they perceive us with the same admiration as we have for other animals.
GO: How do these tabletops fit in with your personal aesthetic as a floral and event designer?
A: I strive to surprise clients and guests with my designs. I am a big fan of taking their favorite likes and desires and exceeding them in ways they never thought possible. I encourage my clients to share their wildest dreams when discussing their event design, because sometimes we are able to create designs they never thought was possible or obtainable. An over-the-top, breathtaking focal statement will have your guests buzzing about your event for a long time.
GO: What was your favorite aspect of designing this shoot?
A: Obviously, it was working in close proximity with the animals. You could almost tell that they were just as excited to be a part of this project as we were. When Liz the elephant was walked into where the tablescape was set up, her jaw dropped. It was as if she was awestruck and excited to see it for the first time. Later, she tried to sneak a few tastes of the flowers. After the photoshoot was finished we disassembled all the arrangements. The leftover edible flowers, foliage, and fresh bamboo were given to the elephants as a special treat.
GO: How could couples and wedding planners apply elements of these tabletop and floral designs to a real-life setting?
A: Although most couples likely won’t be able to have an exotic animal be a part of their wedding décor, they could wow their guests with something unexpected. A wedding should reflect the bride and groom’s likes and interests in life. Over-the-top focal statements giving a nod to the couple’s favorite interests is a good way to personalize their wedding style in an unforgettable way.
GO: If you could describe your wedding and event design style in three words, what would they be?
A: Ingenuitive, diverse, limitless.
***In the time since this styled shoot took place, Liz the elephant has passed away peacefully from old age. She was a geriatric rescue elephant, and this photo shoot served as her exercise therapy for the day. We'd like to thank Wildlife Safari for giving Liz such a wonderful sanctuary to live out the rest of her life in comfort and dignity.
Concept, Planning, Floral & Event Design: The Perfect Occasion
Photography: MoscaStudio Photographers
Location: Wildlife Safari
Petals and Bamboo: Flyboy Naturals
Rentals: Occasionally Yours Party Rentals
Models: Liz the elephant; Khayam and Mchumba the cheetahs
>Visit worldelephantday.org to learn more about how you can make a difference in the conservation of these magnificent animals.