MEGAN Holwill thought she had seen it all when she graduated from arranging children’s birthday parties to weddings.
After 20 eight-year-olds high on Haribo and pass the parcel, you can deal with pretty much anything. But bridezilla brought stress to a whole new level.
Consider, for instance, the woman who demanded 1,000 origami birds hanging from the ceiling of her wedding venue. Holwill stayed up until midnight the night before, personally hanging each bird, only for the bride to have a meltdown. “She counted only 999,” laughs Holwill. “Apparently the 1,000 were for 1,000 years of good luck and I ruined it. I hope now she can look back at it and laugh. That was ridiculous.”
Though, she adds, the family ended up at one another’s throats, so perhaps she had a point with that bird thing …
Oh yes, she can talk about collapsed wedding cakes, ripped dresses, broken-down cars, snowed-in caterers, missing luggage, intoxicated clients and stroppy teens. Not to mention bad taste. And don’t get her started on Girls Aloud.
The 31-year-old director of Ten Events may now preside over Scotland’s most creative, one-of-a-kind parties, but there was a time when a Power Rangers cake and balloon animals were all it took to make a client happy. “I always loved being around children,” she says.
“I was always the first one to change a nappy and that kind of thing, so it seemed like the easy option when I left school. I got a place at a private childcare college in Edinburgh at 17 and worked in that for nine years. One of the families I worked for was the headmaster at Fettes College – I was their nanny, and also worked at Cargilfield prep school. I helped organise a birthday party for them, then all the mums got talking and before I knew it I’d done about six. It wasn’t a walk in the park by any stretch, but it was good fun.”
Before long, the adults had roped her in to arrange their dinner parties and anniversaries too, and Holwill found herself being pulled in two directions. “My dream had always been to work at Cargilfield, but I was also thinking about doing something different. One night I was walking past the Opal Lounge bar in Edinburgh and some of the staff I knew were standing outside.”
They were interviewing for ‘destination bar’ Tigerlily. She was hired on the spot. A couple of months later, the events manager left, and Holwill moved seamlessly into that role.
After five years, she left to work in project management and prop sourcing before being headhunted back to Tigerlily. In that time she has worked with Caprice – “she’s great fun, a swan: very glamorous on the outside and flapping her legs frantically underneath, but she really embraced the whole thing and was really engaging with the people behind the scenes” – and arranged the christening for a high-profile footballer and his family – “very cloak and dagger – I had to sign all this legal stuff”.
There have been teen parties. “Tantruming teenagers have made my life incredibly difficult at times. Parents are promising them the world, which makes them think they can behave in certain ways. I sometimes watch that Sweet Sixteen programme on TV just because it makes me feel better. But I can absolutely identify with it.”
There has been excess. “Some parents would spend £50,000 on a child’s birthday party. Someone had planned the party around the US presidential election and built a mini White House in the garden for the children to go in.”
There have been bridezillas aplenty. “Some have extremely unrealistic expectations of what is possible and what’s not. Sometimes having to have that ‘realistic’ chat with someone is one of the most difficult parts of the job.”
And when Girls Aloud were in town for the Radio Forth awards, she worked with them too. “Sarah Harding was lovely,” she says, “really, really nice.”
Silence. And the others?
“The others were more … challenging,” she adds diplomatically. “If you weren’t quick enough to grab the door for them there would be a few raised eyebrows, put it that way.”
But now she has struck out on her own. Is she sure she knows what she’s doing? “It’s a lot easier to please children sometimes than adults,” she admits.
But one couple she’s working with now makes the awkward squad worthwhile. “Their wedding is for 200 people at Kinkell Byre in St Andrews,” she says. “We have to bring everything in, from every knife and fork to every chair to every light. They’re turning it into a magical land. When people walk in it’s going to take their breath away.”
It’s a world away from musical statues.