Setting the stage

A soon-to-be bride arrives for her appointment at Tiger Lily Florist in Charleston, South Carolina. As soon as she walks in the consultation room, she marvels at the table linens, and says that’s the desired palette for her upcoming fall wedding. She then gestures to the focal piece of the room: a homemade arch draped with champagne organza linen and adorned with silk greenery and wisteria blooms. She says that she wants this exact piece in her wedding.

This exchange is just what Gayla Harvey, Tiger Lily’s wedding designer and coordinator, dreams of—and carefully orchestrates—during a consultation. The room should inspire brides to develop and fine-tune their vision for their ceremony and reception, bringing their Pinterest pages to life. The experience is what is most important to Harvey: making sure brides are in a comfortable environment as they choose the florals for their wedding.

Wedding consult setup

“It starts from the front door, where the staff greets them,” Harvey said. “They pass through the hallway, the ‘Tiger Lily Hall of Fame’ with framed articles and photos of past events.”

From there, clients see a room at the end of the hallway with an arch, a decorated table-top a white couch, a small wooden table, and a square consultation table. They gaze around the room, admiring the textures, motion, and attention to detail.

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To the left of the space, windows overlook the production room where designers make arrangements; to the right of the room, visitors can look out onto the streets of Charleston.

Harvey is methodical when making choices for the space. The consultation table is the size of typical guest tables featured at events. Harvey places linens embroidered with “Bride” and “Groom” on the back of two chairs. They face the wall of hard goods and containers displayed so clients can easily see all of Tiger Lily’s inventory. Fishing and motorcycle magazines are hidden in the drawer of a brown wooden coffee table, for the groom to peruse during the consultation. The wall and linen colors remain neutral to help complement every bride’s colour preference.

“We [at Tiger Lily] try to not be too trendy and instead are more of an institution,” Harvey said. “It is subtle and classic, and the colours of the room go with any bride: the pink bride, the purple bride, and the yellow bride.”

When Harvey is away from her office, she provides walk-in clients folders, which include standardized pricings, brief descriptions of the services she offers, photos of past events, and a form for contact information. These folders open the dialogue with the client and help Harvey personalize the room pre-consultation.

When discussing the bride’s bouquet, Harvey makes sure she has silk models to represent sizing and proportion, and a standing mirror next to the wall of hard goods, so the bride can see herself with the bouquet. She also has hardcover books that exclusively feature Tiger Lily photos for clients to get inspired by the work of TL designers.

“When they size [the bouquet] up, that’s when they get excited and Mom takes a photo,” Harvey said. “The mirror is for them. I do it because I think they need it.”

Wedding planners also use the consultation room, which has helped Harvey build lasting business relationships. When planners ask to stay in the room after the meeting, Harvey agrees, and the room acts as a comfortable venue for clients and planners to finalize their vision.

Harvey frequently changes the linens and focal piece in her consultation room to keep things fresh. Her latest idea is to get a French provincial style dresser to act as a photo backdrop for future wedding designs and to use as a possible rental item (just like the arch).

During this particular consultation, Harvey sits with her computer and finalizes a copy of the proposal on Excel. The bride says she wants rose gold votives, and Harvey immediately retrieves two from her wall of hard goods. The client wants simplicity for her centrepieces, and Harvey recommends small bud vases down the center of the head table and grabs them from a shelf. Harvey displays fabric swatches from a binder just as her client suggests that she wants the same fabric that drapes from the arch.

“My goal is to create a proposal and have a deposit down that day,” Harvey said. “I want them to see it, touch it, and feel it.”

Mackenize Nichols is a floral designer at Tiger Lily Florist in Charleston, South Carolina.

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