Happy New Year!!! 2017 went out with a bang and I am so excited to experience 2018 with all my floral friends, new and old. If my last year had one theme, it would have been events. Last year, I got to design for all kinds of parties, ranging from neighbourhood BBQs to star-studded soirees. Regardless of formality, all these events had the same common thread: attention to details.

A great event designer takes note of the little things that can make all the difference for the event and pays close attention, from the first meeting until the last candle burns out. When you first sit down with a potential client, you bring out what they see as a vision: colours, textures, vignettes, and even budget. The client might know the emotion behind the event, but it’s your job to translate those feelings and illustrate them as art. Our talent lies in creating an ambience and making sure the client’s celebration is cohesive.

Whether it is a corporate event celebrating employees or a funeral that’s letting loose strong emotions, we need to understand why we are making this moment happen. You can keep coming back to this response to navigate all the details going forward. In a one-hour meeting, you can go from a customer envisioning mason jars and babies breathe to a tiger in a cage! When a bride-to-be figures out you can do more than the six pages of Pinterest photos she brought to the consultation, her imagination can go wild. Your job is to find that middle ground where she feels her input is valued, but you make the judgment calls to make sure her dreams come true. Once you’re zeroed in on her vision, going forward any new ideas that come to the table can be validated but also put to the side if the theme doesn’t call for a group of mimes or a flower carousel.

Determining who’s in charge is one of the most important things to find out . It saves you so many headaches as the event approaches. Over the years, I have learned to nail this down at the first meeting. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten a call from a corporate event planner making last minute changes who had no authority to do so and, taking it as gospel, made changes that ultimately got me in hot water and left me scrambling to change things back. Weddings have this gray area more often than not. Typically, the parents foot the bill and thus have the final say but everyone in the family tries to make last minute changes. Without a clear defined line, event designers can get confused, forget to charge for something, blur the theme, and, in some cases, create mistrust.
Wedding season is a strong example of how blurry the vision can get near the end. Aunt Alice may call at 10 am the day before, ordering corsages for extended family and insisting we add roses to her table because, after all, she is sister of the mother of the bride! Bridesmaids call and want to change their bouquets, mothers-in-law hate these flowers and want new ones in remembrance of a wedding they never had but always wanted, and the list goes on and on.
Ask the hard question. Who has final sign off powers and always check with them. Always.

Speaking of “hard” questions…don’t sidestep asking for the budget. This will let you know what to do to have the most impact. You can wow the low budget bride by creating a memorable vignette or two that delivers a lot of value for their money. Maybe they can’t afford peonies for their November wedding, but if you take the time to place the perfect coloured napkin on each plate with a bloom and a name card, it will hit the spot. Knowing how to make the most of what they are willing to spend earns trust. So if things go wrong (the peach ranunculus you ordered came in as pink lisianthus, for instance), the client might not frazzle as easily knowing she’s in your good hands.

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The details of every event can make or break the overall take away feeling. Events can bring people together and we, as artists, have the knowledge, talent, and magic to make those moments happen for people.

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Jennifer Harvey
Jennifer Harvey is the owner of Jennifer Harvey Designs and Beleafs Home and Garden Care in Brockville, Ontario.

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