Wedding stylists and floral designers create fairy tale weddings!

Wedding styling refers to the design work which starts with conceptualising the look and feel of a wedding using various elements such as flowers, decor items, lighting and other elements to create a breathtaking visual and sensory experience with a distinct desire to impress.

So we start with meeting our clients, we establish the vision and then we create beautiful weddings. Right? In the ideal world maybe. In the real world, we face mistrust. It doesn’t matter if our portfolio is worth R10 000 or R100 million we have to prove ourselves to every potential client. We often lack commitment from clients, and we work on very tight logistical set-up time frames. We face the frustrations working with client’s fairy tale vision on a less than magical budget.

I recently hosted a workshop for wedding planners, and there were a few decorators there and we discovered that we all face similar problems:

1. Our INSTA inspired brides do not have a budget required to execute a vision.

2. Most brides do not understand that ‘styling’ actually means all components – flowers, decor, candles, furniture, lighting, linen, installations and all the materials, man power and logistical set up required to transform the venue from a hall into something very special.

3. Without adequate material nothing can happen. Money spent on developing skills working with flowers becomes irrelevant when there is no flowers to work with.

4. We feel the mounting pressure to produce ‘different’ kind of weddings. It must be INSTA worthy, show-off masterpiece and exceed all expectations.

5. Most feel we are not making money we deserve to make given our output of labour and scope of work. In fact, so many florists I spoke to recently admitted to loosing money on weddings, or barely breaking even.

This made me incredibly sad. Then, it made me incredibly mad. Stylists, decorators, florists work so hard to produce a wedding. We invest into our stock, we spend time researching new and exciting decor range, we invest in ongoing education to allow us to stay on top of our game, we need to have a delivery vehicles, we need staff, our packaging costs are insane and all of this before we even touched a flower? So when a potential client comes into my studio and tells me they want something ‘simple’ and they are on a very tight budget I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that clients do not know. And I start educating them.

It is time consuming and exhausting. And at the end of it all, they may or may not sign me up. Some couple have taken images of my work, my proposal, quotation and went somewhere else to see if the price can be lower. Some came up with required budget, some lowered their expectations and I was able to came up with beautiful designs for them. Some just disappear without a trace.

I worked out that I spend around 6 hours per potential client which entails preparing for a meeting, actual meeting, notes review, quoting, follow up emails and calls. I see around 10 potential clients per week, that’s 60 hours per week (remember that most people work 40 hours per week). I then realised that I was falling behind on my other responsibilities because I was wasting time on potential clients who were not going to hire me.

Is it time to start charging for quotes? I was listening to a very interesting podcast around post Engage! discussions and it seems this frustration is REAL around the world and the latest advice is to blatantly tell potential client the estimated costs upfront, at the consultations because if you have been doing this for some time you can price at least the starting price of requested wedding and vision.

Today, I want to share my new strategy:

1. Make sure you are prepared for your meeting. Have your marketing material, your portfolio and other tools ready.

2. You have to give your potential ‘value’ for the time they spent with you – and I mean knowledge/experience not a goody bag of some sort. Even if they do not hire you, they will hold you in high esteem and may recommend you to their friends.

3. Follow up with your promise. Give them the time frame for your proposal and stick to the deadline. AND set a deadline on the proposal/quotation so you have an excuse to follow up.

Education is key in managing expectations. It does take time and patience to explain to a couple why we charge what we charge. However, we cannot waste time on someone who cannot afford a stylist, indecisive and playing you against other supplier. Re-quoting, re-negotiating takes TIME and if you are not using your time and energy on financially rewarding endeavours then your business is not going to move forward.


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