From the very first phone conversation I had with Suzanne, it was VERY obvious that she’s the REAL DEAL! Full of energy, passionate about her work, and extremely knowledgeable in her field, Suzanne BLEW me AWAY with her extensive experience and in-depth understanding of the entire Weddings and Events decor process. She is also WICKED FUNNY and infuses her sense of fun into everything she does…she had me laughing HARD at story after story of the jobs she has done over the years.
Suzanne is a Featured uBloomer Alumni and is the owner of Suzanne M. Smith Designs …an award winning weddings and events decor firm located in Orange County, CA. Her amazing floral designs appear often in Florists Review Magazine and have captured an enviable First Place win for Best Venue Decor in Florists’ Review’s annual Picture Perfect Weddings contest.
Down to earth, humorous, enthusiastic, and immensely talented – Suzanne is the perfect choice to hold the title of uBloom’s Events Expert. I had the pleasure recently of interviewing her a second time for uBloom and once again, I was impressed. See for yourself why we are so fortunate to have Suzanne as our Events Expert…after reading the following excerpt from my interview with her, I KNOW you will be impressed too!
Before you began working full time in the flower industry, you had a successful career in costume and set design. Describe how that experience has helped you in planning and executing wedding and event work.
Having a background in Set and Fashion Design while adding in the fact that it has to photograph well, has been a major plus. I always add in the factor that the overall illusion is as important as the single design. It helps to blend colors, add needed contrast and look at the BIG picture with room lighting, time of day, and theme. A wedding can be just as intricate to “set” as a major stage production.
Tell us uBloomers about your (favorite, most interesting, most unusual..etc.) wedding/event that you have done recently.
Hmm, each event is so interesting in it’s own right. And in California, you may preside over decor for anything from a traditional wedding to an Alternative theme festival. I have to say that one wedding I did that still makes me laugh was an Artist’s wedding on the beach in Laguna. The long haired Groom was very Rock & Roll and his lovely Bride was anything but Traditional…verging on eccentric, I dare say. She wore a layered, deep blue, designer silk gown and a veil with ocean designs hand beaded onto it. The tropical flowers for the reception were a fun mix of Gingers, Anthurium, and a mix of summer flowers. The beach ceremony took place on the sand at the shore break. We designed our signature “Ribbon Poles” and added rose petals to the sand at the ceremony site. Guests were presented with pretty and colorful Japanese parasols for the sun. Everything looked lovely, BUT the beach is a public location soooo…the old man in the speedo searching with a metal detector and the jogging bikini girls and guys made for a less than expected wedding backdrop! BUT that wasn’t the best part. When the bus load of tourists disembarked, they made a beeline to the ceremony like a pack of paparazzi and actually stepped into the ceremony area for photos! It was a surreal moment! LOL! I am still in touch with this couple and we get a good laugh whenever we discuss the day. (Check out the pics from the ceremony below)
I love the creative process. The fact that I can take an idea and a natural element such as flowers and water and create artistic settings, tables, and bouquets excites me. I love listening to my clients vision and making it a reality. I will do a rough design sketch for them and it’s always fun to see the actual location and afterwords, compare the results with photos.
You have done so many different types of weddings/events…everything from Goth to Glam…at incredible venues like huge ranches and the historic (and haunted) ship the Queen Mary. Was there ever a wedding/event so elaborate that you thought you might not be able to pull it off?
Not really. I have had some HUGE corporate events that had me on the verge of panic though. They can be difficult due to the committee process it takes to get funds and answers.
I had a party for 1000 that was for a very VIP company and they just couldn’t seem to get me the fine details or final guest count. I had to speculate on the final number and have linens, chairs, covers, lighting, props, flowers, and more waiting in the back wings. Most of these big jobs have some wiggle room, but when they came back to me 3 days before the event and the head count had now increased by 200…that’s 20 more tables and designs to be made to fit an already tight floor plan, I was in shock. I remember climbing into the hotel bed at 3am before the event (yes, we were on site for 3 days!) thinking, AM I NUTS? LOL! I had to be back up with full crew for table setup at 5 am. Even with the doubts of completion haunting me, my crew came through and it was a HUGE success. I learned that we need to insist on the final payments and details at least a week before the event and to trust my crew.
What are some of the up and coming trends for party/wedding decor?
A return to low bowls and elegant textures. After all of the tall crystal dripping trees and hanging flowers of the past couple years, I am seeing a trend to simple, clean lines with beautiful detail. Cymbidiums, Callas and Roses are still favorites, but color is key. My Spring events are still wanting Tiffany blue and Chocolate accents and Fall events are asking for Golden yellows and Rich Pumpkin oranges. Late Summer Dahlias are in demand in large, massed designs for garden posts. Organic mixes of foliage and trailing vines are popular as well.
You have seen many wedding/event trends come and go. What was the ONE trend you were HAPPY to see GO?
LOL! There are some crazy ones like the Camo wedding, or the Tons of Tulle events where a wanna be “Martha” of an aunt or friend designs the ceremony setting as a “surprise.” You arrive with gorgeous flowers to see hanging fake doves and Dollar store decor with about 300 yards of cheap tulle on every solid surface! Thankfully, brides are a bit more sophisticated these days.
Name the top 3 mistakes that florists/wedding designers make when planning and decorating an event or wedding.
- Under estimating the cost of materials and labor seems to be a problem for many designers. I have learned that you can’t make a good quote without having all the dimensions and current pricing details. It is worth the time for you and the client. This is a business and should be profitable, so check on the catalog prices for vases and current market rates for flowers.
- Get it in writing and document the event. A contract is a must! Protect yourself and your client by setting down the parameters of the event. You may have to adjust for location and season at times, but having your payment terms and details in writing will be a plus, should questions arise. Be sure and photograph all details of event designs. I have had clients with “day after” buyers remorse claim they didn’t get items…I then produce the photos which settles that on the spot!
- Don’t assume that the client will allow deviation from the plan. ALWAYS contact them for any design element questions. Better a few phone calls or emails than a wrong pattern, out of stock flower, or color change. Good Communication is KEY!
What are some mistakes clients make when planning a wedding/event that floral professionals can help them with?
Brides are tougher than Party or Corporate events. It all hinges on their emotions. Brides have a tendency to want the fantasy and will do anything to get it. We can make sure to get the details and rules for locations and walk the client through their options. It can save future disappointments.
Most clients have never planned a large special event, so it’s up to us to guide them through the process. Trust is a big issue for first time clients. Clients have a tendency to under budget; some couples are very untrusting of vendors and will have a false impression that if they give us a set budget, we will not go lower – only higher. Explaining to them that it varies with decor, season and size of the venue makes it a bit easier to get a balanced final outcome.
A lack of communication from the client is a pet peeve. We are not mind readers, so filling in the blanks as to correct delivery/set up times and all details is a must. If they are using an Event Planner, keep in close contact, if not, sending the client a fill in sheet for the “Day Of” event helps.
Personal Note from Suzanne: I am honored to be included in such fine company on uBloom. I love hearing from fellow uBloomers! I am hoping to share some wit and wisdom along with fun ideas for events of every size…