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Trendsetters: Meredith Waga Perez of Belle Fleur New York

Posted by on May 1, 2015 in Florists, Trendsetters | No Comments

Nearly twenty years ago, Meredith Waga Perez and her mother Marilyn Waga set out to launch a boutique floral and event business. More than just setting up a shop though, Meredith knew that she wanted to create a brand- more specifically the kind of understated luxury that brands like her formal employer, Calvin Klein embodied. No on in the floral and event space was really communicating that message and Meredith saw the chance for their brand, Belle Fleur New York, to fill that space.

Trendsetter: Meredith Waga Perez of Belle FleurFrom a “technically” speaking standpoint in floral terms, Belle Fleur developed a signature style for flower arrangements that eliminated “filler” floral completely, and celebrated the beauty of the flowers themselves. But beyond that, the Belle Fleur brand was infused with the touchpoint of understated luxury at every step along the way.

The full interview is totally engrossing, and filled with knowledge, but one of the most important takeaways is how, at the end of the day, how in touch with the the REAL brand essence of Belle Fleur Meredith is- and how that trickled down to everyone involved- and that is she isn’t selling flowers, or even luxury, she’s selling LOVE, love in the form of flowers and fragrance that is packaged and delivered luxuriously… It’s a fine and subtle difference, but it’s super important to note and it’s what makes her such a trendsetter.
Belle Fleur expanded from luxury floral to home fragrance.
It was this deep infusion of their brand “feeling” that enabled Belle Fleur to successfully extend their brand into product by way of a fragrance collection, which is now retailed in luxury department stores, boutiques and hotels around the world. Often we might brainstorm about “launching a product”, but the difference between a simple investment and roll out and success with this kind of endeavor is it’s relationship to and the strength of your own brand- something which Belle Fleur is an amazing case study for.

One final story that Meredith told us that DID NOT make the edit, but that I want to pass along is this- when her designers are building gift arrangements at the design table in their studio, Meredith’s instructions to them is to read the message on the gift card before they start. She elaborates on this around 14:00 in, but the reason is so that they understand the spirit of love that was intended behind the present– it’s more than just a Belle Fleur signature arrangement, it’s intended for a specific person with a specific message of love. She has so much more wisdom to share, I hope you’ll take a little time to watch, listen and learn from this wonderful business woman!

Shorthand Guide to Bridal Fashion Week (Spring 2016)

Posted by on Apr 21, 2015 in Style | One Comment

Unless you are Julie Sabatino or Jackie Weppner, the chances are that passing a fashion exam on all the newest trends at the most recent Bridal Fashion Week (showing Spring 2016) isn’t going to have deep impact on your bottom line. Still, you are a wedding professional and you want to seem “with it” and aware of what looks will be coming your way in the coming seasons (remember you won’t see these until NEXT year- mostly…).
Plus falling in love with these gowns will inform the look and feel of the weddings you are planning, shooting, designing, etc for the next couple of seasons… (all images from WWD.com)

Later this week, I’ll do a post on the hot “new” designers you need to be sure you know about so that you don’t sound lame when brides say who they are wearing and you give them Deer in Headlights :-) But for now, a shorthand to trends I noticed!

There will be Ballgowns Galore!
I haven’t seen this many ballgowns since the mid-aughts…But this is a reinvention, which is nice. They are BIGGER and ball-ier than ever in some respects (rumor has it Ramona Keveza’s had hoops in them- a la Gone with the Wind. Yet somehow they are lighter and airier than ever before… I used to watch brides dragging these heavy silk satin things around and feel badly for them, being so weighted down, but designers have really been paying attention to what brides want now.. it’s less to feel like a princess than to spend a day in a fantasy, and somehow that involves the incongruous notion of running through an open field, but in a giant ballgown… and these are dresses you could do that it. Below from Marchesa, Oscar de la Renta and Ines di Santo:
Marchesa Ballgown Spring 2016
Oscar de la Renta Spring 2016
Ines di Santo Spring 2016

Impressionism and Le Belle Epoque influences Will Be Everywhere…

From water-colored patterns to drop shoulders to opera gloves, there were influences of the Belle Epoque (or it’s American variation… the “Scarlett O’Hara look) EVERYWHERE. Be it mimicking the art of the time or the fashions, clearly designers were influenced by the romance of this era, so soon will our brides be too. For years’ we’ve been watching colored gowns desperately wishing more brides would boldly wear them, and I think this Romona Keveza (which caused a mild sensation on Instagram) is going to be the gown the turns the tide…. Below that a watercolor look from Naeem Khan, and a totally Opera ready Ines di Santo….
Romona Keveza
Naeem Kahn
Ines Di Santo
Of course, my absolute FAVORITE of this “look” is this Marchesa, which no one can convince me wasn’t inspired by the impressionist portrait that hangs at the Met- Madam X by John Singer Sergeant. What do you think?
Madame X by John Singer Sergeant
Marchesa Spring 2016
Necklines will Vary in Fun and Unusual Ways!
There will be a lot of stunning deep V’s with illusion fronts, tons of mock necks and faux halter necks… We’ve come a long way since your choices were Strapless and Strapless (thank Goodness) Below, a shortie from Oscar de La Renta with a ruffle mock collar, a beautiful illusion halter from Honor by Stone Fox Bride and yet another Romona Keveza with the most gorgeous plunging illusion neck (I just loved her collection this season).
Oscar de la Renta Spring 2016Honor for Stone Fox Bride
Illusion Neck from Romona Keveza
Which of these trends is your favorite/ do you find most inspiring?

Is it time to Hire a New Employee? (Part 1)

Posted by on Apr 10, 2015 in Business Advice | No Comments

I had a client a few years ago who we adored and was a total smarty pants and she told me about the concept of False Pattern Recognition. The idea that we think something is EVERYWHERE, but in reality we are just hyper-aware and are noticing that something more often. So, for me, the topic of HIRING and expanding your team has been everywhere for the last week. It seems everyone I’ve been talking to has either been debating about bringing someone new on, or been offering up really smart advice about how and when to do it.

Last week at the Business of Weddings, Angela Desveaux, the founder and editor of WedLuxe said something so painfully simple that it hurt my heart that it had taken Mayra and I so long to figure this out for ourselves: “The only way to grow your business is to hire great people.”

I know. The idea of bringing on “employees” can be scary. Either financially- because of the investment and the terrifying idea of cash flow and having someone else dependent on your management of that side of your business (which can be very scary, especially if your wedding business is seasonal in nature). OR it can be terrifying because you have done every job yourself since your company’s inception and done them all well, and you are afraid of sacrificing the quality that got you here in the first place with someone less invested or skilled or whatever… or you are control freak. All of which are reasons why it’s scary. But the next thing that Angela said in her awesome talk was this: If you don’t take a chance, you don’t stand a chance.
RiskandReward
Anyway, I came back from Montreal and we are working with a Besties in Business client, and in looking at their barriers for growth, it became obvious that the biggest thing holding them back was their need to grow the staff. Like, the savings on one or two critical employees actually might be costing them money- because a few people holding muddled roles has been impacting management’s time to effectively manage clients and market and sell their product. When looking at it that way, the risk starts to lay in the NOT hiring someone…
So then fast forward to Wednesday when we post the Besties videos and while YES we were there when they were being taped, we tape a bunch on one day so it’s always a fun surprise to re-listen to the conversation. And this week we sat down with Gabriella Risatti of Gabriella Bridal and, don’t you know at around minute 10 she shares her only real regret: not hiring people sooner. And then she shared this gem:
Invest in Good PeopleInvest in good people and you will get it back in your bottom line. So, if you’ve been sitting on the fence about hiring someone… take this as the sign you needed and move forward.. or look at it as false pattern recognition :-) Perhaps it’s contract hires or part- time in the beginning, but if you THINK you could do more if you only had regular help in a designated role, then it’s probably definitely time. Oh, Gabriella’s full interview is below.. it’s like 15 minutes of B-school for anyone thinking about opening a Brick and Mortar retail business or starting a bridal salon. (btw, If you are enjoying these quotes, you’ll enjoy the conversations we’ve got going on at our @BestiesinBiz instagram)

Maintaining Healthy Client Relationships: Lessons from a PR Pro

Posted by on Apr 2, 2015 in Business Advice | No Comments

A great (but lightening fast) week here since I was up in Toronto to speak at the Business of Weddings on Monday and Tuesday with Todd Fiscus, Marcy Blum, the wonderful Rebecca Grinnals of Engaging Concepts and Engage! , Angela Desveaux of WedLuxe Magazine and the elegant Ines Di Santo. There was so much amazing content that Michael Coombs put together my head is still spinning, but I promise a recap of some of the highlights and lessons learned next week.

This week, I won’t call it laziness, though it is a little cross promotion, because I think it’s really worth watching our Besties in Business interview with Rachel Van Dolsen of RVD Communications, a boutique PR firm that works with small companies and brands, largely in the food and beverage and hospitality sectors. The video is 15 minutes, but I’m going to tell you about the highlights that YOU, wedding professional needs to hear, because in addition to what makes you NEWSWORTHY, she also has to a) decide which business is right for her and which isn’t b) find a niche c) maintain relationships with clients over a long term d) sell by promising totally intangible items over which she has no direct control. e) sell against lots of amateurs with business cards and a few contacts. Hmm… sound familiar?

So, at 3:47 we chat about saying NO to clients who don’t fit and WHY you need to do it to achieve true success. At 5:44 we talk about the key to selling something you can’t really guarantee… and keeping clients happy along the way (there is a trick to this). At 6:45 we talk about teaching people to love what you offer even if they’ve been burned by someone less experienced. 7:30 we chat about if you are ready for to hire outside PR and what a publicist needs to do a good job. Finally at 10:00 we hit how to assess if you are, as they say, ready for Prime Time and Newsworthy… Unfortunately sometimes we have a hard time facing the hard truth that we aren’t there yet. So without further ado, the video!

Drafting a Strong Destination Wedding Contract

Posted by on Mar 24, 2015 in Blog, Business Advice | 3 Comments

Hmmm. At the tender age of 22, I somehow found myself as the Director of Special Events at the Clio Awards. My charmingly cantankerous former boss made a big show of presenting me with a present (wrapped as such) that turned out to be a giant, spiral bound tomb with the un-sexy title of “The Essential Guide to Hotel and Venue Contract Negotiations”. I remember being so disappointed, having hoped it was a real “gift”, and instead it being a B2B textbook with one of the least sexy titles ever read. 5 years later it was the most used thing on my desk, so highlighted and dog-eared and post-it-ed (is that a phrase?) that it barely resembled it’s former self. I not only loved this book, I cherished it.

So, while Drafting a Strong Destination Wedding Contract may not sound like a sexy blog post, I’m hoping this will prove as lovingly utilitarian for you, fellow wedding vendor! As destination weddings become increasingly more popular (and with good reason, 5 days of gorgeous events can cost as much as 1 night of festivities in some of the more expensive US markets!) more of us planners, florists, photogs, even bands are getting called upon to “do destination”. Since, in my experience, the strongest contracts are written by a hundred unfortunate stories, I’m compiling here some points to be sure to include in your Destination Wedding Contract… derived over the years from our own experience, passed on to us by generous colleagues and some learned just this past weekend while we were out of the country working on a wedding. PLEASE, please, if you have any great tips or pointers to add to this, please add below!

1. Be VERY specific as to HOW you will travel. Coach? Business? Direct? How many lay-overs are you OK with? We learned this the hard way when stuck in Boston on a lay-over in the middle of the night.

2. Either book your travel yourself or REQUIRE APPROVAL RIGHTS before client books your travel. Clients often want the best talent to work at their weddings regardless of where the talent is and where the wedding is, but often they start to get squirmish at the cost of transporting said talent. So, while I don’t begrudge people using points or miles to book vendor travel, I do have preferences for airports and times etc, as you probably do as well, and you should retain your right to approve when and how you and your team move.

3. For Planners/Photographers, Express Your Desire to Stay at the Headquarters Property. For planners, there are early mornings and late nights, for photographers, it’s less about the late nights than it is about capturing the vibe around the key events. Both require access and staying anywhere but your main property (unless it’s a private home) is less than ideal and overall not worth the savings to your client as it compromises your ability to perform your job to the maximum of your ability.

4. Include a Per Diem. A lot of people may feel “Well, I’m eating where ever I am and I don’t want to seem nit picky.” But if you are on a resort (and especially a Luxury property) you might not have chosen to have 5 star dining for every meal had you been at home, so you should include a per diem based on the cost of the food at whatever location you will be required to spend most of your time in based on the job.

5. Specify how many people can stay in a room with you… and who. A photographer friend once told us a story of being put up for the night in a room with 4 bridesmaids and having to sleep on a sofa. No Bueno. For some clients this clause might seem obvious, but for others you are saving yourself from an awkward nightmare later on.

6. Buffer in time before and after for you to do your best job! While it might seem that you are attempting to squeeze in free R & R, we all know how much work is needed (depending on our specific job function) to properly do your job both in the advance and the wrap up. So the client might want to cheap out on room nights, but it’s important to hold your ground and get there in the time in advance and stay for the time afterwards that enables you to do best what you were paid to do.

7. Specify the hours (in advance) that you are “on duty” and “off duty”. I sometimes think this is most important for photographers because people can often impose and say “please just stay a little longer to get more images…” but you need rest too, and you can’t be seen as being on call 24/7 (unless you charged for that) so be sure to establish your schedule and availability in advance.

OK! Please, please add more tips that you’ve learned to be good clauses for destination weddings! So appreciate and I’ll add some into a revised version of this post with your social handle! THANKS (oh and here is a pic from this weekend’s event!)
AAB Creates Destination Wedding In Mexico