Welcome to the Bella Signature Design Blog!

We are so happy that you came to visit our blog! Bella Signature Design focuses on creating a custom, stylish event that is highly personal, with details that synergistically come together to create an atmosphere that is a direct reflection of you. My passion, as a designer, is to infuse your event with all the little things that speak to who you are, and to share that with your guests in a stylish, unexpected way. Our blog will be changing in the next few weeks to reflect our vision and our passion, so hang on for the ride and enjoy!

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Definition of a Wedding Designer

As a wedding designer, I was really excited to meet other wedding and event designers at the luxury wedding summit, Engage09, last week. (see engage09 recap 1 and Engage09 Recap 2). Not only because most of them were warm, fabulous and inspiring, but just to be at a place where people 'get' what I do everyday! In Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and even Florida, "Wedding Designer" is a familiar term. There are wedding coordinators, wedding planners, wedding designers, florists and rental companies. There is some overlap at times between some of these, but for the most part, these titles or designations explain what their roles comprise of for a wedding. Even in Italy and Germany where I grew up, the idea of a designer for an event is commonplace. In Seattle, however this term is not used much, most likely because there aren't many people doing it!

Often when I try to explain what I do, I still get "so are you a florist or a planner?" After a great chat with Michelle Loretta (who is originally from L.A.) from Mmm...Paper and SageweddingPros, I realized that since Seattle is a different market it just takes someone to explain the difference - so here goes!

On-site Venue Coordinator: This is a person paid by your venue (mostly at hotels, or other high volume wedding venues) to oversee the wedding from the venue's perspective. They can be very helpful in putting out programs or escort cards (about 50% offer these services), and in discussing ahead of time what the lay-out will be or how long it will take from Salad to Main Entree. Their main job, however, is to make sure the venue's rules are followed, and that the couple is happy within the venue's guidelines. They can be helpful as a contact at the venue, but don't expect them to lay-out your favors exactly the way you want or to help you pick a color scheme, as they also have to coordinate the staffing for that day, show potential clients the venue (yes, usually during the set-up of you wedding) and make sure guests needs are met. They often are in charge of several weddings per day.

Wedding Coordinator: A wedding "Day of" or "Month of" Coordinator typically gets involved within a month to a week before the wedding, and is there to confirm the vendors and guide the couple through their wedding day, putting out any fires and troubleshooting issues on the spot. I find a Coordinator indispensable for a stress-less wedding! I can not tell you how many things have gone wrong at weddings that the bride and groom never knew about because those issues were secretly and quickly taken care of by a good wedding coordinator. As ElizabethAnne Designs pointed out on their blog post on the same subject matter (I just saw that they posted about this subject a while back as well!), some Coordinators are also Planners, ie, they have higher level packages beyond just Coordination. Almost all planners also coordinate your wedding day, but some coordinators have not yet worked themselves up to planning the entire wedding.

Wedding Planner/Consultant: I find these two terms almost interchangeable, although some consultants can be hired on an hourly basis to consult with, whereas planners typically offer only full packages. A wedding planner is there to guide a couple through the process of planning their wedding - from venue selection, matching up of vendors to the couple's style and budget, managing that budget, negotiating of contracts and advising the couple throughout the planning process. Almost every Wedding Planner I know coordinates the rehearsal and wedding day as well. Most charge flat fees for the amount of hours they think they will need to spend on planning a couple weddings, while some outline how many hours or interactions with the couple their fee includes. Some still base their fees on the percentage model (a percentage of the overall budget). I've never seen this work for me, because I don't think I should earn more money just because the budget is higher (and often low budget weddings are more difficult to plan, because you have to find high quality vendors that are still affordable within those budgetary restrictions.) Most Wedding Planners do not get involved with the design on the wedding, although some love (and are great at) helping out with color scheme selection, tying in the look of favors, menus, etc. In Seattle, I've seen quite a few planners good at adding in a few fun design elements into the wedding, from candy buffets in the couple's color scheme to fabulous parasols from Bella Umbrella. A wedding planner is perfect for the bride who knows exactly how she wants every single item to look and wants to carry a lot of these items out by herself, but needs guidance on how to get the best return on her investment in terms of vendors and overall planning (when to do what and where to get it).

Event/Wedding Designer: A wedding designer creates the wedding in its entirety. They are experts at helping a couple define a point of inspiration, and designing the entire event based on it, while interweaving traditions and the character of the couple. Whenever guests leave saying "that was SO Johnny and Suzie" you can bet there was a wedding designer involved! Wedding designers usually help a couple articulate the vision for their day, and then find a way to design and produce that vision, usually in a unique and unexpected way. Wedding designers are responsible for the entire vision, so almost always create their own floral, as well as being well versed in linens, draping, lighting, and other decor items. At Bella Signature Design for example, we also offer to sit down with the cake and invitation designer to help create a complete vision from start to finish. We provide all vendors with color swatches, inspiration boards if necessary, etc, so that all vendors work as a team for the couple, versus many parts coming together at the end trying to finish the puzzle. Weddings with a designer tend to be high-style, customized weddings, and attract couples who are design-oriented (often in the design industry themselves, such as interior, graphic or fashion) or have a high appreciation, but difficulty in defining, their sense of style pr how to make that come to life.

Florist: A wedding florist may or may not have a retail shop, but the better wedding florists tend to just focus on event work (versus on walk0in retail customers). They are well versed in floral design, and many offer rentals such as Chuppahs or candles. Some of the wedding florists now also will help with table linens and small accent lighting.

Hopefully that helps all those brides confused with all the terminology. As said, some of these certainly overlap, so decide what is the best for for you in terms of your vision and your budget, and be honest with yourself with what you are buying. Be sure to read the contract carefully to see what you are paying for!



Anonymous July 2, 2009 at 5:00 PM  

YAYYY!!! So awesome! This is great! What a great NECESSARY niche for Seattle. Go get'm Daniela.

Zinchuk Studios July 2, 2009 at 9:02 PM  

Love the description--you clarified a lot of terms that are used inter-changeably but shouldn't be. Love your work!

A Hot Pink Petticoat July 6, 2009 at 6:05 PM  

Fantastically thorough Daniela!

The way I tell my client, a DOC is there to make sure their hard wok on planning their wedding goes off as they see it. Although I'm the boss of all the vendors, the big cheese is the couple :)