New to this series? Start here:
Introduction Post
Step 1: Define Your Style

Now that you have your style defined with a Visual Mood Board, a Client Mood Board, and have your ten descriptive words written, the fun starts! My biggest challenge when I decided to start an event design company was that I didn’t have any work to show off. No one is going to hire an event designer who has a blank website. No one is going to hire (and more importantly trust) you to create your best work if your website is filled with birthday parties and events you did for your friends for free. Friends are awesome, but they might not have the same style that you are trying so hard to cultivate, leading to a mishmash of styles on your site that only lead to consumer confusion. Do you hate mason jars? Then for goodness gracious, get them off your site already. Do you crave to produce small, intimate dinner parties? Then only show examples of those.

The best tool to show off your creative talent is to produce a few inspiration shoots that 110% scream who your company is. I recommend doing two or three small shoots. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel here and don’t try to art direct a magazine-level production your first go ahead. Keep it simple and effective.

The main purpose of these shoots are to elevate your brand. For example, retail companies shoot their tangible products each season for their websites. As event designers, we sell a service, and our service needs example images of our artistic style. Keep that, along with these goals in mind:

1. To show off your best work
Show the world your individual style. Scream about it. Be bold about it.
2. To create relationships with your peers
Depending on your skill set, this is the perfect opportunity to connect and collaborate with your peers. You’ll definitely need a photographer and a venue. The rest you can either do yourself or bring on others who are specialists in those areas, such as florals and stationery.
3. To practice
The process of producing shoots will teach you the best way to schlep (because, really, the schlepping is 75% of our job), how to source supplies, what it feels like to be your own boss, and  how to work against a budget.
4. Get published
Why not try? It’s not your main goal with these shoots (that would be #1) but it would be delicious icing on your artistic cake to see your work on a popular blog.

This is how to get there:

 

1. Build A Concept
I could really split this one step into it’s own post. The internet chatter has recently been amok with conversations about where us wedding creatives get our inspiration and how to avoid copying off of each other. Marcy Blum said it best in an interview published on Think Splendid, she said: “…that’s why everything is cannibalizing everything else, because we’re all looking at the same stuff. It’s an exercise in discipline not to go on Pinterest or Google.” Long story short: get off pinterest, get off other designer’s websites, get off google images, get off wedding blogs. Get on art museums, fashion runway shows, fine art, and other creative industries that have NOTHING to do with weddings or events. I’m honored to be asked to participate in shoots a few times a month. My biggest pet peeve is when the person emailing me, the one producing the shoot, sends me inspiration images of OTHER SHOOTS. ZZZZZZ…..I’m bored. Using photos of other weddings or events as inspiration for your shoot means it’s already been done.
The concept of your shoot should be clean, concise, presented in a way that’s easy to understand, and looks like the feel of your brand. In the concept should be an inspiration board, color palette, and sketches of your artistic ideas. It can be a simple few page PDF or even a Word doc with images. Use whatever program you are most familiar with.

 

2. Get Your Team
Most importantly, please, please, please have your work shot by a professional photographer. Take that concept you created and email it out to a photographer you’d love to collaborate with. Yes, they might say no. So what, move onto your next choice. The least that will happen is that they will see how amazing you are at conceptualizing design and will start to get familiar with your name. Do the same with any other creatives you need to bring your vision alive. A florist, venue, and stationer are a good place to start. Ask if they’d like to collaborate with you on an inspiration shoot you are producing for your soon-to-be-launched awesome website.

 

3. Make Your Budget
These shoots will cost you money. Investing in work that will show people your talent is worth it. You might end up paying to rent the venue, for models (not necessary), for the florist’s supplies…etc…in addition to your own supplies and transportation. Budget at least $500, although closer to $1k is more realistic. I’ve done shoots where everyone involved simply collaborated by donating their time and talents. I’ve also done shoots where I’ve traded my talents with other professionals who I really, really, really wanted to work with.

 

4. Get Published
Yes, you produced these for your own business growth, but submit them anyway. I get asked a lot how my work has been featured on so many blogs when I was first starting out. Simple answer: I submitted it along with a very short and sweet email. Emphasis on Very Short Email. Camille Styles posted my first inspiration shoot. All I did was ask.

You’ve defined your style and I bet your brain is swirling with ideas on creating work for your website. Next week we’ll talk about cultivating your online presence.

Have you guys produced shoots yet? Any good or bad experiences? Questions on the shoot process you’d like answered? Ask away!

 

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  1. Hi michelle,
    Amazingly times series :) i was made redundant which has given me the kick up the bum to open my business. The worry i have is trying to keep costs low, with the position i’m in i wasn’t able to plan and save – it all happened to suddenly. Luckily a few weddings are happening this year and they’re all happy for me to create for their big day. I offered myself partially free of charge because they are ultimately letting me experiment my processes on them. I’m infact photographing some engagement shoots myself in a bid to keep costs low! With all the supplies etc i’ve had to re-buy i’m just trying my best not to spend much before i earn, hope i’m going the right way about this? Xxx

     
  2. this is such a fantastic post, michelle! im a photographer and often find that collaborative relationships with other creatives (event designers, stylists, make up artists, etc.) has been so important when first starting out. These relationships can connect you later on to other creatives down the road for other collaborations (or client referals) I have found that a short sweet friendly email written with sincerity also goes a long way!

     
  3. Hi Michelle,
    This is a great series, I just happen to stumble upon your blog today after several previous visits to your site. The series is wrote on time for me as, I am rebranding as we speak. Your advice to plan and style a shoot to obtain images of your work for your site hit home for me! At the top of this year , I got up the courage to do a shoot on my rooftop. I had a few hiccups that I didnt consider i.e. cold weather and wind knocking over my centerpiece. However, the end result was amazing images which, I can now use on my new site instead of stock photos. It’s one of the best things you can do for your business. Great article!

     
  4. LOOVVE! This series. Wish I would have found it when I was first starting out. I’ve only been in business for 9 months and it seems so far I am on the right track and following along well. :) Can’t wait to read the others!

     
 

Ray and Pete at Battery Gardens

February 20, 2014
one comment

NYC Gay Wedding

Ray and Pete were married on the Manhattan waterfront at Battery Gardens on a beautiful August night. They are the cutest, sweetest, loveliest men. Men can be lovely, right? Because they are. We took care of the design, decor, and flowers for their modern, crisp, classic NYC wedding making Ray and Pete feel like all they had to do was enjoy the river breezes and have a great time. Weddings By Two knocked it out of the park with these photographs.

NYC Gay Wedding
NYC Gay Wedding



NYC Gay Wedding


Their guest were sat in the round under the setting sun. Since they were both walking down the aisle, we set up the seating like a peace sign. Ray’s family walked down one aisle of the peace sign and Pete’s walked down the other. Their mother’s escorted them both down their own aisles and they met in the middle. I cried a little. Ok, I cry at all the weddings.

 

NYC Gay Wedding

NYC Gay Wedding
NYC Gay Wedding

We kept the tables simple and modern with grey chevron tablecloths, clear glass candlesticks, and clear glass vases all filled with white flowers. My favorite part though were the balloon installations in the corners. NYC Gay Wedding

NYC Gay Wedding
NYC Gay Wedding

NYC Gay Wedding

NYC Gay Wedding

Oh, and the night ended with performances from two of the fiercest drag queens I ever did see.

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  1. Beautiful! I love the color palette.

     
 

In the first installment of the Business Takeoff series, let’s chat about defining your company’s style. You already know that you love the wedding/event industry and have a passion for being creative. Clients will hire you because they love the aesthetic you specialize in. When you are producing events that strongly evoke your niche aesthetic, your work will be better and you’ll have more fun. This niche aesthetic will be your focus. It’s what your brand will be built on and what people will pay gazillions (let’s aim high, yes?) of dollars for.  They will give you free reign to be completely creative with the trust they feel from the visuals of your brand and prior work. Let your style, aka brand, speak to the type of work you are best at or, as I like to ask, “what’s your deal”? This is how:

1. Build a Visual Mood Board:

Use Pinterest to create a mood board for the type of events you want to design. Are they loud and colorful? Are they inspired by pastels and watercolor? Are the events at the beach? In the city? In exotic destinations? Do you specialize in weddings, bat/bar mitzvahs, birthday parties? Fill this board with a bunch of visual representation of the mood, color palette, location, and aesthetic of the events you dream of doing.

2. Build an Ideal Client Mood Board:

Your clients are the peanut butter to your jelly, the Jay-Z to your Beyonce’, the spanx to that silky dress. You need them. They need you. More importantly, having clients that want to live inside your visual mood board, have the money to hire you, and trust you to produce a memorable experience are the ones you want. Figure out who they are by building an Ideal Client mood board on Pinterest. Hey, make it a private board, it’s just for you anyways. Are they a young couple? Older with successful careers? What kind of jobs to they have? Are they swimming in gold bars? Trying to throw a wedding on a conservative budget? What are their family values? Where do they shop? Target or Whole Foods? JcPenney’s or Barney’s?

3. Build your Top Ten List

Dave Letterman does a Top Ten list every night based around a simple theme. Your brand’s Top Ten list is built around a simple theme too: the aesthetics and experience of your brand. It’s ten words (or short phrases) that are the epitome of your business. Go back to your visual mood board and your client mood board. What common themes do you see emerging? Muted or bright colors? Funny or serious? Crude or senstive? Urban or country? You see what I’m getting at. For example, some of Sephora’s words might be: Try It First, No Hassles, Contemporary, Cutting Edge, Beautiful, Luxury. In contrast, Harmon’s might be: Coupons, Accessible, Choices, Inexpensive, Relatable. Write down your ten words or phrases. Live them. Dream about them. Get them tattooed on your boobs. Now, every time you post on social media, email a client, answer a phone call, design an event – ask yourself if it hits on the majority of those words. This is an easy way to help you keep a cohesive brand message across many platforms. It teaches prospective clients what to expect from you and builds trust that you will bring it to them. Great examples of companies who keep a consistent, visual, brand message are the instagram accounts of:

DesignLoveFest (colorful and interesting)

Hey Gorgeous Events (Feminine and Whimsical)

Sugar & Cloth (DIYs with beautiful white space)

Daily Something (Muted and Natural)

Through their instagram accounts, you know that if you want a feminine, beautitul, high-end event, you would hire Hey Gorgeous Events. If you’d prefer an organic, homemade, natural dinner party, go with Daily Something. These companies have done such a great job curating their instagram accounts with images that speak about their best work, that I would trust any of them 110% to execute a job. Gaining your client’s trust is very important, as easy way to do that is through a consistent visual brand message.

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  1. As a new floral design business owner, I’m still in the process of defining my brand image and how I want to present myself to the universe. This is super helpful in getting me to strategically wrap my mind around the steps I need to take. Thank you for sharing this valuable insight!!

     
  2. [...] New to this series? Start here: Introduction Post Step 1: Define Your Style [...]

     
  3. [...] Step 2: Define Your Style [...]

     
  4. Adele Polk

    Thank you.

     
  5. Blogger media kits.

     
  6. Olivia

    Totally helpful! Simple, smart yet fresh ideas that helped point me in the direction I needed.
    So, thank you :)