One of the things I love most about designing weddings is that a wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event—or at least it should be! Planning a wedding is such an incredible time in a couple’s life, and I love being part of that journey and celebration.
Weddings are also about beginnings. For most couples, their wedding is the first time they are planning a big event together and as a team. They have to have very real and very serious discussions about their likes and dislikes, and they must work to define their style as a couple. This isn’t always easy, but it is important. After all, a wedding is a special moment in time when a couple gets to share their style and sense of selves with everyone they care about.
Unfortunately, this can lead to a lot of pressure for the couple. And it also brings up a slew of delicate dynamics and intense emotions among family members, in-laws and even friends.
So when a couple hires me to design their wedding, I know I’m not only their designer but also someone who can help them navigate the often stressful process of creating their dream wedding. To do this, I take on a lot of responsibility. I consider helping a couple almost an out-of-body experience. I need to walk in their shoes and truly understand and internalize their goals. It’s my job to tap into my couples’ hearts and minds and figure out what they really want.
The more information I can get from a couple, the easier this is. I start this process at our very first meeting. I ask lots and lots of questions. What flowers do they like? Colors? Music? Food? Designers? Cars? Movies? TV shows? Vacations?
And dislikes, too. I want to know what flowers and colors they hate, the last movie they hated—anything and everything.
If everyone feels like the meeting has gone well and all parties want to move forward, I ask the couple to sign a contract and provide a deposit to save the date. Later, this deposit will be applied to the final bill.
Next, I schedule two design meetings with my new bride and groom. In the first meeting, I show them lots of different concepts with drawings and fabric selections. I ask them to make some choices. At the second meeting, I give them a full presentation showing them everything they will see and experience on their wedding day. I am very thorough about this; I don’t ever want there to be any surprises for the bride and groom. I want their guests to experience lots of surprises, but not my couple!
As I prepare for my presentation and as I design, I envision the wedding as an extraordinary theatrical event. In truth, my weddings aren’t really about the flowers, the lighting, the food or any other specific element. Rather, each wedding is a unique opportunity for me to create an evening rich with sensory surprises. At all of my events I make it a goal to have some kind of new surprise every 30 minutes. Guests should be amused and enchanted throughout the night. And I think that goal is what makes my weddings Preston Bailey weddings.
To keep guests on their toes, I might change the lighting, introduce a new scent, play dramatic music or welcome an unexpected celebrity guest or performer. Some of my past favorite surprises include my peacock sculptures and a floral-encased dance floor. Once, I recreated four real restaurants at a wedding reception; guests got to order their dinner from the restaurant of their choice. Another time I recreated an existing concert hall at a reception venue. These surprises were a tremendous amount of work but seeing the look of delight on the guests’ faces makes it all worth it. And then there’s the joy, radiance and love the bride and groom feel at the end of their wedding. Knowing that I contributed in a small way to their happiness and helped bring their dreams to reality is such a magical feeling.
Now, that’s something I don’t get to give to my corporate clients.
Preston Bailey is recognized as one of the world's premier event designers and tastemakers. Learn more at www.prestonbailey.com