14 Things you should know before booking with Vivid Expressions
An interview with Executive Creative Director, Janel Bailey Keen
What should you know about us before booking with Vivid Expressions? Take a look at this interview with our Founder and Executive Creative Director, Janel Bailey Keen to get a look inside Vivid Expressions and what to know.
1. "What is an Event Designer? And what's the difference between a Planner, Designer, and a Coordinator? ... and why should I hire one?"
"I remember a time when my team and I have arrived on-site to start un-loading for a event and saw the Mother of the Bride from the previous wedding. She was in her gown, climbing down a ladder, exhausted, panicking and running out of time because she was trying to breakdown their event before the venue started to charge them an overtime fee. You see, they didn't hire a event consultant. An event consultant does a lot of things that you just don't realize and definitely don't see because it's all done behind the scenes. During the planning process couples usually hear titles like 'Planner, Designer, and Coordinator' and I know they all sound interchangeable but they're really not. I think a lot of people decide they do or event don't need to hire a consultant without even know what they actually do."
Janel continues, "A general event planner helps with an overall plan, a coordinator tries to implement a plan or 'coordinates' it but a designer is unique because they are more of an event planning specialist. Designers can take things from concept to creation and focus more on the visual aspects or aesthetics of the event. Think Interior Designer but for your event. Here's another way to think of it, if your Planner is your general practitioner then your designer is a specialist like your cardiologist. Designers plan and coordinate the entire look of the event. Everything... everything you and your guests see and all specialized products and services you need from the flowers to the linens to lighting etc. Designers...
... create design plans
... manage 'Design Budgets'
... create or coordinate any design product your need
... oversee all the design logistics
... and a lot more."
She goes on to say, "Also, Designers usually collaborate with any other design related vendors and they'll have their own production team to the create and install designs as well as de-install them, breakdown and take care of returns afterwards to make sure you'll have a beautiful and seamlessly orchestrated day."
2. "How long have you been doing what you do? How did you become an Event Designer and Consultant?"
"So, like a lot of professionals I got into this field after their own wedding but UNLIKE a lot of pros my wedding took place hours after the Governor of Virginia issued a 'State of Emergency'. Yes, my wedding took place only 2 days after Hurricane Isabel completely devastated Virginia. Can you imagine? We faced 2/3s of the state (including the area unlike“Well, I’ve actually worked in hospitality, entertainment, tourism, communications, and the arts since the very early 90’s and received my Bachelor in Fine Art in 1995 from Norfolk State University. As for weddings, well, like many in this field I fell in love with the Wedding Industry after planning and facilitating my own wedding in 2003. However, where our wedding was held) experiencing statewide loss of power, flooding, damage, and dozens of other heartbreaking obstacles.”
Janel continues, “Despite all those crushing challenges we had a
successful and lovely wedding. Even our guests were amazed by the
event and remarked that it was, ‘The most beautiful wedding they've
ever been to’. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was not easy at all and in
many ways very humbling but the experience helped me realize how
to utilize quick thinking, organizational skills, the ability to effectively
communicate, pool my resources, identify reliable vendors, and use
my own extensive experience and creative talents to execute a
She goes on to say, "It also gives me a unique perspective. I mean,
I know what this day truly means to a Bride and Groom. I know
what can go wrong and how horrible it feels to experience worry
and disappointments on what should be one of the most fantastic
days of your life. And if I can help someone not go through what
I went through I wanted to be a part of that. I think this is where my dedication to creating the most amazing, breathtaking and heartfelt experience for my Brides and Clients comes from. And so, after 3 years of intense research, training, development, and experience, in 2006 I launched Vivid Entertaining which later became Vivid Expressions LLC as well as my full-time career. And now we're celebrating over a decade in business.”
3. "We love your Portfolio (Services), it looks wonderful. Everything sounds fantastic but... what sets you apart?"
“Well, after my own experience I became genuinely passionate about giving couples an exceptional wedding day experience (like the one I wish I had) and my goal to make things gorgeous and chaos-free for their special day. Of course, it's easy to see things clearly in the rare view mirror. I also wanted to create a company that really give Brides (and Clients) an experience I hadn’t seen during may own planning process of in any other event, design, or floral design company. Ok, think about the last truly breathtaking book that was turned into a visually stunning movie. Often the movie’s Artistic Director is asked to literally create scenes, backgrounds, elements and details that just don’t exist in real life. They do that by starting with ‘the story’ and working with Artists that sketch custom concept drawings (storyboards), designs, creating props or having specialists scout for products all to bring the scenes to life. I wanted to give Clients the same “tailored to my own unique love story” feeling and experience."
Janel continues to say, "Here’s another way of looking at it. Think about those design shows on HGTV, you know, the ones where the Designer & Contractors create and presents images of what their new room design. That’s the experience we give to our Brides that no one else does. I’m proud to say we are the region’s 1st Event Design, Floral Design, Décor, and Consulting Company to create custom illustrations depicting your wedding or event designs (example: bouquets, ceremony design, reception room design, centerpieces/table-scape design, etc.) and present them to you as part of the planning process. Our client's LOOOVE this process because it literally gives them and any other vendor we are working with a "Visual Design Plan" for us to work from, what will create, and how the finished product will look. We then bring those images to life – taking you from Concept to Creation to Celebration.”
4. "Will I lose control over the look (or design plan) of my wedding if I have you design it for me?"
“No, not at all. This is your event, your vision, and YOUR special day. One of my past Brides once said, 'That's what makes her (Janel) great. She adjusts to the needs of the bride.' To be honest, I'd be cautious of a designer who wants to take all of the decisions away from you. My job is to be a part of your team - to partner with you and support you."
Janel goes on to say, "This is all about you so I'll first start by learning all about you, your preferences, likes, dislikes, style, etc. I’ll share insider information, help you explore options you may knot have even known about, give advice, identify potential issues, and pull everything together. I'll then present you with concept illustrations especially created for you of your design solutions for your approval. Remember, every major decision about your event is yours. I’m simply here to facilitate the solutions that you may never have thought of before and (once you've approved your designs) bring your vision to life or you. In other words, you’ll never lose control of your day.”
5."Is it just you?"
"No. Now remember, you'll most likely be working direct with me during your designing and development process but I actually have an amazing team that works directly underneath me. My team is a wonderful group of event production professionals, stagers, riggers, artists, and coordination specialists who I dedicate specifically to each client's event or project. Depending on the size and scale of the event I usually have anywhere from 2 to 8 team members on an event. And, I have to say, I love my team. Over the years I've assembled an exceptional, hard-working team of pros with backgrounds that range from 8 to 30 years of special event, construction, and even theatrical production experience that results in fantastic events."
6. "Who do you work best with?"
“Well, there are a couple of types of clients that work really well with us. For example, I love working with clients who want to play an active role in their event but who'd love to have the creative skills, experience, and guidance of an Artistic & Event Designer on their team. They want to trust a professional who'll help them with the knowledge, talents, and resources they'll need to create something amazing. I’ve often said we’re ideal for the couples who doesn’t want to copy another person’s wedding but wants to be the wedding other people want to copy.
Other times our clients simply want to have a fantastic wedding and not have to worry about the time and manpower (or know-how) of pulling it all off. Let's say you’ve seen dozens of pictures (pins, posts, etc.) and gotten lots of inspiration (... maybe a little too much inspiration) but you just want someone to help you flawlessly make it your own. So, if you have lots of ideas but aren’t clear on how to pull it all together, that’s okay too… you’re a perfect candidate to work with us.
Also, if you really like the idea of feeling like you're experiencing a designer service like one of those TV Design Shows well, you're perfect for us too. I often say, think of us as an "Interior Designer & Contractor" but for your special event - right down to creating that "before & after" experience. If you want to envision your wedding and need the time, skills, resources, creative support, staff, and professional knowledge to bridge the gap from idea to reality you’ll definitely benefit from working with me.”
7. "Who wouldn't benefit from your type of wedding or event help?"
“I really enjoy helping Brides, Grooms, and other event hosts to visually tell their story or create the event experiences they’ve envisioned. I also realize that our unique "artistic design approach" and tailored services aren't a good fit for everyone. Yes, we can do everything from "simple & stylish" to "spectacular & stunning" but we don’t do “cookie cutter” designs. You know, the copy-past another wedding you’ve seen but just in different colors. I really like to explore what elements you love and makes you (and your story) unique and blend it with your style preferences and custom design a look that's yours.
Do you feel like this may be a challenge for you? Don't worry, it’s alright. Just take some time and really think about want you want and make the choice that works best for you – just know that I think you deserve a real-life event as wonderful as your dreams. So, if you have trouble believing you deserve a wedding that really looks like, feels and reflects who you are we may not be the best fit for you. Don't get me wrong, I want to help you bring your vision to life and if you have a particular style that you love we will create designs that feature that but if you have trouble being open to suggestions, professional advise, or possibilities that are available to you then this may not be the best fit for you.”
8. "Will you work with the vendors I've already found or want to work with?"
“Yes, of course! If you’ve already fallen in love with and chosen vendors we can certainly work with them. We've been an active part of the region's special event's industry for over a decade so we are familiar with many of the best in the industry but I'm very open and flexible. And if you're still looking for vendors - no problem! We’ve have a large network of the region’s top industry professionals so, as a Client, you'll also have a full range of amazing vendors that would be the right fit for you at your fingertips.”
9. "Do you offer Vendor Referrals? Do you coordinate other vendors?"
"Yes, we do but we do it little differently from other consultants. Ok, so, when I first launched the business back in 2006 we did everything and I mean EVERYTHING for event planning and developed an amazing network of premium event industry connections. But over the years we’ve become way more specialized. Now because of this, we offer many services in-house and can coordinate that as part of our own design production, but we also offer a full range of vendor referrals too. Here’s how it works. There’s two types of vendors – there’s design related and non-design related. We incorporate Design Related Vendor coordination into our event design production services. By “Design Related Vendors” I’m talking about anything that’s visually related to the event such as...
... Venues & catering for layouts, set-up, displays and other logistics
... Bakers for cake or dessert displays, decorations and accents
... Linens and table accents like chargers if not provided by us
... Specialty rentals like draping, furniture and props if they’re
not done in-house with us
... Lighting effects, if not done in-house with us
... Stationery & Signage like invitations, calligraphy, etc."
Janel continues, "Because I still continue to work with the best vendors in the area and develop wonderful relations and even partnerships with “Non-design related vendors” we can also offer Non-design Related Vendor referrals too such as ...
... Photographers & Videographers
... DJs & Entertainment
... Hair & Makeup
... Transportation & Valet services
... Gowns & Attire
... Hotel accommodation referrals
... Wedding insurance
… and other services client’s may never even think of.”
10. "Do you take more than one wedding or event per day? How far in advance do you book?"
“No. You see, although we 'could' do more than one event design production a day (depending on things like locations, size, etc.), in general, if we are booked on a date then we usually don't take on another event design client that day. I want to make sure all of our resources are available to create amazing designs for each client.
"Another reason why we only do one event per day is we are often asked to Travel. Yes, we travel! We do most of our work in Coastal Virginia and a lot of them are clients traveling to our area but we also do have clients ask us to travel and create amazing events for them." (contact use to learn more about our travel policies)
"Also, we typically book anywhere between 18 months to 4 months before a date. The bottom-line is, I'm deeply dedicated to creating the best experience possible for you and your guests at your event. That being said, we may do more than one over the course of a weekend but not on the same day."
11. "Do you have liability insurance?"
"Yes. Having peace of mind and qualified, reliable vendors is very important and we're a licensed and insured company. Vivid Expressions LLC is...
Insured Event Consultant
Insured Floral Designer"
12. "Do you take credit cards? Do you offer a 'Payment Plan'?"
"Yes. We accept all major credit cards. In fact, for our Design Service Client's convenience we usually a create personalized payment plan that breaks down your remaining balance (after your retainer) over the course of the months before your wedding date - we can even invoice you electronically so you can make payments online. If you're booking our floral designs & decor rentals then after the we've finished developing your "design concepts" 75% of your balance is typically due between 60 to 30 business days before your event and 100% of your final balance is due 2 weeks prior."
13. "All sounds wonderful; will we be able to afford this?"
“Well, it may be one of the most unforgettable days of your life but the truth is weddings can also be one of the largest investments of time and money too. I mean, did you know a recent statistic estimates the average Bride could spend well over 250 hours researching, planning and working on her own wedding? And that's for a fairly simple one without professional resources. Larger or more detailed wedding can take even more hours not to mention if it's in an unusual location, destination wedding or any other special ideas they'd like to pull off. When you start to factor in making (and waiting to hear back from) dozens of calls, contract reviews, budget managing, spreadsheets, tracking suppliers, organizing products, developing installation logistics, managing a production team and so on and so on (all on top of the dozens of responsibilities of everyday life) many Clients find that things can go from 'fun to frustrating' pretty quickly."
Janel then says, "As for products, well think of it this way, let’s say it’s your wedding day. You’ve ordered a scrumptious cake with your favorites and chosen a beautiful design that will be the perfect focal point to compliment your wedding designs. You enter your reception and walk towards your cake table but when you come up to it all you see are bags of flour, sugar, cartons of eggs, bottles of vanilla, containers of baking powder, milk, fruit, etc. This is the mistake most think. Most people only think about the cost of raw materials and not all that’s involved with creating designs. The knowledge, experience, talent, time, labor, etc. They also don’t think of the hard goods. These are the things that your pro will use that they will never get back wire, ribbon, floral food, candles (once they’re melted, they can’t be used again) and so on. It all adds up and because everything is so custom it can vary slightly from client to client.
Usually after (or even during) the planning process Clients tell me how much they’ve saved in time, money, costly mistakes, and energy working with us. I’d suggest that if you are considering hiring a professional consultant or designer for your wedding do the following:
#1, really think about what your dream wedding looks like. I mean think about your ‘must have & non-negotiable' things.
#2, what are your ‘wish list’ items (not a necessity but nice to have) and what they mean to you in creating the overall vision of your wedding day experience.
#3, schedule a consultation to really sit down and see the options available to you."
"I know that for us, we customize build each client’s service around their specific needs and personal preferences and as a result accommodate a range of budgets needs. The best way for us to see how we can help you is to contact us for a Design Consultation. If for some reason we aren't a good fit we can always refer you to other solutions that may meet your needs.”
14. "This looks like everything we've been looking for... what happens next? How do we start the process?"
"I mentioned before that I only book one event on a date, that's so we can focus only on you and make your event amazing. That's also why it's so important to contact us so we can at least start talking as soon as you can. Even if you're not necessary ready to book right away - the initial consultation gives us a chance to get to know each other. After all, no two Clients (or their love stories) are alike. I want to know yours. If we're not the right fit for each other then I can always make other suggestions that may help you. So, what's the next step? Well, it's to request a consultation by filling out our Design & Consulting Questionnaire." (Click here)
STILL HAVE MORE QUESTIONS?
"I'd love to chat with you about your special day. Remember, we only do one event per day and we can book 18 to 4 months in advance, so I absolutely encourage you to at least schedule a consultation as soon as possible. Consultations not only to clear up any questions but help us learn about your needs and make sure we're a great fit for each other. Feel free to use the contact page on our website to get started." (Click here)
"I'm honored that you're considering our unique event design and professionals consulting services for your special day. As an Artist, it's my pleasure to create expressive, indulgent and imaginative solutions to transforming your vision into reality! I wish you my sincerest congratulations on your upcoming special occasion and look forward to helping you."
Janel B. Keen
Executive Creative Director & Lead Designer Consultant
(Certified Floral Designer)