Choosing a Wedding Venue Dresser

Choosing a wedding venue dresser should not be rushed into.  Once you have paid that deposit, it is very often non refundable.  So, do your research and choose wisely.  If you pick the right one, you will get that wow factor when you walk in that room but if you don’t, you could be very disappointed on the day, at which point it is too late to do anything about it.  I am of the opinion that your room should be a mixture of excited anticipation with a really special wow reaction.. Like they have under sold and over delivered theirs and your ideas collectively.

Now, as this used to be my thing, I can tell you what I used to do, and then give you a list of tips and hints to help you choose your wedding dresser. Remember, I am completely unbiased now as I am no longer trading as a venue decorator.

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Budget for your decorating.
Firstly, make sure they can meet your budget and this does not just mean cheap.  A good venue dresser should have a simple package that should meet a smaller budget, but please please please beware of a dresser who promises you a champagne budget room but charges you lemonade prices.  This will almost always end in disappointment.  They are not charging enough to cover the necessary replacement and maintenance of equipment over time (things do get ruined at weddings), they are not covering staff costs and they are clearly desperate for business.. If you dig deep enough you will often find they are having a race to the bottom with a fellow local competitor and I personally would steer well clear.  I think pricing tells you a lot about a supplier and their confidence in their own creative flair and ability, their attitude to their business and general commitment to providing a quality service.

Likewise, if you have a great budget and are looking for a really high end dresser, don’t be swayed by just high prices. There is so much more to consider.

As I mentioned above, a good venue decorator will be able to meet a range of budgets.  It is important if you have set a lower budget, not to go over.  It is very easy to ‘just add on’ this and that.  And, don’t forget, however good they are, this is a business you are dealing with and their primary aim is to make money.  They are not your friend.

What did I do?
Well, we covered up to 75 weddings per year and had contracts with a few local hotels.  When a bride made an enquiry with me I would book them in for a consultation which would last about an hour.   I would personally not book someone in if they had another 5 appointments as my time was literally really precious and I did not need to fight for work fortunately.  But, when they did arrive, I wowed them with information and excitement.  I had about 40 magazines and several photo albums (yep I started in the dinosaur era).  I also had a great website with a fab online gallery all colour and style co-ordinated (ahead of the dinosaur curve I hear you say… yep, I have always been a bit of a nerd).  My gallery did consist of bridal flowers too though as I was mainly a florist and based our whole design around floral design.  The brides loved to see all my work, in the early days the pictures were rubbish but the bouquets and rooms were not.  This shown to them that I was serious about my business.  I kept up to date with bridal flower magazines and always printed out my pictures too.   Now I would expect someone to have a great photo album on line that was easy to look at.  It shows they care.

I never claimed to be a photographer by the way, I let them do their thing and I did mine.  Later on, we collected some great shots from local photographers as they knew they would appear on the blog and the website.  We were the first person in our town to do venue decoration so we really did have the market share, it was the new thing to hit the town so to have any pictures at all was leading edge.

I would ask the bride to describe her dress, point to any pictures she liked, including cakes, suits, cars etc as this would give me an idea of what style she liked.  I could gauge if she liked modern and contemporary verses vintage and antique.  Some preferred a timeless classic wedding and others wanted something fun and tropical.  Some wanted to be wild and different and others had set themes such as Alice in Wonderland or James Bond etc.  Regardless of what their design favourites were, I would consider this bit to be the most important element of the consultation and as such did dedicate the first 15 minutes to discussed general stuff.

Now, because I was the florist too, I would discuss the particular blooms that would go in her bouquet and the style of bouquet that would fit her theme.  We would talk colours, embellishments and matching bridesmaid bouquets, grooms and groomsmen buttonholes and even go as far as the mothers of the bride and groom flowers.  I would show them a mixutre of examples and discuss shapes of bouquets and sizes, how tight or loose the flowers would be designed and overall how they would look.  You might want to check out my other blog on how much flowers should cost here.

Once we had that fine tuned, we then turned our attention to the actual venue.  With their style finalised, I would come up with ideas about how their room could be dressed.  Very often I knew their rooms because of the experience I had locally but because we went far and wide, if I had not come across their room, we would get it up on the hotel website and discuss the various ways in which the room could benefit from dressing.

I don’t feel it is important for me to tell you what they should be saying in terms of design because that differs so much from room to room and various styles etc.  You should certainly have a good feeling when you are chatting and should feel some passion for their job emanating from them, that’s for sure.  You should leave feeling really excited, well that is how my brides told me they felt when they left my shop anyway. And with a conversion rate of 90%, this was clearly an important part.

Research to do
There are a few tips below to help you in your research.  I am not saying that you need to know the inns and outs of a business, but if you can gather the basics, it should give you a feel for a business.

How long have they been in business?  A brand new business may be great, and some may actually tempt you with cheap prices.  But, I would want to see some history and some experience.  There are lots of things that can go wrong on the morning of the wedding.. vans can break down, flowers can die, staff can phone in sick, venues can make you wait longer to get in a room than initially thought, leaving you stretched for time.  A more experienced venue dresser will have built up some networks and contingencies for such things and are less likely to panic in any given situations.  In most instances the brides never need to know of any hicups before hand.  I would have to ask too, with a brand new business that has just opened a Facebook page with no other real outlay, have they really committed themselves and how?  And, is there any reason to believe that they will still be around when you come to get married.  I would want to see money and real effort put in.  Anyone can open a Facebook page with no cost at all.  Now, please do not think this is me bashing anyone who operates from Facebook at all.  But I would be wary of someone brand new, who considered themselves a business because they clicked on ‘create new page’ on Facebook.  They have to have something invested in it, in order to make them stay.  For instance, if that was me, I would be doing some weddings for free to get pictures and experience and to build up my portfolio.  Anyway, you get my gist hopefully.

I have found that there are now a lot of venue dressers who have really committed and have opened shops.  This shows that they are really serious as there is a financial outlay.

Follow them on social media and get a general feel for them and how they interact with current and previous brides.  I would particularly look at Facebook and Instagram.

Have they got any reviews or customer testimonials.  Read them properly and make sure all the reviews are from proper brides.  Reviews all done in one week can scream fake, so over a period of time is always better.  Recent real brides almost always have their profile pics as a bride and groom.  If you are worried about whether someone is fake or not, check out my ‘how to avoid online scammers’ blog here.  By contrast I would not be put off by someone who has the odd bad review.  Not all reviews are real and competitors can get someone to leave reviews on a shop’s Facebook page very easily.  Likewise, believe it or not people can exaggerate the smallest of things that they were not happy with and can threaten sellers with bad reviews to get refunds etc.  Just weigh it up, the very odd bad one is fine but you will soon get a feel for peoples’ opinions.

Has the venue heard of them or any of your other wedding suppliers?  Get some feedback from other long term, well established suppliers.  There is a reason why they are well established.

Visit bridal fayres they are attending.  They will often have their equipment out on display so you can give it the once over.  Plus, they are obviously showing a level of commitment if they are prepared to attend these things, believe me when I say, they are really hard work and are not cheap to attend.  It might look like they just rock up and fill a table with their designs, but honestly, the time and effort needed to attend a bridal fayre is big.

Things to ask the venue dresser
I have outlined a few things to check out which may give you a better feel for the dresser.
*Ask for a consultation, you will need to see that they are taking your wedding seriously.
*Ask for pictures of the room you are using.  This will give you an idea of their attention to detail.  Don’t be worried about it being a professional shot, you need the details.
*Ask how often they replace their chair covers and equipment or how they maintain them.
*Do they have liability insurance.  This is usually required by the venue to be honest, but it shows how serious they are about their business in my opinion.
*Tell them your vision and then ask them how they see that coming together and what ideas they have.
*Who collects and when. I personally would not want a room being stripped down while my guests were still in the room and I have heard of this happening.  Less and less venues are prepared to strip a room and require their dressers to collect which can lead to midnight strip downs.  We never ever did this as I had a great relationship with my venues.  If the venue strips down the room, ask the dresser who is responsible for losses.
*Who changes room from day to night – this can be either venue or dresser.
*What time will your room be ready.
*Do they have a website or online gallery available.
*What are their cancellation policies. When do they require payments, at what stages of the wedding lead up, and finally, when is the balance due.
*Ask for sample chair cover bows to look at and sample chair covers. This will give you an idea of quality.
*Are they are registered business. You do not want to be handing money over to anyone who is not legit.. if something goes wrong you have literally no recourse.

With all of this information to hand, you should have a gut feeling about if someone is right for you.  The biggest tip I can give is to not go cheap, you really do get what you pay for and by that I do not mean the most expensive is the best.

Now, forgive me as I am sure I have missed a few bits off and if I remember any new tips, I will add them on.  It has been a while since I did this to be fair.

So, if you have any tips or advice to offer future brides, please leave them in the comments below.

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I hope this blog has helped and thanks for reading.  Have great fun planning your wedding and I will see you next time.