Thursday, June 21, 2012

All Fired Up!

Cake designed by Elizabeth Hodes, Photography by Craig Paulson
Every morning my routine starts something like this.  Get up, take the dogs out, come back inside, pour myself a strong cup of Pilan coffee and turn on Good Morning America.  I love watching GMA, they are funny, informative and the morning crew gets me motivated to start my day.

However, this morning I nearly spit my coffee all over my computer screen when I heard their tease on how brides can shop for their wedding cake at of all places the grocery store!  My first thought was "you've got to be kidding me"!

I have to tell you I completely disagree with the segment.  I was so fired up I didn't need that second cup of coffee to get me up and out the door!  And after a heated twitter exchange with a few follower,s I realized I couldn't get my thoughts or message out in 140 characters, so I felt the need to express my thoughts here…

You might ask why does shopping for a wedding cake at a grocery store upset me so?  I have 7 very good reasons:

1. Grocery stores don't know brides
Chances are you when you step up to the bakery counter at your local grocery store you are dealing with someone who does not have the first idea of what it takes to throw a wedding, much less how to advise a bride on her wedding cake.  Bottom line, brides want to be educated.  That person could be a high school or college student making minimum wage.  For them the most important thought on their mind is when they get to clock out so they can study for their mid-term.  Don’t' get me wrong, they are probably hard workers, but do they really understand that for a bride choosing vanilla over chocolate or roses over daisy's it's a matter of life and death?  Do they understand most brides spend hours poring over photos of cakes?  To a bride the way the cake looks and the way it tastes is more important than the stock exchange dipping below 600?  Do they understand any of this?  Chances are NO!

These workers are not trained to properly deal with bride’s emotions.  They are not trained to truly listen to what the bride is saying.  They are not trained to guide her and to educate her.  They are merely trained to bake a cake, slap some frosting on it and send it on its way.

2. Quality of work
The quality of the work is so important when it comes to a wedding cake!  The cake artists (that is what I call them because that's truly what they are) I know have been trained for years to hone their craft.  When you work with a grocery store you are most likely working with someone who took a two hour course at a community college.  Again, nothing wrong with that….But do you want an artist or an apprentice making your cake?  All the brides I know want someone with experience who is going to take pride in the end result.  When you work with a grocery store are you truly going to get level of service your wedding cake deserves?

3. Taste
Sam Champion said it this morning, taste is just as important as the look of the cake.  All the grocery store cakes I've had have been dry and taste like card board.  Remember, besides the bride in the white dress the cake is the second most photographed item at a wedding.  And it's the last bit of food a guest tastes.  If the cake is not good then people won't eat it.  If that's the case why spend the money at all?

4. Service / Customer Care
I don't know about you, but anytime I've had issues at a grocery store with the quality of service it's like a ghost town…no one in sight.  I've become resigned to the fact grocery stores want to make money, but they don't necessarily care about customer service.  I hardly ever get "did you find what you're looking for".  So what makes you think the level of service is going to be any different when shopping for your wedding cake?  Are you going to be able to do a cake tasting to decide what filling goes with what cake flavor?  Are you going to have someone who is able to sketch your cake for you?  And most importantly who is going to deliver your cake on your wedding day?  We've all seen the cake shows and how quickly a cake can turn to mush with one quick push of the brake pedal.  Do you really want to have to worry about that on your wedding day?

5. Accountability
When something does go wrong with your cake who is going to be accountable?  What if the grocery store has 50 cakes and your cake is the one that is not designed correctly?  Who is going to fix it?  What if the only cake designer is tied up and you have to take your cake as is?  What if they hired a teenager to deliver the cake and they get lost?  What if you can't get the same person on the phone twice?  Who is accountable?

6. Sacrificing service for price
Weddings are amazing as the party of a lifetime and I couldn't be more honored to be involved in creating someone's special day.  However, with the economy the way it is, brides are often sacrificing quality service for a lower price.  Do you know why?  Because companies think they can undercut the competitor, get more volume without worrying about the quality of the work.

This is perhaps my biggest pet peeve in the wedding industry today.  Up until about 5 years ago, the industry was lightly peppered with individuals that truly knew what they were doing.  They had a handle on the industry, but everyone quickly thought planning weddings was easy.  They thought creating invites was easy.  Baking a cake was easy.  Doing photography was easy.  Working with brides was easy.  The truth be told none of it’s easy.  It takes experience, dedication and drive to do what wedding professionals do.  And just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

What's happened is the wedding industry has become so saturated brides are sacrificing good service over a lower price.  As a result, the bar is being set so low that when they see good quality they can't understand the correlation to the higher cost.  Thus they go with the less expensive vendor.  The result is a lower quality product.  And the vendor that charges more has to work harder to maintain what the less qualified vendor makes.  Remember, the old saying - you get what you pay for. Well it's true!  Just because the price is lower doesn't mean you are getting better product…

7. Using professionals
A grocery store should sell groceries and everyday needs.  A caterer should not try to do floral design.  A lighting company shouldn't try to be a caterer.  I always say stick with what you know and leave the rest to professionals.  What most people don't realize is that the wedding industry is made up of mom and pop stores.  In fact, almost the entire wedding industry is made up of entrepreneurs that have worked years to establish themselves as the best in the industry.  So when a grocery store says it can do a wedding cake for less while undercutting what is a true art form and a source of income for folks I know.  I get a little testy and fired up.  Again, just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Remember when you work with true wedding professionals they will know the right questions to ask thereby educating you on what's right for your wedding.  All wedding professionals I know take pride in what they do and thereby it makes them much more accountable than a grocery store any day.  So the next time you want to cut corners on your wedding ask yourself.  Is a lower price really worth the peace of mind?

Until next time -


Monday, June 18, 2012

Does "Celebrity" bring you clients?

As most of you know I planned celebrity Bethenny Frankel's wedding (as well as her baby shower and birthday).  And some of you may or may not know I've recently planned events for Star Jones.  However, planning events for celebrities has come at a cost and this became clear when a past client recently contacted me about an upcoming event.  She was actually hesitant to contact me because she thought that since I was now a “celebrity planner” I would be too expensive for her.  Plain and simple I am an event planning and design expert who just so happens to work with a few celebrities here and there.

All too often in my industry (events, party planning and event design) the word "celebrity" is used (and in my opinion overused).  While the word celebrity brings credibility and while it may be true that you've worked with celebrities, it can also bring the notion you are not accessible.  Don't get me wrong one should be proud that a celebrity thinks your work is so fabulous they want to hire you.  And you should be proud of that; it's a huge accomplishment!  However, there's one thing to remember, the word "celebrity" may be bring the notion you will only work with celebrities.  Maybe you do…but what if you don't?  What if you work with clients of all budgets?  How will the "celebrity" affect your business?

After my first appearance on Good Morning America a good friend called me up…not to congratulate me, but to warn me.  The producers used "Celebrity Wedding Planner" under my name…He said be careful with the use of that phrase…You're better off with the phrase "Wedding Planning Expert".  If you choose the route of "celebrity" you may no longer be accessible to your clients (current or former).  It was good advice and I still use it today anytime I do an interview or a TV segment.

Accessibility is what any client wants…especially the non-celebrity.  These clients (current or potential) want to feel as if you are accessible to them, their vision and importantly their budgets.

Professionally I plan a wide range of events with a wide range of budgets.  And while I have a minimum budget that I work with, I am unlike other planners and designers that boast they will only take on events with "X amount".  I've found a way to create an exclusive product (me and my designs) while staying accessible and making a profit.  Plain and simple I try not to boast of the celebrity.

Before you call me a hypocrite, I do list on my website the celebrities I've worked with…BUT I work with clients who aren't celebrities more than I work with clients who are.  And after being in the business for over twelve years that makes me more of a wedding planning expert than it does a celebrity planner.

Personally, I haven't changed (you can ask anyone who really knows me).  I am the same person I was when I started in this business.  A little wiser, a touch more confident and with a little less hair…but I am the same person.  I am me.  And "me" is what sells my business.  Me being accessible is what sells my business and I believe avoiding the phrase "Celebrity Wedding Planner" is what sells my business.

The bottom line is to treat all clients like celebrities.  If you do then you'll be labeled an expert as opposed to a celebrity.  And who's more accessible?  An expert or a celebrity?

Let me know what you think and........


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Easy Party Clean up tips

When I started entertaining guests in my home, I always hesitated because I dreaded the aftermath when I had to clean up.  Over time I have developed my own routine to help make the cleaning easier and therefore, the entertaining more enjoyable.

Recently I shared some of my tips for cleaning up after a party with  Check out the link below and  let me know some of your secrets for easy cleaning after a party!

Happy Entertaining!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

A great find in Laguardia, Spain

As many of you have read in recent posts on Facebook and Twitter, I recently had the privilege of producing and designing a wedding in the wine country of Northern Spain.  The experience was so special that I will be devoting several blog posts to this destination wedding, giving you some insight into not only the wedding but into this beautiful region of Spain.

I want to start by introducing you to a great hotel and restaurant that I experienced in the medieval walled city of Laguardia.  As Laguardia was very close to the wedding venue I had several chances to visit and experience the charm of the town and the warmth of the people.  Unfortunately, it was not until the last visit that I was introduced to Hospederia de Los Parajes, a charming hotel with an amazing restaurant in the center of town.
Thanks to the recommendation of Yolanda, our wonderful Maitre d' in the wine bar of the Hotel Marques de Riscal, we made reservations for dinner at Los Parajes.  Upon arriving we were warmly greeted by the restaurant owner who proceeded to give us the grand tour of the facilities which she was rightly very proud of.  Unfortunately, she spoke only Spanish, and my high school Spanish is a bit lacking, so we enlisted the help of our amazing colleague Ana Belen Pedrero who served as the translator.  Our tour took us through not only the hotel, restaurant and a gift shop that should not be missed, but also the 15th century wine vaults that are located beneath the hotel and continue under the town square. It was fascinating!
We finished the tour with a spectacular meal in the town square as the sun was setting and the people of the town were enjoying a warm, beautiful evening.  Truly a one of a kind experience in a magical place.  
So if you ever happen to be in this area of Spain, or are planning a destination wedding, I definitely recommend Hospederia de Los Parajes as a great hotel for guests and a perfect venue for a rehearsal or welcome dinner. 

I have so much more to share and cannot wait to write the next blog about all of my experiences planning the destination wedding in Spain.

Until next time...


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Classic New York Wedding

We've had some really fantastic weddings over the last few months here at Shawn Rabideau Events & Design and I can't wait to share them with you over the course of the next few blogs...Stay tuned for the wedding we just planned and designed in Spain!

A couple of months ago I had the privilege of planning and designing a wedding at Bridgewaters in the Historic South Street Seaport area of New York.  The wedding was a bit of a challenge in that while most guests were from the New York area, I was working with the Bride who lives in London and her mom who lives in Denver.  Many e-mails, many google docs, and many fabulous phone calls later, the collaboration resulted in a beautiful wedding that featured many personal details of the Bride and Groom which really made this celebration special.

When creating the design there were certain cues that I received from the Bride and her mother.  First, they wanted a clean elegant look yet they wanted the design to be more eclectic and non-traditional.  The chosen color palette was orange and silver (I LOVE this combo) which worked well with the room and setting.  Finally, the Bride and Groom love New York and London I wanted to incorporate these details into their wedding. 

I set the stage so that off the bat guests walking in were treated to a unique escort table display created with willow branches, accents of orchids and silver grey succulents, all of which were designed in a lucite trough.  

The escort cards were designed by The Paper Guppy out of Denver, CO and it was here that we started conveying the theme of the wedding to guests.  Each table was not just numbered, but it also featured the image of a famous landmark from either London or New York.  The image was first introduced on the escort card, then was carried over to the table numbers and event the candles used in the decor!

The vibrant orange floral and use of succulents was also carried through to the bouquets with the Bride carrying a white bouquet that was accented with succulents and the bridemaids carried orange bouquets, also with succulents.

I was even able to carry the orange floral and use of succulents into the boutonnieres which coordinated beautifully with the bouquets.

After moving from the escort card table guests proceeded to the ceremony area where I used curly willow to create a canopy for the Bride, Groom and their officiate.  Framing the canopy were lush displays of orange floral in stainless steel pedestals on top of orange lit lucite columns.  Finishing the look I used orange orchids which dripped from the curly willow creating a magical setting as the couple exchanged their vows.

Typically we remove the ceremony structure when the room is turned over for the reception, however, at the last minute, I loved the structure so much I decided it would be the perfect location for the wedding cake.  Sometimes those last minute decisions are the best ones!

As guests made their way into the main dining room it was clear that the theme was continuing with the use of sleek silver linens, vibrant orange flowers and candles wrapped to match the table numbers!

You can see in the photo above that the image on the escort card was then used in the table number and the candles we used with each centerpiece.  

The end result was an incredible wedding that was beautiful and thoroughly enjoyed by family and guests. Our best to the Bride and Groom.  

We also want to give special thanks for all of the terrific vendors who made the evening possible.  These include, Once Upon a Bride who, as always, did an impeccable job with hair and make-up; Silver Star Limousine who was responsible for guest transportation, Jen Huang Photography who handled day of photography, Fifth Avenue Digital who took all of the amazing decor shots featured on this blog; NYC Swing for their great entertainment and of course Bridgewaters, who provided an amazing setting, great food and wonderful service.

Until the next great event.


Friday, June 1, 2012

The key to successful event planning, have confidence in yourself!

Over the course of the past ten months I have had the pleasure of planning a gay destination wedding in Spain which just took place over the Memorial Day weekend.  The hardest part of planning the wedding wasn't the distance or the language barrier; but rather the client was insistent they just wanted to show up.  Their feeling was if they are hiring me to be the wedding expert, then I should be able to guide them on how their wedding should be with little to no input from them.

For some that would be a dream, and for others it would be a nightmare...for me, it was both.

I loved the fact they gave me carte blanch, but I was terrified that I hardly knew them.  What if I got their taste wrong? What if I didn't give them what they wanted? What if I gave too little or too much?  For the past 10 months as the expert I questioned myself...everyday!

Literally, the client showed up two days before the wedding with not a care in the world and on the day of the wedding they told me and I quote "this is a dream come true, everything is perfect".

This taught me several lessons that I can apply (and so can you) to any event I plan.

First, there was no need for me to agonize for 10 months on whether I was doing the right thing.  I should have been a bit more confident that I was on point with their thoughts.

Second, listen because it will help you trust your gut.  In the first several meetings I asked a TON and I mean ton of questions about the couple, what they like, what they didn't like, what their favorite colors were.  Did they drink, if so what.  Where were they from, how did they meet.  The questions were endless and through those questions they gave me all the answers I needed to know.  I just had to listen and keep going back to their answers to know whether I was on the right track.

Third, know deep down inside you're good.  I think all too often we second guess ourselves into thinking we aren't good enough.  The couple was right, I am good at what I do and that is why they hired me.  If for an instant they didn't think that then I would have never gotten the job.

There are plenty of more lessons to be learned, but I can tell you this taught me the biggest one of all, be confident in yourself because if you're not, then no one else will be.

Until next time - cheers!