Southern Inspiration Shoot

We are thrilled to be sharing our first styled shoot from an artist we love here on the Bloom blog! Every so often we will feature beautiful styled inspiration shoots, real weddings, interiors, and more. Unlike other wedding blogs, these features will be a place where our readers will hopefully learn a great deal either about photography, design, or putting together a styled shoot. Today we're introducing you to wedding planner, designer and florist, Shelby of The Day's Design, serving West Michigan and beyond. 

We absolutely love this Southern inspiration shoot and are excited to let you learn more about Shelby and her design process.

1. What was the inspiration behind the shoot? How do you begin piecing together your theme/style?

Ashley and I began chatting about the South and while I'm from Michigan, I think I would certainly feel right at home there -- the food, the charm, the overall sweetness and, of course, the hospitality.

It was in the spirit of hospitality, I just couldn't imagine a stagnant and staged shoot. It needed real guests, real people who would appreciate a fancy night out and needed to feel appreciated. Sometimes I feel as women we forget to pamper ourselves, we forget how special we really are, and we don't celebrate ourselves after the wedding (or beyond life's other major events).

2. What were your goals behind the shoot? What did you want to come out of putting this styled photo shoot together? (Get featured, add to portfolio, work with certain vendors...)

The goal was for this to be so much more than a styled shoot.  We wanted this to be a dinner party full of love an laughter and authenticity. We wanted each lady to leave feeling extra special. Any publicity we would receive would just be an added bonus, but not the main objective of the evening.

3. As the event designer and planner, what roles did you play in getting this set up? Did you email all the vendors and artists to invite them to be a part of the shoot? How did you pitch your ideas to them?

This was a really interesting (and challenging!) shoot to bring to life. Beyond finding all the perfect vendors, we had to find the perfect "guests" to invite. I channeled back to my grade school days and had an invitation created that would be sent chain letter style. We sought out one perfectly sweet and soft soul in need of a little extra love and fun in her life. It was then her role to take the lead in inviting another. The second girl to be invited would invite another, until all the seats at the table were filled.  

In the end, we hosted a dinner party filled with complete strangers and ended the night as friends. Paper products, rentals, decor and of course a delicious meal were all in order. While Ashley used a couple of her connections, it was mainly my role to reach out to the various vendors and coordinate timing, location and making the whole evening happen.

Each vendor was sent a sort of "sales pitch" on the shoot. It clearly stated my vision and invited them to be a part. It explained the mission of the dinner party, some items we were looking for, and then shared a little more about myself and Ashley (since I don't always know each of the vendors I reach out to on a personal level).

4. Typically vendors partner for inspiration shoots to showcase their work; with that in mind, how much freedom do you give vendors creatively? 

Usually I give the vendors involved a few ideas, but I hate stifling their creativity. I want things to be mutually beneficial. I love to allow artists to try something new and interpret things on their own. I create a vision board (usually on Pinterest - where else!?) with a few suggestions and an overall mood or theme for them to pull from.  If possible, I like to also put locations of the actual venue and other visual items. 

5. What is your advice to other artists wanting to put together a styled shoot? How have you seen this particular shoot positively influence your business?

Have a motive in mind - even if the end goal is just to showcase something new you want to try (a new flower recipe, a color palette or calligraphy style, etc). Don't just do a shoot to do a shoot. Choose to collaborate with vendors who have a similar aesthetic, attract a similar ideal client. If you want to get something featured, have an idea where and style it accordingly. Make sure it represents your brand and what you want to be doing, not just what you think you should be doing. And have a story. Think about who your bride or groom are (or party guests, or whoever your "models" are.)

Many new vendor relationships have resulted from these shoots. I love to reach out to others and use shoots as almost an "audition" or time to meet new artists in my city.  I've learned to work with others and have expanded my portfolio, which definitely benefits me in both a business and personal sense. 

6. You're a florist in addition to a wedding designer and planner. On what ways have you seen your business flourish (pun intended!) since adding this floral service? 

This has been huge for me. I've really been able to showcase my style so much more and express extra passion in my events. I realized how flowers make me feel alive, and while I love the story of the entire day, it's the role that those beautiful blooms play that really gives me tingles. I have a hard time designing without knowing what petals will grace their beautiful tabletops and the brides will hold in her loving hands. Flowers make such a huge impact in the overall design of the day.

7. How did you go about putting together this floral design for the beautiful tablescape you created? (How did you choose the flowers, what palette, textures, etc...)

Often its a single flower that inspires me, or sometimes I have a color that I just can't seem to get out of my head. For this dinner party, I knew I wanted it to feel Southern and sophisticated, yet casual on the same note. I fell in love with this china on these tabletops and pulled inspiration from the patterns on the plates. For me, inspiration comes from really simple places, including the food that we would be serving that night. I worked with the chef to make sure the food would blend with the color palette and took inspiration from the meal.

I wanted beautiful editorial worthy details but in a realistic and laid back way. I wanted calligraphy and fancy dinnerware that you'd only pull out for special occasions, but I didn't want the night to feel the least bit pretentious. The next thing I had to consider was the functionality of the space. This was a real dinner party with real guests. Photos couldn't be entirely staged and there were real life obstacles to consider. I had to think about where the plates would go once the chef set them on the table. I didn't want to move a centerpiece or loose the visual appeal once dinner was served. I created a greenery garland which wouldn't disrupt dinner service, but would still add elegance and color. However, I didn't feel like that would be enough of a statement for when the ladies actually arrived, so at each place setting I also put a simple and loose bouquet for each guest to take home with them at the end of the night. I love loose and carefree florals and I can never get enough texture - whether it's in my greens, the linens or the overall design of the event. 

8. What is the most challenging part of envisioning, creating and executing an inspiration shoot?

Challenge number one is giving others a glimpse into my head. I have to clearly articulate my vision which is really hard without taking snapshots of my brain. Secondly, I think it's hard to get vendors to commit. I've run into several scenarios where vendors said they wanted to be a part, but backed out last minute and since most times they're donating their services, there's not much you can do about it. I feel like details always come together in the last couple days leading up to the shoot, no matter how far in advance I start planning.

And then making sure you've selected the right photographer to work with is key. With the risk of sounding bias, this to me is the most important vendor to consider and explain your vision to. If they don't have an idea of the shots you want, the way you want your shoot to be perceived, or if you would never want to work with them during a "real" event, then they're not the right photographer for your shoot -- no matter how gorgeous their photos are. You need to be attracting the same clients or the relationship will not be beneficial to either of you.

9. You've done flowers for many of our workshops. How has collaborating with us at Bloom (or collaborating with any other events or designers) stretched your creativity?

I like being able to focus solely on flowers and not having to worry about all the other details. But on the other hand, it's really hard for me to relinquish control - but I think that might be a good thing. I'm okay with letting Michaela take control of the design of the shoot ;)  I love seeing what others want to portray and being a part of someone else's vision. It's similar to working with a bride who has an idea of what she wants her wedding to look like and it's my job to pull that vision from her head to mine, and bring it all to life.

Photography: Ashley Slater Photography / Planning & Floral Design: The Day’s Design / Catering: Chef Josh Ferguson / Dresses: Kirribilla / Rentals: The Rental Company / Calligraphy: Wondrous Whimsy / Pies: Ed Dunneback & Girls Farm Market