Friday, November 25, 2011

Simple, Chic and Fabulous !

Isn’t it fabulous when something so cheap, so easy and so simple can turn out so fabulous? Here was a wedding where the bride’s request was to use what the environment could give us.

Our challenge started a few months before when the bride and I went snorkeling for stones, shells and other sea worthy items to use. Yes the things wedding planners had to do to please the bride. We even had to canoe to find the resident shark so that we were assured that when the boys were given a task to snap a photo of the shark , they would actually find it !

So we used what we could get from nature and made wonders with it , I was actually quite surprised that the guests really enjoyed our DIY décor and the photos were stunning.

Here are some easy ideas for you to follow :

Noise Makers : For the guests to make noise during the festivities. We put dead corals into mineral bottles and tie ribbons around the neck.

Centerpiece : We used shells, sand, stones, leaves and added a bit of candles to create a unique centerpiece for every table

Beach Décor : Use paper bags, add a candle in it and light up the beach with your homemade luminaries

Escort Card : We used stones and wrote the guests names on it to act as escort cards

Place Card : We use sturdy leaves from trees to write the guests names on it

So think about it, what do you have that will make your wedding more YOU..

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wedding Samples : BE REASONABLE

Cartoon by Mike Cope / COPETOONS.COM
In our line of work in this market, there is one persistent issue that keeps cropping up - and that is clients requesting for free samples or free sampling. For me personally - whilst I believe in the notion of "no surprises" on day of event, I think judgement and reason ought to be practised when requesting for samples from vendors.

Why? Simply because - samples are also cost to these vendors, who by the way, operate a business and not a "FREE SAMPLES / SAMPLING" institution. It's all good and fine if the particular vendor has samples in hand to show to the client - be it a tangible product like a guest sign-in book or a votive candle holder or even perhaps, samples of invitation cards or other stationeries. But in the event where the vendor does not have a sample product in hand, be reasonable. Sometimes, in all likelihood, a photo reference or a sketch might suffice.

For clients requesting for samples, do keep in mind a few key points :

1) Have you agreed on the quotation / budget of the vendors? Has a deposit amount been paid?
If the answer is yes to both questions, then it is in the goodwill of the vendors to provide a sample or a sketch that will meet your final approval. However, if you have not agreed on any quotes or budgets and neither has a deposit been paid, then it is certainly extremely unfair to request for samples - especially in the event where the vendor has to purchase the samples without there being a confirmed business from you. One might argue that this is the vendor's investment when pitching for a business - which might be true. But in all honesty, it is up to the vendor to decide if your business is worth pitching for. So, exercise common sense and reason when dealing with vendors. We all understand only too well that it is better to see finished goods 100% as per to appear on the wedding day, but there are costs involved and how each vendor deals with this cost is different.

2) Raw materials / 1-time-usage materials / Perishable products (Eg. Flowers, Wine, Cake, etc...)
Even if the quote has been agreed on, for certain items, there are still high costs involved for samples due to its perishable nature. Especially when it comes to flower arrangements. If you are not able to visualize the details from a sketch and require a real-life sample, understand that there are costs involved. Be prepared to pay for the sample, if not offer to pay for it. Why? For a florist to arrange a table centrepiece for your viewing pleasure, there is the flower cost involved and not to mention time cost too. Unless this is already accounted for in the budget agreed, it is not fair to make the vendor pay for the sample cost. Simply because this is your wedding. It is your investment to make. Not theirs.

And when it comes to wine-tasting, sure, most vendors would offer a free tasting session for their clients who have ALREADY agreed upon a certain budget to spend on wines or champagnes. However, during the tasting session - understand one thing - every opened bottle is cost to the wine supplier. Even if only one sip had been taken from the bottle, there is no way for him or her to sell that bottle. So next time, you go for a wine-tasting session, be reasonable. Do you really need to taste that $8 bottle of champagne or that $25 bottle of wine? (What do you really expect from the champagne or wine at that price??) If you feel you must, then offer to pay for the opened bottles. Just as you, a client do not wish for vendors to take you for a ride, vendors feel the same way. It's not a free happy hour session where you bring 3 or 4 friends to the tasting session, you know.

3) Samples from overseas
Undeniably, resources in Cambodia can be a tad challenging and sometimes, some of the materials are sourced from overseas. But when you request for overseas vendors to send you samples, exercise reason again - offer to pay for the cost of sending the samples, whether it is via courier or other forms. Can you imagine if you request first batch of sample (courier costing $100) and you don't like them. And you require a second batch or third batch of sample even. The courier costs add up. So, again, be reasonable.

4) Cheapskate Vendors?
Just because the cost of 1 sample is $5 and the vendor is claiming this back from you, don't accuse the vendor of being a calculative cheapskate (likewise, the vendor can say the same thing of you!). Again, be reasonable - he or she is running a business. Every cent counts especially when they are only operating on an SME level and not that of an MNC. As mentioned, vendors will practise their own descretion as to whether investing in samples for you is a worthy cause or not.

Most of the time, vendors are more agreeable to free samples / free sampling for clients of wedding planners. This is because we bring repeat businesses to them. But as wedding planners, whilst we strive to negotiate the best deal possible for our clients, we are reasonable and understanding with our fellow compatriates as well. And sometimes, when clients "misbehave", like bringing a group of friends to a wine-tasting session and thereafter, not confirming a single bottle with the vendor, - we get .... really embarassed for introducing the client to the vendor. Not only did the vendor not make any profit, they made losses instead!

I mean, in this world, everywhere and anywhere you might go - when it comes to doing business, it is better to go for a win-win situation. As long as we all communicate logically and listen to reasons, your dream wedding can be very beautiful with vendors going the extra mile for you.

Catching the BS

In the world of wedding planning, stress levels are high, immune systems are low and the number of victims keep increasing by the year, there is no cure. Its been dubbed various clinical names: Multiple Personality Disorder, Schizophrenia, Temporary Insanity, but in my world, this "illness" is more commonly termed "Bridezilla Syndrome" or 'BS" .

So how do you avoid "catching" the bug ?

I tried reciting a mantra "Zen! Zen! Zen!" (it didn't work), friends tried taking me on spa trips, food trips and shopping trips (enjoyed every bit of it, but it still didn't work). Here's some tips I hope will work for you :

1. Bridezillas are made, not born. Wedding planning is like taking on a part time job (sometimes its full time), the stress of deadlines, demands of the family, the content decision making, managing vendors and the emotional roller coaster you go through, its no wonder you catch the BS bug.

Antidote : Chill out ! Remember the wedding is about two people who are in love who want to be together forever and THAT is what matters. Not the shade of red you want your roses to grow into. Take time off from the wedding, catch a movie, go for a manicure, do something un-wedding and you'll come back with a fresh perspective and in a much better mood. You might even be inspired by what you see in the non wedding world.

2. Everyone has something to say about everything. Among congratulatory wishes, you will get unsolicited advice, bombarded with horror stories and negative vibes from friends and family who think their helping (but their not)

Antidote : Decide what the both (yes both of you, include the groom in the process – please) want and stay centered. Set clear boundaries about what you want and stick to it. Some weddings are for the sake of other people (sad to say) but the marriage is for the two of you , focus on what it means to you. Who cares that your distant cousin has the same flowers for her bouquet.

3. Getting married can stir up a lot of emotions. You'll be surprise at how emotional you can get on and before the wedding day (I told myself that I will not shed a tear, but Nigara falls came climbing down and for a -some would say- stupid reason). The process itself sets forth a period of growth and change that can be nerve wracking.

Antidote : You can embrace this as the next chapter in your journey and realize that it can only get better from here. Try to stay on top of your emotions and be honest with yourself during this time, resolve any unresolved issues and you'll see everything in a much better light. Believe that there is a happily ever after.

4. Wedding planning can be a crisis . There is so much focus on how to make the wedding look beautiful, making the wedding be the talk of town and providing the guests with a party of a lifetime, the bridezilla loses herself and the reason she is getting married in the first place.

Antidote : Remember that the wedding although its the most important party you will throw, it is exactly only that – a party. The reason you are getting married in the first place is because you love each other and want to start a new chapter of your life together. Guests are inspired by the love they feel in the room, who cares whether you had 28 cupcakes which had exactly 28 hearts that are 100% identical.

5. Perfect Wedding = Perfect Life (NOT!), some bride's give the wedding day too much power. They believe that the perfect wedding will mean the perfect marriage and the perfect life. There is an underlying fear that if something goes wrong with the wedding, it is a sign that will make or break the marriage.

Antidote : Step back, breathe. Now look at it from a fresh set of eyes, the wedding day, while important, is only one of the many experiences and memories you will share together. The most important part is when you walked down the aisle into the arms of the person you love (so don't stare at your bridesmaids if they are not standing in a perfect formation)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Two Minutes with Wedding Cake Designer | Ruth Larwill from Bloom

The ever bubbly Ruth with her team
In a country where we don't get to see modernized cake designs, Bloom have been a very welcoming addition to the pastry scene in Cambodia. Bloom exists to provide jobs for Cambodian women and they operate as a social enterprise where all profits are sown back into training more Cambodian women.

We spend some time with the bubbly and cheerful Ruth Larwill - Director at Bloom Training and Cafe to talk about wedding cakes and all that jazz :)

Hi Ruth! Thanks for your time. So..... how long have you been in the business of creating and designing beautiful cakes for parties and weddings?

Bloom started training our highly specialised Cake Artists in October 2009.  We opened our doors in February 2010 and business just took off!! We now employ 34 staffs and can only just keep up with demand for our original WOW factor Bloom cakes!

Nice. Do tell us more about Bloom’s. Anything. Everything *smile*

We LOVE making your event special!!! We recently heard from a client that it’s not a party unless you’ve got a Bloom cake! *laugh*  
Since Bloom operates as a social enterprise where all profits are used to train more Cambodian women, we just love that Cambodians themselves have embraced Bloom Cakes so enthusiastically

What about future plans for Bloom’s?

Yes we are hoping to duplicate Bloom – we are researching viability in Siem Reap and Toul Kork at the moment! We’d be happy to hear from bleaders (blog readers!) what place they’d like to see the next Bloom!

Ahhh.... Cool. Let's hear from them then! Err.. hopefully *grin* You’re surrounded by all these flavours everyday. What is your absolute favourite?   

Oohhhh that’s a hard one! Our top seller is the Chocolate Hazelnut Sacher Torte filled with Belgium Chocolate and Nutella!  But my personal favourite is White Chocolate and Macadamia cake, or wait...  Coconut Cake with Passionfruit Cream Cheese or now you’ve got me thinking... maybe it’s actually our soft Coffee Cake with Bailey’s Cream! Oh this is way too hard since Bloom has 48 flavours!!!!!

Oh dear. You've got me so tempted!! But back to more serious questions... In your opinion, what is the learning curve for you as someone in the wedding industry in this country? 

Cambodia is entering an exciting time where our elite customers have been to weddings in the west and they now know that cake can taste good!! In fact it is plated and served as dessert at most weddings in the west. Whereas here in Cambodia, the wedding cake is not even eaten. Cambodians who say they hate cake just haven’t experienced delicious moist good quality cake –  It no longer has to be cheap sponge made of flour, egg, sugar and palm oil!
We love our customers at Bloom, because they want the BEST of the BEST – both in quality and design! We work with our clients to come up with amazing incredible fashion forward  designs that will have their guests gasping in awe!

Aye to that, Ruth! 
Before we part – can you share 5 Top Tips for the couple when choosing their Wedding Cake?

The wedding cake is often a design centrepiece for the whole wedding reception.  It should create an exciting ‘vibe’ for the event! We often see guests go and stand next to Bloom wedding cakes and have their photo taken. If you choose an original, personal design, it creates WOW factor and makes for a memorable day both for you and your guests.  

Choose your colors first and bring a color palette to your Wedding Cake design consultation. (It really does make a difference if everything looks co-ordinated... That’s why we LOVE Eileen and The Wedding Planner Team!)

It is much more modern to have a sugar-covered cake rather than the plastic tasting cream cakes of the past decade. It allows for so many more design options. If you don’t like the sugar covering – just don’t eat it! But many people prefer it to the fake plastic cream of the past... 

Order your wedding cake as soon as you can.  Bloom only takes a certain number of custom orders as we often need 10 sugar artists working on your order for 1-2 weeks.

Have fun with your wedding!   Bring your partner into Bloom and try all the different flavours of cake!  For most Grooms, this is their favourite part of planning a wedding! 

*Laugh* Take your wedding planner along for the tasting too! *grin*. Great, Ruth! Thanks for sharing! And here's to better weddings and wedding cakes!

For a peep at some of Bloom's creativity and creation........ see below!