When Natalie of Natalie Bowen Designs and her husband transformed their San Francisco studio into the bright and airy space it is now, they realized she had extra room. Having worked with Natalie before, Simone of Simone Lennon Events scooped that space right up as soon as it was available. They both love having another industry creative around… Clearly it makes for an inspired studio! Shannen Natasha Weddings documented all the spectacular deets, and we chatted with each of them about their work.
What keeps you inspired in your business?
Simone: My clients. Before starting my career in weddings + special events, I was a marketing manager for almost ten years producing large scales events within the technology industry. I was challenged in roles, but I always lacked passion for any of the products or services that I was promoting. After getting to a certain point in life, finding inspiration in my work became a focus for me which I found in weddings.
I take on a limited amount of clients each season which allows me to really get to know each couple, their families, and to understand their vision. I’m able to spend time cultivating a relationship with them and learn what’s important to create a very meaningful event that exceeds their expectations. Though I design + plan between 10-15 weddings per season, no wedding is ever the same because no two clients’ visions are the same. Each have such different backgrounds, traditions, styles and priorities that it’s impossible to create the same wedding twice. It’s inspiring to see how excited clients are as we hit planning milestones, but it’s their reaction when it all comes together on their day that really gives me a charge. Nothing is more fulfilling or inspiring than having clients tell me that I have created their dream wedding and really exceeded expectations. It’s an emotional journey for us all that will never, ever get old.
Natalie: I love gathering inspiration from nature so the changing season really keeps me inspired. Just when I get used to designing with muscari, the season will change and there will be a new flower that is inspiring me. I also find color to lead a lot of my design and some of that is dictated by fashion and the colors lookbooks and some of that comes from me playing around with different combinations.
What was a turning point in your business? How do you define success?
Simone: The biggest turning point in my career was when I started to realize I had established my own identity in an industry where the depth of talent is so great. Business turning points are a gradual process and come in waves. It started by getting placed on preferred vendor lists at venues and when the vendors I always aspired to work with started reaching out to collaborate. Each time it happens, I feel incredibly honored… Success for me is being at a place to be selective on the projects that I take on. It’s important that the client is the right fit, shares the same vision and trusts me to produce an event that reflects them and my personal aesthetic. Its a proud moment when I meet with couples and their entire inspiration board is made up of elements I’ve designed and tell me it’s exactly what they’re looking for. It’s really about trusting in myself, my vision and being totally inspired by every production that’s on my calendar.
Natalie: This last year. As my wedding season closes I am just now reflecting on how 2015 compared to previous years. For the first time in my 13 year career, I did not say yes to everything that came my way and it truly allowed space for me to be fully present and committed to the clients I did take on. I am a hustler and a people pleaser by nature, so saying yes is what comes naturally to me. I define success by being able to continue to thrive and stay fresh in a field that has a very high burnout rate.
What advice would you give to someone starting in the industry?
Simone: Starting your own business in a very competitive industry in a market like the San Francisco Bay Area takes a lot of drive and ambition.When I first started my business, like many new new planners, I went through a period of time doubting my longevity in the industry. I experienced some tough weddings and really questioned whether or not I wanted to continue. I’ve been in business for almost six years now and it took time to build my network, become reputable, and create relationships with venues and vendors that trust me. More importantly, it really took some time to trust myself and know that I was going to succeed, but once I did, my career took off.
My advice for new anyone new looking to get into the event planning/design industry is to stay positive and find a mentor that you really look up to. Spend a couple seasons gaining experience with someone you connect with on a personal and professional level. It’s amazing to watch a production come together and know that your part on the team was essential to the overall success of the event. A good mentor will also give you advice on your own productions, believe in you, and not let you fail.
Natalie: My number one piece of advice to anyone interested in getting into this business (and also to my younger self) is to work for as many different floral designers as you can, before setting off on your own. I worked for one florist for only six months and then have been learning and making it up as I go! This is a possible way to do it, but it just seems more wise to learn while getting paid, which is what happens when you apprentice, assist, or intern.
Favorite trend of the moment? Wedding trend you’d love to see disappear forever?
Simone: I try and stay away from following major wedding trends but I do appreciate all the beautiful designs that become popular each season in the industry. With the popularity of Instagram, it’s hard not to swoon over our industry’s talent. I love scrolling through my feed on a weekend and seeing all the amazing designs that happen each wedding weekend created by peers. I love romantic designs with clean lines that are timeless and understated. I love flowers and this year I’ve been really into organic, loose and free flowing lush floral designs that have texture and variety. I’ve been working with Max Gill of Max Gill Designs a lot this season and he really inspires me. There is a romantic and whimsical nature to his work and I really designed events that played to his strengths and style because it’s such a statement. We’ve created some beautiful things for our clients this season, but right now I’m obsessed with two cascading bridal bouquets he created for our brides.
Trends that I would love to see go are mason jars, crystal or “bling” accents and trash the dress shoots.
Natalie: My favorite trend of the moment is how I am seeing more single varieties of flowers used in masses, rather than using one of a thousand different flowers. I love this look. I’d love to see submerged fruit and flowers go away forever and ever.
What is or has been your favorite wedding moment?
Simone: The moment I realize my season has come to an end and I finally get to reflect on all the amazing events we’ve produced for such special people.
Natalie: If I see the bride walk down the aisle by her father, I cry. Every. Single. Time. More specifically, we were just in Colorado doing flowers for a wedding at Dunton Hot Springs and there were giant dandelions all over the property. They worked perfectly into our design and we clipped as many as we could and used them in all the arrangements. These unexpected moments that are perfectly fluid and align with the overall vision is what excites me beyond words.
What’s on the horizon for your business?
Simone: I’d love to add a few amazing destination events to my portfolio in the near future. I’m in love with the old world beauty that so many of the European countries have and I know I’d fall in love with so many places. There is something about the beautiful traditions, history, and gorgeous countrysides that have me inspired.
Natalie: I would like to do more wedding design and take on other aspects of the overall vision and not just stop at the flowers. I would also like to do more sculptural installs with my architect husband.
As for what these gals would be if they weren’t doing what they do? We loved that floral designer Natalie would love to do more wedding design, and planner Simone would love to do floral! Sounds like there couldn’t be two better talents to share a beautiful studio space like this one.
Photographer: Shannen Natasha Weddings of The Wedding Artists Collective / Studio: Natalie Bowen Designs & Simone Lennon Events / Paper Goods: Yonder Designs / Specialty Table Top Rentals: Frances Lane / Linens: La Tavola / Rentals: Classic Party Rentals