Every event pro knows one of if not THE greatest challenges in this industry is working with what you’re given to pull off the client’s perfectly-envisioned event, especially when it comes to the venue and your layout and seating. From budget, to location, to color palette or design inspiration, it’s your job to make the seemingly impossible happen with the “canvas” you’re given no matter what.
With the release of our latest product, our Layout & Seating tool, we wanted to dive in to the all-important design process to highlight how this new feature changes the planning game for every one of our Aisle Planners to meet that challenge head on. And, what better way to do so then to turn the spotlight on one of our pros to show how they faced off with the tall order of taking one space within a venue and turning it into each part of the clients’ event. Over much needed highly caffeinated beverages, we met up with Francine Ribeau of Francine Ribeau Events who was recently tasked to do just that with her clients, Katie & Clark, and their event at Brick in San Diego. She gave us the low-down on how she confronted the seemingly impossible and how she put the Layout & Seating tool to work to bring Katie and Clark’s event to life.
AP: Francine, can you set the stage for us and tell us about your clients?
FR: Absolutely! Katie and Clark were an amazing duo. For them, “tradition” and “normal” were bad words (just kidding but no, really!) when it came to the style and theme of their event. A stylish couple, they wanted a mid-century vibe with tons of texture and geometry. Through our initial consultation and conversations, we ended up dubbing their event “An Epic Day in Style.”
AP: Clients with a sense of style who aren’t afraid to show it and talk about it are great to work with, aren’t they? How did you pull the all-important, critical information about their style and vision for their big day?
FR: Absolutely, and even though they were both clear up front in wanting their wedding to be a true representation of themselves, they were open and easy going when talking detail. To make sure I had the clearest understanding from each of them individually, I had them fill out separate questionnaires that I built in Aisle Planner about their favorite foods, colors, passions, travel, etc. I even asked them how others would describe them as individual persons—it’s amazing the detail you can pull out from your clients by giving them a simple questionnaire that winds up informing your event style down to the color palette, menu and even signage.
AP: You make a great point, Francine: no matter the process, a great event really does come down to the person(s) at the center of it all, especially a wedding. How do you make sure your process keeps your clients’ vision front and center?
FR: I’ve always been a very visual person so the color palettes and style guides I create in the Design Studio are extremely important to my process. I build them with the clients throughout the planning and design process of every event and refer to them daily, even while styling on the day of. They keep the design process streamlined: if it (meaning, anything) doesn’t work with the guide I’ve created, it’s out. If it works, it’s in. They make decision-making when you’ve got just minutes to make them that much easier.
AP: Let’s get down to the venue. I’m sure there were several the couple had to choose from so how did they land on Brick?
FR: You’re right, there were a number of locations to choose from. Brick had the modern and industrial feel Katie and Clark were looking for but it also had the most natural light and allowed them to bring in any caterer, supply their own beverages and had no noise ordinances or curfew. It even had preset market lighting. The main, overriding factor, however, was based on flexibility of space.
AP: That’s a big one, especially when it comes to your layout and seating! How did Brick win out in this respect?
FR: Ultimately, Brick was the most malleable when it came to mapping out the space for the entirety of the event. Katie and Clark had a particular type of reception in mind but the “outside influence” (read, parents) were putting a little bit of pressure on them to have a traditional dinner reception. They wanted an inviting flow reception but, out of respect, they also needed to create some sense of traditional structure. I used Aisle Planner’s Layout & Seating tool to create several floor plan models of both types, which gave them visuals to use in their discussions with their parents, showing them that the flow style would be perfect for them.
AP: OK, so Step 1 of using one venue space for the entire event is checked off the list. What about the ceremony?
FR: If we held the ceremony inside, we had to figure out how the flip was going to happen and scale is such a critical detail when you’re fitting two different aspects of an event (both the ceremony and the reception) into a space. Again, the Layout & Seating tool came in really handy here. I didn’t have to measure every aspect of it. I uploaded the floor diagram Brick provided and chose two points in the space that I’d physically measured out on my site visit and with that single measurement entered, the uploaded floor plan was snapped to scale.
AP: Scale is so critical to any floor plan, no matter where your event is, but you still have the challenge of design.
FR: Absolutely! As Katie and Clark soon realized after considering some other options for the ceremony like the adjacent parking lot—that was almost instantaneous ‘no’ from this couple—or a small sliver of lawn that would have had an even smaller chance of seating all 125 guests, we were left with same space as the reception. This also would be the most cost-effective but the biggest test to our creative use of space for both ceremony and reception with a flip in between. I know I’m speaking to my people here so you know one of my biggest pet peeves is a room flip visible to guests and clients. We didn’t want to move anyone out of the space and into the parking lot for even a cocktail hour nor did we want to squeeze them onto the small lawn either.
AP: In comes the magician, right?! How did you make two layout and seating designs work in one space with guests in place?
FR: There were options but nothing that stood out or seemed appealing to me in terms of a room flip to ensure the best possible experience for my clients and their guests. Katie and Clark suggested we move the lounge seating in place for the ceremony but that wasn’t working for me for a few reasons: 1) I wanted the reception set 100% (or as close to it) so the photographers could take their wide shots, 2) I didn’t want guests watching my team moving furniture while they waited and 3) asking them to wait outside 20 minutes while we flipped definitely wasn’t going to happen.
Being able to walk my clients through design options using Aisle Planner’s Layout & Seating tool made it so much easier to look at the space and determine what would work best from two different perspectives— the ceremony AND reception. I opened the entire floor with the exception of the “lounge” area, which I reserved for vendor and wedding party storage. I only used the 50 dining chairs around the Queen tables for seating and added 4 benches for the wedding party. Fitting them all around the dance floor and figuring out how much pipe and drape to order were critical details. Again, knowing that my layout was to scale was super critical—I had to make sure the furniture fit comfortably, and I wound up spending a decent amount of time designing the lounge areas, and which pieces belonged to which vignette. Knowing what I had to work with in terms of color, decor and space from both design perspectives thanks to my Style Guides and the Layout & Seating tool helped land the perfect layout to accommodate both aspects of what became an absolutely stunning affair.
AP: Sounds like it all came together in the end. What were Katie and Clark’s reaction to the end result and the process, and what made it work so well for you and your process?
FR: Because I was able to create more than one version of a layout so quickly—umm, thank you for those amazing copy-and-paste shortcut keys—and having the ability to share those with them in real time through Aisle Planner, we were able to work together through the decision-making process really efficiently. By having those visuals up on their screen just as they were on mine, I could show them how it made sense to move only a limited number of chairs while keeping their guests inside, and that an open bar and tray pass to kick off the cocktail hour would create just the right amount of time and distraction to move the few chairs we needed to finalize the traditional reception layout. I didn’t have to save a few dozen screenshots and email them over as individual files for them to review. All they had to do was log in to their event in Aisle Planner where we could work through the layouts I’d created in addition to all of the other details related to their event without ever having to leave the site or reference something somewhere else.
AP: It’s always so great to hear success stories and the positive impact our platform can make on the event design and planning process but it’s equally awesome when we hear how it plays into the impact you can make on your clients’ experience throughout. Was there one, big “Wow!” factor for them when working through their event on Aisle Planner?
FR: That’s a tough one – they were so impressed with it overall. I would say there were two aspects of the process that really stood out: The first was actually really cool because we all shared this “Aha!” moment together as we walked through the various layouts. Because the Layout & Seating tool is synced with the Design Studio’s Style Guides and Color Palettes, I could make visual color callouts and show them where specific pieces went within the space. Want the table linens to match that blush tone you picked out, Katie?? No problem! Even though I’d gone through the process of building their layouts using colors from their palettes, it didn’t hit me until we were looking at the finished product together because we all understood what objects were and where they were being placed.
The other goes back to how considerate Katie & Clark were of their parents’ input and how much they wanted everyone in attendance to have a good time and be comfortable. The Layout & Seating tool also syncs with the Guest List so Katie and Clark could see how each layout design I presented them would impact seating for both ceremony and reception, not based on a guest count but on the names of the most important people in their lives that they wanted to share in this moment with them.
AP: That’s really awesome to hear Francine! At the end of the day, this is a perfect example of why we do what we do. Thank you so much for sharing! We really appreciate you taking the time to tell us about this event and the experience you and your clients had in working together to make it come to life.
FR: It’s my pleasure! Aisle Planner has changed my event planning game so thank you! When you have access to features like the Design Studio and now, the Layout & Seating tool, it makes the work easier and more effective. Then, being able to share the details and collaborate in the planning process with your clients in real time from within the platform makes for a truly amazing client experience. That is the pure gold you’re after in this business.