I like doing samples...it ensures that my clients and I are thinking the same thing. I think the main reason I like doing flowers for events and weddings specifically is the collaboration...This is the way it typically goes...After preliminary contact with a new client which is often via email we often have a phone conversation. During the conversation we talk about broad ideas, venues and general scope of the event. After the initial conversation we usually set up an in person meeting. I always ask for clients to bring or send in advance any images of flowers that they like or do not like...important images are ones that have an element that is appealing, color, feeling, specific flowers...or on the other hand something that they want to stay away from...for example "this arrangement is too uptight" or "I dont like the way those spikey things stick out of the bouquet"...Other helpful images are of the wedding dress if it is a wedding and tablecloth samples if they have been picked.
If I have enough information in advance I gather photos of arrangements that have elements that I think would work for the event we are planning, images of specific flowers that I suggest using based on color, season and overall mood of the event. I often pull up images of or actual containers that we could use for centerpieces.
At the meeting we go through specifics like how many arrangements, if it is a wedding the vision of the spot where vows will be exchanged and I ask for a few words to describe the feeling of the event. With flowers seasonality is important so for example if all the images that appeal are of peonies but the event is scheduled for September we talk about how to get a full lush flower feeling using hydrangea, dahlias or some other flowers....This is the fun part...we talk about ideas and together figure out how to create an overall feeling. We also talk about budget. With flowers, unlike other elements of an event, more is usually better...however if budget is an issue we discuss how to get the most flower impact within the given budget.
This can be anywhere from a week before the event to more than a year before the event. If there is a long time before the event I request that the client continues to forward me images so I can keep them in a file in case there is a shift in vision. For large events I always try to schedule a time to do a sample arrangement. Often this can be done in conjunction with a catering tasting so we can actually look at the flowers with linens, plates...or choose these elements with the flowers there to help inform the decision. If any adjustments are necessary this is the time to make them.
A few weeks before the event we have a final meeting on the phone or in person to confirm time line as well as other details.