Women of the Wedding Industry with Lisa of Linnaea Floral and The Elope Co.
We've started saying it so much to each other, and to our families, to our friends, and to ourselves.
It's the beginning of the crazy season.
I was with a group of women a few weeks ago at one of our mutual friend's homes. A gathering thrown to toast the start of our seasonal hustle. We all work in the service, hospitality, tourism, or wedding industry in Northern Michigan and it was a welcome time to sit back, drink wine, eat cheese, and do what women have been doing for millenia - just shoot the shit as loudly as possible with as much belly laughing as we can.
At the start of the evening, we went around and shared our names, where we worked, and how crazy our summer was about to be.
I was the last one in that circle and I had been thinking about what I wanted to say. So when it came around to me, I just said what I had been thinking all along; it's going to be a good summer, I said. A really good summer. Maybe a little crazy, but mostly just good.
I don't know if I'm being naive sitting here at the beginning of May, and perhaps by end of June I'll change my tune and agree that yes, this is crazy.
But last year in my first season as a new and unexperienced wedding planner, crazy got the best of me.
It meant I overcommitted and underdelivered on creative projects.
It meant I worked with couples because I was hungry for experience and cash, and I took on clients that weren't a good fit that led to well, some crazy going down.
It meant I tried to be a one woman show, and as penance for my pride threw out my back the week of our largest wedding of the season.
It meant that I experienced so much guilt because I couldn't be there for my friends and family the way I wanted to. I forgot birthdays, forgot to send cards, forgot to check in, and resented people if they had expectations of me rather than just asking for what I most needed, space and grace.
It meant that I had no barrier between my work and my life. I lost sleep, lost my appetite, lost some friendship with my husband, lost my interest in other hobbies and activities, and put everything important that keeps my engine oiled - like healthy eating and exercise - on the back burner because, life was crazy.
This year, I really really tried to shy away from crazy.
So first and foremost, we work only with great people. I never realized how easy it is to know in those first few interactions if people are our people or not. Point blank, they take the time to know what and who The Revel Rose is. They want us specifically and it's usually from a recommendation or a referral or a photo they saw on Instagram, not an internet search. They ask questions and read their contracts. They sign their contracts and pay their retainer right away. And they are full of gratitude. They end every single interaction with a show of thanks and appreciation, right from the get go. That's how I know they are our people, and we are doing our job well. People ask me all the time who my "ideal" client is and to be honest, my ideal clients are the grateful ones. I really don't care what their wedding looks like, or how Junebug worthy it is. Gracious people are wonderful.
I say no to a lot of styled shoots and projects because I know how anxious they make me and I wait for the opportunity and team to be just right so I have the support I need to make it happen.
I have so much free this summer. Really. I just look at those weekends off now as opportunities to fill other parts of my soul. There's weekends for backpacking trips and visits with our family. There are weekends for being able to be with my two best friends who got engaged this year (freaking out!) and be their wedding planner. There are weekends that will be great opportunities to work a little from home, and meet with our 2020 couples who are eager to get started. There are weekends for house projects, and weekends for me and Ryan to do nothing except go berry picking and grill out and catch the sunset at the beach. And the best part is, none of those weekends without weddings are impacting our business model that much right now. Sure, a wedding every weekend, or two, for 16 weeks would be wildly profitable. But it would be crazy for me.
I have a team. They are so good. Two girls who come from the wedding industry and have conducted 100x more weddings than I have. Two more girls who feel like a second skin to me. Who will be assisting me, and who seem to know me enough to know where I need support and when I need it. Two more girls who are wildly specialized and will provide much needed capacity on a few of our weddings where their talents align with our specific event goals.
I have a 15 page contract. No more room for crazy with a 15 page contract. We have had couples decide not to work with us after seeing that contract. And I sleep better knowing that was the reason.
With these parameters in place, I have a sense now of the type of business I want to run, and my hope for the future of The Revel Rose. A season that isn't described as crazy, but really good. A schedule that isn't nuts, but full, prosperous, and profitable. A season that isn't demanding, but incredibly intentional.
As I move through this series, it's always awesome to see how women who've been in this industry and in their businesses for a lot longer than me seem to have this peace about how they run their business, the type of work they do, and the projects they give their time to.
I met Lisa, as I did a lot of Women in the Wedding Industry, through Instagram. One day last summer, she asked for assistance on a wedding and I drove to Grand Rapids in June to help out at this beautiful private estate wedding. Lisa is a floral designer, who sometimes gets cojoled into being a coordinator as well because she is wildly capable at both, and because a lot of people assume either floral design or wedding coordination are breeze jobs. I get asked a lot if "I do flowers" for couples who look into DIY floral delivery options, as a planner, and my answer is always no. Definitely not.
After last season, and getting an intimate view into this world of flowering - both on styled shoots and at weddings - I learned that I bascially had very limited understanding, and not much appreciation for this field, and this role on a wedding day.
Floral design isn't crazy. But it is complex.
Wise couples either know this, or trust me when I tell them.
It's a conversation I have had many times this season, and as a result, skilled floral designers like Lisa get a referral from me.
The relationship between a planner and a floral designer is a super intimate and important one. Together, along with your photographer we form a creative team that carries the less tangible side of a wedding day; words like vision, vibe, feel, mood, environment, ambiance, memory into a lived experience.
When I look at the types of weddings Lisa does, they have always struck me as super intentional. She loves and places value on the venue driving the creative direction of the wedding as much as I do. Private estates, a cabin in the woods, an historic mansion full of history, a greenhouse dripping in light. And then creating the living art by way of flowers to really define the space. When I look at her weddings, it's like looking at a painting. Everything in the painting makes sense. The tones, the texture, the light, the colors, the setting, the characters. She doesn't use her flowers to dress up, cover up, or add life to a space. And I admire that a lot. I know it probably took years to get to that point.
To get that tight of a creative concept takes experience, and control. And the type of person who doesn't mind admitting that's what it takes.
Lisa took her ability for creative direction a step further in 2017 when she created The Elope Co. with her industry friends Krystle and Destany.
As a small group of creatives based in Grand Rapids and Detroit, they meet couples with a desire to have small, intimate, and beautiful weddings and give them that, with Lisa at the helm of their vows as an officiant. Yes, they look as good as a wedding editorial. Yes, that can seem like the "made for the blogs" bullshit that gives elopements a bad rap in the oversaturated visual wedding industry. But I think Lisa has found the balance, and it works. She find couples who are craving a simpler wedding experience, a feeling she can and did identify with when she eloped in Scotland last fall, but she also understands their desire to have the day immortalized in a beautiful way. And to some degree I think those couples understand that what they sacrifice in the traditional "crazy", they get back in creative goodness.
This wedding industry doesn't have to be crazy. Weddings don't have to be crazy. Getting married doesn't have to be crazy. There's enough crazy in the world. I think if we can move towards different language, and a great appreciation for the differences in our execution of events, then we can better support each other in this creative, exciting, ever changing, and fully rewarding industry.
Lisa of Linnaea Floral and Event Design and The Elope Co.
Lisa on her wedding day last September in Scotland. Photo by The Kismet Collective.
You spent the past several years working as a PICU nurse tech before transitioning full time to running your floral business. What did that environment teach you about life? People? Your capabilities as a person?
It's hard to think about how different my life is now from my years in the PICU. It was (and is) a whole different world. I started to write about it shortly after I left; the dichotomy of spending weekdays with families experiencing the worst days of their life in the hospital, and weekends with families experiencing the best days of their life at our weddings.
You have to separate yourself from all the insanely sad parts and normalize it or it'll eat you up, and you lean on your coworkers, who are more like family. I'm not gonna lie, it was HARD. Physically and emotionally. I built up a pretty solid shell around my heart and I didn't realize how much it affected me until I left. You really really learn to celebrate the best days, ya know? If I think too much about it, I'll get emotional so I'll just leave it at that.
You and your twin sister both found your way to flowers, how was that inspired? Do you work together to draw inspiration and resources from eachother?
Oof. It's so weird. She just got a second job at a flower shop to occupy her time while her now hubby was in dental school. Our friends started getting married, she got to do their flowers. I weaseled my way in to help, and the rest is history. I remember thinking in high school that working at a flower shop would be so much fun, but I honestly never saw myself here. And especially the two of us doing the exact same thing on opposite sides of the country! It's crazy, but also amazing.
We definitely spend a lot of time asking each other advice about this or that floral related thing, we'll literally FaceTime while designing just to hang out and get critique, and we'll text each other when our brains are fried and we need a second set of eyes on a proposal or floral order. Not many siblings have that kind of connection!
Lisa with her wedding bouquet. By The Kismet Collective.
A few years ago, you started The Elope Co., a full service elopement and intimate wedding branch of your business. How did you know it was time to move in this direction as a creative, and as an artist?
It honestly just started as a styled shoot. Creatives in the wedding industry spend a ton of money and time dreaming up these incredible moments and then hire models or ask friends to be the couple.
One day I thought, "What if we did all of that, but it was for a real couple, that really got married?" A styled intimate wedding. Luckily, elopements (though they've been around forever) were really starting to gain traction and it took off from there. I've never been one for the big extravagant events, so it felt right. It felt like an extension of me and all the aspects that I love about working in this industry. Elopement days are my favorite days.
As the founder of The Elope Co., Lisa officiates her couples intimate ceremonies
If you were a flower, you'd be a?
WHY IS THIS SO HARD? Maybe Hellebore. Much like me, they're born in the early spring, tempermental with temperature fluctuations, and super cute. (hair flip emoji -- JKJKJKJK)
A lot of your love story has been inspired by travel. You and Eric got engaged in Joshua Tree National Park, and wed in Scotland. Has traveling always been a part of your history together, and where to next? What was it like immersing yourself somewhere far away for your own wedding?
Oh we LOVE to travel! We've been to some awesome destinations and have a million more on the list, but next up is Norway.
When we started talking about having an intimate wedding, I threw a lot of approachable/US destination ideas at him but then he said if we were gonna do it small, it had to be in Europe. Cue my excitement jumping several notches because then it became the south of France, Croatia, the Faroe Islands, and ultimately, Scotland. Neither of us had been there, but the vibes were so so good. It felt absolutely right, and was probably the best decision we ever made. I can't express to couples enough to choose a location and plan a wedding that feels like YOU. We spent the whole day together, I designed our flowers in the kitchen of our Airbnb, we said our own private vows before leaving to do some portraits and meet our families. We led them up to the location we scouted a couple days earlier, did the damn thing, and then popped bottles, as one should! Our wedding day was absolutely magical and our hearts and souls will forever be in Scotland.
Lisa designed this intimate dinner in Scotland after her ceremony. Photo by The Kismet Collective.
Lisa designed this intimate dinner in Scotland after her ceremony. Photo by The Kismet Collective.
Tell us about Grand Rapids as a creative community where you work. In what ways have you blossomed as an artist while living in Grand Rapids. Are you from there originally?
Oh lord, the puns. I'm originally from Manistee, which is a small town in Northern Michigan on Lake Michigan. I love it there, but I came to GR for a college degree (go Lakers) and stuck around so obviously I think GR is pretty great! There's a pretty close group of floral designers and planners in the area that are really open to sharing info, asking advice, and lending a hand when needed. I know it's not like that everywhere but I'm super thankful for the friendors (vendor friends!) that I have here, which makes it really easy to stay and *grow.*
Tell us about a time when you worked with your ideal client, and everything clicked for you so that you were able to say "That! that is what I want to be doing for people".
I really try to connect with all my couples, but the couples that simply say "I love what you do, I trust you" will forever be my ideal clients. If the client trusts me to let me be creative and is open to my suggestions, then we're gonna make some magic regardless of the venue or color palette. But more than that, it's those damn elopements, man. When my couples hug me before I leave and sincerely thank me for orchestrating this day for them... Oof... It just fills me right on up.
What is inspiring you most about this season of your work, and of your life?
We're diggin deep, aren't we? Like I said before, I never saw myself here. Running my own successful floral design company. Working from home (in my pjs most of the time to boot). It's all kind of the dream. I love that I have complete control of my future. I'm not working just to get a paycheck, I'm working because I love what I do but also to get a paycheck cause I have a million other house projects and vacations that I want to go on!
A beautiful Grand Rapids wedding from last summer designed by Lisa. Photo by Chelsea Seekell.
If you could design floral for anywhere, and anyone, who and where would that be?
My list of dreamy destinations is endless, and I'm TERRIBLE at pop culture so I literally cannot think of one celebrity or influential human on this planet right now. Nope. Got em... Jon Snow and Ygritte. Both as their characters and as their actual human selves.
Predictions for the season end of Game of Thrones?
OH MY GAWD SPOILER ALERT. This could go so many ways. What I'd LIKE to happen is for Jon Snow AKA Aegon Targaryen to be King of the North and Brexit TF out of Westeros. There's so much GD drama in King's Landing and he don't need that kind of negativity in his life... But seriously. I think he's the best candidate because he doesn't want it. Everyone else is way too power hungry. ALSO, I think Dany might have secret baby dragons up her sleeves.
You can find Lisa making goodness at linnaeafloral.com/services/ and @linnaeafloral.