I’m curious what you think about samples. I’ve got strong feelings on them (but let’s face it, on what topic do I not have strong feelings?). I don’t like doing them, and for several reasons.
Generally, clients want to see samples early on in the design process, which is often six to nine months out from the event. That means, of course, that the flowers we’ll be using generally aren’t in season, so what’s available will cost more and isn’t always as high quality as the product will be when the event rolls around. Color availability may be limited too. Additionally, designs rarely look exactly the same way twice—it may vary somewhat based on what’s available, what’s most gorgeous, what colors are best, etc. So what I design for you in January might not look exactly like what I’ll design in October.
But for me, it’s more of a philosophical objection. As a designer, I think I do some of my best work in the moment. Because weddings are incredibly emotional events, much of the art we create embodies the spirit of that moment. I often come up with the perfect element or just the right look AS I design—if I have to attempt to recreate something I made for you months ago, the art loses some of its spontaneity and magic. Hopefully if we’ve done our jobs all along, we’ve given our clients complete confidence that they can trust us to achieve their aesthetic. I feel particularly strongly about this as it relates to bouquets—if a client sees a mock-up of the bouquet before that incredible day, I think it becomes less…special. Less magical somehow.
I can understand the desire to see examples of things like centerpieces—especially when they’re conceptual in nature. If I’ve never done a particular design before, then I too can benefit from creating a sample. I know what to expect for the actual event, and it gives me a chance to refine and perfect the design.
So if a client is REALLY determined, we’ll do a sample for them a month out from the event. But we DO charge them for it. Some clients are fine with that; others get up in arms about it. But we charge and here’s why. Those flowers cost us money and we have to pay for them somehow (not to mention our time). Either the client pays up front for them, or they pay later, because we have to roll the cost of the sample into the price of the actual event arrangements. But I’d rather give my clients exactly what they’re paying for on the big day instead of having to cut back to offset the cost of a sample they saw months earlier.
I know other designers actually prefer creating samples for their own piece of mind. Chuck, for example, would much rather hear a client’s critique of a sample and then have complete confidence that what he’s designing for the big day is exactly what they’re expecting.
I think for us the heart of the matter is that our clients hire us for two reasons. No. 1—they love our style and no. 2—we love theirs. If they feel like we’ve truly heard them and understand them and their aesthetic, they trust us to create the art they know we’re passionate about. No sample required.
What are your thoughts? Do you create mock-ups? Under what circumstances? Do you charge for them?