So you're engaged and have finally set the date! Now what? Choosing vendors is a daunting process and the consultation processes vary, here is an outline of how I approach a consultation with client.
Initial conversation, whether it be through email or phone I discuss the basics of the wedding. Date, venue, approximate size and their initial thoughts for the decor. I also discuss budget. There are different schools of thought regarding this topic but I feel strongly that it's fair to everyone to have an open discussion. You may find that your original expectations are not realistic. This is most likely your first time planning a wedding while the professional you are speaking to has created 100's of designs at many different budget levels. Be honest and true to what you are looking for when discussing the budget.
Once we chat a bit we schedule a meeting to go over my portfolio. Bring inspiration material with you to the meeting, it can be anything from invitations to dress swatches. It's important to give an idea of the overall feel of the wedding and your own personal style which will help in
designing a unique look.
Following the meeting I will create a proposal. It will include a creative description and itemized list of costs for all of the elements of the wedding. Once the client reviews the proposal I will answer any general questions and create a revision if necessary.
Once contract is signed and deposit received, I require 50% at the time the contract is signed, I continue to have an open dialogue with the client (most often through email). We may schedule another meeting or two which could include a trip to the flower market. After one or two follow up meetings we don't usually meet again except perhaps for a final walk through. (Larger or more detailed weddings with more variables may require more meetings.)
I provide sample centerpieces/table set-up at no charge if the client has already signed on. Prior to signing the contract I charge for a sample but will deduct the cost of the sample from the proposal when the client decides to move forward. It is reasonable to expect a sample of the main centerpiece but not necessarily all of the other elements of the decor. If you anticipate wanting to see samples of your personal flowers and/or other arrangements you should expect to pay for some of these additional samples.
This an outline of my approach but of course there are always exceptions to the rules and as I've said before I don't like to think of there being any rules when planning your wedding. Ask all of your vendors about their process and the best way to for you to communicate and facilitate the process so that it feels right to you.