Spotlight: Get to Know Preston Bailey Designs
Preston Bailey is more than just an award-winning wedding and event designer bringing the extraordinary into the most ordinary of spaces. He is a true artist, creative force, and luminary whose presence in the event design industry for the past three decades has resulted in some of the most beautiful and elaborate designs ever seen. Though his creations are the stuff of legend and he counts such notable personalities as Oprah, Ivanka Trump, and Jennifer Hudson as clients, Preston has somehow managed to remain humble and so affable. He continues to share his wealth of knowledge with all who are willing to learn through his blog – going so far as to answer his readers’ questions. He also partners with the Wedding Design Institute to offer unique courses in wedding and event design.
Working with this visionary to create our last cover was nothing short of a dream. In true Preston-like fashion, only the best materials were used – the flowers used to create this dress, a combination of phalaenopsis orchids, hydrangeas, tibet roses, and rosita vendela roses, were flown in from the Royal Base Corporationin Taiwan. Inspired by a gorgeous Marchesa wedding gown, Preston created a floral masterpiece that is sure to be the envy of every bride. From the elaborate floral headpiece to the intricately designed gown and deep purple bouquet, stylish brides everywhere will be inspired. That is the magic of Preston Bailey.
Since our interview with Preston, there have been many exciting new things happening for him. For starters, his new book entitled Flowers was launched and is available for purchase here. And he recently partnered with Weddingstar, one of the world’s leading designers, manufacturers and retailers of wedding accessories, to design an exclusive collection of wedding reception tabletop accessories. The collection will retail worldwide in Fall 2012 so stay tuned for that! Enjoy our exclusive interview with Preston.
How did you get started in event design? What’s your background?
I started in the design business because I needed a job. I actually, at one point in my life, didn’t know what to do and didn’t have any direction. A very good friend of mine, Interior Designer Vicente Wolf, suggested that I arrange flowers for one of his clients, and that’s how it all started. I started off as a florist, and then developed into designs and transformations, and now we do entire events.
How has the Preston Bailey brand evolved?
The brand has evolved very organically throughout the years. It’s one of those situations where a client would initially come to me and say, “Preston, we need flowers.” Then, they would say, “We need the ceremony done…we need the entire decorations for the room…we need for you to build a tent for us…” One of the amazing things is that I’ve learned by doing. It was not easy. Actually, it was very difficult. But after years and years of designing and making mistakes, eventually, you become an expert. I think that’s where I am right now and I’m very excited about it. That’s one of the reasons why I’m offering a Wedding & Event Design course.
That’s truly a blessing to give back in that way.
It is very rewarding. But again, the industry has changed tremendously in the past 20-30 years. It started in a very safe place, and now it’s at a place where one must be almost like an artist, and the expectations have grown tremendously.
How far does the Preston Bailey brand expand?
Right now, we do events all over the world. One of the most exciting parts of my business is that I get to travel to these extraordinary places including the Middle East, Asia, South America, and I recently visited Nigeria which was really exciting.
What was your experience like in Nigeria?
My experience in Nigeria was fantastic. From the time that I arrived at the airport, I received first class treatment. Everyone was extremely hospitable and the food was amazing. What I loved the most was the passion for culture and entertaining. I was astounded to learn how lavish the weddings are.
What’s the most extravagant event you’ve ever done?
We’ve done a few royal weddings. These royal weddings are stately affairs, so clearly they need to be different and original because you are entertaining countries. I would say right now the most elaborate one I’ve done was for 5000 people.
How many flowers did you have to order for that?
An event of this kind is not only about flowers. It’s about building, it’s about transformation. We spent about a year and a half planning it. Regarding the flowers, it takes weeks just to deliver them…thousands of flowers. And you have to take care of them to make sure they are blossoming at the right time.
photo by John Labbe
So there’s so much that goes on in the background besides just flowers.
Yes. Most people think of events as these things where you just get together. They actually require a lot of organizing and planning. Whenever I bring on a new client, I usually invite them to my office and show them different concepts in a drawing format. I’ve learned through experience to not only show them one design. Instead, I show at least three designs. After this meeting, I invite them back and show them all of the design concepts as real samples. Once I get their approval, the production can really begin. The production portion can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on the type of the event.
There is always confusion with brides between the need for a wedding planner and the need for a wedding designer. Can you explain the differences between the two and how they collaborate together?
Yes, the confusion between planners and designers is an ongoing grey area in the industry. One way to explain it is that everything that involves aesthetics and design choices should be the responsibility of the Event Designer. This could be the process of designing flowers, table settings, giveaways, invitations, and the overall scheme. Anything that has to do with things such as seating, food tasting or anything organizational should be the responsibility of the planner. Usually what we do at Preston Bailey Designs is offer full service that incorporates both Event Design & Event Planning.
Thanks for explaining the difference between the two roles. That was a great explanation! It’s important for people to understand that there’s a distinct difference between the two but realize that there’s a need for both. However, do you think that individuals can do both?
Yes certainly! I see that emerging more. There are many planner-designers that have evolved over the years. It really depends on the individual. I personally love designing and someone else within my company of course does the planning. So if someone wants to use Preston Bailey Designs for their event, would you recommend a planner or would you work with their own? We have an in-house planner, however we do work with other planners. Event planners have such an intimate relationship with clients and can spend sometimes six months to a year working together. So, if a client is more comfortable working with their own planner, then we are open to working with them as well.
Have you ever had a last-minute disaster and how did you resolve it?
I would like to write a book about my last-minute disasters at events, as I’ve had many of those! I believe that many people in the industry can really relate to this. For one events are productions, and no matter how much you prepare, there are things that can happen on the day of that event that are out of your control. I’ve experienced disasters such as ordering thousands of a particular type of flower and receiving the wrong ones. My favorite one happened years ago in NYC…There was a blackout and we had an event to put together the following day! Talk about beyond your control. Overall, you just have to be prepared and make it work. Any advice for brides when choosing an event designer? I think the relationship between the bride and designer or planner is a very personal one. Each bride should feel comfortable not only with the services of the designer, but with the designer as well. They should make sure that they can actually get along well and should feel comfortable that this person is really truly able to interpret their style. That’s something that has to be instinctual. There needs to be a good rapport, and if there isn’t one or any question of one, they should not choose them. In my experience, choosing the wrong designer can lead to a disaster.
Any advice for up and coming wedding professionals on how to get ahead in the bridal industry?
My advice to professionals that are new to the industry is to take advantage of every opportunity. While a lot of information related to this industry exists, there is nothing greater than actually doing the work. Throw your own parties or start out with a friend or family member’s party. Nothing beats the experience. I believe it’s the best way to learn.
The Munaluchi Fall/Winter 2011 cover is breathtaking. Can you explain the concept of the cover and the inspiration behind the dress?
Firstly, I love, love, love fashion and have always had this fantasy of creating the ultimate bridal gown made of blooms of flowers. Orchids are my favorite flower and there are hundreds of different varieties. So the idea of creating a bridal gown made with orchids was very exciting. As far as I’m concerned, I would love to cover the entire world with flowers, so to do it with a bridal gown was amazing. The orchids used for the cover gown were flown in from Royal Base in Taiwan and they are a new variety because of the sizes of them.
With all of the bridal magazines out there, why did you choose to work with Munaluchi on this unique concept?
Munaluchi is one of those wonderful magazines that I think has a great future because they are ahead in the look of the covers and the content. For me, it was actually a joy to be able to work with the magazine, and I hope that this will be the first of many many covers that we do together.
View behind the scenes video and photos here.