Designing events and tablescapes is absolutely one of my favorite parts of event planning!
Sometimes I am given total creative latitude to just take care of everything based on the wedding colors, favorite flowers and other ideas of what they would like to have, but most often, it is a combination of efforts by partnering with my brides who want to be actively involved.
1) The first thing I like to do is to see pictures of things that my client has collected along the way so that I can get a feel for what is "catching" their eye in terms of style, color, decor and the feel of the wedding. It's also good to know the things they don't like (ie: certain flowers, etc.).
2) A site inspection fo the venue (if I haven't already been there) so that I know the space we are working with and how the design may fit (or sometimes not fit) so appropriate adjustments may be made.
3) A critical factor, which is often not considered, is the amount of time available for set-up as well as when breakdown occurs as that in itself may cut out some ideas. The wedding shows are great in showing what the possibilities are, but they don't share details such as it took two days to drape the ceiling with fabric, or you need to reserve the morning time slot to be able to pipe and drape a ballroom for an evening event.
4) Lastly, defining the budget, which after the amount of time and the location features is the biggest deciding factor on what can be done. I ask my clients to put together their "wish list" and we do our best to get everything, but in some cases they may need to prioritize what is most important to them.
This starts the evolution of design which does not come overnight. As ideas continue to fill our heads, we start defining the color(s) we want to work with, the type of flowers that are available, the type of printed materials that the client may have and other decor (ie: lounge areas, special bar facade, candy buffet, favors, etc.) and start creating an overall look for the event that has continuity rather than a hodge podge mix which is what it can be if everything is not carefully thought out.
As we go through the process, I continue to give ideas to my bride on things that we can do based on their budget, the timeframe we're working with and of course available resources.
Once you get into event planning, you never look at things the same way. I can spend countless hours at places like Crate and Barrel (which we don't have in Hawaii yet) and Pier 1 just getting ideas on what I want to do for the events I haven't done yet. When I went to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC I probably spent the most time looking at all the gala dinner pictures. I also enjoy going to the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE) educational as it exposes you to another world of creative ideas from the nations' top planners such as Colin Cowie, Scott Corridan, David Tutera and Preston Bailey just to name a few.