Shop Talk: Celebrated Occasions
It takes a village of vendors to plan a wedding
That’s why Lori Blake, owner of Celebrated Occasions in Springfield, Mo., made it her full-time job to ease the process for those brides-to-be. What started in 1989 in Jacksonville, Fla. as a business run out of her home has turned into a one-stop-shopping Mecca with nine main businesses ranging from Blake doing the invitations and accessories to a DJ, honeymoon specialist, photographer, videographer, tuxedos, dresses, cakes, floral and rental décor.
“Everyone owns their own business, but rents space in the location, and individuals meet with their clients at the store aptly named ‘The Wedding Collection,’” Blake said. “With everyone’s busy schedule, having so many vendors in one location is extremely convenient for the brides-to-be.”
It’s this innovative collaboration that has made Celebrated Occasions successful for 23 years, and they show no signs of slowing down now.
Back in 1989 Blake was managing a photography studio and noticed a need for personalized service for the brides, so she began with a Stylart invitation book and offered wedding day directing and full service wedding planning.
After a couple years the business grew and she opened a retail location in an affluent part of town offering invitations, imprintables, gifts, stationery, wedding accessories and wedding consulting. After 13 years of a successful run, she sold the business, moved to Missouri and began all over again.
“I wasn’t in town that long before I connected with a local baker and florist who worked out of their homes,” Blake said. “We decided to find a location where we could operate our businesses and found a 4,000 square foot spot on a main road at a busy intersection and began finding other professionals to bring into our store who would compliment our line of work.”
What they found were the aforementioned businesses focused on a DJ, honeymoon specialist, photographer, videographer, tuxedos, dresses, cakes, floral and rental décor — and a way to make things easier for those brides-to-be.
“A couple years ago we began a ‘Stimulus Package,’” Blake said. “If the bride uses a minimum of four main vendors from our store, she receives either incentives or discounts depending on what the vendor is offering. It’s been a ‘win-win’ situation for the brides and our vendors.”
“We have also partnered with several venues in our area and do monthly ‘After Hours’ from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the different locations,” Blake said. “This provides us exposure to new brides who may be looking for or have booked their facility. It’s also a great way to network with other vendors.”
When it comes to product, Celebrated Occasions offers one of Springfield’s largest selections of invitations and imprintables by the each — meaning there is no minimum order — personalized napkins, favors, programs and an extensive array of wedding accessories and attendants’ gifts. They also have several catalogs where brides can place special orders for accessories, thereby offering customization of their colors and personalization of their attendants’ gifts with names or monograms.
“Planning a wedding is a magical time in a woman’s life and I don’t feel it should be left to chance and guess work,” Blake said. “I book one-on-one appointments with my clients when it comes to choosing and ordering their invitations and accessories so the bride is given the time she needs to get all her questions answered.
“There are many choices when it comes to invitations and brides are able to enjoy many options,” she continued. “While many brides still choose traditional invitations, they may opt to add a twist with a splash of color with their ink choice, a ribbon or a colorful lined envelope.”
Another trend is using multiple fonts in different sizes on a traditional invitation to add a contemporary feel, and save-the-dates and magnets have taken a firm place in the line up when ordering their stationery needs. Photos are extremely popular, whether it’s on a save-the-date or invitation, and Baker said today’s brides are also interested in recycled papers, natural fiber invitations and wraps, blooming invitations and pockets that will contain all their enclosures.
“Our website features a wide array of invitations, accessories, attendants gifts, stationery and great gifts in general,” Blake added. “Customers can order online or contact us directly. We’re using social media such as Facebook and email blasts as a way to stay in touch with our customers and let them know about our current specials and trends. We try to offer monthly specials and take advantage when we can partner with a supplier to pass along incentives.”
But while the Internet can be great for marketing, Blake said it can also pose a challenge to the industry, as can DIYers.
“Consumers don’t realize all that goes into ordering invitations and think they will save money by doing it themselves,” she said. “But when you factor in the cost of the cards, home printer ink, the time involved trying to figure out how and what to print, operator errors, etc., they really haven’t saved any money. Contacting a professional alleviates a lot of the stress and confusion.”
“I have owned this business for 23 years and am proud, not only of the products I carry, but of the individual service I give each of my clients and of the many friendships I’ve gained along the way,” Blake said. “We have won Carlson Craft’s Exceptional Sales award — a prestigious honor given for outstanding performance and exceptional sales achievements — for 22 years running, as well as several distinguished dealer awards from other companies.
“We always like to search out new and different lines to offer our customers,” she continued. “Today’s bridal couple will then be life long customers whom we look forward to working with on all of their life’s Celebrated Occasions.”