We are lucky to have the opportunity to work with so many wonderful wedding industry friends. We wanted to shine a spotlight and share a little more about each one of them in our new Wedding Industry Friends blogging series. First up is our dearest, bad ass, girl boss, friend, Owner, Creative and Event Director, Jennifer Ford-Chatfield of Fleur de Lys in New Haven.
What brought you to Connecticut from Iowa?
I met my husband while I was living in Nashville, TN. We relocated to Connecticut, where my husband Tom is originally from. I am actually from Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Did you come to Connecticut with a plan of opening a floral shop?
Yes. This is my 27th year in the business. I worked for an amazing floral and event company in Nashville. We were the preferred florist for Opryland Hotel including the big Country Christmas and The Grand Ole Opry. I owe a lot to my boss back then, Mr. Larry Keeton. If it were not for that job, I am not sure I would be where I am at. I think one of the best things I have accomplished is the staff I have. They are an incredibly loyal, fun, creative, honest… I could go on and on. It has taken me a long time to find the perfect fit…..
Fleur de Lys is so much more than a floral company, what other services do you offer?
We are a full service florist delivering to over 11 towns 6 days a week. We also are a full event and wedding company. We can design simple, elegant affairs or grand galas. We also do a large corporate business, including clientele that asks us to travel with them for their conventions. I spent a lot of time in Nashville in full event coordination so it is also a skill set I offer to select clients.
You’re very active with local charities, which ones are near and dear to you and how can our community help?
I always say the easy ones are children, pets and cancer. All three have impacted me personally. I have a deep love for children, special needs children, sick children, less fortunate children etc. I currently am the President of the Friends of Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. My Co-President, Jocelyn Maminta and I are currently in our third year and loving it. We have just committed $500,000.00 to the new NNICU/Obstetrical Project and fund numerous programs often not funded based on budgets. I couldn’t be more proud of the work of our Board, I am lucky to call all of them Friends. I really am a business person who believes you cannot just be someone who takes from the community. You have to and should give back. I enjoy supporting the arts here in New Haven, the local parishes, animal charities etc. I even am fortunate that I am part of a rescue group that helps transport dogs from the south to loving homes here in the North East. It is so great to pick up a dog along the transport and watch their joy when they get to meet their forever parents. I recently rescued a beautiful red fox lab/retriever mix, from Nashville ironically. Sophie joins her big fur brothers Tucker and Baxter (also Labradors).
Cancer philanthropy means a great deal to me. I am a 5 year breast cancer survivor, a 2 month, thyroid cancer survivor and even had a little bout of skin cancer recently. Cancer is a disease that affects every single person in some way. It does not discriminate. It is something I am passionate about helping support. I pray in my lifetime, there will be a cure. We are very lucky in this area to have such a state of the art cancer hospital in our neighborhood. I cannot say enough about how much I love Smilow. I get asked a lot how I have dealt with so much cancer, the answer is my favorite quote: “I was given this life because I am strong enough to live it.” There are so many who have things worse than we do, it is hard to feel sorry for yourself if you acknowledge that.
Do you find a difference between providing florals for a wedding versus a corporate event?
In some ways they are one in the same. Normally a ton of planning and detail work both with specific deadlines. However, I think corporations do have to work in the constraints of the economy a bit more, it can be all about perception. I am so incredibly lucky to have such amazingly loyal corporate clients, many of whom have become like family.
I have a soft spot in my heart for wedding work, it is literally how I started my career and what caused me to fall in love with this crazy business. There is no greater joy than watching a Bride tear up when she sees her flowers on her wedding day and to watch and be a part of such an important milestone is very special. I always say, we design every wedding to reflect the couples personal sense of style. A $1000 floral wedding should have as much love and care given to it as the $45,000 one. The best form of advertising is a happy Bride and Groom, happy clients and happy partners in the wedding industry. They are our best cheerleaders. A simple, well done intimate wedding can produce a client in the audience that is looking for a larger scale event. We are incredibly honored to partner with Forks & Fingers. We love you guys so much and are so grateful for your support.
What’s your favorite part of working with a client?
I think it is how close we become our clients. We are part of their special day during the wedding and in the future. It is also the challenge of really capturing the dream they have envisioned. At the end of the day, it is not the pat on our back that matters, but watching their eyes twinkle with happiness.
Aside from color tones, are there any other changes you see in floral designs with the various seasons?
It used to be that we followed what was available in our flower markets, which caused us to truly be seasonal. However, now the flower growing industry has expanded so much truthfully, we can just about do anything anytime of the year with just a few exceptions. The trend of floral is starting to loosen up a bit. Brides are still favoring a more organic feel overall.
Owning your own business can be quite time consuming, what do you do for fun?
Owning your own business makes free time a challenge, if you are truly dedicated to it. However, it really took me getting cancer to step back and realize, I also have to learn to put myself first on occasions. I love to cook, bake, go boating with my husband, dogs and friends. I travel back to my hometown as much as I can. I love to wind down to the tv and enjoy remodeling my home.
What’s the best advice you can give a couple when it comes to selecting their florals?
Look for photos that inspire you, that make you feel warm and happy. Try not to fight against the décor of your venue. For example, if your ballroom is art décor and elegant, a super rustic look might not be best. On another note, please understand that a lot of what you see in magazines is designed with a very large or unlimited budget. The worst thing we can do is have a Bride fall in love with a look and not be able to fit within her budget. I hear a lot, “we don’t have a budget”. Everyone has a budget, we would rather know up front what we are working with. 😊
Is there a floral trend on the horizon for 2017?
The hot, full-chroma colors are primarily citrus and berry. Inspired, ranging from vivid red-violets, reds and pinks to brilliant red-oranges, oranges, salmons and corals – with the orange hues being slightly predominant. Accent colors include distinctive, vibrant apple green, “lemon grass,” rich violets and white. Gold is the most popular metallic with rose gold still sought after. Beautiful layering of textures will also be in.
My favorite, what advice would you give the younger version of you?
Take more time to stop and smell the roses. I would say for the first 20 years of my career, I was determined to do every party, every wedding, every order I could. I was so very driven. It is hard to believe it has been 27 years really. I still remember my first flower arrangement. I still remember the joy I felt in designing that hideous thing. LOL
I really am not sure I would change much. I love what I get to do everyday. Even the hard, dirty days. How many people can truly say they have done a job for 27 years and still get excited about it each day. The beauty in a creative business is you never stop learning. You never stop growing.
Much love my friend!!