10 Questions with Shannon LaVoie

WeddingRule Interviewed one of the most experienced and a highly sought-after wedding florist / floral designer in California, Shannon LaVoie of Rare Sparrow Floral Design. San Francisco based Shannon is the founder and owner of Rare Sparrow Floral Design.

Rare Sparrow Floral Design

Florist - Shannon LaVoie

10 Questions with Shannon LaVoie

1. Introduction: What's your story?

I have always loved flowers but it was while designing the bouquets and arrangements for my own wedding that I discovered my passion for floral design.

I started my path with flowers by "designing" for my own wedding. I say "designing" because I really had zero idea what I was doing, but knew I wanted all the pretty spring flowers I could get my hands on - I wanted them all and all the colors. I made not so perfect bouquets, accents and bouts and it was one of my favorite parts of planning and executing our very DIY wedding! Even though our flowers weren't the best they ignited in me a passion for work I'd been searching for and I dove head first into learning everything I could about flowers.

I am a Bay Area native with advanced degrees in Science and Policy but studied and art/sculpture early in college. Floral design allows me to bring together my passion for nature and sculpture in an art form that brings accessible beauty to the many couples and companies that hire me for my services! Rare Sparrow launched in 2010 as a hobby while I worked full-time in tech. It became a business officially in 2013 after a couple years of selling flowers at pop ups and weddings informally. Finally, at the start of 2016, I left the tech world for good to expand Rare Sparrow to a thriving full-time business.

2. What's your experience as a wedding florist business? How many weddings are in there in your portfolio?

Quickly after I did my own wedding, people around me started asking me to do their weddings and events and it just blossomed ;-) from there! It started with weddings, but I rapidly expanded to corporate, non-profit and all things event flowers. I've done hundreds and hundreds (A thousand??!!) of events in the 12 years since I started. I have averaged about 20-25 weddings a year (give or take) for the past 6 years (fewer when I still had a full time gig). This year we're capping our full service weddings at 12 to preserve some personal time and sanity (thank you, pandemic, for that lesson). We're currently at 8 full size weddings this year so we're almost completely booked for 2022!

3. How far in advance do couples need to secure your services?

We really range in our typical booking window. I have a distinct knack for making magic happen on short notice - however, with our limited booking days this year and for the coming years, we're seeing bookings happen farther out. I already have a few for 2023, which is farther in advance than we're used to! My ideal preferred window is about 6-8 months, but in quieter times, winter, early spring, mid summer, we can definitely work with our customers to pull things together in a shorter window as long as we're available!

4. How do you price your floral arrangements? What are the different packages that you offer and which one is your most popular package?

We do not really offer packages in the traditional sense and think you'll find this true of many florists. Weddings are so personal and each one so different, even when they have a lot of the same elements, that it's really hard to offer static pricing by packages. That said, over the years, Rare Sparrow has developed a signature style utilizing certain materials so frequently in our work that we generally price our arrangements similarly for each wedding.

Our weddings typically include personals (bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, etc), ceremony decor from the simple to the lavish, reception decor including cocktail hour, dining tables, dessert/cake, bars, etc. as well as a production fee which covers all of the day of labor, delivery, clean up, travel, etc and, of course, sales tax.

Our full service, averaged sized weddings (around 100 guests) with round tables and moderate ceremony decor start around $6500 give or take. We don't currently have a minimum spend for our weddings, which enables us to take smaller scale city events/weddings on off days and special events/weddings that capture our hearts, but we do require a minimum spend for premium dates (Saturdays spring through fall) and out of area weddings.

5. How many meetings will you have with the couple, and how will they be involved?

We start right away with a discovery call with our couples to gather all the information needed to craft a simple estimate. After we get a proposal over to you, which includes some visual inspiration and a price quote, we offer another review call to go through the details of the initial design. Once we've committed to each other the next opportunity for a meeting would for a mock up meeting which we like to do at your rental company so that we can see all the table elements together and make any design tweaks needed! This can also be done virtually for our destination customers. This service is complementary for our couples spending over $6000 and can be added for a fee for lower budgets. We do one final check in call about a month before the wedding to confirm all the details and finalize any changes before the final payment is due. There tends to be many more emails and the occasional call in addition to these meetings but they are less formal.

6. Who else is in your team and how many people on your staff will be at the wedding?

We have a dedicated team for the day to day which is mainly myself, my right hand assistant Faith, my driver, Mario and a few part timers that hop in for design work for events. The number of people on each event depends on the scope but almost always there are a minimum of 3. Larger events have 3-4 times that!

7. How would you describe your design style? (e.g. traditional, modern, rustic, organic)

We are a very versatile design business utilizing our aesthetic to design each event to suit the couple, venue, style, etc. That said when allowed to follow our creativity unbound we aim for designs that are simultaneously organic and modern. We like to incorporate soft romantic blooms with unexpected elements that add a touch of edge and whimsy.

8. Who will handle setup and delivery? What other services do you offer?

Our team does all set ups and deliveries. We like to unofficially offer design consulting (helping select linens, table top, etc) but this is not a service we currently charge for - it's more of complementary add on to help create the more compelling atmosphere. We do also offer candle rentals.

9. What happens to the flowers after the wedding?

We typically come at the end of the event to collect all vases, clean up installs and when necessary, take the flowers too. We try, whenever possible, to offer our designs in vase liners that can be removed from our rental vases and kept by our couples/guests. When this isn't possible or If the couples prefer for us to remove all flowers as well, we donate the flowers to our neighborhood residents to bring joy to the community. Anything that cant be donated is composted and all vases and mechanics are reused. We strive to reduce waste and minimize our impact in this very consumptive business.

10. What is your cancellation and/or refund policy?

The initial payment, which is made when booking with us, is a non-refundable payment that goes towards the work we've already done (proposals, calls, etc) and will do immediately after booking. We begin designing, planning, sourcing for your wedding as soon as we are committed to each other and the hours add up! The initial payment protects our time and covers our costs in the months proceeding our initial meeting. After that, you may cancel with no money owed after the first payment and before the final payment up to 60 days before the date. If cancellation occurs within 60 days we require 50% payment of the balance. This is to protect us from lost wages in the likely event we are unable to fill the date we reserved for your event. There are no refunds after final payment is made and we do not allow reductions to scope greater than 10% of the booking total.

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Awards

WeddingRule Editor’s Choice 2020WeddingRule Editor’s Choice 2021