10 Questions with Richandra Nickerson-Ukpong

WeddingRule Interviewed one of the most popular and highly sought-after wedding planners in Texas, Richandra of Fervent Designs. Houston based Richandra is the founder and owner of Fervent Designs.

Fervent Designs

Planner - Richandra Nickerson-Ukpong

10 Questions with Richandra Nickerson-Ukpong

1. Introduction: What's your story?

Since I was about 10 years old, I was my family’s dedicated party planner. There was running joke that I could design on a dime and planned events in my sleep. However, my first love was teaching, so I studied English and Psychology and planned to become a secondary English teacher and eventually a counselor. In college, I took an internship at a global oil and gas company, that changed my life forever! I was one of the youngest members of the corporation and was responsible for creating comprehensive training programs for thousands of people worldwide. Back then, whoever managed training also handled events. So I became a professional event planner by accident. And, I loved it all!

Like most girls, I had been planning my dream wedding in my head for years, but reality quickly set in when my Nigeria beaux proposed: I had to plan two weddings, the traditional Nigerian ceremony and the American wedding. Unfortunately, like many, I could not get my vision to match my budget, especially since we were having TWO weddings. Therefore, Plan B was quickly implemented: DIY (Do It Yourself). I designed nearly every element of both of my multicultural weddings. However, I listened to the best advice ever. I hired a Day of Wedding Coordinator, especially to ensure that everything went as planned on my big day. Of course, both my weddings turned out phenomenal! Shortly afterwards, my coordinator gave me a compliment that planted the seed for Fervent Designs. People started booking me to plan their events. Eventually, I was handling corporate events during the week, and I was flying back home on Fridays to host weddings and social events on the weekend.

After lots of research, planning, and of course, FERVENT prayers, I took a leap of faith and went full time into my own business. And, I have not looked back since. Today, my company, Fervent Designs is an award-winning wedding planning firm known for curating personalized, memorable weddings and other celebrations for busy working-class people without breaking the bank. We are passionate about personalizing your party!

2. What's your experience as a wedding planner? How many weddings have you planned?

I have been in the event industry for over 15 years, and I have personally planned thousands of events. Since the company's inception, I have planned or coordinated over 100 weddings. This does not include those that our team provided a la carte services, such as decor, entertainment, photo, or video.

3. What sorts of services do you offer (month-of coordination, full-service planning, or à la carte planning)?

We offer Full Planning, Partial Planning, Wedding Management (formerly month-of coordination), Micro Weddings.

We are full service, so we can handle anything our clients need.
To start, you select wedding management, partial planning, or full planning. From there, we design your day your way. You give us your budget and vision, and we design the rest. We do as much or as little as you want, including design, florals, rentals, gifts, and entertainment.

Fervent Designs is a full-service wedding planning and event design company. We are the one stop shop for Houston area and destination weddings. You start with our coordination, partial planning, or full planning, and then you add any other services you need. We pride ourselves in our customization and our attention to detail. As our motto states, "We're passionate about personalizing your party!" Themed weddings, destination weddings, and multi-cultural weddings are our specialty. Every detail will be tailored to your needs, vision, and budget.

4. How do payments work (a percentage of the wedding budget, a flat fee etc.)? What are the different packages that you offer and which one is your most popular package?

To reserve your date on our calendar and receive access to your personalized Client Portal (full of goodies and guidance), a signed contract and retainer of $500 is required. You may choose the package of your choice. The retainer amount is included in your total. Remaining payments may be broken down into monthly payments or quarterly payments. The full balance must be paid 45 to 60 days before the wedding.

Our wedding packages start at $1800. We encourage couples to select the package that best suits their needs and budget.
Full Planning: You will have a dedicated planner to guide you every step of the way, including venue selection, budget creation, vendor negotiations, design, timeline creation, vendor management, and complete planning of your wedding weekend. Includes up to 14 monthly meetings with all inclusive coverage. Then the team will execute your rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, wedding day, and post-wedding brunch with ease. This includes at least 2 wedding pros on site on the wedding day.

Wedding Management: Our Wedding Management Package, formerly known as Month-Of Wedding Coordination, includes a planner to attend your key meetings, such as tastings, venue walkthroughs, weekly meetings the last month before your wedding to finalize your plans, create your wedding timeline, manage your vendors, coordinate your rehearsal, and professional execution of your wedding day by a Planner and a Coordinator.

Partial Planning: Our most popular package is Partial Planning. Many our couples feel that this is the most bang for their buck. Partial Planning includes up to 4 months of coverage, when you need it most. Each couple receives one month of upfront assistance to get situated, which can begin in the month of their choice and includes creation of the budget, overall design, vendor selections, contract negotiations, etc. Then, a Planner provides expert coverage the last 3 months before the big day. This is a great combination between Wedding Management/Coordination and Full Planning and also includes two Wedding Pros onsite.

Micro Wedding Packages: Due to the recent demand for small weddings during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have added 3 Micro-Wedding Packages to our collection: Decor Only, Coordination Only, and Micro Wedding with both Coordination & Decor. These affordable and convenient packages are designed for intimate weddings with less than 50 guests and are personalized to fit the couple's theme, scheme, color, style, and budget.

With any Fervent Designs wedding package, you will have access to our professional planning system 24/7, which provides many structure, tips, and tools to assist you with your planning.

Decor, floral, rentals, or any of our other services may be added to any wedding package for an additional fee, but no additional retainer is required to add any additional services by our team.

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

We are a small but mighty team of about 12 Wedding Professionals. Nearly all of our teammates are trained on Wedding Management, even the DJs and Photographers.

Each traditional wedding that is planned by Fervent Designs has a Lead Planner (typically me, the Owner, Rich,) as well as a Lead Coordinator/Bride's Assistant onsite for the wedding.

If additional services are contracted, then more Fervent Designs wedding professionals will be present.

6. What happens if you're sick or otherwise unable to be there on the day of the wedding?

We have several qualified wedding professionals on our team and we use professional planning software and tools that include all of the details, floor plans, timelines, vendor contacts, etc. for each event. Therefore, if the Lead Planner is not able to attend, another capable member of the team will fill her spot.

I rarely miss a wedding; But, I always say, "If I fell off the face of the earth before your wedding, my team would still be able to execute your wedding as if I was present." Yes, my planning is that meticulous, and our systems and processes are tried and true! And, we plan for Scenarios A, B, and C.

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

The number of meetings depends on the package that the couple selects and the number of months remaining until the event. Wedding Management includes at least 5 meetings, while Full Planning can include up to 18 meetings. Each of our packages can be customized to the couple's needs, vision, and budget. Couples may decide how involved they wish to be in their wedding planning. Packages, inclusions, and details such as these are discussed in a consultation prior to booking.

8. Will you handle the invitations, from wording and ordering to the addressing and mailing? What about guest list coordination and RSVPs?

Assistance with invitation and stationery wording and ordering is included in all of our wedding packages. Save the date assistance is included in Partial and Full Planning. Invitation mailing can be added for an additional cost.

Instructions and tips for guest list coordination is included in Partial Planning and Full Planning Packages. We no longer handle manual or paper RSVP collection or management, but we would be happy to set up electronic RSVP on your wedding website or other electronic means.

9. Do you handle rentals? Will you coordinate delivery, arrival and set up times with the photographer, the florist, the musicians and the caterer/banquet manager?

Yes we do handle rentals. We are a one-stop shop, so we actually provide in-house decor, florals, rentals, and more. Vendor management and timeline creation is included in all of our wedding packages. No matter who your vendors are (our in-house team, our referrals, or those you choose) , each vendor will receive a customized timeline and instructions in advance of the wedding. Someone from our team will be onsite to greet and guide vendors at the specified times at least 3 hours before the wedding.

10. Can you create a timeline that tells everyone involved in the planning process (other pros, members of the wedding party, to-be-weds and families) what to do and when to do it? How will you make sure everyone sticks to the schedule?

Fervent Designs is known for our detailed timelines and logistics. After managing corporate events over a decade, I am one of the most organized planners ever! We use a tried and true process for wedding prep.
A customized timeline will be created at least 2 weeks prior to the wedding and will be reviewed with the client. Upon receipt of the couple's approval, the timeline is sent to all vendors to add their comments, details, and questions. Next, each vendor conducts a phone all or meeting with the Lead Planner prior to the event to review their specific details. Afterwards, this timeline is revised as needed until the week of the wedding. Each vendor receives access to the full timeline and their personalized timeline. If their information is provided, the wedding party and parents receives a summary version of the timeline by email as well as our contact information in case they need to reach out.

The Planner or Lead Coordinator reviews the schedule with the family and wedding party participants during rehearsal or rehearsal dinner and then takes questions. Each member of the wedding party receives a physical copy of their timeline at rehearsal. We instruct the wedding party to ask us the questions up front before or at rehearsal so that the happy couple can "be a guest" and enjoy their wedding day. Our couples trust us and empower us to lead, so we rarely have any trouble keeping order.

On the wedding day, The Lead Planner or Coordinator will "float" throughout the location(s) to greet all vendors as they arrive. During the ceremony and reception, we will cue the musicians, DJ, photographer, videographer, and/or couple for all key moments.
Prior to the wedding ceremony, the second Fervent Designs Wedding Coordinator typically stays in the Bridal Suite during "go time" to ensure that photos are taken and the wedding party gets dressed on time. Then after the ceremony, the second Coordinator assists with photos and serving the couple their meals and drinks.

As you can see, we operate with precision and thoroughness. We call it the "Fervent Designs Way," and our weddings typically run like a well-oiled machine! I am meticulous for a reason during the planning process. That way when the wedding day comes, it is EASY!!! When our creative partners see the level of organization, effort, and EXCELLENCE, they are eager to collaborate. Most cannot wait to work with us again.



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