I am so delighted to welcome this week’s expert – the lovely Erin of online wedding accessory and decor business Prior Engagement! I don’t remember when I first came across Erin and her gorgeous site, but I remember it was many moons ago and it’s been such fun working with Erin and getting to know her over the years. It’s so lovely to have her sharing her wedding wisdom today on Polka Dot Wisdom!

Please tell us a little about yourself.

Growing up, I was always starting my own businesses.  My best friend and I started a Pot Pourri business in her cubby house, I think we only had one sale, and that was to her mum.  I used to make Daisy Chains with my sister and we would put up a sign up outside our house and sit there waiting all day for someone to stop, but they never did.

I started buying Wedding Magazines well before I became engaged.  I used to pore over them, tearing out pages and planning my own wedding. I loved weddings from an early age.  There is something magical about them, unlike anything else in the world.

Love bird salt and pepper shakers from Prior Engagement

What was the catalyst for starting your business?

When planning for my own wedding, I disliked visiting a store or website that did not openly display their prices.

As someone who was shy, and didn’t like making phone calls, I hated calling potential vendors for their prices. I wanted to get the prices, research the packages, and view previous work in my own time and in the comfort of my own home.

I worked a 9 to 5 job where I had a very short lunch break, which barely left enough time to eat.  The job I worked in also didn’t allow me to make or receive any personal phone calls, and iPhones and sending and receiving emails on your mobile phone didn’t exist.

It was at this time, before my own wedding, but whilst engaged, that I decided to start my own business, as ‘surely I wasn’t the only person who wanted to research after hours’. So I knew my business had to be online, and all of the prices and necessary information would need to be available on our website, for our potential clients to read in their own time.

This is where the name Prior Engagement came from – our business is for people who have ‘prior engagements’, work long hours, or don’t have the facilities to call for prices.

I wanted to be able to shop in my time, and living on the Gold Coast I couldn’t visit the big Wedding stores in Sydney and Melbourne.  So I started my own online store, found wholesalers, and we purchased a $50 web design program to create our site. I provided all of the content, my husband put it all together and we opened our store online for the world.  This makes it sound very easy, but it requires a lot of time, effort and money to do.

The rest is history.

Green pear candles from Prior Engagement

What does your business supply for weddings?

There are a few things, which are difficult or unavailable to purchase online for your wedding such as Venues, Photographers, Gowns (although this is becoming more common), Cakes, etc.  Prior Engagement basically has everything else you could possibly need.  The idea is that you don’t need to shop around at 10 different shops, you can get everything all in one place, saving time and money.

We sell everything from Wedding Planners, Jewellery, Bridal Party Gifts, Decorations, Invitations, Bonbonniere, Personalised items, Cake Toppers, Candy Buffet supplies and products for Engagement Parties, Anniversaries, Kitchen Teas.

How do you decide on the products you feature?

I am very selective with the products we offer at Prior Engagement.  They all pass a strict test, “Would I have it at my own wedding?”.  I spend a lot of time researching trends in Australia and Overseas, and looking for new, exciting, unique and stylish products for our customers.

Quality is also very important, and as the amount spent on your Wedding Day is more than likely your biggest single day expense, it is very important.  Couples deserve the best on their day.  Quite a few products we purchase simply just don’t make it to our website, as their quality does not meet our high standards.

Do you ship Australia Wide and Overseas?

Yes, we certainly do.  We have a flat delivery rate of $9.95 for delivery Australia Wide and we were the first to offer this.

I believe that shipping charges shouldn’t be this ‘top secret’ amount that you only find out when you have picked everything you would like and go to checkout on the website. We are very clear with our shipping prices from the very beginning.

No one wants to spend more than the cost of the items in actually receiving the products.

I also strongly believe that the more money you spend with a business, the more that business should thank you.  Rather than the delivery price increasing as the cart total increases, the postage cost should decrease.  That’s why all orders over $400 at Prior Engagement now receive free delivery.  It’s just a small way we can say “Thank You”!

We ship lots of orders overseas.  Our website intentionally does not currently allow for ordering with delivery to an overseas address, as international postage can be very expensive.  Whilst we have a flat delivery rate for Australia, as soon as items leave the country, the costs increase dramatically.  Orders for international locations can be made by emailing [email protected].

We charge actual cost for overseas shipping.  Rather than having a flat rate, we don’t believe this is fair to our overseas customers, as our delivery rates need to cover the cost if we have a large order that needs to be sent to the other side of the world, versus a customer who purchases a small item with delivery to New Zealand.  We obtain a quote from our shipping providers and pass this exact price onto the customer (no additional fees for packing and handling or a profit margin on top).

Decor picnic basket from Prior Engagement

Can you help a bride plan and co-ordinate her wedding needs from invitations to bonbonniere to candy buffet to give a cohesive look?

Absolutely.  Many of our products are part of a range, which have other matching, or coordinating products, if this is what you are after.  Alternatively we also have our “Shop By Theme” and “Shop By Colour” sections on our website, so everything in the same colour or theme has been put together, in one place.

Quite often we will work with a Bride on her Save The Dates or Wedding Invitations, which she falls in love with.  She will ask for assistance from there to incorporate the stationery into her Wedding Day, and this will become the catalyst for the whole event.  Everything else is chosen to fit with this theme.

You now also offer event styling and hire for Queensland brides. How did this aspect of your business come about?

Prior Engagement was established more than 8 years ago, and we have been involved in lots of weddings over this time.  We recently re-located to Dalby, in the Western Downs region of Queensland (about 3 hours west of Brisbane), from the Gold Coast. The nearest major town is Toowoomba, which is an hour’s drive away.

I spent a lot of time researching and researched Weddings in Dalby and its surrounds, and from the small amount of information I came across, I found that couples are having to bring suppliers in from Brisbane and Toowoomba for their Weddings.  They have to pay travel fees to all of their suppliers and having to make trips into the cities for anything they needed for their Wedding.  These costs quickly add up, and can have huge impact on an already strained budget.

I thought I could offer Couples here my experience and knowledge of an industry I am truly passionate about, and also offer the same styling and hire options couples closer to the city have available.

Couples getting married in Dalby, Toowoomba, Chinchilla, Jandowae, Bell, Bowenville, Bunya Mountains, Jondaryan, Oakey, Kogan, Jimbour, Warra, Kaimkillenbun, Cecil Plains and the surrounding areas now have a well-established business that is here for them, and is a local.

Square vase from Prior Engagement

 What sort of items do you hire out?

We have a huge range of products available for hire including: chair covers & sashes, glassware for candy buffets, cake stands, bunting, centerpieces, ceremony décor, aisle runners, signage, wooden shutters and windows, parasols, lanterns, table numbers, and much more.

Most of our range can be used not just for Weddings but Engagement Parties, Birthdays or Corporate Events.

Our hire range is available Styled by Prior Engagement or Style Yourself, where our items can be hired and set up by the Bride and Groom, or family and friends.

What do you love about this new aspect of your business?

I love that I get to have a more hands-on role, I get to see the gorgeous venue, and help clients beyond their accessories.  I also get to meet our beautiful customers in person and form long lasting friendships with them.

Do you see a particular incoming trend in weddings for the next 12 months?

A trend I see coming is a lot more Gold. Gold used in everything from the Bride’s Gown to Bridesmaids, Table Settings and Cakes to Jewellery.

Gold is a classic finish and combined with a strong colour such as Emerald Green, Red or Violet makes a big impact.

Photo frame available at Prior Engagement

Where do you see Prior Engagement in 5 years time?

Continuing to take every purchase we receive as an honour and a privilege.  There are so many wedding businesses out there these days, I am honoured each and every time a customer entrusts us with providing elements for their wedding or event, and we will not let them down.

We will continue to bring unique products to our customers, and provide them awesome customer service.

What are your favourite Wedding Ideas?

I love the idea of having a Hot Chocolate bar at the end of the Reception for your guests, it’s a sweet way to finish off the night, and who doesn’t love Hot Chocolate?

Also, simple Kraft paper is great idea as a table runner.  It can be easily customised for your event, and is recyclable.

Hot chocolate available at Prior Engagement

What are some clever ideas to create a stylish wedding?

1. Candles – It’s not necessarily clever, but candles are timeless, inexpensive and en masse create a magical and dreamy atmosphere.  If your venue will not allow open flames, there are lots of alternatives available now such as our Flameless Battery Operated Tealights http://www.priorengagement.com.au/store/pc/Flameless-Battery-Operated-Tealights-123p208.htm

2. Use only one flower throughout your wedding either in one or two colours, in your centerpieces, bouquets, etc. Leave out the greenery and filler.  Using the same flower over and over can be cheaper if you are purchasing from a flower market, as bulk discounts are sometimes available, and the effect will be more dramatic.

Less expensive flowers such as carnations, filler stock or baby’s breath will create a big effect, for less cost.

3. DIY decorations will ensure your wedding is unique, individually suited to your tastes, and can save a lot of money as well.

Thank you so much Erin for sharing your thoughts with us today. You can see more of Prior Engagement by visiting their comprehensive and  exciting website.

All images courtesy of Prior Engagement